Film Review: “Silenced: Our War On Free Speech”

Full disclosure: the author served as Head Researcher for this film. 

“Silenced: Our War On Free Speech” is a picture of free speech in America as we know it today. It is a reminder we live in a society where one tweet costs you a job, and a Facebook argument loses you friends in real life. The ninety minute documentary, directed by Loren Feldman and produced by Mike Cernovich, will grab you by the seat of your pants from the opening until the credits roll.

The movie shows you how America has created a culture of self-censorship in almost every aspect of life. Religion, the law, broadcasting, science, medicine, and even comedy all suffer from the cancerous culture of silencing voices with which we disagree. This uncomfortable truth is presented by the voices of many who have been silenced, including Chuck Johnson of Got News, Pax Dickinson, Scott Adams (yes, the Dilbert creator) and more.

“Silenced” attempts to nail down a definition of free speech in the film. It’s not an easy task, and the different views of that which we call “free speech” reflect this. I’m not sure it reaches a concrete definition by the film’s end, but the best definitions are provided by the featured lawyers. Maybe that’s because in the legal profession words actually mean things, and concepts have meaning beyond the feelings of the individual speaker.

Some of the most interesting viewpoints and outlooks come from those who aren’t American or who immigrated to America. Perhaps this is because each comes or came from a place where speech ostensibly has greater restrictions than America. While each subject’s viewpoint was incredibly insightful, these intrigued me most because I am an American who’s lived in America all his life and haven’t really encountered restrictions on speech as they have.

One of the most hard hitting segments was the one involving comedy. Paul Provenza and Dulce Sloan’s remarks hit hard in “Silenced.” Standup comedy is supposed to be the bastion of truth, and something that gives us laughter while making us think. Instead, it’s been muzzled to the point comedians can’t work college campuses unless they keep in their repertoire a “super clean” set in addition to their standard set.

“I’m offended every day…I just choose to not be a little bitch about it.”–Paul Provenza

At the film’s end, one final question is left on the table. Will America ever return to a land where people can say what’s on their minds without fear of societal repercussions, or will we continue down the dark path of self-censorship and refrain from having honest discussions on subjects vitally important to us? I don’t see that question resolved, but the final scene before the credits roll gives me great hope for the future.

I’m not one for documentaries, but I found “Silenced: Our War On Free Speech” compelling enough that I’ve watched it three times since its release. It’s a nice length in a world where people are forced to sit through three hour films. And most importantly, it will get you talking with those around you about free speech in America.

If you are looking for light-hearted fare, “Silenced: Our War On Free Speech” is not for you. If you want a film that will captivate you, keep your attention from start to finish, and have you talking with those around you more by the time you finish it, “Silenced” is your best bed. If you’re an American who’s ever had a moment where you deleted a tweet draft or a Facebook post because you were afraid of the potential repercussions, you owe it to yourself to see “Silenced: Our War On Free Speech.”

Currently, “Silenced” is available through Vimeo On Demand. You can rent it for $4.99 or purchase it for $9.99. It’s an important film, and one you won’t regret watching.

Lawbot, Meet Monty Python

First Keith Lee tried “Lawbot–the World’s Most Advanced Chatbot Lawyer.” It proved incredibly tone deaf to issues concerning sexual assault. Then Ken White at Popehat tried the bot through the experience of a client who got cheated by a drug dealer. My hypothetical came from a Monty Python sketch. Let’s see if I get justice for being sold a dead parrot by an unscrupulous pet shop owner.

LawBot

Hi, I’m LawBot, a robot lawyer designed to help you through this situation. Please tell me your name or say anonymous if you would rather not.

You

Chester

LawBot

Nice to meet you, Chester. I can help you understand if you have been the victim of a sex offence, a property offence, physical or psychological injury, or harassment. If you don’t understand what I am saying, just say so and I will explain. If you don’t understand a word, just ask me about it and I will give you a definition. Would you like to get started?

You

Sure

LawBot

Please describe briefly in one sentence what happened to you. Try to use words that people usually use when speaking about this issue to help me understand you.

You

A pet shop owner sold me a dead parrot.

LawBot

Sorry, could you try to explain that in a different way? Maybe be more specific about the incident?

You

I was sold a dead parrot by the owner of a pet store.

LawBot

Ok. Let’s try to get to the bottom of this. Say ‘crime’ to start the questionnaire.

You

crime

LawBot

Which topic suits the crime? You can say the topic or its number. 1. Sex Offences; 2. Injuries and Assault; 3. Harassment; 4. Property Offences; 5. None of these.

You

4

LawBot

Which topic matches your case? Say the number or the topic. 1. Theft; 2. Burglary; 3. Robbery; 4. Fraud; 5. Criminal Damage; 6. A different topic.

You

4

LawBot

This is a serious crime! I would like to ask you a few questions. If you don’t understand what I’m saying, just say so and I will explain. Are you ready?

You

Yes

LawBot

Great, let’s get started. Did someone say or do something, which was untrue or misleading?

You

Yes, he sold me a dead parrot and said it was sleeping.

LawBot

Hm, could you rephrase that? I didn’t understand. Did someone say or do something, which was untrue or misleading?

You

Yes

LawBot

Hm. Do you think the person knew that the representation was, or might have been, untrue or misleading?

You

Yes, I was sold a dead parrot and told it was hibernating.

LawBot

Sorry, didn’t get that. Was there a typo? Do you think the person knew that the representation was, or might have been, untrue or misleading?

You

Oh good grief. Yes.

LawBot

Sorry, didn’t get that. Was there a typo? Do you think the person knew that the representation was, or might have been, untrue or misleading? Alright. Do you think that an ordinary, reasonable and honest person would consider their conduct dishonest?

You

Yes. You usually don’t sell pet owners dead pets.

LawBot

Ok, Chester. Do you think the person who did this realized that an ordinary, reasonable and honest person would consider their conduct dishonest? Sorry, didn’t get that. Was there a typo? Note that under the term ‘ordinary, honest and reasonable person’ you should imagine a ‘normal’ or ‘typical’ person in society. Do you now think the person realized it?

You

Yes, I think he realized the parrot was dead when he sold it to me.

LawBot

Ok, glad I could clarify. Do you think the person did this in order to make a gain for themselves or another or to cause loss to another? Note that gain and loss concern only money and other property.

You

Yes, he took my money and gave me a dead parrot!

LawBot

That is a serious crime. I would like to ask you a few questions. If you don’t understand what I’m saying, just say so and I will explain. Are you ready?

You

What the hell? Okay.

LawBot

My bad, could you say that differently? If you are not sure about the answer, just say so. Are you ready? My bad, please say it again? If you are not sure about the answer, just say so. Are you ready?

You

YES

LawBot

Great. Did anyone take property belonging to you?

You

Yes, they took my money!

LawBot

That is a serious crime. I would like to ask you a few questions. If you don’t understand what I’m saying, just say so and I will explain. Are you ready?

You

What the hell have we been doing for the past five minutes?

LawBot

Sorry, I’m not sure I got that. Try again? If you are not sure about the answer, just say so. Are you ready?

You

Yes I am ready

LawBot

Great. Did anyone take property belonging to you?

You

Yes they took my money

LawBot

Ok. Almost there. Did this person use force on you or make you fear violence right before or while taking your property? Yes or no?

You

No

LawBot

I understand. Did the person take property in your building or part of it, without your prior permission to enter?

You

No

LawBot

So far it looks like a case of theft. Do you think the person intended to deprive you permanently of your property?

You

Yes

LawBot

Hm. Do you think that an ordinary, reasonable and honest person would consider the appropriation dishonest?

You

Yes, they sold me a dead parrot!

LawBot

My bad, could you say that differently? Do you think that an ordinary, reasonable and honest person would consider the appropriation dishonest?

You

Do you even care about parrots?

LawBot

Sorry, didn’t get that. Was there a typo? Do you think that an ordinary, reasonable and honest person would consider the appropriation dishonest?

You

YES

LawBot

Right. Do you think that the person who took your property realized that an ordinary, reasonable and honest person would consider their conduct dishonest?

You

YES

LawBot

Ok, Chester. I think that theft was committed here. Would you like me to help you find the closest police station?

You

I think your mother was a hamster and your father smells of elderberries.

LawBot

Which city or town do you live in?

You

Disconnect

LawBot

Sorry, didn’t get that. Was there a typo? Which city or town do you live in?

Two takeaways from this experience.

  1. I don’t think lawyers have anything to worry about with Lawbot.
  2. If I get sued for defamation by a chatbot lawyer it’ll be the weirdest experience of my life.

Book Review: “The Liberal Redneck Manifesto”

The title alone will make some of my conservative readers cringe, but place aside your politics and give the boys behind the “wellRED” comedy tour a chance. “The Liberal Redneck Manifesto: Draggin’ Dixie Out Of The Dark” is not as political of a book as one would think. It’s an unapologetic celebration of all things redneck, written by three guys who’ve lived the life, and a reflection on how the South can do better going forward. Trae Crowder (the original “Liberal Redneck”), Corey Forrester, and Drew Morgan hit with this book so hard if it were a baseball, you could consider it a home run ball that left the stadium, crashed through the window of a pickup truck in the parking lot, and then set off about three hundred fireworks in the back seat destroying a crate of liquor in the process.  It’s that damned good.

The book begins with a discussion of the etymology behind the word “redneck” and how it became a slur against poor white people from the South. Because the wellRED boys aren’t ones to mince words, they go into detail about how the term “redneck” was taken back by Southerners, why other slurs like “cracker” and “peckerwood” just don’t work, and how to spot a real redneck from a fake one.

Once the reader gets past why the wellRED comedy team has no problems admitting they’re from the South, or why they refuse to “lose the accent” to pander to mainstream audiences, no subject is off the table. From what constitutes acceptable country music (including a playlist of the Liberal Rednecks’ favorite hip hop groups), to alternatives to the Confederate Battle Flag, Trae, Corey, and Drew go after every subject near and dear to a redneck’s heart. They discuss the love and odd relationship with our Mamaws and Papaws. Why Church is a big thing in the South and why some Southerners try so damned hard to get out of going on Sunday. And the biggest problem of them all is something Trae, Drew and Corey tackle hard: why Taylor Swift is considered a country music artist and why in the name of Aunt Tammy no one has called this incident of cultural appropriation out yet.

In case you thought this was just a feel good book and a celebration of all things Southern, hold your horses. The Liberal Rednecks aren’t afraid to talk about the political and social issues concerning them. The war on drugs, gun control, and racism are all areas they discuss in detail and offer suggestions on how to get out of the loop the South continually seems stuck in with regards to each. Trae, Drew, and Corey don’t pull punches, and while I may disagree heavily with them on some of the points raised in the “Liberal Redneck Manifesto” they actually made me laugh in the process. If you can make me laugh when I disagree with you on a point, you’ve scored one for your side, and the wellRED boys do so with flair in “The Liberal Redneck Manifesto.”

The book is interspersed with “Porch Talk” segments from Trae, Drew, and Corey. These are personalized segments where each of the wellRED team talks about their personal life experiences to the reader. I won’t go into detail, because I think this book worthy of your time and money, but I will say Corey’s tribute to his Granny Bain and Trae’s final porch talk both moved me to tears. They were both strong, moving, and inspiring. You can’t ask more from people who make their living making people laugh. The porch talks are the authors getting as vulnerable as possible, and it makes the entire book real for everyone who reads it.

Prior to this book’s release, a tome called “Hillbilly Elegy” was released to critical acclaim as the de facto explainer for life in the South. I can tell you after reading “The Liberal Redneck Manifesto” whoever tells you that is full of shit and probably a Northerner. Shame the person with the Cafe Au Lait, tell them they’re wrong, and then make an offer of peace by getting them to read “The Liberal Redneck Manifesto” if they want to see what life in the South is really like.

It’s worth your time, money, and energy. You can buy the book at Amazon or most book stores, but I recommend you order the book through the wellRED website here. It’s a great way to get in the head of most Southerners, get a good idea of what life is really like in the South, and have a good laugh and think about all of it.

*Disclosure: I’ve had the privilege of sharing a stage with Trae Crowder, and Drew Morgan I’ve interviewed on the radio. I consider both friends.

On “Silenced: Our War On Free Speech”

The next release of films I’ve worked on, set to release any day now, is “Silenced: Our War on Free Speech.” This was by far one of the best projects on which I’ve ever worked. When I first learned of the project via Kickstarter, I chipped in a little coin to make sure it met budget. Later, I learned Loren Feldman, the director of “Silenced” was looking for research assistants to help with the film. The initial phone call between Loren and myself solidified the two of us were on the same page when it came to our passion for this film.

“Why do you want to work on my picture?” he asked me.
“Because when I can’t watch the Dukes Of Hazzard because the General Lee has the Confederate Battle Flag on it, there’s something fucked up with America.”

That statement seemed to click with Loren, and we went to work. I would get assignments from time to time, draft up information for him to work with, and we would go from there. I don’t want to disclose any of the research I did, but I will say working on “Silenced” was one of the most fun, fulfilling projects of my life. I learned so much from working on this film about the way we view “free speech” in America right now that when this film finally hits the distribution outlet of your choice you’re going to have your mind blown.

“Silenced: Our War On Free Speech” is going to serve as the definitive snapshot of what “free speech” means like in America right now. According to Executive Producer Mike Cernovich, it’s going bigger and better than just the movie Loren Feldman created. There will be a YouTube channel devoted to all the interviews that didn’t make it into the film, called the “Silenced Project.” There’s talks of this even going into the Library of Congress.

The film is called “Silenced: Our War On Free Speech” because we are deliberately censoring and silencing ourselves. This isn’t an outside attack. We, the American people, chose to self-censor and silence ourselves and others for fear of any number of reasons. When the film finally reaches you, you’ll have a better understanding of why and how this happened, plus implications for the future if we continue this war in America.

“Silenced” is already drawing controversy and it’s yet to be released. Right now, it’s building enough steam to become the most important documentary you will watch all year, if not of all time. When the film finally releases, expect everyone to be talking about it. Don’t wait until you hear someone telling you about it after the fact. Get ready to see just how we’ve created a war on ourselves through the eyes of people who want to be able to say and do as they please, but can’t, because of the way America really views free speech.

You can check out the movie so far at this website. Below is my favorite of all the trailers.

Dallas and Subjective Belief

Now removed from my Dallas talk regarding the arts of mentalism, suggestion and their application in jury selection, I come back to the concept of belief. What struck with me the most wasn’t the talk’s reception. People enjoyed it and found it interesting, but the takeaway point for me is that peoples’ belief structures are incredibly subjective.

When I perform as a mentalist I always call myself a “psychological mind reader.” I make it a point to tell the audience my talents are those gained from a life of experience and understanding patterns in people. I don’t call myself a psychic, because I don’t believe in psychic powers, but I don’t discount the possibility of true psychics existing. I personally don’t possess those gifts.

One participant at the Dallas seminar approached me afterward and said “Hey thanks for not pretending to be a psychic and not knocking the real ones.”  I thanked this individual and reiterated I wasn’t willing to discount the possibility of real psychic phenomena. He then told me “You should check out my guy in Austin. The man is legit. James Randi couldn’t even get to him.”

That comment bothered me a little bit. James Randi, for those unfamiliar with the name, is a former magician who made a career out of debunking “psychics,” “faith healers,” and “mediums.” Randi forced Uri Geller to start calling himself a “psychic entertainer” through his work. The evangelical faith healer Peter Popoff called Randi the bane of his existence when James Randi exposed Popoff’s dirty methods of collecting information from the audience so he could get their money and make them toss aside their medicines in Jesus’ name. Randi even established a group of “psychics” called Project Alpha and fooled a group of scientists into thinking they’d discovered individuals with real  psychic gifts. One of those “subjects” was a man named “Banacek” who performs in magic circles to this day.

I’ve done readings, but I like to be consistent with what I do when I perform. I tell people as I read them they give away most of what they’re thinking without even realizing it. When I set the stage for one of my readings, I tell people how I read them is very similar to if they overhear a conversation between a couple in a restaurant. I do all of these things because I want to make sure the participant knows I’m as honest of a liar as they’ll get.

My issue with those who perform as psychics, mind readers, or otherwise isn’t that they hold themselves out as someone with paranormal abilities. I take no issue with these people charging a fee for their performances. What I can and will take issue with is when those who have such talents fleece people and offer them misleading information in the hopes of gaining fortune, fame, and glory. The same holds for those who have “tent revivals” and attempt faith healings. If you’re doing this for money and tell people to cast aside the medicine saving their lives in the name of faith, you’re some of the world’s worst scum.

On the flip side, if the audience is complicit in the performance, the belief is their own. They bought into the lie, and if they lose out on life as a result of the lie, does that make them just as culpable as the liar? My answer to that question would be “no,” as folks who visit entertainers seeking advice of a legal, monetary, or health concern are usually coming from a point of emotional desperation. They simply cannot think of any other options acceptable to their worldview. In those cases, the onus falls to the performer. Herb Dewey and Richard Osterlind, two very successful performers, advocate if someone is asked a question regarding any of the previously mentioned topics, the best suggestion is to say “My instincts tell me that’s a question best addressed by your doctor/lawyer/accountant.”

Suspension of belief is easy to achieve if one is a skilled performer. Manipulating that belief to a degree where people rely on you for advice in life is dangerous. The moment belief becomes subjective, and the believer’s mind is pushed to “Oh you just did a magic trick but the guy down the street does it for real?” That’s when a person needs an intervention.

Book Review: MAGA Mindset by Mike Cernovich

Mike Cernovich’s latest book, “MAGA Mindset: Making YOU and America Great Again” dropped last night on Amazon Kindle. His “Trump book,” as Mike’s detractors will probably refer to it, is far more than just a study on Donald Trump. It is an insight into the human condition and the forces that brought Donald Trump the Republican nomination for President. It is a takedown of the dishonest media that tells us what to think, who to believe, and lies to us the entire time. It gives the reader personal strategies and techniques on how to approach life when everything seems hopeless. Even if the name “Donald Trump” makes you shake in disgust, you’re going to learn something from “MAGA Mindset” that benefits you.

Part one of Mike’s book discusses the cultural forces that brought us to the point where even if Donald Trump doesn’t win the Presidency in November, a revolution is in place that won’t go away anytime soon. This includes details on the continued war on men, repeated attacks on free speech, the continued push to keep American society a “globalist” one as opposed to a “nationalist” one, and the systemic oppression of one group people long to deny are oppressed: white men.

This section is where Mike discusses the phenomenon of “cuckservatives,” or people who call themselves conservative but love to betray their own party and ideas to pander at the altars of the Left and Social Justice. He spells out for the culturally blind why “cuckservatives” are rejected by their voter base, and why stronger figures like Donald Trump continue to rise in popularity.

Part two of the book is devoted to the media. If you’ve been following Mike Cernovich’s latest work you know by now he’s scalping media figures left and right these days, and he lays bare to the world just how the media is bought and paid for in this section. Cernovich shows you who’s pulling the strings at the institutions you used to trust, how they’re funded, and how they manipulate you in the modern news cycle. He also discusses how social media has influenced the way traditional news operates, and how one person with enough questions devoted to digging at the truth can obliterate the media’s chosen narrative.

As an aside, you can tell Mike’s studied persuasion heavily if you know where to look. In his film “Un/Convention,” he pre-framed the question of “Who pays for the media’s message? In “MAGA Mindset, he hammers the persuasion home by showing you just how the grand old “fourth estate” has devolved into a machine of paid bloggers.

Part three, “Mindset,” is Mike’s bread and butter. Taking clues from Donald Trump’s prior written and spoken word, and attaching them to concepts in his best-selling book “Gorilla Mindset,” Mike shows you how to use concepts like positive self-talk, thinking big, affirmations, re-framing, and more to elevate yourself to a level where you can succeed in an era where most of your friends on social media are telling you all is lost.

I highly recommend this book, even if you support Queen Meemaw, Gary Johnson, or any other political candidate. MAGA Mindset is about more than Donald Trump, it’s a framework by which you can understand America today, how to survive in a toxic climate of hatred, and rise above it all to be the success you want to be in life.

You can buy the book here. It’s been out less than a day and Amazon already has it listed as a “Best Seller.” And it’s done better sales in less than 24 hours than Hillary Clinton’s latest book. Maybe that serves as enough of an endorsement.

James Strikes Back, People Forced To Listen

I recently discussed Twitter’s suspension of Project Veritas Action’s James O’Keefe. At the time of that post, I questioned whether the videos O’Keefe and his undercover reporters were the cause of the ban. As O’Keefe pointed out, Twitter’s rationale was a tweet naming Wylie Mao, the Clinton campaign staffer, in a link to the Project Veritas Action video itself.

At the same time, I also wondered if any of this stuff would make a difference.  Would people previously blind to exposed rank and file corruption see the light of day through O’Keefe’s videos? They were great evidence low-level people didn’t care, but could they directly implicate any of the higher-ups in the Clinton organization? In short, would any of this have an effect on the public? Finally, why didn’t the mainstream media discuss any of these videos?

Over the last forty-eight hours, Project Veritas Action has released two videos detailing even more damning evidence of corruption in the Clinton campaign. O’Keefe claims new videos will be released each day until November 8, Election Day. Part one of the expose involves how Democratic PACs deliberately organized incidents to “incite violence” at Trump rallies and events.

After this video’s release, Scott Foval was fired from Americans United For Change. According to O’Keefe, this video sparked request after request for comment from Project Veritas Action and requests for interviews and appearances on television. Each, James said, was spiked at the last minute due to fears of retaliation from a Hillary Clinton administration.

Yesterday’s release was even more damning. Here, Bob Creamer of Democracy Partners and Scott Foval discuss ways to commit voter fraud on a massive scale with Project Veritas Action reporters. They also talk with Cesar Vargas, founder of the Dream Action Coalition, about ways to influence the Latino vote. In a time when claims of this election being “rigged” are ringing in conservative circles, and dismissed at the highest levels of establishment power, this video was too much to ignore.

After the release of this video, people cried out en masse. They demanded the videos and their footage get coverage in mainstream circles. They not only got their wish, Project Veritas claimed another scalp as Robert Creamer, the “dark hat” Scott Foval expresses such adulation for “resigned” from Democracy Partners.

Click the link above. Go to the CNN story. Watch the video. It’s important that you see the way mainstream media frames the stories they want you to hear.

Video produced by discredited conservative activist James O’Keefe…

Both the Clinton Campaign and the DNC denounce any role in any sort of violence…

They insist it was “bar room talk” and none of what was discussed actually happened…

Project Veritas has been known to offer misleading video out of context…

James O’Keefe, they add, is a convicted criminal, with a history of doctoring video to advance his ideological agenda…

CNN, finally forced to cover O’Keefe’s work, also noted in their video the DNC plans to “investigate” O’Keefe to see if he did anything illegal in obtaining the video footage that makes up his videos. This says several things about the DNC, the Clinton campaign, and this election cycle.

  1. The mainstream press is afraid to cover anything negative about Hillary Clinton, because they want to be on her good side if and when she assumes the office of President of the United States.
  2. If they are forced to discuss something negative about Clinton or her campaign, they will resort to the lowest tactics possible in an attempt to discredit the source or tell their audience “move along, nothing to see here.”
  3. Any “investigation” into O’Keefe’s videos gives Project Veritas Action more credibility with each release. If there’s truly nothing going wrong, they wouldn’t feel a need to address the video content.
  4. Discussing any criminal record James O’Keefe is a tired cliche the media uses every time they want to discredit a person or source. It’s the same as “He had priors” when discussing a victim of a police shooting or “negative interaction.” This time they’re using it for political reasons.

Go to Project Veritas Action’s YouTube page. Subscribe so you get the updates as they come out. They’ve shaken the establishment badly enough to where they’re forced to respond, and now the lying mainstream media has no choice but to comment on that which they feared the most: truth.

In the meantime, let’s see where James O’Keefe leads us next.

Cast a Vote, Lose a Friend

Early voting begins in Tennessee today. I’m headed to the local polling station as they open, because I’m not interested in long lines and waiting on a work day. I won’t reveal who I’m voting for, as I’ve learned this election cycle it’s best to keep your personal political preferences to yourself. However, last night I wanted to conduct an experiment. Would people cut ties with me if I voted for someone they didn’t like as a candidate?

The people closest to me use Facebook as their social media platform of choice, so I asked the simple question: “If I voted for a candidate you didn’t like, would you cut ties with me?” Out of those who chose to respond, the resounding majority said “no.” Two indicated they would laugh at me if I voted for a candidate with whom they disagreed. That’s fine. Their validation has no bearing on my self-worth.

This is good news in some respects, as people have called this campaign the most politically divisive in their lifetimes. We’ve seen a major party candidate have support pulled from his own party. Locally, friends and families cut ties with each other over political support for one candidate or another. Behind a keyboard, individual people with some prominence have said things very similar to the following.

If you’re a Trump supporter, I hate you. Go kill yourself. I hope you die horribly, because you deserve it.

If you stand with this candidate you stand against me and my family.

If you think Donald Trump should be President, then get out of my life. Unfriend me. Unfollow me. You mean nothing to me.

Those are incredibly strong words from people claiming publicly to be “tolerant,” “inclusive,” and “respectful.” Those quotes represent a cross-section of America right now with hatred in their hearts for others just because their political beliefs may be different from their own. That’s a strong indicator of what folks really believe, as opposed to what they profess to believe. It says they really plan to follow a path of hatred, fear, and anger with those closest to them over simply shrugging and saying “it’s all politics.”

It’s too early to see if people will follow through with their threats to sever ties with friends and family. And one can’t really get in the head of a person to see if they’d truly like to watch someone commit suicide over an election. It is clear, however, this election’s produced a level of intense anger most are afraid to admit ever existed.

Someone recently firebombed a North Carolina GOP office. They also spray painted a swastika and the words “Nazi Republicans Leave Town” on the side of the building. It was comforting to see politicians on both sides of the aisle condemn this act of sheer hatred. In a lovely display, a Democratic group got together and started a fundraiser to help rebuild that GOP office. Good intentions aside, it’s hard to tell if this was an example of virtue signaling or sincere support. This is what happens when a major political candidate tells her support base half of the other guy’s supporters are “deplorables.” When you link a major political party to a racist movement, and then tell people their candidate is dangerous for supporting someone who won’t explicitly disavow someone in a racist movement, it’s natural to expect violence as a result.

Who I vote for will remain with me. Before he passed from this earth, my grandfather told me “Keep your political preferences to yourself, kid. You’ll keep more business partners and friends that way.” I like my friends and those with whom I do business, so in this case I choose to remain silent.

 

Ellen Pao Can’t “Include” Peter Thiel’s Free Speech

The message sent by Silicon Valley, an area with a culture resembling something from George Orwell’s nightmares, is clearer than ever today. You are not allowed to have the “wrong” opinion in politics. You may not donate to the campaign of your choosing. If you step out of line, you will be punished. Just ask Ellen Pao, the head of Project Include, who announced yesterday her organization’s decision to cut ties with Y Combinator after Peter Thiel, a part time investor, donated $1.25 million to the Trump campaign.

Pao, a serial litigant in the court of feelings, starts off slow in announcing her tantrum over Thiel’s donation.

Diversity and inclusion are hard, especially in tech. Doing them right means agreeing on values, setting standards, calling out bad behavior, and sometimes firing people. (emphasis added)

That bolded statement refers to Y Combinator’s decision to not cut ties with Thiel after news broke of his donation to the Trump campaign. Sam Altman, the organization’s president, defended their decision to maintain relations with Thiel in a series of tweets Sunday night. Two notable ones are below.

5) Cutting off opposing viewpoints leads to extremism and will not get us the country we want.

6) Diversity of opinion is painful but critical to the health of a democratic society. We can’t start purging people for political support.

These are principled statements from someone in an industry where people lose jobs over a single offensive tweet. Altman is correct in his assertions that we must hear all sides, no matter how uncomfortable they make us feel. Furthermore, cutting ties with someone over political issues isn’t just asinine, it’s completely un-American. Despite this, Pao sees Peter Thiel’s continued presence at Y Combinator as outrageous.

 [We] are completely outraged to read about Thiel donating $1.25 million to Trump, “apparently unfazed by the storm around the candidate in the last week following the broadcasting of lewd conversations.”

Outrage is a strong motivator for irrational decisions. If not checked appropriately, it can cause people to commit stupid actions and justify them under preposterous grounds. Here, Pao sees Thiel’s campaign donation as one form of speech that is completely unacceptable from someone who holds a different political view. This is “hate speech,” and while United States courts have yet to define “hate speech,” Ellen Pao is like Justice Potter Stewart defining hard-core pornography. She “knows it when she sees it.”

While all of us believe in the ideas of free speech and open platforms, we draw a line here. We agree that people shouldn’t be fired for their political views, but

this isn’t a disagreement on tax policy, this is advocating hatred and violence. (emphasis added) 

Ellen Pao’s attempt at virtue signaling to those who believe in free speech and an open exchange of ideas ends at the bolded word in that quote. Usually, when you see someone say “I believe in free speech, but” it means they really don’t believe in free speech. They only believe in that speech with which they agree. And her assertion a campaign donation is “advocating hatred and violence” is completely void of logic or reason.

Thiel donated money to Donald Trump’s campaign. He spoke on behalf of Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention. It’s not as if he firebombed a campaign office and spray painted a message for Democrats to leave town on the side of the building. Yet this donation is enough to make Ellen Pao, self appointed spokesperson for marginalized and oppressed groups everywhere feel “unsafe.”

Giving more power to someone whose ascension and behavior strike fear into so many people is unacceptable. His attacks [on minorities] are more than just political speech; fueled by hate and encouraging violence, they make each of us feel unsafe…[Project Include’s] mission is to give everyone a fair chance to succeed in the workplace. “Everyone” means all groups to us, but we draw a line at individuals who fund violence and hate.

So an openly gay Republican who donates to the candidate of his choice is where Ellen draws the line. That’s cool; it’s not as if the guy who founded PayPal needs Project Include or Ellen Pao’s help in the workplace. Peter Thiel doesn’t need a “fair chance” to succeed. He’s already there. What Ellen Pao is saying without explicitly saying it is Project Include doesn’t want gay conservatives who back Donald Trump involved in their mission to promote “diversity and inclusion.” Thiel is just an easy target.

While she might consider herself “punching up” in her decision to pull Project Include’s support from Y Combinator, Ellen Pao is also sending a message to every member of the LGBTQ community who holds conservative views or supports Donald Trump. We don’t like you, we don’t want you, and if we find out you’re not saying and doing the right things to support our personal mission of “diversity and inclusion” we will withhold our support from your project.

We have hope for YC…We saw an opportunity to work with YC companies interested in building vibrant and diverse organizations, and we actively invited YC as a contributor to our VC Include program…But Thiel’s actions are in direct conflict with our values at Project Include. Because of his continued connection to YC, we are compelled to break off our relationship with YC. We hope this situation changes, and that we are both willing to move forward together in the future. Today it is clear to us that our values are not aligned.

Yes, Ellen, it’s clear your values aren’t aligned with the higher ups at Y Combinator. Project Include doesn’t support free speech, especially when it comes from a conservative speaker. Project Include only wants to hear from people who make them feel “safe.” And Project Include doesn’t give a damn about LGBTQ conservatives who back the Republican candidate, no matter how much they might say otherwise.

Maybe Project Include isn’t as committed to “diversity and inclusion” as they would like to think. Maybe it’s time for them to admit that. Then, and only then, will Ellen Pao and her organization exhibit any intellectual honesty after such a farcical move.

Book Review: Trust Me, I’m Lying

If you pay close enough attention and question everything you see, you probably by now know the media lies to you on a consistent basis and perpetuates hoaxes without regard to the truth. What you didn’t know is Ryan Holiday, the former Director of Marketing for American Apparel, wrote the book on it three years ago. “Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator” is the playbook of the hoaxing journalist exposed, as well as the secrets of those who pull at their strings to advance a given narrative. Here’s the takeaways from Holiday’s book:

1. Journalism as we once perceived it is dead, now fueled by a blog based economy prone to manipulation. 

Our former belief structure concerning news was that reporters would take the time to question subjects, investigate facts, and then present the news to the readers or viewers. Today, the model involves taking nuggets of information from blogs or lazy sourcing outlets like “Help A Reporter Out,” turning it into a series of links used for “credibility,” and then advancing that story to a “major” news outlet like the New York Times or Washington Post.

This structure, advocated by media “influencers” like Jeff Jarvis, Henry Blodget, and Nick Denton is incredibly prone to manipulation by people who know websites depend on page views and bloggers who need eyes on their work every hour. Fake an email account, send something outrageous to a blog writer needing web traffic for the day, and you’ve managed to start the seeds for a media hoax.

2. In today’s news, feelings matter more than facts.

If you want to make sure your story gets the attention of a major media outlet the best thing you can possibly do is play on emotion. Happiness is good, but it doesn’t match the levels of attention one gets by exploiting anger and outrage. That’s why so many articles you see gaining traction are what I’ve referred to for a long time as “outrage porn.” Slate, Salon, Jezebel, and the now defunct Gawker are perfect examples of all this, but it’s interesting to see even “credible” publications like The Atlantic go in this route as November approaches.

After reading Holiday’s book, and thinking about it in the context of the current election cycle coverage, it’s quite laughable to look back and see the media print articles on how to quell the “hatred” fermenting in America right now, and what can be done to reduce the hate. It’s as if those who bullshit are trying to either make a faux-apology for their bullshit, or simply start another round of ways to play with the unsuspecting public.

3. Truth means nothing in the world of “updates.” 

This is especially true if the headline reads something to the effect of “Did Glenn Back Rape and Murder a Young Girl In 1990?” Holiday points out this is the sort of headline used by clickbait bloggers to get you to read a story that is demonstratively false, or contains numerous lies, and yet still makes it to the front page as “fact.” It’s also easy enough to counter claims of falsehood with statements such as “reliable sources tell us,” “this still developing story,” and more. If there’s an issue later pointed out by a reader, either through online comments or social media, all the poster or an editor has to do is change a few things around, add (UPDATE) to the story title, and then propagate the same bullshit over again.

4. Feed the lie machine long enough and it will come back to bite you. 

It’s very cool how Ryan Holiday includes anecdotes in his book how strategies he used to benefit some of his clients were eventually used against him by other individuals in the media world. I think this is one of the bigger reasons Ryan felt motivated to write “Trust Me, I’m Lying.” By the time people were contacting real estate developers in New York after Holiday emphatically told a reporter “No, we’re not closing any American Apparel stores in New York” he knew the machine he’d helped create and used for the benefit of himself and his clients had grown into a monster that needed exposure, if not shuttering completely.

5. In the media world, it’s all fun and games. No one means a word they say. 

Go back to that point I referenced earlier about outrage and anger driving so much news? If you were to ask the hack at Gizmodo six months from now what made him so angry about Ken Bone, he’d probably wonder what you were talking about. The same goes for the Gawker writer who penned the post that saw Justine Sacco fired by the time she landed in South Africa. No one writing the outrage material actually feels any sort of hatred or anger toward their targets. They just write a hit job then move on to ruining someone or something else in worship of the almighty page view.

This disregard for the subject and continued pursuit for pageviews is a problem of the highest magnitude. It could lead to an era where journalists engaged in “hit pieces” might find themselves unexpected targets. Roosh V wrote a short story outlining such a scenario. Holiday’s work, scarily enough, outlines where Roosh’s fiction might become a reality.

“Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator” is currently in a revised, expanded edition with appendices containing articles Holiday’s written on media hoaxes and manipulation, as well as case studies of hoaxes he started, how they played out in real time, and how the end results either benefitted or harmed him. I highly recommend you purchase the revised, expanded version if possible for that material’s value.

Ryan Holiday’s book is a wealth of information on how you’re lied to by the media daily. As he says in the introduction, “what you do with this information is up to you.”