Quotulatiousness

December 8, 2017

But what about “whataboutism”?

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Megan McArdle on the folks who automatically resort to “what about x”:

Last week, as you may have noticed, Republicans passed a tax bill. As you may also have noticed, Democrats were aghast. Passing a bill like that on straight party lines! Using a parliamentary maneuver to push through something that could never have survived a filibuster! How could Republicans be so brazen, so immoral, so fiscally irresponsible?

Those of us who remembered saying many of the same things during the passage of Obamacare had to beg them to stop. I mean, we could have been seriously hurt, laughing that hard.

But when I pointed this out, the good citizens of Twitter informed me over and over that this was mere “whataboutism.”

Whataboutism is defending some indefensible action by pointing to some equally indefensible action that was supported, or at least not condemned, by your opponents. (Whataboutism is usually defined as a version of the tu quoque fallacy, attacking the questioner rather than answering the question. It’s also a red herring.) After lobbing a few “What about you?” grenades, you use the resulting chaos to duck uncomfortable questions.

It is a favorite tactic of our president, whose campaign platform was “What about her emails?” Every time someone brings up the FBI investigation that is creeping closer to the highest echelons of his staff, he is fond of asking, apropos of nothing, why Hillary Clinton’s not in jail.

December 1, 2017

Censorship on the web

Filed under: Business, Liberty, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

At City Journal, Aaron Renn explains why some of the concerns about censorship on the Internet are not so much wrong as misdirected:

The basic idea of net neutrality makes sense. When I get a phone, the phone company can’t decide whom I can call, or how good the call quality should be depending on who is on the other end of the line. Similarly, when I pay for my cable modem, I should be able to use the bandwidth I paid for to surf any website, not get a better or worse connection depending on whether my cable company cut some side deal to make Netflix perform better than Hulu.

The problem for net neutrality advocates is that the ISPs aren’t actually doing any of this; they really are providing an open Internet, as promised. The same is not true of the companies pushing net neutrality, however. As Pai suggests, the real threat to an open Internet doesn’t come from your cable company but from Google/YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and others. All these firms have aggressively censored.

For example, Google recently kicked would-be Twitter competitor Gab out of its app store, not for anything Gab did but for what it refused to do — censor content. Twitter is famous for censoring, as Pai observes. “I love Twitter, and I use it all the time,” he said. “But let’s not kid ourselves; when it comes to an open Internet, Twitter is part of the problem. The company has a viewpoint and uses that viewpoint to discriminate.” (Twitter’s censors have not gotten around to removing the abuse, some of it racist, being hurled at Pai, including messages like “Die faggot die” and “Hey go fuck yourself you Taliban-looking fuck.”)

Google’s YouTube unit also censors, setting the channel for Prager University to restricted mode, which limits access; Prager U. is suing Google and YouTube. YouTube has also “demonetized” videos from independent content creators, making these videos ineligible for advertising, their main source of revenue. Much of the complaining about censorship has come from political conservatives, but they’re not the only victims. The problem is broad-based.

Yet sometimes Silicon Valley giants have adopted a see-no-evil approach to certain kinds of content. Facebook, for instance, has banned legitimate content but failed to stop Russian bots from going wild during last year’s presidential election, planting voluminous fake news stories. Advertisers recently started fleeing YouTube when reports surfaced that large numbers of child-exploitation videos were showing up on supposedly kid-friendly channels. One account, ToyFreaks, had 8 million subscribers — making it the 68th most-viewed YouTube channel — before the company shut it down. It’s not credible that YouTube didn’t know what was happening on a channel with millions of viewers. Other channels and videos featured content from pedophiles. More problems turned up within the last week. A search for “How do I …” on YouTube returned numerous auto-complete suggestions involving sex with children. Others have found a whole genre of “guess her age” videos, with preview images, printed in giant fonts, saying things like, “She’s only 9!” The videos may or may not have involved minors — I didn’t watch them—but at minimum, they trade on pedophilic language to generate views.

August 26, 2017

Hot takes are easy, if you’re Andy Benoit

Filed under: Football, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

At the Daily Norseman, taking shots at “pro” sports personalities comes as second nature. Ted Glover and Eric Thompson have developed a particular joy in sharing the … gems … from Andy Benoit’s Twitter feed, and have taken it one step further:

(more…)

#happy #hashtag #anniversary

Filed under: Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Brittany Hunter informs us that the #hashtagrevolution is now ten years old:

This week the hashtag turned ten years old. As a writer, I am always looking for interesting and current topics to tackle. But this particular topic seemed completely insignificant to me. The symbol itself has existed for years. Why should I care about the anniversary of its repurposed use?

But upon further investigation, it became apparent to me that the advent of the hashtag should not simply be brushed off and dismissed as a silly pop culture trend. In fact, it actually answered many questions posed in F.A. Hayek’s essay “The Use of Knowledge in Society”.

The Hashtag is Born

Social media’s presence in our daily lives has reshaped the way our society exchanges information. But the fact that social media posts themselves are now able to be organized by a single “#” is quite remarkable. Now, all this decentralized knowledge is searchable on almost any social media platform.

Ten years ago, entrepreneur Chris Messina tweeted “#barcamp” from the then-obscure South by Southwest conference. By the end of 2007, it had been used on Twitter over 9,000 times. Today, over 125 million hashtags are used every day just on Twitter. With other social media platforms now utilizing this symbol, the total numbers are even grander.

But at its very core, the hashtag provides the means of connecting humanity with essential knowledge for better managing our lives – no matter where it comes from or where it ends up. The hashtag serves as a symbolic reminder of the remarkable information utopia that is emerging via technology in our time, and its existence portends vast increases in human well being the future.

August 19, 2017

How bad can a business graphic get? This bad

Filed under: Business, Humour, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Found on Colby Cosh’s Twitter feed:

July 23, 2017

Requiem for an SJW heavyweight

Filed under: Britain, Humour, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

James Delingpole on the Twitter phenomenon Godfrey Elfwick:

Linda Sarsour/Sally Kohn/Graham Linehan/Caroline Criado Perez/Gary Lineker/Diane Abbot/someone from the Guardian/a guy from CNN/ISIS has said something really hateful, stupid, and wrong on Twitter. Again.

Back in the day, this would have been a cause for celebration, not dismay. Why? Because within milliseconds of their fatuous utterance tainting the ether with its embittered, warped, politically correct insanity it would have been endorsed – and simultaneously destroyed – by the mighty Godfrey Elfwick.

Godfrey Elfwick was the funniest and best thing on Twitter.

To have your tweet singled out for praise by Godfrey was the kiss of death. It meant that you were a humorless, self-righteous, deluded, smug, sanctimonious, insufferable Social Justice Warrior. Just like Godfrey purported to be.

Which is why, of course, Twitter had to silence him. Sure, the official reason given for Godfrey’s permanent ban was because he had broken Twitter’s terms of service – apparently having upset a millionaire potato chip salesman called Gary Lineker.

July 9, 2017

Historical ignorance

Filed under: Education, History, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Jonah Goldberg laments the constant displays of historical ignorance in the media and on social media:

Ideological and political polarization is a big concern these days, and commentators on the right and left have chewed the topic to masticated pulp. But it occurs to me that one unappreciated factor is widespread historical ignorance, and the arrogant impatience of reaching conclusions before thinking. The instantaneity of TV and Twitter only amplifies the problem.

For instance, on the Fourth of July, NPR’s Morning Edition tweeted out the text of the Declaration of Independence, 140 characters at a time. The angry responses, from left and right, were a thing to behold. “Are you drunk?” “So, NPR is calling for revolution,” “Glad you’re being defunded, your show was never balanced,” and so on.

World War II and the Cold War, particularly Vietnam, used to define the intellectual framework for how we understood many events. For people in their 30s, that framework changed to the Iraq War and the War on Terror. In my more curmudgeonly moments, it seems like the new paradigm for millennials (and the journalists and politicians who pander to them) isn’t some major geopolitical test or moment but the adventures of Harry Potter. Having never read the series, I also don’t read the countless articles using the books to explain the political climate, but I do marvel at their ubiquity.

It should go without saying that a children’s book about a magical boarding school for wizards is of limited utility in understanding, well, just about anything in a world without wizards.

I once heard a story second-hand of a general who was talking to an audience full of 20-somethings. He was explaining how the War on Terror challenged his generation’s mindset. “I spent most of my career worrying about the Fulda Gap,” he said. To which one “educated” fellow reportedly replied, “I know that Gap! It’s in a mall near my house.”

The Fulda Gap is the location in the German lowlands where the Soviets were most likely to launch an invasion of Europe.

Today, we face a multitude of challenges, at home and abroad, that can only be met by people with a modicum of historical literacy. If only Harry Potter could cast a spell to give it to us.

July 1, 2017

Trump’s Twitter tactics are still working to perfection

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

David Warren, while not a fan of Trump, notes that Trump’s use of Twitter is still serving to keep his critics in a state of impotent rage:

Twitter is anyway full of foul; and I first observed that Trump is exceptionally crass, long before he ran for public office. I have never expected better of him, and as we say, pessimists are never disappointed. Rather I’ve noticed that he uses his indecencies to clever effect. For he is intentionally driving his opponents crazy; counting on them always to take the bait. This works better for him than any other tactic. Take his Twitter account away, and the Democrats would soon have him cornered. Instead they stay too angry to land a telling punch.

Today, I just smile at the antinomian craftsmanship.

I used to like boxing, when I was a kid, including the first-round knockouts in which Trump specializes. Liston versus Patterson, 1962 and ’63. Clay versus Liston, ’64. In the latter case the media had predicted a one-round outcome, but said it would go the other way. Liston, whose manager had been a mob hit-man, learnt boxing in the Missouri State Penitentiary, and never played cat-and-mouse. Imagine his surprise when Cassius Clay connected. The young lad had sparkling reflexes, on very quick feet, and was secretly more ruthless than the evil-eyed thug who’d come the hard way from Arkansas. It was all in the stars Hillary Clinton was seeing the night of the big match. I meant, Sonny Liston, who thought so little of Clay, that he was drinking the night before Clay flattened him. For Clay combined arrogance with a devilish sense of humour — and “we all know” funny people are ineffectual.

What might have driven me crazy in the old days was not Trump’s tweet, but seeing it at the top of the BBC World News, and played for all it isn’t worth by the various other “commie” networks. Their humourless malice against Trump is like Liston’s against Clay: something they don’t bother to hide. But malice is not the same as ruthlessness. The ruthless strategize; the malicious merely lunge.

May 29, 2017

Using Nigerian spam techniques to build your audience and reliably broadcast your message

Filed under: Media, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 10:03

An amusing set of tweets from Popehat:

May 20, 2017

“Trump has always said the kinds of things that most of us learn to think the better of around our freshman year of high school”

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Megan McArdle on the calls to impeach or otherwise depose Il Donalduce (soft coup, anyone?):

Trump has always said the kinds of things that most of us learn to think the better of around our freshman year of high school — not just the tragic wailing about how hard everyone is on him, but also the needy self-flattery: When he isn’t claiming that he knows more about Islamic State than our nation’s generals do, he is putting similarly laudatory words in the mouths of the brilliant and impressive people who apparently constantly ring him up so they can gush like tween fangirls at a Justin Bieber concert. Does he expect people to believe these utterances? I have no idea. But the reason most people don’t say such things is that whether you expect them to or not, no one ever does.

As for the rest … the twitter rants? Check. The lack of respect for longstanding political and institutional norms? Check. The outrageous, uncalled-for attacks on anyone who gets in his way? Check-plus. All quite evident before the American public went to the polls in November. And that is the rub.

It’s one thing to remove a president who is clearly no longer the man (or woman) we elected to the office. But this is what Americans, in aggregate, pulled the lever for. Do his staffers and Congress have the right to step in and essentially undo that choice?

Even as a thought experiment, that’s a tough question. It becomes much tougher still when we are not in a tidy textbook, but in a messy real world where his followers, having voted for this behavior, do not recognize it as a sign of impairment. If Trump is removed now, they will see the removal not as a safeguard, but as a soft coup. And they won’t be entirely unjustified. The damage to our political culture, and its institutions, would be immeasurably grave.

I think there’s a case for removing Trump on the grounds that he is clearly not competent to execute the office — not that he has committed “high crimes and misdemeanors,” but that he simply lacks the emotional and mental capacity to do the job. But preserving the very norms he’s destroying requires that removal not be undertaken until things have reached such a state that most of his followers recognize his problems. So those of us who believe that the competence of the executive matters — that there are things worse in a president than “more of the same,” and that what we are now seeing is one of them — will simply have to hope like heck that his supporters come to the same conclusion we have before he damages much more than his own reputation, and the hopes of the people who elected him.

February 18, 2017

Twitter turns on the free speech filters

Filed under: Business, Liberty, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

At Forbes, Kalev Leetaru reports on Friday’s introduction of “hate speech” filtering on Twitter:

Earlier this morning social media and the tech press lit up with reports of users across Twitter receiving half day suspensions en masse as the platform abruptly rolled out its decade-overdue hate speech filter to its platform. The company has refused to provide details on specifically how the new system works, but using a combination of behavioral and keyword indicators, the filter flags posts it deems to be violations of Twitter’s acceptable speech policy and issues users suspensions of half a day during which they cannot post new tweets and their existing tweets are visible only to followers. From the platform that once called itself “the free speech wing of the free speech party” these new tools mark an incredible turn of events for the company that just two years ago famously wrote Congress to say it would do everything in its power to uphold the right of terrorists to post freely to its platform. What does Twitter’s new interest in hate speech tell us about the future of free speech online?

It was just a year ago that I wrote on these very pages about Twitter’s evolution from bastion of free speech to global censor as it stepped back from its utopian dreams as they collided with the realities of running a commercial company. Yet, even after changing its official written policy on acceptable speech and touting that it would do more to fight abuse, little has changed over the past year. Indeed, from its inception a decade ago, Twitter has done little to address the problem of hateful and abusive speech on its platform.

[…] the concern here is that Twitter has thus far refused to provide further detail into at least the broad contours of the indicators it is using, especially when it comes to the particular linguistic cues it is concerned with. While offering too much detail might give the upper hand to those who would try to work around the new system, it is important for the broader community to have at least some understanding of the kinds of language flagged by Twitter’s new tool so that they can offer more informed feedback to help it shape that tool given that both algorithms and people are far from infallible. Simply rolling out a new tool that begins suspending users without warning or recourse and without any visibility into how those decisions are being made is a textbook example of how not to roll such a feature out to a user community in that the tool instantly becomes confrontational rather than educational.

Moreover, it is unclear why Twitter chose not to permit users to contest what they believe to be a wrongful suspension. The company did not respond to a request for comment on why suspended users are not provided a button to appeal a suspension they believe is due to algorithmic or human error or lack of contextual understanding. Given that the feature is brand new and bound to encounter plenty of unforeseen contexts where it could yield a wrong result, it is surprising that Twitter chose not to provide a recovery mechanism where it could catch these before they become news.

H/T to Peter Grant for the link.

February 6, 2017

Social media, big data, and (lots of) profanity

Filed under: Media, Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Scott Adams linked to this video (which is very NSFW), discussing how social media platforms can use their analytic tools to “shape” communications among their users:

February 2, 2017

The best explanation of the downside of social media, in one tweet

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

January 20, 2017

The White House press corps anomaly – “Journalists aren’t treated as housepets anywhere else”

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Colby Cosh on the rumours that Trump was going to physically evict the press from the White House:

What struck me was that American journalists seemed to agree unanimously that this was a dangerous and alarming signal — as if they really could not do their jobs effectively without office space in the residence of the chief magistrate. No Canadian or other foreigner needs to have it explained how anomalous, downright freaky, this is. Journalists aren’t treated as housepets anywhere else. Even our royal family, which exists explicitly as a public spectacle, regards reporters more as a pack of wild animals to be chastised and fended off.

We are hearing a lot right now about the American press consciously transforming into a political opposition, rediscovering its appropriate, adversarial relationship with the American presidency. How wonderful, if true! But if it is, why did no American reporter say “Please, throw us out immediately: we dare you”? Imagine the opportunity to make a memorable scene: dozens of journalists turning in their White House security credentials simultaneously — maybe burning them! — then marching across the street in ranks to the Old Executive Office Building, carrying their heartbreaking little boxes full of notebooks, laptops, and desk totems. Why, it would be the most inspiring thing you ever saw.

Or maybe it would not serve to make journalists a little more popular for a moment. But, believe me, we have tried everything else. One might even ask why the White House press would wait to be kicked out. If it arranged a sort of pre-emptive general strike, of course, it would have to admit to being a tad hagiographical in the past. Specifically, over the past eight years.

There was a suggestion to defenestrate the media jackals after the election, but it came from outside Trump’s circle of advisors. While I liked the idea at the time, I think Cosh is right in his analysis:

It ought to be obvious why Priebus disavowed talk of evicting the press from the White House. A president who intends to operate by means of whispers, grumbles, threats, and hints needs to have the ears of the press close by. That is the entire historical reason it is close by. Reporters do not have to love Trump to serve his purposes. The glamour of going to work in the White House will do the work of seduction, as it has done down through the decades. I feel certain Trump would no more throw the press out of the West Wing than he will consider leaving Twitter.

January 19, 2017

Trump “is vulgar and offensive. That is my best argument for him”

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

David Warren responds to insinuations that he’s changed his opinion of Il Donalduce since the election:

Several correspondents who berated me (in fairly colourful language) for opposing Trump through the Republican primaries now congratulate me for “warming to him.” I find this odd, since most had said they wouldn’t be reading me any more. Too, I’m not aware of warming to Trump. Nor has my pleasure in the defeat of Hillary Clinton waned. (I did say from the start that Trump would win.) One of the two had to win the election, and while I was willing to concede Hillary’s particular merit — for corruption is a humanizing force, that works against leftish ideology — I could find no other. Perhaps the thought of having to look at her for another four years was another paradoxical plus. She might cure me of any remaining Internet addiction. There might also be peace and quiet, or at least quiescence from the progressive media, who only report on the scandals they invent.

Whereas, I have come to enjoy Trump’s turbulence: fat man waddling on the high wire. He may not represent anything resembling the sort of policies I could sincerely endorse, but he is hated by all the right people. Their gasps of horror suspend him aloft. And while he gives no promise of turning the clock back, in the manner I should wish it turned, his approach to the management of the Nanny State cannot be ham-fisted enough for me.

He is vulgar and offensive. That is my best argument for him. And while I am opposed to the existence of Twitter, I do enjoy his tweets. A surprisingly high proportion of them are true, which is what makes them so outrageous. He has found a way to get entirely around the “mainstream” newsmongers, thus hastening their extinction; and as a bonus he scares the bejeezus out of America’s enemies around the world. This is a happy change from Obama, who scared only America’s friends. As I once had the honour of explaining to one of George Dubya’s senior aides, I have nothing against appeasement: so long as your enemies are appeasing you.

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