Griffin, Nugent, and Information Overload

paine-secure libertyOne of the first things I should put out there is that I am a staunch First Amendment advocate. Some might even say to the extreme. While it’s understandably easy to want to succumb to the temptation to squelch speech or expression that one disagrees with or finds offensive, even vulgar, it always makes me cringe whenever I hear anyone say to the effect, “They shouldn’t be allowed to say that.”

As far as amendments go, this one seems to be a little crowded. It’s almost as if they tried to stuff too much ideology in right off the bat. While it could be argued that all of these ideologies are interrelated at least to a certain degree, this amendment could have easily been split into three, maybe even four individual amendments. While I consider all of the aspects of the First Amendment of great importance, this particular post is mainly focused on the free speech/free expression aspect.

A shining example of the freedom of speech issue lately is the news and social media buzz concerning an image floating around of comedienne Kathy Griffin holding up a fake severed head of Donald Trump. In bad taste? To say the least. Vulgar? Most definitely. Illegal? Absolutely not!! Should it be illegal? Well, let’s think about that a moment, shall we?

It’s been pointed out, and rightly so, that numerous images were abundantly distributed of Obama being hung in effigy, set on fire, or otherwise alluding to harm of the former president, not to mention well known rocker Ted Nugent on more than one occasion alluding to a desire to fatally injure our first black commander in chief. And in spite of what the media would like most of us to believe, these two were absolutely not the first presidents to be subjected to such extreme dislike. Should all these people be penalized or incarcerated for such heinous displays of discontent?

Perhaps a lot of people think they should. Hell, maybe even a majority of people think they should. But that’s one of the great things about our Constitution. When it comes right down to it, it really doesn’t give a shit what a majority of the people want. In most instances, that’s what Constitutions are designed to do.

One of my favorite movies was “The People vs Larry Flint”, where the Hustler magazine publisher released a story so vile that he was sued in a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court. One of the main messages of that story was, if we don’t believe in free speech for even the most heinous and despicable among us, then we don’t believe in it for anyone. If we allow the government to pick and choose what is “protected” as free speech and what isn’t, where would it end?

A number of years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that “obscenity” was not speech or expression that was protected under the First Amendment. In my opinion, this was one of worst rulings in the court’s history. (As I said near the beginning of this post, my views on this would probably be considered extreme.) It is small consolation, although consolation nonetheless, that the court also made the definition of “obscenity” so broad that most forms of speech would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to fall under that category. That same broadness, however, does make it dangerously subject to interpretation. “I’ll know it when I see it” is just a downright piss-poor way to make a legal determination.

This is not to say in any way that speech or expression should not be free of consequences. If Kathy Griffin’s employer wishes to fire her for what she said or did, they are perfectly within their rights to do so. Same if her fans wish to boycott her performances, or if people refuse to buy any more of Nugent’s records or protest his performances. Those also are forms of speech and expression.

One of the reasons I stayed away from Facebook for so long was because I tend to get addicted to the neverending barrage of posts and articles I come across. Once again, that addiction is starting to rear its ugly head. Not only the posts and articles, but I also quite often delve into the comments sections of those posts out of curiosity as to the general public’s reactions to them. In many instances, it can end up broadening my mind, and possibly making me think in other directions or consider aspects that might not have occurred to me from just reading the post or article. I quite often find myself in “information overload”, sometimes ‘force-feeding’ myself even more information before I’ve had a chance to fully absorb all that I’d taken in so far, until eventually I reach a point where I have to just pry myself away.

Unlike many people, I don’t mind in the slightest having my beliefs or conceptions challenged. It will either solidify my position or broaden my perception. Either way I win. But there is a lot of mindless crap one has to dig through as well. Some of it vile, some of it disgusting, some of it even what I would consider “obscene”, some of it just juvenile in nature. You have to take the good with the bad. Even if some of that “bad” pisses you off. Sometimes even because it pisses you off.

There are two main dangers to censorship and the squelching of free speech and expression: One is that if a person has a view that he or she knows would be “unpopular”, they would curtail expressing it even if it was a valid point, or may lead to an advantageous conclusion. And two, unpopular views, especially the ones considered vile, “obscene”, or even downright dangerous would just be driven underground, festering and unchallenged. At some point, social or political conditions would make those viewpoints ‘safe’ to surface again, and they would be unleashed with a vengeance, taking most of society completely by surprise.

Sound familiar?

The answer to hateful, vile, ‘disgusting’ or otherwise negative expression is MORE speech, NOT the curtailing of it! Censorship does not “protect” anybody. It doesn’t change a person’s heart, nor does it broaden a person’s mind. All it does is bury the “bad” and give people an EXTREMELY false sense of security. So… especially these days… we could use a few less people saying, “They shouldn’t be allowed to say that”, and a few more of the people who used to say, “I may not agree with what you say.. but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Yes, sometimes people can say some really hurtful, hateful and very scary things… But more often than not, what they don’t say is even scarier.

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False Premises

speak the truth-copsOkay yeah, so the world is pretty messed up right now. Not that that’s a NEW thing, but we do seem to be in a rather turbulent tailspin. Corporations seem to gain more and more control over our politicians and media, reality TV stars inhabit the White House, everybody’s blaming all the wrong people for the ills of our society, and the “dumbing down” of America is progressing probably even more successfully than the designers themselves even imagined.

I’m somewhat at a loss to even know where to begin to even define the problems, let alone offering any substantial input as to how to solve them. It’s almost like trying to unravel a huge jumbled pile of kite string. It’s usually best to try and start on one end and carefully unthread through the maze, but it seems most people can’t resist wanting to start in the middle somewhere. But loosening one section just ends up tightening another.

One of the main purposes of this blog (once I get it actually up and running) is to hopefully shine some light into some darkened corners. To make people think in ways they might not have considered before. Or maybe even start thinking, period. It’s amazing to me many times how often people take what they’re told at face value without even considering looking into the origins of what they’re told, or verifying what others present as facts. As a result, I seem to be constantly barraged by statements I know not to be true, or at least cannot be verified.

I’ve also come to the understanding, more times than I care to recount, that most people don’t like having their beliefs or assumptions questioned. And most times attempting to do so does little more than piss them off. Plus the more you talk to them the more you come to the realization just how ingrained their beliefs and assumptions are, how interwoven they are with other beliefs and assumptions, and you find yourself once again attempting to unravel that tangle of kite string from the middle outward.

So, for the longest time I’ve chosen to just stay silent. Perhaps it’s just utter arrogance of me to wonder at times whether my silence might at least be partially to blame for all the bullshit that’s going on in the world right now. Back when I was an “anonymous” activist, I did see, or at least feel, the results of my participation making a difference. Some in small ways, a few in larger ways, but I didn’t feel that my contribution to the discourse was in vain. My input, even if it didn’t outright change someone’s mind, at least got the wheels in their brains spinning, and I felt my words were at least being considered, even if they weren’t outright accepted.

Part of the reason that I stopped participating in open discussions concerning social issues was because of personal issues going on at the time, but mainly because the “climate” had started to change. I think for my own mental health and well-being, I reached a point where I just had to step back. In many ways, it felt like my efforts were all becoming just one big Monty Python sketch.

“Maybe things will get better at some point,” I told myself.

They didn’t.

In fact if anything it’s even worse. There seems to be little if anything even resembling “debate” anymore. Last year’s political debates were atrocious. In fact, to even call them “debates” is laughable at best. And no one seems to notice. In fact, this seems to be the preferable option for most people. Pick a side, blare your anthem, cheer your team, and close your mind.

Facts? Who the fuck needs ’em? Different perspectives? That will only confuse the issue. Argue, argue, argue. Rah rah rah. Make your point the only one that matters, or worthy of any validity. Even if it means spewing out a bunch of name-calling, burning a few crosses, slamming a reporter down to the floor, or even cutting a throat or two.

I’m desperately waiting for John Cleese to appear at some point and say, “And now for something completely different…”

Well, a wise man once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

So… Let’s see if we can’t unravel a few strings.

believe in your ability

Cause By Cause They Fight – One By One They Lose

i didnt break the rules

Yesterday was my birthday. As I sit here now firmly entrenched in the middle of my sixth decade of this particular incarnation, I feel now is a good time to finally get this particular blog up and going. I’ve had the foundation of it sitting idle for weeks now as I continued to unjumble all the voices in my head screaming about the form it should take. But there comes a time when you just gotta sit down and let it take shape.

This isn’t the first blog I’ve started or managed. It is, however, the first blog I’ve decided to make so “public”. The others were all hidden behind ID names and email addresses with very little information attached to them. And that’s a scary concept.

I start this blog because I feel that there are just some things that need said. Words, ideas, personal truths, observations, sometimes even expressions of anger or sadness. Hopefully there will be some bright spots along the way as well. Mainly things in my head that are just screaming to get out.

Many of these things will not be popular. It’s easy to express unpopular ideas when you’re hidden behind an alias. To let the words you say matter more than the person saying them. I can handle the scrutiny of a bunch of strangers. The scrutiny of friends and family is often another matter, however. One of my favorite quotes from Dr. Suess goes, “Be who you are and say what you feel. Because those who matter won’t mind. And those who mind don’t matter.” But sometimes they do matter. And it hurts when you’re ostracized by someone who you love or admire or respect. That’s what makes this endeavor the most scary.

To those friends and family who decide to follow this blog and pay attention to the words I say and ideas that I express, my apologies beforehand if I end up making you feel uncomfortable, embarrassing you, or even outright offending you. Please keep in mind, these are my MY thoughts, MY personal truths, MY observations and conclusions. My main goal is not to make everyone think like me (that’s a scary thought in itself), but hopefully it will make you think. Your beliefs and personal truths WILL be challenged. I know many people just don’t like that. But I will try to keep any arrogance, real or perceived, down to a bare minimum.

I think my main purpose in this endeavor is to hopefully let people who DO think like me know that they are not alone. I know there are millions of voices out there right now. I suppose it’s arrogance in and of itself to think that one more -mine- is going to matter or make one iota of a difference. Maybe that’s one of the things I’m afraid of most of all. Not making a difference. But going day to day, seeing and hearing all that’s going on around me, the desire for the words in my head to get out and be heard is becoming increasingly stronger than my fear of saying them. All I can do is just let them fly and hope the angels blow them toward those who, for whatever reason, need to hear them.