the saddest thing… is when people who say they believe that freedom of speech is essential… also believe a person should be killed for saying something that they do not like…
On today’s episode of ‘Don’t Say That!!!‘ we have journalists being harassed and threatened in such a malicious way that it has to rank as some of the most un-American thing I’ve ever seen.
Throughout my adulthood, I have never made a secret of the fact that I have epilepsy.
A couple of weeks later, after my article about how Trump’s business interests would create a conflict of unprecedented proportions, I received a tweet from someone with the twitter handle “Mike’s Deplorable AF.”
In his tweet, which has since been deleted, Mike made mention of my seizures and included a small video. It contained images of Pepe the Frog, a cartoon character that has been identified by the Anti-Defamation League as a hate symbol. I was carrying my iPad, looking at the still image on the video and, without thinking, touched the PLAY button.
The video was some sort of strobe light, with flashing circles and images of Pepe flying toward the screen. It’s what’s called epileptogenic—something that triggers seizures. Fortunately, since I was standing, I simply dropped my iPad to the ground the second I realized what Mike had done.
Because I have written critically about Trump, I have received innumerable death threats, sometimes just general invocations that I should die, sometimes more specific threats that I should be shot or “lynched,” as one Trump fan wrote. I have been called “kike,” “Jew” and “anti-American Zionist,” even though I’m Episcopalian with a Jewish father (as if that makes a difference). I have received video cartoons that look like they are from Nazi Germany of hook-nosed men dressed in Jewish garb rubbing their hands greedily over piles of money. I have been told to go back where I came from, whatever that means. I have been called “fag,” “pedo,” and once—in an email that made no sense—“nigger-lover.” One Trump fan mentioned he knew which schools my children attended, and correctly named them. Topping it off, some Trump fans have even gone after one of my sons online, although he knew enough to immediately block them.
I find it interesting, that the people who go on and on about how they’re trying to save the United States and drone on about how ‘the PC police’ are out to get them… how they’re saving the first amendment… are the very people who threaten to kill anybody who disagrees with them.
That is wildly un-American.
The First Amendment, the American spirit, is all about tolerating the speech of others regardless of how it makes you feel. That is the beauty of the First Amendment… it allows for an open discussion among people who’d otherwise never open their mouths.
The reality is that the First Amendment opens up communication, a feedback loop, that allows us to solve problems. If I can honestly share how I feel and know that even if it upsets you I won’t get hurt for doing so… and if you can do the same… we can learn from each other. We can address issues and move forward in life. And you know what, even if moving forward is choosing to never associate with each other again because we find each other ignorant… that is still moving forward and that is still valuable.
As an aside: choosing NOT to engage with speech is your right as an American. You cannot be forced to approve of speech that you disagree with (since that’d infringe on your own free speech rights). Recently, that’s proved an issue for Unions using mandatory dues to fund their political speech.
Frankly, the kind of attitude that Eichenwald has been met with for his Trump reporting is something I’d expect from countries that are notoriously ‘conservative’ in their views of speech… Russia, Myanmar, Pakistan. The thought that any American should be met with violence for what they have to say is beyond absurd. It is contrary to the entire idea of the United States.
This will probably be the highlight for the Don’t Say That articles for the week… the sheer hatefulness of people’s attitudes towards speech they don’t like… is astounding.
Update – Ohhhh geeeze…
So apparently, after I initially wrote my short Dont Say That article above concerning Kurt Eichenwald’s story… Kurt Eichenwald went and put his foot in his mouth over what he thought was a connection between Donald Trump and the Russian government…
Mike Masnick of TechDirt.com:
Last night I saw a marginally interesting story by Eichenwald about how a Russian government connected news website, Sputnik, misread an email leaked via Wikileaks from Hillary Clinton pal Sidney Blumenthal to campaign chief John Podesta. The email contained a link and full text to a much earlier Eichnwald story about Benghazi and Clinton. The Sputnik story incorrectly stated that the text in the email was by Blumenthal, and not by Eichenwald. It took one sentence out of this longer article, and falsely claimed that Blumenthal was admitting that the mess in Benghazi was “preventable.” As Eichenwald notes, this is wrong:
Those words sounded really, really familiar. Really familiar. Like, so familiar they struck me as something I wrote. Because they were something I wrote.
The Russians were quoting two sentences from a 10,000-word piece I wrote for Newsweek, which Blumenthal had emailed to Podesta. There was no mistaking that Blumenthal was citing Newsweek—the magazine’s name and citations for photographs appeared throughout the attached article.
Okay. So that’s actually kind of interesting. This Russian source was so eager to get a story out of the leaked emails that it misrepresented them — either by accident or on purpose. That’s marginally interesting, and certainly a fun thing to report on. What happened next is where things really go off the rails. While Sputnik pulled down its story once Eichenwald pointed out the error, a few hours later, Donald Trump mentioned the story at a rally as if it were true:
Note that he insists that the only way Trump could have gotten this is from the Russians. But that’s clearly not true. The Sputnik story was up and lots of people saw it, and it was discussed on Twitter and elsewhere. It makes perfect sense that someone who saw it either works for the Trump campaign or knew someone there and sent it over. Again: that’s the real story: Trump relies on sketchy sources found online.
We all make mistakes… but uh… generally acknowledging your mistakes is an important part of moving forward in life. So you’d hope Kurt Eichenwald would clarify in a new article and add an addendum to his old article.
Update – Oh Geeze again… Kurt Eichenwald Continued
Ahhhh gosh darn… Kurt Eichenwald doubled down on his unfounded reasoning concerning D. Trump and the Russian government…
Eichenwald is not backing down on this story. In fact he’s doubled down, with an “update” that only seems to again show himself overselling the story. First, he “updated” his post with claims from anonymous “intel sources” basically saying the Russians engage in disinformation, and quotes from a classified letter that was sent to the intelligence committees in Congress from the Director of National Intelligence.
“Moscow appears to use monetary support in combination with other tools of Russian statecraft, including propaganda in local media, direct lobbying by the Russian Government, economic pressure, and military intimidation,’’ the letter says. “Russian trolls and other cyber actors post comments on the Internet, maintain blogs, challenge ‘pro-Western’ journalists and media narratives, and spread pro-Russian information on social media.”
Because of its important role in the Russian effort, Sputnik does not simply publish whatever it chooses, the government official tells Newsweek. Articles pertaining to politics in the United States and Europe require high-level review. It is not clear if Russian authorities conduct that review, the official says, but no article directly related to American politics would just be sloppily thrown into public view without careful consideration. (The article in question disappeared from the website shortly after Newsweek attempted to contact Sputnik about it.)
Well, duh? Of course, Russia uses misinformation. But that doesn’t mean anything with respect to what Eichenwald originally claimed about Trump and the Russians coordinating.
Kurt needs to learn when to walk away… at this rate I’ll be writing a whole new article in the Media Ethics series…
Update – Ohhhh Come On Man…
— Mike Masnick (@mmasnick) October 13, 2016