Vote First

This week the spouse of the person third in line for the presidency got seriously attacked by a hammer-wielding, 2020 election-denying conspiracy theorist that regularly spouts racist, anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ views via a blog not like, but not 100% unlike, this one.

Now, before you go jumping to conclusions —

We here at Notes do NOT believe, as the attacker does, that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is the power behind some cannibalistic, child abusing cabal. 

Step one

Nor do we traffic in the notion that non-white people, Jews or gays are evil incarnate.

And not only because the Chair is in the latter two of those three groups.

Rather it is due to the fact that we, like him, use the WordPress platform to regularly espouse our views for all the world to read, and perhaps rally behind, via our own personal BLOGs.

Tale as old as time

I was thinking about this a lot after hearing my fellow blogger broke into the Pelosi home after 2 a.m. bellowing, Where’s Nancy, struggling with 82-year-old Paul Pelosi before hitting him REALLY hard on the head.  (Note: Nancy was not at home, but hard at work rallying Democratic voters far away on the opposite coast).

Nevertheless, Mr. Pelosi suffered life threatening injuries from this attack – a fractured skull and serious injuries to his hand and arm that required surgery – but it is now reported he will be okay. 

This was not solely due to his doctors but also to the fact that an intuitive 9-1-1 operator dispatched the police to his home with a high alert warning.

Still, it momentarily left me wondering:

Exactly where do we stand with free speech in our presently advanced information age??

Quite a prickly situation

Oh, OF COURSE FREE SPEECH NEEDS TO CONTINUE! (He ranted). 

WHAT ARE WE, A THIRD WORLD COUNTRY OR…..RUSSIA? (He asked). 

OR A MAGA STRONGHOLD IN THE SOUTH OR MIDWEST? (He irrationally screamed).

OR THE HOUSE JUDICIARY GOP, which still has up the following three-week old tweet:

TRUMP.  ELON.  KANYE.

Yikes, indeed

Well, I guess that post is presumably in support of the free speech rights of people like Kanye West to go, as he just did, def-con 3 on THE JEWS.

Shoot (oops), even billionaires (Note: Up until this week) get to say anything they want, like the rest of us.

Or in solidarity with Elon Musk’s plan, after buying Twitter for $44 billion, to let back on the platform many of the hate spouting, fake conspiracy-promoting users whom former Twitter execs permanently banned for life.  Beginning with:

@realDonaldTrump.

Get ready America.

Fly, my pretties! Fly!

I don’t have answers as to where free speech ends and governmental intervention begins.

Nor do American politicians or its citizens if the last six plus years of the MAGA agenda to poison our social discourse with lies about the efficacy of the 2020 elections (and beyond), amid white power salutes and calls to lock up every elected official they don’t agree with, are any indication. 

Phew, that was a mouthful.

And we’re not done yet.

I have a headache

Because when there is no agreement on what is true, or what is even real, it’s hard to know where to even start. 

Or end.

When I was in graduate school in Chicago once upon a time in the seventies there was a big hoopla around the Nazis marching in the nearby suburb of Skokie, a primarily Jewish enclave. 

It was a provocative move to cause an encounter, we were all sure, so eventually it was decided that as heinous as Nazis were, it would be against freedom and even worse for democracy to not allow this monstrous group who supported the extermination of a race/my people, to be free to express themselves in a place where my people/that race most particularly presided.

Of course, this was in an era where almost everyone believed Nazis were heinous. 

A time very unlike today.

This could be the reason…

As I watched former President Obama campaigning this weekend in support of democracy and Democratic candidates in swing states like Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin he was incredibly inspiring.  But his words felt almost…

QUAINT.

Oh, he made the case and then some for the imperative to vote Blue in the 2022 election and beyond.

He proved without a doubt that to not elect these representatives could signal the end of democracy, not to mention extinguishing popular social programs like Social Security.  Not to mention more tax cuts for the rich and less affordable health insurance for the rest of us mere mortals.

Please don’t let this be you this November

But he was speaking to thousands of Democratic supporters who wanted to be inspired and be given numerous exciting, rational reasons to get off their phones and up off their asses to make a difference.

Still, it made me wonder if this was the only way to stop the MAGA movement for now.  Get every conceivable, rational, believer in facts and democracy that we all know to move up and out to the polls, even if we need to take them there ourselves.

And to worry about how free our free speech should be AFTER this election cycle.

To forget about the lies, and hate, and crazy right wing fan fiction on social media for right now.

Unless they try to stop us from voting.  And then we’ll…

Welp, see you later.

Well, we’ll cross that bridge in 10 days or less.  I guess.

A friend of mine sincerely asked me how I can be even slightly positive about the future of the country in light of where we are now. 

I immediately responded it’s because I spend a lot of my working life around young people in college, the vast majority of whom loathe the MAGA agenda.

Deniers aside, it is a fact that 65% of Gen Zers voted for Joe Biden in 2020 and that in 2024 they will be the most powerful block of voters.

Zoomers unite

So now is the time to TALK, not lecture to them, about their fears, their truths and the truth of what is going on in the country vs. what is passing for truth these days.

And ask them to vote for themselves, or as a favor to you, if you know them well enough.  (Note: Yes, guilt can work.  I’m living proof!).

And then get your butt and the butt of everyone else you know into a virtual/mail-in or literal voting booth.

Yes

We can then scream, rant, chat or even blog about the distorted views and/or rights of any crazy that comes to mind after that.

Because we will still have the freedom and luxury to do so.

George Michael – “Freedom! ’90”

Freedom of (Hate) Speech

When I was in journalism grad school at Chicago’s Northwestern University in 1977, thirty members of the American Nazi Party wanted to march in Skokie – a nearby town of 70,000 in which more than half were Jewish and approximately 5,000 were Holocaust survivors.

There was a big to do and some years later, through court cases and a lot of soul searching among liberals and the ACLU, they did get to hold their march. But most everyone knew what the Nazis were up to. They wanted to hold a group of people they hated as hostages of the first amendment – challenging them to turn their backs on the equality and freedoms they espoused by not allowing their tormenters to taunt and goosestep right before them in their backyards.

This kind of childish bull crap happens every so often when hate-speaking racists get frustrated or empowered enough with their own irrelevance and see a road through which they can satisfy their own rotting inner core by spewing their venom outwards into the crowd that they believe are somehow suppressing their rarefied ways of life.

An important asterisk

In a nutshell, this is what’s going on right now with best-selling right wing author, lawyer, media personality and full-time liberal hater Ann Coulter and her campaign to speak – or perhaps not to speak but to raise hell about it – at the American university in the country best known for championing these freedoms since the turbulent 1960s – UC Berkeley.

Bill Maher recently excoriated the administrators at Berkeley for inviting, then disinviting, and then re-inviting Ms. Coulter to campus amid massive protests from students on both sides of the political spectrum espousing either outcome. So did any number of right wing politicians and wags on Twitter – calling the kids on campus the kind of names you hear from bullies in grade school. I won’t repeat them here but they bring to mind every dumb, desperate insult you’ve ever heard about any group. Instead, I will repeat the phrase ex Law and Order actor and stand up comic Richard Belzer once used to describe Ms. Coulter to Mr. Maher when he also excoriated her on Mr. Maher’s own show years before for airing her rancid rants in the segment just before his – A fascist party doll.

Prepare for the avalanche #brrrrr

You see, I have the freedom to do this without retribution here because this is MY BLOG. Just as the students and administrators of Berkeley have the right to ban Ms. Coulter or anyone else they like since the school is THEIR CAMPUS.

Since it is not public property, like the streets of Skokie, Berkeley is not subject to the same rules of public assembly as a village or town is.   In essence, they can invite and/or disinvite anyone they like. Much like me – a gay, Jew – could be banned from the Eagle Scout meetings Attorney General Jeff Sessions used to attend in Alabama in 1964 when he was 18 and that sort of stuff wouldn’t have even been questioned. You can’t tell an Eagle or Boy Scout what to do. They’re part of a private organization. You can only publicly shame them and force them to accept you.

Cue “All By Myself”

This is, in essence, what is going on now. I can’t claim a portal into Ms. Coulter’s brain – thank her Lord, however you imagine HER/HIM/IT to be – but if past is prologue she has ZERO interest in any sort of give and take intellectual discourse a college campus tries to foster. She is a renowned bomb thrower who delights primarily in provoking the other side by racist generalities and fiery, and very personal, bon mot bombs aimed at any sort of liberal hero, particularly those who have publicly come out against her.

A different kind of “Regan” #couldnthelpmyself

Exactly the same thing can be said of younger and renowned Twitter-banned alt right “pundit” Milo Yiannopoulos – who tried the same thing at Berkeley some months prior, with similar controversial results.

Now if I had my way I’d just let the two of them speak their heads off and picket them. After all, this is so far still the kind of America where we honor dissent – no matter how hateful, nasty and misguided.

On the other hand, if I were just angry enough, I might support the argument that if their intent is to just put on a hate show that just incites violence they are the equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded movie theatre.

A more accurate representation of my feelings

There are a myriad of public speakers one can get to “perform” at an institution of higher learning for educational purposes and if we truly want to view extreme right wing viewpoints maybe going after Rupert Murdoch or one of his two sons co-running the 21st Century Fox (Note: A misnomer for a 21st century liberal like me if I’ve ever heard one) empire might be a better first, second or third choice.

Still, it’s up to right wing student groups to get who they like so I might be convinced – or trade Coulter with, let’s say, hmmmm – is there an ultra Liberal Ann or Milo? I can’t think of one off the top of my head. Maher is not quite categorical enough and even liberal provocateur Michael Moore reaches out to the other side. Heck, his last film – Michael Moore in Trumpland – was entirely about that.

We don’t exactly have a 2017 Hanoi Jane.. do we?

And that is the point.

Do not masquerade immature name-calling and hate speak and insulting generalizations about whole swaths of the population as some post modern performance art that will show the truth about hypocritical liberals, lazy thinking millenials and their one-sided institutions of higher learning.   You can’t claim you’re the pretend Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central when the mood hits you and in the same breath appear on cable news shows as a serious purveyor of facts.

A talk that exists primarily to garner yourself publicity and verbally assault various minority ethnic groups in the name of free speech is not what I wish for my students or their intellectual futures. Though certainly they’re free to indulge in it. Like they occasionally do with the Kardashians, Top Ramen and Pizza Hut.