URLs du Jour

2022-06-12

  • But where's Goodnight Killer Asteroid? John Atkinson imagines final books in the series.:

    [Final Books in the Series]

    Or there's also Harold and the Unstable Bedroom Furniture. Just spitballin' here.


  • Who let them out from under those bridges, anyway? Kat Rosenfield observes that The media is run by trolls. And it centers around a series I'm currently watching:

    The Star Wars franchise has always been a cultural mirror, with each manifestation reflecting the fears, hopes, and political themes of the moment it was created. The original 1977 film was steeped in the anxieties of a postwar landscape; the late-Nineties prequel trilogy is imbued with the lighthearted confidence (and excessive CGI use) of the pre-social internet era. And as its latest property, Obi Wan Kenobi, is released, a post from the official Star Wars Twitter account launches in to the culture wars.

    “We are proud to welcome Moses Ingram to the Star Wars family and excited for Reva’s story to unfold,” it read, alongside a photo of its newest cast member. “If anyone intends to make her feel in any way unwelcome, we have only one thing to say: we resist.”

    And then, just in case you didn’t get the message, there was a follow-up tweet: “There are more than 20 million sentient species in the Star Wars galaxy, don’t choose to be a racist.”

    Suggesting millions of Star Wars fans are a bunch of racists-in-waiting might seem like a peculiar PR strategy. But if you were to plot the marketing trajectory of Star Wars alongside the fall of traditional journalism, a pattern would begin to emerge.

    Modern journalism thrives on stoked outrage, it turns out. As does social media, some politicians, some blogs…


  • Whatcha gonna do when they come for you? Here's some good advice from self-described Marxist Freddie de Boer: Just Stop Apologizing. There are a couple examples of how the outrage mob works (very entertaining for those of us of a conservative/libertarian bent), but here's his take-home lesson.

    I believe, deeply, in the positive value of guilt, shame, and contrition. I think working through your shit and contemplating the harm you’ve done is important, and I’ve tried to do a lot of it in the past few years. And I think we all should push back against the “nothing matters but what you want and how you feel” brand of sociopathy that’s popular now in inspirational memes. There’s a notion running around our culture that feeling bad about something you’ve done is always some sort of disordered trauma response, but that’s destructive bullshit. Most of the time when you feel bad about something you’ve done, you should. I’ve spent my adult lifetime trying to make amends to people I’ve hurt, and trying to understand my own culpability when my control over myself was not complete. I think about things I’ve done, and feel shame for them, every day of my life. I don’t want to wallow and I don’t think guilt in and of itself is productive. I am however certain that my guilt is an appropriate endowment to me.

    But it’s become abundantly clear that there simply is no value in public apology. Admitting fault only emboldens critics. The mechanisms of social media always reward escalation and never reward calm and restraint. Contemporary progressive politics excuse any amount of personal viciousness so long as the target is perceived to be guilty of committing some identity crime. The notion of proportionality is totally alien to these worlds, and when people ask for such proportionality they’re accused of supporting bigotry. People who are friendly online shamelessly wage backchannel campaigns against each other, and almost no one on social media has the stomach to stand up for someone else when the mob comes for them. Most importantly, the public can never grant you absolution for what you’ve done; absolution is not the public’s to grant. The strangers on Twitter can’t accept an apology, even if they ever would, and they wouldn't. You can ask the mob for forgiveness, but they have no moral right to grant it, and anyway they never will. They’ll just keep you wriggling on the end of a pin forever. Honestly: how often do people who make public apologies come out ahead in doing so, especially because they’re so often coerced and thus insincere?

    One of those sad/amusing stories is about a writer "whole career was built on being in thrall to an insatiable mob." You don't want to be in that position.


  • Truth, but maybe not the whole truth. Steven Greenhut has a lesson: Uvalde Shows Once Again That Cops Are Just Armed Bureaucrats.

    Essentially, law enforcement behaved like armed bureaucrats. Large numbers of cops showed up. They hid behind walls to protect themselves. They milled around, conferred, and secured the perimeter, as the shooter emptied his weapon on helpless kids. They certainly wrote reports. As one headline noted, "Police delays may have deprived Texas schoolchildren of lifesaving care, experts say." That's a safe bet.

    A few other items reinforce the bureaucratic tendencies of police agencies. On Thursday, police threatened to arrest journalists who gathered at the school district headquarters, which shows that officers often can be proactive when it suits them. Second, state officials accused school police of refusing to cooperate with a Department of Public Safety investigation after Texas officials criticized their inaction. Police offered shifting explanations.

    Finally, ABC News reported that in March "the Uvalde school district hosted an all-day training session for local police and other school-based law enforcement officers focused on 'active shooter response.'" So the police can't pull out their usual flaccid, all-purpose response: "more training." In a few months, police will no doubt be handing out valor medals. The city department already released a statement praising its officers' actions.

    Before you get too angry, remember that this is not unusual. It's a pattern, not an aberration. The nation has so many mass shootings that it's hard to keep track of them, but you'll find the same complaints after each one. In truly dangerous scenarios, police have turned the "Blue Lives Matter" mantra into, "Only Blue Lives Matter."

    As the saying goes: when seconds count, the police are minutes away. Addendum: when they get there, they might not do anything useful.


  • Be skeptical of footnotes deployed by an ideologue. I'm currently reading The Quick Fix by journalist Jesse Singal, which debunks a number of "fad psychology" movements. By coincidence, I noticed that he's weighing in on another current issue on his substack: "Science Vs" Cited Seven Studies To Argue There’s No Controversy About Giving Puberty Blockers And Hormones To Trans Youth. Let’s Read Them.

    Here's a key tweet subthred from Singal showing the issue:

    Whoa. Check out those footnotes!

    But:

    Let’s linger on this for a moment. These treatments are utterly uncontroversial, Zukerman said, because of “what happens if you do nothing. Like you don’t allow your kid to go on hormones.” Following that was a summary of a recent study that — Zukerman claimed — found that access to gender-affirming medicine (henceforth GAM) led to reduced suicidality among young adults1.

    Zukerman is clearly saying that if you, the parent listening, have a kid who wants to go on hormones, and you don’t put them on hormones, you risk raising the probability they will become suicidal and/or attempt suicide. This is a profoundly serious claim — an invocation of every parent’s worst nightmare — so one would hope that it’s backed by nothing but ironclad evidence.

    But that isn’t the case. The study Zukerman referenced, which was published in a JAMA Network Open study by PhD student Diana Tordoff and her colleagues in February, didn’t come close to finding what its authors claimed. I explained its many crippling flaws here in April — the post is long, but if you want to understand how aggravating it is that mainstream science outlets are treating this research so credulously, you should read it. The short version is that, in a sample of kids at a gender clinic, those who went on GAM didn’t appear to experience any statistically significant improvement on any mental health measure (here’s a primer on what “statistically significant” means — it is going to come up a lot in this article). So Zukerman’s claim that “those who got this treatment ultimately felt better afterwards” was completely false, directly contradicted by the paper’s supplementary material.

    Singal's article is long, but worth reading. He is (correctly) despondent that Science Vs put its passionate thumb on the scale on this issue.