Is there a War of Words in America?

Dave Rubin declared in a recent “Direct Message” segment of his hit YouTube show “The Rubin Report” the “War on Free Speech” has officially begun. I’m putting the video below so you can listen to Dave’s arguments for yourself.

Are we in a society where the War on Free Speech is underway? With riots like that at UC Berkeley over Milo Yiannopolous’s appearance are we truly in a “war” on free speech? I’m going to respectfully disagree with Dave and say there is no “free speech war” unless we choose to make it happen.

Because it’s important to define terms, and Dave knows words mean something, let’s go with the Merriam-Webster definition of “war.”

Definition of war

  1. 1(1):  a state of usually open and declared armed hostile conflict between states or nations (2):  a period of such armed conflict (3)state of warb:  the art or science of warfare c(1)obsolete:  weapons and equipment for war (2) archaic:  soldiers armed and equipped for war

  2. 2a:  a state of hostility, conflict, or antagonism b:  a struggle or competition between opposing forces or for a particular end <a class war><a war against disease>

Well, crap. It would seem I’ve trapped myself with this definition,wouldn’t it? After all, isn’t what happened at UC Berkeley and UW Seattle “open and declared armed hostile conflict?” At worst, are we not in a “struggle or competition between opposing forces…for a particular end?”

I would submit that if we’re in a free speech “war” there’s no other nation or state that’s declared hostile conflict over things American citizens have said. That may change when our President twits something out that pisses off a particular nation-state, but right now those who would declare our current turmoil a “free speech war” are abusing the language in the same ways Fox News and other outlets declare a “war” on Christmas with Starbucks cups.

Now the second definition becomes a bit more problematic to refute. It seems there’s a “struggle or competition between opposing forces or for a particular end.” On one side, you have the “social justice warriors” demanding diversity and inclusion for all. The other side, well let’s call them the “anti-pc” crowd. Both have conflicting views on free speech and how it is best utilized. Does that make it a conflict worthy of the term “war?”

My response is “no.” It’s a conflict, but “war” is a strong word. It connotes open and hard conflict between opposing sides. While we’re seeing small skirmishes break out among opposing views, this really isn’t a “war” in the sense of the term. Until there’s an all out battle “declared” by one side or another it’s just a series of decisions whether we self-censor or we risk something by saying what we really mean.

Start with Justine Sacco and her horrendous joke about being safe from AIDS in South Africa because she was white. The Social Justice mobs landed on her in a frenzy. By the time she landed in South Africa she had no job, no hotel room, and no way of getting back absent her own resources.

That was a sort of cultural turning point, I think, for the alleged “war” on free speech. This was the time when an ill-conceived twit could cost you a job. Now people had to set their Facebook settings to “private” so prospective employers wouldn’t find a political opinion someone found offensive. Blog posts were carefully written so as to keep the Internet Hate Machine from coming down on a person.

If there was a war on free speech, it was a bloodless war, and it’s already been fought.

The violence we’re seeing right now is an extension of what happens when one side gets tired of losing battles and pushes back. Conservative and libertarian types are pushing back against the “progressive” groupthink and saying “what you do and say doesn’t matter anymore.” Worse still, they’re using progressive tactics against those who would silence them, and it’s causing the “progressive” movement to come unhinged.

One recent example is MILO’s demands people stop calling him a white nationalist and threatening lawsuits if publishers don’t print a retraction. This is a progressive play, taken straight from about a decade’s worth of their own tactics. Yet when a conservative speaker like MILO uses it, the progressives laugh and call him a “special snowflake” seeking a “safe space.”

None of them understand the plays being called, and they’ve used them for ages. The fact these plays are working on them now doesn’t make it any easier for then to recognize.

No outside force is causing a “war” on free speech. If anyone’s doing it, we’re doing it to ourselves out of fear for losing something important, like a job, income streams, or friends. Until we can reach a climate where everyone can listen again without needing to agree on everything we’re going to continue this silent conflict, potentially for the rest of our days.

That’s why the film is called “Silenced: Our War On Free Speech.”

 

Cumulus and the Slow Burn of Terrestrial Radio

Last night I got word Cumulus Media, a Knoxville based terrestrial radio conglomerate, fired half the staff in a “cost-cutting” measure. The losses ranged from ad executives, on-air talent, and more as yet to be determined across the spectrum of their stations.

This isn’t something anyone with an eye on the world of radio couldn’t have seen. A local business incubator/startup meeting saw a legendary radio personality glumly admit “terrestrial radio is on its death bed, and maybe it’s time I started looking for work elsewhere.” That’s a grim statement from someone in the trenches and firmly rooted in the radio business.

Cumulus isn’t to be blamed for the decision to cut costs. Fewer people are listening to talk radio, no matter the personality. With the prevalence of satellite radio and podcasts, people are less interested in what’s available over the airwaves locally. That means ad revenue once plentiful to the radio organizations is getting more and more scarce.

Yet decisions have to be made, especially in the areas of news and talk. Do you work with local talent interested in showing their chops to the world if given the chance? Or do you keep paying out the exorbitant fees and ad percentages to guys like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity to keep your conservative cred? It’s a tough choice to make, as the local talent would have to make an immediate impact and show they could bring their chops to the table.

On the other hand, you have the big names like Rush and Sean who would attract listeners at the right times. The problem becomes that these are national shows, not local, and there’s going to be less listener interaction with Rush and Sean than the local talent. And part of the appeal for the local “call-in” shows is for the listener to have his or her few moments of glory for the day on the radio.

The Cumulus talent let go in the coming days will have some difficult choices to make. Do they go the terrestrial radio outlet and find another station at which to work? The sports guys might be able to land a gig at another station, since their job is to cover mankind’s successes. Someone with a talk show that has an esoteric bent might not fit in the alt rock or country station of choice.

Satellite radio is basically a no-go unless you’ve already got a national platform. The Breitbarts and wellRED types will get a show at the drop of a hat, because the game in town is getting the biggest and best talent at the biggest dog in the yard, SiriusXM. Even there, where the FCC allegedly has no restrictions, the satellite talent still has issues with the “social consequences” of what they say. Just ask Anthony Cumia.

I have a feeling the talent with Cumulus that left will go the podcasting route. It’s an easy barrier for entry, the cost for each would be minimal, and there’s no restrictions on topic, language, or subject matter unless the hosts place it. Monetization of the product would be simple, and those with a dedicated fan base could make a monthly donation or subscription type service work.

Dave Rubin’s done it. He left ORA and went completely fan-funded. It was a big step for him, but now he’s free to talk with whomever he wants about whatever he wants. There’s no reason the highly motivated talent without work now couldn’t do the same. And something tells me un-shackling from the FCC’s restrictions would produce some amazing content you wouldn’t hear from the talent otherwise.

The Internet, podcasting, and YouTube are some of the greatest areas to earn money as an artist, talent, or creator. Guys like Mike Cernovich and Victor Pride will show you how to do it if you just do a bit of research and put in a little bit of effort. Whether the new radio ronin will take their advice is another matter entirely. Sometimes it’s just easier for people to stay in a rut instead of forge a new path and try new outlets.

Cumulus will have some time for reflection in the wake of their cost-cutting. If, as I suspect, it was done to keep the bigger names on the air, was it really worth the measure when local talent would take the spot in a heartbeat and run with the ball in ways the front brass couldn’t expect? There’s no easy answer to this. No one ever said life in any business was easy.

In the meantime, I’ve taken the time to dip my toes into this new world. This is still a formative project, and something I’m really excited about, so stick with us. You can find my newest experiment on iTunes, Stitcher, or TuneIn.

Sit down with me for an hour. I hope you like what you hear.

“I’m all for free speech, but”

“I’m all for free speech, but”

No you’re not. You don’t believe in free speech. You have no love for honest conversations.

“But wait, you didn’t hear met out! All I wanted to say was”

See there’s that little word “but” in your statement. It immediately tells me you don’t believe in the concept you’re about to argue. What you’re more  concerned with is protecting the speech you like and suppressing the speech that makes you uncomfortable.

“It’s perfectly acceptable to suppress hate speech.”

Do you have a definition for hate speech? Words mean things, you know. Without a working definition for “hate speech” we can’t decide what needs suppression.

“Hate speech is…”

What? Milo Yiannopolous saying “birth control makes women unattractive and crazy?” Richard Spencer saying stupid white supremacy shit? Mike Cernovich saying the media is lying to you? Organizations like FIRE fighting the madness of campus kangaroo courts designed by fiat to handle sexual assault?

Here’s the problem with your argument. We don’t have a working legal definition of hate speech in America because courts haven’t taken up the issue. If and when they do, don’t expect your French Lit professor who doubles as an “unofficial rape counselor” to have a say in the opinion.

You see, America has a history of protecting all the speech you think is nasty, hurtful, or wrong. We do this because a bunch of those people you call white cis heteronormative shitlords a long time ago realized if you don’t allow some people to express their opinions then you’ll miss out on the best ideas society has to offer.

In order to get there, you have to let everyone speak. Even the people you mistakenly label “literally Hitler.”

“But allowing the speech of others silences or marginalizes the speech of women, specifically women of color and LGBTQIA women”

How? No one has yet to explain how allowing everyone to speak makes it harder for women you deem “silenced” or “marginalized” to express their viewpoints. And doesn’t your statement actually infantilize or demean strong people who by your own admission undergo adversity every single day?

“Maybe it’s time for us to adopt laws like Canada or the UK’s so we don’t have so many problems with harassment online.”

Okay. Now we’re getting somewhere. You want us to throw out existing law and precedent regarding free speech in the United States and replace it with something similar to another government’s. Changing laws isn’t an easy task, but it can be done.

There’s an issue with changing laws, especially laws that affect your rights. When you start getting rid of those laws and overturn precedent that protects one right, you’re putting up all the rest for consideration.

“Fuck you, you misogynistic bigot.”

Well. That means we’re out of ideas. The next time you want to have an honest conversation about free speech, I’ll be here. Have a nice day.

Understanding MILO, Understanding Donald (Update)

The world learned yesterday MILO, the self styled “Dangerous Faggot” landed a quarter million dollar book deal. A bunch of people lost their collective ever loving minds over this. As of this writing MILO’s book, “Dangerous,” sits as the number two best seller in all of Amazon. The crazy part is his book won’t be out until March of 2017! How does someone who describes himself as a “virtuous troll” achieve such instant success over a book that isn’t in print?

Understanding the cultural phenomenon that is MILO means understanding the America that elected a reality television star President. You may love it or hate it, but you’ll have a better grasp of the America that allegedly rejected “progressive” values. Taking a moment to examine the events of the last twenty-four hours surrounding MILO’s book deal will help you get a better grasp of where America stands culturally as we move forward into the new year.

MILO represents a rejection of identity politics. 

Identity politics have been quite the rage. It’s common to see someone start a social media post labeling themselves “As a” before launching into an argument or stating a position. When your “As a” label is offended, it gives you a chance to express your outrage and call someone a racist, sexist, transohomophobic bigot. That outrage sets the internet social justice posse in motion, silencing you for your viewpoint. It makes you think twice before you hit “post” or say something in public.

MILO is part of the cultural nexus that holds up the viper of identity politics, cuts off its head, and throws both pieces of the snake into two separate fields. His “Dangerous Faggot” college tour holds talks with themes like “Feminism is Cancer,” “Fat Shaming Works,” “Why Do So Many Lesbians Fake Hate Crimes?” and other ridiculously outlandish topics. The stated purpose of each talk is to make people laugh, piss people off, and maybe make people think.

It would be easy for people to dismiss him if he were simply a white guy. Under the mantle of identity politics, he gets a following for being a gay Jewish Briton with a German mother who has a propensity for dating black guys. It also makes him damned near bulletproof from the Social Justice mobs.

People love him for his outlandish antics, and his talks are often to standing room only crowds as a result. When college campuses pull off a stunt that either shuts down a talk or cancels it completely, it makes headlines. Shouting him down only amplifies his voice to the people that want to hear him.

Silencing MILO only makes his voice stronger, and people hate that. 

The “Heckler’s Veto” is a common tactic for those who want to silence someone with whom they disagree. Shouting someone down produces no honest conversations that lead to productive exchanges over big ideas. Yet society continues to do this and ask for “honest conversations” at the same time. You can’t have an honest discussion if you’re unwilling to listen to the ideas and concepts you can’t stand to hear.

Silencing MILO, for some reason, only makes his voice that much stronger. It’s the real life equivalent of Obi-Wan Kenobi telling Darth Vader “Strike me down, Lord Vader, and I shall become more powerful than you can ever imagine.” When Twitter suspended MILO’s @Nero account during the Republican National Convention he dominated press row the next day. Every time a campus shuts down or protests one of his talks it’s a newsworthy story.

This is why MILO’s book deal dominated the media world for twenty four hours and put his book at number two on all of Amazon. Announcing an alleged quarter million dollar advance for a book due in March caused an incredible number of celebrities to decry Simon and Schuster for “normalizing hatred.” The Chicago Review of Books announced it wouldn’t review a single S&S release in 2017.

The effect of this was an insane number of pre-orders for a book that’s going to launch with a $26 hardcover price. A comparable hardcover sells for approximately $17. This is what people mean when they speak of voting with their money. People want to hear what MILO has to say so much they were willing to launch money at him three months before his book ships.

Understanding MILO means understanding America in 2017. 

If you take a moment to examine the meteoric success of MILO, you will understand why we have Donald Trump in the White House. Both men represent a group of people tired of being told they were a bunch of things they weren’t, like racist, sexist, misogynist, homophobic, bigoted, ableist, or whatever label you could put on them. Both men listened to the America that was mad as hell and wasn’t going to take it anymore. Both men took time to listen to those more concerned about rising health care costs and lack of employment than discussions of which bathroom or pronoun to use.

Both men were unapologetic in their actions. Both men said and did whatever the hell they wanted without fear of repercussion. When people tried to shut both men down the public that was mad as hell lashed back with time, money, and energy most thought never existed.

Examine MILO. Instead of trying to shut him up, take a moment to understand why he dominates public discourse. When you understand that, you’ll understand America in the coming year.

Watch American Milo here.

MILO is in Silenced: Our War on Free Speech.

His YouTube Channel is a repository of his college talks.

UPDATE: “Dangerous” is now the number one book in all of Amazon. The self-styled “Most Fabulous Supervillain on the Internet” strolled past Carrie Fisher’s “The Princess Diarist.”

Score one for the bad guys.

Has Pantsuit Nation Imploded?

Pantsuit Nation started as a secret Facebook group where supporters of Hillary Clinton came to coordinate wearing pantsuits on election day. Once Clinton didn’t win the election, it became something of a collective grieving space for those who couldn’t believe we didn’t have our first female president. All that changed one week ago when Libby Chamberlain, the group’s founder, announced she’d landed a book deal.

The Huffington Post quickly called Pantsuit Nation a “sham.” Apparently someone didn’t like the New York Times reporting on Chamberlain’s book deal the previous day. Chamberlain also filed a trademark application for Pantsuit Nation, despite allegedly seeking no profit or compensation from the group’s activities. HuffPo writer Harry Lewis called the move “a branding machine.”

Elizabeth Chamberlain has every right to make a living. Are her activities a “sham?” Is she guilty of scamming people? All signs, from this deception artist’s perspective, point to “no.”

Assuming the facts least favorable to Ms. Chamberlain, she isn’t under any obligation to abstain from profits under a book deal she signs. People are allowed to make money in America. That’s part of the good stuff in this country. Starting a Facebook group isn’t illegal, and getting a book deal for “stories” told in the group is a testament to the power of social media.

Ms. Chamberlain is under no obligation to pay any participant who chooses to submit a story for her book. If that changes, I’ll change this post. What sticks out as interesting is her decision to only include stories submitted with express permission. Obtaining that “express permission” would arguably require sending each potential participant a contract for signature and return. The terms of such a document would be worth examining, and each participant would be well advised to look over the “permission slip” with an attorney.

She also, according to my understanding, does not owe the collective, invitation-only Facebook group she created any sort of “duty” to tailor its activity to anyone’s liking. That argument’s been tried before at other sites, and with no rules placed other than what Chamberlain and the group’s admins set the “duty” is whatever Chamberlain and her friends say it is.

The issue people seem to take with Chamberlain’s actions is they’re not active enough. Over at Slate, Christina Cauterucci finds several members of the (approximately) four million member Facebook Group wanted to do more than just share their stories. A book didn’t live up to their expectations.

“We came to fight Trump,” [one Pantsuit Nation member] continued. “Instead, [Chamberlain] made a coffee table book? Really? Not only are there millions of us, but we are passionate and ready to go. A coffee table book feels like a kick in the teeth.”

A book may not have been what brought Pantsuit Nation together. That book may be the group’s undoing. But for now, if Elizabeth Chamberlain happens to make money off the Facebook group she created, that’s not a scam, sham, or any other negative word you might choose to label it. Asking for additional transparency won’t do any good. Someone got lucky and secured a book deal.

Unfortunately for the Pantsuit Nation Facebook group, they can’t even be happy about that.

I accepted an invitation some time back to Pantsuit Nation for reasons I can’t explain. Part of me was fascinated at the alternate reality some of its members saw. Another part of me was curious at the alleged fear its member base “felt” in the aftermath of President Elect Trump’s rise to power.

Now that it’s disintegrated to infighting, it’s time to move on. There’s more important battles to fight, and more conflicts worth discussion than the self-destruction of Pantsuit Nation.

The book deal Elizabeth Chamberlain has is far from a potential scam. Some people just can’t accept her refusal to do more. That’s expectation management, not deception.

When Civility Is A Lost Virtue

Civility used to be considered a noble cause. Polite discourse was the norm. That’s no longer the case in a world where people who harass at a woman are considered “heroic.”

By now the world knows the story of Dan Goldstein, a man who found out Ivanka Trump was on his JetBlue flight, chased her down, and yelled at her about how her father is ruining the United States before being escorted off the flight. His husband, Hunter College professor Matthew Lasner twitted prior to the incident “Ivanka and Jared at JFK T5, flying commercial. My husband chasing them down to harass them. #banalityofevil.” JetBlue “reaccommodated” both parties on the next flight.

Keep this in mind through a filter of the following statement: “Perception is reality.” You’ll need that for later analysis.

Why Lasner and Goldstein chose to do what they did is up to them. Three questions are worth examining in this scenario. First, why did Dan Goldstein think it appropriate to harass Ivanka Trump and yell at her about how her father was “ruining” the country? As much as you may adore or despise Donald Trump, he’s done nothing yet to “ruin” this country. He’s yet to take the oath of office. All we know is he’s decided to tell a bunch of people who he thinks are good people to advise him in the President’s cabinet. Goldstein did nothing more than yell at a woman who happens to be the President-elect’s daughter until he was taken off the plane for it.

Take the name “Ivanka Trump” out of the same scenario and Goldstein is the villain in anyone’s eyes. He’s a guy who decided to yell at a woman on a plane until he was escorted off. Yet because the Pantsuit Nation crowd lost the election, and they can’t begin to understand why, the one response left is to keep getting angry about it, painting the President and his family as some sort of new world Hitler, and justifying it because reasons. It’s unacceptable to harass anyone, regardless of gender, race, religion, pronoun choice, or whatever justification you dream up.

Question number two is why Matthew Lasner felt compelled to twit to the world his husband’s impending actions? Harassment is still a crime, and since airports are covered under Federal law, Lasner “virtue signaled” to the world his husband’s intent to potentially cause a criminal act. While it’s unclear whether Ivanka suffered any fear of imminent death or even “substantial emotional distress” because of Goldstein’s outburst, it’s generally not a good idea to broadcast to the world your husband’s decision to potentially commit a crime. The twit is deleted, but screenshots are everywhere, and if Ivanka chose to sue, well, it’s not hard to imagine someone doing a quick Google search to find it as evidence.

Finally, why does anyone think this is acceptable, much less laudable behavior? Take the Trump name out of the equation and Goldstein and Lasner are absolutely the asshole villains in this scenario. Yet because it’s the President elect’s daughter, and therefore the perception is “Lady Hitler,” it’s considered appropriate. One writer for @midnight and the Onion even considers the act “heroic.”

And to make a broader point: liberals need to stop being nice. Right away. Now. This sham of tolerance and civility has done nothing for the Democrats and everything for the GOP…Stop being nice. Stop. Stop it…Keep shouting in their faces. Keep confronting them wherever and whenever possible. Show that you’re willing to actually fight for something, goddammit, even if that entails temporarily looking mean.

Joe Randazzo’s skin in this game is unclear. Yet he’s on the path to something worth discussing. “Tolerance” and “civility” got conservatives nowhere for eight straight years. Taking the moral high ground on every position bought no political capital. At some point, conservatives started using the same tactics the left used, realizing the only way to win was a shift in strategy. This was something the “progressive liberal” front couldn’t stand. They decided to shift strategies, and go high when conservatives went low.

That strategy shift, attempting to become morally superior, didn’t work. The nation called the newly labeled “regressive left” out on its bullshit. It led to the election of a President Trump. Now that those who stood #WithHer lost, they’re upset about it, and coming unhinged. Not that they were ever really in the business of being nice, as Randazzo points out.

The “tolerant” liberal needs to go away for a while because, the fact is, liberals aren’t that tolerant anyway. They’re mean and they’re mad and they are barely able to hide it anymore.

The myth of the “tolerant liberal” is a myth on full display for eight years straight. While people fought over bathrooms, worlds burned. When people argued over stupid videos about “privilege” and “institutionalized” racism, others mocked the deaths of people who didn’t vote the same way they did in a Presidential election. And yet at every turn, the conservatives just took the punches until they decided they were mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

If perception is reality, then the reality is the nation that voted in President Trump perceives each screed like Randazzo’s as one more bit of proof the regressive left can’t handle civility. They were never interested in being civil, or having honest discussions about a damned thing. All they wanted was to tell everyone what to do, what to say, and how to think, and act like nannies while doing it.

Civility is dead. It may exist somewhere as a faded memory, but both sides of the aisle are now only interested in anger.

 

Taking Communication Seriously

We don’t communicate effectively because we don’t take communication seriously. I recently came to this startling conclusion after, predictably*, listening to the Jim Cornette Experience.

During a recent broadcast, Cornette, a former pro wrestling manager turned social commentator, lamented the passing of pro wrestling as he knew it because none of the new generation knew how to take “the business” seriously. No one had it drummed into their heads “the business” was something where you created a suspension of disbelief. This created a generation of workers who equated matches with video games. Crowds who chant “this is awesome” no matter the actions of the heels or the babyfaces.

The same holds true for communication. We don’t communicate because newer generations don’t take the art of communication seriously. Worse, technology makes it easy for all to simply ignore the art of effective communication. Why attempt the nuance of a face to face conversation with someone, or a simple phone call, when you have texting, email, Facebook Messenger, or Twitter at your disposal?

When it’s simply words on a digital screen, the nuance of speech is gone. Once you stop interacting with others, you lose the ability to read facial expressions and body language. The person receiving your message is left to their own devices to figure out what the hell you meant. Sometimes they’ll lose the message you intended and go for the exact opposite.

That moment of digital interaction as opposed to the flesh and bone connection of human beings is an easy, thoughtless choice. It’s also a dangerous way to live. Those who choose to cut themselves off from society run dangerously high risks of mental illness. That’s because people are genetically social beings. We need human interaction. Losing that means losing a portion of what makes you a human.

Yet we encourage this. It’s now easier than ever to order your groceries through a smartphone and have them delivered curbside to your car. We discourage visits to local retailers because Amazon makes it so easy to pay with one click. And food? Simply have it delivered to your door with a few clicks of a button. No need to deal with pesky waiters and waitresses ever again!

This disconnect also makes it easy for people to live in echo chambers by never experiencing an unpleasant thought, word, or deed. If you don’t like someone’s social media posts, it’s easy to simply block the offender for life. Take issue with something you see at website of your choosing and label it “fake news.” And if someone does something you find “problematic” simply cut them out of your life instead of addressing the problem.

We take communication as seriously as pro wrestlers take the business seriously. It’s just easier for us to take the digital way out instead of having honest conversations about big ideas. This leaves the genetic aspect of our lives to a ruinous waste, but who cares? Better to punch a button on your iToy or say “Hey Alexa, send a Christmas card to my uncle” than actually take time to tell that person how much you mean to them.

Want to know why we’re divided societally? Thank your emoji-addicted pals.

*If you don’t know why this came “predictably,” you’ve not spoken with me at great length.

Electoral Grief and Contribution

Today is either the day our President Elect becomes President, or something bizarre happens, depending on who you talk to. Our Electoral College casts their votes, and we will soon know the 57th President of the United States.

Watching the Pantsuit Nation crowd become absolutely unhinged over the election results is a bizarre sight. They’re almost going through the Kubler-Ross stages of grief over going #WithHer and not getting their way. Chris Matthews nearly went Bible Belt Baptist on election night, muttering with disbelief over President-Elect Trump’s plotted victory. People still can’t believe it happened, and mutter their complete disbelief eight years of identity politics were dismantled in one night. That’s textbook denial over a month after Election Day.

The anger soon followed. Cries of #NotMyPresident rang across the nation. Here in my beloved Scruffy City we had protests of “Brick by Brick, Wall by Wall, Racism Has Got To Fall.” Some protests on the West Coast turned violent. Even today some remain steadfast in their desire to unleash fury on anyone they feel responsible for a Clinton defeat. Huma Abedin, James Comey, Russia, are all targets of outrage. The potential for mob violence against an elected President is so great it’s costing our country millions of dollars per day in security costs alone, depending where you look.

With every new cabinet pick the media winds up the outrage machine. Hit piece after hit piece cranks out the moment Trump makes a new decision. One wonders if Trump, the target of immense ridicule and scorn from the press the moment he announced his candidacy, isn’t enjoying fucking with the media every day. Want to make folks upset over education? Put someone in the cabinet who loves private and charter schools. Want to get the labor crowd unhinged? Get the guy from Carl’s Jr. in as Labor Secretary. Housing and Urban Development? Ben Carson. You’d think they’d get tired after continually expressing so much outrage to the point they “literally can’t even” and move on.

It seems as if the dedicated are working their way through bargaining and depression at the same time. Many turned to the Electoral College and asked daily for electors to “vote their conscience.” Some did so kindly. Others resorted to death threats. Another bargaining tactic involved Russia again once a report allegedly linked the nation to some sort of interference through “hacking” in an attempt to make Trump President. That led the push to hold off the Electoral vote until an “independent investigation” could conclude and the Electors informed on just what cybercrime, if any, influenced the election.

Depression comes in the form of some announcing their loss of finding a partner with a Trump Presidency. Others actually filed divorce proceedings when they learned a spouse voted for Trump. Kate McKinnon, the SNL actress portraying Secretary Clinton, appeared on the show the Saturday after Election night in a white pantsuit singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” in what appeared as a gesture of mourning. McKinnon would return to the show on December 17 in a disgusting spoof of the film “Love Actually” begging the electors to not vote Trump.

What the folks going through these stages of grief don’t understand or grasp is the root cause of why their side lost. They have yet to reach a point in their own personal grasp of the election called “contribution.” That term comes from a book called “Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most” by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen. It refers to a person’s acceptance of what they did, however small, to cause a certain outcome.

It’s easy for us to engage in “naming and blaming” according to Stone, Patton and Heen. We do this all the time. Identify the source of what we personally feel is the problem at the center of our lives and then assign a level of blame to the subject. Our blame may be justified. What takes time and effort is the “contribution,” because it requires you to look in the mirror and figure out what you personally did, however small, to contribute to the issue that caused the dispute.

For those grieving that a woman president isn’t getting election results confirmed today, the contribution factor could vary. It could be a sense of outright hubris, that the “most qualified candidate” didn’t get her way into the White House. It could be apathy, since so many people stayed home during voting hours. It could be a failure to grasp some people care more about jobs than who used what bathroom. Your mileage may vary.

Until the grieving understand why they feel how they feel, they will only remain in misery. The rest of us will move on.

The Phone Call and Expectation Management

It’s late afternoon when the phone rings in my office. I don’t recognize the number, but I answer.

“May I please speak with Mr. Seaton?”

I identify myself.

“Hi I’m (name omitted). You probably remember me. We went to school together way back when, I wanted to see if you were available for legal services.”

I pause here to let the reader know this line is one every single fucking attorney hears on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s true, sometimes it’s a case of mistaken identity. Sometimes people just lie. Regardless, the line is an attempt to establish familiarity with the attorney, and worm into the lawyer’s good graces.

“What’s going on?” I ask.

“Well I…” This is the point where the prospective client then begins a long-winded spiraling tale about his or her woes, usually at a rapid fire pace in an attempt to get free legal advice on their issue. Phone calls like this happen all the time. Newer lawyers will stay on the phone with the prospective client and eagerly share their hard-earned knowledge. I have shit to do.

“Wait a minute,” I respond. “I want to make the best use of your time, so let me ask you a few questions.”

“Okay.”

I ask the questions I need to determine whether I take the case or not. I tell the caller my policy on consultations, discuss the fee for the consult, and ask when they’d like to schedule.

“Well, I have to talk with my spouse, and it’s almost Christmas, and…”

Again, I pause to let the reader know the Christmas line is just that. A line to signal the quoted price for my time is too high, and an appeal to emotion wrapped in a nice little phone blurb. Again, I cut the caller off. I give the caller three available dates and times, and let the caller know when they speak with their partner and decide a time I’m eager to help.

“Thank you. We’ll be in touch.”

I’ll most likely never hear from this person again.

The caller meant well. They were conditioned through a series of advertisements from bigger law firms about how the consultation would be free, how their problems would be answered with one phone call. They have a false expectation in their minds about the delivery of legal services. It’s all supposed to be free, and the person who takes the case does so because they have a boatload of money and are just in this profession for Truth, Justice, and the American Way.

Except we are people who like to get paid for our work too. We have overhead, costs, and sometimes staff to pay. Once all that is paid, we have to put food on the table for our families and pay for our home expenses. Those who can’t or don’t get paid end up finding another line of work. It’s as simple as that.

My time is valuable. So is the person who calls. That’s why I developed a system over the years of learning how to cut through the weeds, get to the point, and let the caller know I’m available when they’re ready to pay. Absent that, there’s no point in staying on the phone when others who have paid, who earned my time and attention, need my help.

When you call, be prepared for a short call. It’s not that I don’t want to hear your problems. It’s there’s only so many hours in the day, and so much work to do.

SCAM ALERT: BB&T

This one’s worth the time to post here. BB&T customers are getting scam emails from unknown or fake addresses asking them to call a certain telephone number because their accounts “may” have been compromised due to “fraudulent activity,” and until you call in and verify certain information your account will be put on “limited hold.”

An actual call to BB&T verifies this is a scam email, using mock BB&T logos and official sounding language to prey on your fears that something might have happened to your account, you need to check with the people at the number in the email immediately, or  you will have a “temporary hold” placed on your account until the matter is resolved. Yet there are some people who will be taken in by this because they will read the email, see the BB&T logo, and never bother to check the source of the email to see if it’s real or a scam.  Here’s how to avoid getting taken by the fraudsters working the BB&T angle if you receive one of those emails.

1. Check the info of the sender for the email. If it’s not a BB&T email account, it’s likely something’s up.
2. Call customer service on the back of your BB&T Debit or Credit card, or go to BB&T’s website. Let them know you’ve gotten an email that looks like it’s from them but doesn’t appear to be a BB&T email. Be nice and let the people on the other end of the line know you want to make sure there’s no problems with the account.
3. If BB&T verifies you’re in the clear, change your user name and password just to be safe.

4. Bonus step: If you’ve got the email address in front of you, offer BB&T that address so they can track the sender and figure out who’s sending the bogus emails.

People get taken by phishing scams all the time. They exploit the mark’s trust, using symbols of authority, tapping into the public conscious through vulnerability, and hit people with language that sounds official (i.e. “temporary hold.”) Don’t let yourself get pulled for a sucker. Think before your reflexively dial the number in the email, question whether there’s anything wrong at all, and then act.

In the future as I see more of this happen expect MiD to host more alerts of scams and fraud opportunities as I find them. I plan on doing this as I am proud of the work I do when I go out in public and perform as a card cheat, theatrical pickpocket, hypnotist.  When I work, though, it’s a form of social contract. What I do is entertainment, and if I steal something during a gig you’re going to get it back.  I cannot stand a scammer, thief, or cheat who exploits the needy, so consider this notice to all who would violate those norms.

If you violate the Hustler’s Rules of Ethics, you own a spot as a scam artist in my book, and deserve exposure.

Here are those rules, with a nod to the king of the Cheats, Daniel Madison:
1. Never cheat an honest man (this one will get you here faster than any other violation)
2. Don’t take more than they can afford (a close second to #1 getting you my attention)

3. Palms are for Aces, not handshakes

4. The Court Cards are your best friends

5. Don’t get caught.

Stay tuned. Mediation is Dead, but exposing scammers is alive and well here.