We have now seen the one-year anniversary of “two weeks to flatten the curve” come and go. For many it seems like an entire decade has passed, as so many events have occurred to shape America’s future and as more small businesses permanently close every day. Maybe it’s the media’s flair for the dramatic influencing my view, but surely many of us see that as well. Although we are well into 2021, there is no doubt that millions of Americans are still reeling and attempting to recover from 2020. Unfortunately, many individuals and small businesses will never recover, and much of the same craziness has carried into 2021. The frightening thing is that much of it now, or will in the near future, negatively impact the liberty, freedom, and individuality Americans at one time cherished.
As the decade continues to unfold, hypocrisy, tribalism, and prohibition have appeared as the likely themes—although prohibition may not come through clearly without further explanation. One hundred years ago the 1920s that are now popularized as the “Roaring 20s” started in a manner that anyone living in that time would see “roar.” It was the decade in which the Volstead Act was fully rolled out and enforced. Yes, Prohibition, which banned the manufacture, transportation, and sale of intoxicating beverages (booze) would seem to have put a damper on the party keeping the roar more at a mild whimper, but it didn’t.
In 2021 we are once again facing a prohibition, the prohibition of thought, speech, and honest debate.
This time it is not codified by a constitutional amendment or direct vote of approval by the people. Instead it is coming via mob rule, AKA the “Woke Mob,” and enforced by Big Tech, Big Medicine, and Big Business—with Big Government in support of the mob via a quasi-fascist implementation. This prohibition manifests itself in “cancel culture” which has always existed, but now joins forces with “social justice,” “wokeness,” and “critical race theory” (amongst others) to create an intersectionality tsunami eroding freedom and liberty.
Can we officially say this is how the 2020s will be remembered, and more importantly can we change the course? Will the ingenuity of the individual overcome the pressures of the social justice mob that has invoked a Marxist-type perpetual social revolution, just as it did in the 1920s to keep the party going? Have the tracks already been laid for the path on which the train of the 2020s is to travel? To get an idea, it might be best to look at some recent reflections of decades past. In an article posted on ABC News by Michael S. James in 2009, the author looked back on the first decade of the new millennium. Of course, tragic events such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina stick out and transcend into events impacting the entire century at this point in history. Robert Thompson, Trustee Professor of Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, and others provided key input to this article. In a summary, Michael S. James writes of Thompson, “He and others believe the past decade may be remembered as the time when major technological and social changes went mainstream and changed the way we live.” How prophetic that statement is as we see the impact social media and technology has had in ushering in a new prohibition 100 years after the Volstead Act was first enforced.
The mainstream media and Big Business influencing elections and popular culture is nothing new, as William Randolph Hearst was no stranger to influencing public opinions. The difference as stated by Thompson is that technology has fundamentally changed the way society receives and finds information. Facebook, Twitter, and Google are quickly becoming the gatekeepers of information, steering the conversations in a way that Hearst could only have dreamed of. In developed countries, people spend more time online talking about what they did “offline” in social media posts, than actually being “offline.” From consuming videos on the internet to interacting with friends or followers on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, countless hours are spent “living” online. COVID-19 has only increased such activity, and for some perhaps has become their only outlet for interaction with the outside world. With so much information available, many would think that the general public is more informed and educated on topics of the day. If that means knowing what “WAP” is, you might be correct, but if you wanted to find a breakdown of what’s included in latest piece of legislation on your favorite social media site or popular search engine, then it often depends on where that platform stands on a given issue. Through your own activities online, the behavior-driven algorithms and social media artificial intelligence agents provide a feed to guide your information, while their “fact checking” mechanisms can force you to question the information that you do find.
Just as in the peak of William Randolph Hearst, alternative sources of information can be found for those who seek them out.
If you are reading this, then at least you are somewhat free from the narrative conveyed, but many people do not have the time, energy, or even desire to seek out factual information. They rely on friends or celebrities on social media to get information—the “easy button” if you will. In some ways, with so many voices having the freedom to be expressed, it is difficult to blame individuals, as too much information can cause a cognitive load that has a similar impact as having too little information, with the person being just as confused and seeking answers.
Increasingly the online world and mainstream news is a distraction or a distortion of reality, or serves as a cultivated reality intended to trigger an emotional response (ranging from “likes” to protesting in the streets for action) that may or may not be built on factual information. Even the most “woke” of individuals can still be lulled into the social and traditional media circus, falling prey to the manipulation. In essence, the majority of people have plugged in and feel that their tweets and posts are enough political and social “activism” and an adequate “truth.” This is especially true for the laisse faire and “silent majority” types that just want to be left alone by government (or anyone). The unfortunate side effect of this is that those who are anti-freedom and anti-individual liberty are active, hands on, and vocal within the “woke mob.” They direct the narrative using social media platforms as tools in their activism, while at the same time putting boots on the ground to make their “mob” appear larger than it is, shifting the views of Americans in the process.
We on the side of liberty and freedom must take a page from the playbook of those pushing socialism by acknowledging that “fair” no longer exists in this cultural war, as Eric July points out. If only one side is playing by the rules, then the rules mean nothing. Stand up, be vocal, push back, and let your friends, relatives, and acquaintances know that liberty and freedom are the most important humanitarian concepts ever put forward on this planet. Until we all raise our voices in the support of liberty and freedom, the world can not hear that message. Our silence allows the government, corporations, and the mob to take away our agency without a fight. The only effective way to defeat the prohibition of thought that cancel culture has ushered in is to push back without backing down. Organize if we must in the shadows and speakeasies where free thought is welcomed, but never back down or relinquish your individual freedoms to anyone or any institution.