Wow, it’s been—well, far too long—since I posted links. Oops!
Once upon a time, there was a dictator who had a daughter. The dictator, who came to power vowing to make his country great, enacted a series of repressive policies under the guise of nationalism. He persecuted the media and the opposition, used “war on terror” rhetoric to justify a clampdown on civil rights, maintained a close but complicated relationship with Russia, and built a kleptocracy that ensured the country’s riches lined his pockets.
The daughter seemed different – or at least, she wanted to be seen that way. She was an Ivy League-educated cosmopolitan socialite who married into a powerful business family before making her mark as a fashion designer and businesswoman. Like her father, she encouraged an avid personality cult; and like her father, she hid her own brutal practices under the pretext of a soft “feminism”, claiming to represent the ideal modern woman of her country.
I’m talking, of course, about Uzbekistan president Islam Karimov and his daughter Gulnara Karimova. That this description evokes the burgeoning Trump political dynasty should concern you.
IVANKA TRUMP HAS WRITTEN a book about female empowerment, and it is about as feminist as a swastika-shaped bikini wax. That is its best quality.
In interviews Trump gave in the 1980s and 1990s (with Tom Brokaw, David Letterman, Oprah Winfrey, Charlie Rose, and others), he spoke articulately, used sophisticated vocabulary, inserted dependent clauses into his sentences without losing his train of thought, and strung together sentences into a polished paragraph, which — and this is no mean feat — would have scanned just fine in print. This was so even when reporters asked tough questions about, for instance, his divorce, his brush with bankruptcy, and why he doesn’t build housing for working-class Americans.
Oath Keepers: The Oath Keepers, which claims tens of thousands of present and former law enforcement officials and military veterans as members, is one of the largest radical antigovernment groups in the U.S. today. While it claims only to be defending the Constitution, the entire organization is based on a set of baseless conspiracy theories about the federal government working to destroy the liberties of Americans.
Ailes trained Americans to shop for the news as a commodity. Not just on the right but across the political spectrum now, Americans have learned to view the news as a consumer product.
What most of us are buying when we tune in to this or that channel or read this or that newspaper is a reassuring take on the changes in the world that most frighten us. We buy the version of the world that pleases us and live in little bubbles where we get to nurse resentments all day long and no one ever tells us we’re wrong about anything. Ailes invented those bubbles.
Russian Disinformation Technology: Russia’s reinvention of war exploits old techniques for a new century. Open-source citizen investigators are fighting back.
Follow the data: does a legal document link Brexit campaigns to US billionaire? We reveal how a confidential legal agreement is at the heart of a web connecting Robert Mercer to Britain’s EU referendum
The great British Brexit robbery: how our democracy was hijacked: A shadowy global operation involving big data, billionaire friends of Trump and the disparate forces of the Leave campaign influenced the result of the EU referendum. As Britain heads to the polls again, is our electoral process still fit for purpose?
Milo Yiannopoulos is starting a new, ugly, for-profit troll circus: With what he says is a $12 million stake from secret investors, the former Breitbart tech editor is launching Milo Inc., a live-event touring company, dedicated to making progressives’ lives a “living hell.”
The Antidote to Authoritarianism: Without the open internet, Americans lose an essential tool in the fight against discriminatory mass surveillance.
If you do not want Twitter to show you interest-based ads on and off of Twitter, there are several ways to turn off this feature:
- Using your Twitter settings, visit the Personalization and data settings and adjust the Personalize ads setting.
- If you are on the web, you can visit the Digital Advertising Alliance’s consumer choice tool at aboutads.info to opt out of seeing interest-based advertising from Twitter.
- On your mobile device, enable the “Limit Ad Tracking” setting in your iOS phone’s settings, or the setting to “Opt out of Ads Personalization” in your Android phone’s settings.
And if you are curious, you can get a list of all those who have advertised at you on Twitter at this URL: https://twitter.com/webview/your_twitter_data/audiences
There’s a multi-directional cacophony of gleeful back-patting ringing out across my Twitter feed at the moment. The outpouring of joy stems from an articlepublished in Skeptic Magazine. Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay managed to submit a hoax article to a gender studies journal, and are hailing this as a profound, thermonuclear indictment on the entirety of gender studies, social science and the “academic left”. They wrote that:
“We assumed that if we were merely clear in our moral implications that maleness is intrinsically bad and that the penis is somehow at the root of it, we could get the paper published in a respectable journal”
Their article was initially rejected by a journal, “NORMA: International Journal for Masculinity Studies”. But they were referred to a smaller outlet, ‘Cogent Social Sciences’, that offers publication where you ‘pay what you like’ (apparently, they didn’t pay anything).
On the face of it, this might seem like a clever take-down of predatory publishing practices. Sadly, that’s not the case. It’s presented by Boghossian and Lindsay, people sharing the article online, and by people responding, as a comprehensive demolition of gender studies, post-modernism, “social justice warriors” (SJWs, in alt-right parlance) and social science
Serena Joy gives us “domestic feminism,” but the very real Christina Hoff Sommers preaches “equity feminism” while Camille Paglia endorses “pro-sex feminism” and Kellyanne Conway sees herself as a practitioner of “conservative feminism,” which—since Sommers thinks society is prejudiced against men, Paglia thinks accounts of campus rape are “wildly overblown,” and Conway works for Donald Trump—are actually all phrases that mean “not feminism.” Nor is the appropriation confined to the word alone. Slate has reported on a whole wave of “pro-life feminists,”—young, quasi-secular, rainbow-haired anti-choice activists who rail against contraception by pinning it on “‘douchebags’ who ‘treat fertility like a disease’ by expecting their partners to be on chemical birth control.” Like Serena Joy, who packages lessons on feminine submissiveness in empowering language—”never mistake a woman’s meekness for weakness,” runs one line—these groups know how to ape the style of social-justice arguments.
This co-option is so pervasive that modern Serena Joys can approach, disconcertingly, from the left as well as the right: She might be a “pro-life socialist” who cautions you not to prioritize “social issues” over “economics.” (They’re the same thing.) She might be Janet Robert of Democrats for Life, claiming that her anti-choice views have caused her to be victimized by the Democratic Party, and trying to rile up your feminist outrage by telling you that “abortion activists claim… that women are too weak to succeed without abortion.” Or, she might just be your female friend who accuses other women of playing “identity politics” when they complain about any of the above. Whenever a woman’s chief political praxis is destroying other women, or elevating herself by aligning with those who aim to roll back women’s progress, Serena Joy is in the room.
Not sure if I’ve posted this before, but hey, it’s not something that can be done too often. A Woman’s Strike Reader.
Study confirms some men use anti-gay and sexist jokes to shore up their masculinity Oh gosh, what a surprise.
Racism and Civil Rights
One of the big stories last week was an article by Alex Tison: My Family’s Slave.
The ashes filled a black plastic box about the size of a toaster. It weighed three and a half pounds. I put it in a canvas tote bag and packed it in my suitcase this past July for the transpacific flight to Manila. From there I would travel by car to a rural village. When I arrived, I would hand over all that was left of the woman who had spent 56 years as a slave in my family’s household.
There’s been a lot of pushback on the article, and some pushback on the pushback: here are a couple of thoughtful responses.
- Ijeoma Oluo: Let’s talk about this modern day slavery essay. (Transcript here.)
- Sarah Jeong: Honestly I’m convinced ¾ of you who are opining about the Tizon piece didn’t finish reading it
- Rin Chupeco: Here is a long-ass thread where I try to educate well-meaning American liberals on Filipino culture
Therefore, there was one obvious answer to this tweet by the journalist Jonathan Kay: “If we eliminated all the forms of music that were appropriated from black R&B, jazz etc, there would be almost nothing on the radio.”
That answer came from Huffington Post’s Joshua Ostroff: “Or there would be way more black artists on the radio.”
The double standard, illustrated: whites can assimilate the culture of POC without harm, while POC are often not permitted to enjoy their own culture. The first time I heard that black students were having their hair policed I literally gaped in shock. I live a very privileged life.
- These Black Students Are Being Punished For Their Braids At A Massachusetts Charter School
- Black student in La. says he was forced out of class, denied lunch for having Odell Beckham-style hair
His Kampf: Richard Spencer is a troll and an icon for white supremacists. He was also my high-school classmate.
Spencer wears a permanent naughty grin, as if he is getting away with something. In a sense, he is: There are vanishingly few true Nazis in this country, and few people believe everything Spencer believes. And yet he has become a beacon to those resentful of the direction of American society and of their own lives. That grin is the grin of a man who cannot believe his luck at being a fascist just at fascism’s moment of American ascent.
Sodden from the spray of fire hoses, terrified by the thousands of bullets fired above and the teargas floating into the cellar below, 13-year-old Michael Ward was hiding under a blanket when a police helicopter dropped a bomb on the roof of his west Philadelphia home.
The raid killed six adults and five children, destroyed more than 60 homes and left more than 250 people homeless. It stands as the only aerial bombing carried out by police on US soil.
The Confederacy was on the wrong side of history and humanity. It sought to tear apart our nation and subjugate our fellow Americans to slavery. This is the history we should never forget and one that we should never again put on a pedestal to be revered.
Physiognomy’s New Clothes. Fascinating and thorough critique of a recent paper that argues that machine learning techniques can predict criminality based on only on driver’s licence-style photos.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the present-day researchers whose work on social perception of faces Wu and Zhang cite as an inspiration tend to take a more nuanced view of the phenomena they are studying. On one hand, this work has shown that people can form character impressions such as trustworthiness from facial appearance after seeing a face for less than one tenth of a second and that these impressions predict important social outcomes, ranging from political elections to economic transactions to legal decisions. On the other hand, while we form impressions almost reflexively from facial appearance, this does not imply that these impressions are accurate. The evidence suggests that they are not.
Underlying all this is an unsettling message that has been carried from the book to the series. Atwood describes her novel as “speculative fiction,” meaning that she believes the events she depicts are a credible possibility. It seems to me the peak of hubris to “predict” events as a possibility that we have already seen come to pass, just to a different set of people. The Handmaid’s Tale suggests that the brutality of slavery alone is not impactful enough to serve as a universal wake-up call; instead, we’re only drawn to this “feminist” rallying point when the person enduring these heinous crimes is a college-educated white woman.
Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Is subtle bias harmless?
Our research suggests that microinsults and microinvalidiations are potentially more harmful because of their invisibility, which puts people of color in a psychological bind: While people of color may feel insulted, they are often uncertain why, and perpetrators are unaware that anything has happened and are not aware they have been offensive. For people of color, they are caught in a Catch-22. If they question the perpetrator, as in the case of the flight attendant, denials are likely to follow. Indeed, they may be labeled “oversensitive” or even “paranoid.” If they choose not to confront perpetrators, the turmoil stews and percolates in the psyche of the person taking a huge emotional toll. In other words, they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
Robin DiAngelo: White Fragility (pdf download)
Prisons and the Law
Becoming Ms. Burton isn’t simply a retelling of a painful life. It’s also a call to action, focusing not only on the ways society discriminates against people who’ve been incarcerated, but also on how people can and have been organizing for change. “I wanted to tell my story as a call for mobilization,” she writes. “Together, we can end discrimination. Together, we can push our government to remove barriers and open up doors for people who are qualified in the here and now. People should not be held stagnant. People who should not forever be kept in the place [where] they were at their lowest. Together, we can make these changes. And we must.”
Felony charges against inauguration protesters represent ‘historic crossroads’: Legal experts say Trump’s ‘law-and-order’ administration is emboldening authorities to crack down on protests in D.C. and beyond.
Federal prosecutors dropped most of the charges against the journalists. But in a surprise move, the prosecutors in April, without providing any new evidence, filed new charges — what is known as a superseding indictment — against the protesters that included felony “inciting or urging to riot,” “rioting,” “conspiracy to riot,” “destruction of property,” and misdemeanor “assault on a police officer.”
The large group of people rounded up by D.C. police, or “kettled,” are now being hit with up to eight felonies and could end up facing up to 75 years in prison.
What bullets do to bodies: The gun debate would change in an instant if Americans witnessed the horrors that trauma surgeons confront every day.
The Cost of an Adjunct: The plight of non-tenured professors is widely known, but what about the impact they have on the students they’re hired to instruct?
Currently, half of all professors in the country are adjuncts or contingent faculty, according to the American Association of University Professors. They teach all levels within the higher-education system, from remedial writing classes to graduate seminars. Unlike graduate teaching assistants, or TAs, they have the same instructional responsibilities as tenured faculty, including assembling syllabi, ordering textbooks, writing lectures, and grading exams. (The remaining quarter or so of American faculty are professors on temporary contracts who have more regular job arrangements than adjuncts, but are not eligible for tenure.)
Adjunct professors earn a median of $2,700 for a semester-long class, according to a survey of thousands of part-time faculty members. In 2013, NPR reported that the average annual pay for adjuncts is between $20,000 and $25,000, while a March 2015 survey conducted by Pacific Standard among nearly 500 adjuncts found that a majority earn less than $20,000 per year from teaching. Some live on less than that and supplement their income with public assistance: A recent report from UC Berkeley found that nearly a quarter of all adjunct professors receive public assistance, such as Medicaid or food stamps. Indeed, many adjuncts earn less than the federal minimum wage. Unless they work 30 hours or more at one college, they’re not eligible for health insurance from that employer, and like other part-time employees, they do not qualify for other benefits.
Arctic stronghold of world’s seeds flooded after permafrost melts Well, this is depressing.
Capitalism at work
For more, go to Behind the Brands.
Science and Technology
UCD School of Archaeology’s Centre for Experimental Archaeology and Material Culture I am so much happier knowing that this exists.
Sabrina Benaim – “Explaining My Depression to My Mother”
The Last Person You’d Expect to Die in Childbirth: The U.S. has the worst rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, and 60 percent are preventable. The death of Lauren Bloomstein, a neonatal nurse, in the hospital where she worked illustrates a profound disparity: The health care system focuses on babies but often ignores their mothers.
Like many viruses, measles is known to suppress the immune system for a few weeks after an infection. But previous studies in monkeys have suggested that measles takes this suppression to a whole new level: It erases immune protection to other diseases, Mina says.
So what does that mean? Well, say you get the chicken pox when you’re 4 years old. Your immune system figures out how to fight it. So you don’t get it again. But if you get measles when you’re 5 years old, it could wipe out the memory of how to beat back the chicken pox. It’s like the immune system has amnesia, Mina says.
Radium’s luminosity was part of its allure, and the dial painters soon became known as the “ghost girls” — because by the time they finished their shifts, they themselves would glow in the dark. They made the most of the perk, wearing their good dresses to the plant so they’d shine in the dance halls at night, and even painting radium onto their teeth for a smile that would knock their suitors dead.
Hit Eject: Sari Botton had to fight for the medical help she needed to ditch her exploding uterus.
He told me that since I first got my period late, at 18, I just didn’t realize that this is what periods feel like. A person with a penis, who had never personally experienced a period, told me that.
A lot of well intentioned but confused folks think that political change happens through rational discourse and persuasion. You talk to the Nazis, convince them that hating Jews is wrong, and then you join with them to vote for single payer healthcare, or whatever. Good ideas flourish, bad ideas die, so let everybody talk together in a circle and eventually the good ideas will win out and happiness will prevail. People who believe this get very angry if you protest against Charles Murray or dump your NYT subscription because they’ve hired climate deniers, because they see protest as inimical to the gentle teleological flow of reasoned discourse which will save us all. You have to listen to everyone, then they will listen to you, then enlightenment will flourish. That’s the way you do it.
It’s a nice dream.
People try to tell me to let it go, for my own good. But even if I die from a stress-induced heart attack at 45, it is not the anger that will have killed me. Anger is the appropriate response to violation, assault, oppression, exploitation. It cannot be willed away, and it cannot fade as long as the situation remains. And it should not fade. My anger is rooted in seeing what I love and cherish abused and threatened. My anger, acknowledged and focused, fuels my fight for justice.
Rebecca Solnit: Facing the Furies
Anger is frequently mistaken for a dowsing rod indicating something deep, when it is better understood as a dial that can be spun with a flick of the finger.
Some Comments on Critical Thinking and Expertise:
We are experiencing the early stages of an information revolution, similar in scale and impact to the industrial revolution. Every day we are confronting vast amounts of information with little context and few reliable filters. In theory it should be an advantage to have more information to base our decisions on than ever before, yet the abundance of low-quality information and difficulty of distinguishing quality has us sometimes making poor decisions, and certainly suffering a lot of stress. Sorting through so much information takes time that many of us don’t have to spare. This book applies basic critical thinking skills to consuming digital information. It teaches readers not only how to spot fake news, but also how to identify problems in real news and weaknesses in articles presenting opinion and analysis. It’s about interacting with people online productively and safely. It’s about not getting conned, and keeping our sanity.
Art + Design + Writing
“The project started with me wanting to create perfection,” Bekking said. “Of course, this is really hard because it is subject to taste and aesthetics and all these hard-to-grasp feelings. So I thought, why not make something that is scientifically proven to be perfect?”
She thinks that he hates it because he is socially conditioned to do so. …blink… Have you LOOKED at the thing, woman?
David Foster Wallace: This Is Water
Erm, who thought this was a good idea?!? Dove Matches Its New Body Wash Bottles to Your Body Type And People Hate It
Gallagher said the emergency worker wanted him to perform CPR on the unconscious woman, but he didn’t touch her — especially after noticing white powder on her shirt. Gallagher doesn’t know if the woman survived.
I understand that fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin or inhaled, but this… really bothers me on a very fundamental level in so many ways.
Torching the Modern-Day Library of Alexandria: “Somewhere at Google there is a database containing 25 million books and nobody is allowed to read them.”
It’s been estimated that about half the books published between 1923 and 1963 are actually in the public domain—it’s just that no one knows which half.
Quote of the week
I cannot tell you how I feel,
but I should like to give one good scream.
—Rejected Princesses, Sutematsu Oyama
Just for fun
Kruzah chook video. It’s not just dogs that like squeaky toys.
I want this tshirt so bad.