1.Happy Labor Day! My dry cleaner has a sign out that reads, “Happy Labor Day! Support Our Troops!” Now, any day is a good day to support our troops, but I strongly suspect that this is an unfortunate example of our increasing cultural and historical ignorance (ignorance that the war on statues and memorials will exacerbate, and that’s the intention). No holiday is more misunderstood than Labor Day, and the news media barely makes an effort to remedy the problem.
Ethics Alarms explained the history behind the holiday in a 2012 post that began,
Labor Day commemorates one of the great ethical victories of American society, and not one in a hundred Americans know it. Labor Day marks the end of summer, and a time for retail store sales, and the last chance to get away to Disney World, but few of us think about the real meaning of the word “labor” in the name, and how it is meant to honor brave, dedicated men and women who fought, sometimes literally, the forces of greed, political influence, wealth and privilege in this country to ensure a measure of safety, consideration, fairness and justice for the hardest working among us.
The post is here.
2. This is traditionally a big movie weekend, but it has already been declared a dud. Hollywood is having its worse summer in more than two decades. Conservative commentators have speculated that one reason is that Hollywood’s loudly and obnoxiously proclaimed contempt for about half of its potential audience—you know, The Deplorables–has alienated a significant segment of the market. That would be nice, since Hollywood has traditionally been a unifying cultural force rather than a divisive one, and this might shock Tinsel Town into getting off its high, blind horse and doing its job. I doubt it, though.
Astoundingly, the public is not yet sick of super hero movies, one of the few genres that continues to do well at the domestic box office. I wonder when the public will figure out this is partially political indoctrination by the Hollywood Left too: super heroes don’t use those evil guns. They just kill people with their innate powers, or, as in the not-bad NetFlix/Marvel series “The Defenders,” in ridiculously long, drawn-out martial arts combat sequences that resemble ugly dancing more than real fighting. Some of the heroes are bullet proof, however.
The flaw in this anti-Second Amendment propaganda is that real people do not have super powers, and there aren’t any super heroes running around protecting them.
3. Here’s something to worry about: with Google, Facebook and other powerful tech and internet companies increasingly signalling their political biases, how can they be trusted to facilitate freedom of expression rather than attempt to restrict it? The clear answer is, I think, they can’t.
Journalist Kashmir Hill reveals that in 2011, as a technology and privacy reporter at Forbes, she attended a meeting where a Google representative threatened that Forbes would be penalized in Google search results if it didn’t add +1 buttons to its site to promote Google Plus. She wrote a report on the meeting and Google’s use of its search power as a weapon, and Google, through her employer, forced her to kill it.
Google’s defense, included in the Ars Technica piece, rests upon whether her presence at the meeting was covered by a non-disclosure agreement, which avoids the real issue. The ethics issue is that Google has the power to strong-arm companies, websites, journalists and bloggers who displeas it by manipulating search results, and will use that power.
What do we do about that?
4. The Left, which is to say the mainstream news media, is apparently committed to defending the violent antifa thugs using good ol’ Rationalization #22, “It’s not the worse thing.” Here is Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan, the closest thing the Post has to an ombudsperson, concluding her essay about how the news media should cover those who argue that violence is acceptable when wielded against certain political views:
The best thing journalists can do is to relentlessly explain the beliefs, scope and scale of antifa, and to resist conflating it with liberal groups. And most important, to challenge politically motivated efforts to create a false equivalency between antifa and the rising tide of white supremacy. There is no comparison.
Will those journalists also explain the scope of white nationalist groups, which is negligible, and emphatically make the distinction between them and, say, the President? They haven’t so far. Nor did they make distinctions between conservatives and non-conservatives who objected to the cultural purge of historical statues and the white nationalists who organized the legal demonstration in Charlottesville they may have participated in. The media narrative was that if you protested against the statues, you are a card-carrying racist. However, the fact that the counter-protesters included hooded antifa members in their midst didn’t trigger guilt by association at all. They were peaceful, even if a significant segment of their group weren’t.
What are the principles at work here, Margaret? I’m confused.
As for her last two sentences: of course there is a comparison. Both are destructive forces in our culture and political discourse. Efforts to excuse the ones that wear masks and extol violence as a legitimate political tool are politically motivated, not those who correctly condemn both. The building narrative that white supremacy is “rising” is part of the effort to delegitimize the election of a Republican President and has no basis in fact, a phony threat to justify censorship, violence and suppression by anti-speech and democracy elements on the Left. Meanwhile, antifa and its apologists pose a real, present and existential threat to open dissent and the First Amendment. I’m willing to call both of these foes equally indefensible, but based on the willingness of Sullivan and others to minimize the danger posed by the antifa groups, it is by far the greater threat. Physical violence is illegal; mere words, even the ugliest words, are protected by the Constitution.
Why is a newspaper favoring violence over speech?