Trump’s Virtual Impeachment

Today a handful of executives yanked Trump’s megaphone out of his hands. Given the circumstances, it was the right thing to do. I was gleeful when I heard the news. But still, a handful of executives took the megaphone out of the hands of a major political figure. That’s… unsettling.

Given the Circumstances. Ultimately, Facebook and Twitter and the rest had no choice, and that is not their failing. Although the platforms are (currently) shielded from legal liability for things people say through their services, when someone promotes violence, someone must be held accountable. Currently, the individuals who promote hate and violence on those platforms are doing so in secure anonymity or implicit immunity.

You can’t protect both the platform and the individuals who use it. Someone must be held accountable.

The tech companies are seeing how that is shaking out. The party of individual responsibility is shrieking that they are being censored for irresponsible speech, but will block every effort to hold individuals responsible for what they say online. On the other side, the Democrats are intent on finding someone to blame.

Ultimately, I don’t see any way forward that doesn’t hold individuals responsible for the things they say. That means that when someone named RegularJoe456 posts a comment promoting violence, that Martha Haas, the person who lives behind that name, is held accountable.

And Fer Feck’s sake, let’s all understand that inciting violence and threatening someone’s life are not free speech. Never have been, never will be. Also libel and slander laws still apply on the Interwebs. Free speech does not mean you can say whatever you want without consequences. Free speech does not mean a company is legally required to publish your bullshit.

There can be no freedom without responsibility. And until people are held accountable for their speech on the Internet, the companies that enable that speech will have no choice but to police their platforms.

5

Executive Severance

So there’s this thing called The Twitter that all the kids are using. In terms of literary forms, it’s the shortest of the short, measured in characters, not words. It’s about the opposite of a novel. So what if you tried to write an entire novel in tweets?

Right off the bat, you’re faced with a critical decision: Does each tweet have to be interesting on its own? If not, then just tweet each sentence and ignore the fact that no one is following along. But if your medium truly is the tweet, then success is measured by followers, and that means that you will approach the story differently.

In the forward of Executive Severance by Robert K Blechman, the author discusses that briefly, and when the story gets meta (the bad guy is following the protagonist’s tweets), it is discussed more. The medium is the message, and whatnot.

Structurally, then, the story reads more like a daily comic strip than it does a traditional novel. Every third sentence or so must be a payoff. Blechman often achieves this through wordplay, which he obviously enjoys, and he transmits that pleasure successfully. With a wink toward character limits, he has contrived to give many of his characters single-letter names, and he plays with that quite a bit as well.

If you judge this story as a mystery novel, you’re likely to be disappointed. It’s not strong on narrative, but then again neither were the Pink Panther movies, which felt similar — the story is just there to hang funny episodes on. In this case, it’s a couple hundred very short funny episodes.

There were occasional tweets that I sat back and admired just for their economy. Wee tiny poems. One thing for sure, doing a story in this medium requires skill (and the willingness to drop the occasional punctuation mark).

It is a thought-provoking story, not so much for what it says, but for what it is. Which is something the story itself tells us.

Note: if you use the above link to buy this book (or a Kindle, or a 1 CT Champagne Diamond Solitaire Pendant), I get a kickback.