Month: August 2018

Imagine a mall. Now, whichever you were imagining, unless it’s Mall of America, make it bigger. Conjure a sprawling megalopolis including every imaginable form of commerce. Home improvement stores, book stores, an inordinate number of pet shops. Now scan over to the second floor, off in a little side wing. Hard to see, unless you look for it. One store out of hundreds, that’s just for Nazis.

By Nazis, I don’t mean people you disagree with, or people who are bad at their jobs. I don’t mean George Bush. I mean people with swastika tattoos, who have at the core of their ideology that members of certain races are something less than human. Real, honest to goodness Nazis.

The store sells flags, and videos, and whatever else Nazis buy. I don’t know – those idiotic Pinochet was Right shirts probably. But it’s just one store. If you don’t go looking for it, you might walk through the mall without ever noticing it at all. Still, if this scenario was real, no one would call this place “the mall with one Nazi store” or “the mall of open exchange of ideas”, nor should they. They’d call it The Nazi Mall. I’d call it the Nazi Mall. Because in any functional sense, that’s what it would be.

It’s ultimately a branding choice. That hypothetical mall has decided that the rent paid by NaziTown each month, and the collateral business it brings in, is worth more than any potential backlash, which (one hopes) would be severe.

Extremism thrives on tolerance. The idea that all ideas have equal right to time, and should be judged equally against each other, is a pretty one in concept, and in practice tends toward genocide. There are some ideologies so far from the range of acceptable human behavior that to tolerate them is to invite them in. To accept its existence on your property is to become complicit.

Twitter is a Nazi mall.

I like Twitter, in concept. Being on the platform has exposed me to so many brilliant, funny, amazing human beings. It’s also shown me some of the worst things and people of my life. Some of that is the nature of online communication – the two sides of the massively multiplayer social media experience. But no network has so explicitly supported extremist right-wing hate like Twitter has. Alex Jones has been dropped by all sorts of networks, but not Twitter. Twitter verifies the Proud Boys and the leaders of anti-immigrant hate groups. And of course, no one with any literacy on 21st century media can look you in the eye and tell you that without Twitter, Donald Trump would still be president. He just wouldn’t.

The far right has weaponized Twitter, incredibly effectively, and with the full knowledge and implied consent of Twitter itself. And on the far right of that far right are those guys with SS tattoos, the ones who murdered Heather Heyer and who shoot up Sikh temples. Real, literal Nazis.

I truly don’t believe that people are defined by the worst thing they’ve ever done, but platforms are not people. Platforms are marked by the worst thing they allow, because allowing hate and embracing it on a private platform is exactly the same thing. You don’t get to platform Nazis, then claim you are anything but a Nazi platform, and for now, Twitter has made itself exactly that.

I have cancer.

Now, it’s not the kind that kills you, or at least, it’s not the kind that will kill me. It’s a skin cancer that’s not uncommon for 70 year old white people. I happen to be 40, so that’s not great. But I also have health insurance and access to healthcare, caught it early, and have all expectations that it will be treated successfully.

What if I didn’t?

I spent my twenties working outside, often without anything like sunscreen. So did thousands or millions of others, but what if, instead of a well-off suburban kid counting birds for the government, I had spent those years as a farm worker or some other outdoor job that is less likely to come with health insurance? The carcinoma sitting on top of my head right now would be far more likely to grow and spread. Hell, I barely went to the doctor in this reality, where it is easy and relatively cheap to do so. I have little doubt that in that alternate history, I would have let it go far longer. I would have let it grow.

Would that alternate history me die of this? Probably not. But the possibilities are still unacceptable. Either it would grow and become a more significant threat, or they would be saddled with thousands of dollars in debt, maybe go bankrupt, for the crime of being poorer than me. We can disagree on a lot of things and still be friends, but if you’re okay with that situation, I just plain don’t want to know you. 

That opening sentence – I have cancer – is embarrassing for me to write, because it conjures up images of people in far worse shape than me. My mom. My wife’s mom. When you think of cancer, you think of the nightmare diagnoses – breast, liver, pancreas, lung. Non-melanoma skin cancer is by far the best cancer diagnosis anyone can get in 2018, but as the son of a mother who lost her life to one of the deadlier varieties, who held her hand as she went quiet and cold in front of me, I’m allowing myself to be scared by the word anyway.

So, the bad news is, a clump of cells on top of my head is trying to very slowly murder me. The good news is, it’s not a very good killer, and it will fail. But that stroke of luck is down far more to the privilege I was born into than anything I have done to earn it. I’ve been given a gift of access and care that everyone deserves, and millions lack. Right now, there’s someone exactly my age – probably hundreds of them at least – who aren’t getting a simple, outpatient treatment because of our ghoulish for-profit healthcare system, and because men are conditioned to not worry about themselves until they’re legitimately old, if then.

Go to the doctor if you can. Think about how to make that a possibility for more people. The next time you have a chance to vote, use it, and vote for the best candidate and party for healthcare access. The next time you go out in the sun, especially if you’re anywhere near my shade of pale, think about wearing a hat and some sunblock. And the next time someone tells you that no one dies or lives a shorter, sadder life because they don’t have healthcare coverage, punch them in the fucking mouth, and tell them I sent you.