Strike up the banned: You can’t say that | AspenTimes.com

Strike up the banned: You can’t say that

Benjamin Welch

I had just come off my third Xbox Live ban — this one for two weeks — after some Twitch streamer goaded me into saying a naughty word while I was getting beat by 30 in “NBA2K19.”

If I had put as many hours into learning a new language as I have the “2K” franchise, I would be starring in a pig latin adaptation of “Sons of Anarchy.” This is, of course, not to include the language that spawns the rainbow of insults you spontaneously generate at the television before you punch it, like “s— on my —-,” and “why don’t you go —- a f—?” I’d like to buy a vowel, Pat.

And like many conservative personalities my ability to broadcast or send smack talk messages to randos at halftime was silenced. Xbox party chat is the only way I communicate with most of my old friends anymore, because teaming up in “Rocket League” is more masculine than ringing them up after four months and yelling, “Hey bro, whatcha doing?” A few of them have even hit the house-wife-baby trifecta; good luck ever seeing that guy again. And now a service that I’m paying premium rates for is taking this away from me? From us?

And that’s when my cellphone started blowing up, which in today’s nomenclature means buzzing and beeping at the same time — signaling that a random person on the internet had provided me with a quantum of gratification.

In this instance, my response to a “Blue’s Clues” meme was racking up the likes and retweets, driving everyone around me crazy for the next 24 hours as my phone chirped and shuddered nonstop while I basked in the virality of a dirty punchline made at the expense of a children’s TV show where a doofus in a mismatched outfit pretends to run in place and talk to a cartoon dog.

I use my Twitter account mostly as joke storage for when I inevitably overcome my lethargy long enough to craft a stand-up routine for open mic night at Red Onion. Being that I only have 22 followers, I’m not too worried about anyone stealing my content or judging me if I decide to recycle a one-liner in real life. I’ve been trying to post bits to Facebook recently, but either I’m shadowbanned or being throttled by Facebook’s “Fake News” feed algorithm, because I get little engagement despite being completely certain that I’m very funny.

I tried using online notepad apps to record my thoughts and prayers but they keep getting hacked. I’m no Geek Squad nerd, but I suspect @SeanBeckwith. Except I know he’s a very honest man because all his social handles are his exact name, and you wouldn’t risk doing anything overtly offensive with that kind of flex.

Which is why I save the spiciest tweets for my burner account (no, I’m not Steve Cahn), but regardless, I would have thought including my handle in the tagline of Writing Switch enough times would have gotten me real human followers instead of just anime and Spotify bots (@bwelch1990). I’m a local celebrity, OK? You should follow me. Ben at Local Spirits somehow manages to remember my name.

In this hyper-sensitive age of peppering every sentence with “sorry” and ending all emails with an enthusiastic “thanks!” it’s important not to trigger the mob that will either try to deplatform you or take away your livelihood. When you consider that innocuous phrases like “learn to code” are now bannable offenses online, it makes life easier to just use a throwaway account instead of offering limp-wristed apologies for every “mean” thing you utter. I say “sorry” about as often as “Let’s watch ‘The Avengers’” and “I love you” — in other words, never.

“The world will be difficult, and we do nobody any favors when we coddle them to the point that they never hear criticism or hear a harsh word or have to face any adversity,” Scott Van Pelt said on ESPN’s “Sportscenter” ironically the night I was writing this. Freedom of speech is more than smug comments that “the First Amendment only applies to government”; it’s a moral imperative. The concept is that speech we as a society find abhorrent will filter through and be judged by the marketplace of ideas, as Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote about in Abrams v. United States. It’s not Twitter feminists insisting everyone they disagree with is a “Nazi” and that “your rights end where mine begin,” as if the self-evident truths the Constitution holds includes a pair of government-issued earmuffs.

There’s also a weird guilty-by-association movement en vogue. “Hitler was a great admirer of George Washington,” the thought police will say, as if Mount Vernon held swastikas instead of keys to the Bastille. Elmer Fudd also was a fan of No. 1, what’s your point?

Sillicon Valley has taken it upon themselves to enforce this PG-rated culture of mandatory kindness with heavy enforcement on loose definitions such as “harassment.” Many countries — and I’m not even talking about China and North Korea — have banned entire websites, stifling speech that the overlords have deemed “hurtful” or not “progressive” enough.

Even here in the United States, some citizens are completely insensible by the liberties we’re afforded in terms of what we’re legally allowed to say. “Hate speech isn’t protected by the First Amendment” is my favorite assertion that pseudo-smart people insist; nevermind that they’re 100 percent wrong.

My so-called friend, who went to an actual second-rate law school, called me “so f—ing dumb” during an argument in which I attempted to convince him there were no U.S. regulations on the books against hate speech. He even tried to evoke the eleventh commandment: Thou shalt not yell “fire” in a crowded theater. Do you even have any idea where that’s from? Hint: It’s closer to a Buster Keaton movie than the Declaration of Indepedence.

Another good one is “Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences.” Yes it does! That’s the very essence of freedom!

In a startling Gallup survey of 3,000 college students last year, respondents answered that diversity is more important than free speech by a 53 to 46 percent margin. As if diversity can even be achieved when everyone’s opinions are sieved through the zipper of your Big Brother-imposed gimp bodysuit.

All right, that’s enough of this gobbledygook. Have I reached my word count yet? I miss Sean yelling “trash!” every other sentence but this week he just had to attend the “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” Cosplayers Convention. Check back next week as we return to normal unhinged programming.

Benjamin Welch is banned again on Xbox Live until April 6. After that, send him party invites by searching gamertag PoseidonzKiss.


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