18 July 2019

We Have Freedom Of Speech. Why Aren't We Using It?

As of this writing, in the evening hours of July 19, 2019, we are now in the fifth day of pearl clutching by the legacy media, the alt-media, and people on the right and the left about...wait for it....a tweet.  Specifically, we are in the fifth day of pearl clutching about a Donald Trump tweet (cue the horror music):



So great a calamity this has been that it has dominated every legacy media outlet, a fair number of alt-media outlets, the House of Representatives, as well as people on both the political left and the political right. So severe a travesty upon this nation has this single Trumpian tweet been that at 7:20PM, Central Time, on July 18, 2019, Google's algorithms consider the two most important stories in the United States to be about the aftermath of this tweet.

Seriously.


So horrific was this tweet that Democrats in the House of Representatives were compelled to put forward a resolution condemning the tweet.

Seriously.

So shocking and grotesque was this tweet that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a veteran House member steeped in the rules and traditions of the House, could not contain herself and broke the centuries old protocol of attacking the character of the President from the floor, and the House Democrats had to set aside the chamber's parliamentary protocols to allow Speaker Pelosi to continue speaking in furtherance of the resolution.

Seriously.

Of such importance is this issue that all small matters have been disregarded.  Here is a short list of just some of these small matters:
  • On July 15, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security jointly announced changes to the rules regarding asylum applications, requiring that future asylum seekers first do so in the first safe country in which they arrive.
  • Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), introduced two pieces of legislation affecting higher education and student loans. The first bill would extend the availability of Pell Grants to vocational education programs, job training programs, and job certification programs.  The second bill would compel colleges and universities to refund 50% of defaulted student loans.
  • Tech and Social Media giant Google appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and was confronted by Senator Ted Cruz over the company's internal documentation substantiating claims the company censors conservative and dissenting voices, and  other alt-media content creators.
My response to President Trump's tweet can be summarized by Rhett Butler's classic response to Scarlett O'Hara: "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."

Seriously.

Regardless on which side of the political aisle you are, changes to how asylum applications are processed is a significant story. It impacts how people may lawfully enter this country. Oppose or approve, it is a story that should be reported, discussed, and debated. It is a story over which opinions should be formed. Alt Media journalist and commentator Tim Pool has made several video presentations regarding this matter, it being an issue he feels is especially important.

Regardless on which side of the political aisle you are, student loan debt and financing post-high school education matters. Education impacts the types of jobs people are able to get, and the amount of money they are able to earn. People's ability to service student loans impacts their ability to make other purchases, such as a car, or a house. This is an issue that should be deeply reported, and discussed, and debated.  Yet of the mainstream legacy media, a search on Duck Duck Go using the terms "josh hawley student loan bill" revealed a whopping two articles from the legacy media--Newsweek and Forbes.

Regardless on which side of the political aisle you are, tech censorship by Google, Facebook, and Twitter is a major issue. These companies are deciding who gets to have a voice online, who gets to be seen, who gets to be heard, and what opinions are permissible in the "digital commons" that is social media. This is an issue that should matter to everyone, as it impacts everyone. This is an issue that puts the private property rights of these companies against the free speech rights of citizens in a conflict where one side or the other must yield. Yet a Duck Duck Go search using the terms "Google ted cruz tech censorship" yields only one article from the Washington Times.

What does a Duck Duck Go search using the terms "trump tweet go back" yield? Articles from Bloomberg, the New York Post, USA Today, Politico, and the New York Times. While major stories unfolded in this country, the legacy media was focused on Trump's tweets.  The alternative media was not much better, with Breitbart, The Daily Caller, and Mediate all having a similar fixation on the tweets rather than actual stories.

Seriously.

What is one tweet, even a Donald Trump tweet, that it deserves the near constant focus of a full five days of news? Put simply--who cares? 

The people who support Donald Trump are going to continue to support Donald Trump. The people who oppose Donald Trump are going to continue to oppose Donald Trump. The people who greeted the occasion of his election by calling him "orange Hitler" are going to continue to call him "orange Hitler". The four Congresswomen about whom he tweeted--derisively and dismissively termed "The Squad"--were already calling him racist and corrupt, and using similarly charged language, and would continue to do so even if he had not sent out that incendiary tweet.

However incendiary and problematic one regards Trump's tweet, the simple truth is that the tweet itself was meaningless. It changed nothing. It altered no debate, it changed no minds, it moved no hearts. The legacy media, the Congress, people on the political right and the political left, have obsessed for five full days over something that shouldn't have mattered for five full seconds, and ignored vital and important stories to do so.

Regardless on which side of the political aisle you are, I submit we should be able to agree on  a few things:
  • We should agree that speech matters. We should agree that it is important we talk to each other and just at each other. 
  • We should agree that listening, with a critical and skeptical yet still open mind, is a supreme civic virtue.
  • We should agree there are some news stories are more significant than others, and all news stories are more important than tweets (unless they are tweets about said news stories).
  • We should agree that Trump is going to say inflammatory and incendiary things, and largely irrelevant things.
  • We should agree that people attending Trump rallies are going to engage in chants because it's fun to chant, and it's part of the group dynamic of such an event.
  • We should agree that Trump is not impulsive, but is calculating and even cynically and ruthlessly manipulative. Even Donald Trump has acknowledged that is tweets accomplished certain significant political goals for him--he tweeted out as much the very next day:
  • We should agree that different opinions are not a sign of evil, but a sign that we are, after all, individuals.
I've no doubt there are other things upon which we may agree. I hope and pray there are a great many things upon which we may agree. I hope and pray that we can stop fussing over tweets long enough to learn what those things may be, and what we can do to reconcile the things over which we can never agree.

We live in one of the most enlightened, freest societies the world has ever produced. We have protections for civil liberties unlike any other society in the world. No other government charter begins with the words "We The People...." No other nation explicitly decrees its government to be subordinate to the people at all times, as does the United States Constitution. We are all blessed with the right to speak our mind freely, to assemble peaceably, to be able to (mostly) trust what we read in the papers.

Despite this, we are not speaking our minds, but are consuming mindless drivel over tweets. We are not assembling peaceably, committed to learning from each other, and teaching to each other. We are not creating a more perfect union.

We have an unequivocal right to freedom of speech. Surely we can make better use of it than endless debates over tweets.

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