Back in 2019, I wrote that lawmakers must prohibit social media platforms from banning anyone for making posts that are legal to publish, and that failing to enact such legislation would open a dangerous Pandora’s Box. I explained then that there was more than enough legal standing on which to base such laws – and others far more knowledgeable than I have since stated similarly.
We now have in America major social media platforms that allow posts by parties such as terrorist groups that it is illegal to aid, propaganda-spreading leaders of countries under sanctions for whom it is illegal to provide communication services, governments operating concentration camps targeting ethnic minorities, regimes that murder gays and lesbians, etc., but which are simultaneously prohibiting the lawful, elected President of the United States from communicating, regardless of the content of any posts that he wishes to make.
Today, those social media firms may be acting against a man like Donald Trump, a man whose vile behavior makes it easy to feel that silencing him is beneficial, appropriate, and moral. But, being as there is no objective standard by which such bans take place, no court to overturn bad rulings, and no system at all of checks and balances, the price for failing to stop such censorship will certainly be paid by others of far better character in the future.
Elected officials chosen by the people, acting in accordance with the upholding of all rights protected by the Constitution, should be the ones deciding what can and cannot be said, not Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, or anyone else claiming protection from prosecution under Section 230 for illegal content shared using systems that they own and operate. We have laws that prohibit making statements that are likely to imminently incite violence – and those laws can be, and should be, fully enforced.
Banning from today’s mass media any legally-acceptable posts made by President Trump, however, is both wrong and opens a Pandora’s Box that will inflict terrible harm, that, while perhaps not apparent to many folks now, will certainly come back to haunt us all in horrific ways at some point in the future.
For details on the legal basis for extending First Amendment rights protections to social media, please see my May 2019 article, Congress Must Extend Civil Rights Protections To Social Media Users.
CPAC Stage Compared To Nazi Symbol On Social Media – Forbes
Comparisons of law makers to fascists and Nazis isn’t uncommon these days, but on Saturday the hashtag #Nazi was trending alongside mentions of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), where former President Trump is set to speak on Sunday. This time it wasn’t Republican lawmakers who were compared to Nazis however, but rather the similarity of the stage to an ancient Norse symbol used by Nazis was noted by thousands of users on Twitter.
By Saturday afternoon there had been nearly 100,000 tweets that compared the CPAC stage to the ODAL Rune, which was used by a unit of the insidious Waffen SS, the initially named the SS-Volunteer Division Prinz Eugen (SS-Freiwilligen-Division “Prinz Eugen”) – later the 7th Volunteer Mountain Division. That unit was formed in 1941 and took part exclusively in action against the communist-led Yugoslavian partisans during the Second World War.
Many on Twitter shared images of the symbol along with photos of the CPAC stage:
However, it is important to note that the Odal rune, also known as the Othala rune, predates the Nazi movement and the Third Reich by centuries and it first appeared between the 3rd and 8th centuries. While it was adopted by Nazi Germany, and has been used by various neo-Nazi groups, it seems dubious to think that the design was intention.
As of Saturday afternoon the fact check website Snopes.com could only suggest it was “unproven” that the stage at CPAC 2021 was intentionally designed to look like an early European rune.
One user, Jack Andrew Giddes (@JackGiddes), even took the time to share a photo of his kitchen floor, adding, ” Here is part of my kitchen floor during the day, lit by natural light (L). If you stand in one spot with the ceiling lights on you get this (R), but I stress it’s undetectable unless you’re in a specific spot. My kitchen floor is a coincidence. CPAC’s stage? I have my doubts.”
However, many users responded to the claims on social media that too much was being read into the apparent symbolism.
Author Jim C. Hines (@jimchines) was among those who suggested that the choice of stage design likely didn’t mean to copy the infamous symbol, “Out of curiosity, has there been any pattern of Democrats ‘accidentally’ using Nazi symbolism and iconography? If that sort of thing is an innocent and unavoidable mistake, you’d expect it to happen regardless of political party, right?”
Another user, @Rasta1619, also questioned how commonly known this symbol actually is in the mainstream.
The Odal rune is now in the spotlight, just weeks after other eagle eyed users on Twitter noted that during President Joe Biden’s inauguration the “Betsy Ross” flag was seen. Former Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was among those who took notice of the flag. He addressed the issue directly from his Twitter account:
It was also a dozen years ago, in August 6, 2008 that conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh compared the new healthcare logo used by the Obama administration to that of the Nazi eagle. While that could be seen as a stretch, any visitor to Washington, D.C. is likely going to see a number of fascist symbols – and not those carried by protestors – but rather on the buildings.
At the Lincoln Memorial there are literally fasces, the bundle of rods bound by a leather thong. As The Washington Post previously reported, the very same symbol can also be seen in federal buildings throughout the nation’s capitol including the Justice Department. That particular symbol dates back even further than the Odal rune, and was used during the Roman Republic as a symbol of power and authority.
The idea is that a single stick may be weak, but bound together in unity there is strength. It is also is meant to evoke power, strength, authority and justice. The symbol was used throughout Washington, D.C. and a pair literally flanks the speaker’s podium in the House of Representatives. They are thus present during a presidential state of the union as well – but never is that symbol called out.
Likewise, the most infamous of Nazi icons, the swastika, was once a symbol of good luck and can be seen on countless buildings. Over the years some buildings have been also been called out for inadvertently resembling a swastika or other Nazi-esque symbol from above. In most cases it was a coincidence, and in the case of CPAC it should likely be chalked up to another unfortunate coincidence.
Hashtags #BidenBombs And #BidenRemorse Trending On Social Media – Forbes
President Joe Biden has come under fire this week, not just from Republican lawmakers and conservative critics, but from many progressives following his orders to bomb Syria. On Friday, the President and White House Press Secretary Jen Pasaki were called out for past comments each had posted to social media criticizing former President Donald Trump for similar actions in the Middle East.
By Saturday morning several hashtags and memes related to the bombings on Syria had been trending across social media according to website Trendsmap.com. The hashtags #BidenBombs was among the top global trends yet it wasn’t just tagged to the missile attack on Syria.
#BidenBombs appeared alongside a number of other hashtags including #BidenRemorse, #MinimumWage and #StudentDebt.
The wave of anti-Biden hashtags could suggest that the so-called “honeymoon” period is already over, especially as the harshest critics and loudest voices seemingly came from Biden supporters.
@MartinWilliams95 was among many who quoted Biden for calling former President Trump:
Another user, @Willie_jackson_ , also suggested there is strong disappointment in the new president’s actions, “I voted for @JoeBiden to not see this. #BidenBombs #Syria without any congressional approval. that might be right action to take, but the change we were looking for comes here. Don’t be a new Trump
Making It Visual
A number of memes trended on late Friday and Saturday that called out President Biden’s actions – some humorous and some far more blunt.
Several groups including Arabs For Bernie (@ArabsForBernie) were quite direct following Thursday’s attacks, “STOP BOMBING THE MIDDLE EAST. THANK YOU. #BidenBombs”
Comedian Preet Singh (@comedypreet) was among a few who attempted to find humor in the situation while he mocked the administration’s actions with a short video that was also posted to social media, “This is how I imagine Biden’s Democrats think Syria has reacted to his bombs”
The issue wasn’t limited to the United States either. Irish Republican Socialist Senator Paul Gavan (@pau_gavan) was among those on the international stage to call out President Biden, “Yesterday Joe Biden bombed Syria and dropped the proposal for a $15 minimum wage from his Covid relief package. Business as usual then. #Biden #BidenBombs #AmericaIsBack”
The Pundits Join The Fray
Some political commentators also called out the president, and surprisingly it wasn’t just those on the right this week. Progressive commentator Krystal Ball (@krystalball), tweeted, “So when they said $2k checks immediately, what they actually meant was $1400 checks, whenever we get to it, after bombing Syria and abandoning the minimum wage hike. Good luck in the midterms!”
Alt Right activist Jack Posobiec (@JackPosobiec) shared reported photos from the aftermath of the Thursday’s attack. “New photos reportedly show aftermath of Biden’s Syria strike. 22 Syrians killed.”
Journalist Richard Medhurst (@richimedhurst) called out now only President Biden, but many of his progressive supporters, “Hey @AOC does Biden bombing Syria also count as violence? You and your colleagues seem awfully quiet today.”
The sentiment was shared by political pundit Matt Couch (@RaealMattCouch), “So now the Biden Administration is trying to start issues with the Saudis on top of Syria in a span of 24 hours…. Amazing work Dems…”
However, as Vox reported via its official Twitter account (@voxdotcom) some progressive lawmakers have been vocal about the attacks.
No Easy Decision
However, President Biden’s actions in launching the attack at Iranian-back militants in Syria was likely not a decision that he made on the whim.
“I’m not sure he had much choice,” explained technology industry analyst Rob Enderle, principal at the Enderle Group.
“That was the joint chief’s recommendation, and U.S. soldiers had been attacked with one injured,” added Enderle. “It was a test of his resolve, and had he not defended his troops, he’d have been crucified, and rightly so.”
What is notable is how quickly critics can become so vocal thanks to the power of social media. And these recent tweets and reactions across social media are a reminder that the nation isn’t just divided, it could be seriously fractured, and the hopes for healing could be soon dashed.
Myanmar police launch most extensive crackdown; one woman dead, media say – CBC.ca
Police in Myanmar launched their most sweeping crackdown in three weeks of protests against military rule on Saturday in towns and cities across the country, with media reports of a woman shot dead and dozens of people detained.
The violence came after Myanmar’s U.N. envoy urged the United Nations to use “any means necessary” to stop the Feb. 1 coup.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the army seized power and detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and much of her party leadership, alleging fraud in a November election her party won in a landslide.
Uncertainty has grown over Suu Kyi’s whereabouts. The independent Myanmar Now website on Friday quoted officials of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party as saying she had been moved this week from house arrest to an undisclosed location.
The coup has brought hundreds of thousands of protesters onto the streets and drawn condemnation from Western countries, with some imposing limited sanctions.
Police were out in force in cities and towns from early on Saturday in their most determined bid to stamp out the protests.
In the main city of Yangon, police took up positions at usual protest sites and detained people as they congregated, witnesses said. Several journalists were detained.
One woman believed dead
Confrontations developed as more people came out to demonstrate despite the police operation.
Three domestic media outlets said a woman was shot and killed in the central town of Monwya. The circumstances of the shooting were not clear and police were not immediately available for comment.
Earlier, a protester in the town said police had fired water cannon as they surrounded a crowd.
“They used water cannon against peaceful protesters — they shouldn’t treat people like that,” Aye Aye Tint told Reuters.
A big crowd of protesters later surged through town streets chanting defiance, an activist video feed showed. One protester told Reuters the crowd was demanding the release of people detained by the security forces.
Junta leader Gen. Min Aung Hlaing has said authorities were using minimal force. Nevertheless, at least three protesters had died over the days of turmoil up to Saturday. The army says a policeman was killed in earlier violence.
In Yangon, crowds came out to chant and sing, then scattered into side streets and slipped into buildings as police advanced, firing tear gas, setting off stun grenades and shooting guns into the air, witnesses said.
Some protesters threw up barricades across streets. Crowds eventually thinned but police in Yangon were still chasing groups and firing into the air in the late afternoon, witnesses said. Numerous people were seen detained and some beaten through the day.
Similar scenes played out in the second city of Mandalay and other towns from north to south, witnesses and media said. Among those detained in Mandalay was Win Mya Mya, one of two Muslim members of parliament for the NLD, media said.
‘Our cause will prevail’
At the UN General Assembly, Myanmar’s Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun said he was speaking on behalf of Suu Kyi’s government and appealed for “any means necessary to take action against the Myanmar military and to provide safety and security for the people.”
“We need further strongest possible action from the international community to immediately end the military coup … and to restore the democracy,” he said.
WATCH | Widespread strikes in Myanmar in protest of military coup:
Delivering his final words in Burmese, the career diplomat raised the three-finger salute of pro-democracy protesters and announced, “Our cause will prevail.”
Reuters was not immediately able to contact the army for comment.
UN Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews said he was overwhelmed as he watched the ambassador’s “act of courage.”
“It’s time for the world to answer that courageous call with action,” Andrews said on Twitter.
I was overwhelmed today as I watched Myanmar’s UN ambassador’s remarkable act of courage at the UN. Despite enormous pressure to do otherwise, he spoke up for the people of Myanmar and against an illegal coup. It’s time for the world to answer that courageous call with action. <a href=”https://t.co/y6UrUECfSh”>pic.twitter.com/y6UrUECfSh</a>
Democratic leader moved to undisclosed location
China’s envoy did not criticize the coup and said the situation was an internal Myanmar affair, adding that China supported a diplomatic effort by southeast Asian countries to find a solution.
In more bad news for the generals who have traditionally shrugged off diplomatic pressure, Australia’s Woodside Petroleum Ltd. said it was cutting its presence in Myanmar over concern about rights violations and violence.
“Woodside supports the people of Myanmar,” the company said.
Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi, 75, spent nearly 15 years under house arrest during military rule. She faces charges of illegally importing six walkie-talkie radios and of violating a natural disaster law by breaching coronavirus protocols.
A lawyer for her, Khin Maung Zaw, told Reuters he had also heard that she had been moved from her home in the capital, Naypyitaw, but could not confirm it. Authorities did not respond to a request for comment.
The lawyer said he had been given no access to Suu Kyi ahead of her next hearing on Monday and he was concerned about her access to justice and legal counsel.
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