Where are we going, and why are we in this handbasket?

If you heard Saturday’s show (repeated Sunday afternoon) you heard a bunch of soundbites from Bert and Ernie of “Sesame Street.” (As opposed to Bert and Ernie of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”)

I don’t mean to disillusion you, but they weren’t in the studio with me — the magic of radio! theater of the mind! — and they also weren’t exclusive to me. Not hardly. They were part of a video series that Elle Magazine has created called “Song Association,” in which celebrities are given a vocabulary word, and then have 10 seconds to think of a song that includes the word.

You can view Bert and Ernie’s entire appearance on YouTube (it’s actually a load of fun — they also sang “If I Had $1,000,000” by Barenaked Ladies, as well as “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” by Randy Newman) and check out the other celebrity videos at the hashtag #SongAssociation. Billie Eilish, Adam Lambert, Olivia Rodrigo and Meghan Trainor have all participated in the long-running series.

Speaking of hashtags, controversy around Elon Musk’s ownership of the bird app seems to have died down a bit. He seems to be a little less manic in the types of half-ass changes he’s made. Maybe his meds kicked in, or more likely, his investors told him to “knock this sh-t off.”

It’s still not a place I anticipate spending much time at under the current regime. On Jan. 6 — the second anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Capitol by insurrectionists — Musk’s Twitter restored the account of disgraced former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

Twitter suspended Flynn’s account on Jan. 8, 2021, after accusing him of spreading lies about the 2020 election to his more than 1 million followers.

Putting him back on the service on the anniversary of an attack orchestrated by Donald Trump and his co-conspirators is clearly Musk’s way of signalling his support for far-right and quasi-fascist causes. Not that we had much doubt that Musk enjoys supporting authoritarians; whether it’s because he thinks it’s funny to troll liberals, or because he actually supports the goals of white nationalism, is kind of beside the point. The end result is the same.

So, do I want to write free content for an app that kicks out legitimate journalists but welcomes back literal Nazis and fascists who want to overthrow democratic self-rule? Is that even a question?

Many of my leftist and progressive friends wouldn’t dream of eating at Chik-fil-A because the company financially supports organizations that campaign against equality for the LGBTQ community. They won’t shop at Hobby Lobby because the company is against reproductive choice for women. They won’t watch Fox News because it’s right-wing propaganda.

But many of those same people are still happily chirping away on the bird app.

The idea that they’re part of some kind of “Twitter resistance” would be funny if it weren’t a little sad. It’s a private company. Try taking a seat at Eat ‘n Park without buying anything, call yourself the “Eat ‘n Park resistance,” and see how quickly they eject you. Similarly, if and when Elon decides to kick you out, you’re going to be gone.

Writing free content for his app generates income for him. It may only be a fraction of a fraction of a penny, but it’s very real.

I miss Twitter a little, but not enough to put money into Elon’s pockets.

I’ve been more or less absent from Facebook for 10 months. I maintain my Jay Thurber Show page to promote the radio program, and some other pages for work, but my personal profile is more or less dormant.

On Sunday, I peeped into Facebook and saw I had an invite to join a “funny meme” group. I accepted the invite and shortly thereafter left the group. Most of the memes weren’t that funny; the comment section was a toxic cesspool of people who either missed the jokes, or thought the jokes were politically motivated (either on the left or the right). Who needs it?

I continue to poke around Mastodon and Post.News. Mastodon is less difficult to use than I thought it was, at first. It’s still not as easy to use as Twitter or Facebook. In particular, because Mastodon is decentralized and spread out over many different, but interconnected servers, finding people to follow isn’t intuitive.

When you sign up for Mastodon, you register at a particular server on the network, not on the entire network. For instance, I’m on “union.place.” So just typing a keyword (such as “Pittsburgh”) into the search bar doesn’t find you everyone who uses Mastodon and is posting about Pittsburgh. It generally only finds the people using your particular Mastodon server.

One thing that’s working for me is to look at the list of people who follow me on Mastodon, and then look at who they follow. It’s connected me to a lot of interesting people and groups — some of whom I knew from other social media, some of whom I’ve never heard of before.

I’ve seen some celebrities who had large followings on Twitter complaining that no one is following them on Mastodon. Often times, when I look at their profiles, they’re only following a handful of people. Or they’re only re-posting content they already posted on Twitter.

It seems pretty obvious, but bears repeating: You’re going to get out of it what you put into it. If you don’t post and you don’t follow anyone, you’re going to find it pretty lonely.

Post.News is much easier to use. It works much like Twitter. But it still seems buggy (I still can’t reply to comments on my own threads) and the site is frequently overloaded and sluggish. When it works, it still seems like a lot of stuffed shirts making pronouncements, not a conversation. I may keep my toe in the water, but I don’t think I’ll be spending much time there.

As several people have pointed out, both Mastodon and Post.News also are overwhelmingly white so far. There were real subcultures of Black and indigenous people on Twitter, who were able to tell their own stories for the first time without being filtered through mainstream media. Multiple studies have shown that under-represented groups used Twitter to network, organize and call for collective action.

While Musk’s takeover of Twitter has annoyed white journalists and celebrities, it’s really, deeply harmed Black and minority journalists and individuals.

Maybe that wasn’t his intention; maybe it was just an artifact of empowering his Nazi friends for the “lulz” and to “pwn the libs.”

Or … maybe it was one of the things he wanted to do all along. What’s the old saying? When you hear hoof-beats, think horses, not zebras. In other words, don’t go looking for alternative explanations when the truth is obvious and right in front of you.

Are you on Mastodon or do you have some good suggestions of who I should follow on Mastodon? Drop me a note in the comments, or better yet, find me at @jaythurbershow@union.place.

I’m also experimenting with Discord, but I haven’t done anything there yet. It seems like even more of a gated community than Post and Mastodon, but maybe I’m not using it correctly.

Meanwhile, there’s good news out of the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. McKees Rocks native and former Pitt Panthers standout Damar Hamlin is talking and breathing on his own, just one week after his heart stopped during a football game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Hamlin made his first public comments on Saturday and was well enough to watch his Buffalo Bills teammates defeat the New England Patriots on Sunday.

With all we now know about the health risks of playing American football — including early-onset dementia — I really wonder sometimes if the game will be so popular 50 years from now, or if it will go the way of professional boxing, which is a shadow of what it represented from the 1930s through the 1970s.

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