The Herald-Times violates its own standards again

A letter to the editor on January 6 took issue with IU Health, claiming that an IU Health employee said some things that the author finds offensive and hurtful. (I am intentionally not linking to the letter. It is not difficult to find on the website.) Now, there are things within the letter that I could take issue with, but there is a more basic issue here than the content of the letter – one outlined by a previous editor of the Herald-Times:

“I’ve rejected many letters similar to this one about an individual’s dispute with a teacher, a specific business, a coach or even a personal interaction with a government official. If I were to run your letter, it would set a precedent for running others in which one person’s grievance against another person were to be aired in the Letters to the Editor column. That’s not an appropriate use of that column. Further, it would not be fair to the person on the receiving end of the criticism.”

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When “lying” is a meaningless accusation

I have always defended the use of the word “liar,” because it is necessary to hold people accountable when they distort facts or actively fabricate things to smear others. Pointing out that a liar actually is a liar is not only not uncivil, it protects civility in the public sphere because lies are destructive. However, far too often the accusation of “lying” is merely a way to say “I disagree with this person.”

One of the comments on my most recent letter to the editor was that “equating embryos with babies” is an “outright lie.” So if this man speaks to a pregnant woman who says something about her “baby,” does he calls her a liar? What about the woman’s husband? Does he call the father a liar? Of course, unless you are a total fanatic, you would not do that. I presume that if this person sees a woman being comforted after a miscarriage, he would not break out the word “liar” if someone expresses sadness (or if the woman herself expresses sadness) over her “losing her baby” – unless he is a total monster.

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What is a lie?

Are the demands for Facebook to deal with “deep fake” videos and “misinformation” about preventing manipulation of the 2020 election (especially by foreign sources) or is the real motivation much more insidious?

One thing is sure: The demands for Facebook to prohibit “lies” on the platform are getting louder. But I have one very simple question: What is a lie? It sounds like a simple question, but it is actually more complicated than one would think, and that question needs a solid answer before Facebook implements more policies. I have been accused of “lying” literally hundreds of times when what I said was factually true. The accusation of “lying” is not a legitimate argument meant to point out actual falsehoods – it is an effort to smear me personally and silence me.

This is where I suspect many of these demands are going – to silence conservatives and prevent pro-Trump content from spreading. Conservatives already rightly distrust Big Tech in general and social media specifically, and we are rightly skeptical of calls for Facebook to take action against “lies” and “misinformation” on the platform. So if this is to be a good faith effort, what should be the standard for removing content?

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You have to pick one

I like a lot of what David French says, but he has Trump Derangement Syndrome and he has it bad. Two things from French’s column:

  • “Trump’s belief is faked-moon-landing level nonsense, and he explicitly linked it to military aid”
  • Trump “tried to coerce a desperate, dependent ally into investigating a domestic political opponent”

Both statements cannot be true.

If Trump believes the conspiracy theory, then he was acting to fight corruption in Ukraine. Therefore, he doesn’t have the mens rea to be guilty of a crime. You may not like what he did, but you have a difference over policy, not a criminal offense.

If Trump does NOT believe the conspiracy theory and is using it as cover to get a foreign nation to meddle in 2020, then you have the mens rea for a crime to have taken place.

You have to pick one.

Just say “no” to a Patronage Tax

So the Mayor of Bloomington is proposing increasing the county income tax to bring in $8 million every year for a new Patronage Departm… I mean a new Climate Change Department. Wait, did I have it right the first time? In any case, this is a bad idea and should be rejected.

First, let’s be honest here. There is literally not one single thing that a relatively small city in Indiana can do to lower global temperatures by one one hundredth of a degree, much less have any effect on climate generally. If climate change is a problem to be tackled, it must be handled at the international level. There are things we can do nationally, but we will have to get nations like China and India on board of we are going to deal with worldwide carbon emissions. Even nationally, Bloomington does not matter one bit in terms of carbon emissions in these United States.

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Impeachment is about criminalizing policy

One thing is very clear and has been since the summer: The impeachment drama was never serious. This was always about “Orange Man Bad,” but it is also about criminalizing differences in policy. That is a dangerous precedent for the future. This will make impeachments more common, and this will be used against future Democratic presidents.

It would help President Trump’s case if he was not so defensive about the call with Ukraine’s president, instead of insisting it was a “perfect call” and demanding that other Republicans repeat the same line. It was not a perfect call. Had Trump gone through proper channels within the diplomatic apparatus, and not mentioned Joe Biden at all, none of this would be an issue.

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Movie Review: The Rise of Skywalker

Warning: There are spoilers in this review.

The biggest complaint I have about The Rise of Skywalker is that it shrinks the Star Wars universe. For the problems of some of the previous movies (specifically the really bad dialogue between Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala in Episode II) the one thing George Lucas has always been exceptionally good at is building a wider universe. There is room for many more movies, set both before and after the trilogy that just ended, with the lore Lucas established. This movie undoes a lot of that.

Before I get into that, I want to address the complains here and elsewhere that the “relationship” between Kylo Ren and Rey is a “toxic” relationship that glorifies men abusing their romantic partners. To which I have a very simple question: Did you actually watch the movie?

I did, and there is no hint of romance between Rey and Kylo until the very end of the movie. She sees him as an enemy throughout the movie, determined to defeat him and the First Order. He is determined to either turn her to the Dark Side or destroy her – just as Darth Vader did with Luke Skywalker.

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