Meanwhile On Earth: An Empire Of Confusion…
So, yes, I’m a bit political today. It’s going to happen once in a while, because a whole lot of the time, as an English teacher, I try to convey the real value of Free Speech to my students. In this case, I’m going to attempt to keep my comments short, and the post as well, because honestly…its not the point of my little webcomic.
I’m really focusing on Free Speech here, and less on our Chief Executive…although I think that his campaign (and actions as President) have brought us to a crisis of Free Speech. An important crisis, that really can’t be ignored.
One of the things that my students have the hardest time understanding are these two points:
1. Not all speech is protected under the First Amendment.
2. Not everyone has the same level of Free Speech.
It’s not trivial to note here that I think the President of the United States has the same failure of understanding here as my students, on those two points. A quick review of any of his Tweets made into news suggests that kind of basic misunderstanding. I’m actually kind of startled that he still HAS a Twitter account. The account itself is a giant security risk, being unsecured…as well as the constant, freewheeling use of it creating security risks.
For instance…in a Tweet on Monday, the President basically commented on classified information. The argument is that it had already leaked to press, and was covered by Fox News. That’s…fine? I mean…for Fox News. It’s the burden of journalists to “go after a story” and print facts that they find without management by the state. That leak, and publication…it’s the business of journalism.
However…the leak doesn’t declassify the information. Not by a long shot. So…it’s bad form, and a massive security breach, for the President to basically confirm a leaked piece of classified military information. Just like it’s not okay to tell visiting Russian dignitaries “code word clearance” items…the clear and present danger to countless lives involved makes these not appropriate uses of Free Speech.
Like yelling “Fire” in a crowded movie theatre. Speech so dangerous, in an immediate sense, that it isn’t protected.
More importantly is the second part…not everyone’s Free Speech is the same. Not even close. Confidentiality matters in my profession…I can’t just talk about student A to student B’s parents. I can’t talk about their grades, or any “consequences” that they might incur for conduct. Lawyers and doctors have “privilege”, making their speech confidential with the client. In all of those jobs, breaking the “privilege of confidentiality” could have you drummed out of the profession.
Obviously, the level of responsibility is sloped there…teachers at the low end, and doctors at the highest. The reality is that Free Speech applies differently to different levels of professional responsibility. Breaching that can cost you your job.
The President of the United States is the highest level of professional responsibility, possibly on planet Earth. The examples I mentioned above are simple breaches of important professional confidentiality…to be honest, some people might consider them somewhat worse than that. The Orb of Zero Responsibility clearly gets to work overtime in the White House Offices, because it constantly needs to shield against these kinds of “leaks.”
I drew this, and then, late the same night, saw that the President took an impromptu meeting with the press about the situation in North Korea. He promised to “rain down” American military force with “fire, fury, and power” that “the world has never seen.” I was honestly stunned with how irresponsible that seemed to me.
More importantly, I was boggled at the sheer strength of the rhetoric. We weren’t seeing a measured response, nor some kind of tiered consequences. It was straight up telling another, adversarial country to stand down, or we will come for you. It was the political equivalent of a person yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre…it can only produce a dangerous panic. In fact, it DID create a dangerous panic in ME, at least.
That Orb of Zero Consequences isn’t an INFINITY Orb. It’s protections can’t go on forever. I really don’t want to be some kind of collateral damage for when it gives out, and non zero consequences happen as a result of our Chief Executive comporting himself like a private citizen, and one from an eighties board room at that.
I had planned for this to post (hence my drawing schedule) on the same day that “Secret Empire” No. 8 by Marvel Comics shipped to stores. The metaphor in “Secret Empire” is very, very heavy handed, with a right wing organization taking over the government of the United States, using it’s highest figurehead. It’s dark, it is dystopian, and I have pretty much been down on it for the summer. The original intent here was to have things be “bad” on Earth, so that Cap would return, despite the Trump Wall Planetary Shield surrounding the entire planet.
“Bad” wasn’t supposed to be the situation that I woke up to this morning. “Bad” wasn’t supposed to be the United States highest figurehead threatening another nuclear power, on television.
Oddly, “bad” was just supposed to be misuse of Free Speech, possible collusion with foreign powers, obstruction of both Free Speech and the justice system, and the idea that a Federal Grand Jury had been convened on THOSE points. Those are the kinds of things I believe you use the Orb of Zero Consequences on. They are big, they are “bad”…but they aren’t picking a fight with another country that just invented nukes and has a beef with you.
In a disheartening trend this bad behavior is extending itself to the collective unconscious. Have you browsed Twitter lately? I advise NOT. I very intelligent friend of mine described it as “unfettered id,” and I would have to say that this is accurate. Free Speech has turned a corner…and somehow, it has become socially valid in some way to spout vitriol and hate in approximates 155 character blasts. Things that previously might have been THOUGHT, but were collectively considered too foul, discriminatory or upsetting to SAY, are suddenly out in plain, often aggressive and abrasive sight.
I go back to school next week, with students in class on Tuesday. I have never taught under conditions like these, with pervasive ideas of racism toward immigrants (almost ALL of my students), and a legit “Cold War” style threat of nuclear assault. I cannot imagine what my students’ mindset is like, when mine is tinged with real worry.
What do I say to a student when they ask me, “Do you think North Korea is a real threat?” Or, “Why doesn’t the President want people coming to the country legally?”