KingMidget's Ramblings

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Social Media Problems

A few days ago, a friend posted on FB about a comment he had made there that FB had deleted. I don’t know what he was responding to with his comment, but the comment was “Boys are dumb. Throw rocks at them.” FB deleted the comment as violating its standards and termed the comment as hate speech.

My friend posted a screen shot of the comment and indicated he would be leaving FB. I responded with “But … boys are dumb. And they grow up to be dumb men. The truest sign of our intelligence though is that we have come to accept this as fact about ourselves.” This comment was almost immediately deleted by FB for the same reason — a violation of its standards and a statement of hate.

As I noted afterwards, maybe FB’s community standards algorithm should be named Sheldon Cooper, since it clearly doesn’t get sarcasm.

I’ve been a user of social media ever since my older son turned 13 and joined FB. When he joined, I joined so I could see what it was about. That was more than 12 years ago. Since then I’ve joined Instagram, started blogging, and starting two or three years ago, got more and more involved on Twitter.

I have a love-hate with all of this stuff. FB, when I started, was a nice little platform where I could keep up with friends and family who I couldn’t see in person on a regular basis. It really was a pretty positive experience for a short period of time. But then that positive element was overwhelmed by two elements that started to develop.

First, it became a place for people to engage in senseless political arguments (and yes, I was involved in a few), with most of the arguments revolving around insane conspiracy theories or memes that were easily disproven. But almost nobody was ever willing to acknowledge they could be wrong. They were going to believe what they were going to believe regardless of how wrong they were. (At this very moment, I’m involved in one of these “discussions” with a guy who claims there is “substantial evidence” to support Trump’s claims about fraud in vote by mail systems. I’ve challenged him to provide the “substantial evidence.” He tried — a link to a Heritage Foundation that provides examples of all types of voter fraud, almost none of which involved voting by mail.)

Second, FB became more and more dominated by ads, sponsored posts, and other crap that has nothing to do with my friends and family – the reason I joined FB in the first place. Seriously, there is very little on the platform anymore that has to do with why I joined. FB’s profit motive has pretty much ruined the platform.

Twitter is a whole other ball game … it’s the wild, wild west of social media platforms. Every aspect of humanity is on the platform. Yes, all of it…

 

So much of Twitter is such a cesspool of hate, intolerance, and stupidity. It has become all of the bad things that were on FB, but on steroids. I have had all sorts of disagreements with people on Twitter — both liberal and conservative, progressive and right wing. The most recent was with a woman who claimed that Obama had repealed the Smith-Mundt Act in 2012, thereby authorizing the mainstream media to publish propaganda and lies in the United States. I looked it up, she was totally wrong. Obama didn’t repeal the Act, he signed a Defense funding bill sent to him by Congress that included an amendment to the Act. And what does the Act do — it covers Government-controlled media outlets, like Voice of America. It has nothing to do with the mainstream media, and what the amendment did was allow those government-controlled media outlets to start publishing and airing their “news” within the United States. So, I told her she was wrong. She replied with “look it up.” I responded that I did. She then sent me a link to a summary of what happened in 2012 — which supported exactly what I said and completely contradicted her claim. When I pointed this out to her, she blocked me.

There are good things about social media … the aforementioned ability to maintain contact with friends and family I don’t see regularly, for instance. Also, there are plenty of good conversations I have via social media with all sorts of different people, and the number of social media friends I have acquired over the years is a wonderfully remarkable thing. People from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and all points across the United States who have become a regular part of my daily dialogue.

But the bad things just seem so overwhelming to me at times, and I’m in one of those places now, particularly with respect to Twitter. The use of these platforms to spread propaganda and lies and to sow discord in our country is ripping us apart. The use of them to create silos, echo chambers, where people come on and post whatever nonsense they want and then reject any efforts at education or learning how they might be wrong. Well, they don’t have to because they get all sorts of likes and accolades from others who are just as equally wrong and uninformed. The propaganda use of these platforms is just relentless.

And now we have a President who is the biggest user of these platforms as a propaganda tool. He revels in his ability to do so and now is going after social media platforms because Twitter finally got a little bit of steel in its backbone and posted “fact-checking” links on a couple of his tweets. It seems clear now that he was waiting for this, given it took less than 48 hours for him to put out an executive order in response to what Twitter did.

Here’s my problem. In some ways, I agree with him. Section 230 — the provision that provides internet platforms with liability protection when they allow users to post bad things on their platforms — doesn’t really seem to apply to these platforms anymore. Why? Because they are now trying to police the content they allow on their platforms. See above about my comment being deleted, see all of the examples of accounts being deleted, suspended, or otherwise policed due to violation of their standards and rules. And once they start policing their platforms, don’t they become responsible for what they allow to remain? Shouldn’t they? Why should they avoid liability for what they publish once they start to refuse to publish some things?

A larger issue here is one of the bedrocks of our system of government. Freedom of speech. As frustrated as I am by what goes on on these platforms, the last thing I want to see is government setting rules they must follow in terms of what speech is allowed or not allowed. These are privately-owned and operated platforms. As such, they can set whatever rules they want regarding the content they will allow. Let the market then decide — through users, lawsuits, etc. — whether or not they survive. I don’t trust Zuckerberg and his algorithms (it’s funny, after Twitter did what they did, Zuckerberg said they shouldn’t be in the business of arbitrating the truth of what is posted — which explains why FB removed one of The Lincoln Project’s anti-Trump videos.). I don’t trust Twitter and Jack’s motivations. I don’t trust any of them to do the right thing. They are entirely motivated by money and power.

So, what do we do? If government isn’t really the right tool for taming the wild, wild west of the internet and if the companies cannot be trusted, what do we do? It would be nice if I had faith in us humans to get smarter about what we do on these platforms, but it’s pretty clear that ain’t happening any time soon. In some respects, we’ve opened Pandora’s Box. I’m not sure we can close it again.

 

Memories Of An Old Man

With retirement and the Great Isolation of 2020, I occasionally work on clearing out some of the messes that have accumulated in our house over the years. A couple of weeks ago, I was clearing out the cabinet on my side of the bathroom and found a couple of old wallets – filled with old credit cards and photos of my boys. The stack of photos is more than an inch thick. I occasionally post one on Facebook for friends and family to take a trip down memory lane with.

This week it was a couple of flash drives that the wife found. One of the drives had videos of when my older son dressed up as a cheerleader and with a bunch of other boys did the cheerleading thing at one of their school’s football games. The other drive had a bunch of pictures, taken from 2000-08. It was this drive that I could wallow in for hours and days if given the opportunity.

A folder on the second drive contained pictures from our one and only trip to Hawaii. As I scrolled through the photos, I was reminded of how that trip was such a wonderful, incredible time, and it took me back into the memory machine of other trips and other memories. It’s a wonderful thing about old photos — they rarely bring back bad memories or negativity. No, what old photos do is remind you of a time when somebody was celebrating something, somebody was happy, people were having fun, something good was happening. A birthday, a vacation, a sunset, all sorts of good, happy things are buried in those photos.

When we were in Hawaii, we stayed in Ka’anapali on the island of Maui. We stayed in a condo on a golf course, where we had a short 5-10 minute walk to a beach that never had that many people on it. The folder of pictures is filled with pictures of our time on that beach. A time that really is one of the highlights of my life, not just as a parent to my boys, but in general.

I’ve never been a huge fan of water sports. I know how to swim. I’ll fool around in a pool now and then, but when it comes to lakes, rivers, and oceans, I’m not the type of person to dive in and swim around. Part of it is the cold of the water. Part of it is anxiety over “what could happen.”

When we were in Maui though, we spent hours in the water, and it was never enough. The water there is so warm, you don’t have to get out to avoid hypothermia, and the surf is relatively tame.

Many of the pictures show my boys and I with our boogie boards, riding the waves. Standing with each other, smiling for the camera. What I remember is the hours and hours we spent endlessly playing in the waves. A time when I was able to stop being a dad for a bit of time and just enjoy being with my boys, having fun, laughing and having a blast in the warm waters of Maui.

While we were there we also did some ziplining, and we explored parts of the island. We also went to another beach located by a resort where the rich and powerful stay. I forget the name of the resort, but the beach was incredible. Long and flat and shallow for so long, it felt like you could walk halfway to Japan and still only have water up to your hips.

But the beach by the condo was where many of my memories of that trip reside. It’s where my younger son got stung by a jelly fish – and to this day we make fun of his fear of jelly fish. It’s where my older son, at the tender age of 12 1/2 spied a girl in a pink bikini, floating in the surf on a boogie board. To this day, we joke about the girl in a pink bikini. It is where we were able to just be for a few hours here and a few more there while we enjoyed Maui, and that’s the thing about these memories. They no longer hold the stress and anxiety of the days when these things happened. As the years pass, those feelings peel away, leaving behind only the memories of the good and the fun, the laughter and the joy.

Memories are a pretty powerful tool. They can bring you down, re-visit the pain of past hurts. Or they can bring back the joy, when worries were not a thing, when pleasure over-rode the pain and things were just right. Even if only for a moment, a day, or a week – things were just right. Sometimes perfection is possible and memories are a good way of remembering that.

 

 

 

What Is His Fault

A follow-on to yesterday’s post, since I don’t want you all to think I’ve gone soft in the head.

While Trump cannot be blamed for every death, every person who lost his job, and all that has gone wrong over the last few months, he can be blamed for quite a bit. Herewith my list (and I know I’m going to forget things, feel free to add to it in the comments):

  • Surrounded himself with toadies, incompetents and buffoons, who are there for themselves and not to serve America. Their inability to understand how to govern for America and not for their own selfish interests renders them incapable of knowing how to do this.
  • Ignored briefings and warnings about what was to come. But, I guess, since he is a stable genius, it’s understandable why he felt he didn’t need to pay attention.
  • Overstated at best, lied at worst, about how the virus would proceed. We will soon be at zero!
  • Set a tone that only President Trump could set — narcissistic, look at me, it’s all about me, me, me, me, me, without a shred of empathy, in which he continues to shatter the conventions of political interaction in this country.
  • Suggested on live TV in front of America that they should take unproven drugs, inject themselves with disinfectant, and apparently, shine a light in their orifices to kill the virus.
  • Gone so wishy-washy at times, I’m not sure my head has stopped spinning yet. Saying one thing one day and the complete opposite the next day. Over and over and over. For instance, one day he claimed he could force governors to re-open. The next day he said he couldn’t.
  • Overstatement and understatement. Overstating what his administration has done while understating the risk before us.
  • Failing to use the full power of the Federal government for the benefit of the nation. A national crisis requires a national response and he has never really marshaled federal resources for that purpose. When PPE and test equipment was in short supply, he could have very easily establish the federal government as the responsible party for marshaling resources and ensuring the required products were manufactured and provided at the best price. Instead, he set up the states to compete against each other, and against the federal government, for the purchase of the needed products. There are stories out there also of states ordering PPE only to have the federal government grab the supplies before they got to the states that had ordered them. In a national pandemic, Trump chose to treat the acquisition of PPE and other needed equipment as though it was a version of The Hunger Games.
  • Picking winners and losers — notoriously suggesting that blue states and blue cities shouldn’t get federal aid.
  • Using the pandemic to again give massive windfalls to the wealthy and corporations, while the lesser amongst us suffer. Was it Mnuchin who famously said that the $1,200 was enough for 10 weeks???
  • Turning this entire experience into a divisive, partisan crapfest. What’s become apparent is that he never wanted to take any of the measures he took. He’s made it clear that he only did it because his “experts” told him he needed to, and as soon as he agreed, he has been setting artificial dates by which everything would be “normal” again. Re-opening by Easter, for instance. Then it was the end of April. And most recently, his hurried announcement that places of worship should be allowed to be open this weekend. How he has handled this has played perfectly into the hands of his base. They can look at him and remain confident that he is still the stable genius, anti-science man, who is destroying the deep state and all of those namby-pamby experts who think their shit don’t stink. Trump remains the man because he has remained the same ego-driven, clueless idiot who speaks like the no-nothing bully he is. And his base loves him for it. In other words, rather than leading America, he continues to lead only his base.

 

I could go on, but let me here from you. What would you add to the list?

It’s Not All His Fault

As we approach nearly 100,000 recorded deaths in America from COVID-19, the noise and shouting grows louder and louder every day. Over on Twitter, and lesser forms of social media, the criticism of the President is relentless. The attempts at pinning each and every one of those 100,000 dead gets more angry, more virulent, more ridiculous.

But, let me back up for a moment. Twitter. Shit. It really is the cesspool to end all cesspools in our social media-driven world these days. There is just so much on it that defies rational, logical thought. Which is why we tune into it every day, right? To see the car crash, the head-on train collision, the airplane falling from the sky and landing in a neighborhood full of occupied homes and apartments, spreading death and destruction in every direction. It’s what we do these days … wait for the crap to hit the wall.

Back to my point.

Here’s the deal. President Trump is not responsible for COVID-19. Nor is he responsible for each and every American who has died as a result of the virus. Much like a President never deserves the credit for every good thing that happens during his Administration, or the blame for every bad thing, President Trump is not ultimately and personally responsible for this crisis we are in.

Sure, yes, of course, there are things he could have done better. He could have closed our borders sooner (in the face of the inevitable charges of racism if he had done so). He could have promoted and pushed social distancing and masks sooner. He could have avoided the suggestion we should all inject ourselves with disinfectant. He could have done a whole lot of things better.

But … that he could have done things better does not make him responsible for all of the death and misery that has happened. This virus was coming to this country no matter what he did. It was going to kill thousands of Americans no matter what he did. There is and was an inevitability to much of this that no President could have stopped.

So, as I tilt at windmills yet again, how about we be more rational and reasonable in our criticisms of the man and stop blaming him for every single American who has died as a result of this stupid virus. It’s really not that difficult to do … unless, of course, you simply just hate the man and want to blame him for everything. Dead Americans, toilet paper shortages, your expanding waistline, and all of the Karens in the world suddenly losing their shit.

Archie Williams

In 1982, a white woman was raped in Louisiana. Afterwards, Archie Williams was picked up by the police, arrested, prosecuted for the rape. None of the fingerprints at the scene matched his and he had three alibi witnesses. But being a black man in Louisiana means none of that matters. He was convicted and sentenced to a term that meant he would die in prison. The prison? Angola Prison — considered by many to be the most brutal prison in America.

He was innocent.osec

The Innocence Project took on his case a dozen years later and fought for him for the next two decades. Louisiana officials — attorneys, cops, judges — fought their efforts to exonerate Archie, denying access to evidence, including forensic evidence that might prove his innocence. Eventually a judge ruled that the evidence be tested. The fingerprints matched a serial rapist, proving Archie’s innocence. He was released a little over a year ago, after 37 years in Angola Prison.

Below is a video of his recent performance oAmerica’s Got Talent. It’s an incredible performance and the song he chose to sing … well, it will just leave you in tears at the end. Assuming that you’re human, of course.

Before you watch though, think about this. The white guys in Georgia who killed Ahmaud a few months ago, would have got off if not for the video. Archie would have died in prison as an innocent man if not for 20 years of fighting by The Innocence Project. Locally, Stephon Clark would still be alive today if he was not a young, black male. The list and litany of this neverending tragedy goes on and on and on.

And you know what? There are people who were involved in his prosecution and conviction who knew he was innocent — whether it was some of the cops, some of the attorneys, investigators, or who knows. There were people who knew and they did nothing about it, instead choosing to grab another notch in their belt. A conviction of a black man. That was far more important than the truth.

In much of America, for many of our fellow citizens, there remains a search for justice and peace.

 

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