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Celebrities and Opinions

If there’s one positive I can see from the tumultuous year and a half of politics we’ve endured, it’s that more people than ever before are feeling comfortable speaking out about their political views.  I believe the more political dialogue we have, the better.  If our politicians cannot stay on message, it’s up to the public to correct the record between votes.

Responses to political opinions will vary greatly depending on who did the speaking up.  An argument I hear thrown around a lot lately is that it doesn’t help when celebrities voice opinions, because they are perceived to be part of the “established elite.”  And especially if you’re trying to win back Trump voters in rural districts, maybe this hurts your message more than it helps.  To this I say simply:  nonsense.

Everyone’s heard the saying “any press is good press.”  Same is true with your political message, just ask the President.  It didn’t seem to bother rural America that Trump is a New York Billionaire who called the White House a “dump” when he first got there.  He sold himself as knowing what he was talking about and being able to help them.  They bought it.

In the past year all kinds of celebrities have come out saying things against the current administration, Jimmy Kimmel, Alyssa Milano, Jim Carrey, Samuel L Jackson, LeBron James, Oprah just to name a few.  These voices help propel the movement more than they hurt it, in my estimation.

Recently Miami Heat soon to be Hall-of-Famer Dwyane Wade teared up when he found out one of the Parkland High students killed was buried in his Jersey.  Dwyane followed it up the next day by posting this:

Untitled

“This is why we will not just SHUT up and dribble!” Wade exclaims at the end.  Yes!  More of this.  Nobody should shut up and dribble, nor shut up and give medical care, nor shut up and do any profession in this country.  You’re allowed to have an opinion in this country – in fact it’s encouraged.  We shouldn’t discourage people from voicing their opinions just because they’re celebrities.

I’ve come to notice one thing about people who criticize anyone’s message – it has little to do with the person, though they might bring that into their argument – they just don’t like the message.  They’ll attack Dwayne Wade, they’ll attack Parkland High victims themselves, they’ll attack anyone who has an opinion different than theirs.

I have to ask, which is more courageous, offering an opinion from any rank in society, or critiquing somebody’s place in having one?

I’m not saying it’s not possible for celebrities, or anyone in a position of greater power, inadvertently hurt the goals they’re trying to accomplish by speaking out.  It’s just that if we start making arguments about suppressing anyone’s first amendment, it’s going to be somebody else’s celebrity that wins the election, anyway.  See: 2016

I remember recently there was a lot of controversy at Cal Berkeley for allowing right-wing speaker Milo Yiannopoulos to come speak.  The students protested intensely.  I say, if you want to embarrass Milo, fill up his stadium.  Boo him if you want to.  Exercise your first amendment right.  But don’t impede on his.  The second we start doing that, we all lose.  If Milo’s speaking truly is wrong and abhorrent, surely it can be exposed easily and surely it won’t actually catch on.  And lone-behold, he’s since been largely taken down on his own accord.  We didn’t need protests that threatened the first amendment rights of somebody we disagreed with.

Here’s to defending everyone’s right to speak, and encouraging as many of us to speak out as we possibly can.

Ah yes, the “gun control” debate.  I don’t like calling it “gun control.”  I think that plays into the hands of people who want nothing to ever change.  I think we should rename it to something like Weapons Licensing or something even softer sounding.  Politics is all about marketing and people don’t want the government touching their guns under any circumstance.  Even if the proposed legislation wouldn’t touch anyone’s guns, really, simply framing it as “Gun Control” strikes fear into the heart of the gun owner.

I’m not sure anything divides us more than this one.  It crosses party lines more than anything I know of.  Being somebody whose friends are mostly liberal, I even have friends who seem liberal on all other aspects but are less excited about attacks on the 2nd amendment.  I don’t see the same thing with abortion or any other majorly divisive issue.  I’m not here to attack the 2nd amendment.  I hope I’m here to re-frame the debate a little bit.

It’s not about gun control.  It’s about weapon restrictions.  That’s an important distinction, because it points to the fact that many weapons are already highly regulated, and for good reason.

Back it up a second.  I support the 2nd amendment.  I think if somebody thinks they need a gun for protection, or if they hunt or are ex-military, I can see them having a good reason to own a weapon.  STOP.  That’s where the NRA wants the argument to end.  They count with “it’s not up to the government to decide what is the right reason to have a gun (weapon).”  Actually, it is, and for good reason.  Let me explain.

There are perfectly valid reasons why a private citizen cannot buy, say, a military grade tank.  Most people wouldn’t be able to afford one anyway, but just imagine if they could. Billionaires power would be multiplied and magnified.  It’s not the government’s job to regulate how much firepower a civilian can have, then this should be just fine, shouldn’t it?

For obvious reasons it’s not.  And neither should owning assault weapons meant to shred its victims insides.  Guns are meant to kill, sure, but we’ve in general tried to put some emphasis on the kind of damage they are intended to do.  Most bullets from hand guns will leave a pretty clean mark.  Assault rifles like the one used in the Parkland shooting, however, very much a different story:

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/02/what-i-saw-treating-the-victims-from-parkland-should-change-the-debate-on-guns/553937/

So you can’t buy a tank, a warplane, land mines etc because it’s simply too much firepower for one civilian to have.  That is to say, in the event that that one civilian goes “nuts” for whatever reason, the amount of damage they would be able to inflict before being stopped is simply catastrophically high and should not be permitted.  It’s so high it simply cannot fall under any of the previously proposed “reasons” to own a firearm:

1) Self Defense (from what, zombie apocolypse?  Join the marines if you think an invasion is coming)

2)  Sport.  Plenty of other weapons you could use for sport (i.e. ones that don’t shred flesh in inhumane ways).  These are military weapons.  That’s not a sport.  Sports have defense.

3) Hunting.  Anyone hunting with an assault rifle needs to be taught how to hunt properly

So in spite of the 2nd amendment, it definitely IS the government’s job to regulate how much firepower a civilian can own – they always have.  When the constitution was written, the only guns around were so slow that you could kill maximum 2-3 people per minute, and that’s assuming somebody doesn’t simply walk up to you and disarm you between rounds.

Now, it should be noted, I personally am in favor of trying more drastic gun bans and safety measures.  I know the country isn’t remotely ready for that, and maybe never will be.  In 1996 in both England and Australia there were separate school shooting incidents with guns.  Both countries almost entirely gave up their right to guns.  In London most police officers don’t even have a gun on them (and polls show they themselves prefer it that way). The result?  Zero school shootings since.  (Samuel L Jackson walks into room) Tell me again it doesn’t work, motha******!

I’d like to see us try something that seems to have worked in other countries.  Maybe less restrictions will work here and we won’t even need more controls.  But we have to try something.  The status quo is not acceptable, we are the only country dealing with this on a weekly basis.

The other thing that needs to be done is opening up funding for more government research on gun safety measures.  Currently, with the help of the NRA, congress has been lobbied to pass legislation that banned any such research.  It is also illegal to sue firearms manufacturers – the only such manufacturers that have such protections.  I’d like to perhaps live in a world where if you want to own a gun, per say, it has to have a fingerprint scanner on it so it will only fire if you are the one holding it.  It will also turn off it say, it detects you seem to be going on a murder spree of sorts.  Just an idea.  Cars are driving themselves.  Maybe some extra safety technology with guns wouldn’t be a bad idea?

I know the country isn’t ready for strict gun control measures.  But first we need to reshape the entire argument.  The 2nd amendment is not a right to own any gun at any time.  It’s a right to bear arms, in general.  And it will always be up to the government, represented by the people, to decide how much firepower is appropriate.  Let’s try a little bit less, and maybe think about spending some money studying safety alternatives…what say ye?

Serious question, when will Paul Manafort flip on Trump?  There have been private rumblings that Trump is worried that he will, and that Trump may even resign when he does.  Manafort has clearly been in the cross-hairs of the special counsel since day one.  This became extremely evident in July, when the FBI raided his home in the middle of the night.  I have read that this happened RIGHT after Manafort had been in negotiations with Meuller the day prior.  Clearly Meuller didn’t like the attitude he was getting.  A few hours later, pre-dawn FBI raid on Manafort’s home.  They seized computers as well as documents.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/fbi-conducted-predawn-raid-of-former-trump-campaign-chairman-manaforts-home/2017/08/09/5879fa9c-7c45-11e7-9d08-b79f191668ed_story.html?utm_term=.800d147d7b13

Now 8 months later, Manafort (and Rick Gates) have been indicted on THIRTY TWO felonies.  Holy cow.  Let me back up a moment for anyone who doesn’t know the full story on Manafort and Gates.  Manafort was Trump’s campaign manager for a few months.  Rick Gates was a top aide and took over shadow control of the campaign once Manafort resigned from the campaign.  When Manafort left, Gates stayed.  All the way up until  inauguration.  Manafort and Gates, for all practical legal purposes, were representing the same interests.  That is to say, it is believed that even though Manafort “left” the campaign, he was still in control through Gates.

Now, back to present day, where Manafort and Gates were both indicted on 32 felony charges.  You can read the charges here:

https://www.vox.com/2018/2/23/17045484/gates-plea-deal-full-text-russia-investigation

The most dramatic charge in the document, which they are both charged with, is “Conspiracy Against the USA.”  That’s code word for treason.  Woah.  Woah.  Woah.

Rick Gates agreed to plead guilty to two of those felony charges, and had the rest of the charges dropped by signing a cooperation agreement.  The agreement states, and I’m not making this up, Rick Gates must attend all meetings the special counsel wants him to and even must wear a wire and/or act as a special agent for the Justice Department if asked to do so.  Basically:  we own you.  The second charge Rick Gates pled guilty to was lying to the FBI.

The same charges stand for Paul Manafort, all 32 of them.  I’ll hopefully get to go more in detail about Manafort’s past – if you have time do some of your own research, too.  He’s been in the Republican party for decades, and has done all kinds of foreign lobbying work for various interests, more disturbingly helping pro-Russian interests in Ukraine, who is attempting to establish a functioning democracy.  One of the most curious parts of Manfort’s part in the Trump campaign is the fact that he offered to work “for free.”  Really, for free?  A man of millions?  What could he have to gain?  Was he being black mailed?  Did he owe money?  Was it to Putin?  Somebody linked to Putin?  All questions I’m sure Meuller would like to have honest answers to.

If he doesn’t flip, Paul Manafort will spend the rest of his life in jail.  Flip on Trump and his allies, and he’ll probably serve 5 years, be a national disgrace, but get to have (presumably) a few years of freedom.  I don’t know how long it’s going to take him to flip, but the sooner you start doing that five years, the sooner you get your freedom back…

To be honest, we don’t know how much Manafort really knows.  We don’t know exactly to what degree this campaign has been corrupt, and to what degree Manafort will be forced to sell them out.  But we do know that being charged with 32 felonies, including Conspiracy Against the USA, is an insane pressure cooker to be in.  He’ll flip.  Or explode.  Or Putin will get to him (he’s had numerous political opponents or allies who know too much killed).

Paul’s sidekick Rick Gates already pleaded guilty to treason and to lying about it.  Paul and Rick did everything together.  If they want to serve their five years together, Paul better get to flippin soon.  It’d be better for the country, too.

I’m already tired just thinking about it.  Part of the reason I feel the need to stay up on what’s going on in today’s world of politics is simply the rapid pace at which it moves.  When our grandparents were voting (crap, they still are.  Thanks for Trump, by the way, guys)… ok, when our grandparents were FIRST voting, things really were a lot simpler when it comes to media.  There were a few major news networks.  Everyone got their news from one of a few common sources, and those sources were, in general, more focused on reporting facts than trying to manipulate your opinion.  Was there a difference between getting your news from ABC, NBC or CBS?  Sure.  But the difference is nowhere near the difference between Fox News and MSNBC today.  And that doesn’t necessarily mean that both have gone off the deep end.  You only need one network to have a significant move in one direction along the political spectrum to create a massive divide in understanding between bases.  And that’s exactly what’s happened.

After the formation of the 24 news network came the 24 hour personalized social media feed.  The effects of this have been much more drastic.  Not only do we have the issue of bots and trolls (which we will get to eventually in this blog) but the issue of personalized information meant to get likes OR meant to stir controversy.

Links meant to get LIKES play to your inherent biases and attempt to reinforce what you already know.  They also might reinforce something that you don’t quite necessarily believe, yet, but that they think you might be susceptible to believing.  This is how you build a following.

Links meant to stir CONTROVERSY are inherently offensive.  They’re trolling.  Meant to get your blood pressure up.  Meant to get you to comment.  The more you comment, the more activity they get, the more people see the CONTROVERSY.   In a polarized landscape, in any controversy people will try to pick the side they think those on the same “team” are picking.

Either of these empowers the distributor of “information” to get people to take stances they normally might not jump to take, based on putting it up as a false narrative of two extreme choices.  If you believe there is only option A or B, and B seems catastrophically bad, you’ll probably pick A even if it seems not that great, either.  In reality there is option C, which is unbiased facts.  Those are boring, though.  They don’t get many likes, and they also don’t stir controversy.  Unbiased facts are facing a 24 hour uphill battle.  The more you like and comment, the more they get buried.

And it’s within this framework of media that the Trump campaign has operated.  If I had to describe their media strategy in 3 words it would be:  FLOOD AND DISTORT.  On any given day in this White House, there is so much negative press going out that’s honestly kind of numbing.  In any other administration, a single one of these ongoing scandals would be enough to make the party reconsider their elected leader.  Lying about Russian contacts?  No problem.  Cheating on first lady and paying to cover it up?  Doesn’t seem that bad compared to the stuff he just said on twitter today.

It turns out Einstein’s theory of relativity is also true in politics, and if you get people to accept you AFTER they know a bunch of horrible things you’ve done, the next several horrible things won’t seem quite as bad, will they?  As a voter, you’re already invested.  As a voter, you felt like you had to choose between A and B (you did, I’m not really arguing this).

The strategy is divide and conquer.  Pick a controversial issue daily.  One that you know will cause a large % to PASSIONATELY take one side, and another large percentage to PASSIONATELY take the other.  Take the stance of your base.  Pin them against the others.  They’ll fight, daily.  The distance between them will become much greater than the distance between you and your base. Now you’ve won their control.  They couldn’t possibly ever support the opposite side… how could they, after how they’ve been treated?

Trump is exhausting.  Covering all the angles of his presidency is impossible.  Even after this is over, we’re going to be unraveling everything that happened for years to come.  Hold on tight, and thanks for tuning in.

 

This is very much a new endeavor for me.  Well, not really.  I write about my political opinions and current events all the time.  I probably talk about them to you, whether you like it or not.  Instead of firing off a bunch of incomplete thoughts on Facebook and Twitter (follow me for my snarkier remarks @RobToner), I plan on blogging about current political events here.  Thanks for tuning in!  I look forward to hearing your thoughts and comments.

-RT

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