April 12, 2014

Political religion

Filed under: Politics, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:19

In the most recent Goldberg File “news”letter, Jonah Goldberg discusses what serves some non-religious groups as an effective religion-replacement:

… I read some reviews of Jody Bottum’s new book (which I’ve now ordered). In, An Anxious Age: The Post Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America, Bottum argues that today’s liberal elites are the same liberal elites that we’ve always had. They come from the ranks of mainline Protestants that have run this country for generations (with some fellow-travelling Jews and Catholics, to be sure). But there’s a hitch. They champion a

    social gospel, without the gospel. For all of them, the sole proof of redemption is the holding of a proper sense of social ills. The only available confidence about their salvation, as something superadded to experience, is the self-esteem that comes with feeling they oppose the social evils of bigotry and power and the groupthink of the mob.

This strikes me as pretty close to exactly right. They’re still elitist moralizers but without the religious doctrine. In place of religious experience, they take their spiritual sustenance from self-satisfaction, often smug self-satisfaction.

One problem with most (but not all) political religions is that they tend to convince themselves that their one true faith is simply the Truth. Marxists believed in “scientific socialism” and all that jazz. Liberalism is still convinced that it is the sole legitimate worldview of the “reality-based community.”

There’s a second problem with political religions, though. When reality stops cooperating with the faith, someone must get the blame, and it can never be the faith itself. And this is where the hunt for heretics within and without begins.

Think about what connects so many of the controversies today: Mozilla’s defenestration of Brendan Eich, Brandeis’ disinviting of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the IRS scandal, Hobby Lobby, Sisters of Mercy, the notion climate skeptics should be put in cages, the obsession with the Koch brothers, not to mention the metronomic succession of assclownery on college campuses. They’re all about either the hunting of heretics and dissidents or the desire to force adherence to the One True Faith.

It’s worth noting that the increase in these sorts of incidents is not necessarily a sign of liberalism’s strength. They’re arguably the result of a crisis of confidence.

April 8, 2014

QotD: Making certain arguments “beyond the pale”

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

The right to free speech may begin and end with the First Amendment, but there is a vast middle where our freedom of speech is protected by us — by our capacity to listen and accept that people disagree, often strongly, that there are fools, some of them columnists and elected officials and, yes, even reality-show patriarchs, that there are people who believe stupid, irrational, hateful things about other people and it’s okay to let those words in our ears sometimes without rolling out the guillotines.


The trouble, I think, is when ostracizing a viewpoint as “beyond the pale” becomes not an end but a means to an end; that by declaring something unsayable, we make it so. It makes me uncomfortable, even as I see the value of it. I for one would love homophobia to fully make it on that list, to get to the point where being against gay marriage is as vulgar and shameful as being against interracial marriage. But it isn’t. Maybe it will be. But it isn’t. And kicking a reality-show star off his reality show doesn’t make that less true. Win the argument; don’t declare the argument too offensive to be won. And that’s true whether it’s GLAAD making demands of A&E or the head of the Republican National Committee making demands of MSNBC.

The bottom line is, you don’t beat an idea by beating a person. You beat an idea by beating an idea. Not only is it counter-productive — nobody likes the kid who complains to the teacher even when the kid is right — it replaces a competition of arguments with a competition to delegitimize arguments. And what’s left is the pressure to sand down the corners of your speech while looking for the rough edges in the speech of your adversaries. Everyone is offended. Everyone is offensive. Nothing is close to the line because close to the line is over the line because over the line is better for clicks and retweets and fundraising and ad revenue.

Jon Lovett, “The Culture of Shut Up: Too many debates about important issues degenerate into manufactured and misplaced outrage — and it’s chilling free speech”, The Atlantic, 2014-04-07

April 4, 2014

Free Speech NOW!

Filed under: Liberty, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:47

Spiked - Free Speech NOW

sp!ked launches a new project:

Every man should think what he likes and say what he thinks.’ It is 350 years since Spinoza, the great Dutchman of the Enlightenment, wrote those simple but profound words. And yet every man (and woman) is still not at liberty to think what he or she likes, far less say it. It is for this reason that, today, spiked is kicking off a transatlantic liberty-loving online magazine and real-world campaign called Free Speech Now! — to put the case for unfettered freedom of thought and speech; to carry the Spinoza spirit into the modern age; to make the case anew for allowing everyone to say what he thinks, as honestly and frankly as he likes.

It is true that, unlike in Spinoza’s day, no one in the twenty-first century is dragged to ‘the scaffold’ and ‘put to death’ for saying out loud what lurks in his heart — at least not in the Western world. But right now, right here, in the apparently democratic West, people are being arrested, fined, shamed, censored, cut off, cast out of polite society, and even jailed for the supposed crime of thinking what they like and saying what they think. You might not be hanged by the neck anymore for speaking your mind, but you do risk being hung out to dry, by coppers, the courts, censorious Twittermobs and other self-elected guardians of the allegedly right way of thinking and correct way of speaking.

Ours is an age in which a pastor, in Sweden, can be sentenced to a month in jail for preaching to his own flock in his own church that homosexuality is a sin. In which British football fans can be arrested for referring to themselves as Yids. In which those who too stingingly criticise the Islamic ritual slaughter of animals can be convicted of committing a hate crime. In which Britain’s leading liberal writers and arts people can, sans shame, put their names to a letter calling for state regulation of the press, the very scourge their cultural forebears risked their heads fighting against. In which students in both Britain and America have become bizarrely ban-happy, censoring songs, newspapers and speakers that rile their minds. In which offence-taking has become the central organising principle of much of the political sphere, nurturing virtual gangs of the ostentatiously outraged who have successfully purged from public life articles, adverts and arguments that upset them — a modern-day version of what Spinoza called ‘quarrelsome mobs’, the ‘real disturbers of the peace’.


The lack of a serious, deep commitment to freedom of speech is generating new forms of intolerance. And not just religious intolerance of the blasphemous, though that undoubtedly still exists (adverts in Europe have been banned for upsetting Christians and books in Britain and America have been shelved for fear that they might offend Muslims). We also have new forms of secular intolerance, with governmental scientists calling for ‘gross intolerance’ of those who promote quackery and serious magazines proposing the imprisonment of those who ‘deny’ climate change. Just as you can’t yell fire in a crowded theatre, so you shouldn’t be free to ‘yell “balderdash” at 10,883 scientific journal articles a year, all saying the same thing’, said a hip online mag this week. In other words, thou shalt not blaspheme against the eco-gospel. Where once mankind struggled hard for the right to ridicule religious truths, now we must fight equally hard for the right to shout balderdash at climate-change theories, and any other modern orthodoxy that winds us up, makes us mad, or which we just don’t like the sound of.

March 22, 2014

Turkish Twitter users work to circumvent the government’s ban

Filed under: Europe, Government, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:00

In the Guardian, Constanze Letsch reports from Istanbul as users of Twitter actively flout the government’s peevish ban of the online service:

Turkish users of Twitter, including the country’s president, have flouted a block on the social media platform by using text messaging services or disguising the location of their computers to continue posting messages on the site.

In what many Twitter users in Turkey called a “digital coup”, Telecom regulators enforced four court orders to restrict access to Twitter on Thursday night, just hours after the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, vowed to “eradicate” the microblogging platform in an election speech.

The disruption followed previous government threats to clamp down on the social media and caused widespread outrage inside and outside Turkey. In a first reaction to the ban, Neelie Kroes, vice-president of the European commission, tweeted: “The Twitter ban in #Turkey is groundless, pointless, cowardly. Turkish people and intl community will see this as censorship. It is.”

Štefan Füle, EU commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, said in a statement: “The ban on the social platform Twitter.com in Turkey raises grave concerns and casts doubt on Turkey’s stated commitment to European values and standards.”

The hashtag #TwitterisblockedinTurkey quickly rose to the top trending term globally. According to social media agency We Are Social the number of tweets sent from Turkey went up 138% following the ban.

March 7, 2014

Turkish government threatens to ban YouTube and Facebook

Filed under: Europe, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:56

After an embarrassing leak, Prime Minister Erdogan has threatened to ban the services that carried the leaked voice recordings:

Turkey’s prime minister has threatened drastic steps to censor the Internet, including shutting down Facebook and YouTube, where audio recordings of his alleged conversations suggesting corruption have been leaked in the past weeks, dealing him a major blow ahead of this month’s local elections.

In a late-night interview Thursday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan told ATV station that his government is determined to stem the leaks he insists are being instigated by followers of an influential U.S.-based Muslim cleric. He has accused supporters of Fethullah Gulen of infiltrating police and the judiciary and of engaging in “espionage,” saying that the group even listened in on his encrypted telephone lines. The Gulen movement denies involvement.

“We are determined on the issue, regardless of what the world may say,” Erdogan said. “We won’t allow the people to be devoured by YouTube, Facebook or others. Whatever steps need to be taken we will take them without wavering.”

February 22, 2014

Venezuela’s crisis

Filed under: Americas, Government, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:10

With all the attention being on Ukraine’s political upheaval, there’s another political crisis happening in South America:

How is Venezuela doing? Well, tens of thousands of protesters are in the streets, the army’s been sent to crush revolt, an opposition leader has been arrested and supporters of the government just shot dead a former beauty queen. It’s going to hell in a handcart, that’s how it’s doing.

After Hugo Chavez died he was replaced by Nicolas Maduro, a man of considerably less talent who bears a striking resemblance to an obese Burt Reynolds. A Venezuelan friend explains that Chavez’s titanic personality held his revolution together, reconciling its various contradictions with his charismatic nationalism. By contrast, “Maduro has let the worst people take over” — surrendering authority to radical mobs and corrupt officials in a bid to keep them all on side. The result? Bad economic management, inflation at 56 per cent, rising unemployment, food shortages, shocking levels of crime and an increasing reliance on government control of the press.

The Left always insisted under Chavez that some meddling in the media was necessary because it was otherwise controlled by dark, foreign forces (read: people who disagreed with Chavez). But Maduro is now threatening to expel CNN, which is about the fairest and most balanced news source on the planet. CNN’s crime was to report on the recent protests that have engulfed the capital. And good for CNN. Coverage on what’s happening in Venezuela has been eclipsed by events in Ukraine, so for those who don’t know here’s what’s happening on the ground.

  • On February 12, the opposition held a massive rally that resulted in bloodshed. Three people were killed, including two opposition protesters and one pro-government activist. The National Guard was dispatched to prevent further rallies.
  • Violence quickly spread out across the country. Some 3,000 troops were sent to pacify the city of San Cristobal, where the government also cut off transport links and the internet.
  • Opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, was forced to hand himself over to the National Guard on charges of inciting violence.
  • The President blamed America for starting the conflict and has expelled US officials.
  • Local TV stations have gone into lockdown and simply aren’t reporting the fighting. Venezuelans are relying on social media, which includes some false reporting. The opposition lack a single national TV outlet to be heard on.

February 15, 2014

South Korea’s high-speed broadband (censored) internet

Filed under: Asia, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:43

The Economist looks at the gosh-wow technical specs of South Korean internet access, governed by the sensibilities of a restrictive, censorious regime:

Why South Korea is really an internet dinosaur

SOUTH KOREA likes to think of itself as a world leader when it comes to the internet. It boasts the world’s swiftest average broadband speeds (of around 22 megabits per second). Last month the government announced that it will upgrade the country’s wireless network to 5G by 2020, making downloads about 1,000 times speedier than they are now. Rates of internet penetration are among the highest in the world. There is a thriving startup community (Cyworld, rolled out five years before Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook, was the most popular social network in South Korea for a decade) and the country leads the world in video games as spectator sports. Yet in other ways the futuristic country is stuck in the dark ages. Last year Freedom House, an American NGO, ranked South Korea’s internet as only “partly free”. Reporters without Borders has placed it on a list of countries “under surveillance”, alongside Egypt, Thailand and Russia, in its report on “Enemies of the Internet”. Is forward-looking South Korea actually rather backward?

Every week portions of the Korean web are taken down by government censors. Last year about 23,000 Korean webpages were deleted, and another 63,000 blocked, at the request of the Korea Communications Standards Commission (KCSC), a nominally independent (but mainly government-appointed) public body. In 2009 the KCSC had made just 4,500 requests for deletion. Its filtering chiefly targets pornography, prostitution and gambling, all of which are illegal in South Korea. But more wholesome pursuits are also restricted: online gaming is banned between midnight and 6am for under-16s (users must input their government-issued ID numbers to prove their age). Sites from North Korea, including its state newspaper, news agency and Twitter feed, are blocked, as are those of North Korea’s sympathisers. A law dating back to the Korean war forbids South Korean maps from being taken out of the country. Because North and South are technically still at war, the law has been expanded to include electronic mapping data—which means that Google, for instance, cannot process South Korean mapping data on its servers and therefore cannot offer driving directions inside the country. In 2010 the UN determined that the KCSC “essentially operates as a censorship body”.

February 12, 2014

India’s unhappy relationship with the free press

Filed under: India, Liberty, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:55

A recent report from Reporters Without Borders has India at the 140th rank (of 180 countries surveyed) for freedom of the press:

The world’s largest democracy remains one of the most restrictive places for the press.

In a report published Wednesday, Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based nonprofit, ranked India 140th out of 180 countries surveyed for the free speech it affords the media. This was a one-point jump from the country’s 2013 ranking, when it recorded its steepest fall on the annual-list since 2002.

On Monday, acting on an agreement chalked out by a Delhi court, one of India’s largest publishing houses withdrew a 2009 book that reinterprets Hinduism, the latest instance of a book being removed from circulation in the country.

The authors of Wednesday’s report singled out the insurgency in the disputed territory of Kashmir, where channels of communications, including telephone lines, satellite televisions and the Internet, are routinely suspended in response to unrest, as well as the killings of eight journalists in 2013, for India’s lowly press freedom ranking. The killings included those of Jitendra Singh, a freelancer in the eastern state of Jharkhand, who documented Maoist activists in the state, and that of Rakesh Sharma, a Hindi newspaper reporter who was shot dead in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, in August.

January 31, 2014

Security theatre special edition – destroying hard drives that held Snowden’s documents

Filed under: Britain, Government — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:30

It may have been pointless — and it was! — but the British government not only felt it had to do something, but that it had to be seen to be doing something:

New video footage has been released for the first time of the moment Guardian editors destroyed computers used to store top-secret documents leaked by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Under the watchful gaze of two technicians from the British government spy agency GCHQ, the journalists took angle-grinders and drills to the internal components, rendering them useless and the information on them obliterated.

The bizarre episode in the basement of the Guardian‘s London HQ was the climax of Downing Street’s fraught interactions with the Guardian in the wake of Snowden’s leak — the biggest in the history of western intelligence. The details are revealed in a new book — The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man — by the Guardian correspondent Luke Harding. The book, published next week, describes how the Guardian took the decision to destroy its own Macbooks after the government explicitly threatened the paper with an injunction.

In two tense meetings last June and July the cabinet secretary, Jeremy Heywood, explicitly warned the Guardian‘s editor, Alan Rusbridger, to return the Snowden documents.

Heywood, sent personally by David Cameron, told the editor to stop publishing articles based on leaked material from American’s National Security Agency and GCHQ. At one point Heywood said: “We can do this nicely or we can go to law”. He added: “A lot of people in government think you should be closed down.”

January 22, 2014

Thai protests trigger state of emergency declaration

Filed under: Asia, Government, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:52

BBC News on the Thai government’s attempts to deal with the ongoing protests:

The Thai government has imposed a 60-day state of emergency in the capital, Bangkok, and the surrounding provinces, from Wednesday, to cope with unrest.

The decree gives the government wide-ranging powers to deal with disorder.

Anti-government protesters have been blocking parts of the capital to try to force PM Yingluck Shinawatra to resign.

They accuse the government of being run by exiled former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, the brother of the current prime minister.

Ms Yingluck has refused to resign and has called an election on 2 February to pacify the protesters.

The state of emergency was announced after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday and comes after a spate of attacks with explosives and firearms on the anti-government protesters blockading central Bangkok for which the government and the protesters blame each other.

On Sunday, 28 people were injured when grenades were thrown at one of several protest sites set up at major road sections in the city.

“The cabinet decided to invoke the emergency decree to take care of the situation and to enforce the law,” Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said.

The emergency decree gives the government power to censor the media, ban public gatherings and detain suspects without charge.

George Talusan, a friend and former co-worker of mine was on vacation in Thailand recently and posted some brilliant photos to his Facebook feed. I’ve asked his permission to include a few of them here:

A protester stops his motorcycle and holds up a handmade sign near Lumpini Park (Jan 13)

PDRC protesters wave flags at Victory Monument (Jan 14)

Suthep Thaugsuban delivers a speech at Asok BTS (Jan 15)

PDRC protesters are offered water during a sit-in at Royal Thai Police HQ (Jan 15)

PDRC security guard poses outside Royal Thai Police HQ which had been vandalized after a sit-in (Jan 19)

December 28, 2013

QotD: Dance

Filed under: Humour, Media, Quotations — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:48

Those Puritans who snort against the current dances are quite right when they argue that the tango and the shimmie are violently aphrodisiacal, but what they overlook is the fact that the abolition of such provocative wriggles would probably revive something worse, to wit, the Viennese waltz. The waltz never quite goes out of fashion; it is always just around the corner; every now and then it comes back with a bang. And to the sore harassment and corruption, I suspect, of chemical purity, the ideal of all right-thinkers. The shimmie and the tango are too gross to be very dangerous to civilized human beings; they suggest drinking beer out of buckets; the most elemental good taste is proof enough against them. But the waltz! Ah, the waltz, indeed! It is sneaking, insidious, disarming, lovely. It does its work, not like a college-yell or an explosion in a munitions plant, but like the rustle of the trees, the murmur of the illimitable sea, the sweet gurgle of a pretty girl. The jazz-band fetches only vulgarians, barbarians, idiots, pigs. But there is a mystical something in “Weiner Blut” or “Kiinstler Leben” that fetches even philosophers.

The waltz, in fact, is magnificently improper the art of tone turned bawdy. I venture to say that the compositions of one man alone, Johann Strauss II, have lured more fair young creatures to lamentable complaisance than all the hypodermic syringes of all the white slave scouts since the fall of the Western Empire. There is something about a waltz that is simply irresistible. Try it on the fattest and sedatest or even upon the thinnest and most acidulous of women, and she will be ready, in ten minutes, for a stealthy kiss behind the door nay, she will forthwith impart the embarrassing news that her husband misunderstands her, and drinks too much, and cannot appreciate Maeterlinck, and is going to Cleveland, 0., on business to-morrow …

H.L. Mencken, “The Allied Arts: Tempo di Valse”, Prejudices: Second Series, 1920.

November 23, 2013

The power of the press in World War One

Filed under: Britain, History, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:55

The current issue of History Today includes an interesting article by Adrian Bingham on the British newspapers (especially the Daily Mail and the Times) during WW1:

When Britain declared war on Germany in August 1914 the widespread feelings of fear, uncertainty and patriotic determination were matched at the offices of the Daily Mail by a sense of vindication. The newspaper had been warning about the German threat for years, perhaps most notoriously when it serialised in 1909 a series of inflammatory articles by the journalist Robert Blatchford, which, when reprinted as a penny pamphlet, sold some 1.6 million copies. The Mail had, moreover, consistently demanded that the Royal Navy be reinforced. It was soon styling itself ‘the paper that foretold the war’. For its critics, the Mail’s irresponsible stoking of anti-German sentiment, driven above all by the paper’s owner, Lord Northcliffe, actually helped to create the conditions that enabled conflict to break out. ‘Next to the Kaiser’, wrote the esteemed editor and journalist A.G. Gardiner, ‘Lord Northcliffe has done more than any other living man to bring about the war.’


It was not long, however, before Northcliffe became frustrated with the strict censorship imposed on the British press when reporting events in Europe. ‘What the newspapers feel very strongly’, wrote Northcliffe to Lord Murray of Elibank, ‘is that, against their will, they are made to be part and parcel of a foolish conspiracy to hide bad news. English people do not mind bad news.’ Such censorship was particularly worrying when it risked hiding failures in the prosecution and management of the war. Drawing both on the experiences of his visits to the front and on private sources of information from his many correspondents, Northcliffe became increasingly convinced that several men in leading positions were not up to the job, including the prime minister, Asquith, the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, and the Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener.

The episode that crystallised this concern, over which Northcliffe put both his and the Mail’s reputation on the line, was the Shell Crisis of May 1915. Northcliffe had received letters from the front claiming that British military operations were being undermined by the lack of the right kind of shell and, after the Allies failed to capitalise on an initial breakthrough at Neuve Chapelle due to a lack of munitions, these criticisms began to be publicly aired. On May 15th, 1915 The Times (also owned by Northcliffe at the time) published a telegram from its respected military correspondent, Lieutenant-Colonel Repington, highlighting the problem and Northcliffe decided to go on the offensive. After some critical editorials, on May 21st the Mail published an incendiary piece written by Northcliffe himself and headlined ‘The Tragedy of the Shells: Lord Kitchener’s Grave Error’. Northcliffe pinned the blame for the shells scandal directly on Kitchener:

    Lord Kitchener has starved the army in France of high-explosive shells. The admitted fact is that Lord Kitchener ordered the wrong kind of shell … He persisted in sending shrapnel – a useless weapon in trench warfare … The kind of shell our poor soldiers have had has caused the death of thousands of them.

This direct public attack on such an esteemed figure at a time of national crisis was shocking and generated fury among many of Northcliffe’s critics. Members of the London Stock Exchange burned copies of both The Times and the Mail and anxious advertisers cancelled contracts. Thousands of readers stopped buying the papers. Northcliffe, though, was undaunted: at this point he was concerned not with circulation but with what he perceived as his national duty. ‘I mean to tell the people the truth and I don’t care what it costs’, he told his chauffeur. It was clear even to Northcliffe’s opponents, moreover, that there were indeed problems with Britain’s munitions supply. Northcliffe was soon vindicated. Although Kitchener survived in the short term, the Liberal government fell at the end of May 1915, to be replaced by a coalition administration: Asquith remained as prime minister, but Lloyd George was appointed as minister of munitions to address the supply problems.

November 15, 2013

Nadine Strossen is against banning “dangerous” ideas

Filed under: Liberty, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:25

Brendan O’Neill talks to former ACLU president and ardent feminist Nadine Strossen about censorship and the demand to ban “rape porn”:

New York City doesn’t only have better buildings, bridges and burgers than London — it also has better feminists.

As British feminists agitate tooth-and-nail for the banning, or at least modesty-bagging, of lads’ mags, rape porn, Page 3 and pop vids, the NYC-based feminist and former president of the American Civil Liberties Union, Nadine Strossen, tells me she wouldn’t support the censoring or censure or even stigmatisation of any misogynistic material, including the most warped, woman-objectifying porn.

‘As a feminist, I vehemently disagree with the idea that women are sex objects, that women should be raped, that women should be discriminated against or treated unfavourably in any way’, she tells me in her offices at the New York Law School in downtown Manhattan, where she is professor of law. ‘And yet, to paraphrase Voltaire, I would defend to the death your right to say any of those things, and to say them explicitly, and to say them using sexual language.’

But what about the claim that porn, especially the disturbing rape-fantasy stuff, gives some men a skewed impression of women, implanting in their possibly dim-witted heads the idea that women are objects existing solely to satisfy male lust?

‘Well, if the “harm” [she asks for those quote marks] of a certain form of speech is that the idea it is promoting is one of which society disapproves, then that is the exact antithesis of a justification for censoring it’, she says. So far from dodging the cri de Coeur of our censorious age — which is that speech and film and porn and all the rest of it can affect individuals’ view of the world — Strossen turns it into an argument against censorship. ‘Any expression can potentially affect people’s attitudes. That is why speech is so important to protect — precisely because it can influence ideas’, she says.

September 24, 2013

Reason.com banned from Reddit‘s /r/Politics subgroup

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 13:35

Nick Gillespie is puzzled that Reddit users are no longer allowed to submit links to Reason:

So I’m left wondering exactly what we did to incur the wrath of TheRedditPope. Reddit penalizes sites and users that scrape articles from original sources, try to game the system by submitting only material in which they have an publishing interest, and don’t add much information or analysis. As several of the commenters in the thread note, Reason.com is the biggest libertarian news site on the web and whether folks agree or not with our take on a given topic, they can’t seriously accuse us of ripping off other sites or not shooting our mouths off with our own particular POVs on any given topics.

Consider the attempted post that brought the ban to our attention. The user who contacted us had apparently tried to submit this story: “Do-Nothing Congress? Americans Think Congress Passes Too Many Laws, Wrong Kinds of Legislation.” Click on the link and you’ll be taken to an extended analysis of information drawn from the latest Reason-Rupe Poll, an original quarterly survey of American voters that has garnered praise from all over the political spectrum and has been cited in all sorts of mainstream and alternative outlets. If the Reason poll — which is designed by Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this site, and is executed in the field by the same group that conducts Pew Research — and that post in particular don’t meet the threshold of original content that is news-rich and original, then nothing does.

I am a huge admirer of Reddit, even in the wake of recent revelations about the /r/Politics ban. As I wrote last year in a Reddit thread,

    Reddit is one of those rare sites that actually delivers on the potential of the Internet and Web to create a new way of creating community and distributing news, information, and culture that simply couldn’t exist in the past. Like wildly different sites ranging from slashdot to Arts & Letters Daily to Talking Points Memo to the late, lamented Suck, Reddit is precisely one of the reasons why cyberspace (or whatever you call it) continues to excite us and make plain old meatspace a little more tolerable.

September 14, 2013

Reason.tv: George Will’s Libertarian Evolution

Filed under: Liberty, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:50

“I’ve lived in Washington now for 44 years, and that’s a lot of folly to witness up close,” says Washington Post columnist George Will. “Whatever confidence and optimism I felt towards the central government when I got here on January 1, 1970 has pretty much dissipated at the hands of the government.”

“In part, I owe my current happiness to Barack Obama,” continues the 72-year-old Will, who “so thoroughly concentrates all of the American progressive tradition and the academic culture that goes with it, that he’s really put the spring in my step.”

Branded “perhaps the most powerful journalist in America” by the Wall Street Journal, Will received the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1977 and is the author of numerous books, including Statecraft as Soulcraft: What Government Does, Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball, and One Man’s America: The Pleasures and Provocations of our Singular Nation. A regular panelist on ABC’s This Week, Will has the distinction of having been attacked in the pages of Doonesbury and praised in an episode of Seinfeld (for his “clean, scrubbed look”).

More recently Will has become a champion of libertarianism, both in print and on the air. “America is moving in the libertarians’ direction,” Will wrote in a 2011 review of The Declaration of Independents, “not because they have won an argument but because government and the sectors it dominates have made themselves ludicrous.”

Will sat down with Reason‘s Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch to discuss his libertarian evolution (2:16), how Sen. John McCain spurred his political transformation (4:07), Ronald Reagan (4:29), the tax code (8:45), why the Republicans are becoming more interesting (19:30), what the government should be spending money on (23:14), war hawks and foreign policy (25:19), the benefits of judicial activism (34:49), gay marriage (37:55), marijuana legalization (39:04), the importance of Barry Goldwater (40:28), Mitt Romney (45:45), the 2016 election (46:37), Medicare (48:52), how Everett Dirksen’s untimely death changed his life (50:42), why President Obama makes him happy (52:06), affirmative action (53:07), and his optimism in America’s future (57:31).

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