Good Friday Morning! Life in the Trump era is weird. One of the funnier analogies I’ve heard so far is that the country is in the midst of a divorce (the left and right sides of politics), and now we’re trying to figure out who gets what. Who would have thought in that dividing process that liberals would get football?
I say that because over half the right-wing people in my social media feed these days are calling for NFL boycotts. And the left, who two weeks ago was talking about boycotting the NFL over Black Lives Matter and Colin Kaepernick, now wants everyone to tune in.
The world is weird. I’ll get into the boycotts more below. Links follow.
New this week at the Conservative Institute
No new pieces this week for the Conservative Institute. Stay tuned to this space, however, because larger projects are in the works!
Trump, The NFL, and taking a Knee
On a fall night in Alabama, the President of the United States took to a stage and delivered one of his typical campaign rally style speeches. In the middle of the assembly, his thoughts turned to the NFL and he let loose:
Midway through the rally, Trump asked the crowd if they’d “love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘get that son of a bitch off the field right now.‘”
“He’s fired,” Trump continued as the crowd cheered. “He’s fired.”
The president said an NFL owner would become “the most popular person, for a week, they’ll be the most popular person in this country” after firing a player who refused to stand for the anthem. And while “we have freedom of choice,” Trump noted, it’s “still totally disrespectful.”
That is where the current firestorm over the NFL and anthem protests started. I feel like you shouldn’t require much of an update on where things went from there… Battle lines got drawn in the sand, people fought their strawman arguments and vented their anger.
I’d make three broad observations about this event
This had nothing to do with respecting the flag
Imagine the following scene: A new NFL season begins and Tim Tebow is signed as a Quarterback. As the anthem begins, he takes a knee in protest of abortion in America. After the game, he gives an interview saying that a country which claims to represent all people fails those values when it allows the murder of innocent babies via abortion and that his protest would continue until the practice ended.
All the battle lines you see drawn right now would switch. Those on the right would claim Tebow had a right to say what he wanted. The left would want him fired. If Tebow lost a roster spot, the right would rail that Tebow was being blackballed (they already did to an extent).
The key is the messenger and the message. Tebow is a white evangelical who is loved by the right.
Colin Kaepernick is a black man protesting police brutality and saying that America does not live up to the ideals of the flag and is loved by the left.
The end point is this: the right isn’t supporting the flag, it just hates the political message. It’s a straw man fallacy to claim this is disrespectful and a serious breach of decorum. This country abandoned tradition and etiquette when it chose the current Commander in Chief, a man who is routinely damaging the office of the President (ask yourself what Washington, Lincoln, or Reagan would say of Trump’s conduct).
As a last note, it’s worth noting who is being called a “son of a bitch,” and who were “nice people.” Trump fought against condemning the Charlottesville neo-Nazi marchers and claimed, falsely, that there were “nice people” at the march. Unprompted, his attacks on NFL players is stronger than his attacks on white nationalists.
If you can’t spot the difference between a peaceful protestor like Kaepernick and the violent mob in Charlottesville, you don’t have a conscience.
Moral relativity is putrid in every form it takes, especially from the mouth of the so-called leader of the Free World.
No one should be fired for their political speech
The President of the United States said people should be fired for these protests. He wants people forced to stand for the anthem and flag. Neither is Constitutional nor acceptable for a President.
Calling for NFL players jobs because they protest is literally no different than liberals targeting conservatives or Christians for their speech.
People are calling for a form of retribution over their political enemies speech in ways that should be shocking. If this is allowed to become the norm in America, no one will ever be safe from any speech. A point I made on Facebook this week:
It’s true that NFL players can be fired for their political speech. The 1st Amendment doesn’t cover a private organization.
It’s also true that private employers like Google, Firefox, and others can fire conservatives and Christians for their speech for the exact same reason.
Choose the culture/society you want to live in wisely. Those decisions will impact you, not just your political enemies. The retribution you want visited on others will come to you.
Trump calling for an NFL player to be fired is no different from the left wanting Google Engineers fired, or Christian bakers fired. It’s a leftist response to a situation.
The response I’ve gotten from many is: “Well, the left does it already, so the right is just giving them a taste of their own medicine!” All this does is adopt leftist morality as the standard for all. That level of revenge-seeking is poison to a culture and will lead to ruin.
We’ve seen this poison before in our country. In the Civil War, it literally led to houses turning on each other. That is the world this hatred is leading America towards. It’s not just a culture war, it’s cultural annihilation.
We are leaderless
The role of the President is not to pour gasoline over cultural fights and promote an abandonment of morality. But that’s exactly what Trump is doing.
He’s not leading. This is not leadership. America is in dire need of a Captain to man the helm and with every passing day that Trump abdicates that role, the country suffers.
He may enjoy picking fights and sending tweets, but that’s not what the country needs.
Device microphones – the next wave of cyber attacks
Personal digital assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google are increasingly becoming more prominent with each smart device generation. Major tech companies are pouring resources into virtual assistants to make them better, more accurate, and more useful. That also makes them ripe for hackers.
One unique hack uses high-frequency sounds, inaudible to humans, to trigger the voice assistants to send commands to them. MIT Technology Review explains:
Researchers at Zhejiang University in China have shown that they can encode commands in high frequency sound that are still recognized by voice assistants. They take a regular human voice and use it to modulate an ultrasound signal—much like the way music can be encoded onto radio waves. Turns out, the mic on devices like an iPhone or Amazon Echo speaker can still detect the sound, and their signal-processing software also picks up the voice signals encoded on the wave.
The researchers say that they have been able to activate Siri to initiate a FaceTime call on an iPhone, command Google Now to switch a phone to airplane mode, and even control the navigation system of an Audi. The same trick also works on Cortana and Alexa, too.
In effect, this provides hackers with a means to send commands to your phone without ever touching it. Right now it’s unclear what immediate impact that could have on anyone, as these assistants do very little. But it could impact the future development of phones.
If the military uses any voice recognition software, this could also impact them as well. Something to watch as tech advances.
Best links on the web this week
This Culture War Isn’t about the Flag; It’s about Conscience – David French, National Review
Trump’s Empty Culture Wars – Ross Douthat, The New York Times
The Playboy and His Western World: How Hugh Hefner—yes, Hugh Hefner—became the moral arbiter of our age. – Algis Valiunas, Commentary Magazine
The Next Health Care Debate – Yuval Levin, National Review
Roy Moore’s Alabama Victory Sets Off Talk of a G.O.P. Insurrection – The New York Times
The GOP’s New Tax Plan Proves Republicans Never Cared About the Federal Deficit: Republicans promised tax reform that wouldn’t increase the debt. Their blueprint breaks that promise. – Peter Suderman, Reason Magazine
Twitter, Journalism, and Trump – Chris Arnade
The White House Is Not Ignoring Puerto Rico – Charles C. W. Cooke, National Review
Democrats’ best hope for 2020: Oprah – John Podhoretz, The New York Post (Oprah tweeted this link fwiw)
The Repressive, Authoritarian Soul of “Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends” – Jia Tolentino, The New Yorker
The Untold Story of Kim Jong-Nam’s Assassination – Doug Bock Clark, GQ Magazine
Satire piece of the week
Nation That Claims To Value Women Celebrates Life Of Hugh Hefner – The Babylon Bee
U.S.—According to reports from around the nation, Americans who think of themselves as progressive and forward-thinking in their support for women’s rights and the dignity of females everywhere were celebrating the life of Hugh Hefner, for some reason, after his death Wednesday at the ripe old age of 91.
“RIP Hugh Hefner!” one man whose online profile described him as a “feminist, activist, social justice warrior” wrote. “Thanks for supporting the liberation of women!”
Thanks for reading!