Sunday, November 29, 2020

Lord of the Rings vs. 2020

My wife and I have had a longstanding tradition of watching the Lord of the Rings film trilogy over the Thanksgiving holiday. We’re both serious Tolkien nerds — she more than I originally, but I think we’re on fairly equal footing now. She was the one who’d been playing Dungeons & Dragons since the ’80s, after all — she only got me on board within the past year or so — though we have been playing Magic: The Gathering pretty much ever since we met. So I suppose it was inevitable that we’d get to the point of making a LOTR marathon an annual tradition.

There’s no link between Thanksgiving and the movies for us; it was just that having Thursday and Friday free gave us a rare opportunity to watch the entire trilogy straight through. The tradition went on hiatus for a while when our daughter was younger, but now that she’s 9, she enjoys watching the whole thing with us — and then playing with her Lord of the Rings Funko Pops afterward. She likes being called a nerdling — our little fantasy-roleplaying nerd in training.

Anyway, I was wondering how I’d react to the themes in the story this year, when so much in the real world has changed, both outside our front door and in my own heart and mind. On a personal level, I’ve abandoned my long-held pacifism, my cynicism has gone into overdrive, and I’ve finally let go, once and for all, of the Catholic faith I was raised in, after being in and out of the church and struggling with belief for most of my adult life.

Tolkien himself was a devout Catholic, and I could see the way he incorporated the tenets of his faith into his characters, the storyline, and the entire creation and history of Middle-earth. To most casual fans, Tolkien’s tale is probably nothing more than a great fantasy story of good triumphing over evil. But without using overt Christian symbolism, as Tolkien disliked allegory, his mythological world actually does incorporate ideas of the Fall, redemptive suffering, and the constant push and pull of good and evil that exists in the hearts of all Men. So while his faith informed how the story was told, the story does not set out to make deliberate analogies to Christian theology.

This is how the author himself put it:

“The Lord of the Rings” is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like “religion,” to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism.

I think that’s another way of saying that the truly faithful person doesn’t separate the sacred from the mundane. You don’t go to church on Sunday and set your faith aside as you go about your daily life the rest of the week. Instead, your faith informs everything you do at all times. That doesn’t mean you have to stand on a street corner with a bullhorn, waving a Bible at passers-by and condemning all the sinners to hell. It simply means that you practice what you preach and set an example for others to follow.

Like Frodo, we dutifully climb up the hill, in hopes of relieving ourselves of our burdens for the sake of ourselves and those dear to us. And if, like Frodo, we’re guided by the values of humility, compassion, and love, we make such great sacrifices without ever counting the cost.

Like Sam, we support our friends on their personal journeys, even to the point of picking them up and carrying them when they’re at their lowest.

Like Gandalf, we dispense the advice, wisdom, and encouragement we’ve accumulated on the many paths we’ve traveled.

Like Aragorn, we bravely press on in support of our friends, even when all hope seems lost.

The problem is just how agonizingly hard it is to put those noble values into practice on a daily basis. Everyday heroism in real life is the exception, not the rule. Most of us succumb in some way to the lesser angels of our nature — fear, doubt, egotism, selfishness, despair.

We may think poorly of Denethor, the steward of Gondor, for giving in to his anguish, deciding it best to die now than to fight on and face the inevitable anyway. We might even see Theoden, king of Rohan, as a weak leader for his pride that manifests in a stubborn refusal to both seek aid or help others in times of need, or for his unfounded arrogance that springs up at the worst times, or for making overly conservative and ultimately fear-based decisions that end up hurting more than helping.

Yet we are all Denethor and Theoden much more frequently than we are Aragorn, Gandalf, Frodo, or Sam.

In fact, a few scenes stuck with me from this year’s viewing a little more than in years past, and one of them involved Theoden leading his people to the fortress of Helm’s Deep for protection against the enemy. The king thinks they’ll be safe there since it has saved them in the past and its walls have never been breached. But Gandalf protests that Theoden is leading his people into a trap, even as the dwarf Gimli rightly states: “They flee to the mountains when they should stand and fight. Who will defend them if not their king?”

The battle inevitably comes to Helm’s Deep, and the enemy does indeed breach the walls, eventually reaching the entrance to the caves where the women and children are hidden away. And all Theoden can do as the battering ram hits the door is to proclaim that “It is over.” Aragorn is forced to step in and help arrange for the women and children to escape through a passage into the mountains, while the king can only stand and say, to no one in particular:

“So much death. What can men do against such reckless hate?”

Aragorn, somehow keeping his composure, tells the king: “Ride out with me. Ride out and meet them.”

Theoden, still not getting it, replies, “For death and glory?”

“For Rohan,” Aragorn says. “For your people.”

For me, it’s one of the most infuriating scenes of the entire film trilogy. In the darkest of moments, when all appears lost, the leader of his people folds like a cheap lawn chair and doesn’t even understand why he should ride out to face the enemy. He thinks it’s so that history will remember him for one last act of personal valor, going down in a blaze of glory, while the man who isn’t even the king of Rohan has to set him straight.

Aragorn is one of the beloved heroes of the Lord of the Rings saga, and for good reason. We see him undergo a remarkable transformation, from a mysterious ranger who lives in the shadows and resists his claim to the throne of Gondor, into a noble, brave, and selfless warrior and leader of men who fights for the sake of his friends, even if there appears to be no chance of victory.

I like to think of myself as being like Aragorn, fighting tirelessly against the insanity that’s taken over the world — when in reality, I’m not out there engaging in great selfless acts for me or my family. Sure, I often write as an act of protest, but I know I’m probably not doing anything to help. In fact, I usually feel much more like Theoden, wondering how anyone can possibly withstand the constant assault on our liberties and our common sense. It feels like too much to bear most days. I get it. I criticize Theoden for letting his people down, but most of us in real life aren’t much different — myself included.

Another scene that hit me this year was when Frodo and Sam found themselves in the city of Osgiliath, waylaid from their mission. Frodo, feeling exhausted, doubting whether he can complete his task to destroy the ring, asks Sam what it is they’re holding on to when all seems lost. Sam’s answer: “That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it's worth fighting for.”

That exchange isn’t in the books, at least not word for word. But it does touch on one of the things that makes Tolkien’s stories inherently Catholic: the belief that people are basically good. That idea stands in opposition to some of the more fundamentalist strains of Protestantism, which hold that humans are inherently bad.

Both Catholics and Protestants would agree that the fallen nature of mankind leaves them in need of a redeemer, that they can’t fully embrace their goodness on their own. But at least in my experience, Catholics don’t start from quite such a dire place as many Protestants. Consider Martin Luther, who likened God’s saving grace to snow covering a dunghill: You might look nice on the outside, but on the inside you’re still a pile of disgusting filth, through and through. The Calvinist idea of “total depravity” stems from this notion.

Catholic theology, in contrast, sees the process of salvation as one in which we always struggle against the damage caused by Original Sin, yet the struggle is not in vain, as with God’s grace we find the ability to refine and purify ourselves, little by little, over the course of a lifetime. We will stumble along the way, but we always have the chance to get up, dust ourselves off, start again, and do better. The Orthodox arguably take this idea even further, as theosis teaches that through cooperation with God’s will, we are able to purify and mind and body and transform ourselves into a kind of union with God.

I love the inherent optimism of the Catholic and Orthodox views. If we have some good within us, then why would we not fight to cultivate it and share that goodness with our world?

Yet the more I’ve seen of the real world this year, the more I think this view — along with Sam’s hopeful outlook — is nothing more than a happy lie. Is there really anything good worth fighting for? We might fight for the betterment of our immediate friends and family members, but the battles we win will ultimately be fleeting. Even Tolkien understood that evil never rests, and that victory over the darkness is never guaranteed.

In fact, it’s notable that even in Tolkien’s Catholic-informed universe, there is no promised Second Coming that will set things right for all time. Maybe Tolkien was more of a pessimist than we might think at first glance. After all, he left unfinished a dark sequel to Lord of the Rings in which the shadows were beginning to work their way back into Middle-earth.

Perhaps the good professor knew in his heart, then, that all victories for good are ephemeral. Considering he saw the worst of humanity in the trenches of World War I, only to see with the rise of the second war that humanity hadn’t really learned a damned thing, it would be understandable if he ultimately defaulted to pessimism.

With the events of this year, I feel as if I was deluding myself with false ideas of hope for a future that will probably never arrive. For example, my favorite song for many a year has been “The Gates of Delirium” by Yes, as much for its amazing musicianship and the emotional roller coaster it takes the listener on as for its hopeful lyrical message. Based loosely on Tolstoy’s War and Peace, the epic track follows a band of fighters setting off to do battle.

At first they speak in noble terms, convincing themselves that they’re fighting for a good and righteous cause. But as the battle nears, the mood darkens as the warriors speak of demons and clashing metal, moans in the air, and a determination to burn the laughter of their enemies’ children all the way to hell. Following a fierce musical depiction of battle, the dust settles, and our narrator sings us a beautiful song of hope for a better future, where the sun will rise again and humans will find better ways to settle their differences.

But like Sam’s speech at Osgiliath, I now find it all to be little more than a hollow, comforting lie. If 2020 has proved anything, it’s that humans seem incapable of improving their lot. We appear to be moving backward, devolving, becoming more violent, more irrational, more fearful, more superstitious. It feels as if the Enlightenment is drawing to a tragic end and the Dark Ages are closing in around us again.

What other conclusion can one draw when violent riots are described by those in power as “peaceful protests,” while armed patriots who defend the peace are depicted as dangerous and violent racists?

Or when social media “fact-checks” you for citing factual data about the virus that goes against their narrative, or for talking about obvious election fraud?

Or when people elevate masks to the level of religious talismans, thinking them some kind of magical protection against a virus, when there’s never been a shred of evidence that they do anything to prevent viral spread?

Or wanting to cancel people who point out that biological sex is real and you can’t just wish yourself to be something you’re not?

Or demonizing independent voices and opinions as “dangerous disinformation” as a pretext for censoring them?

Or when destroying lives and economies is more important than running the risk that people contract a virus with a 99%-plus survival rate?

Or promising eternal tracking of your whereabouts, and demanding proof of vaccination to participate in the economy?

Or deplatforming people for having the wrong views, to the point of denying them access to banking and credit services?

It all feels like the Scouring of the Shire, when the hobbits come back (in the book version) to find their home despoiled and polluted, all joy gone, a shortage of essential goods, and misery all around. Because when you strip the joy out of life, replace it with fear and a litany of arbitrary rules, and forbid anyone from even criticizing it, that’s what you’re left with. It was their world then, and it’s our world in 2020.

One thing Tolkien understood well was the corrupting influence of power. The ring that the dark lord Sauron poured his life force and wrath into, after all, was a Ring of Power. Little wonder, then, that Tolkien had a low opinion of those who would wield power over others:

The most improper job of any man, even saints (who at any rate were at least unwilling to take it on), is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity.

Just look around you today for examples: Gretchen Whitmer, instituting lockdown and mandate edicts in defiance of her own state Supreme Court. Gavin Newsom, ordering churches closed and telling people to put up their masks between bites of food. Andrew Cuomo, welding park, playground, and cemetery gates closed. Jay Inslee, doubling down on mandates and lockdowns after the first round didn’t work, in the process turning his state into an open-air prison.

They aren’t protecting you from a virus that will leave most people with mild symptoms. They’re power-tripping on you and justifying it with the media’s constant scaremongering. You’ll die of the plague if you don’t mask up and lock down, and we’ll fine and jail you if you don’t comply. Don’t ask questions. Just do what we say.

This is why we should always be wary of central planners who insist they know what’s best for you. They don’t. You only end up sacrificing control over your own life to those who think you’re too stupid to make your own choices. In the end, you can either have their rules or your freedom, but not both.

Lao-tzu, the legendary founder of Taoism, knew that and made his choice accordingly when he hopped on the back of a water buffalo and went off into the mountains, leaving society behind. So did Henry David Thoreau, who knew that “‘that government is best which governs not at all’; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.”

Even Tolkien got it. That much should be obvious through his characterization of the free people of Middle-earth as opposed to the ugliness and darkness that came from the love of power and control. In a letter to his son, he put it this way:

My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning the abolition of control, not whiskered men with bombs) — or to “unconstitutional” Monarchy.

Most people today think of anarchism as unrestrained terror, like Antifa goons flinging Molotov cocktails in the streets of Portland. But Tolkien’s view of anarchism was basically hobbit society, where people lived simply, in communal harmony with one another, connected to the natural world, freely cooperating with their neighbors, without anyone telling them how to live their lives. The only elected office was a largely ceremonial one — that of a mayor whose most important job was to preside over banquets. In a society where people ruled themselves, no more was needed. That is what anarchism — self-rule — would really look like.

But for such a world to exist, people would have to be willing to take responsibility for their own lives, rather than hand them over to the power-tripping Gretchen Whitmers of the world. Granted, many feel they have no choice but to cede control to these little tyrants, either because of social pressure or their own fears — fear of a virus, fear of punishment, fear of death.

Most of the mindless compliance we see comes from fear, of course, because fear is a powerful motivator. Like Gollum with the One Ring, these are the people who seek security in something outside themselves. The ring, in our world, is the false comfort of bureaucrats and politicians who promise to keep you safe from whatever imaginary hobgoblin (in the words of H.L. Mencken) they’ve cooked up. They’ll even protect you from yourself. The trade-off, of course, is a loss of personal autonomy, as your love of the ring becomes an addiction, a dependence, until you feel you can no longer live without it. Life is too scary to make it on your own, without the ring to protect you.

And because the world is filled with billions of Gollums, we will most likely never be free from the grip of authoritarian do-gooders who always lead us to hell on earth in the name of the common good.

I understand that it’s not easy to stand up and say I will take the ring to Mordor when everyone around you is either telling you it’s a hopeless task or they want the ring for themselves. But it’s those who listen to their own inner voice, rather than to the masses that would have them comply, who change the world… even if only for a little while.

And of course, that’s why we fight — in the naive hope that we can fix the world. It will never be fixed permanently, but maybe we can make it better long enough so that our children might have a chance at a more decent world.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with doing that, but it’s also important to understand that evil will always rise up again. Tolkien was right that evil is never totally vanquished in this world, because the conditions for its rise come together so easily. Maintaining the good is hard work. Slipping into the bad is comparatively simple. All it takes is for ignorance and fear to take hold, and for opportunistic, selfish, power-hungry autocrats to take advantage of the situation.

Lao-tzu probably had the best idea when he decided to turn on, tune in, and drop out. Fed up with society, he simply left it behind. His parting gift was the Tao Te Ching, a guidebook for living a simple, hobbit-like life in harmony with nature.

Notably, his book also described how the best leaders are invisible, like water seeking its lowest point: They do what needs to be done, in service to the people, and no more — and they do in such a way that the people think they’ve done it all on their own. No egomaniacs drawing attention to themselves. No petty tyrants enacting outrageous edicts and demanding you sacrifice your way of life to them. That’s not guiding the people. That’s controlling them. And control almost always leads to ruin, in the same way that trying to tame nature inevitably leads to catastrophe.

Ask Saruman how that worked out, when the Ents arrived and saw that he’d torn down the forest to fuel the fires of his weapon and breeding factories. The great shepherds of the forest broke the dam, released the river, and let nature wash away the filth of Isengard.

We don’t have a magical race of tree-people to fix things for us. In fact, one of the saddest things about the Lord of the Rings trilogy is that the end of the Third Age largely marked the end of magic in the world, as the elves and the great wizard Gandalf sailed off to the Undying Lands, leaving Middle-earth forever. Left behind was the race of Men, with all our hatred, selfishness, insecurity, violence, greed, and small-minded tribalism.

Maybe what we need is a return of some extrahuman magic to fix our world. But since that’s not going to happen, all we can do is try to patch things up the best we can, for as long as we can. As Gandalf said to Frodo when he wished he hadn’t lived to see such dreadful times, “All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given to us.”

We can do something, or we can do nothing. In the end, maybe it doesn’t really matter all that much. And maybe Gandalf knew that, too.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

We Can Be Free, or We Can Be Fearful Control Freaks. But We Can't Be Both.

Employees of Penguin Random House Canada are aghast that the company they work for is going to print a book with opinions in it. Some of them were even crying over it.

I’m not joking. Penguin will release Jordan Peterson’s latest book in March, and the execs had to take time out of their schedules to coddle a few fragile adults who can’t bear the thought that someone else may have an opinion different from their own. Peterson is “is an icon of hate speech and transphobia” and also “an icon of white supremacy,” according to one of the aggrieved.

Do you remember how The Incredibles made the brilliant point that if everyone is special, no one is special? The same thing applies here. When you call everyone you disagree with a racist, a bigot, a “white supremacist,” whatever, you dilute the words to the point that they lose any meaning, and you therefore lose the ability to call out genuine bigots because you’ve spent so much time crying wolf. But you also widen the net of allowable censorship when you throw around the labels so recklessly. Who would want to give a white supremacist a platform, anyway?

Peterson’s new book is called Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life. It’s a follow-up to his popular 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. Must be some really provocative rules from this dangerous white supremacist, right? Well, here are the 12 rules from the original book:

  1. Stand up straight with your shoulders back.

  2. Treat yourself like you are someone you are responsible for helping.

  3. Make friends with people who want the best for you.

  4. Compare yourself with who you were yesterday, not with who someone else is today.

  5. Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.

  6. Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.

  7. Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient).

  8. Tell the truth — or, at least, don’t lie.

  9. Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.

  10. Be precise in your speech.

  11. Do not bother children when they are skate-boarding.

  12. Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street.

Edgy, huh?

Peterson, a former psychology professor at the University of Toronto, rose to public prominence when he stated his refusal to use preferred pronouns in the classroom. His stance wasn’t rooted in “transphobia” but rather in a refusal to submit to compelled speech. Ever since, Peterson has been the star of the Intellectual Dark Web, a group of thinkers from across the political spectrum who have one thing in common — an embrace of classical Enlightenment values in the face of growing intolerance from the Woke Left.

The Woke won’t let you have your own point of view, and they will do their best to cancel you if you dare oppose them. The meltdown among Penguin’s employees is just the latest example. It’s astounding that someone so opposed to differing points of view would work for a publisher, let alone have the audacity to even suggest Peterson’s book should be pulled. And yet here we are, in a world where grown-ups are so fragile that they weep when confronted with ideas that challenge their own.

I struggle to understand how we’ve created an entire generation of people who need safe spaces and trigger warnings to get through their day. It’s as if their bodies grew up but their brains remained infantilized, unable to cope with the friction of living with people who are ideologically different and demanding to be protected from foreign ideas.

This impulse is indeed not an anomaly. It’s the prevailing view among the media elites, and it’s widespread in academia, the entertainment business, and elsewhere in our culture. Bari Weiss spoke to the situation in her resignation letter to The New York Times. She says she was harassed by co-workers when she dared to take a viewpoint contrary to the prevailing ideology in the newsroom. She offered three rules for anyone wishing to survive in such a hostile climate:

Rule One: Speak your mind at your own peril. Rule Two: Never risk commissioning a story that goes against the narrative. Rule Three: Never believe an editor or publisher who urges you to go against the grain. Eventually, the publisher will cave to the mob, the editor will get fired or reassigned, and you’ll be hung out to dry.

Pursuit of the truth and thoughtful discussion of the issues are no longer considerations for most journalists, it seems. What matters is promoting an ideology and marginalizing anyone who disagrees with it. For evidence, just consider how the media has reacted to the last two presidential elections.

2016: Russia hacked the election, even though we have no evidence of such a claim.

2020: The election was not at all fraudulent, even though there are mountains of evidence to suggest otherwise. And if you disagree, we’ll “fact-check” you into silence.

It therefore didn’t matter whether The New York Post’s Hunter Biden quid-pro-quo article leading up to the election had any factual merit: Rather than let people read and discuss it, which is what we’d do in a normal society that valued free and open debate, it was almost immediately banned on Twitter, suppressed on Facebook, and dismissed as “Russian propaganda” by the mainstream media.

Forget the facts: We won’t consider a story that makes Joe Biden look bad on the eve of the election. This is what passes for journalism now.

Even worse is the way the media is categorically dismissing any and all claims of election fraud as false. We’ve all seen the headlines like “Trump Repeats False Claims of Fraud in Michigan.” That’s not reporting. That’s editorializing. Because what if it turns out there is incontrovertible evidence of election fraud? Just as with the Biden-Ukraine story, the media are passing judgment without even examining the information and therefore making a claim they can’t hope to support if pressed. They’ve painted themselves into a corner, so now their only choice is to perpetuate the claim they’ve already made or else risk losing even more public credibility than they already have.

This kind of narrative-control propaganda is what led Glenn Greenwald to leave The Intercept, an organization he co-founded, and come to Substack. The editors at The Intercept wouldn’t let him publish an article examining the Biden-Ukraine story and the media’s orchestrated suppression of the article. Greenwald said he was told he would have to first remove all criticism of Biden from the article. Unwilling to do that, he quit.

After all, Greenwald helped create The Intercept as a place where journalists could report without compromise. Now he says the company holds no resemblance to the one it originally was:

The current iteration of The Intercept is completely unrecognizable when compared to that original vision. Rather than offering a venue for airing dissent, marginalized voices and unheard perspectives, it is rapidly becoming just another media outlet with mandated ideological and partisan loyalties, a rigid and narrow range of permitted viewpoints (ranging from establishment liberalism to soft leftism, but always anchored in ultimate support for the Democratic Party), a deep fear of offending hegemonic cultural liberalism and center-left Twitter luminaries, and an overarching need to secure the approval and admiration of the very mainstream media outlets we created The Intercept to oppose, critique and subvert.

Andrew Sullivan, likewise, came to Substack after the editors of New York magazine showed him the door, apparently for not bending the knee to woke groupthink:

They seem to believe, and this is increasingly the orthodoxy in mainstream media, that any writer not actively committed to critical theory in questions of race, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity is actively, physically harming co-workers merely by existing in the same virtual space. 

Once again you have grown adults feeling “unsafe” in the presence of someone with opposing points of view. And it’s not even as if Sullivan is a conservative. At most, he’s an anti-Trump moderate. Like some of us, he entertains viewpoints from across the political spectrum and doesn’t always fit neatly within ideological lines. As such, he says he misses the more freewheeling days when his audience was a mishmash of left, right, and other — “before all these dreadfully earnest, humor-free puritans took over the press.”

That’s exactly what we face from the Woke: a joyless, rigid puritanical mob that will burn you at the stake unless you recant of your ideological sins. The Woke believe in their cause with as much fanatical religious fervor as the Inquisitors did.

And although conservatives seem to be the primary obsession of the Woke, perhaps spurred on by a bad case of Trump Derangement Syndrome, they’re not the only ones being targeted. As Matt Taibbi reports, even those on the left who lack ideological purity are being silenced. Andre Damon, editor of the World Socialist Web Site, found that Google was throttling search results for WSWS, along with other progressive sites, including Democracy Now!, Alternet, and Common Dreams.

If you struggle to understand why, think of how Bernie Sanders was by turns ignored and smeared by establishment Democrats. Like Democracy Now! and the rest, Sanders held to classical liberal ideals like equal protection under the law and defended the economic interests of the working class. Those ideas fly in the face of a woke movement that sees working-class whites as irredeemable racists and wants to tweak the laws to favor certain identity groups over others. (California actually tried to remove the anti-discrimination clause from its state constitution to do just that. Fortunately, voters said no.)

As Damon pointed out, WSWS, by working with a number of historians, debunked the underlying premise of The New York Times’ 1619 Project, which was that the primary goal of the American Revolution was to perpetuate the institution of slavery. Think what you like of socialists, but as Damon explained, “The slogan of Marxists, going back to the Communist Manifesto, is ‘workers of the world, unite!’ not, ‘races of the world, divide.’”

The Woke want to divide us by race and other immutable characteristics. So by debunking the idea that American blacks and whites have always been at odds, WSWS showed that it was possible for working-class people of all colors, sexes, religions, and nationalities to work together in mutual economic self-interest. That flies in the face of the Woke agenda. Therefore, WSWS is just as much an ideological enemy as, say, QAnon or the NRA.

When asked what he thought of the tired refrain that, in regard to censorship, private companies can do whatever they want, Damon hit it out of the park:

Well, legally speaking, private companies do not have the right to do what they want. A restaurant owner can’t throw a patron out of his restaurant because of the color of his skin. UPS can’t say they won’t deliver your packages because they don’t agree with your political views. Technology companies provide a vital social service, just like private municipal waste collection companies and private package handling companies. They do not have the right to discriminate against people based on their political views.

When massive corporations with virtually unlimited power and money function as the modern equivalent of the town square, then those corporations have a public obligation to treat their users fairly and equally. When it becomes obvious that they’re actively policing what people say — by using phony “fact-checks” that are a thinly disguised method of narrative control, by shadow-banning, or by kicking people off their platforms altogether — then it’s either time to break up the monopolies or regulate them like utilities.

Unfortunately, neither is likely to happen anytime soon. As Damon said, left-leaning legislators have repeatedly leaned on social-media executives to ramp up their censorship. Big Tech thereby offers a sort of end-run around the First Amendment, doing what leftist legislators are constitutionally unable to do. Meanwhile, right-leaning legislators complain about online censorship but never do anything constructive about it.

What is it that drives the Left’s desire to control what people can say in a public setting? I think it’s the same thing that drives so many leftist governors and mayors to micromanage people’s movements and choices in the face of COVID-19. They feel the need to control us because they don’t think we’re smart enough to assess the facts and make our own choices. In short, they fear their own people.

Or consider this. Jonathan Haidt, another member of the Intellectual Dark Web and a professor of social psychology, posits that humans work from six basic moral foundations: care/harm, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, sanctity/degradation, and liberty/oppression. Where conservatives tend to treat each foundation more or less equally, liberals are off the chart on care and fairness. Thus, “care” becomes the driving factor for people like Andrew Cuomo and Gretchen Whitmer, even if it means subverting civil liberties, constitutional rights, and economic well-being.

These are the quintessential people who would destroy the village in order to save it, and they’re also the ones ordering you not to celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas, telling you to wear a mask even though there’s no evidence masks work, and demanding you shut down your small business and deprive you of the ability to feed your own family. They’re also the Karens who treat masks like a religious object and will scold you personally or snitch you out if you aren’t complying with your local muzzle edict.

They may be driven by care, or they may just be insufferable busybodies or power-tripping petty tyrants. Either way, a free society can’t tolerate them and their insane edicts and expect to remain free. Life involves risk and must go on. In the midst of a virus with well over a 99% survival rate for the vast majority of the general population, that’s not an unreasonable ask.

Fortunately, we’re seeing small pockets of resistance. Weld County, Colorado, refuses to enforce lockdowns on its citizens. And in my neck of the woods, where four unelected bureaucrats recently issued a mask mandate on the 250,000 residents of five counties, one county sheriff has already come out and proclaimed that he won’t enforce the edict. These are the everyday heroes who will give us a chance to hang on to our hard-won liberties if this hysterical madness ever ends.

Live your life. Speak your mind. Our freedom of speech, thought, and movement is going to depend on it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Fighting "The Man," 21st-Century Style

I’m not good at doing what I’m told.

It’s always been that way for me, for as long as I can remember. When you cut your teeth on anti-authoritarian works like Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” and find-your-own-path books like Hesse’s Siddhartha and Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, and then you continue into adulthood embracing solitary rebels like Edward Abbey and societal drop-outs like Lao-tzu, perhaps that’s to be expected. Walt Whitman’s call to “resist much, obey little” is just about the best piece of life advice I’ve ever come across.

Yet I was never an outwardly rebellious kid. Instead, I learned how to be invisible — no easy feat growing up in a small town — while marching to the beat of my own drum. And for better or worse, I think I’ve carried that ability into adulthood. Put me in a big liberal city, and I can blend in enough to keep people off my back, whether by saying or doing something or not saying or doing something. Same deal if you put me in rural conservative America.

I tend to identify more with the rural conservative folks, even if I can relate to some of the idealistic goals of the lefty city-dwellers. One group wants a better world, while the other wants to preserve the world as it is, or perhaps restore a world that’s slipping away or long gone. I can appreciate the goals that drive both points of view.

What I don’t appreciate is the emotionally driven propaganda that whips people up into a fact-free frenzy and demands that I follow suit. Doesn’t matter if it’s demonizing some foreign leader to manufacture consent for war, or infringing on personal liberty in the name of fighting the latest terrorist bogeyman, or ordering me to wear an ineffective medical device to protect me from a virus with a nearly 99.9% survival rate, or insisting that I accept the results of an obviously rigged election.

The mass media is good at creating narratives and getting most of the population to buy in. Me, I’m suspicious of every “official” narrative almost by default, because I realize there’s always something in it for those promoting the narrative. In the case of the mass media, the goal is obviously to protect the interests of the ruling elites.

That’s why the media has been in meltdown panic mode for the past four years: Donald Trump was a political outsider who didn’t give a damn about the entrenched interests behind the scenes. That meant the ruling class wasn’t in complete control anymore. He threatened their hegemony, and he used a populist appeal to the long-ignored rural poor and working class to build a movement in opposition to the elites who have lurched the country leftward and given rise to a nation that, to Trump’s so-called Deplorables, doesn’t look much like America anymore.

As much as I don’t like Trump personally, I’m happy that he gave voice to a forgotten people. The rural working poor, Woody Guthrie’s people in a time long past, were once the backbone of the Democratic Party. But the Democrats, starting in earnest with the Clinton administration, threw them under the bus when it became more politically and financially advantageous to help corporations move manual-labor jobs overseas, killing off the small towns in Middle America where families may have worked at the same mill or factory for generations. Once that was done, the Democrats had no choice but to abandon class-based advocacy, thereby giving rise to the woke identity politics we face today.

I’m also pleased that Trump drew attention to how the Woke Left has taken over every major American institution, from science and medicine to academia, from the entertainment industry to the news media, from the corporate boardroom to practically every level of government. When one ideology has that much control over the culture, it’s due for some checks and balances. Woody’s son, Arlo Guthrie of “Alice’s Restaurant” fame, understood that back when he told The New York Times that he’d become a Republican because “we needed a loyal opposition.”

Hippies like Arlo challenged “The Man,” the staid conservative culture that held sway in their time. Today, “The Man” is the Woke Left.

The Man is every HR drone or corporate middleman who ordered you to an “antiracist” training session, and every self-styled intellectual who wanted you to self-flagellate for the pigmentation you were born with.

The Man is every media talking head telling you that a violent riot is a mostly peaceful protest and that a corrupt election is totally legitimate.

The Man is social media silencing you when you present data challenging the COVID narrative, which social media then conveniently labels as “disinformation.”

The Man is Andrew Cuomo welding shut the gates to a public park, Gretchen Whitmer shutting down your small business, and Gavin Newsom ordering you not to celebrate Thanksgiving.

The Man is the rage mob that gets you fired for saying men can’t be women, and the politicians and pundits who want you jailed or killed for supporting the wrong candidate.

The Man is the credit card company, payment processor, or fundraising organization that denies you service for holding the wrong opinion or supporting the wrong cause.

The Man is every petty tyrant forcing a mask on your face.

So the question is, are you going to fight The Man or not?

Trump has never been up to the challenge of taking on woke culture — it takes more than self-aggrandizing and angry tweets, after all — but Paul Joseph Watson was spot-on when he said that conservatives are the new counterculture. He made heads spin when he made that statement, but purely by definition, he was right. Conservatives lost the culture wars. Therefore, they no longer control the culture. Therefore, they are literally the counterculture.

But you don’t have to be a conservative to fight the intolerant neo-Bolshevism of the Woke. You just have to be willing to resist, to stand up and say no. Conservatives can do that, but so can libertarians, populists, old-school pro-Enlightenment liberals, pro-working-class old-school Democrats like Bernie Sanders, you name it. That’s a motley assortment of people, but it may just turn out that wokeness becomes the new dividing line in contemporary politics.

As things stand, woke culture lacks a significant check on its power. That’s a problem, because the Woke Left needs to be called out, both for the witch-hunting intolerance of cancel culture that’s risen out of its insistence on safe spaces and trigger warnings, and the authoritarian impulses that have led to destructive lockdowns and useless health mandates that pose a serious threat — far more serious than any virus ever could — to individual liberty, mental and physical health, and economic well-being.

And that’s not to mention the institutional censorship that grows worse by the day on social media.

It’s the censorship, more than anything else, that recently led me to Substack. As I've mentioned, I started kicking the tires at quite a few alternative media sites ever since it became obvious that the Silicon Valley social-media monopolies were going to use ever flimsier excuses to continue ramping up their censorship of opinions they dislike. While my blog is still stuck here at Google's Blogger for now, for social-media engagement I ended up taking a shine to both VK and Minds. I was less impressed with MeWe and Parler, which are the proclaimed destinations of a lot of people in my Facebook universe. Gab isn’t as bad as the pearl-clutching legacy media would have you believe, but I also don’t think CEO Andrew Torba does himself any favors by being so combative toward his opponents.

There are loads of other social-media alternatives out there besides those I’ve mentioned here, but for various reasons, I don’t think any other current challengers have a long-term chance of success.

I’ve been blogging at VK and Minds, but their audiences are limited. People are squeamish about going to VK, I guess because anti-Russia propaganda is fairly successful in the West. And Minds just can’t seem to gain any, well, mind share, even now that people are leaving Facebook and Twitter in greater numbers over the endless “fact-checks” and bans. Not that I expect any kind of mass following at Substack or elsewhere — it hasn’t happened in eight years of blogging — but I guess I’d rather not be writing at a site that readers don’t want to visit in the first place.

Substack may not survive in the long term, either, but at least for now, it’s where the cool kids are going — the cool kids being those who’ve sacrificed their high-level media gigs when the Woke Police tried to stifle them. Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Sullivan, I’m looking at you (and follow you both). Matt Taibbi, the only Rolling Stone writer worth a damn, is there too. So is Rod Dreher from The American Conservative. That’s four writers I’ve long admired — Dreher ever since he released Crunchy Cons way back in 2006, and Greenwald ever since he helped transform Edward Snowden into a hero. So it seems like a no-brainer place to be for now.

And naturally, since Substack is gaining traction, the legacy media is accelerating its smear campaign, claiming that Substack is becoming some kind of unseemly hive of conspiracy theorists, racists, right-wingers, and privileged white men — the same way they constantly characterize the likes of Gab. But the all-too-predictable smears only point to the reason places like Substack need to exist in the first place. Someone needs to challenge the establishment narratives, and those who do it need a platform. Not that that’s Substack’s mission. Substack just happens to be one of the most prominent places where alternative viewpoints have a home online.

For someone like me who lacks the time, expertise, and disposable income to create and host his own corner of the internet just to shoot the breeze, a place like Substack is about as good as it’s going to get. Maybe I’ll eventually monetize it, but that would necessitate an investment of time that I don’t currently have. Full-time work, a kid, home repairs, and crappy health put pressures on me that would make it a challenge to write quality high-level stuff on a regular basis to fulfill the expectations of paying subscribers. Having cut my teeth in journalism, I know the kind of commitment necessary for pulling something like that off. But my journalism days are long behind me. Nowadays, I’d rather write for personal enjoyment and share it with the few who care to read it. I’m under no illusions that I’m gonna change the world anyway.

Quite the contrary: The world is on an express train to hell, and there’s not much I can do about it, except maybe to leave behind a written record showing that I had no part in it. Actually, it depresses me to think of how much things have changed for the worse in my lifetime. For instance, I was a fairly early adopter of the internet. I got online around 1995, and I remember thinking what tremendous promise the internet held for the future of free speech and the widespread dissemination of ideas. Then the big corporations moved in, as they always do. And now we have a tiny handful of massive monopolies, with virtually unlimited power and money, acting as gatekeepers, controlling what services people can use and what can be said on them.

Even worse, we have one political party that decries the censorship but won’t do anything about it, and another political party that thinks social media should engage in even more censorship than it already does. With hosts and domain registrars increasingly deplatforming websites for the crime of sharing wrongthink, things are only going to get worse.

That’s why I hope sites like Substack survive and don’t cave in to the woke scolds. Free speech, after all, isn’t a frivolous luxury. It’s a necessity for the continued survival of a free and open society.

Fight woke censorship. Fight The Man.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Leaving for Parler and MeWe? Here's What to Expect, Plus Some Alternatives

I'll get right to it: There's a lot of talk on my Facebook feed about leaving Big Tech behind. Most people have said they're going to Parler. I just wanted to take a moment to run down some of the alternatives to Facebook and their Big Tech cohorts, with some pros and cons of each. I spent a good part of September kicking the tires at a number of alternative platforms, because I didn't want to give these censorious digital tyrants my business anymore. Based on my experiences, here's what you can expect.


Pros: Unless you post porn, make violent threats, or harass other users, you're not going to be censored.

Cons: By design, it lacks most of the features of Facebook.

Parler (not Parlor; it's the French word for "to speak") is not a Facebook replacement. It doesn't have pages or groups. It's meant to function like Twitter, using short messages to communicate your thoughts to others. With Big Tech coming down hard on anyone questioning the election outcome, people are flocking to Parler as I write this -- and the influx appears to be taxing Parler's servers. If the site is acting funny, give it time. 

Contrary to rumors, Parler is not owned by Google. Its founder and CEO, John Matze, is a computer scientist who just wanted a place where people could speak freely. 

Right now, Parler is a conservative echo chamber -- because conservatives are the ones being silenced and banned on Facebook and Twitter. Matze wants more diversity of views at Parler, but at least for the moment it's become a safe haven for folks on the right, Trump supporters, and people who value free expression.

Now, let's consider four Facebook replacements:

Pros: As one of the world's most visited websites, VK isn't going anywhere.

Cons: It's based in Russia.

VK, short for VKontakte, is basically Russia's Facebook. It looks like Facebook and functions like Facebook. It has a news feed, groups, pages, and messaging. Most people coming from Facebook would experience no learning curve. 

The biggest advantage VK has over any of the other services I'll mention here is that it's not a tiny startup. There's no concern that VK will run out of funds and disappear. It's one of the top 20 most visited sites in the world, with over 500 million members.

I know that the Russia connection makes some people nervous. Those concerns are not completely unfounded. However, English-speakers are a minority and seem to fly under VK's radar. As such, there's tremendous potential for Westerners to build communities there and essentially go completely unnoticed. 

Even if that weren't the case, VK appears to moderate content with a very light hand. I've seen accounts shut down for abusing the service (spamming and the like), but nobody I've met in my time there has been fact-checked or shadow-banned merely for sharing an opinion. Political discussion is generally open and vibrant. In fact, there are a number of people on VK who were kicked off Facebook for airing views that Zuckerberg and Co. didn't approve of.
In short: Familiarity, ease of use, tremendous untapped potential, and long-term viability make VK an excellent Facebook alternative. 


Pros: The founder is 100% committed to free speech.

Cons: It can be buggy at times, and the crypto feature is hard to figure out.

Minds is my favorite U.S.-based social-media alternative. It has just about everything Facebook offers. You can post on your news feed, create groups, send messages, and even blog. But unlike Facebook, it doesn't mine your personal data to target you with ads, and the feed is strictly reverse-chronological -- no algorithms choosing what you see when you refresh your page.

The best thing about Minds is that free speech is CEO Bill Ottman's core value. Ottman believes that letting people speak their minds, even if what they have to say is unpopular, is a crucial release valve. The alternative, he would argue, is to let censored people go off and stew in life's darkest corners, where they radicalize out of sight, filled with resentment. As such, unless someone shows up with a court order, on Minds you can say whatever is legal to say. 

And to his credit, Ottman is leading up a program called Change Minds to help people get out of racist and other extremist and destructive mindsets. So being pro-free speech doesn't mean Ottman wants Minds to be a place where bigots can mouth off without consequence. Rather, his goal is to foster expression that's both uncensored and thoughtful.

On top of all that, in a big score for privacy, all of your content at Minds is encrypted. No one at Minds is spying on you. The site is set up so that no one can.

Minds uses a cryptocurrency system that lets you purchase tokens to reward and boost posts, with the intention of promoting the site's best content. You don't have to buy tokens to use Minds, but it does open the site up a lot more if you do. However, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to say I found the process for buying crypto and converting it to tokens very complicated, and I think anyone unfamiliar with crypto would run into similar problems.  

Minds holds tremendous promise, but it has some growing pains to work through. There are occasional tech hiccups, and using the site is overall more complicated than it should be. If you just want to post stuff on your news feed or browse groups, you're good to go. But if you want to do anything more advanced, be prepared for some frustration and pack your patience.


Pros: The founder is as close as you'll find to being a free-speech absolutist.

Cons: Unfettered free speech isn't always pretty.

Gab has had a reputation for being the place where all the extremists ended up when Big Tech went through its early rounds of purges. That reputation may have been deserved at one time, but now that even mainstream conservatives are either being kicked off Facebook and Twitter or leaving in disgust, the tone of the place really isn't all that strident. It comes off more like a Fox News comments section than anything else.

The site itself, like Minds, has pretty much everything you're used to at Facebook. No data-mining. No news-feed algorithms. The one significant difference I've seen is that you have to become a paying member to start your own group. But you can still join groups for free.   

Gab's privacy-based Dissenter browser is a pretty neat idea. It creates a comments section at any site you visit, so you can essentially take Gab with you away from the site.

CEO Andrew Torba is a very outspoken free-speech activist who doesn't pull any punches. He has a grand vision of an internet with freedom of expression at its core -- which, of course, is what the internet mostly was before woke corporate monopolies took it over and became its gatekeepers.

I suspect it's Torba's activism that attracts the most hardcore free-speech advocates to Gab. That's undoubtedly why the racists and trolls initially flocked to Gab and gave it a bad rap. But look -- you're going to get racists and trolls at any site dedicated to free speech. It comes with the territory. And besides, we all know what the alternative looks like. It looks like Silicon Valley casting its net of censorship ever wider and wider. So I'll deal with some crude people and their unsavory opinions if it means I don't constantly have to worry about being "fact-checked" or banned for challenging some Silicon Valley tech tyrant's woke narrative.


Pros: This is arguably the most privacy-focused of the Facebook alternatives.

Cons: The chat boxes will drive you crazy, and the focus on privacy can make it hard to connect with others.

Lots of Facebook users are flocking to MeWe. I don't really care for the way it works, but hey, if people like it, they like it.

Founder Mark Weinstein, a self-described libertarian, was a pioneer in social-media development. Billing MeWe as the "anti-Facebook," he started the site because he was appalled at the way Big Tech invades users' privacy to market to them. Like the founder of Minds, Weinstein believes that your data is your own, not something to be sold off to advertisers. 

MeWe, like the other companies mentioned here, offers pretty much all the things you use on Facebook. The one significant difference is that MeWe funnels most of its user interaction into groups. You can still post to a news feed, but most of the action takes place within MeWe's groups. And unless you go into the settings to turn them off, all the conversation from those groups will pop up on your desktop in the form of chat boxes. They'll eventually fill up the bottom half of your screen if you don't click out of them. 

The privacy-based nature of MeWe also means that it can be difficult to make connections with other users. At first glance, you won't even see an obvious way to add or search for friends. Instead, you'll see links to groups, pages, and chats.

I'm not overly impressed with MeWe, though it does certainly beat Facebook.

Non-contenders and caveats   

This is not an exhaustive list by any means. There are lots and lots of social-media platforms out there. I've tried a good number of them and for various reasons can't recommend any others but the ones I've mentioned here as decent alternatives. Some cater to niche audiences, limiting their ability to grow. Others are plagued by technical issues and can't seem to get off the ground, despite their promising potential. Still others just don't offer anything compelling enough to warrant leaving what you know behind.

Be aware, too, that most of your Facebook friends will probably not follow you to these sites. That's been my experience, anyway. Any new site you try out is therefore going to feel lonely. At times it'll feel as if no one is there. You'll be tempted to give up and go back to Facebook.

My advice, after a couple of months of doing this, is to keep your Facebook account open but limit your use as much as you can, while touting the new sites you're trying out and encouraging friends to follow. That's really about all you can do. You might find that Facebook ends up being the place where you post your innocuous everyday stuff, while an alternative site becomes your online hub for political activism. 

No one wants to do this, I'm sure, but Silicon Valley leaves us little choice. If anyone's interested, here's how you can find me at the sites I've mentioned: 

Saturday, November 7, 2020

The Future

Well, there you have it. The coup has been completed.

I said all along that the establishment powers were never going to allow a rerun of the 2016 U.S. election. And you have to hand it to the DNC. After foisting Hillary Clinton on the nation four years ago, this time they colluded to clear the decks of all other primary candidates to anoint the one person who could be marketed as a harmless, grandfatherly healer of a broken nation. Rig the polls to install him as president, and now all that's left to do is to get him to step aside some time after the inauguration so the Left can back-door the agenda they wanted to impose on the nation all along. That's some genius-level subterfuge, you have to admit.

In the meantime, we're seeing the ongoing psychological manipulation of the public. The news media, without any evidence, continues to call every criticism of the 2020 outcome “baseless” and "false,” as social media throttles any mention of election shenanigans, in an attempt to gaslight the critics into thinking that they're just being too hard-headed and unreasonable to accept the results of a "fair" election. Now all the media has to do is get the normies on board -- an exceedingly easy task that's already well under way -- and then those of us who care about fair and democratic elections will be popularly smeared as anti-democratic extremists, who will then be silenced by Big Tech even more than we are now because our opinions are too "dangerous" to be aired. If you think Silicon Valley's social media censorship is bad now, just wait.

And so we've all now been witness to how you steal an election right out in the open, while tarring the critics of the entire sham as the bad guys. I mean, come on. Trump is leading in numerous swing states, and then the vote-counting inexplicably stops for the night? Vehicles arrive in the wee hours in Michigan to deliver over 130,000 ballots for Biden but zero for Trump or any third-party candidate? States record in excess of 100% voter turnout? The U.S. Postal Service in Pennsylvania back-dates postmarks on late ballots? In-person voters are told they already voted, or that they're not registered? Software “glitches” give Trump votes to Biden? Dead people voted? Republican poll-watchers are banned in Philadelphia? Observers are banned in Michigan while workers cover the windows so no one can see in? And all this on top of the months of stories of dumped and destroyed ballots, ballots sent to the wrong address, ballots never received, and left-leaning states increasing their window for ballot returns?

This is all pathetic banana-republic-level BS, but of course it's not at all unexpected. Just like there can only be one fear-based COVID narrative, with all other data to the contrary either fact-checked, shadow-banned, or outright censored, so any and all information pointing to election corruption is labeled as false even when the media doesn't even bother to check the allegations.

If you're horrified by the nakedly brazen fraud going on now, just wait till the doddering 77-year-old who can't string two sentences together is cast aside as the Trojan horse he is, and Kamala unleashes her far-far-left insanity on the U.S. as our BLM president. You ain't seen nothing yet.

Bear in mind that I'm not saying any of this as a Trump fan. I've never voted for him. I just want to see a fair election. Truth is, at heart I'm an anarchist -- I've just come to terms with the fact that humans will never be able to rid themselves of government, so I participate in the electoral process when I feel like it by voting for the candidate I'd most like to see win, regardless of whether that person has any chance of actually winning. If we all did that, instead of holding our noses to choose a lesser evil, maybe the good guys could actually win and we'd end up with better leaders.

But most people won't do that. If they wouldn't do in 2016 or 2020, when faced with such horrid choices from the two major parties, then they never will. And so this election serves as a stark reminder of why voting, in the end, will never accomplish much, especially at the federal level. It gives people the illusion that they have a say in who rules over them, but ultimately, those with the real power will decide who wins and loses. And since most people will vote to support the current system, the current system will continue to win either way.

The system saw Trump as a glitch in the matrix, which was why he had to go. Four years of baseless claims of Russian interference couldn't get rid of him, nor could a sham of an impeachment process. But game a virus with plenty of ginned-up fear to push for mail-in voting with wildly generous ballot return times, all while getting your media cronies to "fact-check" any criticism and watchdogging of the process, and surprise, surprise, you can manufacture any outcome you want.

What's next? Ramped-up woke intolerance for certain. More police-state COVID actions, most likely. It's a given that Big Tech censorship will ramp up even further. Who knows what else will happen. For now, I'll stick to VK and free-speech-oriented platforms like Minds, at least until the “tolerant” “liberals” come to shut these places down. I'm certainly not going to give my time and energy to the crooked corporate behemoths in Silicon Valley that helped perpetuate this election sham on the people.

As always, good luck out there.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Some Final Thoughts Before the U.S. Election

I felt like I had one more insightful blog post in me before the election. But really, I feel like I'm saying the same things over and over again.

When you get down to it, I'm just tired.

I'm tired of Big Tech's censorship.

I'm tired of all the hysterical overreaction to a virus that the overwhelming majority of the general population will survive, all the mandates and lockdowns that either do nothing or make things worse, and the censorship of any and all data that conflicts with the prevailing narrative of fear.

I'm tired of the woke bullies who will cancel you for having the wrong opinion, and the reverse racism of so-called "anti-racism" that threatens to undermine equal protection under the law in favor of reviving the old discriminations of a pre-Civil Rights world, flipping those discriminations on their head, and calling that justice.

I'm tired of seeing people rush to the defense of lawless thugs toppling statues of the Founding Fathers and burning down cities, while demonizing those who try to protect their homes, businesses, communities, and neighborhoods from domestic terrorism.

You probably assume I'm going to vote for Trump based on what I've written. Truth is, I'm not even registered to vote. Maybe I'll change my mind and register at the last minute at the polling place, but Trump is going to win my state no matter what I do.

If you put a gun to my head and forced me to pick from the two major parties, I wouldn't hesitate to give Trump my vote. Not because I like him, but because I dread what will happen if the Democrats take power.

Reverse-racist policy will spread like wildfire, free speech will come under even more assault than it already has, and the response to the virus could become as draconian and tyrannical as what we've seen in Australia and what we're increasingly seeing in the UK and continental Europe.

More people will lose their livelihoods over their opinions, as the definition of "hate" continues to widen from actual legitimate hate speech to anyone with an even remotely conservative point of view. China keeps people in line with its social credit system, and the same thing is beginning in the USA, with companies from PayPal to Visa starting to ban people from their services for holding the wrong views. Domain registrars have pulled their services from customers running websites that promote unwoke views. Now we see that even Mailchimp will cancel you if it doesn't like what you say in your emails. The next step from here is to be denied things like banking and credit services. The tyrants in power won't need gulags to control the rabble-rousers. They'll just cut you off from the ability to buy and sell and let you starve to death.

This is what's coming, and it's only going to get worse. Trump might hold back the onslaught for a while if he wins, but the fact is that the woke far left controls every major institution in America, including monopolistic corporations with virtually unlimited amounts of money and power to impose their will. "Private companies can do what they want," people keep saying. That might hold true in a world where massive corporations didn't have enough power to control our lives. But the fact is that they do. And no one in D.C. is going to do anything about it, because the corporations own the politicians, too.

That means real change falls on those of us who want a better world for ourselves and our kids. No politician is going to help. Voting isn't even really going to help at this point. I mean, sure, vote if you want, but just understand that the deck is hopelessly stacked if you want to change things through the political process. I think that those of us who value individual liberty and free speech are going to ultimately have to set up our own alternatives to the woke corporate world. There are already social-media companies built around the protection of free speech, like MindsGabParler, and Wimkin. (And of course, there are other good alternatives like VK.) Now people just need to actually use them and stop supporting companies that would cancel any of us in a heartbeat.

Building viable alternative systems won't happen overnight, and it's not going to be easy. If things really go south, we may even need to start thinking about outright political secession. Because the alternative is to be trapped in a political and economic system that's hostile to you. And make no mistake: The left wants you either put on trial for wrongthink (NBC's Chris Hayes), imprisoned for supporting Trump (Keith Olbermann), or lined up against a wall and shot (former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo).

NBC News even has a "reporter," Brandy Zadrozny, who's made a career out of leading ideological purges against the right. She outright doxxes Trump supporters and members of conservative organizations, and then openly brags on social media about the people she harasses and the lives she destroys.

These people don't want to coexist with you. They want you silenced and annihilated.

Just remember...

It's the left that pushes endless lockdowns that are destroying economic and mental health alike.

It's the left that defends riots and calls them peaceful protests, while smearing armed patriots as dangerous right-wing extremists.

It's the left that wants you to hate yourself for the pigmentation you were born with.

It's the left that wants Big Tech to have even more power than it already does to censor what you say.

It's the left that censors news reports unfavorable to its candidate, and then smears the reports as "Russian disinformation" without a shred of evidence for such a claim.

It's the left that wants to pack the Supreme Court, turning it into an unaccountable activist superlegislature to defend its pet projects regardless of their constitutionality.

It's the left threatening to burn down the country if Trump wins.

It's the left that wants you dead.

Trump may be awful, but the alternative is a woke far-left totalitarian nightmare.

I didn't vote for Trump in 2016, and I doubt I will in 2020. But I don't blame anyone who does.

Good luck out there.