The 4th of July while usually the day for “Hooray, America!” cheering, this year found me feeling worried about many cultural and political trends. From LGBTQ gender war extremism that seems to be targeting even young children now, to much of corporate America throwing themselves all-in on embracing and enforcing the left’s gender, racial and political edicts, to our partisan political wasteland, where the news media have become more political operatives than objective reporters and our politicians, across the board, seem to be mostly corrupt, self-serving buffoons and brazen liars. Trends don’t look too promising.
Then there’s the constantly shifting PC word games, where words that are perfectly acceptable and benign today, next week might be on an ever-increasing list of words the left’s word police deem racist, sexist, ethnically-insensitive, or denoting some other socially unacceptable connotation. If the left’s PC word games aren’t exhausting enough, the left’s media hysterics scan photos and videos looking for hand signs they deem racist signals and even facial expressions they insist denote some social evil (see the Covington kid’s smirk). To compound the semantical mayhem, many partisans on the right, following former President Trump’s lead, jumped into the spin word games too.
The culture war craziness afflicts the right too, with populist frenzies over hot button issues taking hold often and totally wacko conspiracy theories spreading faster than CA wildfire. The right’s turned mindless “owning the libs’ antics into the highest virtue, while too many elected Republicans float rushed legislation, that is often in reaction to some Twitter “breaking news” uproar than about carefully thought out or researched issues, all to appease and curry favor with the Trump=supporting faction of the Republican party.
Even face masks in the midst of a pandemic became a political symbol, with wearing a mask denoting virtue to many liberals and not wearing a mask a symbol of freedom to many Trump supporters.
It seems the politicians and media pundits, whose life now revolves around being social media influencers, lead the American media outrage theater parade, while the rest of America has not a clue what the heck is really going on, but plenty of Americans sense something is going radically wrong .
There’s a lot to unpack with the policing and enforcement of speech in the American public square, which increasingly is done in online social media venues. An easy early take when Alex Jones, a kooky conspiracy theorist got banned from social media, was that social media companies are privately-owned businesses and can set their own rules for conduct on their site. That issue of social media banning now seems way more complicated than that private company vs. public space argument. The issue took a decided turn when many mainstream (liberal) media companies tried hard to limit their coverage of Trump live speeches and not covering Trump White House press briefings, under the rationale of trying to stop the spread of lies. However, now social media has targeted Brett Weinstein, a liberal evolutionary biologist, who early in the pandemic spoke out on his YouTube channel (Dark Horse) about the possibility that COVID 19 might have originated from a lab leak in Wuhan China. Weinstein also has raised concerns about the safety of COVID vaccines and about use of ivermectin in COVID treatment and as a prophylactic drug. Weinstein has now had his YouTube channel demonetized, and several of his videos were banned from YouTube. In regards to the Weinstein case, Matt Taibbi raises an important question in piece published a couple days ago, If Private Platforms Use Government Guidelines to Police Content, is that State Censorship?. Taibbi states:
“There are several factors that make the DarkHorse incident different from other major Silicon Valley moderation decisions, including the fact that the content in question doesn’t involve electoral politics, foreign intervention, or incitement. The main issue is the possible blurring of lines between public and private censorship.
When I contacted YouTube about Weinstein two weeks ago, I was told, “In general, we rely on guidance from local and global health authorities (FDA, CDC, WHO, NHS, etc) in developing our COVID-19 misinformation policies.”
The question is, how active is that “guidance”? Is YouTube acting in consultation with those bodies in developing those moderation policies? As Weinstein notes, an answer in the affirmative would likely make theirs a true First Amendment problem, with an agency like the CDC not only setting public health policy but also effectively setting guidelines for private discussion about those policies. “If it is in consultation with the government,” he says, “it’s an entirely different issue.”
Asked specifically after Weinstein’s demonetization if the “guidance” included consultation with authorities, YouTube essentially said yes, pointing to previous announcements that they consult other authorities, and adding, “When we develop our policies we consult outside experts and YouTube creators. In the case of our COVID-19 misinformation policies, it would be guidance from local and global health authorities.””
While many Republicans rail about social media targeting Republicans and conservatives on social media for bans and having separate standards and rules on their platforms for liberals and voices on the right, it must be said that the typical Republicans in Congress response seems to be to draft ill-conceived legislation, that they know is never going to pass. It’s all a media effort, not a serious approach to dealing with the “war on words,” that’s escalating. The same Republican ill-conceived approach is sweeping through Republican-run states with legislation banning the teaching of Critical Race Theory (a controversial liberal approach to teaching through a racial lens). Many on the right see CRT as Marxist drivel that’s teaching American kids to hate America and look at everything through the liberal racial politics that’s been raging across America since the death of George Floyd last year. Poorly drafted bans on CRT and overly restrictive rules on what can be taught in public schools seems to me like the cure may be way worse than the disease.
On Saturday, the day before the 4th of July the NYT ran a piece, A Fourth of July Symbol of Unity That May No Longer Unite. Yes, now the American flag is up for demonization by this NYT piece written by Sarah Maslin Nir:
“Supporters of former President Donald J. Trump have embraced the flag so fervently — at his rallies, across conservative media and even during the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol — that many liberals like Mr. Treiber worry that the left has all but ceded the national emblem to the right.
What was once a unifying symbol — there is a star on it for each state, after all — is now alienating to some, its stripes now fault lines between people who kneel while “The Star-Spangled Banner” plays and those for whom not pledging allegiance is an affront.
And it has made the celebration of the Fourth of July, of patriotic bunting and cakes with blueberries and strawberries arranged into Old Glory, into another cleft in a country that seems no longer quite so indivisible, under a flag threatening to fray.”
Where better to get a gauge for the opposite reaction to this NYT piece than country music, with two new songs released :
Yes, the spin information war, that drives the left’s culture war, still worries me a great deal and what concerns me is what happens when millions of Americans, who refuse to buy into the left’s BLM racial politics, get tired of being told they’re racist and having every aspect of their lives attacked? Or what happens, God-forbid, Dems pass some new gun-control laws or there’s some other high-octane situation like the BLM protests that turned violent last year or some far right-wing violence erupts or Trump or some other right-wing flamethrower ignites something worse than Jan. 6th? Where does America turn for some calm, news reporting or some calm, political leadership, who most of America will even listen to? The Dems spent months last year attacking the police, and now some Trumpers on the right are attacking the FBI and America’s top generals. I worry about the small crowd of blue-checkmark partisan flame-throwers on Twitter driving and controlling the news media coverage in America and their ability to escalate even the most trivial thing into a major outrage spin cycle, that can quickly mobilize tens of thousands of Americans into a raging mob.
I still remain hopeful about America, but this corrupt spin war, that’s now directed from a small crowd of media and political elites on Twitter really worries me.
Before closing this post, I wanted to give an update on my duck saga. Towards evening on the day the second duck showed up in my front yard, the ducks were waddling around my front yard. A pick-up with two older men stopped in front of my house and one of the men jumped out and rushed up to the ducks, happily talking to them. He told me the ducks live in his backyard, but they are wild ducks. He told me when the one duck disappeared the remaining duck kept leaving several times a day wandering around the neighborhood looking for the other duck (which was laying behind the a bush in my flower bed). I told the man that this duck showed up in my front yard and seemed injured. Long story short, this man has a pond in his backyard, lives on a nearby street, and as he talked to the ducks they followed him back to his house. As joyful as that man was to find both ducks, I can assure you, I was even more joyful to not have two Muscovy ducks living in my front yard.