David Stairs

Load your Potato Guns boys ’n girls!

Yogi Berra once said, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”

Back in the days when Trump was the undisputed Twitter Queen, I never thought we’d be free of his unhinged rantings. It was a surprising relief when he was finally dethroned. But, as in a beehive, when one queen dies another arises in her place, and it didn’t take long for a replacement to come along. Elon Musk was determined to out do Trump. He would not only take over as Queen of Tweets, he would also take financial control of the platform.

It is perhaps indicative of our uncivil times that a demagogue like Musk is permitted to cavil and strut in public space like some overinflated blowfish, yet suffer no correction. Musk threatens to take Tesla private, shaking up the markets, but then he doesn’t and receives little more than a warning from the SEC. Musk raises $44 billion in a takeover bid for Twitter, secured by $12 billion in Tesla stock, but maybe it’s all just a ruse since he refuses to close the deal without guarantees that no more than 5% of Twitter users are “fake” accounts. Musk’s machinations seem custom-made for a mediasphere populated by the likes of Alex Jones and Tucker Carlson, talking heads whose sole purpose is to roil the currents of public “dyscourse.”

Another telling benchmark of our civil-descent-into-hell is the arrival of mainstream coverage of celebrity libel trials. These have been around for years, wherever enough money exists for it to be wasted on defending the indefensible. But the recent one-two of Depp vs Heard, and in the UK, Vardy vs Rooney, can’t have escaped notice by many of the extent to which we’ve been “Kardashianized.” The trade in public humiliation as an allowable form of public relations is almost as embarrassing as schoolyard exchanges of “I know you are, so what am I?” Unfortunately, public fascination with reality entertainment guarantees that tit-for-tat is not going away anytime soon.

Existence in a world where gossip can be blown up into jury trials does make one take pause before spouting off online— although, this obviously is not a universal sentiment. The internet has long been a flame thrower’s paradise, but given the legal fees that can accumulate in celebrity wars, it makes good sense to avoid targets with deep pockets, or at least to cover one’s barbs with a certain amount of ambiguity.

My daughter Maya once referred to me as The Master of Inappropriate Comments in response to my proven ability to spout insensitive remarks at just the right moment. Fortunately for me, whatever my “Clod Factor” may be in the world of awkward boobs, it seems I am a rank amateur when compared with a few of the noteworthy personalities online. And since that includes a large and ever growing number of self-styled celebrities, provocateurs, and mountebanks, I think I am safe.

Being family gaffe-meister gets me in plenty of hot water as it is. I don’t need any libel suits coming at me from estranged colleagues, indignant influencers, or unknown and unanticipated gigafloppers. But hey, let’s give a faint cheer for the inappropriate. It is, after all, the way some of us are best remembered.

Just ask Yogi Berra.

David Stairs is the founding editor of the Design-Altruism-Project.

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