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This year has been full of heroes and villains. This year has been full of heroes and villains. But let’s go beyond that and talk about the superstars of 2023. Starting with the good guys is easier because there are a lot of deserving candidates, despite the bad things of 2023.
Much of the year has been spent fighting over speech, culminating in the very public battles against, and even for, antisemitism. (Our education system, ladies and gents.) The free speech conflict has gone downhill rapidly since 2016, when liberals and their media buddies realized many conservatives were actually organizing and commenting online. So they had to be stopped.
In 2023, many of the heroes were trying to push back. Most of the people on my heroes list made their marks fighting for speech.
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One odd note is that the first four people on my list have something unusual in common. Wait till you get to No. 4.
1. Elon Musk
Elon Musk is a hero straight out of a Hollywood script – only in that movie, he’s probably a Bond villain. He’s rich, brilliant, young and playing baby daddy to nearly a dozen kids. But he also wants to take us to Mars and help free humanity from its terrestrial bonds.
No one has influenced pop culture in 2023 more than Taylor Swift. She is the first A-list celebrity to truly dominate the post-COVID-19 world. You name it, she’s done it.
He’s an imperfect defender of free speech, but he tries and he speaks his mind when he does it. Under previous management, Twitter/X had become almost unendurable for conservatives or anyone who didn’t toe the party line.
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Nearly everyone from a certain former president on down had been banned or restricted. Any controversial topic – COVID-19, foreign policy, baking, etc. – could result in suspension or bans.
Musk’s takeover didn’t change all that, but he continues to challenge his opponents who want to bully him into censorship. He made international news in late November when he stood up to advertisers like Disney and its CEO Bob Iger who were trying to bully him into speech restrictions.
“Don’t advertise. If someone is going to try and blackmail me with advertising? Blackmail me with money? Go f— yourself,” Musk said, adding: “Go f— yourself, is that clear? Hey Bob, if you’re in the audience. That’s how I feel, don’t advertise.”
Not elegant, but as one of the world’s richest men, maybe he does have enough money to stand up to the biggest companies. And users of the platform should thank him for it.
2. J.K. Rowling
Author J.K. Rowling is oddly cast in a free-speech role. She wrote “Harry Potter,” one of the best-selling books in human history. There was a time where almost everyone loved what she wrote. So, it seems unusual that she should have to defend speech, even her own, but that’s what has happened. Rowling, to her everlasting credit, is now famous for refusing to bow to the trans agenda because she insists women are women. (Shocking, I know.)
She posted a photo of a slogan that was projected on a UK justice building that said “Repeat after us: Trans women are women.” Her comment was simply: “No.” But she didn’t stop there. She said she was willing to go to jail to defend her rights.
“I’ll happily do two years if the alternative is compelled speech and forced denial of the reality and importance of sex,” Rowling posted on X, even if that meant jail. “Bring on the court case, I say. It’ll be more fun than I’ve ever had on a red carpet.”
3. Bill Ackman
Bill Ackman, the billionaire CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management, has become a thorn in the side of his alma mater Harvard and the whole of woke academia. Ackman and at least a dozen other CEOs have called for employers not to hire radical leftist Harvard students who blame Israel for the Hamas terror attack.
Ackman has become one of the most prominent voices standing up to the discrimination establishment, calling for it to be better. In one post he slammed the college presidents who testified in front of Congress about antisemitism. “The presidents’ answers reflect the profound educational, moral and ethical failures that pervade certain of our elite educational institutions due in large part to their failed leadership,” he wrote. Precisely.
If the Ivy League can be salvaged, it will be in part due to the efforts of good people like Ackman.
4. Taylor Swift
No one has influenced pop culture in 2023 more than Taylor Swift. She is the first A-list celebrity to truly dominate the post-COVID-19 world. You name it, she’s done it. She’s a wildly successful businesswoman, a megastar singer and so popular that she outshines her famous boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.
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Her movie, “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour,” racked up $178 million to place it No. 11 for the year domestically.
Americans don’t have royalty, even though some here try. We choose our royals and Taylor is the popular choice. It seems like the 33-year-old sensation has been famous forever, since her career has been going for nearly 20 years.
In October, Forbes estimated her wealth at $1.1 billion. (Yes, Swifties can join in the celebration. All four of the first people on my list are billionaires.) Her relationship with Kelce boosted his social media fandom overnight and introduced the NFL to an entirely new fanbase.
She was even named Time magazine’s Person of the Year, earlier this month, the only woman to record that title more than once. She nabbed the title back in 2017, as well, as part of a group. After a year like this, what will 2024 hold? Perhaps a celebrity wedding?
5. Chaya Raichik
The brains behind one of the most influential social media accounts, Chaya Raichik is better known as Libs of TikTok. She has amassed a following of 2.7 million people on Twitter/X and her videos regularly go viral, showing the left in its natural habitat – Crazy Land. Think of her as a Paul Revere of how bad the left has become. And they can’t stand what she tells the world.
Raichik exposes the left by simply sharing insane videos they place on the Chinese spy/propaganda app TikTok that show disturbing positions on gender, sex, the U.S., etc. That has led to a media crusade against her.
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News outlets write regular hit job pieces on her, angry that her reporting exposes their buddies. The Daily Beast ran this “neutral” piece in November, “Why Libs of TikTok Is a Ticking Time Bomb.”
But even the Anti-Defamation League admitted she’s not the problem it once claimed, so it removed her from the group’s “Glossary of Extremism.”
She shines light on dark places. And sunlight is the best disinfectant.
6. Tim Scott
South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott fought with one of the evil entities in the media landscape this year – “The View.” The show has been around for more than a quarter-century and, instead of growing wise with years, it has become even more shrill and stupid. (Who thought that was even possible?)
Cue “View” co-host Sunny Hostin, who regularly makes foul or vicious comments about anyone she disagrees with – in other words, much of the United States, Including Scott. But like heroes of old, he faced down his opponents in the lyin’ den, by going on the show. Hostin asked Scott about systemic racism and his status as an “exception.”
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He fought back and reminded her that simply isn’t true. “The fact of the matter is, we’ve had an African-American president, African American vice president, we’ve had two African Americans to be secretaries of the state. In my home city, the police chief is an African American who’s now running for mayor.”
The battle didn’t end there. By September, “The View” went after Scott for his dating life. Hostin expressed fear that Scott might marry “a Ginni Thomas-type person,” referring to the White wife of Justice Clarence Thomas. Scott struck back, blasting them for their bigotry. “The Democratic Party and the progressive left, they are stuck in Jim Crow, 1920s and ’30s,” he said.
More politicians need that kind of willingness to fight back.
7. Riley Gaines
Last, but definitely not least, is an accomplished athlete. Former college swimmer Riley Gaines has become a powerful voice for women to keep their place in sports. In the 2022 NCAA Swim Championships, she was pitted against biological male Lia Thomas. In the words from congressional testimony, she had to share a locker room with Thomas, a “6-foot-4, 22-year-old male equipped with and exposing male genitalia.”
Since then, she has become a leading spokeswoman for female athletes. That has meant she has been threatened, attacked and more. During recent a recent congressional hearing, Pennsylvania Democrat Rep. Summer Lee called Gaines “transphobic” for not wanting to compete against biological males.
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Gaines was ready for that bogus attack. “And ranking member Lee, if my testimony makes me ‘transphobic,’ then I believe your opening monologue makes you a misogynist.”
The world needs more female athletes to fight for their sports. Gaines is leading. They should follow.
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM DAN GAINOR