Speak Louder Or Shut Up

I have a friend, or at least I’d still like to think that person would say so, that frequently reacts to these musings, good and bad.  Since I know a thing or two about the value of engagement and loyalty, I suppose I should be grateful that this person feels compelled to react at all.

But more often than not, when these musings touch upon political discourse, since it’s so much a part of the media narrative particularly in an impending election year, this person doubles, nay, triples down on accusing me that because I somehow do not share the narrative that our current President is the greatest humanitarian of our times and the only thing standing between myself and life on the streets where I’m being set afire by insurrectionists, I therefore must be one of THOSE who have FOX News playing non-stop conspiracy theories and MAGA rhetoric into my head.

No matter how much I insist to the contrary, even calling out the fact that yes, I do have a roommate who watches, but thanks to headphones and a closed door to my room I can and do avoid it save for a few seconds where I’m cooking breakfast (with headphones on, listening to something that’s not Stuart Varney), this person seems to be obsessed with educating me, saving me, reminding me of their Holocaust connections and the absolute terror and angst that’s felt at the mere possibility that someone who has essentially owned up to the fact that, even for one day, he wants to be a dictator could possibly be leading me to the dark side.

This is also a person who continues to lament at how the cable industry has changed for the worse since their days at a long-defunct regional sports network, which now as an entity are on the endangered list.   So perhaps this could be simply chalked up to someone who pines for the past in all walks of life, and therefore thinks that decency and common sense still have a place in political discourse in the 2020s.

Well, I don’t believe they do, not when I see stories like this one from yesterday’s THE GUARDIAN come out:

Donald Trump has nudged ahead of Joe Biden in national polling for the 2024 presidential election, a survey published on Saturday revealed, a day after the US president branded his predecessor as “despicable” at an event in California.

The Wall Street Journal poll shows Biden with the lowest approval rating of his presidency, a finding broadly in line with other recent studies that have sparked concern in Democratic circles less than a year before voters go to the polls.

It shows Trump leading Biden by four points, 47% to 43%, the first time this survey has shown that the former US president is favored in a head-to-head test of the likely 2024 White House matchup, the WSJ said.

The same article offers a caveat toward the bottom that seems to align with the “what, me worry” attitude this person seems to have:

While the WSJ survey will alarm many Democrats, others warn not to read too much into what some observers see as “mad poll disease”, anxiety induced by a belief that a succession of negative polls shows what will happen a year from now instead of providing an opportunity to act, or vote, to prevent it.

Except that in each ensuing, objective poll, the gap grows wider and the person who should be acting and speaking out more forcefully than those who are trumpeting these numbers are doing essentially lays low, taking what they would offer is the “high road”.  And even when they do speak out, they are literally preaching to their choir, and an entitled one at that.

The NEW YORK TIMES’ Anjali Huynh described how Biden spent his weekend escaping the god-awful Northeast weather:

In sprawling Southern California homes, celebrities flocked — and opened their wallets — to hear the president and the first lady, Jill Biden, make the case for why Mr. Biden should be re-elected. The campaign swing was the first since the end of the monthslong actors’ and writers’ strikes, during which the president stayed away from the fund-raising hub to show support for those on the picket lines. At a party held by Mr. Costos and his partner, Michael Smith, many of those in attendance were household names: Steven Spielberg, Shonda Rhimes and Rob Reiner were co-hosts; Barbra Streisand and Jon Hamm attended; and Lenny Kravitz was the musical performer. Tickets started at $1,000 and went up to $500,000, and the event was expected to raise more than $7 million, according to a person familiar with the president’s fund-raising.  And while Mr. Biden was the star, Mr. Trump took center stage in his remarks. Mr. Biden cast his predecessor as a danger to democracy — taking care to mention him by name in saying “You’re the reason why Donald Trump is a former president,” which was met with cheers.

Nice words, and kinda Dark Brandon-ish, one might think.  Wish we could have had wider access to it.  But as CNN’s  and  observed, Democratic strategists saw this as the equivalent of an off-off-Broadway test run:

(T)he ritzy events he’s been holding this fall – in hotel ballrooms, backyards, on theater stages and in many a well-appointed living room – are proving useful to the president beyond just their high dollar intake. Away from cameras, Biden is trying out new material as he fine-tunes his reelection argument heading into next year.

It could be months before Biden begins holding big campaign rallies, making this moment an opportunity to evolve his stump speech in front of smaller crowds — where, under White House rules, cameras aren’t allowed. Biden is still searching for a message that can help him overcome the significant challenges facing his reelection, including a low approval rating and persistent concerns about his advanced age.

Meanwhile, the platform known as “X” was restoring the voice and access of a particularly incendiary lout, and conducted its own “polling” to justify it.  Per the WRAP’s Stephanie Kaloi and Mike Roe:

A day after holding a poll on whether conspiracy theorist Alex Jones should be allowed back on X (formerly Twitter), Elon Musk joined an X Spaces conversation with Jones, famed misogynist Andrew Tate, Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, former Trump official Mike Flynn and others.

The men discussed a wide range of topics in a nearly three-hour session, including Musk advocating for his belief that people should be having many more children, Jones repeatedly bringing up “globalists” and everyone praising Musk. The conversation also included a variety of misinformation, both subtle and extreme, leaving an audience of more than 60,000 listening live to parse the truth from what they were hearing themselves.

Musk had previously indicated that he brought Jones back to the platform to defend “freedom of speech.” He said, “I vehemently disagree with what he said about Sandy Hook, but are we a platform that believes in freedom of speech or are we not? That is what it comes down to in the end. If the people vote him back on, this will be bad for 𝕏 financially, but principles matter more than money.”

The poll Musk referenced was exclusive to the platform, where Jones’ reinstatement was preferred by 92% of those who voted.  We call that a stratified sample, and hardly representative of anything more than those who currently populate it.

Yet a LOT more people had access to this “freedom of speech” than that which Biden exercised to his rich minions.

Perhaps Musk needed to do all of this, for as at the same time one of his more prominent personalities was offering up news about his own intentions to expand his influence, per the WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Isabella Simonetti:

Tucker Carlson is launching his own subscription streaming service, people familiar with the matter said, the former Fox News host’s official foray into paid content after months of posting videos on X.

The service, Tucker Carlson Network, is expected to go live on Monday, the people said. It will be home to at least five different shows by midweek, they said, including interviews, short-form videos and monologues.

Carlson probably doesn’t have any warmer feelings about FOX News these days than does my friend, and since it’s gonna be behind a paywall, I’m not subscribing any time soon.  Besides, I don’t need to; the NEW YORK TIMES, CNN and the WALL STREET JOURNAL will more than take care of conveying the most salient points.

My friend clings to a narrative that millions of Trump voters who blindly voted for him in earlier elections have died off, many of the COVID so many believe his lack of urgency caused in so many of those older supporters.  I personally lost a relative to it early on who listened religiously to Alex Jones, so, if anything, I’m more than aware of the power and lethal potential letting him back into more readily available discourse can cause.  His adamant belief is that the millions of 18-22 year olds who will vote in their first presidential elections next fall are all, naturally, going to be sane enough to vote for Biden and ensure victory.

But if my friend has been paying any attention to what’s been happening on college campuses of late, there might be pause for concern.

As we know, a plurality of those 18-22 year olds are college students, and they exist in environments that the DAILY MAIL reminds have been heavily influenced by wealthy donors from spurious sources:

Top American Ivy League universities including Cornell and Harvard have received over $8 billion in the last 35 years from Arab countries, a report has revealed. According to a report by the Executive Director of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, Cornell University received over $1.5 billion from the Middle East.

Which might explain why the tone-deafness of their leaders shown to Congress last week was so significant and incendiary. And as CNN’s Matt Egan reported, the fallout has already started:

In a stunning downfall for the leader of one of the world’s most prestigious universities, Liz Magill, the president of University of Pennsylvania, voluntarily stepped down from the helm of the Ivy League school on Saturday following a torrent of criticism for her testimony about antisemitism on Capitol Hill Tuesday. Board Chair Scott Bok also resigned Saturday.

And as Egan’s colleague Eva Rothenberg added, there’s already vultures circling around other Ivy League campuses:

Now that Liz Magill has stepped down as president of the University of Pennsylvania, the spotlight has turned to her counterpart from Harvard University, Claudine Gay.

One down. Two to go,” Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, with the “two” being a reference to Gay and MIT President Sally Kornbluth. 

Yet, in both cases, these events were NOT spurred on by the will of the student body.  Rather, it was the same sort of incentive that has created the environment of these campuses in the first place that have been the catalysts.  At Penn:

One mega donor, Ross Stevens, threatened to cancel a massive gift, now valued at about $100 million worth of shares, if Magill doesn’t leave.

And in Cambridge:

Gay has since apologized for her remarks, “I am sorry,” she said in an interview with The Harvard Crimson on Thursday. “Words matter.”  But some major donors remain unmoved, particularly Bill Ackman, a billionaire hedge fund CEO, who has been among Gay’s most vocal critics.

“As a result of President Gay’s failure to enforce Harvard’s own rules, Jewish students, faculty and others are fearful for their own safety as even the physical abuse of students remains unpunished,” Ackman wrote in an open letter to Harvard’s governing board of Sunday. “Knowing what we know now, would Harvard consider Claudine Gay for the position? The answer is definitively “No.”

Usually, money talks; bullsh-t walks.  That’s sure the way it was back when regional sports networks were thriving.

But bullsh-t is talking loudly, unhinged, and influencing more than enough actual voters to matter.  And 18-22 year olds who can believe that there is justification to paint swastikas on buildings and yell, as Bill Maher noted on his REAL TIME program Friday night, “f–k the Jews”, most of whom aren’t donating enough any time soon to hear or see Joe Biden talk, are more than capable of being convinced that a vote for a candidate as perceived to be Israeli-positive as Biden would be heinous.  Maher calls them “willful idiots”.  That might be a bit harsh.  But this is all about democracy, no?  So their vote counts just as much as, say, Shonda Rhimes’.

This is absolutely no time for blind faith and overconfidence.   Nothing but their own reluctance to put Biden front and center can excuse why there wasn’t a livestream of his speeches readily available, particularly at a time when so much contrary social media is debuting.  Maybe he’s slurring his words.  Fat Orange Jesus apparently isn’t the best elocutionist, either.  You could even do a side-by-side comparison as to who is more doddering than the other.  Personally, I’d take Biden’s chances.

But, honestly, I’m not sure I’m in the majority.  And OBJECTIVE polls show it.  No, it is not November 2024 yet.  But it looms closer every day.  And every day Joe Biden chooses to not speak up as loudly and forcefully in public as his opposition makes his comeback attempt all the more challenging.

And sorry, even if Jack Smith, Leticia James, Fani Willis and Arthur Engoron are as effective as Trump rants maniacally and demonicallly that they are, his voters have demonstrated time and time again they literally DON’T CARE.

So please, experts, try and give me some sort of assurance besides your assumption I’m afflicted by mad poll disease that this isn’t a good time to start fighting back.

And since an awful lot of the assumed younger viewers don’t watch all that much traditional TV, don’t necessarily think that money raised in tony mansions that goes to networks will have the intended effect.

Start a much more aggressive social media messaging.  More inclusive, more familial.  If Biden can’t deliver the message effectively, give him a band of supporters.  Heck, when Alex Trebek was getting up there in age, JEOPARDY! had the Clue Crew help him out.   Where’s his equivalent?   On Ivy League campuses?  Oy.

And there’s plenty more examples one could give to do a better job than what is being done.  The polls aren’t final, but the trend lines are undeniable.  And the clock is ticking louder.

So, my friend, assuming you still are, stop with the zen and start with the kind of force that’s gonna be necessary to save both of us.  Pass the word to anyone you interact with.

And please note–not a single source in this extended musing came from FOX News.

Keep that in mind the next time you accuse me of having a difference of opinion.

Until next time…

 

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