General,  News Commentary

On the Death of Free Speech, Expression, and Thought

“The situation is fifty-fifty,” read my WhatsApp text from my Kenyan friend. He helps run a feeding program for vulnerable street children in a rural region. Due to the crippling effects of COVID-19, the Kenyan government ordered all education institutions and programs such as his, closed indefinitely. For my friend, the lockdown’s disruption of the food supply only added to the problems of drought in his area.

“Something, just doesn’t seem right about this response,” he said.

The COVID-19 crisis has taught me a loud and clear lesson, particularly as an American in America. Raise a single question and you’re admonished, ridiculed, and demonized as “not a rational thinker.”

What a world.

It didn’t take long for me to become extremely frustrated with companies, politicians, and the hysterically irresponsible media saying that this is our “new world” and “new normal.” Even now I’m sick of corporate emails from organizations and companies saying, “welcome to our new world.” Is this what they want? I think some of them truly do. If you ask me, this is not our new world or our new normal. This is hopefully a temporary, horrifyingly dark chapter in our history. They write and say these things like this is permanent and we need to get used to it, and in some weird, sick and twisted way, even find some excitement in it. We should never get used to it and we should never accept it as a new normal or our new world. Rather we should say that we will overcome it. That it will end. I pleaded with folks to stop using the ridiculing phrase of defeat and surrender because it causes anxiety and panic in a world that’s already anxious and panicked. It’s not the “new normal” and it’s not the “new world” but rather a problem that will be solved; a temporary abnormal. That’s how I suggested it be addressed going forward. Surely giving up rights is not normal. Businesses being forced to close, go bankrupt, and go under is not normal either. Nor is 26 million Americans out of work and livelihoods ripped to shreds, skyrocketing suicides, drug overdoses, starvation, civil unrest, rampant depression, anxiety, homelessness, the breakdown of food supply chains and law and order, immunosuppression, fear-mongering, farmers killing livestock and dumping milk, deteriorating health issues and civilization itself being pushed to the brink. City officials asking neighbors to turn each other in and chanting the humiliatingly degrading “new normal” mantra over and over again certainly worked in reverse as far as getting me to accept that any of it should ever be considered normal.

Should a person be silenced for any kind of questioning and or formulating a differing opinion? Diverse perspectives, even from the medical and scientific professionals, are not welcome if not aligned with Big Pharma. Organizing a protest on Facebook against lockdown orders are being shut down, because the right to free expression and assembly does not exist on the platform, and these actions are considered ‘dangerous’ due to the health crisis. The Re-Open America Facebook group, the majority of which consists of human beings who quite simply want to open up and go back to work with precautions, taking hold of their own personal responsibilities, and salvaging what little is left of their livelihoods, is being labeled terrorism by people, factions of the media, and various organizations. Of course, groups like these will always have their fringe elements. These fringe members will attract the attention of the media, headlines will be crafted, and a picture will be painted. We saw how this was done during Occupy Wall Street. In reality, the online group is mostly made up of people from all walks of life, careers, backgrounds, races, and income levels, is being painted as “white supremacist” disregarding the fact it’s made up of various races. Is it a terrorist, white supremacist act to want to go back to work so you can feed your family and pay your bills?

Many are making more money on unemployment than they are working and have no incentive to go back. Every day, another one of our rights is trampled upon, rather than protected. If implying that the economic burden of lockdowns – lost jobs, shuttered businesses, a precipitous drop in spending and output, unemployment at a level not seen since The Great Depression, tens of millions of Americans struggling to pay bills and feed children, is not considered a ‘human cost’ then I’m not sure what is. Not to mention the U.N.’s Word Food Programme stating that by the end of this year more than 260 million people will face starvation – double last year’s figures. The WFP director said that famine is likely in about three dozen countries and that there is a real danger that more people could die from the economic impact of COVID-19 than from the virus itself. Apparently, to some of our totalitarian politicians, that is not a human cost. For me, that’s enough to characterize worldwide lockdown as a deathly error that should have been approached with some kind of sensible balance. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, another 147 million people could be plunged into extreme poverty.

Across South Asia, as of a month ago, tens of millions were already “struggling to put food on the table.” Again, all because of the lockdowns, not the virus. In one particularly incomprehensible act, the government of India, a poor country of 1.3 billion people, locked down its people. As Quartz India reported on April 22, “Coronavirus has killed only around 700 Indians … a small number still compared to the 450,000 TB and 10,000-odd malaria deaths recorded every year.”

One of the thousands of unpaid garment workers protesting the lockdown in Bangladesh understands the situation better than almost any health official in the world: “We are starving. If we don’t have food in our stomach, what’s the use of observing this lockdown?” But concern for that Bangladeshi worker among the world’s elites and many Americans who are merely inconvenienced by the crisis, seems nonexistent. Those privileged enough to be in enthusiastic favor of worldwide lockdown ought to take a hard look at themselves and think for a minute. Does a child who now dies of starvation as a direct result of it count less than the life of someone who dies from COVID-19? Don’t both lives matter? Under this logic, perhaps no one should be allowed to drive again until there are no fatal accidents for 14 consecutive days. Then we can slowly begin to phase in certain classes of people who can begin driving again, but at only half the posted speed limit, and wearing a helmet. How many children should starve, families go bankrupt, business owners lose everything, and jobs lost will it take to make one feel safe? Does it make a person feel safer knowing that their unwarranted fear and panic are costing others their livelihoods and even their own lives?

As I close my WhatsApp, I open my PayPal. I’m beyond blessed to be in a position to give. The crisis loosened what little grip money had on me to begin with, making me even more liberal with giving, and for that I’m grateful. Grateful that I can do it, and because every time I do, money has less and less power over me.

The Nation, a left-leaning magazine which rather enthusiastically supports lockdowns, did happen to write that global lockdown is “possibly even more catastrophic (than the virus) in its outcome: the collapse of global food-supply systems and widespread human starvation.” Yet some of our totalitarian American politicians care as much about the millions of non-Americans reduced to hunger and starvation due to the lockdown as they do about people in Upstate New York who now have no income, despite the miniscule number of COVID-19 cases and or deaths there. Or about the citizens of Oregon, whose governor recently announced the state will remain locked down until at least July 6. As of this writing, a total of 124 people have died of COVID-19 in Oregon. Or the governor of Michigan who prohibited the purchase of seeds to plant gardens, or the Texas Governor who, under his watch, allowed for the arrest of a Salon owner who refused to close so she could pay bills and feed her family, or the self-appointed King who now rules over the Pennsylvania Commonwealth.

Michael Levitt, Professor of Structural Biology at Stanford Medical School and winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, recently stated, “There is no doubt in my mind that when we come to look back on this, the damage done by lockdown will exceed any saving of lives by a huge factor.”

Based on these factors alone, it feels very much like fighting a dangerous brush fire with 100 gallons of gasoline. I struggle at this point, to see the sense in any of it. Unless, of course, it’s designed to collapse a worldwide system and implement an entirely new way of a more totalitarian, controlled life, (some would say New World Order) in which case it makes more than perfect sense. For that statement I’ll be ridiculed, if not demonized, and almost certainly a ‘conspiracy theorist.’ Meanwhile, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio bans protests outright, and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy states in a television interview that the Bill of Rights is “above his pay grade.”

I am the lunatic, though.

Another friend who runs a magazine in a small New Jersey beach town brought the paper down from four to just one issue, and struggles with advertising, considering all businesses are closed. She also struggles with her second source of income, an Airbnb, which of course, is not operational. She’s at a loss.

Policy makers should be trying to balance the interests of vulnerable people on both sides of this equation: medically vulnerable people who are especially likely to die if they get COVID-19, and economically vulnerable people who can’t afford to sit on their couch and watch TV all day and post memes and tik tok videos; many of whom happen to be the first to lash out at any questions raised, by the way.

I have no problem admitting that a thoroughly researched refute to anything is healthy and even necessary, on all sides of an argument. What’s quite clear is that peer reviewed articles usually can’t go up against the trillion-dollar Big Pharma system. An endless plethora of information is available to refute any claim or idea that’s contrary to the narrative, but what’s interesting is it usually consists of the very ammo in which the claim maker is saying is corrupted. Studies and articles are cited like God’s final authority and yet are often prone to bias, and possibly subject to an agenda. The old adage “follow the money” exists in medicine in the same way it exists in politics. And often the two are connected.

If you go at something with a mission to simply refute, you will always find exactly what you’re looking for in the same way in which if you go at something to uncover a conspiracy. What’s the motive of the claim maker? What’s the motive of the refuter? Is it possible that doctors who are unknowingly bound by corporate policy will most likely never come up against the system? Why is it that scientific and medical professionals with the same degrees, having studied at the same institutions, and bear many of the same accomplishments as mainstream characters, are voiceless because they have a different vantage point? Are ALL opinions that challenge the status quo dangerous? Surely a handful of them must not be. After all, these folks are professionals, too. Or should we all swiftly, and even mindlessly bend the knee to money, power, and control instead of even taking a minute to listen to another voice? As the world plunges into unimaginable poverty, the super wealthy we’re taking our cues from are becoming richer than ever before, all the while a vast majority of the world becomes completely dependent upon the state. Why are we impressed by and aligned with one person and not another, both of whom hold the same exact credentials? Are we to ignore and even shun the now countless videos and writings of doctors, nurses, and scientists coming forward with nothing to gain, putting their jobs on the line to challenge in some way, shape, or form, the broadly accepted narrative that is constantly on the defense?

Each day as we surrender more of our freedoms for safety, I see plainly how there’s a misunderstanding of our rights in the first place. For some reason, many Americans that perhaps never studied their own history or Constitution, believe that the government grants us rights. Quite the contrary. Our rights are endowed by our Creator and it’s the government’s job to protect those rights, not grant them. We already have them. It’s also not the government’s responsibility to take care of my health; that is mine. Unfortunately, its statements like the one I just wrote that get me and others labeled by some Americans, as terrorists. I wish something that nonsensical wasn’t true.

The reality is that our American political class is only interested in itself. The Founding Fathers never viewed serving in Congress or the government as a full-time career. It was an honor and duty to serve for a short period of time. The key word there is serve. They would do their part and then quickly return to their lives, businesses, farms, etc. Now, being a politician is a full-time career, one that is held for decades, and is far, far from a position of service, and is awfully lucrative at the taxpayers’ expense.

Perhaps we’re witnessing now the problems with career politicians and their disconnect from the people they are called to represent, considering they appear clueless to the damage they’re inflicting; unable to see clearly enough that a balance to the crisis is absolutely necessary for the survival of the nation. Instead, their responses may very well be more dangerous, and potentially deadly.

The disturbing trend throughout the COVID-19 crisis has been the aggressive, iron-fisted way officials have acted. Crisis truly reveals character. We’ve been sternly directed to shelter in place with the thinly veiled threat of serious repercussions if we don’t comply. There have been numerous reports of arrests and fines for being outside, walking one way instead of another, surfing in the ocean, kayaking alone, or a leisure drive in the countryside. A clip went viral of a Philly man dragged off a bus for not wearing a mask and police, possibly racially motivated, beating young people with batons in Jersey City for gathering in a group that was more than ten as well as violent break ups of weddings, funerals, and even the Amish. Were these violent police responses appropriate and necessary? Outside a medically vulnerable group, doesn’t the virus have a 99% survival rate? Why are the lines for food banks in Florida and Pittsburgh and elsewhere stretching for miles in comparison to lines for COVID-19 testing? Is it safe to ask a question?

Whether you agree or disagree with lockdowns and stay at home orders, you’d be hard pressed not to admit it’s right out of George Orwell’s classic, 1984. Petty state bureaucrats drunk on power telling people to report others who may possibly be breaching social-distancing measures or quarantines wreaks of an authoritative “Big Brother” controlling our every move. The sad thing is, once these rights are stripped, it’s hard to get them back. When was the last time you saw a toll booth removed on a highway? We’re still required to remove our shoes before boarding a plane. The War on Terrorism lasted over 20 years, and perhaps still exists. A convenient war that can be fought anywhere against anyone at any time. Now we have the ‘Invisible Enemy’; another convenient war seemingly without end, or at least until there’s a vaccine or therapy. And the ‘enemy’ could very well be your own mother, or your best friend. How long are we to live like this? Until they say so?

Government, along with allies in the mainstream media and Silicon Valley technocrats (the true rulers) at Google, Facebook, YouTube, etc. have suppressed dissenting opinions. On Twitter, accounts that offer different takes are suppressed or suspended if they don’t conform precisely to the accepted narrative. Rather than allowing a different viewpoint, they’re permanently banned and considered dangerous for the people.

We have closed our borders, stopped flights in and out of the country, and banned certain people from entering America. The timeline for most of which is ‘indefinite.’ How dystopian and terrifying.

I watched all of President Trump’s daily press briefings live, from start to finish. Many articles and clips read and watched thereafter were completely taken out of context, manipulated, and sometimes laughably, intentionally distorted to paint a picture that fit a narrative and accomplish what seemed like an intended purpose – memes of mockery. One can’t change live coverage, but it can be manipulated thereafter for the countless who won’t take the time to watch for themselves. Regardless of where someone stands politically, I urged them to do themselves a favor and see for themselves and not rely on their next day sources as much. I advocated that we were all on the same team and in this together, and that we should be rooting for success. Again, judged, mocked, and ridiculed. I lost followers and was blocked. I didn’t vote for Donald Trump, but I always seem to shock people when I say that I support his success. Why wouldn’t I? Are we not all Americans? Apparently, we’re that divided now, and it’s truly a shame, and perhaps our biggest downfall. I have disagreed, sometimes whole-heartedly, with elected officials in the past, whether that was my former Republican Governor in New Jersey or our former Democratic President whose character I admired but polices I didn’t, and never would it have crossed my mind to root for their failure or demise, because that would mean failure and demise for us, as well.

At the press briefings, a couple dozen reporters sit a few seats apart from each other, some in masks. It is permissible, yet churches, mosques, and synagogues are forced to close entirely instead of implementing the same guidelines. Do we live in a Nanny State? America is the mecca for people from around the world to emigrate to so they can freely practice their religions without persecution.

In a move that seems more appropriate for a brutal dictatorship, states warn that churches, mosques, and synagogues should not hold services at all, despite all the creative ways that could easily be done with an implementation of the CDC guidelines, which, by the way, are merely strongly suggested guidelines, not absolute tyrannical rule of law as some governors would have their citizens believe.

“Our churches are part of the answer, not part of the problem,” Water of Life Community Church Senior Pastor Danny Carroll said. “We’re an essential part of this whole journey, and we’ve been bypassed… kicked to the curb and deemed nonessential.” Not to mention that the order itself, is blatantly unconstitutional.

Are not emotional and physical well-being connected? Today, specialization and bureaucratization means that physician, psychiatrist, social worker, and minister often end up treating only one isolated aspect of the person, without consulting one another or looking at the person as a whole. Have you ever taken a too-simplistic or reductionistic approach to a problem that turned out to be complex – physical, emotional, and spiritual all at once? Is this not what many of the doctors, scientists, and professionals who are being silenced are merely suggesting?

Several years back, I protested in Washington against the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which allows for an American citizen to be detained indefinitely, stripped of any rights whatsoever, under the label of a ‘national security threat.’ Nothing could be more unconstitutional and unamerican, or more conveniently vague. Nevertheless, the travesty of the NDAA was signed on December 26, 2013, with the vast majority of Americans asleep and careless. The Justice Department recently asked Congress for the chief judges to detain people indefinitely without trial during emergencies. According to POLITICO, this is only part of a larger strategy to push for new powers in response to COVID-19. More and more totalitarian powers. Remember, though. I’m the crazy one, of course.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that the federal government is thinking of issuing certificates of immunity from COVID-19 to identify those who have been infected. The Technocratic rulers at Google and Apple, already holding most of our private data, jointly announced an effort to use Bluetooth technology to alert people if they’ve been exposed to the virus. Those who have contracted or have signs of it will be outed. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) brought up major concerns about tracking users with phone data and called for a need to limit its scope.

Dr. Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the World Health Organization Emergencies Programme, said surveillance is part of what’s “required for life to return to normal in a world without a vaccine.” He took it several steps further saying, “Now, we need to go and look in families to find those people who may be sick and remove them and isolate them in a safe and dignified manner.” In other words, ‘just so you know, we’re coming to your house, seizing your children, and ‘isolating’ them in a safe and dignified manner.’ Whatever that means.

And so what will become of our careers? Will people be denied jobs because the Apple tracker shows they had, have, or were in contact with someone with COVID-19? HR will say that the company is “truly sorry” it couldn’t hire you, as it has “a responsibility to look after the health and well-being of its employees.” Will we have to show ID’s proving we’re healthy enough to enter the premises of offices, restaurants, movie theaters, coffee shops?

What about those with pre-existing health issues susceptible to COVID-19? Will they be discriminated against? It will be difficult and expensive for companies to provide safe conditions for these people. It would be more convenient to pass on hiring or force them to  work from home.

The moves made by politicians and bureaucrats during this crisis will have severe long-term repercussions for our careers and lives that could prove to be worse than the outbreak itself. And when the writers of Black Mirror stop writing scripts because we’re already living in a dystopian nightmare, you know it’s truly serious.

In my personal opinion, which hopefully my fellow Americans and humans still allow me to have, when public interaction forums like Facebook determine what I can see, hear, or read, it is nothing short of an introduction to socialism. (I know Bernie made that word sexy, but in reality what he was describing when comparing it to Denmark was really just a more regulated, nuanced capitalism with far more social welfare programs than the U.S.) There was a time when we the public were allowed to make our own decisions as to what is believable or unbelievable. Present as many debunking articles, peer reviewed journals, diverse voices and perspectives from scientists, or conspiracy videos as you wish, but don’t take away my right to draw my own conclusions. Wiping something from the Internet only increases its notoriety. The more the self-appointed Technocratic gatekeepers and their allied Big Pharma health authorities “protect” us from ideas they disapprove of, the more susceptible we will be to falsehood and error, including falsehoods foisted on us by our “protectors” themselves. This vulnerability will in turn be used to justify still more such “protection.” Sheltering backfires, whether the “bad” influences are cultural or medical. This is why open discourse is so important and censorship is so debilitating and disrespectful. We need to be allowed the responsibility and practice to identify and guard against falsehood to be any good at it. Censorship limits the extent to which social learning can happen and insulates the error from debunking. If anything, censorship has lent additional credence to whatever mistakes they made by feeding into the narrative that the powers-that-be fear is truth. Debunking is drowned out by censorship outrage, and is therefore boosted. Even if someone is blatantly wrong, they may be right in other important ways.

Instead, I see no rational thought, just rash arrogance, belittling mockery, and often embarrassing judgements of and from people, who must forget when posting or commenting, that on the other side of that screen somewhere is actually a real, living, breathing human being. One of my closest friends battled COVID-19 and lived, although it was a very tough fight. Two other people I know, who were elderly, lost their lives. Another friend of mine, a nurse, is battling the disease. When my WhatsApp rings with another message from my friend in Kenya who is unemployed because of the lockdown and doesn’t know how he’s going to feed his already hungry family, my heart breaks, and I don’t know what to do. Or when the woman I happen to love dearly, who lives in Russia, is unable to leave her city and whose business now hangs in the balance, I feel absolutely powerless.

I’ve sounded enough alarms over the current state of affairs, most of which fall on deaf ears, and most of which I’m ridiculed for. That being said, when it comes to Facebook and Twitter, as sad as this may sound, I much rather censor my own voice and freedom of speech and expression, and just hold on to my freedom of thought. To hang on to Facebook and Twitter any longer, is simply not worth it. The funny thing is, we didn’t need the government or the technocrats to censor us (which they’re doing, of course), we only needed each other.

Are we too proud to admit how proud we are? Are we unaware of pride’s poisonous effects? For years I watched on almost a daily basis, friends and acquaintances post things I did not agree with, believed and or knew were false, found crude or inappropriate, or were simply firm stances on political or social views in which I disagreed entirely, and yet I never went out of my way to attack them, and I never thought less of them or differently, and in fact, if called upon, would defend to the death their right to their free speech and expression. This crisis has shown me that not everyone shares those very basic and fundamental human values, but rather prefers to sever all ties to anyone who disagrees with them or thinks differently, has another opinion, or, saddest of all, asks a question. Retreating to a world entirely tailored to their liking. A world that’s far from reality.

Although other parts of the world are plagued with starvation, malnutrition, poverty, and diseases, a different kind of plague reigns over Western Civilization, having crept its way into the culture, embedding itself deep within the society. An enslaving close-minded apathy has taken root across industries, education systems, and technology, unknowingly robbing people of free thought under the guise of it. It’s a plague that has seeped into families, businesses, organizations, and governments, honing a self-centered, and in some cases dumbed-down, pleasure-gratifying environment void of diversity under the very guise of it. But when you have the honor and or opportunity to step out and catch a glimpse of how the “have nots” like my friend in Kenya, live in rich community, it’s quite clear that Western Civilization is most infected.

After 12 years, I have decided to release myself of what Facebook has become and consolidate to just Instagram and LinkedIn. I won’t do it immediately, and will have to figure out the best exit strategy considering I use it for work. With the death of freedom of speech, expression, and thought on the platform, staying on is simply not worth it to me, nor is it authentic. When Reuters and the AP have to fact check and correct the platform’s fact-checkers, something isn’t right. Unfortunately, anyone will a dissenting thought has to face the reality that they’re communicating, commenting, and expressing thought on a surveillance platform. We’d be naive to think it’s not being shared with the National Security Agency (NSA). Edward Snowden put his career, reputation, and even his very life on the line to warn us of that. He lives in exile in Russia. Whether or not sheltering our bodies is a wise policy for the spread of COVID-19, quarantining our minds is surely a bad policy for the spread of ideas.

With the state of national media and the clear biases they project onto the population, it’s hard to imagine a more propagandized environment in America, however, the rise of Internet censorship (which I have warned about in countless posts before this one dating back as far as 2011) foreshadows an even darker future for free thought and free speech. And we ourselves are unknowingly propagating it.

If by expressing my personal thoughts I am considered “spewing discord” then the problem therein lies with you, and you have proven my point in its entirety.

How far can we be stripped and pushed in the name of public safety? We must think seriously about the consequences of actions taken hastily in response to national emergencies – and about whether we want to keep our remaining civil liberties and economic freedoms or be content to surrender them one crisis at a time. Assuming it’s still safe to quote the following two gentlemen who helped craft our nation, without being deemed a terrorist, Alexander Hamilton said, “The nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master and deserves one” and Benjamin Franklin, “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is emerging all around us. Are you paying attention? Are you unknowingly compliant? Can you even see it? Or are we too in love with our slavery? Maybe in these unprecedented times you’ll want to figure out what master you want to serve. Will you bow down and submit to a life of fear, or will you live in to courage?

Yes, the threat of death is serious, but it’s never novel. We were all already sentenced to death before COVID-19 showed up. Yes, scientists have added one more chance of painful, premature death to a world already bristled with such chances in which death itself is not a chance at all, but a certainty. So let’s not succumb to panic. Let’s not allow fear to dominate our minds and paralyze our hearts. Let’s keep living and laughing and serving and enjoying those we love (yes, even if, temporarily, from a distance). We need not be slaves to fear.

I’ll still read all my news from all the various, wide-range of sources, including the ones I disagree with but believe should be heard as well. There are now countless Op-Ed’s raising the alarm for a sensible balance, echoing much of what I have written in this post. If you haven’t seen them, I urge and even plead with you to expand your sources, and your mind. As for me, I choose to retain my most basic human rights, and refuse to be railroaded by fear. Like money, I want the Facebook platform to have little hold on me, and I am tired of allowing its unconscious slavery to prevail. But I certainly look forward to the time I’ll save and the newfound freedom. A freedom we all once had many years ago, and I am so ready to enjoy again. As far as the fate of the world? The situation is fifty-fifty.

impractical daydreamer | journalist | creative writer | photographer | blogger | hopeless romantic | world nomad | truth seeker | perpetual adventurer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *