Today is the most degrading day of the year if you are a groundhog.
Once again, humans are holding you responsible for predicting the environment.
At my house, we have a dirt basement with a trapdoor, where we keep an extensive collection of junk like old grills, a sun lamp, summer sports equipment including golf clubs, Wiffle balls, bats, and even the scuba equipment I use to sit on the bottom of the pool during impeachment trials or when I generally can’t stand people anymore.
I try to live in harmony with the universe.
Last summer, a groundhog moved in under our house. We lived in harmony. It would watch us play Wiffle ball as it ate our garden-fresh vegetables.
But just imagine what it must be like to be a groundhog this year, after a human pandemic and knowing half of all humans don’t believe in climate change?
I wouldn’t come out either.
But this year I need spring more than ever. So, this morning, before I even made breakfast for myself, I made a salad from fresh vegetables with nice cherry tomatoes and delivered it just outside of the hole under my house.
But then the empathy set in. It is a dirt basement after all. The groundhog is probably set up down there with its little gas mask on, only taking it off when it has to exchange the scuba tanks.
He is probably down there with the sun lamp on, sitting in my lawn chair with a wife and two kids waiting for the Super Bowl.
What if he has given up on global warming, too?
He probably doesn’t want to be an animal anymore. My guess is you could bring in Noah’s ark and the groundhog would probably blow it off.
What if over the entire earth not a single groundhog comes out this year? Not to spread conspiracy theories, but that would raise concerns that they may be talking to each other. They may be smarter than we think.
I can handle this! Genetics taught me about the end of the road. I know about stuff like this. I’m related to Jim Bowie. He died in the Alamo.
I am going to get a bottle of my best wine, three wine glasses, a couple of juice glasses for the little ones, and knock on the trap door.
We should be thankful that even though the theaters are closed we still have an alternative opportunity for “the willing suspension of disbelief.”
But what kind of alternative is it? Is it traditional tragedy? Is it comedy? Is it maybe the return of the satyr play — the last play in a Greek tragic cycle that featured all forms of bestiaries like farting and gross sex jokes to send the crowd off to the exits laughing?
This new form of theater doesn’t need a gathered audience. It can be dispensed through the endless dark web, Twitter and other social media, supplemented by Fox and MSNBC.
It’s brilliant. We all watch it. We can’t take our eyes off of it. It has merged “reality TV” with “enlightened self-interest,” but it doesn’t quite work.
It’s not Oedipus Rex: A former president meets democracy at the cross roads and brags the Statue of Liberty loves to be goosed.
It certainly is not like Julius Caesar either, where the Senate rises up to save the republic from a tyrant.
Wait one minute — what if it’s for a new kind of audience?
What does this new kind of theater provide?
It’s not just surround sound, it’s surround reality. Can’t get much better than that. Who needs those big crowded noisy theaters when you can keep your headset on and go to your own bathroom?
Regrettably, this new kind of theater may not be good for traditional theater. In traditional theater, the producers fight for money to put up their shows and maybe one out of five return a profit to investors. But with the recent “Trump Bump,” polarization is making everybody money, including MSNBC and Fox News.
This new audience is happiest when it is angry at somebody else because that’s what keeps the political parties flush with money and the audience shoveling more and more into campaigns, congressional healthcare, and retirement.
If you don’t know who is running the Republican Party, don’t ask — just watch the impeachment proceedings. But please don’t expect an answer, because right now I’m not sure if the Republican Party knows.
The only thing for sure is that the audience will be “hangry” — hungry for anger — the perfect couch potato entertainment.
After the Super Bowl and maybe “60 Minutes,” I’m sure they will let the lions out of the Colosseum and we can watch Rome burn.
It is a satyr play and we may be the actors, not the audience, but we are still free… to leave laughing.
Almost 50 years ago Guinness decided to sell alcohol in the American market. It put up billboards with the slogan: “Guinness is good for you.“
That was OK in Ireland but not necessarily in the United States. Guinness couldn’t really prove that it was the truth.
So in fear of being sued in American courts for “misrepresentation,” they changed it to ”Guinness is for you.”
For the last four years, President Trump has used Fox and social media to build his base with willful misinformation. And after he lost the last election, he claimed the election stolen was from him, a claim repeated endlessly by him and others on Fox and social media.
He could not prove it was the truth, because it is not, but maybe he doesn’t have to.
The question is: was Trump’s misinformation worse than a Guinness hangover?
Trump used this misinformation to encourage his supporters to come to Washington on January 6th to disrupt the Electoral College certification of our election.
The House of Representatives and the Senate were attacked and our elected officials were put at risk. Five people died.
American courts recognize and award damages for the dissemination of misinformation in commercial maters in the form of false advertising and in personal matters as defamation (formally libel and slanderer). But when it comes to misinformation delivered as political speech, it gets more difficult. The 1st Amendment largely protects that speech because it is political, but let’s follow the money.
Is free speech political? Or is it property, which can be sold to make money even if it is misinformation?
On October 12, Fox paid millions to the family of Seth Rich for repeatedly publishing the lie that he had been involved in leaking the DNC emails during the 2016 presidential election when in fact a Russian intelligence officer had hacked and leaked the emails. There was no truth or factual basis for the Fox story. Fox continued to broadcast it anyway. Fox settled the case before Lou Dobbs and Sean Hannity were set to testify under oath.
What makes this interesting is that part of the settlement required that it could not be disclosed until after the election in November.
Doesn’t this Fox settlement requirement both confirm that their reporting was political and acknowledge that it was false all along?
If you can afford to pay for the lie and even profit from it, it’s OK? Is the difference between the settlement and the profits generated for Fox from the marketing of misinformation the fair market value of propaganda in America?
It is business. It is politics. The business of American politics. But what is for sale?
The influence over the American voter is for sale, but is the country at stake? Is the price tag for our country the cost of the propaganda it would take to buy it?
Can this really be what the framers intended? The revolution? The Constitution? The freedom of the people from King George? And then give King George complete immunity and absolute power if he becomes the president?
It is amazing how we rationalize the truth. Over the last four years, maybe Guinness has been good for me.
You don’t really know what’s going on unless you have the courage to read the tweets and live in the misinformation of his campaign. If you really think that this all will go away with an inauguration of a Democratic president, you’re crazy!
The Biden victory did not affect most of the embedded state and local Republicans candidates who rallied around and were supported by Trump. That divisive campaigning has not stopped.
It has increased with an attack on the legitimacy of the election and certification, which has been supported by Republicans who are still afraid to challenge the president.
As reported in The New Yorker, Stuart Stevens, a Republican strategist who advised Mitt Romney in 2012, tweeted: “The bottom line is that the @GOP has become a threat to democracy…it’s a clear and present danger and should be treated as such.” (Emphasis added.)
Steve Schmidt, a Republican campaign strategist for John McCain in 2008, called Trump Republicans “an American autocratic movement with Fascistic markers.” (Emphasis added.)
Below is a video that was posted on Twitter by President Trump 12/23. It’s a 17-minute video split into two parts. I wouldn’t want you to have to watch the whole thing but check out the second half. This tweet multiplied with 111k retweets, and 10.4K quote tweets and received 265K likes.
Since the election, Trump’s efforts to take over the country have gotten more extreme, culminating in efforts to overturn the vote of the people.
Abraham Lincoln, also a Republican, has been quoted as saying “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”
Actually, Abe, all you need is 49% of the vote and the Electoral College.
The primary issue of every leader in any democracy is to protect and preserve free speech based on credible facts and information to ensure that the people control the government rather than the government controlling the people.
When faced with Covid, the Democratic Party defined leadership by asking “What is the best way to solve this national crisis?” They insisted the answer was to follow the best available science. Trump, however, defined the issue by asking “Why should American freedom be curtailed by overbearing mask wearing liberals and political correctness?”
For Trump, the primary issue has always been how to define the Democrats. He vilifies them on Twitter and supports media that broadcasts conspiracy theories, unsupported false information and propaganda in order to polarize his base. The Democrats have always been blind to this. It is really not a policy dispute.
Trump lost the election but this argument isn’t over.
Trump received 74 million votes and remains the voice of the Republican Party. It has been reported that over half of all Republicans believe that the election was stolen and Trump won.
The issue now is how can the country address this polarization in order to preserve its democracy.
The First Amendment broadly protects anything related to free political speech, so a democracy cannot rely on the government to police and protect the voting public.
In the alternative, the president of a publicly-held company would be liable for a breach of fiduciary duty for the Covid loss of life which could’ve been prevented if not for his self-dealing at the public’s expense.
Could the Justice Department create a special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute Trump for obstruction of justice, violations of the Hatch Act and many other examples of malfeasance? Yes.
What if Trump pardons himself? This has never been tested and the authorities are split, but I am virtually certain that he could not. There are endless Constitutional textual analyses available, but a self-pardon would imply the founders granted an American president more power than the king they hated, and placed the President above the law.
The people could, through their legislators, lift the protection preventing civil law suits against private companies, such as social media in defamation cases. That is not government shutting down political speech — it is just permitting damages for false speech at the expense of a private citizen or companies. But it sure could change behavior if their revenues were put at risk for profiting from the political polarization.
The only solution is that the people must protect their own government.
Public discussion to change public opinion is the only solution. It is our own individual responsibility to find ways to revive public speech.
Democrats need to listen and may need to forego prosecution or vindication rather than prove to themselves they were always right. The Democrats have always been blind to this. It is really not a policy dispute. It is a private obligation.
America, when it was created by its Constitution, mandated free political speech as a necessity for an open and free society.
All of that is at risk now, given the past administration. The most damaging is the legacy of “fake news” and the resulting propaganda.
Prior to the Internet, political news was sold by a press that was dependent on the reputation of the newspaper which sold it. The source and credibility of the information is what gave it value to the consumer and the advertiser.
Since the Internet and social media, these safeguards have been largely lost because the credibility of the writer and supporting facts need not be disclosed at all and therefore anything can be pitched as credible including propaganda and fabricated conspiracy theories. It is all the same unless the factual credibility and bias can be challenged reliably.
A newspaper Publisher is presently liable for “actual malice,” as liable as the writer of the article. However, social media platforms are legislatively protected from this same liability by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. What makes it worse is if there is no liability there is little or no incentive for these media platforms to police the speech they publish. And what makes it even worse is political advertising in a polarized country has been very lucrative.
The media platforms claim that they cannot possibly police all those who publish anonymously on their portals. But they can and the price to our country is too great if they don’t.
If we file to create a corporation, drive a car on the highway, use the court system, or do just about anything affecting the health and safety of our city or country, we as individuals are accountable for the truth of our identity and the information we provide in order to get licensing. But anyone, American or not, can publish on the Internet and disappear.
This is a battle which is about to go into full swing and where we live will be determined by the outcome. Our free speech and our democratic government are not “free.” We assume responsibility for preserving them or we all lose together.