Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Can we “fix” social media without ruining them? One (of many) Practical Suggestions.

Twitter’s decision to slap warning labels on some Trumpian tweets – those seeming to incite violence - “was the culmination of months of debate inside the company over developing protocols to limit the impact of objectionable messages from world leaders — and what to do when Mr. Trump inevitably broke it.”

Meanwhile, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday told employees he was standing firm in the company’s decision not to moderate a post in which President Trump said “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” And with less than half a year to the U.S. election, that means the trolls - especially in those Kremlin basements - are looking at a welcome mat.

I am about to offer one small proposal - a potential partial solution - from among many that have never been tried. But first... perspective time.

The problem of toxicity in media is not a new one. Every new medium of communication was applied to nefarious ends, before it eventually lived up to its elevating promise. The printing press was first used to spread horrible hate tracts exacerbating Europe’s religious wars. Only across subsequent centuries did the spread of books truly uplift an increasingly literate population. 

Similar bad-beginnings were seen with the arrival of newspapers and newsreels. In the 1930s, loudspeakers and radio amplified gifted orators with godlike voices, sparking humanity’s worst era. It always starts by empowering predators. But over time, citizens became better at culling wheat from chaff from poison in each technology, and we all grew better for it.

Today (as some of us predicted in the 1980s) a similar transition is happening in digital media at 100x the speed and 10,000x the sheer volume of crap and lying misuse, leaving us with very little time to make the same transition. Meanwhile, evil or fanatical or insane manipulators twist the very concept of “fact” or “truth” out of all recognition. 

We need tools of maturity and we need them fast.

There are two general ways to achieve this. The first -- used in almost every society before ours -- was to set up a caste of censors, gatekeepers, priests or regulators of what the masses may see or know. Our entire Enlightenment Experiment has been a rejection of that approach, which stifled and brought nothing but calamitous error across history. All our values rail against it – e.g. in every Hollywood film. Indeed, so strong is this Suspicion of Authority (SoA) reflex -- especially in Americans -- that our enemies are using it against us, by attacking even the very idea of professional expertise.

The other approach is lateral criticism. Argument (ideally based at least somewhat on facts) can apply reciprocal accountability via markets, democracy and now the innovation of the web. It can work! We and all our vast array of modern miracles are proof. But the whole thing breaks down when we huddle in separated ghettoes of ignorance, reciting incantations and nostrums that are fed to us by evil men.

== Can we innovate ways to save innovative media? ==

In early 2017, I was invited to Facebook HQ, where executives and designers were wringing their hands. They fretted over how thoroughly their platform had been hijacked and abused -- much of it by hostile foreign powers – with clear intent to warp American democracy. And yes, for a brief time, folks at Facebook seemed serious about trying to find solutions, hoping to achieve a three-way win-win, starting (of course) with their top priority:

1 - Protect user growth and profitability.

But ideally these solutions would also...

2 - Maximize user freedom of self-expression.

3 - Reduce the amount and impact of deliberate or inadvertent campaigns of falsehood or incitement.

During my hour-long meeting with executives, I offered possible ways to achieve this trifecta. But I might as well have saved my breath. As the Trump Era became a new (if bizarre) normal, goal number three simply floated away.

So we now approach another U.S. Election. And seeing all their efforts to wreck the Western Enlightenment teetering in the balance, our enemies will redouble efforts to spread tsunamis of lies via social media. Moreover, while Facebook will remain obdurate until the end, Twitter and other platforms are beginning to take this seriously.

So, it is for them that I’ll trot out one – just one – of the proposals I offered Facebook on that futile day.

== The simplest method ==

Envision a pair of small symbols added next to the Thumbs-Up indicator, as in the example below.  Say an exclamation point and a question mark. Generally innocuous, these clickables allow the user to seek more informationor alternative points of view. Note in figure 1 below how they have minimal footprint on the user’s precious screen space.  


In Figure #1 (above) we see the two symbols are empty and easily ignored.  

Only now I lean on insights from Edward Tufte’s classic book The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. Because there are many dimensions of useful information that can be conveyed via a mere exclamation point!

In Figure 2 (below) we see how the exclamation point can convey several spectra of information, perhaps throbbing when the host company has detected a suspicious source or bad actors at work. Fullness – as in a thermometer – can show the host’s level of certainty that there’s a problem, while color or texture can bear upon the type of problem.



Users do not have to memorize any of the meanings! But they’ll learn, over time, that a tiny, flashing red exclamation point means there’s another side to whatever meme they are relishing. Moreover it’s hard to accuse the host company of partisan bias when the same thing happens to every side.

Is an offer of rebuttal enough to cancel toxic memes? Well, it can’t hurt to lure a few of the curious to sample refutations. And that tiny nonpartisan nag could be enough to crack the wall of a Nuremberg rally.

The second kind of clickable Alert-o-meter – a Question Mark - links to sites that are less adversarial and more informative than linked by the exclamation point. Here user preferences play a role. The follow-up path may be encyclopedic or lighter or even entertaining. The aim is to encourage curiosity and depth to the topic.  


Again, the User is free to ignore the small alert-o-meter symbol. (An hence the host site doesn't drive away angry customers.) Still, it lurks there, serving as a reminder that there’s more to this!

Not only does this help at least a little to re-establish the notion of argument and verifiability … that some sources are more verified and trustworthy than others… but we are entering an era when society may decide to modify the blanket protections enjoyed by social media companies, from all responsibility for malicious content. Ohnly a fool would ignore that possibility. An approach like this one might be just enough to protect the site host from liability for helping to spread lies with dire consequences.


And there you have it. Just one of a dozen ideas I offered mavens at Facebook in their panic after the 2016 elections … before they realized that the winners of that stolen contest actually wanted no meaningful changes at all, and their best (commercial) interest lay in leaving things alone.

Think about that. And realize -- nothing is likely to happen via self-regulation, or reform, or tweaks like mine, no matter how logical and helpful. Of course they have all sold-out and I am wasting my time.

We all know this dire moment will be resolved massively, in one direction or another. And when it is, a mere couple of innocuously flashing symbols just won’t do. 


A German Nurse said...

I like the hate-o-meter, exclamation and question mark symbols. It won't stop the current situation, but would have identified bad actors who provide misleading and violence-inciting posts earlier - if it is not misused by exact these bad actors themselves! How to address that?

Alfred Differ said...

Any attempt to grade political speech is likely to be judged a political act. I'm generally for limited measures like these, but I don't hold much hope for them changing our behavior during election seasons. We go collectively nutty a bit like female cats going into heat.


On an optimistic note, though, the Falcon 9 first flight 10th anniversary is tomorrow and they just landed their stage one booster launched today for a fifth time.

The video on the drone ship didn't cut out when the booster was shaking the place up either. Got to see it. Pretty neat.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

Can we “fix” social media without ruining them?

Trick question. Social media are ruined to begin with.

My opinion.

David Brin said...

See the letter to all service commanders from Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley. It's right there on the right hand side of the JCS web page...

...and also on their Facebook page:

You guys know how many yearsI have been proclaiming to liberal and moderate and sane-conservative fellow citizens that The US military officer corps is deeply committed to civilian rule and law and to serving us all. They are the third-best educated clade in American life and the most dedicated to fact-centered, pragmatic problem-solving. George Marshall and Harry Truman desegregated the military knowing it was the one move creating momentum against prejudice from which there'd be no turning back. Yes, they are imperfect as are we all. But if we spurn these skilled and principled and loyal men and women, we are doing Putin's work for him.

Ilithi Dragon are you out there? Stay safe and tell the noncoms we count on them, too.

A German Nurse said...

@Larry Hart: In the previous post's comment section, you asked me what significance the dates have for me.

First: Nine-Eleven.
I still remember where I was and what I did. I assume most of us do. I had a day off, and was called by a friend what had happened. I turned on TV, and soon, I saw the first tower collapsing. I couldn't believe it at first, it took a while to realize what happened. Just an hour later, I was driving to a grocery store, and without really thinking about it, it came to my mind, crystal clear. `We are at war`.

We are still.

In the following years, I first supported the war in Afghanistan (that was not called like this by our FedGov - they named it "Another Situation".) When the war against Iraq started, I opposed it - not because Saddam wasn't a tyrannical and sadistic dictator who didn't deserve to be removed, but because of the lies and a long list of other reasons. The increase in surveillance bothered me more and more, the corruption of Bush and Cheney, mercenaries deployed (!), the extralegal abductions and killings (some of which where executed from and on German soil), Guantanamo, Abu Ghoreib, and other mistakes and crimes that led to the post-war uprising and ISIS.

Nine-Eleven is what I call a knot in history: so many strands started and ended here, writing the next chapter of human history, building a chain of causalities unthinkable twenty years before. There are only a few moments in history that had an equal or greater impact than this one (one being the assassination of the Austrian Crown Prince in Sarajevo, another one the Boston Tea Party.)

Afghanistan. Iraq. Arab Spring, Lybia, Syria. Snowden. Assange. Bush, Obama and Trump. One and a half million refugees coming to our country alone. (I supported the opening the Borders.) The rise of nationalism in my country, Hungary, Italy. Brexit and the continuing fracturing of the European Dream.

I am quite sure Osama bin Laden did not know what would be the outcome of his plans; I even don't assume he actually believed them to succeed. In the end, it doesn't matter: I start to believe that the 11th of September 2001 was the day Western Democracies started to destroy themselves from the inside.

I fear, that, in the end, bin Laden is victorious.

For a German, it is a complicated date, because various events in our country's history are tied to it, the most notable being for me:
- November Revolution of 1918 (The end of the Monarchy and start of the Weimarian Republic, as well as the civil war between the Nominal Government and the Communists*)
- The November Progromes (Note: We don't use the other term anymore, since "Kristallnacht" is to be a cynic term: It suggests that only glass was broken, and furthermore, it refers to especially expensive glass such as used in valuable mirrors and lamps.)
- The Fall of the Berlin Wall: The collapse of the communist half of Divided Germany. The borders were opened that night, meaning, the the Politbureau and Stasi had lost their power.

Whenever this day returns, I tend to reflect on all of these times. Yes, it was one of our darkest days and one of our most joyful. A day of shame and relief.

I personally think that it should become an official national holiday.

*Thinking of Eleven-Nine 1918, I also think of Rosa Luxemburg, who was saying: "Freedom is always, and exclusively, freedom for the one who thinks differently.” and:
“Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.”

duncan cairncross said...

9/11 was horrific

But what was really horrific was the US response - Bush did EVERYTHING that Bin Laden wanted him to do - he followed Bin Laden's published agenda item for item

YES it was 3,000 people killed in a single terrorist attack - but terrorists have ALWAYS attacked and killed innocent people

The correct response was to treat it as a police responsibility - the people who gain when you go to "War" on terrorism are the bloody terrorists

Alfred Differ said...

One comment about small, unobtrusive signals is that we developers are supposed to consider sensory issues some users have. Color blindness is more common than many believe. Limited success is vision correction is too. (My own doctor is amazed every time my prescription results in 20/20 correction. My astigmatism is huge.)

So... there is a limit on how much information can be packed into small, colored symbols before you cause serious headaches for those of us writing the code. We have to cope with the fact that we don't have fine control over how content is rendered. Browsers make a lot of decisions we can't easily predict.

Still, we CAN convey at least some information. I'd flip the question mark over for content obviously drawing from conspiracy theory nonsense. Not a left/right flip as that might trip up dyslexics. Top/bottom flip. Spanish language punctuation is already available.

David Brin said...

Yes, GW Bush obeyed bin Laden's plan with the 9/11 attacks. But the initial campaign to crush the Taliban was not wrong and it did NOT go according to bin Laden's plan! He wanted us sucked into a quagmire where he could topple an empire, as he did the Russians in Afghanistan. It never occurred to him that we'd do it competently and well, working with locals who hated the Taliban and using precision weapons and savvy special forces. THAT part of it was entirely according to DEMOCRATIC military doctrines of surgical force. Bush had to use them because that's the plans that were handy on the shelf after 9/11. And they worked perfectly ... to Clinton's credit.

When REPUBLICAN doctrines had time to play out, you wound up giving bin Laden his wish of a quagmire of stupid policies, then far worse in Iraq where the goal was NEVER to topple Saddam but rather to hand billions in no-bid emergency contracts to CHeney family companies.

We should end the quagmire by giving the Taliban a semi-independent Pashtunistan, with one rule. Anyone can leave - including women and children under ten - by going to a safe bus kiosk in any town. Beyond that? enjoy your poverty and oppression. But now you have government officials and buildings and a capital and tax revenues, knowing we can TAKE it all away at any point. Watch how that works.

David Brin said...

Flipped Question Mark is good.

duncan cairncross said...

I would argue that even the first Afghanistan campaign was wrong headed
Well planned - but with the wrong objective
The Taliban with all their warts had done much much less to support Al Qaeda than Saudi had - a more correct and sensible response would have been to obliterate the Al Qaeda Camps - but not assist dubious warlords in destroying the government

Surgical Force

But without any plans for afterwards

David Ivory said...

As I read it the ! & ? addition would be to ALL posts - not just those of a political nature. In this way there is no singling out of one group or another. Rollover contextual panels can be displayed to make it even easier to decide whether to get more information and context.

Much of the information linked to could be generated by the actions of those who click through - people could have the ability to grade on how the ! is colored. And then they would have their own reputations on the line if they graded as inflammatory a post on baby diapers for instance (unless it's about nappy rash in which case of course a big red throbbing ! is required)

Dr Brin's proposal allows social media to preserver reciprocal accountability we expect day to day in our offline live . It will allow us to gauge the value of speech when we can't know each other or see their faces in a much more nuanced manner than likes or frowny faces.This really should be a mandated feature of all social platforms. Great idea Dr Brin.

Larry Hart said...

A German Nurse:

I fear, that, in the end, bin Laden is victorious.

It's like a bad comic book plot. The villain is dead, but his followers continue his plans and ramp them up to 11. Much has been made lately about the huge popularity of Marvel Movies indicating an infantilization of society, but I wonder if comic book movies are ascendant because they are currently a form of art imitating life.

CardassianScot said...

Its better than nothing, but I worry that it would do no good. If one side gets labelled as more untrustworthy than the other then the primary response will be to say that the labelled as biased rather than one side being more untrustworthy than the other.

I'm not sure people want to have a balanced view any more, they just want a sounding chamber. I say this as someone who has tried to find and read stuff everyweek from a view point I disagree with, on the chance I might be wrong and they might have something useful to say and I might need to modify my view. Either I'm getting more intolerant with age or its all getting more polarised. A few years ago, I could do this successfully and think, well I disagree with you but I can see where you are coming from and occasionally, yeah you've made a good point there. These days, I struggle to find stuff that doesn't just make me angry.

A German Nurse said...

@Dr. Brin & Afghanistan:

Surgical strikes may win a conventional war with a minimum of civilian losses, but won't pacify a country ridden of guerilla insurgency and feudal warlords.

It was too less, too long.

In my opinion, the policy should have been military occupation with a multiple of the forces used, for an indefinite amount of time; a total disarmament; a gradual build-up of democratic and national security structures as well as education and industries coupled with a gradual withdrawal of forces, as situation permits.

Do it completely or do it not at all.

By now, 18 years later, the country could be half on it's way to be an excellent ally/vanguard state against other bad actors in the region. (Take Germany, for example.'45 the industrial base was mostly destroyed, Werewolf groups still forming pockets of Nazi resistance ... and the actual occupation lasted for another 45 years.)

Instead, the country is more or less in the state it was before the Taliban takeover, and I don't trust them to keep the peace once the US troops withdraw ... which could lead to a fighting withdrawal of other nations involved in the occupation. It is still the greatest producer of opium, which in itself has a negative impact on Afghanistan's economy as well as healthcare and criminality in other countries.

Darrell E said...

Speaking of US Military Officers as allies of the "enlightenment experiment" Dr. Brin, have you read General and former Sec Def Mattis's article in The Atlantic? Brilliant.

James Mattis Denounces President Trump, Describes Him as a Threat to the Constitution

There are simply too many quotable examples, just go read the whole thing.

See, this is something that astounds me. General Mattis is a living breathing real life perfect example of a badass military ubermensch that many Trumpers revere and fantasize about being. And then he writes this op-ed that just completely outclasses anything that has ever come from Trump, in every way, clearly and powerfully pointing out Trump's failures as a POTUS and a human.

But it doesn't budge the Trumpers. Instead Mattis becomes a traitor to them. Nothing can get through to them. They will go to their graves believing Trump was a hero no matter his final history. The penchant of such a large percentage of humans to become so completely loyal to the lowest worms among us, roused to such vehement loyalty by appeals to and examples of the lowest human behaviors related in the crudest of ways, that no amount of counter example or truth can dissuade, fascinates me. It also pisses me off, scares me and makes me want to cry.

scidata said...

Planetary Resources goes under, auctions goodies. Anyone looking to do an asteroid mining startup could score big.

Acacia H. said...

So. The use of tear gas has increased detrimental effects and could cause a spike in Coronavirus cases. Now isn't that wonderful? Trump is going to cause an increase in COVID-19 cases because he is upset people are protesting and demonstrating. And he'll blame the protests, not the use of an agent that damages the lungs and increases the risk of infection.

What's more, tear gas use increases the likelihood someone would take off their mask and thus allow infected people to spread the virus, and the uninfected to BECOME infected.

This is pure idiocy. But I suppose it should be expected from the Idiot in Chief.

Acacia H.

Larry Hart said...

Sorry, Tim, but everything I've been reading indicates that if anyone other than mere opportunistic criminals--that is, anyone political--is to blame for the violence at George Floyd protests, it is right-wing groups like the Boogaloo Bois. With all due respect, I believe your friends in Minneapolis are either duping you, or have been duped themselves.

CHICAGO (AP) — In the days since President Donald Trump blamed antifa activists for an eruption of violence at protests over police killings of black people, social media has lit up with false rumors that the far-left-leaning group is transporting people to wreak havoc on small cities across America.

The speculation was being raised by conservative news outlets and pro-Trump social media accounts, as well as impostor Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Twitter and Facebook busted some of the instigators behind the unsubstantiated social media chatter. Twitter determined that a tweet promising antifa would “move into residential areas” and “white” neighborhoods was sent by the white supremacy group Identity Evropa. The tweet was shared hundreds of times and cited in online news articles before Twitter removed it, a company spokesperson said.


“Everyone heard there were going to be buses of people,” Clemens said. “It was very specific: there were three busloads.”

Even the owner of a Michigan limousine business was forced to refute online rumors when two of his buses became the center of a conspiracy theory that liberal financier George Soros was funneling protesters to Milan, Michigan. Social media users widely shared a manipulated photo of his white buses, edited to show the words “Soros Riot Dance squad” emblazoned on the sides.


The FBI has "no intelligence" indicating that "antifa" was involved in violence over the weekend related to protests following the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, The Nation reported.

President Donald Trump, Attorney General William Barr, and several Republican lawmakers have blamed antifa for violence linked to protests that took place on Sunday.

But according to The Nation, which cited an internal FBI situation report, the bureau's Washington, DC, field office "has no intelligence indicating Antifa involvement/presence" in the violence that took place that day.

However, the FBI and other government agencies warn that far-right white supremacist groups will use the protests to incite violence and attack federal agents.

Larry Hart said...


I say this as someone who has tried to find and read stuff everyweek from a view point I disagree with, on the chance I might be wrong and they might have something useful to say and I might need to modify my view. Either I'm getting more intolerant with age or its all getting more polarised.

You're not getting more intolerant, but the right-wingers are getting more blatant with their outrageousness. Conservatives used to have principles, some of which you and I might agree with, or at least share common ground to discuss. Now, they stand for white grievance and owning the libs. Really, what can they have that is useful to say any more? They're Holnists.

David Brin said...

Sorry AGN but your approach to Afghanistan is exactly what the Soviets tried… an utter quagmire.

“Instead, the country is more or less in the state it was before the Taliban takeover,” Not true. Take the fact that a couple of million female afghanis are now educated and used to some freedom of movement and speech and clothing... and that will never be taken back.

In fact I recommend the opposite. Let the male Pashtun fanatics have their Pashtunistan - so long as women and children under ten may leave. And so long as they leave the rest of the country alone. If they ever misbehave again beyond their border, we simply kill all their leaders and press restart.

sociotard said...

IRS deregulating dark money reporting requirements

Acacia H. said...

And now Democrats are turning Reagan's own words against Trump.

Heh heh heh.

Acacia H.

Alfred Differ said...

A German Nurse,

the country is more or less in the state it was before the Taliban takeover

I disagree in essentially the same way our host does and in an additional way. Afghanistan isn't really a country. It is a state of tribes that the world pretends is a nation. There are many such countries and we should not expect nation-like behavior of them.

The reason occupation worked different in Germany after the war is that your tribal history is deeper into your past. Many centuries deeper. Enough time has passed since then for nation-like social institutions to evolve.

There are large swathes of the world that are still tribal with no experience at the tools we know so well we often don't notice ourselves using them. Even barbarians like my neighbors have these tools. Many billions in the world do not and this is especially true in Afghanistan. Sub-Saharan Africa too.

To get a feel for this, imagine you had a time machine and the ability to bring a small library of your choosing into the past. Pick any place in the world that is participating in our current civilization "The West", but leave out China. The question to ask yourself is this. How far back in time do you have to go before the people you offered your library to would reject it… not because it showed them what they dislike… but because they simply didn't understand what it contained. Pick any European city and try the thought experiment. Pick an American one and try again.

No matter where you pick, if you go far enough back in time, NO ONE lived in a location that wasn't tribal. Like Afghanistan, but with less weaponry capable of mass murder. Go that far back and the library you carry would be useless to everyone. They wouldn't understand how to use it.


We have accomplished two things in Afghanistan.

1. We've put to rest that it is the place where empires go to die. They aren't the scrappy underdog able to bring down the largest foes. No. They had their asses handed to them.

2. We've got the attention of people in Pakistan and India who would really rather we weren't there. Iran too. We don't have to squash tribal urges toward mayhem… if the locals do it themselves. That's where this goes in the long run. We will back out and larger tribal forces will want to take steps to ensure we aren't drawn back. They do NOT want us there. So be it, but it will suck to live under that kind of attention from neighbors. (The way out is forward. Turn into an actual nation.)

Afghanistan has never been a region that supported the core of an empire. Persia is… right next door. They accomplished that through rough means in dealing with tribal impulses. They might do it again. We shall see.

David Brin said...

Hm, yes. But I'll double down on the women. They REALLY don't want to go back.

Alfred Differ said...

Sneaky of us to export our revolution through the women?

Heh. No sneaking about it.
Everyone with eyes open knows we are forcing the issue.

I forget if it was a Time cover or some other news weekly, but the first image I saw of an Afghan voting (post invasion) showed them holding up their inked finger. I thought that was cool at the time, but then I noticed the voter was a woman. My barbaric, feral grin took over my whole mood.

I can tolerate some loss of life to achieve such goals.
More theirs than ours, of course.

duncan cairncross said...

Dr Brin
If you had written that as the "end game" in Afghanistan and applied that with the "Surgical Strikes" THEN it would have been over and a great success 15 years ago!

But instead NOBODY appeared to have a "Plan"

Except Bin Laden - and he nearly got his Caliphate

David Brin said...

No question that both Bushes ought to roast for both episodes using the United States of America to torment Iraq on behalf of the salafists.

Lyric-Dragon said...

I don't know. Everything you say is very well said. Who knows. You sound idealistic and pessimistic at the same time. Fall down. Get up again. Over and over. No one can say what you should do. No one can say what you should not do. Perhaps the world is unfolding as it should. But good people have to try and do something. Something to help. The world is suffering. Hate and prejudice are the worst. I tend to think we can never stop that. But, maybe I have to be better than that. Maybe we have to keep trying. That is our job. Keep fighting against the ignorance. Anyway we can. Any avenue that is open to us. Good on you.

A German Nurse said...

@Afghanistan: I disagree somewhat, in that Afghanistan had already a collective history spanning over at least 200 centuries, and that the country was on it's way to become one of the most modern states in that region before the putsch in the seventies. The current state of affairs is a result of the US, Russia, Saudi-Arabia and Pakistan playing the Great Game over the last 40-50 years. Now, the chessboard is shattered, the pieces broken.

But I won't rule out internal ethnical divisiveness, either.

A German Nurse said...

@Acacia H.: It was a funny move. It amuses me to no end. Thank you!
Shortly afterwards I thought:

Trump "Inspects" the bunker? Police Escorts? A wall around the White House is errected?

Perhaps Barr just wants to prepare his Boss for the time after 1-20-21, when he is brought to the places he has to stay in for the rest of his life.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Sneaky of us to export our revolution through the women?

I read a novel that ended that way once. Actually, more than once.

Robert said...

Larry Hart, on the last post:

Even more so because, apologies for the arrogance, we Americans associate images like that with brutal foreign regimes. We take seriously the slogan that the police here in America are here "to serve and protect." Seeing them act as stormtroopers is...disconcerting.

I suspect that opinion is more held by white Americans than others.

And those white Americans are likely unaware of the history of labour activism. To paraphrase Stalin, who now remembers the Memorial Day Massacre?

Larry Hart said...

George Conway's "Lincoln Project" latest video ad.

"This is a time for choosing--America or Trump?"

Darrell E said...

LOL! Trump says George Floyd is probably looking down from heaven right now to congratulate him on the latest unemployment figures. The laughs just keep coming.

How can Trumpers rationalize this shit to themselves? Hillary got it exactly right. A significant percentage of Trump supporters are deplorable. At a minimum they are deplorably bad at judging competence and character.

A German Nurse said...

Trump just ordered troops to be withdrawn from Germany:

Der Spiegel assumes that this could be the retaliation for Merkel's decline of the G7 Summit. And because she is a studied woman. And because Poland is nicer to him, naming a Fort after him.

Or he needs the troops back home.

Alfred Differ said...

Mexico really should be offering to pay for the wall being erected around the WH.


About 200 centuries ago the region around modern Afghanistan was probably temperate desert populated by nomadic HG's. Ice age world. Savannah to the south. Steppe to the north. Ice to the east. Caspian Sea to the West. As ice age locations go, it was probably pretty decent.

About 20 centuries ago it was part of what remained of one of Alexander's kingdoms. Greco-Bactrian and successor kingdoms. Some of it anyway. Invasions by other tribes followed that until the region was partially absorbed in a persian empire. Sassanide. After that, dominated by Caliphs, taken over by Mongols who break up into Khanates, and then by the Mughals which is where they peaked. Sort of. Depends how you define it.

They broke free in the mid-18th century and had to cope with the nearby British until last century.

So, no. They have not led a free life for a very long time. They still organize tribally no matter how much other nations pretend otherwise. The ground truth is that of separate tribes dominated by neighbors most of the time who will likely remain so due to a lack of unity. Much the same is true in the core of every persian empire except they unify better in the presence of external threats.

Modern day Iran is a geopolitical oddity. Most nations must secure their internal risks first then face external ones and then expansion goals. The Persians basically can't secure internal issues because their factions are nearly impossible to extract from their homelands. Their primary goal is to secure an external threat sufficiently large to get most groups to set aside differences for a while. (Mountain strongholds are effectively impossible to eliminate without killing absolutely everyone.) The British beat them by beating them at their own game. Don't be a bigger threat than their neighbors.

Alfred Differ said...

Poland needs German help more than ours to deal with Russian typical behavior, but I understand how the optics on that would alarm people.

Poland should be forming a little side alliance with Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and as many of the Baltic states as possible with the rest of us behind the lines backing them up, but that would take serious courage and a belief that the secondary allies will respond correctly when Russia applies economic thumbscrews. Which they will.

Tony Fisk said...

Bad news, Tim. Sounds like someone in Minneapolis has it in for vendors of otherness. Fortunately, unlike Uncle Hugo's, damage to Dreamhaven was less severe.

So the resident's little strut wasn't as assertive as he hoped?
St. James Church is now on "Black Lives Matter Plaza". Quel surprise! Back to the bunker for a rethink.

Meanwhile, a monologue by Tucker Carlson is give added impact with some imagery. Maybe slants the narrative away from what Carlson intended, but a distinct improvement.

Ethan Zuckerman recently posted a piece stating that sousveillance wasn't living up to its promise. Without consequences, lidless reptiles simply gaze back at the witness cameras as a victim's life is slowly crushed out from under a knee. (it was written before the four officers were charged, after days of nationwide protests). By the same token, uniformed brutes assault protestors and target reporters with near-lethal force with impunity... unless they knock down and severely injure an aged white in broad daylight,* then a couple might be suspended on full pay... or not, if the 57 squad members who resign in protest have a say.

OK, so maybe sousveilance does work... if the entire nation rises!?

That's the view from half a world away, so I can well understand things on the ground are a little fraught.

* The video of that incident has nuances. The two officers the man initially talks to appear to listen. It is only when a third officer approaches and shouts "Move!" that the man is shoved back. The action *may* have been a reflex response to a sudden order at close range. The third officer does seem to be in charge as he later stops one of the other two from lending assistance to the downed man and sends him on. The entire squad follow his lead. It was not policing.

Rays of light:
- people are beginning to see that, in an autocracy, maybe white human capital doesn't matter either. That's good, in an equalising sense.
- The armed forces are clearly having none of it.
- Trump's behaviour in the last week is clear to all. It reminds me of Oscar Wilde's tale "The Selfish Giant":
One day the Giant came back. He had been to visit his friend the Cornish ogre, and had stayed with him for seven years. After the seven years were over he had said all that he had to say, for his conversation was limited, and he determined to return to his own castle. When he arrived he saw the children playing in the garden.

'What are you doing here?' he cried in a very gruff voice, and the children ran away.

'My own garden is my own garden,' said the Giant; 'any one can understand that, and I will allow nobody to play in it but myself.' So he built a high wall all round it, and put up a notice-board.


He was a very selfish Giant.

David Brin said...

Tony you make good points. And yet, what ever worked as well as the cameras have? And what will?

Tony Fisk said...

What indeed, David?

Zuckerman's article isn't saying give up on cameras btw. In fact he finishes by saying the changes in public perception that comes from cameras recording atrocity is why it continues to be worth filming. Their augmentation of peaceful protest works. What isn't meeting expectations is that bad actors will be held accountable and taken off the stage just because they're seen. Light may cleanse, but cockroaches have discovered sunscreen! I guess it's a form of ongoing evolution, with current advantage to predator.

A German Nurse said...

@Alfred Differ: All States you named are in the EU and in the NATO. Technically, they are protected against economic pressures as they are against other threats.

Poland is on it's way out of the EU the more it turns into an autoritarian state since the Law and Justice Party took over, cracking down on the media, immigrants, an independent judiciary, women's rights and LGBT people.

A German Nurse said...

"And yet, what ever worked as well as the cameras have? And what will?"

I think it needs a mix of social and technical approaches to be effective. I don't want to sound lecturing, so if you are really interested, ask.

Acacia H. said...

Small prediction

COVID and tear/pepper gas are not going to mix well. Seeing that tear and pepper gas are caustic agents that damage the lungs, and you had a lot of people together in close proximity and more likely to pull masks away from their faces due to coughing... you probably had a bunch of people infected thanks to police overreaction to the demonstrations and protests.

Over the next two weeks you'll see a spike in the number of COVID cases in urban settings. Over the next month you will see a spike in the number of deaths due to COVID, and you could see hospitals overwhelmed.

Trump's efforts to reopen the economy came at the worse possible moment, and combined with the demonstrations we will see the economy stumble and then fall flat on its face. Things are going to go into full-blown Depression mode.

It will be interesting and horrifying to see if Trump manages to survive the next five months in office or if he'll end up removed for one reason or another.

Acacia H.

Larry Hart said...

I'm not necessarily a fan of Jeff Bezos, but in this case, he's on the right side of history:

Right now, has a prominent “Black Lives Matter” banner at the top of the page that links to a blog post describing actions the company is taking to support black communities and racial justice. The customer took issue with the banner, saying “it is quite disturbing to get on the AMAZON website and see ‘BLACK LIVES MATTER.’” The customer later said that “ALL LIVES MATTER,” a common right-wing refrain used to criticize the Black Lives Matter movement.

Good to see someone else call this out as a right-wing refrain. I am sick to death of "ALL LIVES MATTER" being shouted as an angry refrain against "Black Lives Matter". In fact "Black Lives Matter" is a corollary to "All Lives Matter".

‘Black lives matter’ doesn’t mean other lives don’t matter. Black lives matter speaks to racism and the disproportionate risk that Black people face in our law enforcement and justice system,” Bezos said in part of his reply.

If you believe that all lives matter, then tautologically, you must believe that black lives matter too. The point of the BLM slogan is not that other lives don't matter. It is that black lives in particular are treated as if they don't matter. That is wrong precisely because all lives (should) matter. It's ironic in a bad way that the angry white guys who defiantly shout "ALL Lives Matter!" mean that as an excuse for ignoring the fact that they don't think black lives matter at all.

Back in the 2016 primary debates, a moderator asked the question to Hillary and Bernie: "Is it Black Lives Matter, or All Lives Matter?" I thought that was an insane question. The correct response (which neither candidate gave) is "Black Lives Matter BECAUSE All Lives Matter."

Bezos's full exchange with an angry customer is here:

Larry Hart said...

The New York Times tells us what we already know...

When an armed makeshift militia showed up at the Michigan State Capitol to demand the state be reopened — even as coronavirus cases were growing — President Trump hailed them as “very good people.” As thousands of people descended upon city streets in mostly peaceful yet forceful calls for an end to extrajudicial police killings of black people, the president denigrated them as “thugs,” demanded that state governors “dominate” them and called for the U.S. military to be activated against its own citizenry.
This is simply the latest indicator that America has very different standards for who gets the privilege of expressing anger and defiance, without fear of grave consequence. Angry white agitators can be labeled good people, patriots and revolutionaries, while angry black agitators are labeled identity extremists, thugs and violent opportunists.

Larry Hart said...

I'm reminded of a WWII-era story that the occupying Nazis expressed amazement that the king of Denmark went out in public without requiring a bodyguard. The king is claimed to have said, "All Denmark is my bodyguard," meaning of course that he was so respected by his people that he was not in danger among them--in fact, they would keep him from harm.

I think of that as protective fencing goes up around the White House and the occupant thereof hides from his people in a hardened bunker, or has to use the military to clear the streets so that he can walk a block outside the fortress. A so-called president for whom the concept of "consent of the governed" is so alien that he can only think to coerce his countrymen into submission by threats and force of arms. A man (and I use even that term loosely) who doesn't know the meaning of "leader".

David Brin said...

LH the apocryphal part of the story is that King Christian was the first to go out in public wearing a yellow Jewish arm band. In fact, it swept the streets without him, but he was well known to sympathize.

Eloquently put.



Larry Hart said...

Is this a real story? Seems like I should be hearing more about it.

The internet is abuzz right now with news that gay adult film actor Sean Harding had posted on Twitter, urging other men working the high-end male escort circuit to come out, violate their non-disclosure agreements, and let the world know that Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is in the habit of paying for their services. He didn’t come right out and identify Graham by name, but instead referred to the man in question as a “homophobic Republican Senator” with the initials “LG.” [Graham is the only member of the U.S. Senate with the initials LG. And, when someone responded to Harding, asking if the Senator in question was Graham, he responded with a winking emoji.] Harding, across a series of posts, said that the Senator in question, known as “Lady G” among gay escorts, has hired “every sex worker” he knows. He also said that, as of right now, he already had two other escorts willing to join him in violating their non-disclosure agreements and coming forward.
There are innumerable reasons to see Graham pushed from office, but his reliance upon gay prostitutes — if that turns out to be the case — is so far down on the list as to be non-existent. With that said, however, I do find the claim interesting, as it might well explain how it was that this once respected American politician went from saying that Donald Trump should be kicked out of the Republican Party in 2016, to becoming one of Donald Trump’s most loyal bootlickers.

David Brin said...