Hortons and Whos and the Wickersham Brothers;
Updated: Aug 10, 2022
An analogy between a Dr. Seuss classic and our state of information, freedom of speech, and open discussion
Quite frequently, I feel like Horton the elephant from Dr. Seuss’s ‘Horton Hears a Who!’ In fact, I have had a photo of Horton holding his clover taped to the window of my office for years now.
In my attempts to share the facts I have researched, and in an effort to fight the narratives and fake news we have been pummeled with over the last several years, it feels like I am spitting into the wind, as they say.
In my quest to present the other side of things to those who follow mainstream media without question, I strongly identify with Horton and his struggles to get others to hear what he hears, and believe what he knows to be true.
For those who have never seen it, or need a refresher on the plot, Horton is an elephant living in the jungle of Nool. One day he hears a tiny yelp coming from a dust speck as it floats by him. He realizes there is a town full of Whos inside the tiny speck and places it on a clover to keep it safe.
Horton hears the voice of Professor Whovy, the only character in Whoville who believes there is life outside of their little world.
Similarly, no one else in Nool can hear anything coming from the speck, and the animals, thinking Horton is crazy, capture him and try to boil the dust speck to put an end to his obsession.
While Horton is trying to convince the others there are living creatures inside the dust speck, a group of monkeys, known as the Wickersham Brothers, accuse him of being up to something sinister and set out to stop him.
Revisiting the original version of the movie made in 1970, I noticed things I had not before. In addition to my analogy involving Horton, I found some unexpected similarities between some of the characters and the current state of division and freedom of speech issues we are currently experiencing.
I was especially surprised at the adult nature of the accusations in the song the Wickersham Brothers sing during their capture of Horton, drawing a comparison between them and the situation in the story, and events that are happening today with regard to censorship of certain voices on social media by government and big tech, and the overwhelming power of the mainstream media.
“We know what you’re up to pal
You’re trying to shatter our morale
You’re trying to stir up discontent
And seize the reins of government
You’re trying to throw sand in our eyes
You’re trying to kill free enterprise
And raise the cost of figs and dates
And wreck our compound interest rates
And shut our schools, and steal our jewels
And even change our football rules
Take away our garden tools
And lock us up in vestibules”
The song ends with the Wickersham Brothers repeating, “There’ll be no more talking to Whos who are not” many times as they drag Horton and his clover away.
The struggle creates an earthquake-type scenario in Whoville, and the Whos finally believe the warnings of Dr. Whovy who gets everyone in town to make noise in an effort to be heard and save themselves.
They are not heard until one last Who is found sitting silent. It is a young child who is then held up high and urged to make any noise. Dr. Whovy tells the child, “This is your town’s darkest hour.”
Just as the speck was about to be snatched from Horton’s trunk and boiled in a pot of water, the child yells, “Yop!” That one final “yop” was enough, and the animals in Nool heard the Whos’ chants of “We are here, We are here, We are here, We are here!”
In this analogy, the Hortons and Whos are those who support fact-based information, and free speech, and the Wickersham Brothers are government, big tech, and the mainstream media.
While the Hortons and Whos of the world are gaining in numbers, the Wickersham Brothers are also ramping up their game.
The most recent examples include the DOJ bringing in the FBI to investigate “threats against school administrators” as parents ask tough questions to board members about what is being taught to their children, and are speaking out against mask mandates in the schools. We are now looking at government mandates regarding vaccinations in the workplace, big tech takes down opinions not in line with government-sanctioned ideas on certain topics, and biased fact-checkers on social media flag everything from articles to memes or jokes on the basis they “violate their community standards” without giving you a reason why.
Politicians on the “correct” side of things make statements that are simply untrue, but they say it with confidence and repeat it over and over, which, of course, makes it true to those who aren’t concerned with the lack of facts behind said statements. This is a proven theory called the illusory truth effect, which is described as the tendency to believe false information to be correct after repeated exposure. Researchers discovered that familiarity can overpower rationality.
To compound the problem, there are many people who make snap judgments on issues simply by reading a headline. I have long been frustrated that people share, comment, and judge things they see online without actually opening and reading the content.
Frequently, people on social media will ask a question in the comments section of a post that has already been addressed in the article. It is obvious they have not read it, some even sharing opinions that have little to do with the facts presented within the piece.
I get it. People don’t have the time or motivation to read lengthy things, but most articles are between a three to five-minute read, which is time well spent, and necessary if you actually want to be informed.
I have also witnessed interactions between people who don’t want to hear any opposing thought, even if it is done respectfully and they are presented with facts.
Over the past few years, I have personally seen people become visibly uncomfortable at the mere mention of politics, and one person physically produced a shudder, wrinkled up their face, then walked away, at the mention of a certain former president’s name.
I have also had respectful discussions with people who think differently, but usually reject my suggestion that they read something that backs up what I am saying. They simply shut down and we move on.
This is not a one-sided issue. There are echo chambers on both sides of the political aisle, and confirmation bias is a very powerful thing.
It is a worthy exercise to learn to look at things objectively and with an open mind. Question things, do your homework, ask people that disagree with you for facts, and have yours at the ready.
Spend time asking questions, reading, listening, and thinking critically before you come to conclusions. It is empowering to have facts that back up your opinions.
Hint: Citizen Stringer has done a lot of the work for you. We work hard to provide our readers with fact-based information.
I’m sure there are many that can relate to the Whos and would say that this is our country’s darkest hour. We are extremely divided and are traveling down two separate and parallel information highways. We can only come together if we find common ground and agree on a set of facts.
The facts need to be louder than the noise, which is no small feat these days. The Wickersham Brothers have a very big machine behind them.
In the original story, the Whos were finally heard when they all spoke up and worked together.
To all the Hortons and Whos out there – never give up. Even though it feels overwhelming and hopeless at times, you never know which one of you will be the “yop” that finally breaks through and allows others to hear what you have to say.
You can watch ‘Horton Hears a Who!’ on archive.org.
Originally published on Citizen Stringer, October 13, 2021.