The war on everything

I celebrated my thirty-third trip around the sun last week, and as a gift I was given the funds to purchase a shiny new toy that I have been lusting after for some time, Valve’s portable gaming PC the Steam Deck.

Undaunted by the reality of finally having to learn the ins and outs of whatever Linux is, I pulled the trigger on the order, but found myself blocked by my financial institution. Not because the money wasn’t on hand, but rather because their fraud department had thought it strange that I would be buying one. I called customer support, assuring them it was in fact me behind the transaction and they allowed it to go through.

Hopefully, the worker elves at Valve will quickly slap together and ship out the device, and that it arrives in one piece, the weather and the Minot Post Office permitting. Given the escalating headlines we’ve been having lately I’m going to need a distraction.

Two and half tons of uranium recently went missing in Libya, our game of apocalyptic chicken with Putin’s Regime has been inflamed even further by the downing of an American drone, and we may be on the precipice of complete financial collapse. That particular thread was kicked off by the failure of institutions like Silicon Valley Bank, brought low by bank runs and a financial crunch created by rising interest rates.

I will confess that my first thought when the payment for the Steam Deck didn’t go through was that the memetic hazard of bank runs was more pervasive than the White House’s assurances have let on. I resisted the urge to empty out my bank account and transfer it into my Steam Wallet, even as I listened to a report on the rumblings and growing panic for the state of Swiss bank Credit Suisse.

“There’s nothing to fear, but fear itself,” as our 32nd President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, but today some lawmakers in Washington seem to be taking that entreaty rather literally.

Even amid hearings dissecting the odious corpse of the nascent federal censorship complex, Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly from Arizona asked federal agencies during a hearing how these mechanisms could be wielded to censor and squash conversation on social media that raises doubts about bank solvency. Never mind that those pulling their money out of these doomed banks picked up their panic more than likely from reading The Wall Street Journal and not some random message board.

Joining topics like Ivermectin, the efficacy of certain mandated medical decisions, election integrity, and Hunter Biden’s Laptop, bank solvency is yet another topic that must be curated to maintain the reality presented by the government and its organs in the Big Tech and the media.

Tech companies can block posts and other content whether they are public or private, and based on the record they are willing to do so like they did with the New York Post coverage of the Biden laptop. Even direct messages between friends were scanned and censored to prevent any sharing of links of images related to that topic on Twitter and other major platforms, something that Twitter executives say was typically used to curtail the proliferation of child sexual abuse material.

Drunk on this power, people like Kelly now only see nails, and will go to great lengths to make sure they’re the only people wielding the hammer, deciding exactly how the Internet will be sanitized and shrinking the Overton Window to their liking. Which might explain the consternation and massive pendulum swings from their counterparts in the Republican Party around the country, and especially here in North Dakota.

Attempting to track and follow the swirling of partisan culture war rhetoric in the Legislature this session is a thankless task, and despite my best efforts I feel like I still have no clue what is or isn’t happening. The tenor and tone, however, are undeniable, a reflection of a groundswell within the Republican electorate to reject and inoculate the state and its schools from the pet projects and ideologies of the progressive left.

Whatever the goals behind the “War on Wokeness,” there will be casualties these lawmakers seemingly did not consider when they first drafted their bills. While it seems there have been some reasonable concessions made during crossover, it still boggles the mind that librarians had to point out to lawmakers that the law criminalized simply having sultry romance novel paperbacks in sight of minors.

Sen. Keith Boehm from Mandan said during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee that under SB 2360 a given book will be “taken as a whole,” which is to say that a single sexually explicit scene does not relegate a book out of the system. The likes of the Bible, Art Spiegelman’s “Maus,” or George Orwell’s “1984” would then be spared, as well as many entries in the Western canon that in theory ran afoul of the original provisions.

Should the likes of “Let’s Talk About It” by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan be made available to young children? Definitely not, considering it is targeted at high school aged teens. According to House Majority Leader Mike Lefor of Dickinson, the lead sponsor of the other library bill, HB 1205, “Let’s Talk About It” is “225 pages of despicable filth.” Is it fair to categorize the controversial graphic novel as no different than truck stop pornography? In my skimming of the book, it is clearly explicit, but only in a clinical sense that is intended to inform rather than to titillate, which can’t be said for the works of Danielle Steele.

Do I begrudge the desire from some parents to have better awareness and control over curation of the content available to their children? I can’t say that I do, especially when their tax dollars are involved. However, we don’t need censorious legislation to achieve that when there already is a process in place to request the reconsideration of material in libraries. Based on the testimony of librarians to the Legislature, it is a process that is completely underutilized by the very people who are upset about what books are in their local public library.

The reality is, there is little shelter from censorship within the tents of the major political parties, and the gaping holes and slashes in them are entirely self-inflicted by the true believers among their ranks. The same people currently grabbing for books in libraries probably cried foul when certain Dr. Seuss books were taken out of circulation. On the other hand, those decrying the actions of the N.D. Legislature are exactly the crowd whose sensibilities drove the recent decision to bowdlerize the works of Roald Dahl and why Disney puts content warnings on their streaming versions of benign animated classics like “Aladdin.”

With every passing day the voices among us grow louder to expunge or redact the aspects of reality we are unable to or incapable of contending with intellectually, morally, or politically. We should be facing such things head on, disabusing ourselves of misconceptions or misunderstandings, not suppressing and ignoring them or squirrelling them away out of sight and mind.

Whatever is left of tolerance and understanding in the American family is rapidly diminishing and is surely set to be flushed out just in time for the 2024 general election. That Steam Deck can’t get here soon enough.


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