Pressing the Mute Button

Internet meme of character Ron Swanson

I wasn’t going to write anything “political” today (unless you count my tribute to the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which I guess could be political, or nationalistic, or some other horrible thing), but this one just popped into my head.

You may or may not recognize the above posted figure of Ron Swanson (played brilliantly by Nick Offerman) from the television series Parks and Recreation (2009-2015). I’ve only watched certain portions of the series, but Offerman’s performance is always one of the highlights.

Swanson is a “dyed-in-the-wool” libertarian, almost (but not quite) to the point of caricature, which allows him to say and do the most outrageous things, get away with it, and be hysterically funny. It also allows him to say certain “truths” that people might otherwise balk at. One excellent example is when Ron explains what government is (and isn’t) good for to a little girl using her lunch (Vimeo video). He’s actually very sweet with her and it’s an endearing transaction (not so much with her mother later on).

However, the point he makes above is the point I’m trying to make. Even leaving Nike and Colin Kaepernick out of it completely, the internet and particularly social media is constantly trying to grab your attention and convince you of this or that (and failing that, accuse you of being evil such that there’s no way to “win” short of surrendering your free speech rights if not your free will).

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Shut up, Wesley OR Why You Should Expect twitter to Hurt You

shut up, wesley

Shut up, Wesley meme

“It is impossible to see a fault in someone else if you don’t have it in yourself.” -Anonymous

I’ve been thinking about the amazing amount of kvetching going on in social media and especially twitter. I’ve participated in a certain amount of it as well, as chronicled in blog posts such as This is the World of Science Fiction and WorldCon?, Part 2: This is the World of Science Fiction and WorldCon?, and Here We Go Again: Comicsgate. In the last comment I made in the last blog post listed, I decided to take the moral high road and not participate in such spitting contests and the measuring of each other’s male genitalia. However, I came across something interesting.

wheaton

Wil Wheaton quits social media

Apparently, actor Wil Wheaton of Shut up, Wesley fame has made a rather big deal of quitting social media because people were mean to him.

Okay, I get it. People are mean to each other all over twitter, and someone like Wheaton, who arguably played the most unpopular character in STTNG, and who was once compared with Jar Jar Binks on a closed Science Fiction group in Facebook makes a really big target. Actually, I kind of feel sorry for him as on his blog, he said:

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Peace on Earth

tribute lights

© Carla Bicomong

We launched the candles. The tribute was organized by telephone and mail so it was really hard, but we did it.

“Hi. I’m Jill.” She startled me. I’d been listening to other people talk, but I assumed they were already friends, I mean real life friends.

“I’m Dave. Pleased to meet you.” We shook hands and I started to blush. “Sorry. I’m a little nervous.”

“Me too.”

“Everyone’s so much nicer than I expected.”

“That’s the point. twitter, Facebook, Instagram turned us all into opinionated monsters.”

“But now that we destroyed them, there’ll be peace between people.”

I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields flash fiction challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 97.

After yesterday’s “challenging” series of conversations on twitter (which admittedly, I asked for), I decided that the people I briefly sparred with are most likely much nicer human beings in person than they are on twitter. Libertarian commentator and Orthodox Jew Ben Shapiro even admitted that he’s more snarky on twitter than he is in real life. I suppose it’s the nature of the beast, the “beast” being social media, and particularly twitter.

So in my wee fantasy, I killed twitter, Facebook, and the rest of them. Would that bring peace to mankind? Probably not, but it wouldn’t be so easy to insult and slander people we don’t know if they didn’t exist.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

When Social Media Becomes a Lynch Mob

duplass 1

Screenshot of Mark Duplass’s tweet about Ben Shapiro

There are days when I lose all hope for humanity. Really, it’s gotten that ridiculous.

First off, actor Mark Duplass said something nice about conservative speaker, attorney, and Orthodox Jew Ben Shapiro on twitter. Then he is immediately caught up in a twitter-storm so severe that the very next day, he formally apologizes.

Then “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn defends Duplass while at the same time, sliming Shapiro. And then, it’s discovered that Gunn made some pretty horrible tweets back in the day and is subsequently fired by Disney so you won’t see him directing “Guardians 3.”

I suppose Shapiro thought in the aftermath of all this, someone might take a look at his “dumb stuff” tweets, so he posted a list of them, and promised to keep updating it (I haven’t had the time to read that last article yet).

What the heck is going on? Have liberals have decided as a group, that no individual liberal can be friends with or even like a conservative without starting a social media flame war?

Why? How did we enter this twilight zone of dysfunctional communication?

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Be Careful What You Tweet

roseanne barr

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – MARCH 23: Roseanne Barr at the “Roseanne” Press Conference at the Four Seasons Hotel on March 23, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Vera Anderson/WireImage)

Warning: This is a commentary, not a piece of fiction. If you came here for the fiction, this brief essay may not be for you.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Roseanne Barr major twitter gaffe that got her show cancelled, the whole Colin Kaepernick “taking the knee” protests, and how ABC and the NFL have respectively responded to them, all in terms of Free Speech Rights.

First let’s get something out of the way. What’s the short definition of Free Speech Rights? According to Wikipedia, it is:

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution declares, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It’s actually a lot more complicated and nuanced than that, but let’s roll with what I’ve just quoted.

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The Retreat

the retreat

© Karen Rawson

“You’re building a cabin here, Grandpa? Why?”

“There’s nothing here, Cece. I’ll have that wreck up top demolished and put my cabin there.”

The eleven-year-old still couldn’t understand. “But no electricity, plumbing, or wifi? Yikes.”

“Solar will provide electricity, and the water and sewage lines run this far out. No wifi’s the point”

“I’d die.”

“People my age get tired of the constant bombardment of opinions in social media.”

“Turn off your computer.”

“Can you?”

“What will we do when I visit?”

“Hike, fish, explore the beauty of nature. This is where real life happens, not on Facebook and twitter.”

I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields photo writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above to inspire crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 100.

I saw the challenge right after looking at Facebook and twitter, and frankly, sometimes the demand and entitlement qualities of some of the comments are pretty hard to take. I’m torn, because the internet has also become an important information source for me, as well as a method of communication (hence this blog), but it’s a double-edge sword.

Today’s wee tale is my commentary on all that. Sometimes you have to turn everything off for a while and walk away, remembering that social media is an illusion and real life exists “out there”.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

The Last Warrior

obi wan

Sir Alec Guinness as Obi Wan Kenobi from Star Wars (1977)

He was the last of his kind and he was old. Once, there had been millions like him, roaming the nation and the wild lands, defending the faith, upholding righteousness, protecting the innocent.

But that was a long time ago.

His companions were not defeated by the sword or the lance, but by indifference and betrayal. Betrayed by the very populace they so cherished.

The leaders became corrupt and arrogant, they paid off the scribes to write untruths, the town criers cried lies, even the ballads sung in the taverns became twisted and perverted. Truth became falsehoods and outrageous slander became truth.

The nation’s heroes were branded cowards while cowards became heroes.

One by one, his comrades fell, lost, devalued, and finally crushed.

The last warrior endured. He fought back. He stood his ground, even when everyone turned against him, even when those who had once stood beside him became his enemies in the name of their new “justice” and “righteousness.”

The old warrior could not even take solace in the faith for it too had been perverted. Long held truths and principles of righteousness, justice, and peace were turned upside down by clergy who, being all too human, learned to believe the lies they were told by corrupt Kings and Queens who controlled the scribes and who silenced the warriors.

The sermons by preachers of the faith now differed little, if at all, from the propaganda of the scribes and town criers, for the ever-enduring word of the Creator was “progressively” interpreted to mean what it had never meant before.

One by one the other warriors fell, or just gave up to an intractable enemy, the nation, the populace, their friends and neighbors. One by one door upon door was closed to the last warrior. He had few friends left, and even those were embarrassed to be seen in his company, lest they be accused by association, of what the scribes and holy men now called heresy.

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Living in the Dystopia: When Fools Dare to Speak

king and heschel

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath, and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

“Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; When he closes his lips, he is considered prudent.”

Proverbs 17:28 (NASB)

Every time you speak to someone you have the power to choose words that will strengthen, lift up, energize, elevate, inspire, encourage, enlighten, support, benefit, and help your listener in some way.

Misusing words to insult, hurt, belittle, slight, offend, disparage, put down, and cause needless pain to other human beings is a violation of the Torah prohibition against causing pain with words.

A lot of people don’t realize that it is an actual Torah violation to cause pain with words. Insults, putdowns, mocking, making fun of, and any form of non-verbal communication that causes emotional distress is included in this Torah prohibition.

When you use your power of words to make someone feel good, you are doing an act of kindness. You are elevating yourself spiritually and emotionally. You are making a friend or strengthening an already existing friendship. You are doing a great mitzvah. You are being a positive factor in someone’s life.

When people misuse the power of words to make someone feel bad, it is an act of meanness and even cruelty. They are lowering themselves spiritually and emotionally. They are making an enemy or strengthening hate. They are committing a serious transgression. They are being a negative factor in someone’s life.

Be careful not to cause pain with your words, and encourage other people to be careful not to cause pain with their words. This awareness is very important for parents and for teachers who serve as role models for their children. Those who utilize their power of speech in positive ways will have children who emulate their positive patterns.

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin from
Chapter 46 of his book
Encouragement

I’ve written about this before in my short essay Living in the Dystopia: A Nation Divided. I recall the news stories and broadcasts from when I was a child, about the civil rights movement. Some stories were about peaceful marches and demonstrations, and others were about violence and riots.

And yet there was always the idea that through this process, things would eventually get better. People generally believed, especially as I graduated from high school in the early 1970s, that our nation would achieve an ever greater measure of racial equality.

Sure, it was a time of great unrest, uncertainty, and even fear, but I believed that when I became an adult, when I got married, when I had children, I would live in a time that was better for all people in our country, not just some.

What the hell happened?

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