Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Protecting free speech with a lesson from...Dean Martin - By Paul O’Brien

Dean Martin used to end his weekly variety show by inviting his television audience, in that faux-drunken drawl, "Keep those cards and letters coming in..."  I was too young at the time to understand, but it was practical political advice.

A group of us friends, ten neighbors in suburban Boise, Idaho, trade insights — personal anecdotes, interesting snippets from the news, and political commentary — virtually every day, usually several times per day.  When frigid weather makes chatting on the front porch or over the back fence burdensome, we remain connected by way of the texting and messaging app Telegram.  Our ages range from 17 to 75, most of us much closer to the latter, but the three 20-and-unders keep our conversation grounded in a way that only knowing-that-younger-ears-are-listening can.

With more than 20 years of formal education, 27 years of practicing law, and five years teaching critical thinking at a major university behind me, I had arrogantly assumed there would be little to learn and much to teach within the group.  Boy, was I wrong!

Luke, 20, for example, has taken us all to school on a variety of matters of modern life — cryptocurrencies, monetizing and demonetizing social media accounts, doxing, de-platforming, and even day trading.  He has also renewed my curiosity about Gramsci, Gentile, and Mussolini, causing me to dust off volumes I've rarely opened over the last 40 years.

This morning's lesson, though, came from Paulette, a Canadian-born immigrant who grew up with modest means and now, thanks to decades of hard work, lives comfortably in our fairly affluent enclave composed largely of political refugees from California.  Paulette's incomplete post-secondary education is well disguised, for her native intellect, academic curiosity, and enviable reading habit have erased the barriers we college types from the 1970s have been taught to expect (and perhaps secretly crave to condescendingly tolerate).

In Tuesday's opening salvo, I posted to our group American Thinker's warning from Peter Barry Chowka, "Red Alert: Democrats take first steps to censor conservative TV channels OANN, Newsmax, and Fox News."

Paulette responded tersely, "Time to make calls & write letters."

Simple enough, I thought upon receiving her reply.  And then wondered, "To whom?" when it occurred to me that almost every elected official in Idaho is simpatico with our cause.  I needn't, surely, remind them.  (I realize that mine is a dubious assertion, given the legion of sellouts among Republican elected officials, but I have to trust that nothing is more basic than First Amendment principles, and even sellouts have penultimate straws at which they know they must stop.)

Since my early childhood in the 1960s, we've been told, when a public situation troubles us, to write to our representatives, to hold their feet to the fire, to be vigilant and heard.  Those weren't bad lessons, I suppose, unless as a result we have groomed ourselves to look primarily to elected officials for solutions.  Surely, mayors and councils should hear it from us about our concerns — from potholes and speed traps to graffiti and trash pickup.  But one has to wonder in this day of caucus-determined voting on unread 5,000-page bill packages, written by lobbyists who expect the votes they've paid for, whether "writing my representative" is still meaningful.  In a way, we have become too civilized.  The threats of yore — tar, feathers, and a rail — are hollow now.

Today's politicos are savvy, even though rarely smart, and know they cannot take a wrecking ball to the Constitution through direct action.  (They leave that to the courts.)  Instead, they co-opt corporations that are well positioned to carry out the executions.  To the cable providers, for example, they pose a series of questions about the "morality" of allowing access to conservative voices.  With each question, a subtext emerges.  It's always a variation on a theme: "You know, of course, we regulate crucial resources that are vital to your company's success.  Prospectively, we will do everything we can to prevent them from becoming scarcer."  (If it were a mobster movie, it would be less clunky.  "Nice company you got there.  It'd be a shame if something happened to it.")

In light of how this latter-day protection racket actually works, Paulette's dictum has led me to begin researching the identities of the corporate boards and major shareholders of companies targeted to do the dirty work of Democrat politicians.  "Time to make calls & write letters," indeed!

Our subtext needn't be any subtler than the congressfolks' variety.  "We're on to you!" we need to tell them.  "You need consumers more than you need politicians."  Our point would be unquestionably true.  The elected officials can threaten their business, but without a willing market they have no business to protect from those crooks in office.

I know what you're thinking: we are conservatives, we don't do boycotts.  But is it really a boycott to stop doing business with those who actively work to defeat the principles you hold dear?  We wouldn't bat an eye at a customer who refuses to patronize the restaurant that canceled her reservation to seat the vicar, or condemn the client who drops his broker for fudging on commissions.  Is it wrong to leave one's abuser?  You get the point.

Dino might smile that crooked smile and let loose in song, "Everybody needs somebody...sometime...  Ladies and gentlemen, keep those cards and letters coming in..."

And the best part is, unlike our forebears, we don't need tar and feathers at the ready anymore.  If these corporate executives, officers, and directors don't respond appropriately to our pleas, demands, and remonstrations, we can always turn to Luke, 20, and let the doxing begin.

Photo credit: YouTube screen grab.

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