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Caseythoughts Considering the well- and lesser-known stressors to our common psyche these days, I think up to this point we as a people should have been patting our collective back and perhaps saying, "Who's a good boy / girl?" to ourselves, until this week. Now I'm riled up, and I think much of America is behind me, as the common good seems to have been threatened from several quarters.

First, last week's executive order from the Chest-Thumper-in-Chief, which hopefully spawns a cottage industry of lawsuits. Trump, with his partner in crime William Barr, is itching to question and overturn what is termed 'Section 230' of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. It has been widely viewed as a protection for internet platforms against lawsuits pertaining to content.

These lawsuits have been routinely tossed out of court since 1996, as judges continue to use the act as a first defense, as well as the usually less obvious infringements of First Amendment rights. To quote John D. McKinnon and Rebecca Ballhaus of The Wall Street Journal, Trump essentially wants to strip tech companies which provide these platforms (and are the cyber-equivalent of soapboxes in the Hyde Park of the internet) of their free speech protection if they "take action to discriminate against users or limit their access to a platform without providing a fair hearing or in ways that are not spelled out in the platform's terms of service."

Let's be clear: the internet is not broadcast radio or TV, which are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission, because they are openly available to everyone. This is essentially the meaning of broadcast vs. streaming on the internet, which is not regulated by the FCC and is still an interesting legal no man's land in our courts.

Does 'fair hearing' sound familiar? Sounds like the arguments that were used against Limbaugh and other right-wing mavens when the phrase 'equal time' was brandished and eventually struck down in the courts. Funny how things like this switch sides over time, eh?

There's a couple of things that have really unsettled me, here. Ok, unsettled is a mild word. How about really stirred my oatmeal? Maybe, got my goat?

  1. Trump stated that if he could find a way to shut down Twitter "I would do it." This is worse than Richard Nixon's Oval Office rants against the New York Times and Washington Post. Those secretly recorded rants occasionally lapsed into antisemitism. With these thoughts of Nixon, I'm reminded of the criminal sycophants in the White House until 1974: Mitchell, Gray, Haldeman, Liddy, et. al.
  2. Trump accused Twitter (his own dog whistle megaphone since before the election) as "acting as an editor with a viewpoint" and using fact-checking as "political activism". Hello in there: every mode of speech – written, broadcast, or transmitted electronically – has a "viewpoint" and is easily understood as political activism.

This reminds me of a detractor of my radio program whom I taped and whose words I occasionally replayed to reflect the thinking of those who don't like another's point of view. Quote: "Casey Stevens has one point of view, his own." Well, whose viewpoint do you think I should have? Mr. Trump seems to have forgotten, as has much of America, including broadcasters and major media, that opinions are like belly buttons: everyone has one. A lot of men and women staked their fortunes and lives upon the right to defend that principle.

Look, in truth, all of our media need a fact check, and that is not a defense of the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I'm no fan of this brave new electronic world, as readers and former listeners know well. And media's main defect is not its nature, but the nature of the humans not comprehending the maxim "information is not necessarily knowledge". Is anybody really fact-checking what they hear or read, or merely finding bias confirmation and allowing others to sooth us into complacency as to our own correct thinking? And laziness.

I'm a child who practically grew up in a library, and our Google and fact-checking machine was the card catalog. Finding 'Truth' was hard work, and I learned to distrust truth when it sounded like it had a capital 'T'. I felt that having a reasonably open mind was an asset, not a political or social liability. Not so anymore, when truth is spouted as gospel by a gazillion prophets and soothsayers. Arbiter of 'Truth', indeed. Doctor, heal thyself.

To finish my rant on this topic, I feel like screaming when it appears that the White House and the Justice Department are using their own First Amendment right to limit that of others. The executive order stated that these platforms and places where individuals' rights should be protected are "a twenty-first century equivalent of the public square". Mr. Trump, Mr. Barr, isn't the 'public square' what gave birth to our country in the middle and latter part of the eighteenth century? You know those days: when speaking out against the King and Parliament could result in trial and death.

Fact check: Facebook, Twitter, Congress, and the White House cannot dictate what I think or say. They can regulate what I do, and conflating those two areas shows a dangerous arrogance, a tendency to oppression, and must be rebelled against with all legal means available. It starts with a freedom to speak out.

There are those who will cite Orwell's 1984 or even Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here, but I happen to think of Animal Farm, where it was stated that "all pigs are equal, but some pigs are more equal than others".

The first impeachment trial was a joke because it was overtly political and driven by anger. The second impeachment trial, with this executive order as People's Exhibit Number 1, will be deadly serious and driven by moral outrage. People's Exhibit Number 2 will be the presidential taunt alleging "when the looting starts, the shooting starts". White King check, your move America.

Finally, Minneapolis, which may still be burning as you read this. It is burning as I write this. I have always been a supporter of law enforcement and its beleaguered uniformed practitioners, even in my scofflaw days, but I am honor-bound to say that the incident which has added to our brothers' and sisters' dismay and outrage in Minneapolis leads me to one conclusion: there are cops who don't need a semi-automatic handgun on their hip as a weapon. Some of them only need their knee and a racist heart.

That's enough angst and anger for one soul in one week. Let's stay alert, let's work for fairness, let's take care of each other and each other's rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Thanks for listening.

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