My computer has been in the shop for a week and a half, so I’m putting this together on my iPad. It doesn’t have all the same tools, so apologies if the formatting is screwy. Continue reading “From the world pool: September 15, 2018”
I have such a backlog. Well, by the time I get to it half of it will be out of date. That’s a comfort! Continue reading “From the world pool: February 6, 2018”
It’s been a rough couple of months, so I’m only now getting back to actually trying to blog. Apart from all the photos I have, there’s a considerable backlog in my World Pool box. Here’s a start. Some of it’s a bit depressing (okay, a whole lot depressing) but some of it is actually good news (Kinder Morgan!) and I’ve tried to leaven it as much as possible. Continue reading “From the World Pool: November 4, 2017”
This cat is bored with your concerns. Continue reading “From the world pool: July 22, 2017”
Sorry, there’s not a lot of light stuff in today’s post. Continue reading “From the world pool: February 10, 2017”
There’s nothing like a problematic election to generate an unending list of things to read. Can I just say that I’d really rather have the unproblematic election?
Standing against bigotry
I’m not putting this under US politics, because (a) some of it isn’t and (b) some of it applies wherever you live.But then that applies to quite a bit under the US politics subhead too, so you should read that as well.
Jo Cox in her own words “Our priority now is to try and focus on Jo’s amazing life and not the manner of her death.”
A Time for Treason: A reading list created by a group of Black, Brown, Indigenous, Muslim, and Jewish people who are writers, organizers, teachers, anti-fascists, anti-capitalists, and radicals.
Where we go from here Warrior up! Begin with small actions. We’ll be updating this list of resources, so do check back, and please comment below with your own suggestions.
The flood of “fake news” this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation.
Russia’s increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery — including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human “trolls,” and networks of websites and social-media accounts — echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers. The effort also sought to heighten the appearance of international tensions and promote fear of looming hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia.
Fake News Is Not the Only Problem. Bias, propaganda, and deliberately misleading information are much more prevalent and do more damage.
No. Clinton did not fund ISIS.
No. She does not have Parkinson’s or some bizarre neurological disorder.
But the web that we’ve built — the social web, search engines, and spaces governed by algorithmic systems attuned to social signals (clicks, shares, likes, comments) — makes it increasingly difficult to locate a definitive response to fabrications like Clinton funding ISIS.
Christiane Amanpour: 2016 Burton Benjamin Memorial Award Acceptance Speech. Transcript here.
Since when were American values elitist values?…And since when did neo-Nazism and anti-semitism stop being a crucial litmus test in the United States?
To demonstrate how reality may differ for different Facebook users, The Wall Street Journal created two feeds, one “blue” and the other “red.” If a source appears in the red feed, a majority of the articles shared from the source were classified as “very conservatively aligned” in a large 2015 Facebook study. For the blue feed, a majority of each source’s articles aligned “very liberal.” These aren’t intended to resemble actual individual news feeds. Instead, they are rare side-by-side looks at real conversations from different perspectives.
In deep-red white America, the white Christian God is king, figuratively and literally. Religious fundamentalism is what has shaped most of their belief systems. Systems built on a fundamentalist framework are not conducive to introspection, questioning, learning, change. When you have a belief system that is built on fundamentalism, it isn’t open to outside criticism, especially by anyone not a member of your tribe and in a position of power. The problem isn’t “coastal elites don’t understand rural Americans.” The problem is rural America doesn’t understand itself and will NEVER listen to anyone outside their bubble. It doesn’t matter how “understanding” you are, how well you listen, what language you use…if you are viewed as an outsider, your views are automatically discounted. I’ve had hundreds of discussions with rural white Americans and whenever I present them any information that contradicts their entrenched beliefs, no matter how sound, how unquestionable, how obvious, they WILL NOT even entertain the possibility it might be true. Their refusal is a result of the nature of their fundamentalist belief system and the fact I’m the enemy because I’m an educated liberal.
I realized that the Trump campaign wasn’t talking to readers; it was delivering content to watchers. This meant Trump had identified an audience for himself different from that of any other candidate. He was the only candidate campaigning exclusively through television. All the other Republicans, despite appearing on television, were campaigning in text. They produced policy statements; they read written remarks. Even Marco Rubio, in delivering his concession speech, read from a text.
Trump appears to have understood that the U.S. is transitioning from a text-based to an oral culture. I don’t mean by this that a commitment to text will disappear, only that it has become a minority practice, once again a mark of membership in a social elite.
Hate and extremism:
- Update on USA Election Monitor
- Update: Incidents of Hateful Harassment Since Election Day Now Number 701
Shattered: Hillary Clinton aimed at the highest glass ceiling. What broke instead was the coalition she thought would pierce it—and faith that it will happen.
We are in a period of tremendous national turmoil. What we are seeing is a backlash not just against Clinton’s candidacy but against the entire eight years of the Obama administration. It’s not just about who gets to be president. It’s about who gets to vote for the president, who gets to stay in America and make their families here and how those families get to be configured. It’s about who controls the culture, who makes the art, who makes the policies, whom those policies benefit and whom they harm.
Calling them alt-right helps us fight them. I’m not sure I entirely agree with this, but it raises some interesting points and has information on the sub-variants.
Attending a demonstration in Ferguson, Mo. Advocating against campus-carry gun laws. Writing about gun violence as a public-health issue.
Those are the types of actions that landed about 200 professors on a watch list started on Monday by Turning Point USA, a nonprofit group that aims to “to identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote the principles of fiscal responsibility, free markets, and limited government.”
The group’s website, meanwhile, intends “to expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values, and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”
The bottom line: I am by no means predicting the collapse of democracy in the United States under a President Donald J. Trump. What I am saying is that it is not impossible, and there are some clear warning signs to watch out for. Now, as always, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Or to use a more modern formulation: If you see something, say something.
Trump has a plan for government workers. They’re not going to like it.
“I have to tell you, I am emotionally fucking pissed,” another participant said. “How can this not influence coverage? I am being totally honest with you. Toward the end of the campaign, it got to a point where I thought that the coverage was all about [Trump’s] flaws and problems. And that’s legit. But, I thought, O.K., let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. After the meeting today, though—and I am being human with you here—I think, Fuck him! I know I am being emotional about it. And I know I will get over it in a couple of days after Thanksgiving. But I really am offended. This was unprecedented. Outrageous!”
Kellyanne Conway, who managed Trump’s campaign and who is now his senior adviser, said that the meeting had been “very cordial, candid, and honest.”
Work is a gift our kids can handle. This organization is said to have received thousands of dollars in donations from Betsy DeVos and her family.
Dykes to Watch Out For:
Racism and Black Lives Matter
Then I asked around and professional media people told me that there isn’t a style convention on this matter so much as an informal culture. The general rule, I was told, is to never call anything racist and certainly to never call anyone racist. At best, they might quote someone calling something or someone racist.
The implication is that there is no such thing as objectively racist. Racism, according to many mainstream media producers and gatekeepers, can only be subjective.
For hundreds of generations, the Gwich’in people of Alaska and northern Canada have depended on the caribou that migrate through the Arctic Refuge. With their traditional culture now threatened by oil extraction and climate change, two Gwich’in women are continuing a decades-long fight to protect their land and future.
I watched the livestream video of this about two or three hours after it happened. I watched the hose spray everywhere in the crowd. I watched a fire start where the police had been lobbing things, and protectors rush to put it out; the hose was nowhere to be seen for that fire. And then the next day I read the police statement that said that the fires had been lit by the protestors—exactly what the person making the video said they would say.
And later I watched the almost complete absence of coverage of this by American media. Shameful.
A Dakota Pipeline’s Last Stand. The historical context of the water protectors’ action.
Their confrontations with police — who have responded with water cannons, pepper spray and rubber bullets — have steered attention to the 1,170-mile-long oil pipeline project and its owner, Energy Transfer Partners. But the real source of Native Americans’ grievance stretches back more than a century, to the original government incursions on their tribal lands. And those earlier disputes over their rights to the land, like the one over the Dakota Access pipeline, pitted the tribes against a persistent force, the Army Corps of Engineers.
If you want to donate to Standing Rock:
Art + Design
Just for fun
Food art. Food cookies? Whatever.
Well, I suck at updating my blog, don’t I? I haven’t done a world pool collection since October 18th. And as I had a lot of stuff to post two weeks ago—and almost got to it but didn’t quite—I now have an enormously long list of links.
Much of it had to do with the American election. I’m still going to post some of it, if I think it’s relevant to the aftermath, though I must say that the aftermath on its own is generating an ever-growing cascade of things to read.
This is a VERY long blog post, so I’m going to put the actual links under the cut. Continue reading “From the world pool: November 20, 2016”
How my disabled son has changed my mind about political correctness. “There is an inevitable backlash … to ‘political correctness gone mad’. And it’s true: prissily expressed PC attitudes do often look silly. The problem is that, broadly speaking, they’re also right. I know this with immense certainty. Without the prevailing wind of political correctness my life would be very different. The life of my son would be unrecognisable.”
(And… wow, the comments. Talk about illustrating the writer’s point.)
In the news
Just for fun
I’m not at all sure “fun” is really the right category for this video, but none of the others were either. Someone on Twitter made a comment about Sigur Rós, an Icelandic group I’d never heard of, pointing to one of their videos, and I just kind of fell down a rabbit hole for an hour or so. Ekki múkk is one of an experimental series of films made for their valtari album. It’s quite indescribable. I will warn that it has images of death and decay, if you’re squeamish about such things, but in context I found it quite beautiful. You can find all the videos for the album here.
This is the greeting we all want to get when we come home. Warning: be prepared to adjust your volume.
Syria’s Landmarks Restored in Miniature “In Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp a group of Syrian artists is working with basic tools and materials sourced from around the camp. They are using local stone, polystyrene and discarded wood, to build models and sculptures of iconic sites including Palmyra and the Krak des Chevaliers castle in Homs.” (via Tumblr)
How to tell the difference between real solidarity and ally theatre. “Listen. Solidarity is action. That’s it. What we DO in solidarity is all that counts. How people with privilege listen to what marginalized groups ask of them and do that is all that counts.”
The woman who gave two fingers to looking like a Disney Princess at the Oscars. “I don’t do frocks and absolutely don’t do heels, I have a bad back. I look ridiculous in a beautiful gown….This is Marks & Spencer with Swarovski at the back. I had a bit of a shoe malfunction and the glitter fell off. I just like feeling comfortable and as far as I’m concerned I’m really dressed up.” And another article in which she says more on why she did it, as well as showing a photo of the back of the jacket:
The Online Emily Dickinson Archive Makes Thousands of the Poet’s Manuscripts Freely Available. “Possibly due to the lack of scholarly interest before Johnson’s collection, Dickinson’s trove of manuscript drafts has remained scattered across several archives, sending researchers hoofing it to several institutions to view the poet’s handiwork. As of today, that will no longer be necessary with the inauguration of the online Emily Dickinson Archive, Emily Dickinson Archive, ‘an open-access website for the manuscripts of Emily Dickinson’ that brings together thousands of manuscripts held by Harvard, Amherst, the Boston Public Library, the Library of Congress, and four other collections.” (via @ChrisBoese)
“Real” writers don’t work. A response to the proud statement of Stephen Hull, editor of Huffington Post UK, that they do not pay their writers.
Quote of the week
I was driving north up the coast of California, back to my home in the Bay Area. It was 12 days after Sandra Bland was pulled over and arrested by a police officer in Waller County after failing to signal a lane change. Nine days after she was found dead in her jail cell, a plastic bag wrapped around her neck. It was five days after a police officer pulled over Samuel DuBose for having his front license plate in the glove compartment. Five days after he was shot point blank in the head, safety belt fastened, his hands up. As I drove, I idly brainstormed a new protocol to follow if I were stopped by the police.
If stopped by the police, I thought to myself, I would set my phone to record audio and put it on the passenger seat. I would send a tweet that I was being stopped and had every intention of complying with the police officer. I would turn on Periscope and livestream the stop, crowdsourcing witnesses. I would text my family and tell them that I was not feeling angry or suicidal, that I was looking forward to seeing them soon. There would not be time to do all of these things, but maybe if I prepared in advance I could pull off one or two of them. What all of these plans had in common were that none of them were meant to secure my safety, but rather to ensure that my death looked suspicious enough to question.
I was figuring out how to enter evidence into the inquiry of my own death.
Just for fun
Wintergatan Marble Machine: Rube Goldberg musical instrument that runs on 2,000 steel ball-bearings
A day at the spa. I wish OUR golden was this relaxed in the bath. And that we had a bath like this for him, with a raisable pedastal. It would be a lot easier. And less messy for both of us.
I haven’t been posting the weekly links for a while, so I’ve got quite a backlog of stuff to work through. Here’s a start.
The Selfish Side of Gratitude, by Barbary Ehrenreich. An excellent takedown of the cooption of the idea of gratitude by the self-love industry. “So it’s possible to achieve the recommended levels of gratitude without spending a penny or uttering a word. All you have to do is to generate, within yourself, the good feelings associated with gratitude, and then bask in its warm, comforting glow. If there is any loving involved in this, it is self-love, and the current hoopla around gratitude is a celebration of onanism.”
Speak Up and Stay Safe(r): A guide to protecting yourself from online harassment.
Progressive. “I keep smiling — always smile at the job interview — but I cannot speak. Largely because I believe that what I just heard cannot possibly be what he really said. I misinterpreted something. I missed a word, misheard a word. He can’t actually be telling me that I would have to stop being so feminist to get a job at his “progressive” site. Or that “progressive” media is mostly for men.” (via Roxane Gay)
Black history you didn’t learn in school: Pauli Murray
The Reductive Seduction of Other People’s Problems. “If you’re young, privileged, and interested in creating a life of meaning, of course you’d be attracted to solving problems that seem urgent and readily solvable. Of course you’d want to apply for prestigious fellowships that mark you as an ambitious altruist among your peers. Of course you’d want to fly on planes to exotic locations with, importantly, exotic problems.”
Losing My Voice, by Natalie Luhrs. This could go under writing, or feminism, but I stuck it under diversity, because it belongs there too.
In the news
Touching moment on Skytrain goes viral. What happens when human kindness gets a chance.
Art + Design
Very cool book art by Kelly Campbell Berry!
Well, this is interesting. NASA has trialled an engine that would take us to Mars in 10 weeks.
When the song dies. “In Scotland, folk songs serve as memories, of places and the dead who once inhabited them. Exploring the theme of change, When the Song Diesseeks to bring the audience under the captive spell of the old ways. Featuring a range of contributors, the film is a poignant reminder that the dead linger on, all around us, in the houses and landscapes we live in, and in the language and music of our culture.”
The New York Public Library has digitized over half a million items from its collections.
Sunny Moraine: Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Quote of the week
I think a lot of people don’t understand that when we talk about these issues—blackface, rape jokes, the appropriation of marginalized cultures, and so on—we are having an ethical conversation, not a legal one. There is no thought police. No one’s coming to your house and carting you off to Insensitivity Prison. But you, as a person living on this planet, get to make a choice whether you want to hurt people or help people. Whether you want to listen or shut people out. I can’t imagine why you’d choose “defensive shithead” over “nice lady capable of empathy,” but okey dokey.
Our culture is quick to dismiss quiet, ordinary, hardworking men and women. In many instances, we equate ordinary with boring, or, even more dangerous, ordinary has become synonymous with meaningless. One of the greatest cultural consequences of devaluing our own lives has been our tolerance for what people do to achieve their “extraordinary” status.
—Brené Brown (I Thought It Was Just Me), via Natalie Luhrs
A Natural Woman: Aretha Franklin. Just… wow.
Just for fun
I was never this coordinated. http://n3ongold3n.tumblr.com/post/134515114581
Waking Up Ryer. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=iQyXZkN_5ZM
Adele at the BBC: how extraordinarily nice to see a joke where the punchline is a gift instead of a punch. I want to see more things like this.
Follow the money: The Weird, Money-Making World of Parody Twitter Accounts. (via @kyliu99)
The media and what I mean by “reinforcement”. “I’m not arguing that videogames are evil and cause lots of horrible things and we should ban them forever. I’m also not arguing that they’re distinct from other media – I’m arguing that they are one of many influences on people’s views (concious and unconscious) and that they will have a much easier job supporting society-wide views than implanting new unique ones.” Laying out the difference between reinforcement and causality. (via @Quinnae_Moon)
I’m a huge science fiction and fantasy fan, and this week that world exploded. Tl;dr: a group of conservative writers and fans, self-named the Sad Puppies (supported generally by the Rabid Puppies, an overlapping group), who believe that they represent the only real sf/f (and its True Fans) and have been shut out of winning the Hugos they deserve by the conspiracies of SJWs (Social Justice Warriors), gamed the nomination process to get a slate of their people onto the lists of nominees, displacing many worthy candidates.
Natalie Luhrs at Pretty Terrible has a round-up of links that I won’t bother recapping, go check them out; there are also oodles of posts by other sf/f writers and fan writers that you can find with a bit of digging. I will also add a few from mainstream media (which has been picking up on this, interestingly) to her list. All of these articles have lots of links, if you want to drop down a rabbit hole.
- Kameron Hurley in The Atlantic: Hijacking the Hugo Awards Won’t Stifle Diversity in Science Fiction
- Guardian: George RR Martin says rightwing lobby has ‘broken’ Hugo awards (Martin is a Big Deal right now because he is the writer of Game of Thrones.)
- Slate: How Sci-Fi’s Hugo Awards Got Their Own Full-Blown Gamergate
One additional note on this: last night I was reading comments on the post by George RR Martin that Natalie linked to in her links round-up. One of the Sad Puppy supporters complained that, “We’re tired of hateful, double-standard holding bigots attempting to sabotage the careers and reputations of people who don’t toe their lines.”
Martin asked for citations: “You make sweeping angry statements, drag in the odious Social Justice Warriors term, talk about feminists in the 1800s… but where are your FACTS? Whose career has been destroyed by the SJWs? Who are these pariahs? How does any of this relate to the Hugo Awards?”
The answer: “I can’t name many because you never hear about them in the first place.” And then the writer goes on to explain that a “chilling effect created by all of this means up-and-coming authors who have such ‘unpopular’ political views stay quiet. They don’t write works that might offend these peddlers of despair and outrage. They don’t get their careers ruined very often because they’re smart enough to keep their mouths shut. If they aren’t, their careers are shut down before the destruction of said careers would ever be newsworthy.”
Do you see what this is saying?! The fact that examples don’t exist is being used to prove that a conspiracy exists. This is the level of Sad Puppy logic.
Art + Design
Using Wikipedia: a scholar redraws academic lines by including it in his syllabus. What a great approach. (via @mchris4duke)
Do I ever do anything but collect links? Naw.
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. “I am a white woman. I am standing beside a black woman. We are facing a group of white people who are seated in front of us. We are in their workplace, and have been hired by their employer to lead them in a dialogue about race. The room is filled with tension and charged with hostility. I have just presented a definition of racism that includes the acknowledgment that whites hold social and institutional power over people of color. A white man is pounding his fist on the table. His face is red and he is furious. As he pounds he yells, “White people have been discriminated against for 25 years! A white person can’t get a job anymore!” I look around the room and see 40 employed people, all white. There are no people of color in this workplace. Something is happening here, and it isn’t based in the racial reality of the workplace. I am feeling unnerved by this man’s disconnection with that reality, and his lack of sensitivity to the impact this is having on my cofacilitator, the only person of color in the room. Why is this white man so angry? Why is he being so careless about the impact of his anger? Why are all the other white people either sitting in silent agreement with him or tuning out? We have, after all, only articulated a definition of racism.” (via Tressie McMillan Cottom @tressiemcphd)
An Old Fogey’s Analysis of a Teenager’s View on Social Media. “There’s a reason why researchers and organizations like Pew Research are doing the work that they do — they do so to make sure that we don’t forget about the populations that aren’t already in our networks.” (via @satifice)
Family Outraged After North Miami Beach Police Use Mug Shots as Shooting Targets. “What the soldiers discovered when they entered the range made them angry: mug shots of African American men apparently used as targets by North Miami Beach Police snipers, who had used the range before the guardsmen. Even more startling for Deant, one of the images was her brother.” (via @evilrooster)
Saladin Ahmed: In an Unequal World, Mocking All Serves the Powerful
We should not kill people for speech. But I am not Charlie Hebdo. “It is possible to value one’s rights and simultaneously to refuse to support the abuse of those rights. And it is possible to refuse to support the abuse of a right, while simultaneously condemning utterly, entirely and without reservation those who would respond to that abuse with murder. It’s more than possible. If we’re to actually make anything better, it’s essential.”
Roxane Gay: If je ne suis pas Charlie, am I a bad person? Nuance gets lost in groupthink
Misogyny and harassment
Jay Allen (@a_man_in_black) How crowdfunding helps haters profit from harassment. “Here’s the fashionable anti-feminist narrative: any woman who complains about mistreatment is a “professional victim” doing it only to promote herself. Speaking out against harassment, in this view, is evidence of an ulterior motive, as though ending that mistreatment wasn’t enough of a motivation on its own. These women—and it is almost always women—are accused of inciting this mistreatment in order to profit from decrying it. Though these accusations are transparently unfair and untrue, the trolls using them to attack vulnerable people are nothing new. What is new is the cottage industry of professional victimizers, using crowdfunding tools to capitalize on their infamy and devote even more time to harassment.” (via @Quinnae_Moon)
Evidently some guys are unclear on the definition of rape. From a study of college men: “a sizable number of participants indicated that they might use force to obtain intercourse, but would not rape a woman.” (via @jimchines)
(Whether one is pro- or anti-gamergate—or anything else—doxxers and swatters are scumsuckers.)
Zoe Quinn: August Never Ends. “Keep in mind that I’m also writing this about 3,000 miles from the home it’s no longer safe to be at while we try and figure out how to move on from this meteor hitting us and be people again. I miss sleeping in my own bed, having my own space. I miss my cat.”
Speaking while female
How to Get Ahead as a Woman in Tech: Interrupt Men. Some really interesting stats in this, especially when you look at the details of who exactly interrupts whom. (via @ChrisBoese)
“Year ago, while producing the hit TV series “The Shield,” Glen Mazzara noticed that two young female writers were quiet during story meetings. He pulled them aside and encouraged them to speak up more. Watch what happens when we do, they replied.” Speaking While Female: Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant on Why Women Stay Quiet at Work (via @eilatan)
“It just seems a little crazy to me how people believe is perfectly OK for women to doubt a compliment they receive, [but] when they actually believe the compliment they receive, they get shamed and branded as ‘vain’ or ‘conceited’.” This Is What Happens When Women Actually Accept A Compliment From A Man Online (via @fozmeadows)
In the news
Software updates, installations now require consent. “Starting [January 15th], it’s illegal in Canada for a website to automatically install software on your computer.”
Art + Design
The interesting part of this article, to me, is its comparison of two approaches to designing communities. New, privatized African city heralds climate apartheid (via Kameron Hurley @KameronHurley)
The whole idea of fanfiction baffles many people. This is a really interesting analysis of it that covers everything from whether it should be defined in legalistic terms to its exploration of alternative forms of relations to its position in terms of male/female gaze and the politics of gender relationships to…. Wow. Foz Meadows – Thoughts on Fanfiction. “Fanfiction is old and new, smutty and sweet; it is flawed and complex and achingly human, and we will continue to discuss it for as long as we discuss stories – because if narrative borrowing can be reasonably considered an integral part of storytelling, then whatever its faults and professional status; whatever its biases, blind spots and mainstream perception, fanfiction is and will remain a pure, joyful expression of our impulse to tell stories about stories, an endless cycle of narrative interdependence that, for all its complexities, is also fundamentally simple.”
Quote(s) of the week
Sarah Kendzior in a 2012 article: “Free speech means not only the right to offend, but the right to defend.”
JK Rowling tweet, on Rupert Murdoch’s statement that even peaceful Muslims must be held responsible for Charlie Hebdo: “I was born Christian. If that makes Rupert Murdoch my responsibility, I’ll auto-excommunicate.”
Just for fun
Wiping away tears of laughter… Untimorous beastie: “Milo’s habits are simple and revolting. He is a proper South London dog.”
All righty… for this week, lots of links and a fair bit of opinion. I’m turning into a mouthy old bat.
This is awful and it’s still unfolding and the news is full of it. A few thoughts:
The killings are despicable. This is clearly an act designed to intimidate people and oppose free speech, and people must stand together against this kind of terrorism.
Yet at the same time I can’t say “Je suis Charlie,” because I don’t want to be. I’ve looked through their cartoons, and some of them are vilely racist. Those cartoons go far beyond satire—the racism obliterates any strained satirical point—and I don’t want to be in any way associated with them. To clarify, this does NOT mean that I do not support free speech and the right of CH to publish—it means that I do not support the content of some of what they publish.
Katherine Cross puts this position across very well in Je ne suis Charlie: On the Charlie Hebdo massacre and duelling extremisms. “I support the sentiment, the empathy, the compassion that the slogan represents at its best (even if many are using it as a cover to spread Islamophobia as a misguided form of protest against Islamic extremism). But the simple fact is, I am not Charlie. I couldn’t be. Rather, I’m the sort of person who’d only ever get to be an ugly, rude caricature in their pages — a trans woman, a Latina, Puerto Rican but in the same community of Latinos scapegoated for various and sundry evils in the US, much as Muslims are in France. I’d never be the one wielding the pen, merely the lewd, pornographic subject and nothing more. I’d be fit for only the consumption of a privileged community, their joke, an unwilling jester. No, je ne suis pas Charlie.”
As a counterpoint, “I am not Charlie, I am Ahmed the dead cop. Charlie ridiculed my faith and culture and I died defending his right to do so. #JesuisAhmed” (not sure of original source, retweeted by @)
I also read a BBC op-ed article that said, “Unlike Charlie Hebdo, I had not set out to give offence. I am no satirist, and I do not usually enjoy hurting people’s feelings. Nevertheless, I too feel that some rights are worthy of being defended – and among them is the freedom of historians to question the origin myths of religions. That was why, when I heard the news from Paris yesterday, I chose to do something I would never otherwise have done, and tweet a Charlie Hebdo cartoon of Muhammad. …While under normal circumstances I am perfectly happy not to mock beliefs that other people hold dear, these are far from normal circumstances. As I tweeted yesterday, the right to draw Muhammad without being shot is quite as precious to many of us in the West as Islam presumably is to the Charlie Hebdo killers.”
Something about this bothered me, and it took me a little while to work out what it was. Here’s the thing: many individuals have republished CH cartoons from exactly these motivations of standing up for free speech. Organizations that normally would never dream of publishing the kind of racist content that CH produced, and would in fact critique it, are now republishing it. The point is to show that we won’t be silenced, and that’s important. But… the side effect of doing it in this way means offending many people who are not terrorists. Republishing the cartoons directly attacks not just the terrorists but all the multitudes of Muslims and minorities who are horrified by the attacks and condemn them without reservations*. How is that somehow now okay when it wasn’t before? It is possible to stand up for free speech and against terrorism without inflicting collateral damage—they are not mutually exclusive positions—but it doesn’t look like many are bothering to do so.
*Which of course raises the question: why are Muslims as a whole being asked to apologize for the actions of extremists?
Katherine Cross’s thoughts on “being polite” in discourse make a LOT of sense to me. (The first tweet is linked here; I don’t think anyone has storified them but this should help you find the original tweets if you want to.)
“See that’s exactly the problem with your column. You think being polite and respectful is the most important part of discourse” ~ a critic.
This is why I’m not a fan of the way the notion of the “tone argument” is structured, because it’s easily abused in precisely that way.
i.e. privileging caustic and aggressive speech as somehow more pure than reasoned discourse, which is as much of a fallacy as the reverse.
No, I don’t think politeness is the most important part of discourse; respect is far more important but still doesn’t come out on top.
No, if we must resort to ranking these things, I’d put “judgement” in the top slot. The ability to judge & discern different kinds of speech
Not all speech is equally valid or empirically accurate or just; learning to tell the differences is a vital skill.
If your response to that sort of thing is to throw your hands up and say “who gets to decide?” then I’d suggest you’re not into free speech.
Civic discourse is not just about the spewing of empty words (contrary to many a stereotype). It’s about resolutions and decisionmaking.
Speech has an outcome, an effect on the world. You don’t speak purely for its own sake, but for the sake of *doing something*.
So much free speech absolutism fetishises speech in the abstract, as if we say things simply for the hell of it.
That means avoiding absolute rules. Not all rude speech is awful and not all polite speech is virtuous. You must judge case by case.
So opposing racist caricatures, for instance, is not really about crudity per se, and disrespect only minimally. It’s about impact.
Other forms of rude, crude speech do *not* have the same deleterious impact (see: most Monty Python sketches).
Some forms of polite speech can be *deeply* harmful, e.g. Sarah Ditum’s call to suppress Leelah Alcorn’s suicide note.
The key to finding our way through this moral maze of speech is to learn how to judge, and judge fairly.
file under: appalling
Russia says drivers must not have ‘sex disorders’: “Russia has listed transsexual and transgender people among those who will no longer qualify for driving licences. Fetishism, exhibitionism and voyeurism are also included as “mental disorders” now barring people from driving.”
Anti-terror plan to spy on toddlers ‘is heavy-handed.’ “Nursery staff and childminders are given ‘duty’ to report toddlers they suspect of being at risk of becoming terrorists under new Home Office measures.”
Katherine Cross: “We will force gaming to be free.” On gamergate & the licence to inflict suffering. “A careful examination of GamerGate reveals an anarchic social movement that is now fully given over to paranoid purge logic, purist orthodoxy, deep suspicion of outsiders and institutions, and, above all, a willingness to believe that the ends will justify the means. This conviction all but ensures that the movement will continually violate its own stated principles in order to achieve them, layering terrible irony atop terrible irony.”
A Man in Black: How imageboard culture shaped Gamergate. “That tell-tale wedding of relentless hostility and ethical affectation is a peculiar youth subculture spilling out into the open web. Get ready for more of it.”
Thoughts on shy nerd guy pain:
- Laurie Penny: Male Nerds Think They’re Victims Because They Have No Clue What Female Nerds Go Through
- Compassion, Men and Me. “But do you want me to sympathize with you, or do you want me to drop what I was carrying to hold your feelings instead? That I will not do.” (via Chris Bourg @mchris4duke)
In the news
This makes me really angry. I live in a place that has a lot of trails used by hikers, mountain bikers, and horse riders…. And I’ve heard stories of mountain bike trail sabotage locally. The irony is that many of the trails that I use as a hiker were actually created by mountain bikers. Yes, there are issues with aggressive or discourteous behaviour by ALL trail using groups. Yes, there are battles between user groups. There are real issues with some kinds of trail use damaging trails; bikes and horses can do serious damage to them, but then, so can overuse by hikers, which is the group I’m primarily part of.
But the there are also solutions to these problems; you educate people as to how to share trails courteously, and you work on physical solutions that provide access while protecting the environment. You do NOT set traps that can hurt or kill someone.
Art + Design
Kickstarter and similar online crowd-sourcing venues now provide ways for people to fund projects that would otherwise be impossible to do. But evidently if you “do it wrong” there will be blowback. MCA Hogarth talks about how the reaction to the specifics of a request for funding relate to perceptions of risk-taking; Natalie Luhrs talks about the problems with too narrowly defining what is acceptable when asking for money.
Chaos at the Museum. “Beauty and craftsmanship are the standards by which their collections are traditionally built, but a number of design museums and galleries are widening their scope to include the ugly, dangerous and throwaway.” (via Paola Antonelli @curiousoctopus)
Intelligent design: The Empowerment Plan. “We are a humanitarian organization based in the city of Detroit. The plan centers around construction of a coat that transforms into a sleeping bag at night, and a bag when not in use. The coat is made by our team of mostly homeless single parents who have been paid to learn and to produce the coats for those living on the streets.” (via Paola Antonelli @curiousoctopus)
What we’re giving up on in 2015 “Giving up is easier, but it’s not just the lazy way out. It’s only when you throw out your ideal vision that you start living functionally with yourself the way you are.” (via Tressie McMillan Cottom @tressiemcphd) One item on the list that resonates with me: “… I have paid $2-$20 each for a plethora of online solutions to help manage my to do list and “life hack” my ADHD away: Evernote. Do It Tomorrow. Remember The Milk. The to-do list function in Google Calendar. HabitRPG. Those are just the ones I started and then immediately abandoned in 2014. With each abandonment or failure, I would beat myself up for two months about how terrible and lazy and disorganized I am before shelling out for the next thing that would fix my life. …This year? Fuck it. Fuck it so hard. I have one system that mostly works and that thing is physically writing down lists on paper.”
Just for fun
File under: Clueless.
Local politician Kirby Delauter threatened a journalist with a lawsuit for reporting his name in a newspaper. This immediately and predictably and hilariously resulted in the Streisand effect. In particular, the offending newspaper’s response was a masterpiece (note the initial letter of each paragraph). He has since publically apologized, so I guess his attorney clued him in. (originally via @ChrisBoese before it all exploded)
William Geraldi wrote a supremely self-satisfied article on his experience of paternity leave, called “This Brat’s For You.” The gist: his wife did all the work, and he drank a lot. Mallory Ortberg riffed on it brilliantly: I’d Love To Help My Wife Do The Dishes, But I’m Trapped Under Something Heavy.
The masculine mistake, by Patrick Blanchfield. Why is America producing so many young men who are hostile to women?
As someone who teaches at a post-secondary level as a contract instructor—a vulnerable position—I have a strong interest in issues like this. Scabs, Scantrons, and Strikes at the University of Oregon. From the Department of You Can’t Make This Shit Up… You should also read the PDF of the statement from the department heads/program directors as to why the proposed actions are untenable. For example, “With regard to practical reasons, many program directors and department heads are stretched to the limit already, and telling us that we are forced to be responsible for the grades in all GTF-related courses in our units – for some of us numbering 90 sections or more, with literally thousands of total students – is not tenable.” What kind of mind thinks a solution like that could work? The level of cluelessness is amazing.
Two powerful articles on what Lemony Snicket said at the National Book Awards, and then Jacqueline Woodson’s response to it:
- Nikki Finney: “On Wednesday night Jacqueline Woodson won the 2014 National Book Award for Young Peoples Literature. After she left the stage the host of the National Book Awards, Daniel Handler, told the crowd that she, a Black woman, ‘was allergic to watermelon’ and then implored the crowd at the National Book Awards to ‘let that settle in your mind.’ I found myself staring at my laptop and choking on a waterfall of watermelon seeds.”
- Meanwhile In America, Brown Girls Are Still Dreaming (via Ashley Ford @iSmashFizzle)
- Jacqueline Woodson: The Pain of the Watermelon Joke.
Using a tax system to destroy small businesses: this is beyond fucked up. The VATman cometh, destroying businesses. “As you may know, the whole situation with VAT on ebooks is crazy. Although the rate for paper books is zero in the UK, the rate for ebooks is 20%. … anyone selling digital products in Europe has to register for VAT in every country, charge VAT on each sale according to the local rate, and account for all of this on a quarterly basis. …If all you do is sell one ebook, or a few knitting patterns on Etsy, or a little app you made for fun, you are required to register for VAT and file VAT returns once a quarter. Even if the tax involved is only pennies. …The implications for any small company selling digital products are so horrendous that the Head of Tax at the Institute of Chartered Accountants (England & Wales) has apparently suggested that small businesses stop selling in Europe to avoid all of this mess.”
Why women leave tech: what the research says. “The research shows that women in disproportionately-male industries are assumed to be less competent than men, and that when they’re perceived as competent they’re considered less likable. Being disliked hurts women’s pay and their prospects for advancement. The research finds that the only way competent women will be found likable is if they behave in a stereotypically-female “communal” style at work (cooperative, helpful and understanding), but if they do that they will no longer be perceived as competent. It’s a classic double bind.” (via Brianna Wu @Spacekatgal)
And then of course there is Ferguson.
- Time: What History Books Should Say About Ferguson
- It’s Incredibly Rare For A Grand Jury To Do What Ferguson’s Just Did
- Bob McCulloch’s pathetic prosecution of Darren Wilson
- The Purpose Of The Ferguson Grand Jury Was Not To Get An Indictment
- “When Darren Wilson says he saw Mike Brown as “a demon,” the problem isn’t with his eyes, it’s with what America told him demons look like.” (@austin_walker) (via Sunny Moraine) @dynamicsymmetry)
- The Parable of the Unjust Judge or: Fear of a Nigger Nation “The arc of the moral universe does not lead anywhere in particular, not in this life. If it bends towards justice, it is only because it is pulled that way by our constant effort, by our unceasing straining and sweating and shouting.”
- And finally, to end the list on a positive note, Ashley Ford (@iSmashFizzle) put out a wildly successful call for people to donate to the Ferguson Library.
Amazing. I hope the artist wears gloves. Shattered Glass Animals by Marta Klonowska
The Retreat. “I wondered why going off by myself was so strange and frightening. Almost everyone I knew was married, and most had kids. They did not go off to places alone, even if they might have wanted to.”
Quote of the week
Jesse Williams responding on Twitter to someone telling him to “rein in” his criticism of CNN’s coverage of Ferguson: “Please disabuse yourself of the notion that my purpose on earth is to tuck ignorance in at night.”
In the academic scams department: “Journal Accepts Paper Reading “Get Me Off Your Fucking Mailing List”. “Dr Peter Vamplew, a computer scientist at Federation University Australia got one too many invites from the International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology and hit back with the seven words repeated over and over, along with headings, pseudo-citations, a flow chart and graph. Vamplew didn’t expect to be published – he just hoped the ‘editors’ would stop cluttering up his inbox. Instead a return message said a reviewer had rated the paper as ‘excellent’ and IJACT would publish for the low, low price of $150.”
Brain Pickings: Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Catalog of Beautiful Untranslatable Words from Around the World. I love the word tsundoku, it lives in my house.
Cymatics is the science of visualizing audio frequencies using dust particles, water, or other materials to demonstrate how vibrations move. Nigel Stanford has applied it to this remarkable music video.
Lots of stuff this week—enjoy.
Some issues won’t die, and for good reason. How Ferguson showed us the truth about police: whiteboard animation by Molly Crabapple.
In case you thought prisons were all about crime: “In recent filings, lawyers for the state have resisted court orders that they expand parole programs, reasoning not that releasing inmates early is logistically impossible or would threaten public safety, but instead that prisons won’t have enough minimum security inmates left to perform inmate jobs. …The debate centers around an expansive state program to have inmates fight wildfires. California is one of several states that employs prison labor to fight wildfires. And it has the largest such program, as the state’s wildfire problem rapidly expands arguably because of climate change. By employing prison inmates who are paid less than $2 per day, the state saves some $1 billion, according to a recent BuzzFeed feature of the practice.” California Tells Court It Can’t Release Inmates Early Because It Would Lose Cheap Prison Labor. (via @nkjemisin)
Not all games fit your stereotypes.That Dragon, Cancer: a Kickstarter project “We created That Dragon, Cancer to tell the story of our son Joel and his 4-year fight against cancer. Our desire is to craft an adventure game that is poetic, playful, full of imagination and of hope. This is how we choose to honor him and his memory.”
10 Moments Black People In The Workplace Know Too Well (via Ashley Ford @iSmashFizzle)
For those wondering why so many women think catcalling is such a scary big deal, when you know, it’s really just a compliment.
Re Uber and other “cottage” industries: “…as we welcome new participants to the disruptive impact of the internet-based sharing economy, we must keep one eye on the future to make sure that we don’t build an economy based on exploitation.”
On making a living from art… an interesting pairing of articles:
Ask Polly: How Do I Make a Living As an Artist? “The bad thing about high capitalism is that we have a twisted idea about the differences between things that sell and things that don’t sell, winners and losers, masterful brands and flaccid brands. And we think of ourselves in those terms, too. This crass world holds a pretty twisted view of what it means to create something without being widely acknowledged for it.”
An Open Letter to Oprah: “To achieve the life you want, avoid situations that devalue your worth. Like when Oprah’s “The Life You Want” tour, with its tickets priced up to $999, asks you to perform for free.”
In the news
Obituary: Leslie Feinberg. “She was a pioneer in trans and lesbian issues, workers rights, and intersectionality long before anyone could define the phrase.”
Society’s Sandbox: Informal economies are the world’s biggest — and most overlooked — design research opportunity
The Secret Life of Passwords. A fascinating article about how people use passwords as memory boxes. (NYT paywall may stop you from reading it if you’re over their limit.)
Just for fun
Baby owl cuteness fix.
Quotes of the week
Every once in a while I read something, some turn of phrase, that makes me stop dead. This week there were two.
“Every morning, I try to break my heart. I crush it gently between my fingers until it can fit in the palm of my hand.” —Roxane Gay
Oh my: Imperial Tortoise Beetle, from Brazil.