Discover more from Abernathy Road
Facebook can't win Whac-A-Mole. Biden gets Trump treatment. And scary Halloween stuff
By Gary Abernathy
Social media is a monster turning against us all
One of the brightest and shiniest objects currently holding the gaze of most media organizations is the attention being paid to Facebook’s role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. A combination of easily reviewed public posts coupled with leaked internal documents is leading to a feeding frenzy on how Facebook should have done more to prevent “Stop the Steal” participants from using Facebook to organize their activities.
In the long run, this is a road to nowhere. The very nature of Facebook and most other social media platforms will always allow groups, including politically-motivated ones, to share messages and organize their activities, including nefarious ones. The amount of personnel needed to effectively monitor all messages on Facebook alone — even with the help of automated systems designed to flag certain messages — makes what critics are demanding virtually impossible. It’s another example of the fallacy that every bad thing is preventable. It’s not.
The Jan. 6 riot was a dark and shameful day in American history. Donald Trump deserves whatever scorn comes his way for his role in it — failing to accept the election results, and then making an inflammatory speech to thousands of emotional supporters gathered in Washington that day. But blaming Facebook for allowing its platform to be used by organizers is like blaming a paper manufacturer for letting its notebooks be used to pass messages from person to person. Yep, Facebook is a notebook on steroids, but that’s the age we’re in.
What’s concerning is that most of the emphasis is on how to stop “right wing groups” from abusing Facebook, as though all the danger and potential violence comes from one side of the political spectrum. That’s a lie. Where is the concern about left wing agitators who used social media to plan protests that turned violent throughout 2020?
The point is, the downside of the social media/internet age is that we’ve created a monster, and it has turned against us. We’re trying to find a way to rein it in but still keep it strong and vibrant to maintain the things we like about it. It’s a no-win effort. The flow of communication and information that makes social media popular will always and forever provide a platform for people to communicate nefarious intentions, either blatantly or subversively.
Facebook and other social media giants will eventually promise that they’ve fixed the problem, and their fixes will be heavily weighted against conservatives and speech from the right, because that’s the trend and the emphasis of most media today. But in reality, they’ll only be sticking their fingers in a few holes in the dam while other leaks spring forth unchecked. It’s Whac-A-Mole at best.
The upside of social media and the internet is the ability for everyone to have a platform and engage in unfettered communication. The downside is the same thing.
Where was the concern over vulgarities aimed at Trump?
A story in The Washington Post focuses on the vulgarity used by some in criticizing President Joe Biden. It includes comments from some folks bemoaning that it’s come to this.
Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), said, discussing a Biden visit to a school, “What I think was really disappointing was the profanity and the sort of really over-the-top, heinous things that people wrote on signs, just blocks from a school. And I think it reflects that there is a strain in the country right now of people who are angry and they’ve sort of lost their decency and civility.”
After another school visit, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) tweeted, “The protesters outside the child care center today had a giant ‘F — k Joe Biden’ sign and were chanting the same thing loud enough to make sure all the children could hear it. Just heartbreaking for kids to see how crude and uncivil some of our discourse has become.”
Our civil discourse is nearly nonexistent, to be sure, but where was everyone during the Trump presidency when similar things were directed at him? Do we forget about Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) declaring about Trump in 2019, “We’re going to impeach the mother———!” How ‘bout the huge float portraying Trump in a diaper that appeared at countless rallies? My email inbox is regularly filled by readers saying, “F—- Trump and f—-you!” Regularly. (Often followed by, “I hope you get covid and die.”)
The examples are endless, so I’ll take a pass on the crocodile tears over the vulgarities aimed at Biden. He’s just getting a taste of the Trump treatment. And you have to admit, the whole “Let’s go Brandon” thing, and how it came about, is at least a little amusing.
Yes, let’s cancel Halloween to save the planet
Showing up on something called Trees.com is an article wondering, apparently seriously, whether we should cancel Halloween “to save the planet.”
Pumpkins are the culprit. According to the article, “…pumpkins need an inch of water per week during their growing season, which is typically 10-14 weeks long. Although this isn’t as water-intensive as plant-based crops like almonds and soybeans, when multiplied by billions of pumpkins around the world, it amounts to millions of gallons of water. As water becomes an increasingly unstable resource as a result of climate change, it raises questions about where and how it should be used, particularly for crops that are largely ornamental.”
There are other detrimental aspects to pumpkins, we’re told throughout the piece.
The article does provide some cause for optimism. “In the U.S., the majority of pumpkin purchasers are planning on disposing of their used pumpkins in an environmentally-friendly manner, including eating them, feeding them to animals, and planting the seeds. If these trends continue, and the number of pumpkin enthusiasts who dump their gourds in the garbage shrinks, it likely won’t be necessary to cancel this Halloween tradition.”
That’s a relief.
The scariest thing out there this Halloween
This is scarier than anything else I could come up with for Halloween. From the New York Post:
A Manhattan matrimonial judge has suspended a Long Island father’s visitation with his 3-year-old daughter unless he gets vaccinated or submits to weekly COVID-19 tests. “Here, in-person parental access by defendant is not in the child’s best interests, and there are exceptional circumstances that support its suspension,” wrote Justice Matthew Cooper, who is presiding over the pair’s divorce and custody dispute. “The dangers of voluntarily remaining unvaccinated during access with a child while the COVID-19 virus remains a threat to children’s health and safety cannot be understated,” the jurist said in the Oct. 7 decision, which withheld the parties’ names.
We live in terrifying times when it comes to government abusing its power in the name of “health and safety.” Separating parents from their children over the covid vaccine is unbelievable. Taken to its logical conclusion, doesn’t this amount to a covid vaccine mandate for everyone with children, or the children will be removed?
Read again from the judge: “The dangers of voluntarily remaining unvaccinated during access with a child while the COVID-19 virus remains a threat to children’s health and safety cannot be understated.” Actually, it can, but not according to radical judicial opinions like this. This is chilling.
Classic horror stars followed different paths in later years
Continuing our look at classic horror films and their stars during Halloween month…
By the end of the 1940s, interest in the classic horror characters had waned. Traditional gothic monsters based on superstition and folk tales of werewolves and vampires were soon replaced in the 1950s by creatures emerging from the fear of nuclear proliferation and the growing space race. Giant reptiles, spiders and even people sprang forth after nuclear accidents, joined by flying saucers from outer space as questions about life on other planets gained traction.
Dracula, the Frankenstein Monster, the Wolf Man and the Mummy went into a well-earned hibernation. Of course, this spelled trouble for several of the actors famous for portraying such characters.
Bela Lugosi struggled more than anyone. His poor business decisions and increasing dependency on drugs in an effort to manage a pain condition — coupled with his limited character opportunities due to his thick Hungarian accent — left him adrift. He appeared in small roles in a few studio films, but he ended up working for notorious low-budget producer Ed Wood. Eventually, he checked himself into a drug rehabilitation facility — before celebrities doing such a thing was common — which was accompanied by withering publicity. Just a few months later, in August of 1956, his heart finally gave out. He died at 73.
Lon Chaney Jr. was an alcoholic his entire adult life, and he acknowledged it. He began telling directors to make sure to get all they could out of him by noon each day, because all bets were off after that. Still, his talents were respected. Producer Stanley Kramer said that when parts were too difficult for other actors, he would call Chaney. It may have been flattery, but Chaney did have key roles in several Kramer films, including as the retired sheriff in the classic “High Noon” (1952) with Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly, and an important part in “The Defiant Ones” (1958) with Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier.
One of Chaney’s most fascinating roles was the lead in the low-budget “Spider Baby” (1964), which has become a cult favorite. Chaney basically raps the title song, and plays caretaker of children who suffer from a mental disorder. At one point, the dialogue has him referencing the Wolf Man. It’s a quirky and fun film. While Chaney appeared in his share of low-budget movies, he was called upon for some decent studio films during gothic horror’s resurgence in the 1960s, including “The Haunted Palace” with Vincent Price in 1963 for Roger Corman and AIP. But his last film, “Frankenstein versus Dracula” (1971) — in which he played neither monster — was a forgettable clunker. He died in 1973 at age 67.
Unlike Lugosi and Chaney, Karloff thrived regardless of whether horror films were in or out. His versatility and good business sense allowed him to move from film to stage to television and radio with ease. When classic horror faded in the 1950s, he focused on Broadway and numerous TV guest appearances. In the early 1960s he hosted “Boris Karloff’s Thriller,” a “Twilight Zone”-type television show on NBC with a mystery or macabre theme each week. He was the voice of “The Grinch” for the classic 1966 cartoon, leading his daughter, Sara to boast that her father now had two holidays associated with him, Halloween and Christmas.
When Hammer Studios and other British companies, along with AIP in America, returned to classic horror beginning in the late 1950s, Karloff was back in demand as a movie star. For Corman and AIP he made two films with Vincent Price, “The Raven” and “A Comedy of Terrors.” When “The Raven” finished ahead of schedule, Corman talked Karloff into giving him two days for another film, “The Terror,” co-starring a young Jack Nicholson, who also starred in “The Raven.” Karloff agreed, but the result was not outstanding.
Karloff continued with guest appearances on TV, and made more movies, including a 1968 British production, “Curse of the Crimson Altar” with Christopher Lee, who had usurped him as the new generation’s horror favorite. But Karloff and Lee became great friends. and were even neighbors in London during Karloff’s last years. In his autobiography, Lee wrote that when he and Karloff would happen to emerge at the same time from their homes, “people expected to see body-bags dumped on the pavement.”
In 1968, young director Peter Bogdanovich convinced Karloff to star in the director’s first film, “Targets,” about an aging horror star who was retiring because he was aghast at the real horrors in the world and felt the classic horrors couldn’t compete. It’s a poignant and moving film, and a fitting finale for Karloff (although he technically filmed parts for a Mexican production company that were incorporated into four films released after his death).
Karloff died Feb. 2, 1969 at age 81, working to the end and quite wealthy to boot.
Next: Ranking the Top 20 classic horror films.
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