On Section 230

Okay, so believe it or not, this post is not about Twitter and Facebook and the other social media companies banning Trump.  Well, it is kinda about that, but only tangentially.

As part of the brouhaha coming from those bans, a lot of articles and stories have been mentioning Section 230.  Heck, Trump himself has ranted about it for months, telling his followers that it should be removed because it causes/leads-to censorship.


Like everything else Trump rants about, that is just stupid.  Let’s backtrack a bit and look at what Section 230 actually does before people decide to assault the Capitol over it.

Section 230 was put in place in the 90’s as a “liability shield” for internet companies.  Although it was enacted in the day of AOL and CompuServe, it is applicable now to far more than just internet providers.  It applies to any company or site that hosts “content” on the internet.

In essence, it says that the site provider cannot be held liable for content on its site if — and only if — they have legitimate content moderation policies in place, and a team to enforce those policies.

Put simply, this blog is hosted on WordPress’s platform.  There is a pretty detailed Terms of Service document to which I had to agree before I could get the blog up and running.  Part of that document spells out the content that is subject to moderation, and the methods WordPress can and will use to enforce that moderation.

If I put up a blog post advocating, say, something violent or repugnant, and one of my readers went out and actually did that, the victims of the crime could sue the shit out of me personally, because of what I wrote.  They could not, however, sue WordPress if WordPress could show that their content policies, and their moderation team, were dealing with the issue.

If, on the other hand, WordPress had no content policies, or no moderation team, then Section 230 would not apply and they could — and would — get sued for every single controversial thing posted on their platform.

Now, let’s apply that to Trump and Twitter.

If you feel that banning Trump from Twitter is unreasonable censorship, then you should NOT be calling for the removal of Section 230 and the protections it provides.  Without those liability protections, the justifiable fear of lawsuits would cause companies to massively restrict the content they would be willing to allow on their platforms.

Actually, if you are worried about Trump’s Twitter ban, you should be fighting to strengthen Section 230.

You can justifiably argue that Twitter and Facebook acted as they did out of politics, but you have to be reasonable here and look at the other side as well — what Trump incited on January 6th could very well have real legal consequences for any internet platform, Twitter in this case, that allowed his rantings without adequate enforcement of content and moderation policies.  Those consequences could be far, far worse if he were to continue to use the same language in an effort to again incite “activity” on January 20th.

Banning Trump can be described as politics, yes, but it can also be described as a common-sense, conservative business decision to protect the company from possible legal action.

Now, the ban may turn out to be the stupidest thing the social media companies could do.  The folks upset about it have a certain amount of right on their side.  But if they — if you — want the freedom to express and read all kinds of viewpoints and opinions on the internet, then the internet companies do need the liability protection of Section 230.  Take away that protection and you create the fear not of governmental or criminal reprisal for content, but the far worse (to any reasonable CEO or CFO) fear of economic and civil reprisal for content.

I am not, in this post, trying to argue for or against the social media ban on Donald J Trump.  I have my own opinion on that, just as you have yours.  As much as I despise Trump, I can most definitely see both sides to the argument.

No, what I’m writing about is the foolish argument about the wrong thing!

The argument, unfortunately, has become this: “the tech companies need Section 230, and we don’t like the tech companies, so take it away!”  That is the best example of cutting off your nose to spite your face that I have seen in a very long time, and it frustrates the living hell out of me.

If you folks on the Trump side — not conservatives, mind you…conservatives are something very different from nationalist-populists — want to pick a fight with the tech companies, do it over something that something that will actually benefit you and your side!

Oh, and one last note — this is NOT a question of censorship in any way, shape or form. True censorship is the use of governmental power to quell or limit free speech. as big as they have become, neither Facebook nor Twitter is the government. They are private companies who have every legal and legitimate right to do business with whomever they choose.

If you believe, for instance, that a cake baker should be allowed to refuse to make a cake for a gay wedding because of his personal and private religious beliefs, then you have no basis to argue that Twitter should be forced to do business with Donald Trump in spite of their beliefs and preferences otherwise.

If you don’t like the choices Facebook and Twitter, then don’t use them. Period. End of story. Welcome to the land of freedom and personal responsibility.

{Edit — okay, so I’ve had the question put to me already in a couple of texts. Just to put the issue to bed, and forestall more of the same question: I more-than despise Trump, I hold him in the utmost contempt…BUT I also think Twitter made a mistake with their total ban. I think Facebook did quite a bit better by suspending him only until after the inauguration. Also…I don’t use either platform. The only “social media” presence I have is this old-school little blog, so the whole argument is less visceral and more intellectual for me.}

It’s All About The Musical Notes

One of the habits I’ve let fall by the wayside, over the last couple of years, is my quest for new music.  To find new artists and songs that resonate and mean something — that just plain work for me — takes time and effort.  If you have an eclectic taste that wanders over many genres and styles, it takes even more time and effort.

Just like so many other areas of life, it is far too easy to let that musical search slide and live instead inside your own status quo.  It is especially easy when you already have an extensive library.  “Who needs new stuff,” it is too easy to ask, “when you already have so much that works?”

There are a lot of ways to find new music.  None of them, unfortunately, is quick, easy or certain.  Recommendations from friends is perhaps the most reliable method, but even that has a batting average that would make most major leaguers fear for their job.  It also can lead to its own musical/cultural cul-de-sac…

One of my old stand-by’s, then, has been a podcast from NPR called “All Songs Considered.”  Oh, the odds of finding there something that makes my regular musical rotation are pretty damned slender, but it has proven over the years still to be a good way to expose myself to songs from styles and artists I would never otherwise hear.

To put that in context, I am not one for rap, country, or gospel.  But, thanks to that program, I have found artists and songs in each of those genres that have touched me, and earned a place on my personal playlist.  I am not, I will reiterate, a fan of country music…but Trampled By Turtles is an awesome band, and I would never have so much as heard of them without the podcast.

At any rate, that long-winded introduction is there merely to set the stage for a different kind of post.  I’m not writing a post about writing, or the world. I’m not even writing one based on random drunk ranting.  No, instead I’m doing this post solely to call out a couple of new songs that just plain work for me…and to provide a bit of insight into how I hunt for new music.*

*Recommendations are always welcome, by the way.  I will give a listen to anything you folks want to share or steer me towards.

Okay, so…in the preceding paragraphs, I harped on the fact that I am not a fan of country music. I did that to set up one particular song.  Steve Earle is the very definition of a country artist.  His music has been covered by some huge names, across a number of genres, but at the core of it he is a full-on Dukes of Hazzard, deep south, country guy.  But…well…some things transcend boundaries.

His son — also a musician — died this past summer. J.T. Earle died from those twin demons that haunt so many artists: drugs and alcohol.  I can just barely grasp the love and courage — the sheer strength — it took to do this, but Steve went through his son’s music and recorded an album of them.  That album — named J.T., for his son — will officially release on Monday.  Listen to the song below, then, and go give the entire album a try when you can.  Even if the style or sound isn’t to your taste, the emotion and strength behind it have meaning to everyone:

The second song is one I found through a different source entirely.  It is still however a new one, released as part of an EP just a couple of weeks ago.  This song (and artist) is far more in my “normal” vein of music, but…well…I still had to get lucky to stumble across it.

For someone who writes often about the loss of youth and innocence, the entire freaking EP just plain connects with me.  Don’t look at the text on the video I linked below, by the way.  Just listen to the music.  The voice should be familiar to you.

And, well, because I am — behind the scenes — a serious foodie and cook, I just have to make this a three-course meal.

I’m, err, gonna go ahead and violate everything I talked about above.  Wandering pretty damned far from the planned path has pretty much defined my life so far, so why change now?  This is an older song, but from an artist that has been firmly in my library for a very long time.  It also happens to offer an outlook and tone that pretty much defined my younger years…

Err…so like all true French chefs, you have to make that a four-course meal. Hey, everyone deserves a dessert, right? Right?!

Even older, this song. Not much to it, other than the fact that you just never hear it anymore. Well, that and the oh-so-young memories I have that go along with it. C’mon, it’s freaking dessert — it’s not supposed to be good for you!

The Black Dog Comes

You live with it long enough, you start to feel it coming.

It starts with impatience, with an inability to be understanding…or to give a shit.  Empathy goes out the window when that dog begins to howl.

After the irritation comes the desire to get away.  Not the “head off to the Caribbean for some sun and sand” type of get away, but the “fuck everyone — I hate humans, and I don’t want to see a single damned person” type of get away.

Everything gets to you.

Drop the bread for your sandwich?  Freak out about it and get pissed.

Get stuck behind an RV doing its best to accelerate up a hill?  Decide it is the world out to screw you.

Run low on cream cheese for your morning bagel?

Well, you get the picture.

It’s the loss of control, of course.  I hate not being in control.  It not only makes me feel powerless, it is creates a powerful sense of victimization.  That’s why, by the way, the most effective form of torture/interrogation isn’t pain and abuse, it is taking away all control.

The sounds, then — the feelings — of that black dog approaching on its hunt…that is the very definition of the loss of control.

When you can hear it coming…

When you hear it coming, sometimes you can head it off.  Sometimes you can write — or hike, or love, or whatever — your way through the initial stages and avoid the worst of it.  Sometimes.

Other times?

Other times you fuck up and try to hide from it.  The worst is when you try to numb it.  The chemicals — the drugs, the booze — they’re all just escape.  They’re nothing more than a way to hide from the braying hound in the numbness they bring.

But that numbness — beyond all the ancillary problems it brings — comes at a cost.  Go out to a bar for a social beer?  Or share whiskey with a handful of locals, all bitching about the unseasonably hot weather and the never-ending tourist parade?

Nope, not now.  Not When you hear the howling.

No, talking to others, especially those not close to you, is the last thing in the world you want.  Others are outside…others are uncomfortable…others are just another thing out of your control.

I’ve been pretty freaking open on this blog about a lot of things.  I’ve been, probably, too open (certainly, my family feels that way).  But never before have I posted words like this.

Oh, I’ve written with the clouds building. I’ve written tens of thousands of words, in fact.  Hell, I’ve written some of my best (fiction) stuff.

Never before, however, have I written about me when I can hear the howls…

The howling draws close…

The howling, it’s right outside the door…

{Musical Note — every single character I create has a theme song. This song, this character, however… Of all the characters I’ve created over the years, this is far and away my favorite…both the character and the song.}

Airpods and Paddles and Songs, Oh My!

There’s nothing like a new pair of airpods to make me want to write a blog post…

Yeah, okay, I’ll admit it — I gave in to my compulsions and bought the expensive set.  *sigh*  What did I tell you about self-gratification and my love of music?!

Of course, the other thing that has me thinking and dreaming again is being on the water.  I fetched my kayak up here to Yellowstone, and I’ve been out on the water more than a few times in the past couple of weeks (in spite of my ruined shoulder).

Oh, God how I miss the ocean!  I miss the sailing.  I miss the (bad, in my case) surfing.  I miss the sunsets…

By the way, is anyone else out there re-reading Poe in our current COVID circumstances?  I started of course with “Masque of the Red Death” and just went on from there.  I’m pretty sure we can all find a Prince Prospero or two in the world right now…


Thinking about all of that makes me want to get back on the water.  Or to write.

Given that I’m still waiting for the Advil to kick in enough to try paddling, I think I’ll write for a bit…plus, I have these neat airpods that I have to see if I can ruin!

I’m still working on the fantasy stories, by the way, more than the Connor and Oz stories.  Oh, its not a lack of interest in the sci-fi stuff, rather it is my innate focus on — and obsession with — dissonance.  Writing stories that are dark and bitter and focused on everything wrong with society today seems like…well…overkill with all that is going on in the US and the world.  So, instead, I’m going for my normal cognitive dissonance and focusing on a set of stories that are about innocence and the ties that bind us together, rather than everything that tears us apart.

Now, when — if — things go back to normal, that will be the time for me to focus again on everything that’s screwed up!  Err…or when I’m grumpy.  Or when Connor and Oz start knocking on the windows of my mind, demanding to be written.

To be honest, I haven’t been doing as much longform writing as I should, anyway.  I’ve been weaseling extra cash by going back to my roots and doing some writing for video games instead.  Ugh.  That is, sadly, not a whole lot better than just selling what little is left of my soul and returning to my former life as a sales & marketing monkey…

I am planning, by the way, to follow through on something I talked about a few weeks ago — I’m going to focus on short fiction here on the blog for the next month or so.  It will mostly be my normal flashfiction stuff, but a piece or two that is longer or more purposeful may sneak in as well.  As ever, I am always open to ideas or inspirations for the short stuff.  A single image…an idea…a line…even a simple word!  So long as the suggestion has emotional impact, and enough of a hook to get my mind working, I’m all onboard.

Umm…great…now I have an idea building for something to write.  It is, of course, a song that has me going.  The song I’ll link below, but the story…

For the story, we’ll have to see what I come up with.