Every so often, somebody says something despicable and the reviled American Civil Liberties Union knee-jerkedly defends the perp.
The ACLU’s panacea for offensive speech is “more speech.”
Be careful what you wish for – you just might get it.
The United States is big and complex. Mass media used to provide the glue holding democracy together. We’ve now moved from broadcasting to narrowcasting.
Back when the number of media was far smaller, we had a better sense of national unity, a common frame of reference.
God has apparently imposed upon us sinners a latter day Tower of Babel, a cacophony of voices who rarely, if ever, understand each other.
The splintering of the means of communication increases our fragmentation as a nation.
About 40 years ago, the average political soundbyte on network TV news was almost two minutes. A decade ago, it had shrunk to seven seconds. Debate has devolved to dueling bumper stickers at 20 paces.
The semi-literate shorthand of Twitter is not the low ebb. I just got an e-mail headlined “Tweeting is so 2012.”
It noted that “Twitter launched a fast-growing video app called Vine, which enables users to cram as many clips as they can into a six-second video frame.”
Modern communication has thus been reduced to the likes of comedian Henny Youngman’s greatest one-liner: “Take my wife. Please.”
But the joke is on us.
Smart dictators know that the great unwashed must be allowed safety valves. The Soviet Union allowed the continued existence of the Catholic Church as the only forum of dissent in Cold War Poland.
Americans get lots and lots of freedom of speech. Anybody can become a published journalist by blogging — among several billion websites. Not surprisingly, the average blog has a readership of one.
The prisoners of the Tower concede so much power.
Analysts have long pointed out that the public has an attention span usually limited to the top three issues of any day.
Edward Snowden and the Kardashian family are bumper-sticker rarities that can be encapsulated in six or seven seconds. For anything less identified, you can almost hear a billion clicks morph into a vague yawn.
The Federal Communications Commission is now expanding the Tower, opening up licensing of hundreds of low-power FM community radio stations. (This would have happened a decade ago save for the lobbying power of the National Association of Broadcasters and NPR. Even public radio hates competition.)
I’ll soon become part of the problem when I re-establish Reno-Sparks-Washoe’s community TV channel.
We can apparently have all the freedom of speech we want just as we can have all the guns we want. But since we no longer understand each other, just check your rights at the door.
Be careful what you wish for.
Esté bien. Haga infierno.
Be well. Raise hell.
Andrew Barbano is a 44-year Nevadan and editor of NevadaLabor.com. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.