I, myself was to experience how easily one is taken in by a lying and censored press and radio in a totalitarian state. Though unlike most Germans I had access to foreign newspaper, especially those of London, Paris, and Zurich, which arrived the day after publication, and though I listened regularly to the BBC and other foreign broadcasts, my job necessitated the spending of many hours a day in combing the German press, checking the German radio, conferring with Nazi officials and going to party meetings. It was surprising and sometimes consternating to find that not withstanding the opportunities I had to learn the facts and despite one’s inherent distrust of what one learned from Nazi sources, a steady diet over the years of falsifications and distortions made a certain impression on one’s mind and mislead it. No one who has not lived for years in a totalitarian land can realize how difficult it is to escape the dread consequences of a regime’s calculated and and incessant propaganda. Often in a German home or office or sometimes in a casual conversation with a stranger in a restaurant, a beer hall, a cafe, I would meet with the most outlandish assertions from seemingly educated and intelligent persons. It was obvious they were parroting some piece of nonsense they had heard on the radio or read in the newspapers. Sometimes one was tempted to say as much, but on such occasions one was met with such a stare of incredulity, such a shock of silence, as if one had blasphemed the Almighty, that one realized how useless it was even to try to make contact with a mind which had been warped and for whom the facts of life had become what Hitler and Goebbels, with their cynical disregard for the truth, said they were.
From The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer (Life in the Third Reich 1933-1937 pp146-147)
We live in a world where if we look on line for a particular item, say a guitar, we will get a constant stream of advertising offering to sell us guitars. Should we show an interest in particular point of view the artificial intelligence of the internet will see to it that our information bubble will show us information reinforcing that bias.
In a real sense we all live in information bubbles which shield us from information which might impinge upon our particularly bias.
I just watched a show on Vice about abandoned shopping malls in Cleveland, heart of the Rust Belt. When one lives in the prosperous urban enclaves of mostly the East Coast and West Coast but also scattered around the large urban areas that dot America one becomes blind to the destruction that has overtaken much of the industrial heartland over the last 25 years or so. Mostly we see images of people who live lifestyles impossible on the pay check of most of the working class, many of whom work retail and are on call rarely getting 30 hours of work a week with no benefits.
The privileged elites with their degrees and salaries look down their noses at the people who were once employed by the factories that made the many products we used to buy but who now work the concrete floors of the big box stores where they sell products made in China and other countries where they pay workers pennies per hour.
We get to sort of more or less pick the information bubble that feeds us our propaganda. But where is the real news? Have we become so post-modern as to buy into the lie that there are no real truths, only interpretations?
There is an old Russian saying from the Soviet days when people got their news from Pravda (Truth) or Izvestia (The News): “In Pravda there is no truth; in Izvestia there is no news.”
In such a world there can only be cynicism and nihilism.
Dec. 27, 2016
From the moment he joined, 8-year-old Joe Maldonado eagerly looked forward to camping trips and science projects as a member of the Cub Scouts. But his expectations were dashed after his mother said she received a phone call from a Scouting official who told her that Joe would no longer be allowed to participate because he was born a girl.
Kristie Maldonado said she was stunned because her son had been a member of Cub Scout Pack 87 in Secaucus for about a month and his transgender status had not been a secret. But some parents complained, an official from the Northern New Jersey Council of Boy Scouts told her — even though her son had been living as a boy for more than a year and was accepted as a boy at school, she said.
“Not one of the kids said, ‘You don’t belong here,’” Maldonado said of the Scouts in the pack.
“It made me mad,” Joe, said. “I had a sad face, but I wasn’t crying. I’m way more angry than sad. My identity is a boy. If I was them, I would let every person in the world go in. It’s right to do.”
Joe’s case could be the first time someone has been barred from participating in Scouting because of transgender identity, said members of the LGBT community. And it comes as the Boy Scouts of America appeared to be emerging from a period of turmoil involving sexual-orientation issues, reversing long-standing bans against gay Scouts and gay Scouting leaders over the past few years. Those policy changes were made amid an internal debate that saw at least one local council defy national Scouting decrees by hiring a gay camp counselor and pressure brought from corporations that withheld donations from the organization.
The Boy Scouts did not address the transgender issue at the time, LGBT advocates said, perhaps because the organization had no written policy related to gender identity. Transgender rights only recently emerged as a national issue, often focusing on the use of restrooms based on gender identity. Dozens of North Jersey school districts, including Secaucus, have granted that right, among others, to transgender students.
David A. Graham
Jan. 9, 2017
In North Carolina, the lessons of H.B. 2, last year’s controversial transgender “bathroom bill,” seem clear. The law states, among other things, that transgender people must use bathrooms corresponding to the biological sex on their birth certificates when using public accommodations.
The law inspired huge boycotts, cost the state an estimated hundreds of millions of dollars in lost economic growth, drew a lawsuit from the Department of Justice, and was a central cause of Republican ex-Governor Pat McCrory’s defeat in his reelection bid. In late December, an attempt to repeal the law failed amid partisan acrimony—but over how to repeal the bill, not whether to repeal it.
But in several states, legislators have taken a different lesson: They’ve seen what happened in North Carolina and decided that their states need something like it. Lawmakers in Texas, Virginia, and Kentucky have all filed similar bills, reflecting an alternative political calculus on transgender rights. While the language is slightly different across the bills, they share several essential characteristics: They define biological sex based on an individual’s birth certificate, and then say that people must use public accommodations—especially in public schools—corresponding to that sex.
The legislation comes at a dramatic political moment, when the future of transgender law is in flux. The Obama administration reacted fiercely to North Carolina’s law, filing suit against the state and then issuing guidance saying that all schools should allow students to use bathrooms corresponding to the gender with which they identify, saying Title IX mandated it. But a federal judge blocked that law in August. Backlash to the administration’s order, combined with the expectation that a Trump Justice Department will take a far different tack on transgender issues and interpretation of Title IX, seem to have inspired legislators to push their own legislation, even at the risk of incurring the harsh business backlash that accompanied H.B. 2. In fact, part of the strategy behind the new wave of bills is a calculation that while boycotts may be effective on a state-by-state scale, they will fall apart if many states enact such legislation.
The Texas bill, styled S.B. 6, is perhaps the most viable of the bills proposed so far, given GOP majorities in the legislature and Governor Greg Abbott’s previous positive statements about bathroom bills. It covers school districts, open-enrollment charter schools, state agencies, and some other districts. Like North Carolina’s H.B. 2, the bill is designed to preempt local governments from passing their own ordinances governing transgender restrooms, and like that law, it does not affect private businesses. The bill was filed by Senator Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham, but its big booster is Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. (Kolkhorst’s staff declined to make her available to speak on it.)
“We know it’s going to be a tough fight,” Patrick said at a news conference in Austin on Thursday. “The forces of fear and misinformation will pull out all the stops, both in Texas and nationally. But we know we’re on the right side of the issue, and we’re on the right side of history.”
It’s difficult to forecast the fate of proposals like these. A bathroom bill in South Dakota last year appeared to be on a fast-track to enactment before Governor Dennis Daugaard, a Republican, surprised some observers by vetoing the bill after meeting with transgender people. Still, the other two bills proposed this year seem to face serious hurdles.
Kentucky’s bill is similar to Texas’s. The bill in sponsored by Representative Rick Nelson, a Democrat from Southeastern Kentucky. Nelson did not respond to a request for comment, but he told the Louisville Courier-Journal, “I just want to make sure those bills are out there in case the other side decides not to do them. I support them and think they’re pretty good.” He appeared to be alluding to the dearth of support among Bluegrass State Republican leaders for such a bill.