Is it a valid question or is it a troll?

This is all about critical thinking skills, which are sorely missing in too many people.

You see a post on Facebook asking a question about the Creature currently squatting in the White House, say, “Is it OK to fat shame…?” As soon as you see it, you laugh and share with a resounding “Yes!”

You have just aided and abetted a troll.

This is what trolls want — to create division and get people all riled up at each other.

For example, one post asks whether Bernie Sanders should run again in 2020. It goes on about how the current occupant was 70, blah, blah, blah … The first response was to call people who don’t think he should run ageist. No civilized conversation, just right to name-calling.

That’s exactly the response the people at Hash It Out and their ilk are looking for. Go ahead, visit the Hash It Out Facebook page and look at the stuff they’re generating.

Another post asked whether Melania should divorce her husband. Like that’s any of your business or it would affect the danger he poses to our nation.

It’s the best example out there of what I’m talking about. Every post is deliberately provocative and divisive.

And even though there has been plenty of information out there about what the trolls are doing any why, the Hash It Out posts are all over Facebook — even though they are exactly what we are being warned about.

We’re told to watch out for deliberately provocative posts, and as soon as we see one, we share it.

Yeah. let’s fat-shame the current occupant of the White House. Let’s make fun of his hair and slut-shame his wife. Let’s call everyone who doesn’t think Bernie Sanders should run again ageist. Let’s trash people who don’t think cannabis should be legal.

Let’s not discuss the pros and cons of these things. Let’s not talk about the real issues. Let’s just post simplistic, mean-spirited memes from Hash It Out — God forbid we should create our own posts or start constructive conversations.

Here’s what the BBC has to say about how troll farms operate:

“Prosecutors said Russian operatives would work shifts to make sure their posting times matched the timezone of the area they were pretending to be based.

“But the work was round-the-clock. When the operatives – they called themselves ‘specialists’ – weren’t posting, they were learning and getting feedback on writing style. They were said to be constantly monitoring the viral success of their approach, tweaking and adjusting to maximise retweets and the spread of the message. The team is also said to have had a list of US public holidays, and appropriate content ready to go so they would blend in.

“According to court documents, the IRA took several measures to hide its tracks, duping the technology companies who were unaware, or unable, to stop what was filtering through their systems.”

It’s lazy and it’s dangerous to share this stuff. It plays into the hands of the people who are trying to destroy our Democracy, and they’re winning because we won’t be responsible and learn about and discuss the issues.

Here’s a good rule: If the post only asks you to type “yes,” and/or like and share, if the post doesn’t present any real points to discuss, if your first reaction to the post is purely an emotional, “Fuck, yeah!” it’s probably generated by a troll.

Please resist the urge to type “yes” and share.

The only way we can stop the trolls seeking to divide and conquer us is to ignore and not share their posts.

From here on, every Hash It Out post I see will generate the following response: “You realize this comes from a troll farm, right?”

I am going to start unfriending people who keep sharing them.

We have a lot of work to do to try and restore our country to a working Democracy. I intend to do the work and I don’t intend to waste time and energy on people who just want to sit and share trolls’ clickbait instead of showing up to register voters, work for candidates, and most of all, have real discussions on real issues.

There’s too much at stake to waste time with people who will provoke division but who won’t do the work.

 

No sympathy here

I feel no sympathy for Mika Brzezenski.

There, I said it.

Mika and her partner in crime and fiance, Joe Scarborough, spent the entire presidential campaign sucking up to the Republican candidate. They had him on their show for what amounted to hours of free, unchallenged air time.

They are part of the reason the election was close enough for the Republicans to steal.

Instead of denouncing his mean-spiritedness and misogyny throughout the campaign (and it is there and highly evident throughout this awful creature’s career), they allowed him a pass, just as most of the rest of American corporate media did.

They allowed him to lie without demanding the truth be told. They allowed him to spew racism and sexism and never confronted him about it.

He was entertaining, they thought. He made people laugh. I mean, what were the chances he would actually win the White House? Why not have a little fun instead of being so serious all the time? What harm could it do, right?

Well, here’s the harm that happens when we don’t take elections or public policy seriously.

Mika loses her self respect and 22 million Americans stand to lose their health care. The Orange One and his cronies are trying to stage an unprecedented attack on voter rights. Thank God many of the states are resisting.

Every single cabinet position — except for those having to do with the military — is occupied by someone who wants to dismantle his or her department. Every damn one. Education, Energy, Interior … They have stolen a Supreme Court seat and filled it with a right-wing ideologue, affecting public policy for a generation or more. They are trashing treaties and other agreements, showing utter disrespect for other world leaders and otherwise acting like a bunch of sugar-addicted toddlers loosed, unsupervised, into a candy store.

But poor Mika had to read a sexist tweet directed at her.

How about the sexist policies we all have to live with — defunding of women’s health clinics, withdrawal of access to birth control, unequal pay and unequal treatment in the workplace and in public policy, decisions about my health care being made by old white men who hate me because I demand equality — shouldn’t we also add that into the mix?

Mika is not solely responsible for the Orangini Tweeter, but she bears some of the blame. She could have challenged his lies or not allowed him air time if he insisted on lying. She wouldn’t have allowed Hillary or any other Democrat to get away with that kind of behavior.

It’s time the media started ignoring this giant asshole’s tweets. Just don’t report on them. Pretend they don’t exist. They are not newsworthy when compared to the damage he is trying to do to our nation.

Let’s pay attention to the abhorrent attempts to shred what’s left of our social safety net.

Let’s heed the warnings of climate scientists.

Let’s pay attention to the massive increase in our military budget as we march, inexorably toward all-out war.

Let’s call bullshit on his election commission’s attempt to collect our personal information so they can purge Democrats from the rolls.

Let’s wake up and stop looking at what my late son called “sparkly issues.” We must pay attention to what’s happening to our nation. It may be too late to save it already.

 

Farewell to the great American experiment

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It appears we have elected a fascist, misogynist, racist, narcissistic, thieving, lying, treasonous sexual predator as president, and we have handed the Senate and House to his accomplices.

Those who have been seeking to take down America’s democracy have won.

In the coming months, look for the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act, followed by Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security. Our universities and our public education system are also in danger. Marriage equality will be abolished.

Look for the jailing of people who disagree with the new order. It will happen.

World markets are crashing, so there go the savings of people hoping for a secure retirement.

If you think I am overstating the danger here, think again. Think about the things Trump promised if he won, and the things Republicans have been promising to do for years.

Look at Germany in the 1930s if you want to see where we are headed. Trump has promised to persecute Muslims and immigrants. He wants to get back at everyone who he thinks has insulted him and he will use the presidency to do just that. We have no way to stop him now.

I don’t know what to do at this point except to look at moving to Canada.

I am terrified.

All the work we have done here in North Carolina to try and bring reason back to government has been for nothing.

All the work we did to elect a woman president has been for nothing.

All the progress we made in women’s rights, civil rights, social justice, economic justice — all for nothing.

We have lost everything.

We have allowed hate and racism and misogyny to win.

There is no logic in this.

Goodbye, America. You were great once.

RIP Democracy.

 

 

 

July 4 isn’t for chest-thumping

I celebrated the Fourth by going to a baseball game, which was followed by fireworks. Seemed like a good, all-American evening, and it included a tribute to veterans, which I found quite moving.

During the seventh inning, the Rev. Scott Rogers to0k to the field to talk about the vets who didn’t come back. He named the people from our area who have died on foreign soil, and introduced a flag-folding ceremony.

I always get emotional at flag-folding ceremonies because I’ve seen far too many of them as a newspaper reporter covering the funerals of fallen soldiers. Every time I see the ceremony, I’m reminded of the mother who insisted her son’s casket remain open, even though his face was replaced by a mask because it had been blown away. She kept reaching into the casket to touch his gloved hand. I’m reminded of the devastated young wife trying to comfort her weeping child who just wants his Daddy. I’m reminded of families and friends whose lives will never again be whole because of their loss. I’m reminded of the lost potential of this life cut short on a battlefield halfway around the world.

I know first-hand what it is to lose a child, but I can’t comprehend losing one in a war. I at least got to say goodbye to my son.

As the flag was being folded, a woman near me started chanting “USA!” She stopped pretty quilckly. I’m hoping it was because someone gave her the reality slap she deserved.

This ceremony was to honor the dead, not to chest-thump as though the whole thing was a sports event. Patriotism is about a lot more than chanting simplistic slogans. It’s not about, “America, right or wrong,” nor is it about allowing our freedoms to be swallowed up by a war on terrorism that does little more than kill innocent people and enrich corporations.

Part of our problem in the world is that we’re arrogant; we’re convinced we’re better than anyone else, and we impose our will whether our way is appropriate or not. Those in power — the very wealthy and huge corporations — love war, and their sons and daughters are rarely the ones who are maimed or killed in these conflicts.

The people who serve in our military believe they are doing what’s right for their country. They are honorable and brave, and they deserve our respect, although many come home wounded and emotionally damaged and we don’t give them what they need. They become homeless, and often become addicted to drugs and or alcohol in an attempt to numb the pain. We slash veterans’ programs and figure they should just buck up and get on with their lives after repeated deployments. But when we see someone in uniform, we thank them for their service as though that’s all we need to do.

This nebulous thing they’re fighting for, “freedom,” isn’t about competition and us being Number One. When we say freedom isn’t free, it shouldn’t be about spending innocent lives on the battlefield, but about participating in Democracy. We need to learn about the issues, understand and see through the crap that’s being thrown at us by the media and our politicians, and take our country back.

Democracy is participatory. If we the people are too lazy to vote intelligently, our country loses its greatness. We are at the threshhold of disaster now. It’s time to stop chanting stupid slogans and work to really understand the issues. That’s the price of freedom, and if we don’t pay that price, we will lose our freedoms.

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