This is the word used by conservative columnist Thomas Sowell, who endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz for president with qualifications, to describe the prospect of a presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Sowell writes that these two disgraceful candidates “are not merely inadequate but appalling.”
Warning that the nation is on a “ruinous road to a point of no return”, he points out that:
The trends that brought us to this crucial day go back for years. But whatever the paths that led to this crossroads, we are in fact at a crossroads and our future, and our children’s futures, depend on whether we can come up with some presidential candidate better than either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. In other times and in other conditions, one bad president could not ruin a great nation. We survived Jimmy Carter and we may survive Barack Obama, but there is no guarantee that we can survive an unlimited amount of reckless decisions in a dangerous world. The dangers are both internal and external. Two of our bitterest enemies—Iran and North Korea—are openly declaring their desire to destroy us. And both are developing intercontinental missiles that can carry nuclear warheads.”
Yet, in an apparently sweeping approval of the two parties’ frontrunners, majorities of voters in most states with today’s primaries—in Missouri, North Carolina, Illinois, Florida and Ohio—Clinton and Trump won (Ohio Gov. John Kasich, an altruistic advocate for the welfare state, bolstered by Democrats crossing over to vote for him, won in his home state). Sowell’s column (read it here) forecast today’s disastrous results and, toward the end, he calls for supporting Cruz as the only real alternative to this increasingly likely and unacceptable contest between two shrill, cackling power-lusters who seek total government control of people’s lives. Leonard Peikoff, in a recent episode of his podcast (listen to it here), said that he thinks America is in fast decline and, given the presidential campaign thus far including today’s election results, I agree.
This year’s election looks like an oncoming catastrophe for the nation based on individual rights. I’ve been observing, reporting and writing about the nation’s downward spiral for years and now that the rate of acceleration downward is apparent to everyone, it is worse than I could have imagined. Sowell is right that these two candidates are appalling. Unfortunately, most appalled Americans may be making matters worse—some, if not most, I suspect, without knowing it.
Knowing better could stop the coming disaster. On a fundamental level, this must happen through philosophical change achieved through education. But in the few months remaining before the national political conventions, especially the Republican National Convention in July in Cleveland, Ohio, and between now and Election Day, those who know why Clinton and Trump are appalling as candidates for the presidency of this American republic should think about activism and speak out as early and as often as possible. Though time is short, the impending doom of a race between Clinton vs. Trump—an unwinnable conflict—can be stopped.
For both aspiration and inspiration, look to the words and actions of the West’s greatest business, an American computer company called Apple in Cupertino, California. Apple, as you probably know, is being persecuted by the Obama administration, which fundamentally made Trump and Clinton possible, and Apple has decided to reject granting what Ayn Rand called the sanction of the victim.
Apple is fighting back.
Invoking America’s founding fathers in a defiant appeal to reason in the nation’s judicial system (read about it here), Apple again opposed Obama’s order to violate Apple’s rights today in court by arguing that “[a]ccording to the government, short of kidnapping or breaking an express law, the courts can order private parties to do virtually anything the Justice Department and FBI can dream up.”
Apple lawyers added: “The Founders would be appalled.”
I did not fully appreciate the heroism of Apple’s principled stand against the state until I watched the full, extended interview with CEO Tim Cook (watch it here).
Though ABC News should have disclosed its parent company Disney’s historically close relationship with Apple and the interviewer’s questions are generally slanted toward Obama’s administration or uninformed and often hostile, with no regard for individual rights, the interview only underscores Mr. Cook’s outstanding communication skills. He’s unequivocal, he answers each question, raising the stakes here and there and challenging the interviewer. It’s apparent from the interview that Apple, its leadership and Mr. Cook, who persistently and powerfully emphasizes that Apple’s refusal to comply with the government’s order to make new software in violation of Apple’s and its customer’s rights is a stand on principle, has studied, examined and contemplated the deepest issues and context of the false dichotomy between national defense and individual liberty. Tim Cook concisely, slowly and fundamentally gives Apple’s position clarity. One may dispute a word choice or phrasing but I can’t recall another recent example of a businessman so prominently, bravely and historically refusing to be persecuted by the state.
Bravo to Tim Cook for standing up for individual rights—his company’s and his customer’s—and to Apple for earning its status as the greatest American business. Whatever the outcome in this climactic conflict between the inalienable rights of the individual and the ominous role of the American state (read my thoughts on “Apple vs. the State“), the fact is that, while presidential candidates rage against Big Business and fraudulently pose as rebels for positive reform, a big business in California led by one man honors the proud American practice—from the Boston Tea Party to Rosa Parks and Edward Snowden—of rebelling against the omnipotent state and fighting for one’s rights.
The rise of statism in America continues to spread into the arts. Besides government-controlled or state-sponsored or favored subsidies, endowments and grants, or programs, from PBS and NPR to other funding, the influence of the government in art is pervasive and insidious. From hideous public projects to brilliant arts programming for television, its mark is everywhere, mixing the putrid with the inspired.
This week, statism infects the 30th annual South by Southwest arts conference and festival (SXSW®) in Texas, which describes itself as a “unique convergence of original music, independent films, and emerging technologies.” The March 11-19 event series in the Lone Star state capital promises “intellectual and creative intermingling among industry leaders” to learn about and trade in new ideas, arts and business.
Unfortunately, contradicting its premise and purpose, SXSW’s keynote speaker this year is the nation’s top government official: Barack Obama.
As with the improper appearances by Mrs. Obama and Joe Biden, the nation’s vice-president, at the Academy Awards, the increasing and insidious escalation of high-ranking government officials and their wives at private arts groups taints the activities. An arts event predicated on official government approval is a disturbing prospect and such a connection is insinuated or implied by these engagements. This is true in general. It was true when Ronald Reagan, a former union president, actor and Hollywood activist, was president of the United States and participated in the Oscars (and Reagan was a former Academy member). It is true now, too, more than ever, with the government imposing censorship, imposing control over every aspect of private life and actively violating individual rights, including the freedom of speech.
That the Texas festival would have as its keynote speaker a president who seeks to force an American business to violate its terms, contracts and rights and the rights of its customers is despicable (see “Apple Vs. the State“). That it would do so knowing that this president’s administration has unjustly blamed an artist for an act of war (Benghazi), sought to intimidate or initiate force against Americans including journalists for exercise of free speech, creating content and reporting facts (denouncing CNN and pressuring a preacher not to exercise his freedom of speech and burn the Koran) and incessantly seek to indiscriminately spy on all Americans (persecuting Edward Snowden for whistleblowing) is impossible to ignore, deny or evade. The people who run SXSW should disinvite President Obama, who opposes individual rights, and replace him with an individual who respects individual rights, including and especially the right to freedom of speech.
Otherwise, this festival is, like the presidential frontrunners for bigger, more controlling government (Clinton and Trump), a farce and a fraud.
After I read that the local government is considering removing Bob Hope’s name from Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport, I wrote an op-ed for the local newspaper (read my article here). My theme is that Bob Hope Airport is a name that honors the city, the man and the airport. Citing history, I explain that each has similarly capitalist origins which ought to be properly named, recognized and revered. My article caught the attention of a local news producer for an L.A. NBC News affiliate, who wanted to interview me for the evening telecast, though I was unable to do so. But I’m glad the op-ed was noticed and I hope that my activism helps Bob Hope Airport retain its rightful name.
When an individual moneymaker takes a moral stand on principle, realizes it with action and wins, the activism ought to be studied as an example in success.
This week, recording artist Taylor Swift provides such an example. Swift, a pop country music star, recently took to Tumblr (a blogging platform) to write a letter of activism (read Swift’s letter here). Swift explains that Apple’s new Apple Music streaming service precludes payment to artists in the first three months. Swift argues that this is wrong. In a persuasive, simple letter implicitly based on egoism, not altruism, because she predicates the letter on achieving her own values in an explicit expression of magnanimity, Swift makes the case for what amounts to intellectual property rights. Swift advocates what Ayn Rand called the trader principle, the essence of capitalism. As Swift concludes her letter to Apple: “Please don’t ask [artists] to provide you with our music for no compensation.”
Besides Swift’s fundamentally acknowledged fact that Apple’s terms are Apple’s to set, what distinguishes Swift’s activist letter from other forms of celebrity activism is her recognition of the good for being good. Swift does not malign Apple. In fact, she titles the post “To Apple, Love Taylor” and proceeds to express her “reverence” for Apple’s innovation and achievements. This demonstrates an understanding that acting in accordance with the company’s professed philosophy of human progress through new ideas is consistent with trading value for value. Harnessing the power of an artist that leftists and racists should regard as a beneficiary of “white privilege” or being among some inexplicably causeless “one percent” of wealthy millionaires, Swift, who has previously expressed support for Barack Obama, offers a perfectly rational example of selfish activism.
The letter is selfish, as against self-centered (as she points out when she writes that the issue of paying artists “is not about me”, which in this context is true), because in writing it she seeks to gain, keep and advance her values; in this case, the ability of artists to earn money to create. In a wider sense, the successful artist posting such a letter deepens the bond with fans and adds credibility to his brand. Swift’s letter succeeds on a number of levels in dispelling the myth that capitalism and benevolence are incompatible. Swift gains value as described, the struggling, unknown writer gains, her competitors also gain, and so do her patrons, employees and partners. The customer gains with greater funding for all artists which leads to more creation, variety and competition. Apple, too, gains from the compliments, publicity and Swift’s endorsement for the new platform and a better grasp of what top artists want and how they may communicate.
Capitalism is, in fact, win-win.
Taylor Swift’s letter displays an understanding of this principle. She does not seek the unearned. She also does not merely “kill them with kindness”, as a cynic might claim. The letter, praising Apple for allegiance to progress and innovation, is not structured for unearned guilt, vanity or opportunism. Swift’s letter ends with a thought which begins with the word ‘please’ extended as a courtesy, not with an arbitrary demand that Apple has a moral duty to serve others and sacrifice its profit. Swift backs her words with action, withholding her property on principle. This is the essence of good, selfish, rational activism (read my thoughts on activism here) in a dispute among good, selfish, rational men.
Those inclined to flame, troll or otherwise rant against anyone who deviates in the slightest degree from one’s values ought to look at Taylor Swift’s letter and learn from her example. This is activism that succeeds. As Apple executive Eddy Cueposted today on Twitter (and, as I teach in my social media course, social media is a crucial, legitimate tool for selfish communication), after granting Swift’s request: “We hear you, [Taylor Swift]…Love, Apple.” The exchange, namely that they are free to have it, is why I love capitalism.
From whom do you gather what you know from today’s media? Increasingly, today’s news media is driven by independent bloggers and freethinkers, reporting facts and disclosing news that drives what the individual ends up reading or hearing second and third-hand.
For example, whistleblower Edward Snowden, who released government documents proving that the U.S. government indiscriminately spies on Americans—documents first published by the Guardian on this date in 2013—has direct, measurable impact on Americans’ lives, more than major news outlets. Majors, such as Fox News, CNN and the Washington Post, are capable of good work, too, and aggregate media services such as Drudge and Google News serve an important function. But more than ever, the independent, individual thinker enlightens the West.
Much of today’s relevant news involves national security and arbitrary, indiscriminate government control, which is why one’s life depends upon the freedom of speech. This is why it’s crucial to support absolute free speech and its corollary, the free press, and actively oppose censorship. I recently applied and was admitted as a member of PEN American Center, which awarded its courage award to Charlie Hebdo in defiance of Islamic jihadists and their apologists, such as Joyce Carol Oates, for this reason.
Today’s podcaster, columnist or blogger, probably working with limited resources, risks incurring the wrath of barbaric religious fanatics, New Left radicals and smearmeisters in the media. But they do so to provide today’s individual with knowledge of tomorrow’s planned dictate, control or impending attack and the potential remedy, resistance or escape. It’s often been said before by many others, though, today, it bears repeating on this blog: when you support free speech and patronize the freethinking press, you act in your self-interest. According to my philosophy, this is the highest virtue. Egoism begins with a mind that’s free to think. In a world where the freedom to know what you know about current events is diminishing, the egoist goes out of his way to rally behind the writer, creator and thinker brave enough to buck the trend.