I believe that our country may be dealing with a schism greater than any since the middle of the nineteenth century. The division has become so great that I’m afraid we may never again be a single country. I spent six years in the U. S. Marine Corps defending this country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Now I think we are at the edge of a great precipice and our foreign enemies are watching as we view each other as the enemy.
In my seventy-plus years I cannot recall a time when freedom of speech has been under attack as vociferously as it is now. For many years we have seen our media endorse one candidate or another and still report the news. Now it is my belief that the media is not capable of reporting the news because they are too busy making the news. I guess we should define what we mean by media. First, there is the paper that is delivered to your door or that you by at the local convenience store: I believe traditional newspapers are no longer a major player their circulation is plummeting and there are no signs that it is going any where but down. All of the local weekly papers in Aroostook County are now owned by the Bangor Daily News. The price is now over a dollar an issue and at most our local paper (the Aroostook Republican) is about the size of a junior high school paper (on average six pages during a busy news week). I consider modern media to be mainstream radio, TV, and online news. The problem is there are no true news outlets any longer. Every major news outlet has become a propaganda generator for which ever political party they favor.
However, it is my sincere belief that the greatest danger to our country is social media (of late it hasn’t been social at all; it’s been political). If you doubt that then you haven’t been paying attention to what facebook and Twitter has done of late. They have shut down the accounts of the past-president, Amazon has forced the closure of parler, a social media platform that was gaining popularity with conservative-leaning people, and facebook has refused to advertise at least one book that espouses a political POV other than that of their CEO. They have even gone so far as attempting to force certain news networks off the air. I have a question for Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and Jack Dorsey: What part of the first amendment is it that you don’t understand?
I seldom go on these platforms. The vituperative attacks leveled by anyone who posts a POV contrary to certain people are heinous. The strength of our country has been our willingness to listen to someone else’s POV. Evelyn Beatrice Hall paraphrased Voltaire’s attitude about the author of a book that was attacked, publicly burned and resulted in the author’s exile as, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Marketing my books has forced me into a contradiction. I would like nothing better than to shut down all of my social media accounts. However, we all know that if we are to succeed as writers we need to sell books and social media gives us access to millions of prospective readers (so long as what we write doesn’t go against whatever philosophy the CEO deems acceptable). When I first started writing, I was surprised to hear published authors express their dislike of booksellers such as Barnes and Noble. Why? They were so big that they could influence publishers decisions of which books to buy and which to turn down. I feel the same way about facebook, Twitter, and Amazon.
Over the years I have learned many things the hard way but two rules that I try to live bay are: One, I have my beliefs and you have yours, I don’t evangelize you so please don’t do it to me. Two, no opinion is right, yet no opinion is wrong. I hear a lot of things said that are not correct. I also find myself thinking a lot: “If some people didn’t talk so damned much; no one would know what a damned fool they are.”
The first freedom dictators take away if freedom of speech. One of the first industries socialist and communist governments nationalize is the communication industries. Open discourse is forbidden, the government message is THE message. You may recall that a few months back I wrote a blog about Kristallnacht, the night that the Nazi Party along with students burned books that were deemed to go against Nazi ideals. We are prime for our own Kristallnacht. College campuses close their lecture halls to speakers when they don’t like the speaker’s POV. This bothers me a great deal. I went to college almost fifty years ago and if nothing else, my professors taught me how to think–not what to think.
As writers we should be cognizant of the insidiousness of certain members of the oligarchy that now runs the United States (which we call government). Our founding fathers knew that there had to be checks and balances and set up a system where there are three branches of government, The Executive, The Judicial, and The Legislative. They went on dividing the Legislative into two bodies: the House of Representatives, in which seats are apportioned to states by population, and the Senate, in which each state gets two seats. It is not a good thing for American freedom when one party dominates all three. It creates a situation that puts the wants and desires of a few against those of the majority. It infuriates me when I hear elected representatives vocalize their desire to blackball anyone who worked for another administration from ever having another government job. Elected officials who profess this sort of thinking should lose their seat in Congress. (Which reminds me…in the public sector if you don’t perform or do what your employer wants you to do, you will most likely be terminated. Why can’t we fire a do-nothing politician? Oh well, that a rant for another day.)
In closing: What ever happened to civility? What ever happened to honest debate? I’ve noticed that in our modern society debate has devolved to a playground argument between second graders–silly name calling and personal attacks.
We can fix this; it’s not rocket science. All we have to do is pay attention and when you go to the ballot place vote for the candidate you believe is an adult … of course since we can’t fire them once the election is over they will revert to their true immature selves.
I link my posts to social media. I’ll be waiting to see if my facebook and twitter accounts are shut down.
Well said, Vaughan. I miss good conversations with give and take where no one took their own opinion as the only way.
Thank you. I’m a conservative, but I don’t shove it down people’s throats. I’m also very careful what I say around people I don’t know because I don’t like to engage in philosophical arguments in public forums intended for other purposes. For example, when I’m at a writer conference or meeting, I talk about writing and stay out of political discourse. Besides, I don’t have a lot of friends, that’s my nature, and why alienate those I have over subjects I have no control over . . . i.e. weather and politics.
Wow, Vaughn. It’s easy to see that your passion drove this post. Lots of misspellings not caught by spell check. I have to ask that you take a step back about those social media giants stifling free speech. The first amendment only applies to prohibitions by the federal government. Private companies are not bound by such strictures. When an individual repeatedly violates the rules of engagement of a paper, social media platform, or even a debate event, it is absolutely the right of the provider to close down those individuals. Opinion is one thing, and disagreement is expected, but inciting violence or repeatedly promoting debunked theories as fact are not opinion.
My concern isn’t so much that they do it, but how they do it. Take the death penalty as an example. The Supreme Court has not deemed it unconstitutional, however the way it is applied is an issue. A black male has a disproportionately greater chance of getting it than a Caucasian.
Thank you, Vaughn, Juliette and kaitcarson.
I think a lot of what we’re seeing is not only political, but cultural and psychological. Many people are worried deeply about the stare and trajectory of our world, consciously or unconsciously. Fear breeds hatred, unfortunately.
To what do I refer? Witness: Civil and human rights violations, often in the name of national security and the war on terrorism; guns and other violence; police militarization and criminal justice system, vacuuming up the poor and racial minorities; crumbling infrastructure and safety net; diminishing and privatization of public resources and services, including a prison system locking up more persons than any other country; local and State treasuries gutted by tax breaks for special interests; gaps in health care; spiking mental illness; public health and safety addiction epidemics – opioids, prescription drugs, nicotine, alcohol, gambling, the internet; sex trafficking, prostitution, pornography, and sexual assault; off shoring and automation; climate change and extreme weather, including national disasters, like forest fires, drought, and hurricanes, with no victim national fund; inadequate retirement security for a growing elderly population; homelessness; spiking costs – food, shelter, utilities, insurance, health care, and higher education; vanishing middle class and wealth gap between few at the top and many at the bottom; corrupt public officials; credit bubbles (credit card, student and auto debt), overheated stock market and huge national debt, all foreshadowing another economic collapse; resource depletion; unlimited growth, development and deforestation; concentration in economic markets; polluted air, water and earth; and inefficient, expensive, vulnerable new technology, often creating more problems than it solves.
I agree with most of what you see. What I am fed up with is when our government pads a bill to help our people with millions of dollars for countries like Pakistan, Vietnam, and sundry others who have anything but our best interests at heart. Maybe if our politicians took on an America first attitude we could address many of these issue. Name one country that spends their tax dollars on us?
Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences. As Julianne pointed out, the First Amendment prohibits *governmental* suppression of speech. Private media companies are under no obligation to amplify voices that misinform, encourage violence, or promote sedition. I don’t credit the companies for their stand; in fact, they are protecting themselves from responsibility when “free speech” goes south and results in something like storming the Capitol with Confederate flags or the Charlottesville march, where “very fine people” chanted “Jews will not replace us.” And to equate the suspension of social media accounts with the eventual extermination of millions of Jews and political dissidents is something I really, really wish you wouldn’t do. I went to college some 50 years ago, too. There were protests against speakers then. Some people just aren’t worth listening to.
I agree on your last statement. My so-called friends list on facebook has gotten considerably shorter. Anyone that I only hear from in political posts has been removed.
Well said, Mr. Hardacker! Recently I heard the following question on the radio: “since when are the leaders of Facebook and Twitter, a couple of young-ish billionaires, able to determine for all us what is and is not acceptable speech?”. Thank you for the “rant”.
My feelings exactly.