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The hypocrisy of “shut up” culture: Kanye West edition

By Michael d’Oliveira

The hypocrisy of “shut up culture” reached new highs (well, lows actually) this week with Kanye West’s Oval Office meeting with President Donald Trump.

The newly crowned leader of “shut up culture” is Candace Owens. A conservative pundit, Owens has gotten a lot of attention lately – from conservatives and liberals.

Not too long ago, Owens did a whole video on that now classic conservative saying: celebrities should shut up.

In the video, Owens says, “Here’s the thing, famous ladies and gents: Nobody cares what you think. Nobody.”

And nothing says “nobody cares what celebrities think” than devoting a three-minute video to talking about how nobody cares what celebrities think. Truly not caring would involve just ignoring the thing you claim to not care about.

Fast forward to this week and Owens is smiling from ear to ear and talking to everyone about how great it is that Kanye, who, in case you’ve forgotten, is a celebrity, has spoken out against the Democrats and everyone else who is anti-Trump.

On Fox & Friends, she said Kanye was “Bold enough to move the ball forward and start speaking about these things publicly.”

Quite the turnaround.

Of course, this naked hypocrisy of telling one group of Americans they can’t be part of the political conversation while praising another for the exact same thing is nothing new. It was written about on this website earlier this year.

This hypocrisy and these double standards represent one of the big problems with our public discourse: some of us would just rather shout at people we disagree with.

It’s certainly everyone’s right to disagree with anything anyone says. If some actor or musician tells you Trump sucks, you don’t have to agree. You can even reply that liberal celebrities are the ones who suck.

But it rings very hallow to tell some celebrities they shouldn’t be involved in politics while telling others they are great for doing so.

And Owens is probably the last person who should be telling celebrities to shut up. She’s basically a celebrity herself. She’s certainly treated like one by many conservatives who like what she has to say.

Before the internet, most people couldn’t have their political opinions disseminated to the entire world. That kind of widespread exposure was really only reserved for celebrities, people in the media and politicians.

But in the age of social media, literally anyone can say or write something and the whole world will pay attention. It doesn’t matter if you are an expert in what you’re talking about or you have many years of experience, you can become famous just by expressing the right opinion at the right moment.

The game has changed, and we’ve become a society where everyone’s opinions can suddenly drive the public discourse. The time of telling others to not use the platforms they have access to are over.

Revenge of the “libtards”

By Michael d’Oliveira

For years, conservatives on social media have proudly posted about how they “love triggering libtards.”

With President Donald Trump in office, the “libtards” are doing their own triggering now.

The latest “triggering” of conservatives came courtesy of Robert De Niro at the Tony Awards Sunday night. “I’m going to say one thing: Fuck Trump. It’s no longer ‘Down with Trump.’ It’s fuck Trump,” he said to a standing ovation.

On social media, conservatives and Trump supporters are reacting with anger and criticism of De Niro’s use of “vulgar” language aimed at Trump.

One Trump supporter, Alison Dillen, wrote on June 11 that “Everyone preaches against bullying. Robert DeNiro, and those who applauded his vile words, just bullied the President of the United States. Disrespectful. Disgusting. #boycottrobertdeniro #BoycottHollywood”

In November of 2016, responding to a Hillary Clinton campaign ad highlighting Trump’s own history of vulgar remarks, Dillen wrote, “standing in line at a store, I heard MUCH worse coming from teenagers….and I dont think they heard that from Trump”

The hypocrisy surrounding Trump’s use of vulgarity has continued since he became president. In March, he called NBC’s “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd a “sleeping son of a bitch” at a public rally in Pennsylvania. Trump’s comments were met with laughter, applause, and smiles from the crowd.

In contrast, many liberals and other anti-Trump voices have continually derided Trump’s vulgarity while praising anyone who uses vulgarity in their criticism of Trump. De Niro isn’t the first to get an “attaboy” from liberals and others who like seeing people harshly criticize Trump.

In her campaign ad, Clinton asked for an example to be set. Trump’s vulgarity was not the kind of language children should be exposed to, she said.

Should there be a different set of standards for actors, athletes, and other private citizens, and the president of the United States? Yes. De Niro only represents himself. The president is supposed to represent the entire country. He’s certainly allowed to defend himself, his family, and his supporters. But he’s supposed to do it in a way that befits the dignity of his office. That’s why his vulgarity will always be worse than that of a private citizen.

But I’m not here to say people shouldn’t be vulgar.

I’ve got my own history on Facebook with comments I probably shouldn’t have made. I’m not in a position of power but I still could have done better as a citizen.

We are all responsible, in our own little way, for keeping civil discourse civil. Some of us have done a better job than others and both sides have failed in one way or another. But only people who refrain from vulgarity are in a moral position to get outraged and angry when that kind of language is used to criticize someone they like.

When you spend years saying you love to “trigger libtards” by saying offensive things, you’ve kind of painted yourself into a rhetorical corner. One that leaves you morally-incapable of complaining about things you find offensive.

Anthony Bourdain’s life is a lesson that can be applied to politics

By Michael d’Oliveira

Anthony Bourdain lived the kind of life people should aspire to.

He traveled the world.

He was unafraid to try new things and new experiences.

He was unafraid to be exposed to new ideas.

He met people who looked, talked, and viewed the world differently than himself.

He was a man of means who searched for beauty and humanity. Through his “Parts Unknown” show on CNN, we got to witness him find both.

And he was able to appreciate all of it.

“To climb a dune in the Egyptian desert and look out over the desert as the moon’s rising, surrounded by friends that I work with, a belly full of some food that no one outside that time zone ever gets to experience, that’s a ‘pinch me’ moment for sure,” he told Eater.com in 2016. 

Bourdain’s life of travel and seeking out new people and experiences is a lesson that can be applied to politics.

Too often, we have a tendency to stay within our comfort zone. Many of us don’t really meet, know, or converse with people who are different than we are, politically or otherwise. And when we do talk to them, it’s often more of a shouting match. Shouting at each other occasionally is forgivable. No one is perfect. But you should also have real conversations with people who think differently than you do. You might be surprised at what you learn.

Bourdain was famous for eating foods considered weird and disgusting. He never seemed afraid of really getting uncomfortable. Likewise, we should never be afraid to swallow a political idea that we find unappetizing. You might end up finding something you like about it. At the very least, it’s a chance to engage with someone with different ideas. You can spit out the food and walk away, or you can philosophically chew it up and see if it agrees with your stomach. You don’t have to eat it again, but at least you tried it.

For Bourdain, eating exotic foods in exotic locales never really seemed to be about the food. It also really seemed to be about the people making it.

Bourdain told Anderson Cooper in 2013 that he’s interested in what’s cooking and “why people are cooking certain things.”

That’s what politics is (or should be) about – people and making their lives better.

Just like a good meal, sometimes there’s more than one way to cook up a good solution.

 

The price of free speech: We can dish it out, but we also have to take it

By Michael d’Oliveira

Kanye West’s string of Trump-supporting tweets sparked the reaction you probably expected from the rest of social media. Liberals mocked and criticized him. Conservatives praised him.

The reaction to the reaction was also predictable.

In defense of her husband, Kim Kardashian West tweeted, “He’s a free thinker, is that not allowed in America? Because some of his ideas differ from yours you have to throw in the mental health card? That’s just not fair. He’s actually out of the sunken place when he’s being himself which is very expressive”

Some of what she said is valid – such as not calling someone crazy just because they have different ideas. Unfortunately, like so many others, she also played the victim card when she said, “He’s a free thinker, is that not allowed in America?”

Time and time again, people of all political stripes and ideology, including conservatives and liberals, play the victim card and act like people reacting harshly to what they say is akin to throwing them in a Soviet gulag in Siberia. Yes, being a free thinker is still allowed in America, Kim. That’s why Kanye isn’t in jail or being chased by an angry mob of fans who feel betrayed. Kanye is free to say whatever he wants.

But, Kanye is not free from the consequences of his words.

In a country founded upon the principles of free and open speech, the price of that open speech is others have the right to challenge you and your beliefs. They also have the right to go further and openly mock you and disrespect everything you hold sacred.

People calling Kanye stupid and crazy isn’t an attack on Kanye’s freedom. It’s a feature of their freedom to express their ideas. It’s literally the machinery of freedom working itself out – the marketplace of ideas in action. It’s pretty awesome and we take it for granted way too much.

Not only do we have the right to offend people, we have the right to intentionally offend them. It’s not nice, but, thankfully, the Founding Fathers were concerned with rights and not feelings.

Essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson lived in the 1800s. Way before our current victim card culture. But, even in only that second century of the American experiment, the values and merits of free expression were already strong and cherished. Emerson and many others knew and accepted all the complicated nuances of free speech. We can dish it out, but we also have to take it.

“Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted,” wrote Emerson. Kim Kardashian needs to read more Emerson. Maybe she can fit him into her selfie schedule soon.

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Friends don’t let friends tweet without Google

By Editorial Staff

Google is your friend. If it’s on the internet, Google will find it. It won’t even ask you for anything in return. It’s like “The Giving Tree,” except, it never runs out of things to give. It’s that good a friend. And, just like any good friend, it can also save you from embarrassment.

Nicole Arbour could have used such a friend. In early March, she posted on Twitter “Just a reminder that obesity kills waaaaaayyyy more people than gun violence but there’s still no March to end it. Which ironically would very literally help end it.”

Anyone who takes two seconds to Google “obesity walk” will find the website of Walk from Obesity (www.walkfromobesity.com) an organization dedicated to promoting physical exercise and lowering obesity rates.

So, unless you want to be like Nicole, remember your friend, Google