You can travel all over the world and never see anything as beautiful as California. And sometimes when the wind blows just right it smells of citrus.
California is burning yet again. In what is now the state’s deadliest wildfire, 48 are dead from Northern California’s Camp Fire, 3 are dead from Southern California’s Woolsey Fire and 228 are unaccounted for as infernos rage throughout the state. The entire city of Paradise lay in ruins after 7,700 homes were leveled. Air quality has deteriorated, residents are staying indoors, prompting Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to declare a public health emergency for all of California.
Happy Veterans Day to Rush Limbaugh and his pilonidal cyst, as well as to Donald Trump and his five deferments.
Today Joe Biden honored George W. Bush in Philadelphia for the president’s work with veterans. Work with veterans? You mean creating thousands of veterans by lying us into Iraq? In that case, mission accomplished. Incredible. If George W. Bush wants to help veterans, he will write a book spelling out precisely how he got us into Iraq so something like that never happens again. But instead Biden chooses to ignore the Bush crimes, and instead thanks Bush for creating the mess these veterans now find themselves in. Ten years from now America will honor Donald Trump for his work with migrant children. America’s willful ignorance is breathtaking.
Trump blamed the synagogue for not having an armed guard on duty. Oh, now I get it. So when the NRA insists guns prevent America from turning into a police state they conveniently fail to mention that they’re perfectly fine with guns turning America into a private security state.
That’s the future folks. Thanks to the NRA controlled Republican Party soon Americans will have to pay not to get shot at.
A new study shows students attending elite schools are three times as likely to develop drug and alcohol addiction than students attending inner city public schools. Why are America’s elite schools churning out anxious, depressed alcoholics and drug addicts? It costs 60 grand a year to send your kid to Georgetown Prep. You’d think someone running that institution would be sharp enough to spring for mental health services.
Confrontational characters spouting conspiracy theories and promoting fringe ideas have been with us since the invention of American broadcasting. First on radio, then on television, the American audience has consistently proven eager to consume the rants of angry and bitter men.
Earlier this week, Jones’ InfoWars content was banned by Apple, Facebook, YouTube, Spotify and other web content distributors. It apparently violated policies against hate speech and inciting violence.
Whether you agree or disagree with the decision to constrict the reach of Jones’ toxic InfoWars videos, the upholding of these speech policies by commercial corporations represents a thorny historical issue in existence since the inception of broadcasting in the U.S.
Traditionally, it’s not been state censorship that’s cleansed American public debate. Rather, since the advent of electronic communication, commercial corporations have often acted out of fear of reprisal – from both the government and the public.
This means the U.S. government has entrusted, and continues to entrust, private corporations with structuring public debate and discussion. Regulators are empowered to act but rarely do because the expectation that independent outlets remain responsible and civic-minded is deeply ingrained in the American system.
The web is governed by different protocols than broadcast media. The web was invented to share information widely and open up new spaces for community interaction, exchange and engagement that the old mass media made difficult (if not impossible).
The web’s inventors saw their role in contrast to broadcast media: as facilitating rather than censoring. The regulatory system that specifically indemnifies and protects them from content posted under their banners is a recognition of this status.
So, despite this new, open, democratic and accessible ideal of the web – the opposite of corporate-owned traditional broadcast media – the fact that mass web access to the American public remains largely controlled by corporate gatekeepers such as Facebook and Google may seem surprising.
Yet history, in the guise of Alex Jones and InfoWars, seems to have cast these social media and search engine giants into a more traditional role.
But strong believers in the unfettered exchange of ideas as embodied by the First Amendment can take comfort in knowing the moves to limit peddlers of hate and lies like InfoWars won’t actually change much. There will be another Alex Jones in existence eventually.
Because there will always exist a rabble to be aroused, this is the space that rabble-rousers historically exploit.
They speak to – and claim to speak for – not simply the downtrodden and downwardly-mobile; they also speak to those feeling wronged and forgotten. They simultaneously soothe and stoke the anxieties and insecurities of Americans living in a world that’s increasingly complex and beyond comprehension. Author Julia Belluz interviewed Jones’ fans and wrote, “I learned that Jones’s listeners felt let down by government, medicine and the media.”
People turn to Alex Jones and Glenn Beck for the same reason they tuned in the earlier incarnations – to obtain answers that explain their experience.
That’s a rational choice that sadly often results in an irrational outcome. The conspiracy theorists are always very good at giving details, but they tend to be far less effective at imparting information and knowledge.
Alex Jones promotes InfoWars as educational, but its pedagogical function resembles nothing so much as Trump University, which was sued by New York state for “… making false promises to convince people to spend tens of thousands of dollars … for lessons they never got.” Trump settled that suit.
Conspiracies are interwoven into the fabric of our national culture, and, as Jesse Walker pointed out in “United States of Paranoia,” they are so cyclical and persistent as to be thematically detectable across centuries. As long as insecurity and anxiety can be exploited, there will be new versions of InfoWars to pollute our nation.
“What I love about ‘The David Feldman Show’ is I’m listening to a middle-aged guy getting radicalized, but he still can’t stop telling dick jokes with his comic friends from the ’80s.” – Michael Brooks, The Michael Brooks Show
“A podcast for folks who believe that strong political convictions and a sense of humor do not have to be mutually exclusive.” – Nathan Rabin, The AV Club
“The inherent danger of listening in public is that you need to figure out in advance what you’re going to say when someone asks, ‘What are you laughing at?’” – Marc Hershon, Huffington Post
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