Saturday, June 30, 2018

some links for the weekend

Facebook's retreat from the news has harmed the advertising revenue and traffic of news outlets that relied on Facebook traffic for readership, like ... Slate.

https://slate.com/technology/2018/06/facebooks-retreat-from-the-news-has-painful-for-publishers-including-slate.html

it is reported that it's really lame to be an Amazon Flex worker over at The Atlantic

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/06/amazon-flex-workers/563444/


Phillip Pullman and others lament how badly writers get paid by publishers
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jun/27/publishers-pay-writers-pittance-philip-pullman-antony-beevor-sally-gardner

Philip Pullman, Antony Beevor and Sally Gardner are calling on publishers to increase payments to authors, after a survey of more than 5,500 professional writers revealed a dramatic fall in the number able to make a living from their work.
The latest report by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), due to be published on Thursday, shows median earnings for professional writers have plummeted by 42% since 2005 to under £10,500 a year, well below the minimum annual income of £17,900 recommended by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Women fare worse, according to the survey, earning 75% of what their male counterparts do, a 3% drop since 2013 when the last ALCS survey was conducted.

Based on a standard 35-hour week, the average full-time writer earns only £5.73 per hour, £2 less than the UK minimum wage for those over 25. As a result, the number of professional writers whose income comes solely from writing has plummeted to just 13%, down from 40% in 2005.

The median income of the writers surveyed – including part-time and occasional authors – has declined in real terms to £3,000 a year, down 33% since the last survey in 2013, and 49% since the first ALCS report in 2005. Professional writers are defined as those who dedicate more than half their working hours to writing.

Pullman, Beevor and Gardner claim the crash in number of professional writers is threatening the diversity and quality of literary culture in the UK. They lay the blame at the door of publishers and online booksellers, which over the same period have failed to share a greater slice of their rocketing profits. In 2016, UK publishers’ sales of books and journals rose 7% to £4.8bn, a trend repeated in 2017 as UK books sales alone passed the £2bn mark. Since 2005, Amazon’s global turnover has risen from $8.49bn (£6.4bn) to $177.87bn.

“The word exploitation comes to mind,” said Pullman, bestselling author of the His Dark Materials series and president of the Society of Authors. “Many of us are being treated badly because some of those who bring our books to the public are acting without conscience and with no thought for the future of the ecology of the trade as a whole ... This matters because the intellectual, emotional and artistic health of the nation matters, and those who write contribute to the task of sustaining it.”
...

The 2018 ALCS survey covers writers from fields including stage and screen, but authors appear to fare worse than their counterparts in the creative arts. “If I had to rely on being a novelist, I would be skint,” said Jonathan Harvey, a novelist who supports his books with a day job as a playwright – his latest is the Dusty Springfield musical called Dusty – and as head scriptwriter for Coronation Street.

“It wasn’t until my 11th book that I started to get royalties,” he said. “How many people can afford to go that long without money from another source?” In contrast, he continues to earn 8%-10% of box office receipts from new productions of his debut play, Beautiful Thing, which opened in 1993.

“Authors are not a special case, deserving of more sympathy than many other groups,” said Pullman. “We are a particular case of a general degradation of the quality of life, and we are not going to stop pointing it out, because we speak for many other groups as well.”

Driscoll, now officially a charismatic without a seatbelt, was at Charisma2018
https://charisma2018.com/
https://www.wthrockmorton.com/2018/06/30/mark-driscoll-rocked-the-charisma2018-conference/


We still don't know what "a trap has been set" might actually mean. There are theories, of course, but those are theories by adversarial parties.  Driscoll himself has never explained what "a trap has been set" could possibly mean, which remains all the more mysterious seeing as he recounted how it was his idea to suggest the BoAA take up an investigation and that he submit to the proposed disciplinary plan.  No one who would at one point have been on the BoAA has addressed that, not Larry Osborne, not Sutton Turner either that I'm aware of. 

on the never-ending crisis of men, of alphas and betas and incels as potential murderers and the scripts men do and don't get to fulfill

First off, a piece that discusses how male and female brains are not really different.  This may have already inspired some hand-wringing and objections from somewhat predictable complementarian quarters, perhaps, but it could be as easily said that the biological differences are pronounced below the neck in ways that impact the brain rather than having to do with some literal delineation of "male" as distinct from "female" brains and vice versa.

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/06/male-female-brains-biologically-different/563702/

and then there's something at Slate about ... how male celebrity authors manage to sound confessional while exonerating themselves of their more or less Byronic excess and vice.

https://slate.com/culture/2018/06/junot-diaz-allegations-and-the-male-self-pardon.html


Donald Trump’s recent announcement that he has the absolute right to pardon himself was met with plenty of justified scorn. The assertion wasn’t merely extralegal and worryingly authoritarian: It flew in the face of what a pardon, at its most basic level, requires—a communal relation. It flattens the dialogue of one person’s apology and another’s forgiveness into a self-interested tautology. I forgive myself.
       
Outrageous as it seemed, Trump’s attraction to the idea of a self-pardon is less exceptional than symptomatic. Look around, and you’ll see self-pardons everywhere, often disguised as apologies. The high-profile self-pardon commonly involves saying “sorry” into the ether and considering the matter settled. “I’ve never talked to her,” Bill Clinton told NBC’s Today when he was asked whether he’d apologized to Monica Lewinsky, “but I did say publicly on more than one occasion that I was sorry. That’s very different. The apology was public.” When the New York Times asked the Arrested Development cast whether they would hire an actor who verbally abused his colleagues, the person who had verbally abused the female colleague in the room with him took it upon himself to reply. “I would hire that person if that person said, you know, ‘I’ve reckoned with this,’ ” Jeffrey Tambor said, noting that he had and continued to do so. The men in the room—to whom he’d done nothing—eagerly accepted this and considered the matter settled. It didn’t much matter to them (or to Tambor) that Jessica Walter, the injured party, did not.

...


“I never said that I’m a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I’m not,” said Trump after the Access Hollywood tape aired. He apologized to his family. He apologized to the American people. He didn’t apologize to Nancy O’Dell or Arianne Zucker, the women he’d been recorded objectifying. But he pledged “to be a better man,” and one month later, he was elected president.

Once you start noticing these one-sided displays of contrition in the media and in life, you’ll be shocked both at how often you see them and at how much pressure women are under to accept these nonapologies that were never made to them in the first place. And while Junot Díaz’s case isn’t the most egregious of these, it might be the most instructive. The Pulitzer Prize–winning author stands accused of, among other things, forcibly kissing a woman who invited him to speak and pulling a younger writer onto his lap at lunch after making her cry. He has himself admitted to mistreating women with whom he’s been involved. He has stepped down from one job (as chairman of the Pulitzer committee) and kept others (with Boston Review and MIT).

As writers go, he is a celebrity, but importantly, a celebrity writer who writes about self-pardons.

...

Now I'm not sure that this is really a distinctly male pattern of celebrity writerly practice.  It may be an American celebrity writer tendency regardless of male and female. The celebrity has the luxury of writing about being "real" and having flaws that are not obstacles for their continuing success since, after all, they have obtained success, in a way that would not be the case for someone else.

Let us consider for how many decades Weinstein was Weinstein before he was described as having done what he's described as having done.  It's admittedly jaded and cynical of me to note that it was only after the cumulative machinery of Hollywood failed to land the Oval Office for Hillary Clinton in a race against Trump (who, as a reality TV star was arguably even more "of" Hollywood than the Clintons could have been) that Hollywood apparently felt that #TimesUp and #MeToo were things to share.  Not that those things shouldn't necessarily be shared or that the wrongs perpetrated behind the scenes shouldn't get addressed; it's more that it has gotten me wondering why these things couldn't and didn't happen over the preceding twenty years. 

It's possible, per the observations about Junot Diaz, that the literary art of self-exoneration and self-forgiveness may have something to do with what has been called the first-person industrial complex. It may not really be journalism but it's possible a few writers can feel as though it could be journalism and while self-forgiveness may be a thread that can run through the first-person industrial complex its flip side, the story of accusation could also be its mirror image, and reflected in a variety of survivor blogs where the issue of church culture and cultural predation goes.  As reliable as a sunrise, there's also the learning to forgive myself because grace with the celebrity Christian, which is probably the more prominent and industry-sanctioned variation. The art of learning to forgive yourself of X so you can move on with your life of doing Y may be even more American now than the proverbial apple pie.  It's certainly something that can emerge in Christian writing.

https://wenatcheethehatchet.blogspot.com/2015/09/the-first-person-industrial-complex.html

There could be something to the first-person style that illuminates Mark Driscoll's approach because within American evangelicalism the first-person portal into propositional claims is pretty pedestrian.  Whether it's a Mark Driscoll or a Rachel Held Evans the pretense of being "real" can be the same. 

While various tiers of celebrities and writers muse upon the power and self-forgiveness of their own it seems that for the more anonymous masses of men the power of the patriarchy is pretty unevenly distributed.  It might even seem more apt to say there is a constellation of male and female celebrity whose participants have a lot of prestige and the rest who have none.  For instance, whatever the sisterhood may be there are a lot of writers and journalists who don't think Anne Hathaway is legitimately part of it.  Hatha-hate seems to have coalesced into an expression that, as one woman put it, Anne Hathaway comes across like that girl who was practicing her acceptance speech for an award in a mirror since she was twelve years old.   I've written in the past about how women hating Anne Hathaway for being fake and liking Jennifer Lawrence for seeming "real" doesn't register for guys because, well, let's just set that off to the side because it seems like too obvious a point to make; instead I'll suggest that Hathaway has been disliked as the uber-alpha female by women in journalism and art criticism for being too successful and, as I've suggested in the past, for working in a way in which the work shows. 

Why is that stuff I bring up?  Because once we set our sights away from the intra-culture-making strata of the culture industry examining itself, it seems that swarms of men who don't even rate as people in that industry kill themselves, and ... sometimes other people, too. 

For people familiar with evangelical writing in general and Reformed writing in particular, masculinity has been in crisis long enough to legally be able to order alcohol and that assuming that this crisis was born decades ago and not emblematic of a concern that goes back to the dawn of, well, man.

https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/06/why-american-men-are-in-crisis/563807/
American men are in crisis, the conventional wisdom goes. And, according to some experts, they have been for a while. For a few decades, perhaps. Maybe for more than a century.

But in a discussion about this “crisis” on Tuesday at the Aspen Ideas Festival, which is co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic, panelists had varying notions of what that crisis entails, if it exists at all. For Michael Kimmel, an author and professor at SUNY Stony Brook, where he founded the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities, the crisis involves one type of man—heterosexual, white ones—who feel like their power “is slipping.” Tristan Bridges, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, agreed with Kimmel, adding that the crisis affects men who are now contending with “unchallenged entitlement.” For the writer Thomas Page McBee, the crisis involves men who are hurting in the face of society’s stereotyped expectations that they should be more inhumane than humane, more violent than empathic. For Joseph Derrick Nelson, a senior research fellow with the Center for the Study of Boys’ and Girls’ Lives, the crisis is hitting black boys who need support and the kind of unconditional love necessary to help them break free of certain damaging norms.

What the panelists did agree on is that the crisis is damaging American society—harming men’s educational outcomes, women’s well-being, and the public’s safety. Bridges pointed to research showing that when men feel like their masculinity is challenged, they are more likely to advocate for war, discriminate against homosexuals, express an interest in buying an SUV, and believe in the inherent superiority of men. They are also more likely to express attitudes supportive of sexual assault and coercion. Nelson contended that stereotypes about black boys as inclined to violence and disinterested in academics can lead to prejudicial treatment from teachers and parents who have internalized those stereotypes and then expect bad behavior.
 
The experts also agreed that acknowledging the existence of a crisis doesn’t mean giving special treatment to or forgiving men who are inclined toward spite and hatred, aggression, and abuse. “It’s unbelievable the amount of privilege men have,” said McBee, whose book, a memoir of his life as a trans man, is coming out later this summer. Many men, he stressed, are hurting, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be held accountable for the pain they cause others because they’re hurting; what they lack is emotional resilience and, perhaps, “feminine social skills.”
 
“Lots of men feel like they want to be on the right side of history here, but when they’re asking, ‘What can I do to be a good man?’ what they’re asking for is a recipe that will give them immunity from critique,” echoed Bridges.

Rather, acknowledging the existence of a crisis simply entails raising public awareness about the contradictions society imposes on them and the consequences of those contradictions. Kimmel described this paradox as “the tensions in men’s heads between what it means to be a good man and what it means to be a real man.” Once, when he asked cadets at West Point what it means to be a “good man,” their responses included things like honor, duty, sacrifice, responsibility, standing up for the little guy—i.e., being a good person. When he asked them to “man the f up”—to be a real man—their responses shifted: being strong and stoic, never showing your feelings, playing through pain, getting rich and getting laid
 

 
The conflict seems to be between observable ethics and demonstrable status.
 
Slate has a piece about how "we" are socializing men to die by suicide.  Precisely who the "we" is seems to be tacitly assumed rather than defined but here goes:
 
 
 
...
 
In a survey my organization, Promundo, carried out with support from Axe, of 1,500 young men aged 18–30, we found that nearly 1 in 5 thought about suicide in the past two weeks. Which young men were more likely to think about suicide? Those who believed in a version of manhood associated with being tough, not talking about their problems, and bottling up their emotions were twice as likely to have considered suicide. Studies in other countries have found the same, namely that men with more restrictive ideas about manhood are more likely to think about suicide than young men who aren’t so stuck in the “man box.”
 
So what gives? Being a man in the U.S., and around the world, too often means learning to suppress our emotional experience, so much so that we as men often lack even the language to express or understand our emotions. Some psychologists have called this alexithymia—the inability to connect with and communicate one’s emotions—and identified it as more prominent in males. Quite simply, if men can’t recognize negative or troubling emotions, and can’t or don’t seek help or talk about them, we don’t know what to do when we face them.
 
Here’s an example of how this works. In Promundo’s work with young men and young women to question and challenge harmful ideas about manhood, we use an activity we call, “Expressing my Emotions.” We ask young men which of five emotions they feel the most comfortable expressing, and which they can’t express. Consistently, young men say that anger and happiness are the easiest emotions to express. Affection, sadness, or fear? No way, they say. Real men can’t show those.
 
Our ideas about manhood mean that asking for help is seen as weak, feminine, or even gay. Seeking medical support and mental health support by men is not only frowned upon, but also seen as unmanly. To even recognize pain—physical or emotional—is to risk being told by your male friends or family that you’re not a “real man.”
 
The CDC’s recent analysis of factors contributing to the increase in suicide rates in the U.S., released June 7, reads like a list of disproportionately masculine traits: mental health problems (often untreated or undiagnosed); alcohol or drug use (higher for men than women and often a solace for failed manhood); social or personal problems (for which men are not supposed to seek help); and access to firearms (again, mostly men).
 
Our ideas about manhood mean that asking for help is seen as weak, feminine, or even gay. Seeking medical support and mental health support by men is not only frowned upon, but also seen as unmanly. To even recognize pain—physical or emotional—is to risk being told by your male friends or family that you’re not a “real man.”
  
The CDC’s recent analysis of factors contributing to the increase in suicide rates in the U.S., released June 7, reads like a list of disproportionately masculine traits: mental health problems (often untreated or undiagnosed); alcohol or drug use (higher for men than women and often a solace for failed manhood); social or personal problems (for which men are not supposed to seek help); and access to firearms (again, mostly men).
 
Suicide is far more common among white men in the U.S., the same category of men who feel the world owes them a well-paying stable job, and the respect that comes with that. They have lost employment or face a personal stress, often divorce or estrangement from their families. Current data show that between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5 working-age men—about 20 million—aren’t working, three to four times what it was during the 1950s. Many men among those feel a sense of what sociologist and masculinities expert Michael Kimmel calls “aggrieved entitlement.”
 
Which gets to the theme of the "incel", involuntarily celibate, as a risk variable in shootings.
https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/05/25/santa-fe-high-school-shooting-an-incel-killing/
http://time.com/5254929/toronto-van-attack-suspect-incel-women-rejection/
https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/25/us/incel-rebellion-alek-minassian-toronto-attack-trnd/index.html

and from a couple of years ago
https://thebaffler.com/salvos/new-man-4chan-nagle

That there are people who advocate that the solution for all of this would be to normalize sex work is not something that seems to need much detailed discussion here, but it may be something to mention because one way to look at the potential social threat incels are perceived as presenting as men who could go on murderous rampages if they can't get laid is to argue that SOMEBODY has to be willing to have sex with these guys so they don't become potential killers and if there are brave professionals willing to do so should they be illegal?  Whether that's an argument to be taken seriously isn't necessarily one I plan to really get into.  It's a for instance.  But it seems we're at a place where some people would argue that the thing that's as dangerous as alpha males at the top of the pecking order or those guys at the bottom of the social hierarchy as they perceive it who want to get revenge for their low status.  These are probably not guys who would accept with any grace a comment to the effect that they could be regarded as the off-scouring of the world.

The guy who can't get laid as a failure can seem to be a given in journalism, such as a glowing review of the Ghostbusters remake that it said it was the movie we need and how the villain was some guy who probably couldn't get laid.  What stuck with me about that casual proclamation was that in some way it was  not different from the vibe I got around Mars Hill about single guys who were not yet married, they were not yet really men because, well, they hadn't gotten laid yet.  Whatever functional adult manhood is it would seem it should entail producing more than you consume as a rule of thumb rather than whether or not you are "getting some". 

If resentment at lost opportunities or unrealizable possibilities is thought of as catalyzing a vote for someone with false promises to give those opportunities the alternative on offer has come from those who, already being able to negotiate at least some of what the cultural script offers, feel that we don't need to make America great again because America already is great, for those for whom it is already great anyway. That's good news for those who regard themselves as somebodies, not nobodies; that's good news for those nobodies who want to be somebodies rather than to be real nobodies; that's good news for the somebodies who feel the wrong somebodies are getting to have too much of the spotlight or admiration of nobodies as an aspirational model.

Is there a solution for aggrieved entitlement?  No.  There won't be one because if there "is" a solution to aggrieved entitlement it would involve some variation of meditating on Psalm 49.  Rather than remind ourselves to not envy what evil people gain by evil means we get tempted to consider why we don't have that kind of stability.  We can forget that that stability is illusory, for one, and that it really can be more blessed in the long run to be a nobody than a somebody.  But a lot of that does hinge on belief that this life is not the only life to consider. If  you don't see things that way then the prosperity of the evil is something to be envied because the pie is only so big and there really can never be any punishment for the wicked that isn't instituted by someone. 

You can try to tell people who are failing according to the scripts of a culture that the scripts of that culture might be terrible but a culture in which incels are considered a threat because guys who can't get laid may become murderers might have to ask a few questions.  Even if we assume that having sex is both a physiological as well as psycho-sociological need why would desire in itself be rewarded?  We do not all live in Adam Sandler films, after all, where merely having a desire for X means X should be the reward the protagonist receives by movie's end.  But what if what is called aggrieved entitlement were turned around as a thought experiment and presented as a crisis of faith in a culture script that could be thought of as a lie?  That may be how incels and red pill types view things.  It hardly makes their proposed range of "solutions" correct or ethical but it might illuminate some topics for consideration.  Even the incel and the red pill type seem to take as given that what is promised in the script of prescribed manhood should be available to men who want it.  Suggesting that that script itself is the problem is not necessarily something team blue wants to grant any more than team red, blue state types are more likely to go in for traditional marriages at this point, aren't they? 

Our stories are about how one person can "change everything". Our films and novels are about the special someone who can change things for the better.  This isn't new stuff.  We've had Joseph Campbell's influence on popular culture for a while but the hero's journey in the past might have been a heroic journey emblematic of a community's sense of identity.  The hero or heroine was so by way of a story that defined who "we" are. 

Having finally slogged through a couple of books by Adorno what I find useful in his critique of the culture industry (even if I feel his Marxist-Leninist master narrative of history is as wrong-headed and confining as Francis Schaeffer's fall of Western Christendom is similarly wrong-headed and confining) is that he pointed out that a philistine is someone who won't invest in art unless he sees himself in it and gets something from it.  In that sense the old Marxist lefty Adorno anticipated and damned what would known be known as intersectionality in the arts.  There is no reason at all to think that the new culture industry of higher education and the entertainment industries is going to be more just merely because all the colors of the proverbial rainbow are in there. What could be the abuses and dehumanizing influence of globalism or capitalism "here" is simply a different set of labels for a parallel set of dynamics "there" in what at one point were Soviet bloc countries or in China or where ever else oppression and repression happen without a patina of democratic process or on-paper free trade. 

In other words, Babylon the Great runs things in the world as it is now regardless of the labels.  The ideological labels of left and right are fig leaves for those within those camps to exempt themselves from observing that all the powers in the world are the powers of the world.  Thus my occasional acid, dry jokes about how kids who can afford to go to private liberal arts colleges cannot imagine that merely because they can quote Walter Benjamin (or Gramsci, for that matter) that they are not still part of a ruling elite in culture-making terms. 

Back to Adorno and the culture industry.  What this industry sells is a range of scripts for living, and in the sense that incels reject the status quo they are in a sense rejecting not the script of manhood and adult sexual realization through sexual relationship, they are rejecting what they regard as a society willing and able to sell these scripts without providing any corresponding opportunity to fulfill the scripts.  That's why writers at The Stranger can say the villain of a Ghostbusters remake film is some guy who can't get laid as if that were in some way emblematic of what made him the bad guy, how he responded to his inability to get laid.  The villainy in his response whereas if there were just a different sociological and economic context the failure of a person to fulfill an expected script would and could be seen as an evil of globalism or capitalism ... but not where it comes down to getting laid.  That differentiation would be something to mull over if I didn't feel like I'd gotten to the point of writing about enough for blog posts for a weekend today.  There's such a thing as writing and practicing music and stuff. 

Jordan Peterson as conservative cat's paw part 2

https://wenatcheethehatchet.blogspot.com/2018/03/jordan-peterson-as-conservative-cats.html

Evangelicals can be curiously sympathetic to Peterson and I've already suggested this is because Peterson can serve as a cat's paw for some of the interests and aims of Anglo-American social conservatives with an evangelical set of convictions (not the blue-state types of evangelicals, obviously, but it's just as obvious to me that the difference is of what "kind" of transformational Social Gospel is meant to be implemented rather than a difference about whether or not a transformational and ultimately triumphalist Social Gospel is the guiding "worldview").

So, over at Slate ...
https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/06/jordan-peterson-brings-the-dark-web-to-aspen.html

as to the question of quite literally who is buying what Peterson is selling the answer has become somewhat clear, just as it has become clear who isn't buying it what Peterson is selling.  I've picked up the PDF of Maps of Meaning and I only started into it and it might take a while to finish. Since my interests are more in the arts and arts criticism and theory angle than variations of self-help Peterson's on the backest of the back burners.  I'm going to try to jump into Joseph Campbell more thoroughly in a bit, I think.  And ...

I finished Aesthetic Theory and Philosophy of New Music in the last month so I admit that for my interests Adorno is far more germane than Peterson.  At this point my belief is that any kid in college who thinks he or she wants to get into critical theory needs to go and actually read Adorno to understand that if they plan to embrace critical theory as a healthy and honest alternative to white cisgender heteropatriarchal chauvinistic racist authoritarianism that reading even one book by Adorno should disabuse them of such an illusion, however appealing that illusion might seem to be.  If an arch Marxist-Leninist of the old left like Adorno could write the racist and elitist screed "On jazz" there's no reason to think that to be on the left is to not traffic in elitism or racism, even if in Adorno's case I would say my impression has been that he was virulently anti-Slav more than he was particularly against African or African American musicians.  Still, the point about the problem of the white left and right scapegoating each other for a shared legacy of racism would be most easily underlined if you cross reference someone like Adorno with someone like Dabney. 

All that is to say that for those who are buying what Peterson is selling it's clear they want to buy in.  After so many years at Mars Hill the reasons people buy in as they understand them should not be confused with the reason you think they are buying in. That's the kind of mistake that's made so habitually and systemically by contributors to Slate I'd write about that but I don't feel like it. 

Dahlia Lithwick on the death of America at Slate reminds me of Friedersdorf's pleas to tyrant-proof the executive office before it was too late in 2016

 
 
Because countries are not people, it’s tricky to translate whatever “loving one’s country” means—it’s quite abstract—into the language of heartbreak. It sounds melodramatic. What can heartbreak mean as a civic matter? And yet it is what I feel.
 
A corrupt but weak president—this has been my comfort, his weakness—has been given a gift that will make him strong. After upholding the travel ban, weakening labor unions, and allowing crisis pregnancy centers to misrepresent themselves to women seeking help, Justice Anthony Kennedy announced he was retiring before the midterm elections. That decision empowers a reality-television star who lost the popular vote by millions to reform the Supreme Court for at least a generation—a court that rather than rebut his claim to power has affirmed it. In his own branch, he asked James Comey for a loyalty oath and lamented not getting one from Jeff Sessions, whom he has repeatedly condemned for recusing himself in the Russia investigation, saying he never would have hired him as attorney general had he known. There is every reason to think he will do the same for a Supreme Court nominee. When Neil Gorsuch—who took the seat Mitch McConnell withheld from Merrick Garland—seemed to distance himself from the man who offered him the robes, Donald Trump reportedly considered pulling the nomination. Trump has said he will pardon himself if he needs to, a controversial stance that would likely need approval from the high court. Now he has been given a way to assure it. He holds the power over the person who can rubber-stamp him into invulnerability.
 
The capitulation of two branches of government to a terrifying third, elected by a minority, is not how our government was envisioned. That is frightening. It is also, depending on the America you want to live in, painful.
 
...
 
There is, no doubt, a parlance and a jargon within which it's possible to describe Trump as a weak president in the sense that he has advisors who can influence him, let's say. But if that's the case then that practical in-industry jargon for "weak" refers to "how" the power gets wielded and less to the nature of the power inherent in the office.
 
I am not convinced that what transpired in 2016 is as simple as the assertion that Russia hacked our election.  Even if that did happen at some level I don't see how the gerrymandering the GOP did in the wake of their defeats during the Obama years wasn't a more salient variable.  What did the DNC do to avert that?  Not that I really have any regard for the DNC, either. 
 
But the lamentation that the "real" America is gone because Republicans seems to ring hollow.  Living in Seattle I can hardly forget the vitriolic triumphalism of The Urban Archipelago.  The contempt shown in that editorial for anyone regarded as red-state flyover country or even just anyone who was not living in an urban center was clear enough.  There's another way to translate that contempt, as a contempt for democratic processes that do not automatically and inherently favor urban centers over against all the stereotypically uneducated redneck white hick Republican voters without college degrees who shouldn't be allowed to have any input in the democratic process because democracy isn't for them, really, it's for people who understand the potential fate of the world and the obligation genuine humanity has to make that world a better place.
 
So as I've been watching American politics over the last twenty years it seems the only real debate we're ultimately having is not about whether or not we're going to get ourselves a police state but merely about whether it's a red or blue code of conduct.  The debate isn't really about whether or not the executive branch should have a mind-bendingly large amount of power over a web of surveillance tools and forces to kill, it's over what the intra-American allegiance is going to be.  To put it more starkly, Americans are really just debating whether they think we should have a red-state police state or a blue-state police state and not whether or not the police state itself is what is wanted by the kinds of people who write about the subject.
 
Well, maybe not entirely .. since ... Conor Friedersdorf wrote a couple of times that we needed to tyrant-proof the executive office regardless of who was going to win the job title in 2016.
 
May 23, 2016
 
Wake up, establishment centrists: Donald Trump is coming!

After the Vietnam War and Watergate and the spying scandals uncovered by the Church Committee and the Nixon Administration cronies who nearly firebombed the Brookings Institution, Americans were briefly inclined to rein in executive power—a rebuke to Richard Nixon’s claim that “if the president does it, that means it’s not illegal.” Powerful committees were created to oversee misconduct-prone spy agencies. The War Powers Resolution revived a legislative check on warmaking. “In 34 years,” Vice President Dick Cheney would lament to ABC News in a January 2002 interview, “I have repeatedly seen an erosion of the powers and the ability of the president of the United States to do his job. I feel an obligation... to pass on our offices in better shape than we found them to our successors."

The Bush Administration aggressively moved to expand executive power, drawing on the dubious legal maneuvering of David Addington, John Yoo, and their enablers. Starting in 2005, the junior senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, would repeatedly insist that Bush’s assertions of executive power violated the Constitution. Nonetheless, Obama inherited a newly powerful executive branch, just as Cheney had hoped. And rather than dismantle it, Obama spent two terms lending the imprimatur of centrist, establishment bipartisanship to Cheney’s vision.  [emphasis added] 
Now, Donald Trump is coming.

Civil libertarians have long warned the partisans who trusted Bush and Obama, and the establishment centrists who couldn’t imagine anyone in the White House besides an Al Gore or John Kerry or John McCain or Mitt Romney, that they were underestimating both the seriousness of civil liberties abuses under Bush and Obama and the likelihood of even less responsible leaders wreaking havoc in the White House. [emphases added]
Three years ago, in “All the Infrastructure a Tyrant Would Need, Courtesy of Bush and Obama,” I warned that “more and more, we're counting on having angels in office and making ourselves vulnerable to devils,” and that come January, 2017, an unknown person would enter the Oval Office and inherit all of these precedents:
  • The president can order American citizens killed in secret.
  • The president can detain prisoners indefinitely without charges or trial.
  • The president can order drone strikes at will in countries against which no war has been declared.
  • The president can start a torture program with impunity.
  • The president can conduct warrantless surveillance on tens of millions of Americans.
Now, Donald Trump is coming. And many establishment centrists are professing alarm. There is nothing more establishment than Robert Kagan, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, writing an op-ed in the Washington Post. He begins by observing that if Trump wins, his coalition will include tens of millions of Americans.
...
 
 
An op-ed in Tuesday’s New York Times points out that, thanks to precedents set by President Obama, “whoever prevails in November will inherit a sweeping power to use lethal force against suspected terrorists and militants, including Americans.”
Let me put things more starkly: Under current precedent, the commander in chief can give a secret order to kill an American citizen with a drone strike without charges or trial.
 
...
But to go by what writers at Slate have tended to have to say over the last decade the very idea that a blue state executive branch could be as tyrannical as a red state executive branch (let alone more, though in obviously different ways) was not on the table.

Buzzfeed "Yelp, The Red Hen, And How All Tech Platforms Are Now Pawns In The Culture War "



 
Over on Trip Advisor, the backlash was so intense that the site chose to temporarily freeze reviews for the restaurant. On Twitter, the Red Hen — as well as other DC-area restaurants with the same name — are weathering a wave of angry, trolling tweets from conservatives, including the president himself. A small subset of conspiracy theorists have even begun to bandy about reckless, unsubstantiated Pizzagate-style claims that the restaurant is run, in part, by a sex-offender, and they've posted that person’s personal information on Twitter.


None of this behavior is unusual in 2018. Just last week, LinkedIn, Medium, and the programmers' social network GitHub were embroiled in an online campaign to post the personal information of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in response to the Trump administration’s "zero tolerance" child separation policy at the border. Similarly, Twitter found itself in the position of censoring links to a national news organization after the publication posted the private phone number of White House adviser, Stephen Miller — the reported architect of the zero tolerance policy.

Though the brigading of review sites and doxxing behavior isn’t exactly new, the speed and coordination is; one consequence of a never-ending information war is that everyone is already well versed in their specific roles. And across the internet, it appears that technology platforms, both big and small, must grapple with the reality that they are now powerful instruments in an increasingly toxic political and cultural battle. After years attempting to dodge notions of bias at all costs, Silicon Valley’s tech platforms are up against a painful reality: They need to expect and prepare for the armies of the culture war and all the uncomfortable policing that inevitably follows.

 
We live in an era in which social media permits horizontal propaganda to be created at will and distributed as quickly as attentionally possible, using the term attention" in the most slipshod possible sense.  It's less important that the situation described be true than to feel true and this can be applicable to those who sympathies could be red or blue.  We can now agitate and disseminate polemics through the internet that would take much longer in earlier deacdes by whisper networks and word of mouth. 
 
If the narrative you live by is red or blue than neighborly respect and decency are not really on the table, are they?  Sure, you can tell yourself that you're neighborly and think the best of people in the abstract but if your blood boils at what "those" people do whether Republican or Democrat and there's no polemic too scabrous to publish or retweet or link to then you're part of that problem, too.  I am afraid I am no less a pessimist about politics now than I was about eighteen years ago.  Back when the options were Bush and Gore it seemed this was the level with which we were stuck.  It may be local things can change but at a national or transnational level it seems like things have been bought and paid for already. 
 
In keeping with the theme for a moment noted in another post about pothole removal apps and the homeless, tech utopians need to smell the coffee about how technology gets used.  Cult formation is what culture formation is, cult formation is the baseline of human socialization.  By only deploying a term like "cult" for the social cohesion processes around communities with ideals we distrust we forget that why we call it a "cult" is because the culture-forming dynamics for "them" can rival the cohesion we would like to see for "us". 
 
If, for instance, former Mars Hill people want to fit into the Seattle milieu and champion the right causes now is not really the time for them to go all in for blue if they thought Mark was red.  That's just changing cultic allegiance without addressing the cultic heart.  If you want to break free of the cultish dynamics of a place like Mars Hill that isn't likely to come about with just changing which flag you're waving.  The flag-waving part is itself the problem.  If this world is not our home and we are ambassadors and exiles in eschatological terms then that should inform how we engage or embrace movements seeking power ... if we do that. 
 
Mars Hill was a church culture dominated by a utopian embrace of technology as a mode of socialization.  So when the shunnings happened it was just a localized example of a dynamic some journalists are trying to find a way to describe as it emerges in other contexts.  What happened at Mars Hill can happen about The Red Hen, for instance.  It would be a mistake to think that any team is immune to such a set of dynamics merely by dint of formal allegiance. 

Atlantic feature on how app used to identify and fix potholes in Seattle area has been re-employed to find and remove homeless camp sites

In an age in which people imagine the power of social media can be employed to catalyze social and political change it can be easy to forget (generally willfully) that the technique of such social change is not easily confined to intended use.  The joke of Rule 34 could attest to that on the internet at a simple level all by itself.
 
But more recently, there's an article that discusses how an app designed to aid civic service for transportation infrastructure can be redeployed as a surveillance aid to find and remove homeless encampments in Seattle. 
 
Along the way there are a few comments about racism in law enforcement in the Seattle area.  It's sometimes difficult to appreciate how difficult it is for people in the Puget Sound area to appreciate that there is a white supremacist legacy throughout the PNW.  The election of Trump did not magically produce this strand of racist thought but was taken as a catalyst for it to reveal itself.  Anyone who has actually lived in the PNW for twenty or more years and has had any education at all about it knows that blacks were not allowed to have the full rights of citizenship in Oregon despite slavery being formally illegal.  That strange and terrible double bind may speak of a larger paradoxical legacy of some of the bluest of blue states, a legacy of being against slavery while not exactly being for people of color in meaningful ways.
 
 
 
Encampments like the one in Ravenna Woods are reported to the city regularly. The City of Seattle even offers an app to make the process easier. The Find It, Fix It app was originally designed to allow community members to report potholes, dumping, signal issues, and other neighborhood problems. But the app has warped into a powerful instrument for high-tech community patrolling, enabling individuals to report abandoned vehicles and homeless encampments.
 
The dearth of affordable housing is a major cause of homelessness here, where a tech boom led by Amazon has helped push home prices up by 19 percent a year. But homelessness also disproportionately impacts people of color. Twenty-seven percent of King County’s homeless population is black, yet black residents only make up 6 percent of the county’s overall population. This year, 14 percent of the people who died as a result of living outside in King County were black. These figures make Seattle’s approach to homelessness an issue of race as much as affordability. That connects an app-based “solution” to the problem of homelessness to a dark history of American self-policing, in which public order is delivered at the cost of the most vulnerable.
 
It has been almost 1,000 days since Seattle declared a state of emergency around homelessness, but a recent study showed that Seattle’s homelessness crisis is only getting worse. “This is the sixth time we’ve been swept,” Sean, a longtime resident of Ravenna Woods, told me. “Many of our friends have moved on to other, sometimes dangerous, places because they can’t be here.” A January count of homeless individuals in King County, home to over 2 million people, reported 12,112 residents identifying as homeless, 6,320 of whom lived unsheltered. This ranks King County’s homeless crisis third worst in the country by some measures.
 
August Drake-Ericson, a program manager for the Seattle Homeless Encampment Response team, shared during an encampment-removal review meeting that Find It, Fix It was the primary source of complaints regarding unauthorized encampments and requests for removal. The total number of complaints received last year was 12,500, an average of 34 a day. Between February and April of this year, 1,444 unique complaints of unauthorized encampments were submitted.
 
“The volume of complaints sent through the app does not necessarily impact how removals are prioritized, though,” explains Will Lemke, the director of communications for the Seattle Homelessness Response team. Instead, “the complaints sent through the app can help identify a new encampment for the city,” he says. At this time, the city is not interested in preventing people from using the app to report homeless encampments. For its part, the city says the encampment was moved onto a priority list in April after police arrested one of its residents on charges of being a felon in illegal possession of firearm ammunition.
 
According to the county’s homeless-services agency, King County shelter beds regularly fill to 90-percent capacity. Their one-night count conducted in January of this year shows that there is a current shelter population of 3,585. If that figure represents a 90-percent capacity, it would mean almost 400 more beds sit empty most days.
 
 
Controversial policies pursued under that name have popped up all around the country. NYPD stop-and-frisk incidents overwhelmingly target African American or Latino individuals, most of whom are innocent, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union. Recently, Yale University campus police interrogated a black graduate student, Lolade Siyonbola, after responding to a call made by another student who did not recognize Siyonbola when she fell asleep in a dormitory common room. In Oakland, a similar scenario played out when a white woman called the cops on a group of black people having a cookout. Seattle’s Find it, Fix it app might not look like a race-driven self-policing apparatus, but it helps promulgate similar outcomes.
 
Race has long served as a hidden rationale for policing in America. In the South, formal police forces trace their origins to slave patrols used to control and contain black people. After the Civil War, convict-leasing systems were used to manage former slaves and exploit their labor. Vagrancy laws recast former black slaves as vagrants in order to control or eject them from places they were deemed undesirable. African Americans aren’t alone in such targeting, either. In Hawaii, vagrancy laws were used to enforce colonial order, coercing native Hawaiians to work on the plantations. Today, anti-homeless laws in Hawaii perpetuate that tradition, even as the state’s homelessness numbers soar.
 
Maybe some folks recall a report from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice
 
...
The five states or jurisdictions where a person is most likely to be killed by law enforcement are New Mexico, Nevada, District of Columbia, Oregon, and Maryland. California ranks sixth from the top. Alabama, North Carolina, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and New York are the safest (or, perhaps, the worst at reporting).
...
The racial group most likely to be killed by law enforcement is Native Americans, followed by African Americans, Latinos, Whites, and Asian Americans.

Native Americans, 0.8 percent of the population, comprise 1.9 percent of police killings. African Americans, 13 percent of the population, are victims in 26 percent of police shootings. Law enforcement kills African Americans at 2.8 times the rate of white non-Latinos, and 4.3 times the rate of Asians.
...
 
As blue as Oregon and Washington can look on the map in electoral college terms it would be a mistake to think there's no legacy of racism, specifically white supremacist racism, in these parts.  While Black Lives Matter activism toward police reform can have any number of salutary aims if the guiding narrative is that police brutality is specifically white against black violence then there's a risk that the Native American populations who, relative to their population sizes, may still be most likely to get killed by law enforcement yet be mainly ignored in rhetorical narratives about race relations--there may just not be enough Native Americans to matter to people who may be caught up in being for or against the narratives and rhetoric of a movement like Black Lives Matter.  My concern about an era of Coatesian style appeals to reparations is that probably without intending to a writer like Coates casts the dynamic of white and black in a way that excludes other skin colors by way of public discussion. 
 
A century ago some of the most progressive minds around were not exactly benevolent in their thinking toward Native Americans.  One of the things I've grown very jaded and skeptical about in the last twenty years is the reliability with which whites with progressive and reactionary tendencies prefer to scapegoat each other entirely for a shared racist legacy.  It doesn't mean I want the Pacific Northwest Indian slavery system to come back, it just means that I don't think that contemporary partisans of red and blue among white people have a compelling reason to keep up the charade in which their respective team is somehow exempt from a legacy or racism or, per John McWhorter, that there's really a way to "atone" for that legacy of racism by way of lighting a votive candle to signal virtue.  The traditional Christian ethical teaching of loving your neighbor as yourself and taking the parable of the Good Samaritan as a warning that you don't get to decide who your neighbor isn't should be sufficient for those who call themselves Christian to have some understanding that racism is a sinful disposition for the heart to embrace.
 
The more people in the West try to embrace some kind of neo-pagan alternative the more folks may discover that that as popular in a certain European country for a while, too.  Adorno wrote that the mythology of Judeo-Christian religion was perhaps an onerous mythology but that the neo-pagan alternative being embraced by people in Germany was far, far more dangerous. 
 
Some of the life-path options advocated for by people who sincerely (I trust) want to remedy the legacy of racism may tun out to be no solution to the problem. 
 
That an app for fixing potholes in a city is used to sniff out and remove homeless encampments might be another possibly teachable instance in which what you think you're designing tech for and how it actually gets used may not coincide.  If you put your faith in the technique itself rather than what people will use the technique for ... .