Advertisements

The Facebook Fad Fades

Fads come and go, as they always have, yet some people are still surprised when they go. So it is with Facebook, which was once widely touted as a permanent change in human interaction but now seems to be heading the way of bell bottom pants, eight-track tapes, and the Occupy Wall Street movement.
This welcome news comes to us via the Washington Examiner, which reports that Americans are abandoning Facebook “in droves.” The paper cites a poll conducted by the Pew Center in which 61 percent of the respondents said they are taking long breaks from the social media site, with 38 percent of the all-important 18- to 29-year-old users saying they plan to cut back on their Facebook time. One of every five adults, probably the most intelligent of them, said they planned to quit altogether.
Various explanations are offered for this phenomenon. About 21 percent of the poll respondents said they have “run out of time,” leading one to wonder why they have suddenly become so busy, while 20 percent cited either a lack of “compelling content” or a “general lack of interest in the site,” which requires no explanation. Another 9 percent said there was too much gossip at the site, which is admirable, although perhaps they meant the gossip was too mundane. Reuters reports that some German researchers have concluded that Facebook causes feelings of envy and loneliness in some people who read of their friends’ vacations, love affairs, and other happy occasions, although our usual reaction is a sense of relief that the lives of our friends and acquaintances are as dull as our own. Yet another report indicates that Facebook is figuring in a large number of divorces, however, so perhaps those friends’ lives aren’t so dull after all.
Politics wasn’t mentioned in the poll, but we suspect that is always driving a few people away from Facebook. A friend of ours was quite avid about the site until recently, when he finally decided he’d had enough of the liberal screeds that were routinely posted on his page. The final straw, he told us, was someone’s exuberant rant about the commanding hand gestures that Hillary Clinton used during her congressional testimony to fend off questions about her incompetence and dishonesty in the Benghazi scandal. There are no doubt liberals equally annoyed by the conservative rants of some of their friends, but we’ve noticed that for some reason the right is less likely to express itself on Facebook.
The Facebook company seems to have its own liberal biases. An anti-Obama posting was censored by Facebook during the presidential campaign until a number of complaints forced them to allow it, while a “Kill Romney” site was countenanced until another round of complaints finally forced it off the site. Facebook apparently has used the same sort of Cayman Islands accounts for which Romney was pilloried during the campaign, and pays surprisingly little in taxes, and one of its founders even renounced his American citizenship rather than pay any taxes at all but of course such shenanigans can be forgiven a company with such impeccable liberal credentials.
Still, the rise and fall of Facebook will no doubt take many by surprise. The company was so celebrated there was a hit movie about it, it’s initial public offering was the most ballyhooed financial event of the past year, and some supposedly smart business analysts fretted that its declining stock prices would drag the entire economy down with it. We suspect the world will get along nicely with a diminished Facebook, and it might even find something better to do.
Now if we could only get that tattoo fad to go away.

— Bud Norman

Advertisements

No Refuge on the Sports Page

Throughout Monday we did our best to avoid the news. This was a difficult chore for such habitual news consumers as ourselves, but we simply couldn’t bear any exposure to what we knew would be worshipful coverage of the inauguration. Longing for the pleasant diversion of athletic derring-do and old-fashioned sportsmanship we turned instead to the sports section, but alas, it offered no refuge from scandals, bad behavior, and further evidence of America’s sad decline.
There was lingering talk of Lance Armstrong, of course. One needn’t even be a sports fan to know that Armstrong was the gritty American cyclist who whipped testicular cancer and went on to beat those snooty Europeans in a record seven Tour de France competitions, as the feat made him so famous that he starred in sneaker commercials, gave his name to a well-funded cancer charity with its very own colored ribbon, and had a much-publicized marriage to a rock star before getting a much-publicized divorce. Last week he went on a two-part Oprah special, where all properly contrite celebrities go to offer confession, and admitted it was all done with various banned drugs and medical procedures. The story involved blood transfusions, testicle amputations, Oprah, and other subjects that give us the willies, yet we read far enough to see that yet another American hero had proved too good to be true.
Armstrong’s all-too-predictable downfall jostled for space on the sports pages with the quite unpredictable saga of Manti Te’o’s imaginary dead girlfriend. Those who follow college football will recall how Te’o, a soft-spoken yet fearsome linebacker for the University of Notre Dame’s legendary squad, was shaken by the deaths of both his beloved grandmother and his eerily perfect girlfriend on the same day yet somehow found the inner strength to lead his team to an upset victory over Michigan State just moments later. It was a mawkish tale even by the cornball standards of collegiate football, but the sports media played it to its full tear-jerking potential. Then some skeptical internet scoops discovered that the girlfriend never existed, and that the highly-paid sports press had fallen for an appealing myth with the same willing gullibility of their colleagues on the political beat, and now Te’o is the focus of so much ridicule that if you type his name into a search engine “jokes” is one of the automatic suggestions. We have no desire to pile on this thoroughly tackled young man, who is said to be a sensitive soul, and who might even be another victim of the hoax, somehow, but we will note that it’s a sad day when a big time college football star can’t find what Robert Goulet would call “a real, live girl.”
The professional footballers have gone a few weeks without killing anyone, so far as we know, but they remain as obnoxious as ever. One of the Baltimore Ravens’ star players celebrated the team’s hard-fought victory of the New England Patriots by accusing the defeated foe of arrogance, for instance, and described them with a word which is commonly used in locker rooms but prohibited here. The description might very well be apt, but it pains us to see athletes stoop the same sort of disrespectful trash-talking we have come to expect from our politicians.
Politics also intruded onto the sports pages with the latest news about Phil Mickelson, golf’s lovable “Lefty,” who announced that his touring schedule will likely be affected the new soak-the-rich tax code. Numerous professional triumphs and an affable appeal as a pitchman have made him Mickelson one of the rich, and by his accounting he’ll be paying as much as 63 percent of his gross income to various levels of government under the new rules, so it might prove more profitable for him to play less golf. Mickelson is a rich white guy who attained his immense wealth by playing a rich white guy’s game, and even someone with his marketable likeability is making himself an inviting target for the culture’s prevailing class resentments by speaking out about his tax burden, so his statements are as daring as some of his famed trick shots from the rough. Typical of what Mickelson can expect is a report at the all-powerful ESPN sports network, which somehow finds reason to wedge admiring references to the president into the most apolitical sports events, wherein the unabashedly disgusted correspondent seems to believe the government is entitled everything “Lefty” earns and that he should be grateful for whatever he is left with.
We applaud Mickelson’s stand, with the same enthusiasm we cheered his first Master’s victory, and hope that he’ll get people to thinking about how the new tax rates might similarly discourage other people from doing something even more important than golf. This is unlikely, of course, as some new sports scandal will soon divert the public’s attention from such complicated political matters. We’ll soon be back to the political pages, though, as this sports stuff is simply too dispiriting.

— Bud Norman

Bumper Sticker Politics

A good friend of long standing favored us with a ticket to the Wichita State University Wheatshockers’ basketball contest with the University of Tulsa’s Hurricanes last night, and he threw in a ride as well. It made for a fine fall night of sports spectating, but the experience was marred when we found ourselves stopped en route behind a car with bumper stickers shouting that “‘Koch’ and ‘Bain’ are Four Letter Words” and “Corporations Are Not People.”
Noting the heftiness of our friend’s vehicle we urged him to ram into the offending bumper, but he told us that he had already considered the option and decided against it. We immediately forgave our friend’s soft-heartedness, yet that random motorist’s loudly proclaimed political opinions annoyed us throughout the night.
The “Koch” on the first bumper sticker referred to the Koch brothers, the billionaire oil-refining magnates who have become the bogeymen of the left because of their unapologetic advocacy for capitalism, and the “Bain” referred to the venture capital firm that rescued a number of important American businesses from bankruptcy, which is also reviled by the left because it was run for several years by failed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Despite the left’s fondness for four-letter words, we took the sticker to mean that the motorist found something foul about the names. Both are indeed four letter words in the literal sense, and we credit the bumper sticker’s author with being able to count that far, but we doubt that random motorist could have given a coherent explanation of why either should be considered obscene.
An aspersion on the Kochs seemed especially ridiculous on a car here in Wichita, where Koch Industries is a mainstay of the local economy and a generous benefactor to many local charities. Indeed, we were headed at the time to Charles Koch Arena, the venerable old “roundhouse” that has been nicely refurbished through the generosity of its eponym, and it’s difficult e for the more high-minded citizens of this city to visit any of our local cultural institutions without finding similar evidence of the family’s philanthropy. The Kochs also fund a few free market think-tanks and activist groups, so perhaps such exercise of freedom of speech is what the motorist found so objectionable, but even so it doesn’t seem something worth bothering other drivers and their passengers about.
President Obama’s recent re-election campaign spent many millions of dollars publicizing the evils of the Bain Capital Group, accusing it of everything from massive lay-off and off-shoring of jobs to causing on employee’s wife to get cancer, so it might have been that relentless onslaught of propaganda that provoked the motorist’s indignation. The Bain group prevented a lot more lay-offs and off-shoring than it ever caused, and the wife-killing charge was dismissed by even the most reliably Democratic media, but some people seemed to desire a villain to vilify. The other bumper sticker suggested it was a more general anti-corporate sentiment, though, which the motorist would also be hard-pressed to coherently explain.
Aside from the incongruous fact that the bumper sticker was affixed to an automobile manufactured by a large corporation, and the motorist had therefore chosen not to transport himself in something made by a hippie commune or lesbian co-op, we were offended by the sticker’s implication that there is something sub-human about corporations. Corporations are not people, not if you want to get so strictly and snottily literal about it again, but they are comprised of actual people who deserve their constitutionally enumerated rights. Labor unions, universities, non-profit charities, and similarly fashionable entities are not people, either, and there is no reason why people should be able to organize themselves into any sort of collective other than corporations without sacrificing their rights.
Our encounter with that opinionated automobile wouldn’t have been so galling if its bumper sticker sentiments hadn’t become the governing philosophy of our nation. The same simplistic aversion to commerce now underlies the government’s approach to tax policy, regulation, and spending, and permeates the broader culture as well. Liberals take pride that the war on business seems to be going so well, yet wonder why the economy continues to suffer. Envy is also a four-letter word, as our friend our remarked, but it seems to be the driving rationale for our politics.
On the brighter side, the ‘Shockers easily won the game against their erstwhile arch-rivals and improved their season to record to an unblemished 7-and-0, a surprising result for a team thought to be in a rebuilding year. Should the team become any more successful, we’ll probably soon be seeing bumper stickers grousing that “Shockers Aren’t People.”

— Bud Norman