Tag: twitter

Laura Loomer Leads Yellow Vests Against Pelosi

James Sweet III | United States

Laura Loomer, a self-described conservative activist that is permanently banned from Twitter, lead a protest against Speaker Nancy Pelosi on January 14th. Fellow protesters donned the yellow vests that became an icon following the mass riots and protests that occurred in France. Will Johnson of Unite America First, a conservative organization that supports President Trump and his policies, was also present.

The protest occurred at Pelosi’s mansion lawn, where Loomer and her fellow protesters brought along illegal immigrants and set up a sanctuary for them. The protesters carried pictures of Americans who were killed by immigrants that entered the country. Loomer then attempted to enter Pelosi’s house but was stopped by locked doors.

This is not the first time that Loomer has protested against what can be labeled as leftist policy decisions. Loomer, after being banned on Twitter, chained herself to the doors of Twitter’s HQ. She also brought a poster that showed the tweet that got her banned, as well as another tweet that displayed blatant anti-Semitic rhetoric yet never got taken down.

Loomer was approached by police and was asked to show her identification, but she refused, stating, “Gavin Newsom said we don’t need ID’s.” The alleged illegal immigrants that she brought along could not provide ID. She was removed from Pelosi’s property, but no arrests were made at the scene of the protest. The live stream of the event ended with the protesters talking about donating to Loomer. She stated that she needs money or else she will not be able to provide for herself.

The presence of illegal immigrants has led to Speaker Pelosi calling to speak them, which, hopefully, will open up dialogue over the issue between conservatives and liberals.


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Freedom of Speech Upheld in Face of ‘Nazi Salute’ Backlash

Nickolas Roberson | United States

School officials at Baraboo High School of Baraboo, Wisconsin, have decided that the students who were involved in a now-viral immage of them performing a Nazi, “sieg heil,” salute will not be punished. The picture was taken prior to Baraboo High School’s 2018 spring prom, and posted to the High School’s twitter account.

The school has faced significant backlash, with many claiming that the students are white supremacists and Nazis. In the face of the backlash, Lori Mueller, the superintendent of the school district stated in a letter sent to parents of the school district, “…we cannot know the intentions in the hearts of those who were involved. Moreover, because of the students’ First Amendment rights, the district is not in a position to punish the students for their actions.”

This is a tremendous improvement in the recognition of our natural and Constitutional rights in our modern-day school systems, as many high schools and universities crack down on almost any student or faculty member who dares speak out against the leftist collective opinions that run rampant in educational institutions. A prime example of this violation of our First Amendment right can be found at Shawnee State University, where a philosophy professor was forced to use a transgender student’s preferred gender pronoun rather than their name. The teacher, Nicholas Meriwether, referred to one of his students by their preferred name, as their proposed gender identity went against their biological gender of being a male, thus going against Meriwether’s evangelical Christian beliefs. Rather than respecting the professor’s freedom of speech and preference of using the student’s name, the university, donning their totalitarian jackboots, clamped down on his right to free speech, and forced the teacher to utilize the student’s gender pronouns of “she” and “Miss”.

It is a dreadful shame that public schools and universities, the proposed and advertised catalysts of innovation, expansion in logic and reason, and scientific progress and expansion, are strangling themselves of the freedoms of thought, expression, and speech. Nowadays, they choose to adopt the tantalizing, yet dreadful, ideologies of thought control and suppression, attempting to please the wicked idealogues of cultural Marxism.

Hopefully, with the recognition and respect of the First Amendment right of the students at Baraboo High School who participated in the Nazi salute photograph and Twitter posting, other public schools and institutions will follow this same path of respecting our natural and constitutional freedoms and liberties. Now, this absolutely does not mean we should accept the terrible, malevolent, and oppressive ideas of Nazism; on the contrary, one should always speak out against any and all totalitarian idea groups and theories. However, even though these students are most likely not Nazis and the photograph was a joke, we must respect the opinions of our fellow countrymen. To quote the author Evelyn Beatrice Hall, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”


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Elon Musk’s Bizarre Twitter Marketing Strategy

Nickolas Roberson | United States

Elon Musk is quite a curious and peculiar individual. The man has 120-hour work weeks and sleeps in his factories for days at a time, and he has also been seen insulting an analyst during a Tesla earnings call. Musk also appeared on Joe Rogan’s podcast, discussed his companies and smoked a blunt, and has been accusing the British diver, Vernon Unsworth, who helped save 12 members of a junior Thai soccer team trapped in a cave, of pedophilia; the investor and business magnate is constantly stirring up a storm. Yet there is one thing that is the most peculiar of them all: his Twitter account.

The utilization of Twitter by CEOs of major corporations is usually very limited; their posts and tweets are low in frequency and presence, yet high in rectitude. The Twitter account of Jeff Bezos, founder, and CEO of Amazon is a prime example of this, with his postings consisting of the political support, history, and news concerning Amazon.

These corporate executives have surrounded themselves with and have had their lives consumed with the professionalism that runs rampant in corporate culture, with its pressed suits and ties, firm handshakes, and lack of personalization. They refuse to relax, unwind, and have some fun in their lives. However, Elon Musk appears to be breaking the mold of this, with postings such as this:

That’s right, one of the brightest minds of this century, the CEO of multiple, billion-dollar corporations, and the man pushing humanity to the stars is asking his 23 million followers for memes. A meme, as defined by Dictionary.com, is “a cultural item in the form of an image, video, phrase, etc. that is spread via the Internet and often altered in a creative or humorous way.” They’re the iconic Grumpy Cat, the mocking Spongebob, and the “nothing but respect for MY president” phrases that are posted and flood all of our social media accounts.  Yet this meme Tweet is not the first, and most certainly not the last, bizarre Tweet that Musk has shared with the world. There are others such as this, where he compared major social media sights to popular video games:

Or when Musk confessed his love and passion for anime, and that he owns a Wolverine chibi:

… after which he was quickly locked out of his Twitter account:

There was even a string of Tweets where Musk talked about his presumed past life of being a sponge:

Social media plays a major role in everyone’s lives; in the year 2005, only 5 percent of Americans used a form of social media, but that figure increased to 69 percent by the year 2011.  Thus, by posting memes and bizarre Tweets in general, Musk is marketing himself and his companies to the individuals who are entranced by “meme culture.” He is marketing especially towards Generation Z, who are young adults and teenagers born between the mid-1990s to mid-2000s. Of people who are between the ages of 18 and 29, 88 percent of them use social media; these forms of social media include, but are certainly not limited to, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Snapchat.

These individuals utilize social media differently than past generations, spending much more time on it than any other generation and by using it mainly for entertainment, rather than connecting with friends. Vibrant pictures and videos garner the attention of these young people, especially memes, with nearly every teenager today being absolutely absorbed by and addicted to memes. This addiction was confirmed back in 2016 when Google Trends discovered that “memes” surpassed “Jesus” in the number of searches on Google platforms. That’s right, the central figure of the largest religion in the entirety of this Earth, with 2.4 billion religious followers, was deemed less searchable than funny and absurd images on the Internet by the tech junkies of the world.  

Thus, by marketing his Twitter toward this “meme culture,” Musk is also gaining the attention of these young people, allowing his companies to create a customer base which will last for years to come. His absurd tweets begging for memes and discussing the Precambrian era aren’t instances of insanity as suggested by his stockholders and major figures in politics and media, but are a strategic plan to further the longevity of his businesses: Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity, and the plethora of other ventures that the billionaire has started.


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Supreme Court to Solve Free Speech v. Private Corporation Debate

By Mason Mohon | United States

Brett Kavanaugh’s turbulent entrance into the Supreme Court will first be met with a potentially groundbreaking free speech case. The case is that of Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck, No. 17-702. As CNBC reports, this case centers around whether a private operator of a public access television network is considered a state actor, which would leave it accountable to the free speech protections in the First Amendment.

Producers DeeDee Halleck and Jesus Melendez say that Manhattan Neighborhood Network suspended them for expressing views that were critical of the network, which they claim violates their right to free speech. Attornies for MNN have said the court now has the opportunity to use this case to solve the larger question of social media censorship. In their final plea, MNN wrote the following.

We stand at a moment when the very issue at the heart of this case—the interplay between private entities, nontraditional media, and the First Amendment—has been playing out in the courts, in other branches of government, and in the media itself.

Although this case is not directly related to social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter, the decision would have implications on the workings of those companies. Most social media is “public access.” Any user can log in at no cost as long as they have an internet connection and a device to access it. The recent banning of conservative and alternative voices has left those that lay outside of the 3 by 5 of political opinions worried. Alex Jones is the most notable of the bunch. His organization, Infowars, was removed from every mainstream social media platform.

As this case reaches the Supreme Court, one must wonder what a ruling in favor of the producers would mean for America. Libertarian ethics stand staunchly against state action when it comes to the inner workings of private companies, and this includes the social media giants. Many libertarians would rather that the social media platforms remain outside of the control of the state than have secured access to them. It is a noble and ethical decision, but it may come at a cost.

The state is here to stay, and so are the social media titans. It may be of strategic advantage to have the state permanently insulate revolutionary ideas into these platforms. It may, in fact, ensure the eventual destruction of these organizations. Ideas are important, and they need to clash. Libertarians could start social movements to get people to use their sovereignty as a consumer to leave these platforms, but that may prove difficult. A layperson is far more susceptible to the dopamine addiction that these companies have planted into their minds than they are to libertarian theory. The endless mindless scrolling through an Instagram feed is a far preferable decision to the average individual than taking up Rothbardianism and carrying out the revolution.

So this case poses a potential question to libertarians – strategy or brutally logical ethics? It is a tough choice, and either way, libertarians have a tough fight ahead of them. But that seems to be the way that it will always be for the men and women fighting for freedom amidst people who are more than happy being a member of the herd. Or an NPC.


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From The Information Age To The Era Of Intellectual Laziness

Craig Axford | Canada

In a 2013 column published in the Huffington Post entitled Why Public Schools Don’t Teach Critical Thinking, retired high-school teacher Frank Breslin lamented the state of modern American education:

The minds of children need room to breathe, to be inspired by vision, and the health-bringing balm of many perspectives. They need exercise, play, and relaxation; in short, they need a sound body and spirit to have a sound mind. Rather than spending their magical years entombed in cram-school dungeons that prepare them for impossibly difficult tests, children need old-fashioned schools where every day they can learn something new in classrooms that echo with laughter and joy!

Unfortunately, it’s government policy to make sure schools are anything but the kind of places Breslin envisioned for students. By emphasizing standardized testing that evaluates how many predetermined facts a student can memorize rather than their capacity to conduct research and pursue their own lines of inquiry, America has created a citizenry increasingly predisposed to simply accept whatever they read uncritically. Now it is paying dearly for following that path.

At a time when we often bemoan the inability of Democrats and Republicans to work together on much of anything, it’s worth remembering that the pursuit of standardized testing has been a thoroughly bipartisan undertaking; President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation passed in 2001 with strong bipartisan support. In the speech he delivered before the student’s of Ohio’s Hamilton High School prior to signing the NCLB legislation, President Bush spoke of the importance of “accountability” and made it clear that a strong emphasis on testing was key to determining whether or not schools were meeting expectations:

The first way to solve a problem is to diagnose it. And so, what this bill says, it says every child can learn. And we want to know early, before it’s too late, whether or not a child has a problem in learning. I understand taking tests aren’t fun. Too bad. We need to know in America. We need to know whether or not children have got the basic education.

When President Obama took office, he initially doubled down on standardized testing. He too was, at least at first, clearly convinced that what was needed was a more objective measurement of a student’s knowledge. Though President Obama’s “Race To The Top” initiative did call upon states to “develop standards and assessments that don’t simply measure whether students can fill in a bubble on a test, but whether they possess 21st century skills like problem-solving and critical thinking, entrepreneurship and creativity,” it still placed an extremely strong emphasis upon standardization to ensure these goals were being achieved.

However, by 2015, President Obama was doing a mea culpa on standardized testing. He announced the amount of time spent in the classroom preparing for tests should be limited. In one of the more reflective moments of his presidency, Obama stated, “When I look back on the great teachers who shaped my life, what I remember isn’t the way they prepared me to take a standardized test.” He went on to admit that “too much testing, and from teachers who feel so much pressure to teach to a test that it takes the joy out of teaching and learning,” had caused more harm than good.

. . .

We live in a culture that places a high value on efficiency. Understandably, we want the next generation to have a firm grasp on certain basic skills that are essential to any real chance of success in the modern world. Reading, writing, and arithmetic — commonly referred to as “the 3 Rs” — are at the top of the list.

Unfortunately, the mastery of these skills doesn’t guarantee that a student has also learned how to put them to good use. While the United States has achieved a reasonably high literacy rate, increasingly people are using their ability to read and write to kill hours each day on social media rather than becoming informed citizens or otherwise enriching their lives.

According to a study just released by the American Psychological Association, the use of digital media by teens increased dramatically between 2006 and 2016. Jean M. Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University and the lead author of the study, states that social media use during leisure hours doubled among high school seniors during that period. Among 10th graders usage increased by 75% while among 8th graders it increased by 68%.

“In the mid-2010s, the average American 12th-grader reported spending approximately two hours a day texting, just over two hours a day on the internet — which included gaming — and just under two hours a day on social media,” Twenge is quoted saying on the science website Science Daily. “That’s a total of about six hours per day on just three digital media activities during their leisure time.”

According to the same Science Daily story, the steep rise in digital media usage has been associated with an even more extreme drop in the use of print media. The article states:

The decline in reading print media was especially steep. In the early 1990s, 33 percent of 10th-graders said they read a newspaper almost every day. By 2016, that number was only 2 percent. In the late 1970s, 60 percent of 12th-graders said they read a book or magazine almost every day; by 2016, only 16 percent did. Twelfth-graders also reported reading two fewer books each year in 2016 compared with 1976, and approximately one-third did not read a book (including e-books) for pleasure in the year prior to the 2016 survey, nearly triple the number reported in the 1970s.

Perhaps these trends wouldn’t be nearly as disconcerting if the rise in digital media use and the associated decline in the use of printed material wasn’t also coming at a time when so many members of the same generation were exhibiting such difficulty discerning between reliable news stories and “fake” news.

In a study coincidentally released just two weeks after the 2016 presidential election, Stanford University researchers reported students at all levels exhibited extremely poor skills when it came to conducting research and evaluating content online. According to the study’s executive summary, “Our ‘digital natives’ may be able to flit between Facebook and Twitter while simultaneously uploading a selfie to Instagram and texting a friend. But when it comes to evaluating information that flows through social media channels, they are easily duped.”

The Stanford study involved 7,804 subjects from middle school through university age. The sample comprised students from 12 states, including students from elite universities that rejected over 90% of their applicants and public institutions with high acceptance rates. Students were given age-appropriate problems to evaluate and research online including reasons to doubt the accuracy of content, assessing evidence, and verification of various claims. The results were not encouraging.

The Stanford team’s assessment of middle schoolers found that “More than 80% of students believed that the native advertisement, identified by the words ‘sponsored content,’ was a real news story.” Among high school students shown a post entitled “Fukushima Nuclear Flowers” with a picture of what appear to be white daisies exhibiting what were alleged to be various “birth defects,” the students “ignored key details, such as the source of the photo. Less than 20% of students constructed ‘mastery’ responses, or responses that questioned the source of the post or the source of the photo. On the other hand, nearly 40% of students argued that the post provided strong evidence because it presented pictorial evidence about conditions near the power plant.” The caption gave no indication where the photo was actually taken.

University undergrads from three different universities were shown a tweet announcing “new polling” on NRA members’ views on background checks for potential gun purchasers. According to the Stanford study, “Results indicated that students struggled to evaluate tweets. Only a few students noted that the tweet was based on a poll conducted by a professional polling firm and explained why this would make the tweet a stronger source of information.” Only a third of the students paid any attention to the agendas of MoveOn.org or the Center for American Progress and how that might influence the content.

When it came to undergraduate students, researchers also noted “An interesting trend that emerged” from their tests. Over 50% of “students failed to click on the link provided within the tweet.” In addition, “Some of these students did not click on any links and simply scrolled up and down within the tweet.” Others tried to investigate, but searched using the CAP acronym for the Center for American Progress provided in the tweet. This type of search “did not produce useful information.”

. . .

The use of fake news to influence the election of 2016, reveals it isn’t just our young adults that lack the skills to detect and resist misinformation. Many of their parents and grandparents also lack the critical thinking and research skills necessary to place information in context and separate the wheat from the chaff. In many respects, the most troubling aspect of this problem isn’t our apparent gullibility but our ongoing refusal to do much if anything about it.

The focus on standardized testing is a symptom of an education system literally designed to teach students what to think rather than how to think. Memorization, not research skills and hands-on learning, became even more of a focus as successive governments drank the testing Kool-Aid. Time-consuming experiments or other projects were dropped to make room for lessons that drilled the right answers into students. Arts programs that fostered creativity and instilled an appreciation for culture were cut or eliminated altogether in the name of efficiency. Our schools became factories that mimicked the routinized schedules of the workplace while denying students the chance to ask questions, challenge the ideas being presented to them, and figure things out for themselves.

It doesn’t have to be this way. A recent episode of the BBC World Service podcast The Documentary highlighted work being done to determine the best approaches for instilling in children a basic grasp of what qualifies as evidence and the importance of understanding the basis of the claims they will inevitably hear from salesmen, politicians, and even family members over the course of their lives. The program, entitled You Can Handle The Truth, doesn’t just reveal how successful such efforts can be but how much delight children actually take in learning how to unmask poorly supported assertions and outright falsehoods.

The program’s host, the British statistician Sir David Spiegelhalter, traveled to Uganda to see the results of these efforts for himself. Researchers and educators in that country had been working with a Norwegian team on educational materials designed to teach elementary age students how to make more informed health choices.

The young Ugandan students were given a comic book that depicted individuals confronting a number of difficult choices. Among the most popular comic book characters is a parrot that, as parrots are known to do, repeats back everything it hears unquestioningly. Over the course of the school year, students discussed the various scenarios described within the book with their teachers and learned the importance of asking those making a claim what the basis for it was and how to better evaluate the answers they heard in response.

The Ugandan program involved 10,000 students from 120 schools. Sixty of the schools were placed in a control group. Students at these institutions received no additional instruction. In the remaining 60 schools, students participated in lessons and activities designed to provide them with basic critical thinking skills. At the end of the year, students from all 120 schools were tested and the differences between the control group and the test group assessed.

The results of that testing revealed the program had produced the desired effect and in a big way. All students were given 24 problems to solve or evaluate. Thirteen right answers were considered a passing grade. The 24 questions presented to students on the test were unique and had not been problems considered as part of the critical thinking curriculum.

In the control group, 27% of the students passed the test. In the intervention group, 69% received a passing score. Even teachers in the two groups were tested. Among the control group’s teachers, 87% passed, while the intervention group saw 98% of the teachers get a passing grade.

One of the problems the researchers anticipated but never encountered is one that will likely sound familiar to Americans; parents becoming upset as their children begin coming home from school with tough questions about cherished beliefs and cultural practices. Uganda is a country with a rich history of folk remedies and superstition. Researchers feared that having children go off to school in the morning happily accepting particular family or cultural traditions only to return in the evening wondering about the basis for the claims surrounding grandma’s famous herbal remedy could turn parents against their efforts.

However, Ugandan parents, at least so far, haven’t made a fuss. Their children are excited to be learning and take delight in being empowered to question their elders about things that have been taken for granted for generations. To everyone’s surprise, parents and other family members don’t seem to mind.

Sir David Spiegelhalter also took a trip to California for his BBC program. That state is currently considering legislation that will mandate media literacy education.  Spiegelhalter paid a visit to one California classroom where students were asked to research various theories into who or what sank the Battleship Maine in Havana’s harbor on February 15, 1898. The sinking of the Maine ultimately led the United States into a war with Spain.

American parents aren’t likely to get too upset if their children conclude an American battleship that sank over 100 years ago went down due to an accident instead of a Spanish mine as was widely assumed at the time, but it’s hard to imagine many of them remaining silent when it comes to climate change, evolution, vaccines, or race relations. They haven’t so far. In just the past year Mark Twain and Harper Lee were targeted by the school board in Duluth, Minnesota because their books contained language that might make students feel “humiliated or marginalized.”

One of the appeals of the reading, writing, and arithmetic mantra is that learning these skills, at least in theory, doesn’t require teachers to raise too many questions or address contemporary controversies. Once a kid has the capacity to read, it’s just assumed they will figure it all out for themselves as an adult when and if they choose to. But learning to read is about more than just memorizing the alphabet and passing a spelling test. It’s about knowing how to think too.

The California media literacy bill failed on its first attempt in 2017, but it’s back again this year. If it passes, implementation will certainly be carefully watched to see what kind of impact it has on students being thrown into the sea of digital technologies we’ve created. Will they sink or swim? One thing is certain, however; it increasingly appears as though everything is riding upon their capacity to keep their heads above water.

In the August 27 issue of the New York Times, the author Thomas Chatterton Williams reviews two new books hitting the shelves: The Splintering of the American Mind and The Coddling of the American Mind. As the titles suggest, their authors rue the polarization, hypersensitivity, and inability to cope with controversies that now grips Americans right across the political spectrum.

But what got my attention wasn’t Williams assessment of these newly published works so much as the closing paragraph of his review. It was clearly more about us than it was either of the books he had just shared his thoughts on. Williams concludes:

What both of these books make clear from a variety of angles is that if we are going to beat back the regressive populism, mendacity and hyperpolarization in which we are currently mired, we are going to need an educated citizenry fluent in a wise and universal liberalism. This liberalism will neither play down nor fetishize identity grievances, but look instead for a common and generous language to build on who we are more broadly, and to conceive more boldly what we might be able to accomplish in concert. Yet as the tenuousness of even our most noble and seemingly durable civil rights gains grows more apparent by the news cycle, we must also reckon with the possibility that a full healing may forever lie on the horizon. And so we will need citizens who are able to find ways to move on despite this, without letting their discomfort traumatize or consume them. If the American university is not the space to cultivate this strong and supple liberalism, then we are in deep and lasting trouble.”

The anti-democratic forces that are currently so vocal in the United States would no doubt frame the kind of educational goals Williams identifies as some sort of conspiracy to destroy their movement and they would be right. They will claim that any attempt to instill in children critical thinking skills and an understanding of the nation’s history, laws, and aspirations are biased because these efforts fail to treat their own anti-intellectual, unscientific, and undemocratic points of view as worthy of equal of time. Again, they will be correct.

Freedom of speech means everyone gets to express themselves. However, it does not mean that every idea deserves equal press coverage or even any press coverage at all. Thinking is hard work precisely because it requires us to critically evaluate the concepts we’re exposed to. It determines not only what is and isn’t worthy of our time and attention but which ideas have the potential to either threaten or enrich our lives and those of our fellow citizens. There are sound methods for making these determinations that have proven themselves over and over again, but they can’t do us any good if we refuse to learn them.


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