Freedom Of Speech & Expression – Should Political Beliefs Be A Protected Class?

Today, I bring you a segment from the David Pakman Show which caught my attention. The news story being covered was about a Trump supporter who found himself removed from a bar seemingly because of the hat (and it’s representative political affiliations).

The first thing that needs to be said (though it should be obvious) is that this is in the context of the United States. When Free Speech and Expression are concerned, international boundaries matter. How this plays out in the US is likely different than it would play out almost anywhere else.

To start, when it comes to the free speech debate, I no longer really stake out a position. It is one of the only debates where the status quo logical position is positioning yourself right at the extreme, the so-called Free Speech Absolutist. Though I used to be there as well, further life lessons have taught me that occupying the extremes of an ideology often times means overlooking various (and often times important) nuances.
While the absolutists are in good company in their chosen position (following people like Christopher Hitchens and Noam Chomsky), I can’t help but wonder if the position overlooks some important nuances. Particularly in the context of the last 2 years, with the rise of the fascist right all over the world.

If sunlight is truly the best disinfectant for these toxic ideologies, then should they not be falling away instead of growing? Is it REALLY that important that ideas that have rightfully fallen out of favor DECADES ago, be allowed to be spoken?

Again, at this point, I don’t stake out any position. I don’t have enough data to do so.

To bring it back to the original topic, I have a definite position on this. Which is, this is ridiculous.

The first thing that must be acknowledged is that private businesses are essentially sovereign entities, entitled to enforce whatever rules and regulation they choose (short of discrimination). This judgment and legal precedent seem to state clearly that political affiliations and beliefs do not count as a protected class, and therefore removal based on such is not discrimination (at least in the eyes of the law). A risky proposition, if you ask me.

http://www.foxnews.com/food-drink/2018/04/25/judge-rules-new-york-city-bar-can-refuse-service-to-trump-supporter-wearing-maga-hat.html

http://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/384911-judge-rules-that-a-bar-was-allowed-to-kick-out-trump-supporter

https://nypost.com/2018/04/25/judge-bars-are-allowed-to-throw-out-trump-supporters/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5658483/Trump-supporter-lawsuit-against-NYC-bar-tossed.html

From what I can tell, there were no behavioral reasonings for the refusal of service and subsequent removal from the establishment (other than the highlighted). The spirituality and mention of the 9/11 memorial are a bit ridiculous. But in all honesty, this should not have happened.

I am not without empathy. I remember January 2017. The first 3 months of that year were a blur of horror. Having to deal with THIS walking into your establishment was no picnic. Particularly when it was likely deliberately in your face. Let’s be honest.
None the less, there is a reason why law tends not to be driven by emotional reactions. Emotions are messy and often irrational. Short of the patron giving a legitimate reason for removal, one should just have done the capitalist thing and taken his money.

As for the court decision . . . I can’t help but think that this could be troubling.

This happened in New York City, so those involved live in the liberal side of the nation. Included in this is also David Pakman and his co-host Pat, both residing in Boston. There is not much chance of finding yourself a democrat in a republican owned establishment in this area. Neither coast for sure, and possibly even most major cities (since cities tend to vote liberal). One can not say the same thing for a Democrat in middle America, however.

This has come up before, in the context of establishments refusing to serve openly GLBTQ+ patrons. I say openly because how would the business owners know otherwise, and I use the + sign to encompass the ever-changing additions to the acronym.

Either way, I used to not care about businesses not serving any clientele for any reason, because they can go elsewhere. However, my mind was changed after the I realized that such businesses as pharmacies could also enforce such restrictions. If you live in a town with a private pharmacy that refuses to provide contraceptives or birth control for religious reasons, there may be no easy alternative. I doubt that your corporates like CVS or Walgreens would allow such policies in their stores. But they are not everywhere.

Though political affiliations are not considered a protected form of speech, I can’t help but wonder now, if they should. Because now that this obviously left-leaning establishment in the heart of the American liberal bubble has opened this can of worms, will the business owners in Trump’s 30% or so base start utilizing this loophole? Possibly to masquerade their true bias (insert protected class here)?

Am I making a mountain out of a molehill?

Net Neutrality

Thirty-seven Democratic senators, along with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), sent a letter (pdf) to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Tuesday, urging the panel to abandon its “reckless plan to radically alter the free and open Internet as we know it.”

If pushed through, the letter warns, the move, spearheaded by Trump’s FCC chairman Ajit Pai, “would amount to the largest abdication of [the agency’s] statutory responsibilities in history.”

This is an exert of an article titled Warning Against Abdication Of Duty, Senators Demand FCC Abandon Net Neutrality Vote, published yesterday by common dreams. 39 senators attempting to stop the seemingly inevitable implementation of corporate governance over the infrastructure that makes up the internet (at least in the US).

That is what we all have heard on the news by now. How those platforms with money will likely be able to afford the regular tiers whilst everyone else falls by the wayside into the unpaid tunnel. And you thought the free speech situation online was ALREADY bad!

One question that I found myself asking was, what does this mean to me? For my content? And by extension, for everyone else that shares the platform of WordPress?

Being that I am not exactly a niche writer, I tend to draw in search engine traffic that originates in far more corners of the globe than I could ever hope to visit. My most popular posts to date are What On Earth Is The European Brotherhood? and Apistevist – A Term With Potential.  One has become infamous due to world affairs of the last 2 or so years (despite predating them), and the other due to continued waves of interest in the term.
Another of my recent works that have been viewed quite a bit lately is The Cure For Dementia – A Beverage?. This one was inspired by an ad I kept coming across in my travels to web platforms tailored to mainly to an older crowd. While I hate snake oil to begin with, knowing people that have had the misfortune of dealing with elderly parents suffering from dementia made looking into the ad a priority. No one is more vulnerable to manipulation than those who would likely give almost anything to spare a loved one from the nightmare.

Anyway, as the 3 posts outlined alone showcase, I have content that is utilized by for any number of reasons. A fair bit of the traffic to each is from the US. Could that change?
While I make no money from my platform, for those that do, how much effect could that have?

First off, we must consider the dynamics involved. WordPress is the brand we deal with, it is owned and hosted by a company named Automattic. So, the state of your content’s availability may well be tied to how much Automattic is willing to shell out. Being that the option of upgrading to a paid Go Daddy domain is both available and fairly effortless, I doubt it will be much in the interest of Automattic to concede to the various ISP’s extortion demands (Go Daddy can likely fork it over easily). And if I am wrong, then we may either find WAY more ad’s on our blogs or be no longer able to use them for free.

What does that mean for us?

For me, not a whole lot really. While some of my material is relevant to Americans at this point in time, losing that audience will not be the end of the world. Would all the work I have put in here over the years be worth paying into to ensure its continued availability?
I am unsure.
Is it worth it if the price is being used as a billboard of sorts? Yes.

Despite the fact that Americans are staring down the barrel of net neutrality, it seems that STILL, few have truly grasped the potential implications. Thus, it’s likely safe to say that many users of this very platform haven’t given it much thought.

So now that I have your attention, do you know what this will mean for you?

True Online Free Speech – Impossible?

Part 1

Freedom of Speech.

The favored ideological cash cow of the past few years.  For a topic that generates so much noise, very little is of actual substance. Though I suppose that could be said for many dialogues in the digital realm.
It is also one of the very few cases in which the generally accepted practice (even in terms of respected intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky) is to place yourself at an extreme. All must be accepted.

First off, a little clarification. My tone suggests a bias that may not exactly be accurate. I am not against free speech. I am just fed up with the conversation as it has existed for quite a while now (in the context of free speech online, anyway). Endless yammering on and on, yet little actual constructive solutions aside from crafted points outlining how things should be. What platforms should be doing.

I am not a free speech purist. I am not a free speech anything really. I generally do very little censorship of anything that I am in control of (Twitter, blog, facebook etc), so I basically embrace pure free speech without the virtue signaling flair.
However, I question a few aspects of the free speech purist’s arguments. Let us explore.

One is the “Sunlight cures bad ideas” argument.

Aside from the speech aspect, the assumption is made that everyone is equally able to evaluate all information that is being presented to them, including that which is involving the complicated. Considering how often I see Dave Rubin and Sam Harris types being called out here and elsewhere, yet STILL they grow in popularity, I call BS on this assessment.

Going back to the speech aspect, I am unsure if reactionary actions provoked by incendiary speakers should be as readily dismissed as many people seem to think. In all honesty, I am unsure if most (be they purists or otherwise) have given this aspect much thought.

Incendiary speech from a pedestal comes to mind here, first and foremost. But also applicable are those dialogues which are not explicitly incendiary, but none the less toxic. Racist, sexist, xenophobic, that sort of thing.

Reactions due to incendiary speech tend to be rare. Like other forms of terrorism and violence, too much emphasis here may distract from other areas.

And so, other areas. It is generally accepted at face value that Racism, Sexism, Xenophobia etc must be tolerated, but rebutted when applicable. Anything else is, slippery slope fallacy!

I do not entirely write off the premise. We are dealing with people after all. However, I do have to raise an eyebrow.

Call me an authoritarian progressive, but I see little wrong with drawing a line in the sand when an idea has been decided to be explicitly wrong, or harmful. We have figured out that bias based rhetoric (be it racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, whatever!) can lead to nowhere good. So why put up with it?
It eats away at the foundations of civil society.

Of course, many people of previous generations (along with many people that listen to copious amounts of Dave Rubin or Sam Harris) may disagree.
However, when it is a case of (more often than not) misrepresented or misunderstood data deliberately targeting a cohort that fears the loss of its everlasting dominance VS reality, I will stick with reality.
Speaking of reality, wait until oceans start pushing coastal dwellers further and further inland. You ain’t see NOTHING yet!

Anyway, back on track.

While the whack a mole rebuttal as necessary tactic is preferred, I am unsure if it is effective. First, the exposure of the ideas generally leads to more attention. And 2ed, there is again an assumption that the listener will be equally able to weigh and analyze even complex ideas, even if they are being described very convincingly and in a charismatic way.

Noting recent events pretty much the world over, I SERIOUSLY call into question this line of reasoning. However, am I going to explicitly come out against this “Free Marketplace of Ideas”?

No.

I just think that the tactics and the views accepted and employed almost thoughtlessly by many of us are worthy of a second look, of further consideration.
I could be barking up the wrong tree. But there is only one way to find out.

Well, 2 ways, if you take the out of the typical ideologue (“You are WRONG. PERIOD!”). If you are one of these extremely entrenched people, there is not much point reading beyond this.

More on free speech absolutism . . . it would be a bit silly for me to take that stance for a couple reasons.
For one, I live in a country that does not embrace as much free speech as the United States. Jordan Peterson makes a good living off of selling that point to anyone who will listen.
But more importantly, the context in which the free speech absolutism would be most applicable for me is in the online realm. Be it here (whether you are seeing this on WordPress or Reddit), Facebook, Twitter or otherwise. Such self-governing bodies reserve the right to not allow pretty much any speech or expression they choose (such is the accepted reality of using a privately owned and run domain). As such, me calling myself a free speech purist is just silly. Dare I say it again, virtue signaling.

As noted, I criticize people for presenting more noise than solution when it comes to so-called Free Speech online. As such, I will propose mine.

Part 2

In the free speech dialogue, once you get past the How Things Should Be stage, there is nowhere left to go but to acknowledge reality. There is currently no government-owned and/or regulated platform that can serve as the public square of the internet. End.

Okay. Where to from here?

In order for this to happen in the current status quo, the current platforms will have to embrace this practice. What if they refuse?

Do you force them using the judicial system? Nationalize them?

Remember that there are now billions of dollars on the line. Billions of dollars can buy one HELL of a fight (just ask Bernie Sanders). Not to mention that if one has a conservative/libertarian lean, overlooking such an act of economic aggression should REALLY make you question those values.

However, you don’t NEED to go through all of that trouble. Because the infrastructure to circumvent the status quo is already there. All you need to do is build the platform of your choosing.

Yes, it will cost some money and likely take some effort, but it should be worth it. Not only could it be equitable to a government-sanctioned public space, but even better. Total and complete control of content, but for federal or regional laws. And even THAT can be bypassed, depending on what country you choose to host.

The solution to the online speech situation is possible. And relatively easily attainable. It just needs to be funded and pursued.

Of course, this is dependant on net neutrality remaining in place. If you know little about the topic, look into it. But most importantly, if you still want even the OPTION of having such a platform as the one I described earlier being as readily available as the whole internet is now, make some calls.

That is my solution to the problem. The internet is built for this type of thing, so its surprising that it has not happened yet. I know that Facebook, Google and other big tech firms like buying up the competition in order to continue bucking the Myspace trend, but none the less . . . over a decade and STILL nothing?

Part 3

Before now, this would have been the end of the road. Evaluation of where the current conversation falls short, outline of how to easily remedy the solution, done. You now have the solution, so if you continue to play the typical cards, I won’t take you seriously. Because you are all bark and no bite!

Though it ended there for me before, a recent Vox video clip shone an interesting light on the topic. Though we typically see Twitter as being not all that different than the rest of them at this point, apparently that is not how it started.

If taken at face value, it was supposed to be a platform that prioritized free speech above all else, but for a few circumstances. And they supposedly tried to keep following that lead. However, years of rampant harassment begun to drive more and more users away. Which presumably forced the platform to act at the risk of losing too much of its regular user base.

That is the story, what they say. I have also heard of cases of Twitter targeting (or at least prioritizing) right-leaning accounts in its sweeps. People say a lot of things, particularly when they feel they have been wronged (or want you to believe they have no culpability). Having said that, however, I don’t doubt that harassment increasingly became a big problem. Its common knowledge that pretty much anyone with a wide online presence has to put up with this.

So, let’s say that someone finally makes my idea of a digital free speech utopia a reality. How would one prevent such a fate from condemning that platform?

Where is the line between free speech utopia and current day Twitter?

“How “Free Exchange of Ideas” Naivety Limits Free Speech” – (Patheos)

Here is a small exert from a recent article that I found interesting. Though I have been questioning the effectiveness of the whole “open marketplace of ideas” for a while, this author takes it on from a very different perspective than I. That point of view being a typically oppressed racial minority in American society.

Far from abolishing limits in the arena of speech, however, the naivety of this view actually encourages, however unintentionally, an oppressive limiting of free expression.

Because this ideal of a naturally free and open exchange of ideas, in which the best ideas automatically rise to the top, ignores the fact that the real world is not an ideal flat surface. The real world has power imbalances. Good ideas do not naturally rise to the surface; in the real world, we often have to be fight to hear the most important voices, and it’s hard for them to be heard above the dominant voices that are constantly shutting them down.

For example: If you were an American slave in the 18th century, you would not have as much of a say regarding what went on in this country as a white landowner. Obviously. Now, the white landowners can talk about the free exchange of ideas all they want. The fact is that the exchange is not free. If you talk back to your master, you may be whipped or otherwise punished. If you try to express yourself through voting, you will be denied. If your master asks you, in front of his guests, whether you think you should be free, your response — if you want to stay in your powerful master’s good favor, is “No, sir. I’m happy here.”

It’s not an equal playing field. It took the bloodiest war in our history, the Civil War, to even remotely attempt to even out that discourse. Free speech was limited for the slave. And sure, you could disagree — but you wouldn’t be heard. Instantly, if you said “Yes, sir” the whites at the table might laugh at you or dismiss you, and say that you didn’t know what was good for you — after all, slavery was beneficial to the blacks, or so the lore went. And you would be demeaned and face negative consequences at the plantation.

Read more at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/barrierbreaker/free-exchange-ideas-naivety-limits-free-speech/#L8erAWHOKqEpeFYZ.99

The essay goes much more into the details after this. It’s worth the read. The perspective is an interesting one, no matter the validity.

While I had not thought of the generations of bias argument as presented by the author, my problem with the so-called free marketplace of ideas was more in the lack of quality controls (for lack of a better way of putting it). To put it one way, being charismatic and camera-friendly goes a long way. Even a terrible (or debunked) idea can be made to sound damn good with the right representation. Otherwise known as, a huge chunk of so-called online intellectual content. Or as I called, pseudo-intellectual content. It’s hard to find anything BUT this at this point.

And another aspect to consider is the financial motive, as enabled by crowdsourcing. In a word, Patreon.

Many popular content producers of all stripes utilize (or rely on) the platforms as a source of income. And this is not always a trivial matter either. Dave Rubin (host of the popular Rubin Report) brings in just under $28,000 a month from just under 4,500 patrons (contributors). While I imagine that to be on the higher end of the spectrum, its a perfect illustration of the problem posed by money.

People like Dave Rubin claim to be open to anything and everything that comes their way. I will take them at their word since it’s hard to prove otherwise. Call it innocent until proven guilty.
I do have a concern, however. If an idea ever came along that end up uprooting the status quo that has been so good for them financially, would they openly admit it? Even at the cost of possibly losing the monthly windfall?

Indeed, it’s a difficult thing to consider. You can not really make accusations since the burden of proof is impossible on both sides of the coin. You can’t prove deception, and they can’t ever really DISPROVE it. Nothing short of the ability to read minds would enable that. So we must give the benefit of the doubt.
But at the same time, knowing how self-serving (and at times deceptive) humans can be, its a question that should not be ignored.

Something that came to mind last night (in relation to this topic) was money in politics. I was pondering which was worse. This, or money in politics.

In discussing this with a friend, I ended up concluding this to be worse, in a sense. Political donations are generally at arm’s length, so there is a bit of a buffer to self-interest. However, funding flowing (essentially) right into one’s bank account has no such buffers.
Money in the political system has more far-reaching consequences than moneyed free speech (for lack of a better descriptor). However, many wrong or harmful ideas can go a long way when they originate on a fairly popular and well utilized digital source. For example, the now infamously torn apart term Classical Liberalism. Despite seeing it effectively written off by more than one source, it still persists.

I guess I should note that I have highlighted what is technically 2 problems. One is lack of quality controls in terms of what ideas become mainstream. And the other being potential financial conflicts of interest of the loudest promoters of such ideas.

It’s a hard nut to crack, really. Had I not had an academic close by, I would never have realized that much of what passes for intellectualism online is trash (or close to it). Yet, most people don’t have the time (or the desire) to run everything they hear from an often trusted intellectual, though the ringer. In fact, the thought would not even occur to them, because the people they get the information from should know. Even I can’t really fault that attitude because that was essentially me 2 or 3 years ago.

What I can say however is that a good start comes in realizing that intellectual status does not necessarily guarantee that every idea or conclusion presented by said person is valid. Particularly if the person is speaking from outside their area of expertise (VERY common).

Do some digging with some creative search queries. The fanboy material is often overpowering when it comes to these guys, but other stuff is often available. Reddit (oddly enough) can be a good place to try.

A bit baffled and unsure what to think of much of anything you come across anymore?

Welcome to my world. Have a cookie.

“How One Tweet Can Ruin Your Life” – John Ronson

What we have here, is a must see for everyone.

Long ago (or so it would seem now) in 2013, there was a woman named Justine Sacco.

Some readers may remember the name. I don’t.
Unsurprising, being that I was not really a heavy twitter user back then (despite having it), and since I tend to avoid whats trending ANYWHERE because I normally find it annoying, stupid or otherwise offensive to my intelligence.

Her claim to infamy was a tweet. During a London layover of a trip originating in New York and ending in South Africa, she decided to send a tweet. To make a joke based off of silly western stereotypes essentially.

It was in very poor taste.

No.

I can’t say that. If I did then I would be hypocritical, since I have said worse things myself. Maybe I was annoyed or angry (likely a good 75% of the time). Or an opportunity presented itself. Or it was out before I really realized it. I have said some quite eye opening things in my time. I’m sure many of us have.

Why? I don’t know. It’s just what I do, who I am.

Either way, had I run across Justine’s tweet, I would likely have been amused. But unfortunately, net-zens the world over were not amused. And as is the status quo in the age of social media, no good outrage will ever go to waste. Though Justine herself only had a few hundred followers, a reporter from Gawker somehow seen (and subsequently retweeted) it, savoring in the deliciousness that is orchestrating the destruction of an evil human being. Which meant that long before Justine even knew it (being at 35,000ft for almost 12 hours!), her life was essentially torn apart.

Though many likely seen the initial tweet, I’m guessing many didn’t know about (or maybe didn’t CARE about) the many following tweets such as these:

Really, why would you want to see these? They are dripping with human emotion, which is antithetical to the inhuman robot that Justine (and anyone like her) needs to be in order to justify such a visceral reaction from THE WORLD at large.

Fortunately, Justine seems to have put the incident behind her, as is indicated by this article. An article was written by the reporter who started the problem in the first place. The article detailed how he had (over a year later) connected with and met Justine over drinks and food, and settled things. The article also detailed how the author had ended up putting themselves in the bull’s eye of the social media rage machine by way of an ambiguous joke. He took a lesson from Justine, which does not engage. And I took a lesson which was . . . I need to be more careful myself.

Earlier in this piece, I had essentially dehumanized the author/reporter sight unseen based only on his action. It was only after looking into how Justine is doing now, that I realized my mistake.

My hypocrisy.

It’s insidious, the urge to dehumanize. One must always be vigilant.

The social media outrage machine

I hear about it almost every day in some form or another. Whether it’s on youtube, twitter or facebook, rarely a day goes by without the words free speech entering my frame of thought.
Generally, I tend to be more annoyed by this than anything else. A combination of mass ignorance of the true meaning of the phrase, and it becoming the popular bandwagon to cash in on of late.It’s yet another source of copious amounts of white noise.
Then again, social media is a sea of ideological white noise masquerading as intellectual exploration.

Typically, this whole online backlash thing is not really an issue that I consider. Well, I guess that is not entirely true. In my gradual change over the last 3 or 4 years into the extremely analytical (of pretty much everything!) person that I am today, I have found myself in a somewhat odd position in the grand scheme of things.

I try to always place myself outside of issues. As far away from them as I can.

A life lesson of recent years has been how much of societal discourse falls within countless sets of dichotomies. Arguably, I have been dancing around this conclusion my whole life. Even in high school (long before I know of the term dichotomy, let alone how it was applicable to the world around me) I recognized the groups and cliques that my teenage counterparts, and our adult teachers, willingly placed themselves. I don’t recall directly coming out against this at the time (the typical teenage rebel). What I do remember, however, is eventually learning that conformity really doesn’t matter. As is eluded, I was once somewhat envious and a bit bitter that I couldn’t fit in directly for various reasons (one being family financial limitations). But I would eventually learn to accept my differences.  To accept my place as . . . none of the above.

However, the dichotomy is an ingrained part of society and social interaction. So much so that one’s participation becomes almost mandatory, even if one may not even be aware of their own bending to fit the status quo. I would not make this realization until a number of years after high school was far beyond the horizon of life’s rear view mirror.

The realization came from a close friend of mine. A man of little traditional formal education, yet a man of an astute wisdom of the overall human condition and of human interactions. A man that resides far from mainstream society, both physically and intellectually. I suspect that it is this overall distance that enables such a clear view of reality.
Either way, I would first come across his influence a couple years back on one of his rare visits to my part of the world (a place that he would likely nickname Hell. Basically, any city or other clusters of multiple humans). At the time I was reeling with the falling out that I was having with the atheist community. At the time I called myself an agnostic, feeling a need to replace the now defunct label of previous. After listening to that babble (looking back . . .), he smacked the whole thing down by putting it all in perspective. I am but one of the many arguing about and fretting about labels when it really doesn’t matter. Who gives a shit.

Like many things, it was filed away in my brain. But I would not truly realize the words until somewhat later. Namely, I do not need to defend opting out. And I don’t have to engage in these types of conversations anyway. Who cares what other people say or regurgitate. Step aside and find better uses of your time.

Which is in a nutshell, why I said that I find myself in an odd position of late. Though some could say that my time could be better utilized in other ways, some old topics I am drawn to. Mainly because placing myself far away provides me with interesting insights that I find fulfilling to explore, even if I don’t go out of my way to share these conclusions.
A topic that tops the list is secularism, and Atheism. Dissecting Apistevist and Atheism (as commonly defined) among other things was enjoyable. The reactions of those that stumble across these works are often less than enthused, but who cares.
Then there is my opinion about the European Brotherhood. Overtaking my first Apistevist post in the last couple years in terms of daily views, it’s another piece I am proud of. Being that many commenters call it propaganda (with one going as far as calling me (Paul) Joseph Goebbels), I suspect that I hit a nerve.

Dare I say, I triggered some. Too bad for them that this is not a safe space.

Either way, this self-distancing has put me in a weird position in many respects. Even if I may feel that I have something to add to some dialogue, it’s often easier to just shy away, being that one often can’t get past the whole distance thing.
I called it None Of The Above before, as was applicable in high school and for much of my life. But it’s not anymore, as that in itself becomes a label. If one side of any dialogue is Vancouver, and the other is San Francisco, then I am either out in the Pacific or in Montana. Or at least I try to maintain such impartiality.

It may be wondered where I am going with this, in terms of Free Speech. Read on.

Before now, though I found myself in disagreement with large cohorts due to my evaluation of often universally accepted ideological tenants, I have never felt threatened. Annoyed at seeming hypocrisy, yes. Disappointed that fulfilling conversation is a rare to come by, yes. But threatened by doxing, mob mentality or another such insanity?

No.

At least, until quite recently. In my Facebook travels, I came across a post from a friend of mine. It was a January 2016 article from UK news source The Mirror which was about an apparent change in UK law that allowed the importation of child sex dolls. My friend didn’t react well, as was the case with one commenter. After coming across this reactionary reaction to this article with more or less the same tone, I realized that I had an opinion that was differing to the obvious status quo. I can make the argument of why such dolls may be positive. But I also realized the hot potato that I was dealing with. As Justine Sacco learned, when it comes to the irrational, nuance rarely matters when these things happen. Even being SUSPECTED a villain is all you need.

After some research, I found (and ended up sharing with the 2 reactionaries) some conflicting information. The Guardian covered a story in June 2017 in which a UK man was prosecuted after attempting to import a child sex doll. A seeming rebuttal to the former story.

I have the same disagreements as I did before. If anything, the latter story adds a new dynamic to my criticism. Yet I am still a bit hesitant as to if this should be explored or not.

But I will leave off with a quote from John Ronson, taken from near the tail end of the video embedded above.

Maybe there are 2 types of people in the world. These people who favor humans over ideology, and those people that favor ideology over humans. I favor humans over ideology, but right now the ideolouges are winning, and their creating a stage for constant artifisial high dramas, where everyone is either a magnificent hero, or a sickening villan, even though we all know that’s not true about our fellow humans.

What’s true is that we are clever and stupid. What’s true is that we’re grey areas. The great thing about social media is that it gave a voice to voiceless people. But we’re now createing a survailance society, where the smartest way to survive is to go back to being voiceless.

Let’s not do that.

 

“Claiming ‘Bullying’ By Trump Over Gruesome Joke, Griffin Says She’s Standing Up For Free Speech” – (Yahoo News)

I didn’t think I was going to find myself touching on this again, but I guess here goes.

https://www.yahoo.com/news/1285364-170602063.html?.tsrc=daily_mail&uh_test=2_14

I touched on this on Twitter a couple times since it broke, but it seems I wasn’t aware of everything. Small details, but important details none the less. One of the big ones being that Griffin herself is a bit of a dumbass.

Calling her firing from CNN “censorship,” comedian Kathy Griffin said in a press conference Friday that she would stand up for free speech in the face of fallout from a controversial image of President Trump she tweeted this week.

No, Kathy. It is not censorship. Thanks for raising THAT idiotic misunderstanding of law up from social media and right into the mainstream, by the way.

First off, being disallowed to do a single show in the span of a year hardly seems like censorship. In fact, I am guessing that by the time that New Years Eve rolls around, NO ONE will remember this. That is just the way it is with these things.
And that is not even taking into consideration what could happen between then and now.

As for the whole “I will stand for free speech!” thing, easy to do in a free nation surrounded by lawyers. Either way, nothing to see here but a publicity stunt turned attention grab using the free speech hysteria of late as its basis.

“I am not afraid of Donald Trump. He is a bully,” Griffin said.

Indeed.

As Rosie, and many other people likley know personally. It comes with the territory. Being born with a silver spoon in your mouth comes with its perks.

Unfortunately for Trump though, as he seems to be increasingly learning by way of his actions and behavior of late, even THAT has its limits. He is no longer dealing with wealthy contemporaries and heading a team of subordinates. True power and true responsibility . . . I doubt he will (or possibly even CAN) grasp this new arena in which he resides.
Not all that different from the DPRK’s Kim Jong Un, really.

I (and really, I suspect MANY people!) would respect the man if he simply decided that this was all to much, and stepped aside. But I can hardly respect someone that CLEARLY has no idea what the fuck he is doing, yet still stays in place.

So yeah . . . fuck him.

While Griffin expressed remorse for posting an image of herself holding a bloody mask of Trump, she also accused Trump and his family of “bullying” her, and hit out at CNN, which on Wednesday fired her from its New Year’s Eve broadcast.

Fallout from her tweet was quick and severe, with celebrities and members of both parties criticizing Griffin for going too far. Trump responded to the post Wednesday morning, tweeting that Griffin should “be ashamed of herself.”

First off, I don’t agree that she should show remorse. To quote a close friend that will likley lose a bit of respect for me for even posting this . . . this whole thing is nonsense.

In terms of gore, this incident ain’t shit. I have seen more offensive black metal album covers than this (including one depicting a suicide). Not to mention the horrors behind the scenes that we don’t see.
Everyone flips out when a celebrity does a stupid publicity stunt with a prop . . . and yet, one could likley see graphics 1000 times more gory if they were to observe the aftermath of a drone strike. Real people.

Not just a fucking prop.

“My children, especially my 11 year old son, Barron, are having a hard time with this. Sick!” the tweet read.

For this, I will link to a rather hilarious observation of a David Pakman Show live caller. That observation being that based on past behavior, Trump seems more worried about HIMSELF than anyone else (family included).

Do with that what you will. A bit of a cheap shot I admit.

Other Trump family members also condemned the post. Trump’s son Donald Jr. called the image “disgusting,” and said that the video Griffin later posted as an apology was “phony.” First lady Melania Trump said the video makes one “wonder about the mental health of the person who did it.”

1.) Naturally.

2.) Melania is in no position to be judging ANYONE’S mental health. Just saying.

A tearful Griffin said she had been contacted by the Secret Service about the matter, and that she feared for the future of her career, noting that multiple venues have already canceled her shows. She also said that she has received death threats.

“The death threats that I’m getting are constant and they are detailed,” she said. “Today it’s me. Tomorrow, it could be you.”

What career?!

Again, a cheapshot. But no . . . I doubt this will be remembered much after maybe a month or 2. Or in today’s progression of news . . . 2 days!

As for the death threats . . . unfortunately, but a part of fame or notoriety in a free world. Though the internet has certainly made making such threat easier, its nothing new.

Griffin said most of the criticism stemming from her post is because she is a women.

“Cut the crap. This wouldn’t happen to a guy. … I have been living with this my whole career,” Griffin said, later adding that she was used to “older white guys trying to keep me down my whole life.”

Gotta admit that I didn’t see the feminist angle coming. Way to go. You just threw a bone to the feminists and anti-feminists. The creators, Google and Patreon should be ever grateful.

There are a couple of ways of looking at this. On one hand, one could find a ring of truth to this, considering that Marilyn Manson did the very same thing back in November (HOW DID I NOT KNOW THIS?!).

Well, not exactly.

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/watch-marilyn-mansons-brutal-trump-inspired-say10-video-w449091

Manson told The Daily Beast it is open to interpretation. “It’s about the desperate acts of people who believe something that is preached by an unbeliever,” he said, adding: “Right now we’re in such a state of confusion when it comes to religion, politics, sexuality, and how they all tie together, and it’s being turned into a circus and a sideshow – and that’s something that I’ve been described as a ringleader of. It seems like a time for me as an artist, and as an American artist, to make something that causes a new set of questions to arise that aren’t simply statements.”

Either way, at least 2 other metal bands (GWAR and Municipal Waste, I believe) are claiming to have decapitated Trump first. I really don’t doubt that.

But all in all, beside the point. The point being that men can seemingly behead Trump, but women can’t. Whilst seemingly true on the surface . . . in reality, there is more to consider.

While all of the above indeed fit into the generalized categories that are celebrity and male/female, that is pretty much where the associations end. When it comes to both GWAR and Marilyn Manson, the shocking and controversial is to be expected. Not so much however with someone like Kathy Griffin. A better male comparison would be an Anderson Cooper, Don Lemon (HA!) or Jake Tapper.

Though it likley has some weight in the conversation (sexism is pervasive), I would characterize its weight in this whole thing as minimal.

While Griffin did not say whether she was filing suit against CNN or Trump, her lawyer accused Trump of trying to silence those who disagree with him.

1.) I would hope not, because she would lose on both counts. One, because she clearly misunderstands free speech laws. And the 2ed . . . because she clearly misunderstands free speech laws.

Wait, WHAT?!

2.) That happens with Trump. Settlement agreements are to him what cell phone contracts are to us.

I couldn’t help myself.

“The message is clear: criticize the president, lose your job,” attorney Lisa Bloom said, adding that she has received hate mail for representing Griffin in the matter.

Uh. Its like were dealing with children.

No. Criticize all you want, like millions of others both inside AND outside of the boundaries of the US. Just do not expect all forms of criticism to be treated equally in terms of reaction. If you do a tasteless photo shoot holding the current presidents decapitated head, expect problems if part of your bread and butter is in seemingly family friendly media contexts. That is not shocking censorship, that is common sense.

If it is not apparent by NOW what drives away advertising dollars (and thus what actions will make one more vulnerable to falling victim) , then I don’t know what to say. Just in the last 2 months ALONE, the internet AND Fox News have dealt with major shakeups due to this very thing. Even Bill O’Reilly was not immune.

I don’t necessarily agree that advertisers should be the gatekeeper of media. That is just how things are right now.

The 2017 Youtube Advertising Fiasco – Where From Here?

In what is being billed as Youtube’s largest crackdown ever, a recent bout of bad mainstream press has forced the website to do a major overhaul of its day to day operations (in terms of funding its creator base). Having been a heavy user of the site for a couple years now (at least as a viewer), I have seen archival and current first hand accounts of the platform going though bouts of politically correct madness every few years or so. However, despite this latest phase only being maybe a week old, the latest bout is said to be the worst, barring NONE.

First off, some background.

Internet companies and social media networks have long faced issues over advertising placed against objectionable content. But it’s grown into an loud chorus of protests in the U.K. over the last few days, after the Guardian reported that it had discovered some of its ads on YouTube had appeared with such content as videos by American white nationalists, including former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke; a hate preacher banned in the U.K.; and “a controversial Islamist preacher.”

http://variety.com/2017/digital/news/google-apologizes-youtube-ads-hate-speech-videos-uk-1202012040/

In a word . . . oops. Something obviously slipped though the cracks. Unsurprising really, when your dealing with terabytes of data uploaded daily. A non-issue of Janet Jackson and #Nipplegate proportions.
Unfortunately though, this oops had consequences. The first was from the advertisers themselves. Not wanting to be even ACCIDENTALLY associated with god knows what, many companies, governments and advertising agencies alike have dumped Youtube and Google ads altogether. And many are in no hurry to come back, concerned that google has not fixed the issue.

However, the consequences do not stop there.

The enormous financial cost to Google has resulted in a huge financial burden to the creators of the site, many of which claim that they will be lucky if they only see a 50% decrease in earnings. As the statement eludes, if this policy has any longevity at all (I don’t see it going away anytime soon), many creators will have to make some tough decisions going forward.

Then there are stories like this one from David Pakman,  which seems . . . very suspicious.

An initial reaction (for someone unfamiliar with the David Pakman format) may be skepticism. Some mysterious advertiser sends a message of being unable to show ads on his (and his friends!) channels and content. Convenient!
Not so fast.
Having watched the channel for some months now (largely as a replacement to TYT), while The David Pakman Show is like many of its youtube counterparts, its beyond the online realm. Though its revenue sources are mainly from online driven avenues (now $0), its also broadcast on a number of television AND radio stations in the US.

Yes, so is Alex Jones. But unlike Jones and others like him, David is a trustworthy journalist. Someone I look up to as an example to follow, and someone that puts to shame many in the (right now, anyway) more popular traditional news category.
Indeed, that may come off as biased. But you shouldn’t be swayed by the thoughts in an opinion blog anyway.

Go to his channel and judge for yourself.

This Youtube mess has thrown many into crisis mode. Being the shady nature of how this whole mess started, I do have empathy for those involved. Having the income source of your livelihood become a dribble of what it once was OVERNIGHT would be a kick in the crotch to anyone. And it is disheartening to see increasingly inportant non-traditional sources of news (David Pakman, Secular Talk, TYT, even some podcasts!) become neutered. During the TRUMP presidency, of all times!

One thing that I can not say however, is that this was not entirely unforeseen. At least a year ago, I heard the so called Youtube Bubble referenced in at least a couple videos by at least 2 YouTube ranters (The Arch Fiend and Someguy867, I believe). Even back then (these may have been old videos even a year ago!) advertising money was starting to dry up, and they warned the obvious . . . that the payday will likely not last forever. Not an unreasonable prediction, given that Youtube in itself is a giant money pit for Google (being the garbage can of the internet isn’t cheap!),  and Youtube’s increasing experimentation into ways of turning that loss around would likely only lighten the payouts further. However, I doubt many foreseen the spigot being ENTIRELY shut off, at least for selected categories of content (namely, anything that could in ANY way be deemed offensive, including current events).

I suppose that it remains to be seen if this is truly the end of youtube as it once was. Once this blows over (and assuming no disasters there after), the ad situation may change. What is important is that . . . we will see.

Now, the sticky stuff. Reasons for the clampdown.

It seems cut and dry. A traditional media driven exposure campaign on the websites advertising methods spooked UK and US advertisers to the point of actually pulling out of partnerships with the site.
However, it doesn’t hurt to dig even a little beyond skin deep.
While I don’t doubt that a small problem existed, what is happening to even the people that cover current events (online news media) is troubling. Particularly with the appeals process for fighting the actions apparently now removed entirely, its hard NOT to go a bit tinfoil.
Which brings to mind at least 2 possible scenarios (maybe 3). One, being that the purveyors of the traditional status quo are pulling strings. Two, Youtube is taking this opportunity to REALLY clean house and burst the YouTube bubble. Maybe some combination of the 2. Or I may be totally off.

Follow the money. Could Google be planning on selling You Tube to another (likely) media platform? If by sheer coincidence that ends up being the case . . . YOU HEARD IT (well, seen it) HERE FIRST!

In terms of ability to express ones opinion with little to no interference, YouTube used to be the gold standard of all social media platforms. Anyone with almost anything to say could say their piece, and even make money in the process. While half of that equation is now up in the air, the freedom of expression aspect is intact. That is, at least for the time being. If Google decides that its time for their largest platform to align more with the rest of the competition . . . then interesting stuff on YouTube may go away. And along with it, some excellent journalists and a number of different alternative platforms.

The reaction so far is . . . unsurprising. Creators mainly, are telling their audience to GET MAD. Let Google know that this is not what you want.

For me personally, while this turn of events is disheartening, my understanding of the infrastructure of the internet tells me that this is but par for the course. Basically, when you are playing in someone elses house, drastic changes in the rules of engagement may occur without warning.  You can protest and yell at (boycott?) YouTube and Google all you want . . . it will likely not make a difference.

True online freedom will not be achieved unless you can move beyond not just the corporate platforms, but also the advertisers. If television and radio is the comparison, then you want to be HBO or SiriusXM.

Despite this problem (a lack of platforms that allow pure free speech) being so wide spread, its also very easily remedied. Unlike the task of, say, adding a 2ed or 3ed ISP competitor to your town or city, the cost AND effort of building a standalone competitor for ANY current social media platform, is peanuts.

You would likely have to start from scratch. Servers, rental space for said units, broadband fees, site templates, all cost money. So you will be looking at an initial investment PLUS subsequent investments. All without ads (or without traditional web based advertising services, anyway).

I have floated this idea before. The topic of free speech in the online realm has been in the mainstream for quite some time now, to the point that it has become a profitable category in itself, alongside atheism, feminism/anti-feminism, etc.

Either way, the issue of being able to express yourself online has been blowing up for a long time now, but I always disagreed with what the typical stance seemed to be. Since various platforms of social media have now melded into the social fabric to the point of being a big part of the public discourse (many areas within these platforms have become  essentially a virtual public square), users want these areas governed as such. This idea is pursued in an almost Utopian fashion, with users of social media often simply demanding (or expecting) this of the service providers they utilize.

Its a great strategy if the goal is to hope for the best result with the least amount of work necessary (or simply virtue signal), but its ineffective in the real world. Yes, there is the TOS and the private property factor (social media platforms can do whatever they want!). But there is also the money factor. Both in terms of information gathered and advertising revenue, social media is a cash cow worth billions. With that much money on the table, I can guarantee that any voluntary action on the part of the platforms towards the goal of more expression rights is off the table.

Which is unfortunate in the case of a monopoly of digital services. But it is also not the end of the story. Were not talking about choosing between 2 terrible ISP’s or telephone companies, or between 2 terrible supermarkets.
Were talking about the internet. The wide open west (in every way, really) of the 21st century. Even if there is no options (or more, competition) in a given sector, there is nothing stopping anyone else from building an alternative.

Unfortunately, much like establishing a business in the real world, building something on par to compete with the heavy weight establishments of the internet also will not be cheap. Many factors must be considered in this process in this regard, one of them being privacy. Since advertising is out of the question (a barrier to true public speech and expression online), how to keep the lights on becomes a very valid question. If one wants to have a free service without ads, then it stands to reason that your usage and data is likely being utilized and sold off. If the platform is NOT using your data in this way however, then chances are users will have to chip in for their usage of the service.

Which then leads to questions of cost. In an age where pretty much all of the online public has become accustomed to NOT paying for pretty much anything, will you be able to overcome this status quo?
Costs will also  differ depending on the content of the platform (from minimal for mainly text and photos, to possibly astronomical for mainly videos).

Some have already tried to make headway in this area.

Some years ago (LONG before the recent advertising disaster hit Youtube and Google ads in general), a small youtube alternative called Free Speech Vids was in operation, created by a Youtuber of whom was fed up with YouTube’s then bout of censorship. Though the website was up for a number of months, it ended up shutting down after running out of funding (its creation and initial operation was crowd funded, if I remember correctly).
And more recently, a mobile app called Candid took up the challenge, offering both a totally anonymous and largely unregulated space for conversation that is only loosely organized. They ran into some hot water recently after they announced the usage of algorithms in order to better service users. While this drove many online into an angry frenzy (what doesn’t these days?), I hardly see the problem. Even if the change DOES tend to lump more alike minds together . . . people do this on their own anyway. And even without this becoming an excuse, the app platform itself by design, is not all that conducive to long form THOUGHT to begin with (being a smartphone app only).

Though people have indeed TRIED to skirt the regulated heavyweights of social media, the results are mixed, at best. Though I don’t know how Free Speech Vids was run, it doesn’t matter anyway since its long gone. As for Candid, while it seems to be good for its intended purpose, its not even in the same category as other mainstream platforms. Its differing enough for me not to even consider it a competitor to any of them.

For most (if not all) social media, there is little (if any) alternative to the status quo. Though hindered and bothered by this, even many free speech absolutists of all walks of life have previously seemed unwilling to entertain much more than empty arguments of utopia (“In an ideal world, . . . “). Despite many even going as far as calling themselves free speech warriors, I have yet to see an actual useful response to this problem that they claim to be so passionate about.

Now don’t get me wrong, the logistics involved in REALLY tackling this problem are not lost on me. While I focus mainly on the money in my arguments, I didn’t overlook both the time and effort that this task will take. It is bigger than me. It is bigger than most people in every way.

But at the same time, it is necessary.

One can keep on doing what has been done all along . . . bearing with it whilst making arguments about how things should be. Or we can start building, organizing and experimenting, with the distant goal being total independence from the current status quo system.

Though being able to say more or less what you want without interference is one thing (think Facebook, Twitter, etc), YouTube brings a whole new aspect into the equation. Though not all Youtube personalities are on the same level to me (news platforms are much more important than opinion vloggers), the revenue angle (or lack there of, as the case is) spares no one.
Despite the setback, many of these Youtubers had already been utilizing external ways of crowd-funding their productions anyway (Patreon, viewer memberships, etc). My attitude of Patreon in general tends to be not all that positive, being that I see it often propping up not just unoriginal (if not downright DUMB) opinion vloggers, but also creators that from my prospective . . . don’t create anything!
Be it top 10/15/20/25/30 facts ripped off from google, reactions, pranks . . . no.

Despite my hatred of Patreon and crowdfunding (due to what it could very well be doing to charitable causes that could use the cash spent by patrons to do genuinely good and humanitarian things), I acknowledge its place. While it is indeed an ATM for the previously untalented and unimportant, it also provides vital lifelines to good platforms like David Pakman, Secular Talk and others. Its necessary now, and may even continue being part of the long game later.
And most importantly, I am not an arbiter of what content should and should NOT be rewarded monetarily. If it is within the wide allowances granted by Free Speech absolution, than I am hands off. I wish the audience would have better taste . . . but as the Stones eloquently put it:

 

While this task is indeed VERY much an uphill battle, if taken on by the right people and given the proper attention that it deserves, its not impossible by any means. Though money is a big obstacle, I have seen a creator collect tens of thousands from fans to fund a lawsuit.

https://www.gofundme.com/TBRDefenseFund

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2016/08/19/youtube-atheists-sue-christian-film-company-over-multiple-frivolous-dmca-complaints/

Riding the wave of free speech hysteria, this lawsuit was billed as a fight on behalf of all creators. Something that we should find important if we want to continue enjoying the said content.
While I understand the reasoning (these DMCA’s are both unwarranted and often crippling to the receiving channels), I don’t accept that it becomes my problem as a viewer. Whether its a Youtube channel or a cable television station, what I watch is the product of a business. So just as I would not feel obligated to help a business to pay some lump sum for an unfair reason (I suspect it is a common occurrence), I don’t feel obligated to help Youtube creators overcome the problems within their chosen profession.

And even outside of this lawsuit, I have heard other platforms soliciting money to put into DDOS/DMCA Legal Funds.

If you REALLY want to consider yourself a small business, a part of the responsibility is this shit. Its not up to your patrons to keep your head above water!
Class action lawsuit. Creators union. A shared or personal platform legal fund which takes a given percentage of profits and puts them into a rainy day account just in case (imagine the wiggle room if all the creators established a common one!).
I don’t give a fuck how you solve it, don’t lay the buck on us.

The challenges faced by your chosen business are NOT our problem.

Moving on, that was a tangent from my intended point, which was that the money to make this (or more likley, many) alternative and less regulated online platform could easily be raised. Individual creators are already doing what they can to financially isolate themselves from the problematic advertising infrastructure of current. But this will always be a half measure. No matter how well crowd funded you are, your expression (and possibly your revenue) is still largely beholden to the owner of your chosen platform, and the sponsors bankrolling it.

Which means that now more than ever, we must make a decision.

Continue on the status quo of current, despite things likely only becoming more hostile for those with our values? Or break away from the corporate cookie cutter, and attempt to create a difficult (yet rewarding) long term solution?

It can be done. I have no doubt about that whatsoever. The only question that remains is, who will get the ball rolling?