Friday, August 17, 2018

Collusion confusion: the free press v. Donald Trump

As you may know, on August 16, 2018, newspapers all over the United States -- about 350 in all -- published editorials in favor of freedom of the press and against #NotMyPresident Donald Trump's attacks on same. Apart from my surprise that there are even that many newspapers remaining in the U.S., I am painfully aware that I'm a day late participating in this nationwide event -- but then again, I'm not a major newspaper (or really any newspaper at all), and besides, I've always done things on my own schedule.
Why, just the other day I went on about freedom of expression and whatnot. (Spoiler alert: I'm generally in favor of it.)
It has been said that the pen is mightier than the sword, but so far that doesn't seem to be holding up very well under the Trump administration. The more the "pen" exercises its might where Trump is concerned, the more fiercely he doubles down on his claims that the "fake news" (which by his definition is almost every mainstream news outlet) is "the enemy of the American people." And each journophobic declaration from him
further incites the cheering mobs of redcaps at his Nazi-like rallies, who echo his disdain, hatred, and thinly veiled threats of violence against members of the press.

On the same day that the newspapers spoke out as one, the U.S. Senate, stepping bravely to the front lines of the battle,
adopted a resolution declaring that "the press is not the enemy of the people." Talk about doing basically nothing and framing it as Something... Hey, guys, why not put your votes where it counts, and really stand up to the Mad King?

As one Reddit user, "Yodabird 19,"
wrote yesterday in a discussion about the Senate resolution:
A congressional rebuke against Trump at this stage is like pouring a glass of water into the Pacific Ocean - completely useless, and very quickly washed away and forgotten.
To say the least.

At least one major newspaper,
The San Francisco Chronicle, refused to participate in the editorial coup, explaining that its decision was both a declaration of complete independence (as in, we have and will continue to criticize Trump, but it will be because we want to, not 'cos everyone else is doing it), and a refusal to play into Trump's narrative that the media are aligned against him. Of course, by 'splainin' why they didn't participate in the big event, they actually were participating, but I quibble.

It didn't take any great gift of prognostication to guess what Trump's response would be to Pressapalooza.
He immediately took to Twitter and screamed, "COLLUSION!"
It remains unclear what he meant by, "PROVE IT!" As Stephen Colbert noted in his August 16 monologue, that call to "prove it," in the context of the collusion accusation, is somewhat like accusing someone of murder and then asking that person to prove that your accusation is correct. But then, Trump has never been known for his stellar logic.

In any case,
Trump himself has said that "collusion" isn't a crime, and isn't really even bad, so I don't think that the colluders in the press have anything to worry about in regard to that specific accusation. But as long as the Mad King sits on his golden throne a-tweetin', the journos may have plenty of other things to worry about.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Alex Jones and the usual whiners: censor-y deprivation?

Over the past couple of weeks there has been a great deal of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth in the right-wing conspiranoid cartel regarding the recent "censorship" of conspiracy-porn producer and right-wingnut Alex Jones, who earlier this month was booted from several social media platforms, including Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, and Apple. Despite the whining, said "censorship" is benefiting Jones by adding to his hero/martyr creds, and, to the surprise of no one who has been following these matters for any length of time, he and his colleagues in the hate bidness are doing everything possible to exploit the situation. Wrote Erin Durkin at The Guardian on 11 August, 2018:
Alex Jones says he’s being silenced – but he isn’t shutting up and you can still listen to him.

The right wing provocateur’s Infowars was banished from most of the web’s farthest-reaching platforms this week – sending him scrambling to find other ways to get his message out, and appealing to Donald Trump for a rescue from the companies he casts as big tech villains.
Clearly, imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau -- this blog's favorite free-speech Stuporhero -- isn't the only one to turn to the nation's top scammer and the Conspiracy Theorist in Chief, Herr Twitler, for help.

Though he is far from silenced, the "censorship" has clipped Jones' nasty little flying-monkey wings, making it a bit more difficult to accidentally or purposely stumble into his toxic poppy fields. The piece in The Guardian concludes:

In videos posted since the removals, Jones has alternated between bravado and desperation.

“I am not backing down,” he said in one video, though he acknowledged feeling “spiritual-level desperation” and seemed to see Trump as his only hope to regain his larger platform.

“Come out before the midterms and make censorship the big issue,” Jones said in an appeal to Trump.

“It’s the right thing to do, Mr President. It’s the truth,” he said.

So far, Trump has not ridden to the rescue.
Personally, and as I've mentioned on several social media discussions, I would be more concerned about the Orange Oaf of Office's threats against the First Amendment than I'd be about social media platforms putting the reins on lesser oafs like Jones.

In any case, despite Trump's failure thus far to step up to the plate, some of Jones' most vociferous fans have sprung to his defense. Apart from Jones' own nonstop hollering about his repression and oppression, the usual group of loathsome suspects is having yet another whine-and-cheesiness party on the Internet. On
Mike "The Health Ranger" Adams' Natural News site, f'rinstance, Adams waxed paranoid about "censorship" by the tech giants.
Even though the criminal justice system is corrupt and dishonest in its own way, there is at least recognition that those who are accused may face their accusers; that the accused has the right to see the evidence against them; and that evidence may be presented in their defense.

But in the world of online censorship by tech giants,
no due process exists. You’re banned without explanation… you cannot face your accusers… you cannot present evidence in your defense… and no evidence even needs to be cited against you.
As will be made clear if you watch the video embedded in that post, Adams framed all of this oppression and repression as a "liberal" conspiracy. And in a subsequent post on Natural News, another contributor, Ethan Huff, piled it on.
Censorship is one of the ways that liberals shut down arguments they can’t win. Many of them can’t even have civil conversations about their beliefs because they get immediately triggered whenever others oppose them. To keep up with the latest news on liberal censorship, visit [another Mike Adams site ~ CC].

It's no surprise that one of the whiniest babies of all,
Not-Doktor Leonard Coldwell, would scarf down some scraps from Adams' abundant table of histrionic nonsense and regurgitate it on his own "blog."

Even weasely (no offense intended to weasels) right-wing pols like
Texas' Ted Cruz spoke up for Jones; some have said that this could be a signal that he's trying to shore up his support from the fringe right.

When I shared a post about Alex Jones' tribulations on my Facebook page -- the post centered around the Natural News whines and Leonard Coldwell's republication of same -- I got some no-nonsense responses from a couple of my buds. Dave wrote:
I'd guess there are still plenty of outlets for Alex and his ilk - Fox news, Breitbart, etc. But... that doesn't fit the persecution complex very well.

I love this part"...all sorts of leftist hate speech that targets white people, Christians, and conservatives continues to pollute the social media world unabated." Mr. Clueless to the courtesy phone please.
Nailed it, Dave. And Martin nailed it too:
The typical reaction of these morons. They never really grasp the fact that there's a difference between being silenced by the state and being silenced where they have no right to spout their bile and hatred in the first place.

Freedom of speech stops at my front door. Spout hateful shit in my home you either leave or get a smack in the gob or both.

First off, this is NOT a "First Amendment" issue
In the US Constitution, the First Amendment addresses freedom of expression, but it doesn't give one carte blanche to say and write any and everything.
This article on the New Statesman site 'splains it in simple terms, complete with Brit-English spelling, seeing as how it's a British magazine published in London.
The First Amendment to the US constitution is wilfully misrepresented by people like Jones and his supporters. It protects against abridgement of free speech by the government. What it does not provide for is the right to place your free speech on someone else’s platform, like a private website such as YouTube. If I write something racist or peddle a monstrous and cruel conspiracy theory against the victims of a massacre like Sandy Hook, it would not be an abrogation of my free speech when the New Statesman withdraws their invitation to write for them again. It's a privilege, not a right, to have a platform like this.

But free speech as Jones portrays it is not free speech at all, it is
consequence-free speech.
Exactly. And privately owned platforms such as the social media outlets that ousted Alex Jones have a right to determine the type of content they want on those platforms.

Nor is it a "left-wing" conspiracy
On most social and political issues I could be considered left-leaning and liberal, a fact that has turned even some former fans and supporters of this blog against me (they were okay with my claims that Kevin Trudeau is a scammer, but they can't abide my criticisms of Trump).

Yet I've also always leaned towards letting fools have their say, no matter how foolish their say may seem to me. Long before Whirled Musings came into existence, I generally advocated freedom of expression, no matter how distasteful I personally believed such expression to be. In more recent years I've tolerated all sorts of verbal abuse and trolling on the few platforms I maintain, i.e., this blog and my Facebook page. For years I allowed
Leonard Coldwell to repeatedly and publicly and falsely call me a diseased slut and a prostitute and a sexual harasser and a killer of dogs. He blocked me from commenting on, and in some cases even from seeing, the posts in which he viciously defamed me, so I had no way to defend myself on those forums. Whenever one of my friends or allies tried to post even the most polite contradiction to his claims, he would block them and/or accuse them of being me, writing under fake accounts. He offered absolutely zero evidence of his accusations against me, yet he kept making them and continued to incite his followers to harass me, which they did. Talk about lack of "due process"...
Even so, I never tried to sue or silence the little perv, and one of his more dimwitted fans privately told me that Coldwell had told him that the reason I never sued him was that I knew that what Coldwell was saying was true, and that I was afraid of being "exposed." Actually, my reasons centered around financial limitations as well as First-Amendment issues, but in any case, what happened was that Coldwell tried to silence me by continued defamation and incitement, and ultimately by a sham of a lawsuit (
which failed). Nevertheless, I persisted (apologies to Elizabeth Warren). 

But I'm not any sort of hero in the ongoing battle for the right to freedom of expression, which, as noted above, is often framed in the US as First Amendment rights. I'd say that my pal and blolleague Jason Jones, aka Salty Droid, is more of the hero type. Not only has he endured worse verbal abuse and more disturbing threats than I have, he has also been repeatedly banned and blocked on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms, simply because the scammers he wrote and talked about didn't like what he had to say.

Yet Jason, despite his own "liberalism" and passion for legal and social justice, hasn't tried to sue his detractors or silence them in any way. He could very easily have taken legal action against some SaltyDroid-haters who posted false and defamatory videos about him a few years ago. These videos remain online and are among the top search results for "Salty Droid," and have been cited by numerous idiot scammers such as the aforementioned Coldwell. But Jason has chosen not to waste time and energy and money to silence the liars. In
a May 2018 post he wrote this about his detractors' efforts:
These are defamatory hit jobs that go way too far, and I’ve done nothing at all about them. I made no effort to have them removed or delisted. I did not threaten to sue. I didn’t even complain, and I’m not complaining now.

I want people inside the Internet Marketing community (and the other sub-cultures I write about) to read my writing. I want to be part of the conversation. But lots of other people in that conversation hate what I’m saying and think my ideas fall somewhere between extremely dangerous and completely catastrophic; so I can’t expect smooth sailing.

It seems like the people who most want to have their voices heard are the same people trying to silence other voices. It’s hypocritical, pathetic, rampant, and it’s bad for America...
I've found that to be the case too. Here's another post about those videos, with more details about the SEO dirty tricks that kept them at the top of the search results.

And here is a comment Jason wrote
on another one of his posts, regarding the notion that the right to freedom of expression applies to everyone.
I was really trying to like my fellow GW Law alumnus Michael Avenatti [the infamous Stormy Daniels' lawyer and harsh critic of Donald Trump], but then he did this:

So he gets to go on every media outlet ever created, all day and all night, to talk shit. But if someone talks shit about him he starts whipping out defamation threats?

That's a dealbreaker! Lawyers are so unlovable.
This tale of two bloggers represents just two small examples. In the larger world there are many other examples of "liberals" getting banned or blocked, and "conservatives" imposing their own form of "political correctness" and effectively coming out in favor of censorship. This August 2015 WaPo opinion piece touches on the issue. (And don't forget Trump's own ongoing efforts to block members of the press who ask critical questions -- or, come to think of it, his blocking of Twitter users who questioned or criticized him.)

Moreover, while the left has been accused of being hypocritical about free speech,
there's plenty of fee-speech hypocrisy on the right side too.

But it's not all black-and-white
Like most stories, this one has nuances that are often overlooked by both the pro- and anti-Alex Jones camps.
An opinion writer on the Libertarian site notes that while it's not about the First Amendment, and while many people would not miss Jones if he disappeared entirely, that's not exactly the point. The point, the writer suggests, is the confusion over what exactly defines "hate speech." And the larger issue is what the author describes as "viewpoint censorship."
I will shed no tears for Jones. But social media platforms that take a broad view of what constitutes unacceptable hate speech have given themselves an extremely difficult task—one that will likely prompt yet more cries of viewpoint censorship down the road.
The writer of this piece on the liberal Huffington Post makes similar points, and says that the real problem is digital platform monopolies. Anti-trust law may be the way to deal with this issue, the author suggests, though it might not be the solution that Alex Jones and the hatriots have in mind.
If Twitter, Facebook or YouTube were constitutionally required to host any and all content anyone wanted to post to them, they would become unworkable platforms overrun by spam and bad actors attempting to distort the platforms to their desires.

And none of this would address the actual underlying problem, which is that removal from Facebook and YouTube feels like actual censorship because the major platforms have monopolized the audience for certain formats of online media content. If you are creating videos to be distributed online, you have to be on YouTube. That is where the audience is. If you are writing articles or other content online, you have to be on Facebook because it has 2.2 billion users.

There is a way to deal with this problem that doesn’t make it impossible for platforms to moderate content users post to them. It’s called antitrust law. If there weren’t one main platform for video distribution and one main platform for social media ― and if those platforms didn’t also
own their biggest competition ― an actual market for different platforms that hosted varied content could exist instead of one platform overrun with every type of jerk.
Something to think about, anyway.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think that Alex Jones and his fellow conspiranoids should get a pass for claiming that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a "hoax," carried out by "crisis actors," or for making the same stupid claims about virtually every other mass shooting that was carried out by a white guy, or that was perpetrated against a marginalized group such as LGBT people. Those who make such claims deserve ridicule, public shaming, and in some cases legal action. But overall, and to arguably a greater extent than many of their justifiably outraged critics may want to admit, the conspiranoids have a right to make fools of themselves in public.

Certainly Alex Jones has a right to freedom of expression. But so too does Jason Jones...and Trump's legions of detractors... and for that matter, your very own Whirled hostess.

Vintage whines of the Whirled
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