The Sorensen Monologues

The “Marketplace of Ideas”

The phrase “the marketplace of ideas” has a long history, but seems extra-ubiquitous lately. As Wikipedia puts it, “The marketplace of ideas is a rationale for freedom of expression based on an analogy to the economic concept of a free market.” But markets are about power, money, and advertising. Certain voices are seen and heard more than others. The most “popular” product is not necessarily the best, and is often arrived at through manipulating desires and needs. The entire approach runs counter to the scientific method. You don’t get to choose facts like a brand of deodorant.

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Eyeballs to the Wall

Hopefully it’s clear that I’m not arguing for averting one’s gaze entirely from harsh realities. We have a moral obligation to do what we can. I do think that excessive media consumption and Twitter activism can become counterproductive. And when that happens, it’s time to embrace the sweet emptiness of painted drywall, or another real-world object of your choice. 

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New NFTs

The Guardian reported recently on the Hardin coal plant in Montana coming back to life to power a Bitcoin mining operation. Not only is this bad for climate change, but the pollutants wreak havoc on public health, causing premature deaths and childhood asthma. NFTs are typically sold via the Ethereum blockchain, which is also extremely energy-intensive. While developers are working on less environmentally-destructive alternatives, the system as it stands now is a form of “slow violence” with the victims out of sight, as this writer puts it.

Pump and Dump

As others have pointed out, drilling new oil wells takes years, there are already plenty of unused drillilng permits, and if we don’t decarbonize we’re all going to roast. To the extent that we “need more gas,” this is entirely due to the fact that we are fifty years behind on switching away from fossil fuels, courtesy of the very people now yelling for more drilling. So you can safely dismiss any rhetoric about drilling as GOP/fossil fuel industry propaganda.

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Quiz Time: Is it from Russia or the American Right?

The fact that we are seeing so many anti-LGBTQ bills at the state level in the US is not unrelated to Russia’s war on Ukraine. Gay rights have long been used by Putin as an ideological wedge issue to forge a Russian identity in opposition to the “decadent” globalized West. Russia’s “gay propaganda” law passed in 2013 casts a wide net around anything that could be remotely perceived as promoting “non-traditional” sexual relationships to minors. 

For more on the Russian Orthodox leader’s remarks on the war-justifying threat posed by gay pride parades (which are allowed in Kyiv), this article has a decent summary.

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Bad Ukraine Takes

This Guardian article provides a synopsis of some of the more ridiculous assertions by Carlson, Bannon, and others. And this is a good explainer on the energy issues at stake (bottom line: renewables pose a threat to Russia through energy independence.)

In case you need a translation for the third panel, Putin is saying “Thanks, fools!”  Though his actual net worth is impossible to know, this Money article lays out the likely range.

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Contraception Cops

For further background, see this article.

I think these scenarios sound far-fetched to those who have lived in an era of social progress on these issues, but given the infiltration of the US legal system by Federalist Society extremists, and what we’ve seen so far with abortion cases, the repeal of many of these rights seems entirely plausible.

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Recycling Dilemmas

I’ve long been an avid recycler, and I get annoyed by cynics who point out the many shortcomings of the process without offering a solution other than doing nothing. Plastic recycling, however, seems uniquely problematic, given the massive carbon inputs used to create plastic in the first place, the tiny fraction that actually gets recycled (especially now that China has stopped taking our shipments), and the fact that plastic pollution is rapidly pervading every space on Earth, including our own bodies.

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Uighur Olympics

A few relevant sources to check out if you’re interested: this Daily Beast article pulls no punches on the choice of a Uighur athlete to light the Olympic flame. “Gaslighting the world” gets it about right. The practice of organ harvesting sounds far-fetched and feels impolite to mention, but is alas well-documented by credible organizations such as the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. This NBC News article from 2019 headlined “China forcefully harvests organs from detainees, tribunal concludes” is also rather unambiguous.

As far as forced labor is concerned, the IOC has “failed to offer credible evidence that there are no products made with forced labour in the thousands of items of Olympic-branded merchandise sold or worn in connection with the Beijing Winter Games” according to the Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region.

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High Tech Medievalism

Among other things, Joe Rogan has been promoting ivermectin as a miracle cure, refusing to get the vaccine himself and suggesting healthy young people don’t need to bother. Corporations aren’t going to turn down profits to preserve basic ethical standards on their own; nor is government, sans equal time laws, going to do anything, so it’s up to us to defend the public commons. Boycotts are one of the only tools we have left. 

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The Great Acceleration

I’ve long been a fan of the film Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance. It has always seemed obvious to me that the ever-increasing speed of late industrialization was both pointless and harmful to life on the planet. In recent decades, we have seen most productivity gains go to the very top; inequality has spiked, the climate crisis is exploding, and democracy is wilting under a rapid-fire glut of disinformation. Change is inevitable, but this degree of disruption and instability is simply inhuman.

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As many readers here probably already know, the American Legislative Exchange Council is a Koch-backed group that pairs corporate lobbyists with right-wing lawmakers to generate model bills that are pretty much industry wish lists. The Energy Discrimination Elimination Act would require that states maintain a blacklist of financial firms that have divested from fossil fuels, and deny any government contracts to those companies. This anti-divestment campaign is already the law in Texas.

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Jen Sorensen is a cartoonist seen on Daily Kos, The Nib, and in magazines and
newspapers throughout the US. She is a 2017 Pulitzer finalist and recipient of the 2014 Herblock Prize and a 2013 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award.




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