Only when the Government does it

Definitions are a funny thing sometimes. It’s important to define things properly so that they can be pigeonholed and categorised. However sometimes definitions get distort intent, particularly when language allows the use of hyperbole. The particularly troubling case I see recently is the argument about the removal of Alex Jones from prominent platforms like Youtube, Twitter, Facebook and Apple’s stores.

This is not a post to agree or disagree with these companies’ actions, but rather to speak about how the concerns are dismissed.

Also this post is to suggest that I seek to defend Alex Jones and his frankly outrageous opinions.

Those who are concerned with his removal from these platforms – and along with those sympathetic to him – have used the word “censorship” to describe the actions. However, the retort to the claim is that Apple, Google, Twitter, Facebook et al are well within their rights to remove him and his message from their systems. Also, the further reply is that only the Government can “censor” citizens.

I can see the points from both sides, and I can do so without explicitly endorsing Alex Jones. I do not care for the crazy man.

However, for all the talk these days about “conversations” and “having a discussion”, I feel that this does warrant further investigation to hash the issue out. To be outraged and demand boycotts is equally as troublesome as being snidely dismissive because the definition of the word “censor” doesn’t apply.

One can be concerned about the suppression of speech while also condemning the individual who is speaking. Voltaire quote and all.

Review the world of today. Take a good look at how information is being broadcast and shared. When using the internet, it is typically the dominant method of spreading oneself and their words. News sites will frequently feature tweets from celebrities and regular individuals in their stories. If you’re applying for a job, employers will actively scour your social media for telltale signs of your behaviour to ensure your character is one befitted their organisation.

If you want to build any kind of public persona, it is through non-Government means, you need these platforms today. Even hosting a website, or a blog like this, is beholden to non-Government controls. That private companies can exercise supreme control – and especially in seemingly such a coordinated fashion in the example of Jones – I don’t see how people can be so cavalier about dismissing concerns.

While it may not be “censorship” by definition, is could be argued that it is by action. I have used this expression in other instances, but I feel that it’s often the best way to frame what it is that I’m talking about:

What if it’s someone you admire being removed like this?

What if it were Colin Kaepernick? What if it were Linda Sarsour? Pick any well-regarded political activist with a large platform, and ask yourself if you’d be happy with these companies huddling together to prevent them from spreading their message.

There is also the matter of Alex Jones being removed for “Hate Speech”. While I am not entirely aware of what specific examples this regards, although I am familiar with his disgraceful words around the Sandy Hook school shooting. Were they disgusting? Yes. Would they cause harm? Undoubtedly. Would I support him? No.

Yet the ownership of his words are his. Not Facebook’s. Not Apple’s. Not Google nor the rest of the cabal of networks. I have the same feeling toward Louis Farrakhan, who has also said egregiously hateful things, but oddly remains on the social media public square.

People could point to Alex Jones’ followers and say that they are inspired to do harm because of his words. However, Bernie Sanders remains unscathed despite one of his followers shooting up a Congressional baseball game, nearly killing Steve Scalise.

I am not expecting these companies to host whoever wants to help themselves to their technology. However, I do expect them to apply their policies equally, which is where I think much of this concern about “censorship” stems.

Sure, by strict definition, it may not be censorship. But for all the harm this kind of arbitrary application can provide, in that it can deny “troublesome” (or whom these tech companies think are troublesome) speech, I think this shouldn’t be dismissed so easily.

Giant corporations ruling the world through controlling what speech is allowed, I feel is the kind of dystopic nightmare movie that many of these dismissers might be horrified by.

And if these people are still to see justification in what is happening and want to deny further conversation, then I offer the following:

Today it’s these companies who are able to define hate speech and deny people a platform. However, if MySpace, Friendster or similar are any indication, these networks won’t be prominent forever and something will eventually take their place. And that thing might have sympathies that do not align with your own, and they might be able to define your words as hate speech.

Will you worry about censorship then?

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A theory on Big Bang Theory

This isn’t really something I initially felt compelled to comment on, because the story seemed relatively benign; a long-running TV show is coming to an end, and is doing so on top. But this opinion piece at news.com.au prompted me to write a response.

The column contends that detractors of the Big Bang Theory sitcom largely have things wrong and that criticism of the show is misguided. The thrust of the argument seems to be that it has given rise to nerd culture, and that it proves an inspiration to people to show an interest in science.

The article also outlines that:

… viewers now realise nerds can be funny and charming and not just locker stuffing.

The last part of that sentence being rather glaring – in that it doesn’t denounce the bullying of stuffing nerds into lockers, and rather seems to “normalise” it.

The reason that I care not for Big Bang Theory’s demise is that the brief watches I did have of the show didn’t celebrate nerd culture as much as it made it the butt of jokes. The characters were playing Dungeons and Dragons, and that was the joke. They were passionate about comic books, and that was the joke. Sheldon did something socially awkward, and that was the joke.

Big Bang Theory was not so much a celebration of nerd culture as much as it was the gentrification of it. It seemed cynical. The pastimes of nerds was distilled down to cliche and stereotype, and then served in a milquetoast beverage for people to consume. This lead to dilettantes to move into the space that nerds had long received bullying for pursuing, and then have them dominate proceedings.

Star Wars, for instance, was that nerdy movie franchise with the very dedicated fan base. Now it’s akin to a religion, with nigh on everyone excited for the next episode on the franchise. It is almost creepy.

Comic books are being transformed into mainstream blockbusters, rather than being a niche product for a passionate audience.

It could be argued that this is something that should be celebrated, as it brings greater prominence to something that needed it, but I would counter that, like any gentrification, that kind of flourishing robs any culture of the genuine heart, soul and character that had given it the charm, and it replaces it with a thin veneer that satisfies enough to stave off complaints, and remains – ultimately – profitable.

Big Bang Theory, from my observation, was an initial breaking of dirt of the gentrification of nerd culture. It has brought much success to the culture, and has introduced new people to something they might have dismissed (or stuffed nerds into lockers over), but it has seemingly left behind those initial customers who had given it the culture to begin with.

I don’t care to rate the humour of BBT, as comedy is subjective. I don’t care about how it introduces science to people – anyone with an enthusiasm for science will get into it anyway, and I would guess that anyone who obtained an interest in science from BBT would soon abandon it for being too boring.

But BBT has left an indelible mark on nerd culture, and it seems to have been administered in a largely cynical way. I understand that capitalism relies upon presenting a product that people want, but to appropriate nerd culture in a way that seems to mock its core is the kind of offensive that I would have though more people would understand.

But nerds are still just locker stuffing, right?

The long game

It’s difficult to review the political landscape and not recognise the situation panning out. We’re reaching a tipping point, I feel, and it feels that a return to moderation is going to be some time away. This is especially so when you see the popular culture running what appears to be freshly sewn propaganda.

While conservatives fight the policy of the day, the polar opposite are infiltrating popular culture to indoctrinate the youth in their ideals. All the major pop stars support one side of the debate, and for any celebrity to go against this grain, they face large backlash and the ends of their careers.

See the fallout with Kanye West for a prime example. For another example, an up and coming actor had to purge his tweets for daring to not consider conservative firebrand Ben Shapiro a practitioner of hate.

The game that Democrats are playing is a long one. They seem to be seeking intergenerational voters to follow their cause, whereas the conservatives seem content to appeal to their base that has always served them well – middle America. That’s all well and good, except getting people when their minds are the most pliable and open is probably going to play strongly to the Democrats, going forward.

I am from an era where the popular culture was viewed with disdain, that people who consumed the most superficial of media had largely superficial understanding of things. Yet today we seem to give greater credence to ideas espoused by those who are the most popular. The political musings of Katy Perry seem somehow more noteworthy than political commentators who have analysed the field for years.

People who come for the interest of the way power works, rather than people with a vested interest in producing an outcome for their team. Because that’s how I view pop culture personalities who weigh in on politics – sales staff for political powers. They aren’t experts. They are billboards.

But they appeal to the approaching demographic who will soon reach voting age.

There’s a saying that if you aren’t a socialist in your 20’s, you have no heart, but if you aren’t a capitalist in your 30’s, you have no brain. The superficial benevolence of socialism did appeal to me in my younger days, but i understand that the system comes with a large and grave cost.

Conservatives better hope that the conditioning toward the left wears off earlier rather than later.

Just do a better job

As the media seem intent to call themselves a “vital part of democracy”, all the while failing to do even the most basic of reporting, I think it worthwhile to point out why the public rally behind Trump’s call of “fake news”

If the media is in any way confused about this, the solution to their problem of people distrusting the media is actually quite simple:

Do better.

This isn’t to say that the media needs to be Trump’s lapdog. Quite the opposite. But the media seem hell bent on taking any report about Trump, and blowing it well out of proportion. It’s doing nothing to endear the people to the media, and it’s further worsened when the media sees fit to compare themselves literally to soldiers on the front line.

So when every single discussion in the news focuses on the stupid shit that Trump says, while ignoring how policy actually manifests, it tells the public that the media have an ulterior motive. A motive to portray the President in the worst possible light.

… as though the President has trouble doing so without their help.

But it also confirms in peoples’ minds that the media are so far in the tank for one side of the political divide, that they cannot trust what is being reported. The place from where the reporting is coming from is dishonest, and tainted with partisanship.

Take, for example, the recent Antifa skirmishes with Police and journalists. CNN’s talking head will blindly whistle and hand-wave away Antifa’s behaviour on the grounds of it being a moral right. I sincerely doubt that this is a luxury they would afford had it been a conservative group attacking journalists – especially since CNN’s Jim Acosta apparently feared for his safety when he was taunted with jibes of “CNN sucks” at a recent Trump rally.

If the media really wants to earn the trust back from the people, they simply need to do one thing.

Do better.

Stop appearing like the propaganda wing of the Democrat party. Stop treating conservative views like they’re evil. Give opposing views respectful treatment. And be honest about your leanings.

Fox News has been rightly labelled as a right-wing outlet, and they appear to make no apologies for it. CNN, however, purports to be impartial and fair – when the proof provides little to back up the allusion. In fact, I would even think a good start for CNN would be to admit that they’re not impartial, and that they are partisan.

It would be a good start in having people trust them a little more.

But when Obama did it

From conservatives I often hear the excuse for atrocities happening under Trump that “no one cared when these things happened when Obama was in office.”

On the face of it, it’s a fair criticism. However, it does tend to gloss over that things are happening today that need to be fixed. You can’t hand-wave away terrible things because the other guy did it too. We must all strive to be better people, rather than just fall back on “well they do it too”.

Having said all that, it’s the media here who are ultimately culpable for this. Take, for instance, the issue of children being separated from parents and detained. A horrible thing which cannot be denied. However, the media only sought to bring it to the public’s attention now, rather than a few years ago.

This isn’t a defense of Trump, but an indictment on the media.

Now I hear protestors making small sound bites at their demonstrations that Trump is “imprisoning children” – a provocative claim that is both dramatic and light on substance. It sounds good, is simple to digest and horrifies anyone listening. Except it’s a superficial examination of what is happening.

The protestors don’t care about the children being supposedly imprisoned. They only care about the points they can score to smear Trump. If they truly cared about these children, they’d be at the border or at detention centres rather than in London beneath a Trump baby balloon.

And they’d have done it well before Trump came into office.

So when conservatives respond with “But Obama did it”, it’s not to defend Trump, but to call people out on their dishonesty. These people don’t care about incarcerated children. They just care about getting their anti-Christ out of the White House.

The unloseable position for Democrats

With the recent nomination to the Supreme Court in Brett Kavanaugh, Democrats are completely deploying their passionate and loud voices in order to not appear powerless in the world of politics. Because I do feel that the only real power that Democrats seem to have lay in the area of optics and spin – rather than actual power.

Each and every Democrat that has weighed in on the nominee for the Supreme Court has highlighted their concern about any attempts to overturn Roe versus Wade – as though such an action would result in widespread banning of abortions; nothing short of an attack on women’s freedoms.

When such an overturning would only really result in the matter falling back to the states to decide.

However, this kind of yelling on the part of democrats is a win-only proposition. By claiming that Trump seeks to overturn Roe versus Wade, and seizing control of the narrative like this, it means that any attempt the court makes to overturn this ruling can be painted as an abhorrent attack.

On the flip side, if the Supreme Court decides to not even go anywhere near Roe versus Wade, Democrats can claim that it was their intense pressure that made the court shy away from the matter. It’s win-win for Democrats.

Such a matter was also employed with the issue of separating children from their parents if they attempted to cross the border into the United States illegally. As I wrote before, Democrats could have changed matters through law, but instead they pressured Trump to enact an Executive Order to change things – a tactic I highlighted as disgusting in the way it used children as pawns in a sick political theatre.

But Trump executed an order, as requested. And it didn’t result in much, other than Democrats claiming a victory for the cameras.

Camera victories mean nothing if it doesn’t result in anything. If the Supreme Court leave Roe versus Wade alone, it won’t be because of pressure from Democrats. It would be be from malaise and indifference.

Democrats need to actually work on policy, and a message to the people beyond “We disagree”

To the defense of Trump

Now that the clock ticks on and we gradually eke toward the US election mid-terms, it is becoming more and more clear that the media is having less and less interest in doing its job of reporting facts. Frankly, it appears that their modus operandi has gone from being self-appointed bastions of truth and cornerstones of democracy into “Get Trump”.

This is where we, as citizens, need to be astute in what we consume, and recognise the media’s operations. Like any decent investigator, we must always ask ourselves, “Is our source of information reliable, and do they have an interest in selling us a skewed version of events?”

Because, in all likelihood, they have an interest. If it hasn’t been obvious so far, then I fear people haven’t been paying attention. Look at any news story that features Trump versus another person, and the photo of Trump’s target is one showing a face of stoicism, whereas Trumps face is contorted into some stupid way to make it look like he’s trying to shit out a tree stump.

If the media were truly interested in impartial reporting, they wouldn’t need to stoop to such tactics, and they would trust that the reader could formulate their own solutions.

But that’s a big fat nope, and now we have media doing all they can to smear Trump in the hope that the midterm elections will rout Republicans from the House and Senate so that impeachment proceedings can commence.

Because that’s the end game. Impeachment and removal from office.

So, why does that bother me? Despite all my recent postings here, I am not a Trump supporter.

I have long held a belief that politics had been polluted by ultra-wealthy and well-connected types who knew how to say the right things in order to get in. They were hyper-polished but ultimately milquetoast individuals who said nothing committal and spoke in roundabouts and fog. They weren’t motivated by actual serving of the people, but rather by their legacy.

They wanted to rule, and to rule for as long as they could. To stay in power, they just needed to say the right things and avoid the bad things – not necessarily do what is right.

I felt that politics needed a good flush out. It needed someone willing to do what they felt was right, and not what was popular by polls. For all the flaws of Trump – and there are many – I can honestly say with some certainty that he’s doing what he thinks is right and not what is popular. He does what he thinks will take the US where he wants it to go, and not what he thinks will get him reelected.

And regardless of whether you think he’s wrong (and he can be very wrong), you cannot fault him for not following through.

I don’t want politicians motivated by reelection. I want them motivated by doing what they think is right – yes, even if i disagree with them.

Because I prefer someone doing something because it’s their idea, not because they think their idea will get them what they want.

And because in Trump I see this person, and because I see a malicious monolith of entrenched power (in the media and established politicians) seemingly conspiring to have Trump thrown out on the most specious of reasons, it feels like a fight between two parties; the ultra powerful and wealthy individuals of an ultra upper class who believe they were born to rule versus, well, the people.

So, I don’t defend Trump because I like him. I defend him because he won the election and because those forces that are trying to remove him shouldn’t be so powerful in the first place. Politicians serve the people. The people spoke. The politicians should listen and try again next election instead of trying to throw out the peoples’ choice.