Reprint from May 17, 2017
What were once simple Twitter choices bear subtle nuances in today’s political climate.
Our world is rapidly changing, and not particularly in a good way. A few years ago I was sitting in my home office chatting with a friend. We were discussing a wide variety of issues from trifling to weighty. Then, our talk turned to Tea Party politics. Simultaneously we realized that even in the privacy of my home, we’d lowered our voices to near whispers. Why? It certainly wasn’t a conscious decision. Yet, on some level two intelligent business women were subconsciously fearful of speaking about a controversial sect that we believed to be a danger to our way of life.
That was then. This is now. I’m a tweeter. Yep I engage in social media via Twitter – to the tune of nearly 16 thousand followers. I hearkened back to my above story when I received a follow request from @IranPlus. I looked through the site and discovered it to be a photographic site showing Iran in a way that I’ve never imagined. I started to hit the follow button and then the adrenaline shot through me and I hesitated.
In light of today’s political environment I asked myself, “Do I want to be seen following a Twitter site about Iran? Could someone use that against me as I begin to speak out more and more about my concerns for our nation and the fitness of our current president to hold office?”
We live in an age where Russians hack into and influence our elections. At the same time our government continues to attempt to gain access to our social media accounts, two-way televisions are within our grasp. (Read George Orwell’s 1984 and you may well decide this is a luxury you should forgo.) We live in a time, when the President’s annoyance with mainstream media leads him to declare that he’ll merely change the libel laws and has labeled mainstream media as “Fake News” — twice in the past 24 hours alone. On February 17, 2017, Trump tweeted,
In a February 24 meeting with conservatives, Trump again calls the media the enemy of the people and threatens to take away the long-held right of the press to not name its sources — a right that is supremely critical to getting to the truth.
As Trump systematically sets out to destroy America’s faith in its journalists, it troubles me that he has chosen this particular catch phrase — enemy of the people — as it seems to be a favorite of noted dictators from early Rome to today.
- Hugo Chavez of Venezuela refers to a TV station as “enemies of the homeland” and proceeds to later shut them down by declining to renew their license — an overt attack on freedom of speech in that country.
- Artists and politicians labeled enemies of the people by Joseph Stalin of Russia, were sent to labor camps or executed.
- Lenin used the term to create distrust among his people — virtually ostracizing those that did not agree with him.
- Hitler used the term “enemy of the people” as well. He was referring to the Jews.
These threats and aspersions against mainstream media are not as simple as yet another presidential tantrum. If Trump is willing to thwart the role of the media, by changing laws and the very way in which journalism is conducted, and creating a climate of distrust; how can one not conclude that the next step will be to take action against any organization or individual who disagrees with him.
It’s no wonder I hesitated. It’s clear to me that our democracy is at risk. But, do I want to live in a state where I make choices based upon how they might be used against me in the future? Do I want to live a life where I lower my voice — or don’t speak at all — in fear of gaining another’s ire? Oh! Heck no!
Being an active participant in the global web community requires that we run what we’re reading through a fine mesh to throw off the chaff and ascertain the truth. Indeed, it is our individual responsibility not to perpetrate lies by blindly passing things along because they arouse some emotional response within us; whether it be on Twitter, Facebook or any other social media outlet.
So, keeping that responsibility close to heart, I continue to engage in this vast community of ideas. Did I follow @IranPlus? I did. And I want to thank the site owner for showing the faces of his people and landscapes that I didn’t realize existed. Iran is not just a pile of sand folks.
A climate of growing fear and distrust can be changed by each of us taking individual responsibility for our actions and reactions. Learn the language of state nationalism and fascism so you know when it’s slip sliding into democracy. Fascism arises when individualism dies.
Kylie Addison Sabra