URLs du Jour

2022-05-02

[Bidanic]

… I really like that little bug-eyed fish.

  • You look marvelous! Mark Hemingway finds that it's all relative: The Washington Post’s Repulsive Defense Of Twitter Execs Makes Even Elon Musk Look Good. Opening:

    Yesterday, amid the ongoing bladder loosening that has accompanied Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, leaks started coming from inside the tech company. Politico reported that “Twitter’s top lawyer reassures staff, cries during meeting about Musk takeover.”

    The lawyer, Vijaya Gadde, has played a major role in some of Twitter’s most controversial decisions, such as removing former President Trump and censoring The New York Post from the platform for reporting an accurate story about the damning Hunter Biden laptop weeks before his father was elected president amid real questions about his involvement in his son’s corruption.

    Gadde’s political motivations don’t seem to be a mystery. Six days before the 2020 election, Politico profiled her under the headline, “Is Twitter Going Full Resistance? Here’s the Woman Driving the Change.” And it’s pretty clear that she contributed to Twitter making at least one terrible decision. Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey would later admit the company made a “total mistake” in censoring the story.

    Hemingway goes on to describe the WaPo's reaction:

    At 3:03 a.m. Wednesday [(4/27)], the Post dropped its story on the matter: “Elon Musk boosts criticism of Twitter executives, prompting online attacks: The targeting of employees by Musk’s massive Twitter megaphone is a major concern for workers.”

    The horror only compounds from there. “Musk’s response Tuesday was the first time he targeted specific Twitter executives by using his nearly singular ability to call attention to topics that interest him,” intoned the Post. “Supporters of Musk, a prolific and freewheeling tweeter with 86 million followers, tend to pile on with his viewpoints.”

    To be clear, Musk never said anything specific about Gadde, except to imply her role in the decision to ban The New York Post was wrong — an opinion that isn’t controversial, and was publicly stated by Twitter’s previous CEO. As for Baker, Musk was commenting on his previous conduct as a public official, which by any accurate assessment was defined by poor judgment. Regardless, “sounds bad” is not exactly committing to a definitive judgment of the man, much less in his current role at Twitter.

    Hemingway goes on to observe that the WaPo's story reflects "their desire to prop up an opaque regime of algorithmic censorship produced by an unholy collusion of tech executives and state propagandists."


  • For more on that… Jazz Shaw notes a different member of the unholy colluders: Time Magazine correspondent obsesses over "tech bro obsession with free speech".

    Has anyone else noticed a growing obsession on the left these days wherein the government, the tech oligarchs, and a growing swath of mainstream media outlets have taken to openly mocking the idea of free speech? This was already a serious problem on Twitter and Facebook long before Elon Musk came along and appeared to light a fuse under the discussion, but it’s really kicked into high gear since then. One of the latest and most glaring examples of this disastrous trend can be found this week at Time Magazine, where correspondent Charlotte Alter has penned a piece with this sort of mockery embedded firmly in the title. Elon Musk and the Tech Bro Obsession with ‘Free Speech.’ If you’re not shocked and dismayed by the idea of a journalist putting the words Free Speech in scare quotes, I don’t know what to tell you. She goes on to use scare quotes around nearly every instance of the phrases Free Speech and Freedom of Speech throughout the entire article. And you don’t have to read very far into the article to discover her newly-found disdain for the idea.

    So: tech bros obsessed with free speech. And lefties obsessed with those obsessed with free speech.

    And (for that matter) Jazz Shaw being obsessed with people obsessed with people obsessed by free speech.

    That's a lot of obsession.

    But obsession aside: I'm with Jazz that it's darned myopic of journalists to put "free speech" in scare quotes. If they're not careful, people might start putting "free press" in scare quotes. What then?


  • And so much else. But Paul Matzko has something specific in mind: Obama Is Wrong about the Fairness Doctrine.

    Last week, President Barack Obama expressed his worries about “democratic backsliding” in a speech at Stanford University, blaming social-media platforms for spreading disinformation at an unprecedented pace using algorithms that through “subtle manipulations” promote conspiracism, racism, and sexism.

    […]

    To illustrate the wide gulf between Obama’s idealistic aspirations for smart Internet regulation and the sordid reality of government media regulation, consider his brief but favorable mention of the Fairness Doctrine, a regulation from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the 1960s to 1980s that required radio and television broadcasters to be balanced in their presentation of various points of view on current events and politics. In Obama’s framing, the Fairness Doctrine was a tool for mitigating the spread of “propaganda” and “the flames of hate” in the post–World War II era, a means of ensuring that “our broadcast system was compatible with democracy.” Consumers would receive a fair, balanced, and truthful media diet, or at least, that was the stated intent.

    Yet the Fairness Doctrine’s primary function was as a tool for government censorship. Fairness exists in the eye of the beholder, and, in the early 1960s, that beholder was President John F. Kennedy. He felt that right-wing radio was being unfair to his administration and so weaponized the Fairness Doctrine to suppress conservative radio broadcasters. Kennedy appointed a new FCC chairman and told him, “It is important that stations be kept fair.” Within weeks, the FCC announced a new enforcement push for the Fairness Doctrine that exclusively targeted unbalanced right-wing speech.

    There was never a good argument for the Fairness Doctrine, only the sorta-plausible one that the radio-frequency spectrum used by TV and radio was a scarce good, and government was there to ensure that access be licensed and heavily regulated, not owned.

    A bad argument, and one not applicable at all to an era with cable and internet.


  • There's room in Seabrook for another reactor. Just sayin'. Robert Zubrin continues his series: How We Can Get Clean Energy—Is Nuclear Power Safe?.

    A lot of fuss has been raised about nuclear power plants. Some say they emit cancer-causing radiation, that there is no way to dispose of the wastes they produce, that they are prone to catastrophic accidents, and could even be made to explode like bombs. These are serious charges. Let’s investigate them.

    And he does. Fun fact:

    Natural gas is much cleaner than coal, but it contains radioactive radon. Not much, to be sure, typically about 0.03 microcuries per cubic meter. But that adds up. A 1000 MWe natural gas power plant sends about 8 curies of radon into the environment every month. That’s just about the same as what the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant let loose just once—during its world-famous meltdown in March 1979!

    Bottom line: nukes are pretty safe, compared with the alternatives.


  • I never really saw the point in mixed nuts. Just buy the ones you like, and mix them yourself. Don't trust Big Nut to get it right. Jonah Goldberg muses, among other things, about Mixed Nuts.

    But I’m in a generous mood, so I’ll make a concession. I’d argue that in terms of nut quality, the right is ahead. Marjorie Taylor Greene just this week said that the Catholic Church is “under the control of Satan” because it <checks notes> aids illegal immigrants. Also this week, Madison Cawthorn got caught trying to smuggle a loaded gun onto a plane—again. He also got caught up in messier allegations that have me rethinking my earlier mockery of his claims that Washington is akin to House of Cards in its sexual debauchery. I didn’t realize he was bringing the debauchery with him like the cloud of dirt around Pigpen. Add in all the other familiar nuttery, and it’s fair to say that the GOP has the lion’s share of macadamias, pistachios, and cashews, while the Democrats have mostly peanuts and those space-fillers that in Brazil they just call “nuts.”

    But as in most cans of mixed nuts, the pedestrian ones outnumber the expensive ones. 

    So, for most normal people—Democrats and Republicans—their interactions with right-wing nuts are largely second-hand. Ask yourself this: In your day-to-day life over the last 20 years, how have things become more “right wing” for you?  How many have become more left wing? People’s answers will vary. But if you can’t see why, for a lot of people, the left’s migration outdistances the right’s, that’s your limitation. 

    But my real problem is with the centuries old Tyranny of the French National Assembly seating plan (Tyrannie du plan de salle de l'Assemblée Nationale Française). In a world bound by the terms left and right, amid a climate of polarization, tribalization, partisanship, and zero-sumness all the way down, anything the right hates must be left wing and everything the left hates must be right wing. 

    I think the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis has been largely debunked, but I wonder about an alternate reality where that left-right nomenclature never took hold. Would that have freed our brains to consider and adopt political opinions individually on their own merits, not simply see them in an all-or-nothing, take-it-or-leave-it bundle?

    Nah, probably not.