Monday, May 18, 2020

Creating Cultural Chokepoints

So much has changed in just a few months. If you had said in February that we would have 15% unemployment and that a significant percentage of small businesses would be closing forever, not because of a problem with their business model but because their customers couldn't come to their business, I would have thought you were crazy. But here we are.

One of the underlying problems with Americans in 2020 that the Chinese coronavirus has exposed is how readily most of us just accept what we are told. While on the surface this is the most skeptical generation of Americans ever, underneath most Americans are willing to put up with just about anything in order to not cause waves.

Even as model after model proved to be wrong when it came to the coronavirus, the dire warnings about the economic calamity have proven to be right on the mark. No one really knows how lethal Covid-19 really is and based on the memes, a lot of people rightly figured out that many people are dying who are counted as coronavirus victims, whether they were "presumed positive" or "died with coronavirus" or actually died directly as a result. Why not call someone a Covid death when you get more reimbursement and no one is going to check anyway? It is one of the those "victimless" white lies.

In spite of knowing very little about the Wuhan flu, other than it probably escaped/was released from a Chicom lab, people are willing to mostly go along with the whole charade. While our locals are not freaking out quite as badly as others, you still have places like Costco and Menards that won't permit entry without a mask. Will the masks most people are wearing, often not covering their noses or made of thin and porous fabric, prevent you from spreading or contracting the disease? Probably not but people still do as they are told.

The masks signal a willingness on the part of many Americans to acquiesce to little indignities in order to conduct basic functions of life. I had to go a  meeting at the county last week, a meeting postponed repeatedly because of the coronavirus, and I had to wear a mask to go in. It wasn't something I could keep putting off so I sucked it up and wore the mask to get in, but mostly kept it down while I waited because it was unpleasant to wear and generally silly.

What else is on the horizon? There has already been talk from the oligarchy about "immunity certificates" and mandatory "vaccines". Would people raise a fuss if they and their children were required to be injected with a vaccine against coronavirus, one that likely wouldn't even work, in order to be allowed to go to school or enter a bank or shop at a store?

As we continue to transition toward a "cashless" society and the gap between the "money" supply and the amount of actual currency continues to grow and render the cash economy meaningless, there are fewer real options for people to conduct basic business. You already are unable to use Paypal, the biggest player in the electronic payment market, to buy firearms and ammunition. It wouldn't take much to push the big credit card processors to follow suit and then buying ammo online becomes pretty difficult. What about using Venmo? Oh, that is also owned by Paypal.

As the economy implodes, small retailers are dying and many won't return. At the same time, places like Wal-Mart and Amazon are enjoying incredible sales volume and hiring people left and right. The one-two punch of big box discount retailers and online sellers already had small businesses reeling but the coronavirus is rapidly accelerating the destruction of the Main Street shop. A lot of smaller retailers are using Amazon as their fulfillment center for orders, slowly squeezing more and more of the consumer business into one single point of access. That certainly is convenient but it is also dangerous.

The media before the advent of cable news was monolithic soft liberalism but as talk radio, cable news and the internet exploded, suddenly we were able to get news from all perspectives. Rush Limbaugh and Fox News were followed by ever more edgy and extreme views, along with plenty of more moderate voices. Slowly but surely the more extreme voices, at least on the Right, are getting squeezed back into the shadows. A handful of social media companies control most public discourse, preventing Bad Thinkers from monetizing their content or simply outright banning them. An even smaller number of services that allow fans to financially support their favorite content creators will shut people off without warning, often freezing their funds for months on a whim, making creators leery of even trying to use these services. We are almost back to the place we were in the 1970s with a handful of news sources that all are reading from the same script.

For all of our supposed freedom and once unimaginable access to stream video and read content from around the world, we are quietly finding ourselves being squeezed into fewer chokepoints that are intended to make it easy for a small cabal to dictate what we see, what we say and how we do business. A relatively small number of people control most of what we see coming across our screens and they are ideologically uniform.

Now more than ever it is critical for all of us to remain vigilant, and to find and support those who are creating alternative platforms. This is an era when information and data are king and those who control the flow of that information, control the world.

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