Looking at What’s Actually Happening Behind the Furor

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Reviewing the state of play during the Trump Administration can be tricky.  Commentators on both sides of the ideological aisle have noted that one often has to make a distinction between the reality TV show that is now the presidency and the actions actually ongoing within government.  Conservatives have generally presented it as the silver lining, while progressives have generally offered the observation as a warning.

In that context, I’d count this, from the Wall Street Journal, as a positive development:

President Donald Trump’s response to the weekend violence in Charlottesville, Va., has sparked a new round of soul-searching in U.S. corporate boardrooms over whether they should keep working closely with the White House….

The fallout is testing already-tense relations between the White House and corporate executives, many of whom face new pressures from employees, consumers and activists to take stands on social and political issues. At times, those issues have put them in direct opposition with a president whose pro-business agenda they are also seeking to shape.

You mean corporate giants aren’t going to have a disproportionate hand shaping the policies of a pro-growth president?  Not sure I see the downside of that.  On the other hand, two other stories currently at the top of the WSJ’s home page raise reason for concern, both inside and outside of government.

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Outside of government, the trend of the major technology firms using their leverage to blacklist people or groups with whom they disagree is certainly worthy of concern.  With the Internet being almost an overlay of society, shutting people out of it would be exactly like shutting individuals out of business opportunities, as during the era of segregation.  The balance may be tighter enforcement of anti-trust laws, so that the giants can’t form cartels that make it impossible for competitors to make different decisions or for individuals to build their own channels.

Inside government, the decision of the City of Baltimore to remove Confederate statues in the dead of night with no public notice should be disconcerting no matter one’s view of the outcome.  Making people and groups disappear from the Internet and from the public square through secretive statue removal is a terrifying echo of the darkest days of Soviet Communism.  Government and major corporations working in concert toward that end raises the specter of the sort of corporatism more common among early National Socialists and Italian fascists.

Another lesson of history is the likelihood that those who desire power above all will use disliked minorities as an excuse to set precedents that can then be expanded.  We must resist these purging urges while they are still limited or they will gain momentum that cannot be stopped.  That doesn’t mean making Confederate statues sacrosanct or removing the right of companies to decide whom they’ll accept as clients.  It does, however, mean resisting the expedience of secretive government action and ensuring that common spaces like the Internet are available to all by some mechanism.

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  • Mike678

    Agreed. Crony capitalism is not conducive to competition in the marketplace.

  • BasicCaruso

    I believe it’s spelled “Führer”.

    • Justin Katz

      Congrats. You’ve earned a smiley face sticker for spotting the not-so-subtle pun.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    I can’t help but wonder if these corporations are appealing to what they see as “the market”? Separating themselves from an unpopular President.

    How have we changed? It seems to me it was sometime in the 70’s, perhaps 80’s, The KKK (was it Neo-Nazis) determined to march in Skokie, IL (I understand this to be a largely Jewish town). They obtained their permit (after a court battle) I understand people simply turned their backs on them. No violence. Had we not yet learned that those who disagree with us are “haters”? Interestingly, the ACLU aided the KKK in Skokie, and the “white supremacists” in Charlottesville. Is that meaningful?

  • BasicCaruso

    “Making people and groups disappear from the Internet and from the public square through secretive statue removal is a terrifying echo of the darkest days of Soviet Communism.”

    Yes, we all know how terrifying the secret statue police were in the former Soviet bloc.

    So right-wing terrorists force cities to remove statues in the dark of night and their supporters hilariously claim that is somehow the hallmark of totalitarian communist states. Those statues stood in Baltimore throughout the race riots in 1968 and the race protests of 2015 without anyone getting murdered over their presence. I used to walk by the statue of Lee and Jackson all the time.

  • Merle The Monster

    The City of Baltimore established a commission in 2015 to review the monuments that were recently removed. There was public comment and recommendations were published.
    http://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/ce643a_dec453d9aee640848c62dd23a3fb8764.pdf

    I find it interesting that Katz supports private property rights absolutely when it involves what he calls religious freedom and others call discrimination such as the Catholic Church firing a teacher for having married another man and a baker who refused to provide services to a same sex couple. But he balks at the private companies that have denied their products and services to white supremacists. The lack of consistency may be that Katz does not recognize same sex marriage and reflexively supports fellow religious believers and so argues that there is no public space available to the customers at private businesses and no recourse for fired workers whose firing had nothing to do with their performance on the job. But in the case of white supremacists its, “Making people and groups disappear from the Internet ” and ” ensuring that common spaces like the Internet are available to all by some mechanism”‘ Maybe Katz will provide a safe place for them on his site if he has not already done so.

    • Justin Katz

      Your comment is uncalled for, and if I expected more of you, I’d ask for an apology.

      I’ve always included the statement that individual bakers, Churches, or what have you are not exactly monopoly industries. Individual bakers cannot deprive people of cake in our society. If they could, that might change the calculation. Indeed, I stressed in this post that companies should have the right to pick their markets.

      But when a handful of companies can systematically block a disfavored minority from access to something as central as the Internet, that does begin to call for closer scrutiny.

      • Merle The Monster

        Unfortunately your call for closer scrutiny should be directed towards the white supremacist groups.

        “On Twitter, white nationalist accounts have seen their follower totals grow 600 per cent since 2012 and now “outperform Isis in nearly every social metric, from follower counts to tweets per day”, according to a September 2016 study by the George Washington University programme on extremism.
        The American Nazi party’s Twitter account, for example, now has more than 13,000 followers, up from fewer than 1,800 in 2012.”

        These groups have access to the internet on forums like Reddit and 4chan.

        • Rhett Hardwick

          To draw on an ancient question “If a tree falls in the forest, and no one hears it, is there any noise”. If it were not for the “counter protesters” would there have been any incident?
          Who decided there was a need to “take up arms” against “haters”. They had a permit, and were exercising their right to “peacefully assemble, and redress their government”. Were it not for the counter protesters, who chose to “confront” rather than ignore them, the likelihood of “violence” seems remote.

          Let us not forget that “the car” was pelted with stones before the incident. Did this take an unstable personality and “push him over the edge”? Would it have happened without the rock throwing? Cui bono?

          • Merle The Monster

            You make a point that’s valid. But you need to separate groups like antifa from all the counter protesters and curious bystanders. The first amendment requirements were met by the government for the marchers, but I’m not sure you would want to see the same government attempt to prevent people from sharing those public spaces and exercising their own rights. So when to confront and when to ignore? There’s those that don’t believe that the strategy of physical confrontation of groups like Antifa’s is helpful. There are calls for ignoring and staying away from the planned Boston event tomorrow. I’m for ignoring speech rather than trying to prevent speakers from saying what they will as on college campuses, but I think that we need to recognize that there are moments in history when confrontation is needed. Staying on the sidelines can result in emboldening those white supremacists and may even signal complicity. You seem to suggest that it was entirely the actions of the counter protesters that led to violence. Is Heather Heyer then responsible for her own death? By the way the only people talking about the rock throwing involving the auto are the white nationalists. Cui bono!

          • Rhett Hardwick

            “By the way the only people talking about the rock throwing involving the auto are the white nationalists. ” That doesn’t surprise me, it ruins the story. Where I have seen it mentioned in the media, I don’t recall it being a quote. I guess we’ll have to wait for the trial. By which time it will be forgotten.

          • Merle The Monster

            So in others words you can’t provide a link which doesn’t surprise me

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