Hi, there, Dear Reader. It’s early afternoon here in Lithia, Florida on Wednesday, January 5, 2022. It is a cool winter day – by Florida standard, at any rate. Currently, the temperature is 74˚F (23˚C) under mostly cloudy skies. With humidity at 71% and the wind blowing from the west-northwest at 4 MPH (6 KM/H), the feels-like temperature is 73˚F (23˚C). Today’s forecast calls for partly sunny skies and a high of 75˚F (24˚C). Tonight, skies will be partly cloudy. The low will be 54˚F (12˚F).
So, here I am, on the eve of the first anniversary of the “Stop the Steal” insurrection by supporters of former President Donald Trump who tried to overturn the 2020 election by attacking the U.S. Capitol, and I am blocking right-wing trolls and ads from “conservative” organizations on my Facebook account.
Why? Because I am tired of seeing insane, false, and hateful commentary about Democrats, liberals/progressives, and anyone who is not a loyal member of the MAGA/KAGA/Trump supporter/Republican Party crowd.
For instance, I just told Facebook to stop showing me ads from a right-wing anti-LGBQT group that calls itself the “Illinois Family Institute.” Apparently, because I’m 58 and live in Florida, the fine folks at Meta (Facebook’s parent company) think it’s a great idea to put ads from right-wing groups on my account’s timeline.
You know, ads with a clear anti-transgender slant that link to articles by a woman named Laurie Higgins. Articles such as “Are Progressives Allies of Women or Misogynists?”
Here’s the lead to this heavy-handed anti-LGBQT diatribe by Ms. Higgins – who is the Institute’s Cultural Affairs writer, a gig she has had for 14 years:
Leftists seek to destroy every created thing that emerges from, depends on, or reflects the real and foundational distinctions between males and females. Eradicating all distinctions between males and females entails socially constructing a false understanding of marriage. It entails distorting the public understanding of the purposes for and boundaries of sex and reproduction. It entails transforming the public understanding of the needs and rights of children. And it entails a wholesale assault on all sex-associated phenomena, including clothing, hairstyles, grammar, private space usage (e.g., bathrooms, locker rooms, dorm rooms, nursing home rooms, and prison cells), sports, and even human bodies.
I think this type of overheated rhetoric – so prevalent in the MAGA/KAG community – is one of the ingredients in the toxic recipe for the radicalization of Trump supporters and does more harm than good, especially when social media outlets such as Facebook allow groups such as the Illinois Family Group to disseminate their propaganda via paid ads that target folks in my state and age group.
I told Facebook to hide ads from this group because, quite frankly, they don’t add much to the cause of civil discourse and just widen the divide between left and right even more.
I also told Facebook to block ads from a company called 4Patriots, a Nashville, Tennessee company that sells “survivalist” gear such as four-week survival food packs, tactical solar-powered flashlights, solar power generators, and water filtration systems.
While 4Patriots does not sell firearms – at least, none that I can see – it seems to be shilling its products to a customer base that is awash in fear, anger, and paranoia.
Of course, 4Patriots’ ads do not come out and say, “Hey, we think that a second Civil War is going to occur, so we have to be ready for it.” No, no. The folks that run this company – which operates from two staunch Republican states (Tennessee and Utah) – are really clever in their marketing spiel.
They couch everything in language that is loaded with keywords that appeal to right-wing survivalists. “Crisis.” “Freedom.” “Self-reliance.” They also love to throw around the word “patriots” and “America/American values” as if they were so much verbal confetti.
Here’s how 4Patriots’ founders, Erin and Allen Baler, describe their company in the corporate website’s About Us page:
Today, not only do we offer a wide variety of great products that help our customers be more self-reliant and independent, but we’ve also been able to provide full-time jobs for over 125 people (and we’re still growing!). We feel blessed every day to work with such a dedicated team and to be able to impact the lives of so many people.
At 4Patriots, we champion freedom and self-reliance. This is our core purpose and our mission.
Over the past five years – more or less – I have learned to associate the word “patriot” with right-wing groups, especially those whose members are Donald Trump loyalists. The right, in its bid to label conservatives as being the only tribe that represents the “true America,” has hijacked not only the word “patriot,” but also the iconography that all Americans share in common, such as the bald eagle (the national bird), the U.S. flag, and “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Consider. When convicted Capitol rioter and Texas real estate agent Jennifer Leigh “Jenna” Ryan creates a new social media profile for Twitter or Tik-Tok, she labels herself as a “patriot.”
And the majority of online “news” blogs and websites with the word “patriot” in their names? With rare exceptions, if you see a site or blog that calls itself The Western Patriot Journal or something along these lines, you can bet that it’s a right-wing outlet.
Ugh. I can’t stand how Facebook just pushes these groups’ ads on to my newsfeed in my account. I block them, of course, but as soon as I do that, another ad from a conservative group will show up, uninvited and unwelcome, on my computer screen.
Welcome, folks, to the Trump-era version of Patriot Games!