Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Crisis in Transparency... and the finale on "Trends in Violence"

We'll finish off our series on trends in violence across societies and millennia...

...but first news that ought to send chills down your spine.

In an earlier comments section, rushmc shared a news item about cops arresting and prosecuting a man for videotaping his own traffic stop. It is one of the most horrific cases I’ve seen and I hope one of you will investigate whether the victim has a legal defense fund or attorneys who would like to have perhaps an amicus brief from the likes of me.

”Last month, Brian Kelly of Carlisle, Pa., was riding with a friend when the car he was in was pulled over by a local police officer. Kelly, an amateur videographer, had his video camera with him and decided to record the traffic stop.

“The officer who pulled over the vehicle saw the camera and demanded Kelly hand it over. Kelly obliged. Soon after, six more police officers pulled up. They arrested Kelly on charges of violating an outdated Pennsylvania wiretapping law that forbids audio recordings of any second party without their permission. In this case, that party was the police officer.

“Kelly was charged with a felony, spent 26 hours in jail, and faces up to 10 years in prison. All for merely recording a police officer, a public servant, while he was on the job.”


In my book (1997) I forecast the arrival of both cop-carried cameras and reciprocal cams carried by those who are questioned. This reciprocality is vital to a free society and can protect decent people on both sides of such encounters, while holding malefactors accountable... on both sides.

(In fact, someone please look into whether there's a group or fund to help win this particular case?)

This is PRECISELY the crisis I spoke of in The Transparent Society, not only over transparency, freedom and accountability, but also between the professional castes and the Age of Amateurs. This is a fight that we cannot afford to lose.


=======

And now to complete the series (or Return to Part 1 of Trends in Violence)

Trends in Violence, PART THREE


WHY HAS VIOLENCE (APPARENTLY) WANED?

Stephen Pinker offers up a set of possible explanations for this decline in violence.

The first is that Hobbes got it right. Life in a state of nature is nasty, brutish, and short, not because of a primal thirst for blood but because of the inescapable logic of anarchy. Any beings with a modicum of self-interest may be tempted to invade their neighbors to steal their resources....These tragedies can be averted by a state with a monopoly on violence, because it can inflict disinterested penalties that eliminate the incentives for aggression, thereby defusing anxieties about preemptive attack and obviating the need to maintain a hair-trigger propensity for retaliation. Indeed, Eisner and Elias attribute the decline in European homicide to the transition from knightly warrior societies to the centralized governments of early modernity.

Payne suggests another possibility: that the critical variable in the indulgence of violence is an overarching sense that life is cheap. When pain and early death are everyday features of one's own life, one feels fewer compunctions about inflicting them on others. As technology and economic efficiency lengthen and improve our lives, we place a higher value on life in general.

A third theory, championed by Robert Wright, invokes the logic of non-zero-sum games: scenarios in which two agents can each come out ahead if they cooperate, such as trading goods, dividing up labor, or sharing the peace dividend that comes from laying down their arms. As people acquire know-how that they can share cheaply with others and develop technologies that allow them to spread their goods and ideas over larger territories at lower cost, their incentive to cooperate steadily increases, because other people become more valuable alive than dead.

Then there is the scenario sketched by philosopher Peter Singer. Evolution, he suggests, bequeathed people a small kernel of empathy, which by default they apply only within a narrow circle of friends and relations. Over the millennia, people's moral circles have expanded to encompass larger and larger polities: the clan, the tribe, the nation, both sexes, other races, and even animals. The circle may have been pushed outward by expanding networks of reciprocity, à la Wright, but it might also be inflated by the inexorable logic of the golden rule: The more one knows and thinks about other living things, the harder it is to privilege one's own interests over theirs. The empathy escalator may also be powered by cosmopolitanism, in which journalism, memoir, and realistic fiction make the inner lives of other people, and the contingent nature of one's own station, more palpable—the feeling that "there but for fortune go I.”



MORE PLAUSIBLE EXPLANATIONS

This is one of those rare cases where I go with all of the above. In fact, some of these explanations are core elements of the Lockean Wager, that progress and improved societies can help us to evade the mistakes of both Rousseau and Hobbes. That our salvation will not come from oversimplifying prescriptions...

...but rather from nurturing open and accountable complexity, and the emergent properties that arise therefrom.

I would add a fifth cause that obviously overlaps with the others.

We tend, all-too often, to conflate and confuse empathy with sympathy. In its root meaning, “empathy” is an ability to extrapolate and imagine the internal feelings, motivations and thoughts of others. Empathy does not automatically translate into altruistic behavior toward those others.

Indeed, take almost any carnivore whose pattern of predation involves patient, one on-one stalking. A tiger or leopard must have empathy with its prey -- in effect, constantly pondering “what would I do now, if I were the deer?” -- as a tool that helps bring the hunt to a satisfactory conclusion. The same thing is true in war. The best generals routinely put themselves “in the enemy’s shoes.”

In order for this feral level of empathy to transmute into something recognizably altruistic, sympathetic and giving, there generally needs to be a second ingredient. Satiation -- (along with a personality trait called satiability) -- is what allows the predator, the warrior, the citizen, to stop pondering how the adversary feels, in order to overcome him, and instead transform empathy into a desire to help.

In other words, when you and your children have full bellies, when all needs are satisfied and likely to stay satisfied for a good time to come, then your imagination may tend to start broadening the Horizons of Inclusion -- those you are willing to consider fellow members of your tribe. From immediate family to band, tribe, and clan all the way to nation, race, species, and possibly even world. By this way of looking at things, the effect of civilization on violence becomes obvious ... and obviously related to Robert Wright’s reasoning, when he talks about “positive sum thinking.”

nonzero1(DO get Robert Wright's book NONZERO: The Logic of Human Destiny!)

By reducing our fear levels and letting us remain permanently satiated (for the basic needs of life) civilization allows us to gradually broaden these horizons of inclusion and transform feral empathy into sympathy, in which we can not only imagine being the other, but also want the other to do well.

Only then, just when it all starts making sense, there is this ironic twist!

The very process of expanding our horizons of inclusion is one that is complex in the extreme -- and often a fierce test of adaptability for both a nation and its citizens. For one thing, remember I said that satiation must be accompanied by satiability, in order for a secular decline in fear to translate into an increase in tolerance. Not all people or all civilizations are equal when it comes to this important trait. Indeed, many health care professionals report that insatiability is a hallmark of many kinds of mental illness. And even when a people or culture are basically sane, there are still old habits to overcome, as those horizons of inclusion expand outward.

We who experienced one of the greatest of those expansions -- during the Civil Rights and Gender Rights movements of the Sixties and so on -- can testify that decent people of basic goodwill can still need prodding in order to rouse themselves and re-evaluate old boundaries that have lost their relevance. Bad habits from older, more fearful times can be hard to break, even when the ingredients -- empathy, satiation, fear -reduction and an open society -- make things ripe for change. Like a super-saturated solution, ready for a state-transformation, there can still be a need for some kind of shock, to get momentum going.

Indeed, sometimes the provocation has to be vigorous, even militant, driven by a touch of indignant resentment toward past injustices that - in the context of those earlier, un-satiated eras - did not seem quite so unjust to peoples of old!

addiction(For more on the good and bad sides of righteous indignations, see:
http://www.davidbrin.com/addiction.html)

And here is where the irony comes full circle to touch upon Pinker’s topic -- the trend for so many nowadays to over-romanticize a supposedly peaceful and beneficent tribal existence. A bucolic moral superiority for which any evidence is sparse, at best. The Rousseauean fantasy of the noble savage. It is ironic because the real purpose of this guilt-tripping image is reformist and future-oriented! Its purpose is to propel modern and western culture forward, toward peacefulness and beneficence. And thus, at one level, it does not really matter if Pinker is right. The potency of guilt-by-comparison, as a motivator for social self improvement, is more than sufficient to keep this romantic fable forefront in the minds of many who seek social improvement and a better world.


BUT IS THE FABLE NECESSARY, ANYMORE?

Ah, but what if we are already motivated to fight injustice? To spread tolerance and truth and responsible goodness and all those other great things? Is it really necessary for us to continue wallowing in guilt trips that are -- all-too often -- lacking in evidence, or even simple outright lies? Is there not a level where saving the world with open eyes should be considered... well... more admirable than doing it because of silly myths?

Moreover, something else that Pinker does not say much about is the insidious immorality of the underlying impulse that causes so many well-meaning people to romanticize of ancient peoples and tribes. Quite independent of what the facts tell us, there is something darkly vicious and sanctimoniously self-serving about the reflex, which is shared by dogmatic, anti-future people on both the far-right and the far-left.

For one thing, it lets them play “I’m more moral than you are” games directed at their living neighbors. They do this by by associating themselves with people and tribes of the past who - because they are long dead - can be conveniently cleaned up, idealized and used for trumped-up, strawman comparisons.

(In this respect, by remaining conveniently dead and silent, ancient shamans and Gaian priestesses are much more cooperative than, say, today’s poor villagers in China and other developing nations, who keep choosing (despite being told they should not) to leave the countryside and head straight for the big city, preferring T Shirts and apartments and industrial jobs over grinding toil for rural land-owners. That choice, made by every group that has been offered development, since the days of Dickens, can seem annoying to those who preach hatred of modernity. Hence a growing preference for examples taken from the past.)

And yet, that isn’t really the worst moral fault of retro-nostalgists. I want to focus on another. One that I have not heard raised before, but that makes their position psychologically - as well as ethically - deeply worrisome.

Think about it. Every generation and every civilization has had some wise and decent people in it. Women and men who, despite whatever madness was going on around them, strove hard to improve conditions, to generate comfort for their families, to seek wisdom, to increase knowledge and also, above all, to raise a generation of offspring better than themselves.

That last part is the one that nostalgists find particularly threatening, because the very notion of ongoing human improvement smacks of hubris. Even worse, it threatens the notion of “eternal verities” that, by their asserted perfect nature cannot be improved. The implication, that no generation ever gets the “last word,” is one that’s been explicitly rejected, time and again, by dogmatists. From Marx to Rand to Saint Paul -- to University English Professors who dwell forever on the angst of Henry James -- the underlying psychology is the same.

“I can see the Truth - it is permanent - and no one after me will see it any better.”

But people CAN improve. Children CAN be better than their parents. Progress is possible. At least the best human beings always thinks so. (And here “best” is unambiguously applied. Try comparing those who you know, who are raising kids. It is a rare case of a truth that is obvious without need of proof or argument.)

The crux: when you claim that people in the past were better than we are, you are implicitly insulting those past people! Because you are thus saying that they failed in their greatest and dearest project. To make us better than them. I know for certain that I don’t want my descendants saying that about me! That I was better than them... and hence failed in my dearest hope? ouch!

(Though I would not mind them saying “He was a lot better than his times, and he helped to make us what we are.”)

Yes, there are some good reasons, as well as bad, to idealize ancient tribes. Modernism must not lose touch with older sources of wisdom. Especially empathy with how much our ancestors accomplished with so little to work with. I am thrilled by history channel shows that show (and sometimes exaggerate) “ancient marvels.” My kids are in scouting so they can appreciate both nature and how gritty life used to be. And may be again.

Still, I can see evidence of maturization all around me. My own kids seem to be better people than I was at the same ages. Moreover, they have almost no experience with the bullying and violence that used to be a routine part of growing up. I was pushed around, beaten or thrown into desperate battles almost monthly, back then. Though they study karate, not one of my kids has experienced, or even witnessed, a real fight. And yes, the ghetto is probably much worse... though probably better than it was.

Another reason that good people nurse nostalgic fantasies is fear of backsliding. If we acknowledge that any progress has been made, at all, then the pressure to reform and improve and push ahead - to take on injustice and poverty and our still rich flow of vicious violence in today’s world - might diminish.

I have dealt with this liberal impulse elsewhere, and I think that - while it is sincere - it is also smug, wrong-headed and deeply counter-productive. Worse, it is deeply puritan! Sourpusses who can only chide, without ever giving modern people a chance to feel good about progress, are latter day Cotton Mathers who believe that only guilt can motivate.

Make no mistake. These people have deeply harmed the very cause they believe in. Liberalism has suffered deeply because so many proponents of racial and social and sexual and ecological justice refuse ever to add a carrot to the stick. To use a little praise, as Pinker does, saying (in effect):

”Look how far you all have come! Our ancestors, who struggled to get us here, deserve half the credit. But you have also acted to repair so many faults. So many nasty habits. Good for you. The job is maybe halfway done!

“Of course, if we stop now our uneven levels of justice and inclusion may spark fires that bring it all down. We must continue the process. Become even better.

“Ironically, that is what the best of our tribal ancestors would have wanted of us! To be better than them, in countless ways. If we are part of the way toward making their greatest dream come true, that is neither an excuse for complacent smugness not a reason to disparage how much has been accomplished.

“It can only be reasonably taken as a challenge to keep moving forward. To take this journey as far as it can go.”

37 comments:

Tony Fisk said...

They needed six cops to arrest one guy with a video camera???

Mark said...

He's lucky he didn't talk back at any point, or he probably would have been tasered for 'resisting arrest.'

Note: I am not accusing all cops of being overzealous and abusive like this, just a cop who would call in 6 other cops to arrest a teenager with camera.

CJ-in-Weld said...

I'm curious about that Pennsylvania statute. Colorado has an eavesdropping statute too, but has an element that the people being monitored or recorded be unaware of it and have a reasonable expectation of privacy at the time. Of course, this would still prohibit surreptitious recording of on-duty police officers, as written, which is something that probably ought to be looked at. But it still seems superior to the Pennsylvania law – I don't understand how that one wouldn't apply to every news camera in the state.

reason said...

cj-in-weld
Why exactly would policemen aresting someone in public have "a reasonable expectation of privacy"? It seems a pretty good provision to me.

rushmc said...

Sigh. Just posted a lengthy comment and the net ate it somehow.

Rather than trying to reconstitute it, I will simply give this link, which just came to my attention:

http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/05/541.asp

Looks like the good guys won one here, but as one of the articles I saw on the original arrest pointed out, this is not an isolated case but one of an increasing number of similar abuses, intended to cow dissent and oversight. The judicial branch of late always seems a step behind the executive and its enforcement arm, as they continually try to shift the "acceptable" in an authoritarian direction, and the delay--and their inability to speak firmly, with a single voice--seems to limit their effectiveness, but let's hope they continue to act as a check-and-balance on the power-gluttons.

occam's comic said...

OFF TOPIC
How bad are Chaney and Bush?

I saw this posted on muckraker comment site

"No matter how you cut it, they've been stealing taxpayer money for years. I don't care if they're cooking their books to boost their stock price, their entire business is fraudulent anyway.

Dick Cheney's crowning achievement as CEO of Halliburton was engineering the acquisition of Dresser Industries. Dresser Industries happened to be the defense contractor George H.W. Bush worked for after Harvard Business School. It was also the repository of a significant portion of the Bush crime family's wealth.

At the time Dick Cheney orchastrated its' purchase, Dresser was saddled with 200,000 outstanding asbestos lawsuits which, had they come to fruition, would have effectively bankrupt the company, thus eradicating a substantial portion of the Bush family's wealth.

Cheney et al knew full well what they were doing when they made this purchase, and it goes a long way towards explaining the myriad no-bid contracts, the overbilling, and the downright fraud. It also helps to explain why the GOP was so adamant to pass legislation to transfer the risks associated with asbestos liability away from corporations and onto the government.

The World Trade Center was also a huge asbestos liability and realistically held very little value due to the overwhelming costs associated with the removal of said asbestos. It's funny how it all ties together, isn't it?

9/11 allowed the Bush junta to start its illegal war that in turn guarantees Halliburton the cash it needs to cover its portion of the liabilities. It also quickly solves the problem of cleaning up the asbestos in the WTC. It also enables the GOP to push through legislation effectively protecting Halliburton. Conveniently, it also consumed the lion's share of evidence the SEC had regarding ENRON, which was held in WTC7.

The criminal enterprise running our country must be stopped, even if it means taking the fight to their soft underbelly (you know what I mean). The Houston mafia must be stopped."
by malcontent

Can I get some CITOKATE on the statement above?

David Brin said...

For a guy who's promoting the most garish paranoia theory of them all, I tend to be skeptical of theories that are overly ornate.

Especially things like an internal-US plot to stage the 9/11 attacks. Those theories assume that hundreds of US officers and professionals would act like drone-henchmen in cheap movies.

Yes, yes, the purchase of Dresser and the transfer of asbestos liabilities -- those are typical kleptocrat actions. The next level though...

we need nuance as we analyze the monsters.

Andrew said...

The ACLU is giving the public video cameras to monitor police.

Sam Taylor said...

The police/videocamera thing is very upsetting.
---

I'm afraid I can't be an effective Devil's Advocate here. I agree with most of what you say, and I can't think of a logical way to assail it.

All I have to offer is a vague anecdote, in regards to being bullied and teaching your children to protect themselves.

I was bullied as a child. You were as well. I don't know if I would have the same person if I hadn't had to learn how to fight or protect myself. If I hadn't learned, also, that there are people that bully just because they can.

I would protect my kids from it as well, as you have. In fact, I taught one of my friend's children to fight. He never really got bullied bullied after that.

But I also noticed that his ability to empathize with people-in-trouble (such as others being bullied) progressively faded as he got older. Eventually, he came to see anyone that couldn't help themselves as weak. He didn't victimize the helpless, but he did avoid them. And sneer at them.

This troubles me. I know this wasn't a failure on my part, but he started as a nice kid that cared about others. Somewhere along the way that caring went away, and I think he lost something very valuable. I believe, very strongly, that he mad a concious decision to stop caring.

So I wonder, sometimes, in our quest to protect our children--are we doing them more harm than good?

David Brin said...

I have noticed several things.

1- Though two of my kids have black belts, they have never, ever been in fights. None of my boys have experienced or even seen what you and I would have called bullying, back when violence was something that just happened, at least once every few months, when I was a kid.

Oh, there's snarling and mean, degrading remarks. They don't like it when I sympathize, but cannot take it super-seriously.

2- I am glad of this for an added reason. Today, when violence DOES flare, it has a steeper potential escalation curve, including the possibility of guns getting involved. some of the fight-back tricks I used, as a kid, might be unwise, today.

3- My own sense of outrage at bullying is undiminished, even long after I learned to shrug or drive them off

Stefan Jones said...

You need to sit through an advert, but here is a link to Greg Bear's Daily Show Appearance

Nicholas Walter said...

**digressing from topic at hand**

I watched Greg Bear last night, and I half expected him to mention The Transparent Society toward the end of the interview when he mentioned everyone having cameras, etc.

When, David, will YOU be on Jon Stewart? ;)

Zechariah said...

I hope one of you will investigate whether the victim has a legal defense fund or attorneys who would like to have perhaps an amicus brief from the likes of me.

I looked it up, but now it appears there is no need. All charges dropped.
"When police are audio- and video-recording traffic stops with notice to the subjects, similar actions by citizens, even if done in secret, will not result in criminal charges," Freed said yesterday. "I intend to communicate this decision to all police agencies within the county so that officers on the street are better-prepared to handle a similar situation should it arise again."
I might point out that this application of wiretapping law has been used for good in the past. I recall one story (might have been reported here) where a man was caught videotaping people in the mens locker room of a gym. The only law they could see to charge him with having broken was this one.

Zechariah said...

Oh, and I wanted to refer some eyes to The Dark Side of the Transparent Society.

http://ballyblog.wordpress.com/2007/05/04/warning-uncensored-video-iraqis-stone-girl-to-death-over-loving-wrong-boy/

A girl in Iraq was stoned in an "honor killing". onlookers took video with their camera phones, not because they wanted to bring the attackers up on charges, but because "hey, action! cool, I'll record that"

As Kitty Genovese showed us all, being visible and accountable only matters if people care. Otherwise it just makes things even more sick.

The video is viewable on the website I linked to. I couldn't watch the whole thing.

rushmc said...

Another serious aspect to these attacks on one's ability to take pics in public is the increasing number of commercial entities which are claiming the right to deny photography on municipal property. This is a disturbing account, and only one of many I've seen reported over the past few months. And there was another report of Scientologists stopping a guy from taking photos on a public street during one of their public events there, and the cops backing them up. Disturbing, to say the least.

David Brin said...

Nicholas, my wife hits me with the same question! Only now it’s “Whay can’t YOU be Greg Bear????”

Alas, you need to have a book to get on his show. Argh.

But at least Greg is my Bro. And a wise guy!

zorgon the malevolent said...

Everyone here has probably already seen this one, but here's a link to Charles Stross' article about the probable future of surveillance technology:
http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2007/05/shaping_the_future.html

He's likely correct about how soon we're going to get universal recording of pretty much everything, pretty much all the time. So despite the best efforts of overzealous cops and fanatical vice presidents, universal transparency is inevitable. In fact, it won't be that many years down the road when, during a route traffic stop, a citizen is arrested for turning off his life recorder. "Do you have something to hide, sir? Why is your life recorder turned off? Please step out of the car, sir, and place your hands behind your head..."

Prog said...

Of course, the ACLU agrees that citizens using cameras to monitor police activity is a great idea. In fact, in St. Louis they're giving residents cameras and teaching them how to use them for exactly that purpose:

http://www.therolladailynews.com/articles/2007/06/21/state_news/state01.txt

Found via Slashdot.

rushmc-

I always copy everything I post to the clipboard before I click submit. Especially if it's long. I've seen thousand-word posts vanish into the nether-net and its' an agony that deserves a name all its' own.

Anonymous said...

Around 2000, a friend of mine who was the editor and publisher of a San Diego homeless advocacy Newspaper titled "The Streetlight" was taking pictures of the line in front of the St. Vincent De Paul mens shelter during a major downpour. He was standing across the street, on a public sidewalk.

Five security guards employed by the shelter crossed the street, assualted him, tore his rotator cuff twisting his arm behind his back, broke his camera, and took the film.

The man they assualted was a sixty year old Quaker, and not someone any reasonable person would consider a threat.

SDPD refused to even take a written report, claiming that he had violated the rights of the men in line by photographing them, and saying that they couldn't interfere with the Security Guards because they were responsible for "securing the immediate area" according to St. Vincent De Pauls opperating permit.

Many of the men in that line sold The Streetlight as a means of making an honest buck (this was part of the concept behind the paper) and protested that they didn't mind the pictures. The guards brought out a person from inside the shelter, and he said that he had complained.

Well, when they don't file charges against the person doing the watching, and no one gets killed, it doesn't make news, but it still acts to quash accountability. Regardless of court orders or policies, this sort of violence and indtimidation is a massive threat to reciprocal accountability, and it is not rare.

The Supreme Court ruled in the early fifties that no child could be forced to recite the pledge of allegiance, but I was repeatedly sent to detention and even suspended for not saying it in the eighties.

What good are the courts, or statements of rights, when the punishment for violating them is just the loss of taxpayers money?

The officers who arrested this man need to be doing time for violating his civil rights.

CJ-in-Weld said...

reason said:

"Why exactly would policemen aresting someone in public have 'a reasonable expectation of privacy'? It seems a pretty good provision to me."

Reason, I used a loaded string of words. In the Colorado statute, the reasonable expectation of privacy is not construed in the Fourth Amendment jurisprudence sense, but in a "if I can't see anybody I may assume no-one's listening" sense.

So, a hidden person using some kind of surveillance equipment from hiding to record two other people's conversation, civilian or police, has violated the Colorado eavesdropping law unless one of the conversationalists has previously consented. If that person is just standing on the street in plain view listening in, he's rude, but not committing a crime.

As to what cops can expect as reasonable, I dunno. It seems to me that two cops in a patrol car might talk about personal matters, and they'd have the same sense of privacy as any two co-workers in an office somewhere – which is usually less than they assume!

koreyel said...

Regarding groups that empower people by giving them a video camera:

Check out Peter Gabriel on Tedtalks: Video Power.

http://test.ted.com/tedtalks/tedtalksplayer.cfm?key=p_gabriel

Raven Windrider said...

Dr. Brin,

Maybe physical bullying is on the decline but a new more insidious type of bullying has e-merged. The anonymity of the electronic age has given rise to e-bullying.

http://www.recordonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070506/NEWS/705060346/0/ENTERTAIN12

The physical disconnect from fellow humans that the Internet provides has allowed a rise in anti-social behaviors to develop in children.

Imagine if we "evolve" to a virtual civilization....

David Brin said...

Without a doubt, the key tool of the enlightenment has been accountability.

The LACK of it, in the online world, has to a certain extent been liberating, and I am glad the net had its wild west frontier era. Nor am I eager to have blugeon-thumbed law enforcement stomping around enforcing blunt and archaic laws regulating personal behavior.

Nevertheless, those who scream tyranny when others simply learn how to reciprocally hold them accountable miss the point.

All forms of bullying, including by elites, should wither if light falls on the meanminded and the cruel.

rushmc said...

>>All forms of bullying, including by elites, should wither if light falls on the meanminded and the cruel.

That presumes that a majority shares your (and my) ethical value that bullying should be condemned and actively discouraged. If we are hardwired to elevate and acquiesce to the strongest, meanest or loudest (so-called "alpha males"), then things may not be as simple as that. There are reasons that bullies have always existed and that they are as successful as they are, despite the triviality of quashing them when people act in concert against them.

I certainly agree that we should shine light on bullies (and authoritarians of all flavors)--but what do you do when light doesn't trigger a response? There are none so blind as they who will not see, and so on... When Bush/Cheney's breathtaking and blatant efforts to dismantle the ENTIRE COUNTRY and the very principles upon which it was founded fail to provoke a plurality of rational and ethical protest, what can we expect in response to lesser pricks?

rwc said...

Dr Brin, food for thought:
http://www.armedforcesjournal.com/2007/05/2752865

It would be interesting to know whether the historical changes in rates of violance correlate societally, religiously, regionally, etc.

rwc

Sam Taylor said...

"All forms of bullying, including by elites, should wither if light falls on the meanminded and the cruel."

A nice image, but it tastes a little like Socrates' argument that people only do evil because they don't know it's evil.

Many of the meanminded and cruel actively revel in what they do, and have (flawed, but passionate) ethical arguments to back themselves up.

Many of the extremist conservatives seem meanminded and cruel, especially when they espouse "survival of the fittest" in Economic or Societal issues. This neo-Nietzschean approach to social ills is widespread in America. It is very popular in Texas--we have almost no social programs worth mentioning, and even mentioning that fact will get you labeled as a "crazy liberal communist leftwinger".

Conservatism has become more of a religion than a political party here. If Jesus said something that contradicts the Conservative values, preachers and politicians both will conveniently ignore that part of the bible.

What I'm saying is that meanminded and cruel people are still everywhere, and still bullying -- and by strategic use of religion and politics, they mesmerize the masses into believing things that should be obviously wrong.

So I don't agree that merely "exposing" bullying will get rid of it.

rushmc said...

On transparency, for all those who think that politics can't trump tech:

Some tourists, amateur photographers, even would-be filmmakers hoping to make it big on YouTube could soon be forced to obtain a city permit and $1 million in liability insurance before taking pictures or filming on city property, including sidewalks.

New rules being considered by the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting would require any group of two or more people who want to use a camera in a single public location for more than a half hour to get a city permit and insurance.

The same requirements would apply to any group of five or more people who plan to use a tripod in a public location for more than 10 minutes, including the time it takes to set up the equipment.


(More from the NY Times)

Coolgamer said...

This happened to me a year ago in Harrisburg. I was slandered in the news due to false information provided by the police. I'm still barely holding up, I had to plea-bargain since I couldn't afford lawyer fees and the ACLU refused to get involved. I filed complaints regarding official misconduct to the mayor, governor, attorney general, Justice Department, etc., but all said it was out of their control.

http://coolgamerslair.blogspot.com/2006/06/living-in-police-state.html

There's my story. Please, don't let them continue to get away with this.

Anumita Mittal said...

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