URLs du Jour


  • OK, so I tweeted.

    So, yeah, I once read a poem.

    The person I was responding to, Sean Dempsey, is a pretty thoughtful guy, but I thought his "in this new era" phrase was overblown. People have been saying this sort of thing since… well, since Yeats. There's nothing new under the sun.

    Sigh, yes, I've also read the Bible. The good parts, anyway.

  • But maybe I should just walk away, Renee. Specifically, walk away from social media. David French looks at The Cancel Culture Paradox.

    Who speaks? Those with thicker skins or those who possess a sufficient sense of rage or urgency that enables them to push through the pain of blowback.

    Who doesn’t speak? Those with softer hearts or those who are unwilling to risk personal and/or professional relationships over politics or to fight the culture war. 

    I’ll give you an example, taken from one of countless conversations I’ve had since the rise of cancel culture. A conservative doctor recently told me that after January 6th he “unplugged.” He stopped watching cable news. He stopped listening to talk radio. And lest he be tempted to engage in political arguments online, he deleted social media apps from his phone. He described the change as wholly positive for his life. He was happier, and his blood pressure was lower.

    I had two immediate thoughts. Good for him. Bad for us. Here’s a good man who has good things to say who simply decided, “It’s not worth it.” No, not because anyone could cancel him. (He has a thriving independent practice). But because speaking his mind carried with it an unacceptable emotional cost. 

    I've got my own free-expression strategy: (1) Write a blog that nobody reads. (2) Avoid political bullshit on Twitter/Facebook. (3) Comment too much on other sites.

    I'm still wondering if that last bit could use some work.

  • Gaseous obfuscation rarely does. George F. Will makes a plea for linguistic clarity: The Biden administration’s gaseous obfuscation on Afghanistan isn’t helping.

    Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, a retired rear admiral, recently said that during the long U.S. undertaking in Afghanistan “the goals did migrate over time.” Did the goals themselves have agency — minds of their own? Why do so many people, particularly in government, engage in such gaseous talk? Because it envelops in abstract, obfuscating vocabularies things that are awkward to defend. And because we are decades into the “leakage of reality” from American life.

    President Biden says the Taliban is “going through sort of an existential crisis about do they want to be recognized by the international community as being a legitimate government.” Which is worse, if he means this, or if he doesn’t? The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, says “we expect the Taliban to respect women’s rights” and “to be respectful of humanitarian law.” No sentient person expects anything of the sort.

    Secretary of State Antony Blinken proclaims three musts: “Afghans and international citizens” who wish to leave Afghanistan “must” be allowed to. Roads, airports and border crossings “must remain open.” “Calm must be maintained.” “Must,” lest nice people frown? State Department spokesman Ned Price is pleased that the U.N. Security Council has asked the Taliban to create a government that is “united, inclusive, and representative, including with the full and meaningful participation of women.” If this were even remotely possible, why were 20 years and $2 trillion devoted to resisting the Taliban?

    Mr. Will could have, but doesn't, quote George Orwell's Politics and the English Language: "In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible."

  • A continuing Pun Salad theme: it depends on what you mean by "works", researchers. Speaking of Orwell, Jacob Sullum notes that the "experts" are getting impatient with the government's failure to establish a Ministry of Truth: Since Platform-by-Platform Censorship Doesn’t Work, These Researchers Think, the Government Should Help ‘Halt the Spread of Misinformation’.

    Before Twitter banned then–President Donald Trump in response to the January 6 Capitol riot, the platform tried to police his false claims about election fraud by attaching warning labels or blocking engagement with them. A new study suggests those efforts were ineffective at preventing the spread of Trump's claims and may even have backfired by drawing additional attention to messages that Twitter deemed problematic.

    Those findings highlight the limits of content moderation policies aimed at controlling misinformation and, more generally, the futility of responding to lies by trying to suppress them. But the researchers think their results demonstrate the need to control online speech "at an ecosystem level," with an assist from the federal government.

    The study, published today in Harvard's Misinformation Review, looked at Trump tweets posted from November 1, 2020, through January 8, 2021, that Twitter flagged for violating its policy against election-related misinformation. Zeve Sanderson and four other New York University social media researchers found that tweets with warning labels "spread further and longer than unlabeled tweets." And while blocking engagement with messages was effective at limiting their spread on Twitter, those messages "were posted more often and received more visibility on other popular platforms than messages that were labeled by Twitter or that received no intervention at all."

    In other words, an eminently predictable delta-variant of the Streisand Effect. What would we do without researchers?

  • That's not funny, Gene. David Harsanyi tells the tale: The Washington Post is so woke it just corrected a JOKE.

    Earlier this month, Washington Post humor columnist Gene Weingarten wrote a column headlined, “You can’t make me eat these foods,” about his distaste for various cuisines, products, and spices — Old Bay, balsamic vinegar, anchovies, sweet pickles, and so on. (Listen, when you have weekly deadlines, you do what you must.) Weingarten wrote his column, as humorists often do, in a self-deprecating tone, casting himself as a troglodytic contrarian.

    One of the cuisines Weingarten mocked was Indian food — praising the subcontinent for its glorious contributions to the world but joking about his distaste for curry.

    He described the food as “the only ethnic cuisine in the world insanely based entirely on one spice” and joked that whether one likes it comes down to whether one likes curry: “If you think Indian curries taste like something that could knock a vulture off a meat wagon, you do not like Indian food.”

    The outcome was predictable. And, if you're easily amused, pretty amusing.

    Watch your ass, Dave Barry.

    (For the record, I'm only averse to beets, grapefruit, and eggplant. I should be OK, since these are not particularly ethnicity-associated. Uh, right?)