Categories
da Data collection and surveillance companies Privacy Sea of Irrationality Social media Surveillance companies Surveillance state

Beyond Orwellian: Facebook glasses that record video and sound

Updated September 16, 2021

See,

1) Chris Velazco, “Facebook’s ‘smart’ glasses put cameras on your face. Everyone around you should be aware; These glasses are meant to create content, but they raise privacy concerns,” Washington Post, September 9, 2021 (12:00 p.m. EDT).

2) Farhad Manjoo, “Apple and Facebook Are Coming for Your Face Next,” Washington Post, September 16, 2021.

The relentless advance of technology is taking us far beond George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, and now threatens to obliterate all traces of our historical consciousness and the core values of our civilization.

A friend remarked yesterday, “With Facebook, human consciousness and rational argument are over.”

The Greeks worried that demogogues would mobilize  the people to overthrow democratic institutions and establish dictatorships or “tyrannies”.

They could not imagine, however, that tyrannies might be ushered in by relentless advances in science and technology, and that in the 21st century the modern tyrants would be those who gained control of companies that mastered the collection and control of information, and that even these modern tyrants would be subject to forces they had unleashed but could not control.

Allowed to grow and prosper outside the realm of government regulation, giant companies such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon grew and acquired increasing political influence over the government.

One can easily imagine the kind of totalitarian government which technology could make possible. One look no farther than China to see how far this process has already advanced.

In the 2006 German film Das Leben der Anderen (“The Life of Others”), one can already see the stultifying effect of the use of (primitive) technology to monitor the lives of independent-minded people, much less opponents of an authoritarian regime. The film traces the kife of a writer and his girlfriend in East Berlin from 1984-1991.

The film is important viewing because unlike Nineteen Eighty-Four, it is based on observed reality.

30 years of technological advances have made even this chilling film seem anachronistic.

With new tools such as the Pegasus software, which has enabled individuals and states to tap into the phones of anyone, even foreign heads of state, massive invasions of privacy by e.g., Google maps, have become routine and are routinely accepted by the population.

See,

1) Rebecca Klapper, “Israel Promises to Investigate Group Accused of Selling Pegasus Spyware to Governments,” NEWSWEEK, September 1, 2021.

Google’s geo-tracking through cell phone records now provides law enforcement (with a warrant))–and who knows who else–detailed information on individuals’ movements at every hour of night and day.

2) Associated Press, “Google records your location even when you tell it not to; Some services on Android and iPhone automatically store your movements even after you pause the ‘location history’ setting,” The Guardian, August 13, 2018
(19.30 BST).

3) Tony Webster, “How did the police know you were near a crime scene? Google told them,” MPR News, February 7, 2019 (9:10 p.m.).

4) Jana Winter, “HOW LAW ENFORCEMENT CAN USE GOOGLE TIMELINE TO TRACK YOUR EVERY MOVE; The recent expansion of Google’s Timeline feature can provide investigators unprecedented access to users’ location history data, allowing them in many cases to track a person’s every move over the course of years,” The Intercept, November 6, 2015(6:53 a.m.).

This situation has developed because the big information collection companies have acquired great political clout in Washington.

The future of privacy in the United States now depends on whether citizens and their representatives in Congress are able to impose strong government regulations on these companies. This may or may not be possible.

The ultimate safeguard of privacy in the 21st century may be the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union. The Commission, particularly with its 2016 General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), has so far proven to be much more resistent to the political influences of the big data collection companies than has the government of the United States.

The evolution of technology is advancing at a breakneck pace, while the political power of companies like Google and Facebook continues to grow along with their astronomical earnings.

To understand the interplay of the forces at work, we may gain some insight from fiction, particularly Dave Eggers’ 2014 novel, The Circle. However, a lot has changed since 2014. We can look forward to Eggers’ current understanding of the interplay of these forces in his forthcoming novel, The Every, scheduled for release on November 16, 2021.

One can only hope that electronic and other mechanisms for surveillance self-defense will be developed and marketed in easy-to-use form. The ptoblem here is that Google, Facebook, Amazon and other data collection companies have so much cash that they can buy out any  company that might pose a threat to their surveillance-based business model.

About the only hope for developing mechanisms of  self-defense against surveillance companies and the surveillance state (e.g., China) would be for a wealthy millionaire or billionaire to fund a private company to develop and market such mechanisms.

The Spirit of Voltaire

Categories
Empathy

Too many catastrophes: The end of empathy?

See,

Jacob Stern, “All These Simultaneous Disasters Are Messing With Our Brains; The earthquakes and wildfires and wars keep piling up. When does our empathy run out?,” The Atlantic, August 22, 2021 (8:00 a.m. ET).

Jacob Stern in The Atlantic recounts the story of a gathering psychologist Steven Taylor was at where the following occurred:

Someone mentioned the sickening footage of desperate Afghans clinging to American military aircraft as they departed. Then one man made a remark that caught Taylor off guard: The videos, he said, were funny. Others agreed.

This set Taylor thinking. Taylor, who studies disaster psychology at the University of British Columbia,”knows how intense, sustained stress can desensitize the mind.”

What most concerned him about the incident was what it suggested about the pandemic’s effects on our experience of other disasters and, more broadly, our ability—or inability—to empathize.

The article goes on to discuss the issue with some references to research findings.

The problem is real, and huge.

One wonders how learning to look away from the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria, after the Arab Spring began in that country in 2011, and in particular after Barack Obama cut off support for resistance fighters in 2012, has affected the ability of Americans and others to feel empathy toward and compassion for human rights and war victims in foreign countries.

Close observers of foreign policy note that empathy for foreign victims of atrocities and human rights abuses began to wane around this time. There was little outcry, certainly from the United States, when in 2015 Russia joined the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity on a massive scale.

Around the world, the outcry of governments and human rights supporters seemed to wane in the face of atrocities against the Rohingya people in Miranmar, the Uigurs in Xinjiang Province in China, and elsewhere.

With the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, individuals’ reserves of empathy were further drained. After an initial period of concern about the impact of the pandemic on people in other countries, attention soon returned to how the pandemic was progressing and being managed in one’s own country.

In the United States, the politicization of the pandemic and measures to control it, such as masks, social distancing, limitations on public gatherings, and more recently vaccinations, has consumed television viewers’ attention. The early scenes of gruesome deaths in hospitals as the numbers piled up soon became routine, and less worthy of media attention–perhaps itself a very rough barometer of public empathy.

Following President Biden’s announcement in March 2020 of his decision to withdraw all forces from Afghanistan, there was little outcry beyond foreign policy and specialists’ circles about the future atrocities and humanitarian crisis the decision necessarily foreshadowed.

That is, until the images of the actual catastrophe began to hit TV screens and news of Taliban atrocities began to filter out.

Undoubtedly there are people who, drained by relentless news of fires and floods and other disasters, have little empathy left for victims of war and human rights violations in Afghanistan, a country on the other side of the world.

The fact that the U.S. is largely responsible for the collapse of the government and Afghan army forces may be a factor in the desire to look away.

The American agreement by Donald Trump to a unilateral surrender, Biden’s decision to implement it in a precipitous and bungled manner, blaming the inevitable psychological impact on Afghan morale on a lack or leadership and a will to fight, added shame to the mix. Americans had an additional reason to look away.

Getting back to the question of whether our capacity for empathy has been drained away, The Atlantic’s Jack Stern closes on a slightly optimistic note. Qoting Steven Taylor, he writes:

People “are just burned out,” Taylor said. “They’ve had enough atrocity and stress for the time being, and they just don’t want to hear any more of that.” He doesn’t think the people he encountered last week are unique. “My concern,” he said, “is that many people are just tuning this stuff out.” If that is the case, if fatigue is in fact swamping empathy, it would be a darkly ironic outcome: the disaster survivors more vulnerable than ever to trauma, the onlookers less willing than ever to help.

Stern, however, finds a source of optimism in the work of Kang Lee:

In his research on post-disaster empathy, Kang Lee, a developmental neuroscientist at the University of Toronto, has found that children as young as 9 can become more generous in the aftermath of disasters. The caveat, he says, is that most studies in the area have focused on short-term disasters with well-defined beginnings and ends, such as earthquakes. Few, if any, look at long, drawn-out disasters, like pandemics. “This,” he says, “is very new to psychologists.”

Lee, notwithstanding his caveats and the limitations of his research, concludes on a positive note,

(Lee) for one, does not much worry about more extreme coldheartedness calcifying into the norm. In his research, he has found disasters’ effects on empathy to be short-lived. If he’s right, then the pandemic is unlikely to change us, at least in this particular way. We will neither be more inured nor more attuned to the suffering of others. And that is both very reassuring and not reassuring at all.

That seems to be a slender reed to hang one’s hopes on, at least with respect to empathy for victims of war, atrocities, and human rights victims in countries like Afghanistan.

The fundamental question of whether our capacity for empathy is diminishing remains, and the answers are not clear.

Upon those answers the future of the human rights movement, and indeed international law probating war crimes and crimes against humanity, may ultimately depend.

Spirit of Voltaire

Categories
Identity Politics Race racial equality of opportunity racial equity of results

Equity versus Equal Opportinity

See,

George F. Will, “Attacking ‘merit’ in the name of ‘equity’ is a prescription for mediocrity,” Wahington Post, June 25, 2021 (8:00 a.Opportunity. EDT).

Equity versus Equality of –with the full text and audio of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech on Ugust 28, 1963

In a not so subtle shift, large segments of the Democratic Party appear to back a change in racial  policy objectives from “equality of opportunity” to “equity” or equality in results.

This shift has led to developments such as the declaration by the new head of NBC news that 50% of new hires would be from minority groups.

Partly as a result of the national outcry over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the mass demonstrations which followed, including the prominent participation of the Black Lives Matter movement, this shift toward “equity” instead of “equality of opportunity” appears to be reflected in the over-representation of African-Americans in the cable news media, including not only hosts but guests and participants in news discussion programs.

With African-Americans representing only 16% of the national population, one would be hard-pressed to justify the over-representation of African-Americans in the news media on the basis of selection of hosts snd guests on merit.

A Harvard philosophy professor, Michael Sandel, has now published a book (The Tyranny of Merit, September 2020) strongly criticizing the model of excellence or merit upon which the equal opportunity principle, embodied in federal law and the Constitution, has been based, particularly since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1965.

Sandell, writing from the leafy and privileged enclave of excellence represented by Harvard and Cambridge, Massachusetts, has launched what is, in essence, an attack on the goals of excellence and the distribution of power and social rewards on the basis of merit.

You have to ask yoursel how much experience Sandell has had living or working in countries which don’t aspire to have a government and institutions based on meritocracy and the pursuit of excellence.  We have just had a glimpse for the last four years, under the presidency of Donald Trump,  of what that kind of government might look like.

In other countries, like Afghanistan, we have seen the incoherent policies that result in a country governed not by meritocracy, but by clan rivalries and corruption.

The problem is that if excellence and merit are not the standards used to select officials in government and employees in business, what are the standards that will be used?

If race is used as a criterion for selection, in allocating not opportunities but results, how long will it be before those from other races not so favored will rise up in rebellion? What assurance do we have that their rebellion will be constrained by the Constitution and the rule of law?

Maybe it is not the pursuit of excellence or meritocracy per se that is responsible for the racial and social inequities thar exist in society, but a combination of historical, economic, cultural and social forces that have produced the complex reality in which we currently live.

Viewed from this broader perspective, Sandell’s analysis may be unduly reductionistic, the product of too much theory and philosophy and insufficient attention to the concrete realities in which people actually live.

Now, George F. Will, a highly respected and insightful conservative columnist for the Washington Post, has written a powerful critique of Sandel’s book and the whole attack on excellence–as an overriding policy goal for society and universities to follow in allocating not only opportunities but also results, i.e., jobs, power, and other social rewards.

Democrats would do well to listen carefully to Will’s arguments.

For the current empasis in “equity” in the media, including the great over-representation of African-Americans in TV advertising, is likely to have a negative impact on the perceptions and beliefs of white and other citizens and voters who may see, rightly, that their own sons and daughters are being denied the “equality of opportunity” to which under the law and the Constitution, they ought to be entitled.

Democrats and progressives, if they want to avoid election results that would put Trump’s supporters in control of the House and the Senate, if not the presidency, would do well to stick with the vision of racial equality ariculated by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his “I have a dream” speech in 1963, when he said,

SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING

Dr. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. (Civil Rights Leader): Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later…

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: …the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men – yes, black men as well as white men – would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked insufficient funds.

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.

SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER

Dr. KING: We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: We have also come to his hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time…

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: …to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. 1963 is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual.

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny.

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, when will you be satisfied? We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: for whites only.

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our Northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: I have a dream that one day down in Alabama with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right down in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today.

SOUNDBITE OF CHEERS AND APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning: My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims’ pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California. But not only that, let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last.

SOUNDBITE OF CHEERS AND APPLAUSE

ROBERTS: That is, of course, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivering his iconic speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28th, 1963.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

–I Have A Dream’ Speech, In Its Entirety
January 18, 20101:00 PM ET
Heard on Talk of the Nation
With link to audi recording

Categories
Reading and Thinking

Gov. Cuomo–Democracy and rule of law, or cancel culture: We must choose

UPDATE:

The Report of the Attorney General of New York found that the allegations of sexual misconduct against Gov. Cuomo were substantiated. This led to the beginnings of an impeachment effort in the New York Assembly, which in turn caused Gov. Cuomo to resign.

This was all done in accordance with due process of law. The article below is not a defense of Governor Cuomo’s actions, but rather a defense of the principle of due process of law. The arguments against “cancel culture” remain valid.

As stated in the article,

“If misconduct is found to have occurred, sanctions proportionate to the offense should be considered. In the case of Gov. Cuomo, for example, impeachment, censure, and defeat at the ballot box would be appropriate remedies if he is found to be guilty as charged. Moreover, the individuals making the accusations might sue him, or bring actions against him and his administration under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act.”

In the end, the pressures of the “cancel culture” mob were resisted, and due process was followed. That is as it should be.

Reprinted with permission from Absurdarama, March 15, 2021.

The current massive pressure on Gov. Andrew Cuomo illustrates the dire situation in which our culture and our country find themselves.

We have a Constitution and state constitutions and laws that establish how public officials should be selected, and removed. Under the U.S. and state constitutions, they are to be selected by free elections, for a fixed term of years. Those same constitutions and laws provide for how they may be removed, by impeachment or, in some states like California, by recall referendum.

Ours is not a parliamentary system, as in the United Kingdom, where a prime minister may be removed simply by losing a vote of confidence in, e.g., the House of Commons. Many believe our system is superior because it guarantees greater stability in government.

There is another way an elected leader may be removed from office, and that is if he or she is convicted of a crime and is sentenced to prison.

The current campaign to force Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign may lead to his impeachment, but is not likely to lead to his conviction and imprisonment for a crime.

Instead, he is the latest object of a phenomenon in the United States, and some other places, which seeks to bypass legal and constitutional processes to achieve the immediate objective of a frenzied mob, often made possible or strengthened through the internet and social media. Non-public and dark forces may be behind some of these campaigns.

In the United States, at least three different “mobs” have contributed to what is often termed “cancel culture”, the abuse of power to achieve goals without due process and without following legally-established procedures for determining the truth of allegations, and determining appropriate and proportionate sanctions for crimes or infractions that may be found to have occurred.

Due process and the rule of law allow anyone accused of a crime the right to confront witnesses (certain exceptions in sexual abuse cases may exist in some jurisdictions) and put on his or her witnesses to help ascertain the truth of an allegation, the right of the accused to speak in his or her defense before a lawfully-constituted body, and to enjoy several other rights.

In criminal matters, perhaps the most important defendant’s right is the presumption of innocence, until such time as the defendant may be convicted of an alleged crime.

A second is the constitutional protection against prosecution under any ex post facto laws, that is, one may not be prosecuted for actions or relationships that were not illegal before passage of a subsequent law.

A third protection is provided for, in both civil and criminal matters, through statutes of limitations. In criminal matters, these statutes seek to protect defendants against claims or allegations that are too old for reliable witness testimony to be given. Human memories are notoriously unreliable. These statutes require allegations and charges to be brought before the court while memories of witnesses, both for and against the defendant, are still fresh and not distorted by the passage of time.

These defendant’s rights are all based on the fundamental premise that illegal conduct must be specifically defined, as well as the potential penalties to which a defendant may be condemned if found guilty.

The rising crescendo of demands that Gov. Cuomo resign is directly related to the development of so-called “cancel culture” in the United States.

Do not heed pronouncements such as one heard on TV this morning: “I believe in due process, but Gov. Cuomo should resign, and should have already resigned some time ago.” The contradiction in this statement is so glaring that one is simply amazed by the lack of analytical self-awareness of the speaker.

This “cancel culture” is a mob culture, which appears to be the product of a combination of mob cultures that have developed, usually in conjunction with mobilization efforts facilitated by social media and the internet.

There are at least three components of this mob-action cancel culture.

The first has been the “Me-Too Movement”, whereby men have been denounced and forced to resign on the basis of an accumulation of allegations of “sexual misconduct”. In the process, the critical distinction between predatory sexual conduct–the coercion of a woman by a man to engage in sexual intercourse or other sexual conduct, on the one hand, and sexually inappropriate speech or other conduct (measured by contemporary standards), such as touching or verbal comments, on the other, has frequently been lost.

In particular, elements of what has become known as a sexually hostile workplace (civilly prohibited under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act) have become conflated with actions such as sexual coercion by a superior of a woman under a man’s authority.

There has also been a conflation of the penalties the mob seeks to impose.

The case of Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota) is quite instructive on this point. Essentially, he was subjected to extreme pressures to resign by the “Me-Too” Movement, led by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), because he engaged in part of a skit both he and the alleged victim had performed before USO audiences on previous occasions. Before becoming a Senator, Franken was a comedian. He obviously was clowning around. Perhaps inappropriately, as the alleged victim was asleep.

Ceding to these pressures, and probably those on his family in particular, Sen. Al Franken resigned. As a result, the Democrats lost one of their best U.S. Senators, who had been caustic in his criticism of Donald Trump.

Garrison Keillor, former host of “Prairie Home Companion” for decades on NPR, and one of America’s most beloved radio personalities, wrote an Op-ed column in the Washington Post defending Franken. The “Me-Too” movement quickly went after him, and Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) promptly fired him, without any semblance of due process. They later tried to obscure this fact, but their efforts didn’t pass “the smell test”. Previous columns in the Post by Keillor had provided devastating critiques of Trump.

A second component of the mob culture has been the development of the anti-racist mob, which has demanded that statues be removed, university schools and buildings be renamed, people be fired, and anything they perceive as racist be immediately changed. The mob aspect is related to the demand for immediate action, outside of legal processes. Recently they succeeded in seuring of the firing of the lead reporter on Covid-19 for the New York Times, who had been with the newspaper since the mid-1970’s.

A third component of the “cancel culture” mob that has come into being has been the development of the censorship mob. This mob, whose origins lie in universities and colleges, gets excised over speech or books that they consider politically incorrect. Recent examples include the decision by the publishers of the Dr. Seuss books to stop publication of six books because they allegedly contained racist stereotypes, such as a drawing of a Chinese man with horizontal brush strokes for the eyes. Amazon has just announced that it will not sell books that deal with reprogramming LGTBQ persons.

What it all amounts to is censorship.

See,

Ryan T. Anderson, “Amazon Won’t Let You Read My Book; An enterprising state attorney general might want to look into why it was withdrawn from sale now,” Wall Street Journal, >March 16, 202 1(6:40 pm ET).

This is not the occasion to examine in greater detail the issues related to the anti- racist mob and the censorship mob phenomena.

Often forgotten when a mob is clamoring for immediate action is the fact that we have a system of constitutions and laws that are set up and designed to resolve such disputes.

Officials are elected for fixed terms. They should not be hounded from office because of a crescendo of allegations which, unexamined in the proper legal setting and proceeding, in essence amount to mob action.

Legal processes should be observed.

The decisions of voters should be respected.

Allegations should be fully vetted by appropriate authorities and institutions.

If misconduct is found to have occurred, sanctions proportionate to the offense should be considered. In the case of Gov. Cuomo, for example, impeachment, censure, and defeat at the ballot box would be appropriate remedies if he is found to be guilty as charged. Moreover, the individuals making the accusations might sue him, or bring actions against him and his administration under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act.

Legal procedures have existed in New York for dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct or harassment, or a hostile work environment. These procedures exist not only to protect victims from sexual abuse and harassment, but also to protect those accused of misconduct from having their careers damaged or their lives ruined by accusations that don’t meet the necessary burdens of credibility and proof.

Finally, with respect to Gov. Cuomo, ask yourself, ”Who does this crescendo of allegations and mob demands for Cuomo’s resignation benefit?”

Democratic Senators and Congressmen and New York State Assembly members are showing themselves to be utterly unprincipled, and utterly hypocritical in attacking Republicans for not respecting the rule of law.

The Democrats, and their cancel culture mobs, are serving up a powerful cultural wedge issue for the Republicans to exploit.

The Democrats are showing the world that they can be just as unprincipled and hypocritical as the Republicans. Should they not stop and reflect on this point, before they join the mob?

They are also tearing down one of their own heroes, in the battle to meet the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

Cuomo is a governor who had the courage to step before the cameras and tell New Yorkers, and the nation, the facts about the spread of Covid-19, what New York was doing about it, and what Trump was not doing about it–while Trump told monstrous lies and through sheer incompetence and wrongheadedness, contributed to the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans. Cuomo held these news conferences, day after day, for a hundred days. For many of us, including this writer, his was a rare voice of sanity in a world, led by Trump, which seemed to have gone mad.

So, small-minded and cynical Democrats are now endorsing mob action and circumvention of rule-of-law procedures to not only ascertain the veracity of the allegations against Cuomo–including those concerning nursing home death statistics, but also the nature of the punishment that would be proportionate and appropriate for the alleged infractions, should he be found guilty as charged.

Who does that benefit?

Absurdo
The Moderator of the Abswurd

Reprinted with permission from Absurdarama, March 15, 2021.

The current massive pressure on Gov. Andrew Cuomo illustrates the dire situation in which our culture and our country find themselves.

We have a Constitution and state constitutions and laws that establish how public officials should be selected, and removed. Under the U.S. and state constitutions, they are to be selected by free elections, for a fixed term of years. Those same constitutions and laws provide for how they may be removed, by impeachment or, in some states like California, by recall referendum.

Ours is not a parliamentary system, as in the United Kingdom, where a prime minister may be removed simply by losing a vote of confidence in, e.g., the House of Commons. Many believe our system is superior because it guarantees greater stability in government.

There is another way an elected leader may be removed from office, and that is if he or she is convicted of a crime and is sentenced to prison.

The current campaign to force Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign may lead to his impeachment, but is not likely to lead to his conviction and imprisonment for a crime.

Instead, he is the latest object of a phenomenon in the United States, and some other places, which seeks to bypass legal and constitutional processes to achieve the immediate objective of a frenzied mob, often made possible or strengthened through the internet and social media. Non-public and dark forces may be behind some of these campaigns.

In the United States, at least three different “mobs” have contributed to what is often termed “cancel culture”, the abuse of power to achieve goals without due process and without following legally-established procedures for determining the truth of allegations, and determining appropriate and proportionate sanctions for crimes or infractions that may be found to have occurred.

Due process and the rule of law allow anyone accused of a crime the right to confront witnesses (certain exceptions in sexual abuse cases may exist in some jurisdictions) and put on his or her witnesses to help ascertain the truth of an allegation, the right of the accused to speak in his or her defense before a lawfully-constituted body, and to enjoy several other rights.

In criminal matters, perhaps the most important defendant’s right is the presumption of innocence, until such time as the defendant may be convicted of an alleged crime.

A second is the constitutional protection against prosecution under any ex post facto laws, that is, one may not be prosecuted for actions or relationships that were not illegal before passage of a subsequent law.

A third protection is provided for, in both civil and criminal matters, through statutes of limitations. In criminal matters, these statutes seek to protect defendants against claims or allegations that are too old for reliable witness testimony to be given. Human memories are notoriously unreliable. These statutes require allegations and charges to be brought before the court while memories of witnesses, both for and against the defendant, are still fresh and not distorted by the passage of time.

These defendant’s rights are all based on the fundamental premise that illegal conduct must be specifically defined, as well as the potential penalties to which a defendant may be condemned if found guilty.

The rising crescendo of demands that Gov. Cuomo resign is directly related to the development of so-called “cancel culture” in the United States.

Do not heed pronouncements such as one heard on TV this morning: “I believe in due process, but Gov. Cuomo should resign, and should have already resigned some time ago.” The contradiction in this statement is so glaring that one is simply amazed by the lack of analytical self-awareness of the speaker.

This “cancel culture” is a mob culture, which appears to be the product of a combination of mob cultures that have developed, usually in conjunction with mobilization efforts facilitated by social media and the internet.

There are at least three components of this mob-action cancel culture.

The first has been the “Me-Too Movement”, whereby men have been denounced and forced to resign on the basis of an accumulation of allegations of “sexual misconduct”. In the process, the critical distinction between predatory sexual conduct–the coercion of a woman by a man to engage in sexual intercourse or other sexual conduct, on the one hand, and sexually inappropriate speech or other conduct (measured by contemporary standards), such as touching or verbal comments, on the other, has frequently been lost.

In particular, elements of what has become known as a sexually hostile workplace (civilly prohibited under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act) have become conflated with actions such as sexual coercion by a superior of a woman under a man’s authority.

There has also been a conflation of the penalties the mob seeks to impose.

The case of Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota) is quite instructive on this point. Essentially, he was subjected to extreme pressures to resign by the “Me-Too” Movement, led by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), because he engaged in part of a skit both he and the alleged victim had performed before USO audiences on previous occasions. Before becoming a Senator, Franken was a comedian. He obviously was clowning around. Perhaps inappropriately, as the alleged victim was asleep.

Ceding to these pressures, and probably those on his family in particular, Sen. Al Franken resigned. As a result, the Democrats lost one of their best U.S. Senators, who had been caustic in his criticism of Donald Trump.

Garrison Keillor, former host of “Prairie Home Companion” for decades on NPR, and one of America’s most beloved radio personalities, wrote an Op-ed column in the Washington Post defending Franken. The “Me-Too” movement quickly went after him, and Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) promptly fired him, without any semblance of due process. They later tried to obscure this fact, but their efforts didn’t pass “the smell test”. Previous columns in the Post by Keillor had provided devastating critiques of Trump.

A second component of the mob culture has been the development of the anti-racist mob, which has demanded that statues be removed, university schools and buildings be renamed, people be fired, and anything they perceive as racist be immediately changed. The mob aspect is related to the demand for immediate action, outside of legal processes. Recently they succeeded in seuring of the firing of the lead reporter on Covid-19 for the New York Times, who had been with the newspaper since the mid-1970’s.

A third component of the “cancel culture” mob that has come into being has been the development of the censorship mob. This mob, whose origins lie in universities and colleges, gets excised over speech or books that they consider politically incorrect. Recent examples include the decision by the publishers of the Dr. Seuss books to stop publication of six books because they allegedly contained racist stereotypes, such as a drawing of a Chinese man with horizontal brush strokes for the eyes. Amazon has just announced that it will not sell books that deal with reprogramming LGTBQ persons.

What it all amounts to is censorship.

See,

Ryan T. Anderson, “Amazon Won’t Let You Read My Book; An enterprising state attorney general might want to look into why it was withdrawn from sale now,” Wall Street Journal, >March 16, 202 1(6:40 pm ET).

This is not the occasion to examine in greater detail the issues related to the anti- racist mob and the censorship mob phenomena.

Often forgotten when a mob is clamoring for immediate action is the fact that we have a system of constitutions and laws that are set up and designed to resolve such disputes.

Officials are elected for fixed terms. They should not be hounded from office because of a crescendo of allegations which, unexamined in the proper legal setting and proceeding, in essence amount to mob action.

Legal processes should be observed.

The decisions of voters should be respected.

Allegations should be fully vetted by appropriate authorities and institutions.

If misconduct is found to have occurred, sanctions proportionate to the offense should be considered. In the case of Gov. Cuomo, for example, impeachment, censure, and defeat at the ballot box would be appropriate remedies if he is found to be guilty as charged. Moreover, the individuals making the accusations might sue him, or bring actions against him and his administration under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act.

Legal procedures have existed in New York for dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct or harassment, or a hostile work environment. These procedures exist not only to protect victims from sexual abuse and harassment, but also to protect those accused of misconduct from having their careers damaged or their lives ruined by accusations that don’t meet the necessary burdens of credibility and proof.

Finally, with respect to Gov. Cuomo, ask yourself, ”Who does this crescendo of allegations and mob demands for Cuomo’s resignation benefit?”

Democratic Senators and Congressmen and New York State Assembly members are showing themselves to be utterly unprincipled, and utterly hypocritical in attacking Republicans for not respecting the rule of law.

The Democrats, and their cancel culture mobs, are serving up a powerful cultural wedge issue for the Republicans to exploit.

The Democrats are showing the world that they can be just as unprincipled and hypocritical as the Republicans. Should they not stop and reflect on this point, before they join the mob?

They are also tearing down one of their own heroes, in the battle to meet the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

Cuomo is a governor who had the courage to step before the cameras and tell New Yorkers, and the nation, the facts about the spread of Covid-19, what New York was doing about it, and what Trump was not doing about it–while Trump told monstrous lies and through sheer incompetence and wrongheadedness, contributed to the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans. Cuomo held these news conferences, day after day, for a hundred days. For many of us, including this writer, his was a rare voice of sanity in a world, led by Trump, which seemed to have gone mad.

So, small-minded and cynical Democrats are now endorsing mob action and circumvention of rule-of-law procedures to not only ascertain the veracity of the allegations against Cuomo–including those concerning nursing home death statistics, but also the nature of the punishment that would be proportionate and appropriate for the alleged infractions, should he be found guilty as charged.

Who does that benefit?

Absurdo
The Moderator of the Abswurd

Categories
Identity Politics Race

Thomas Chatterton Williams on race and issues of racial identy

For keen insights into the issues of race, racial identity, and identity politics, see,

1) Conor Friedersdorf, “Unraveling Race: Thomas Chatterton Williams wants to discard traditional racial categories, The Atlantin, November 5, 2019.

2) Christianna Silva, “Thomas Chatterton Williams On Debate, Criticism And The Letter In ‘Harper’s Magazine’,” All Things Considered, NPR, July 11, 2020 (5:14 PM ET).

Spirit of Voltaire

Categories
Race racial equality of opportunity racial equity of results

Ben Carson nails the issue on race: Equality of opportunity v. equity of results

See,

Ben Carson (Opinion), “Moving our focus from equality to equity won’t defeat racism; It’s another kind of racism,” Washington Post, April 18, 2021 (4:51 p.m. EDT).

Ben Carson, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development from 2017 to 2021, is the founder of the American Cornerstone Institute.

Ben Carson has nailed the issue of race in the current debate in the United States.

Should our goal be racial equality of opportunity, or racial equity in results?

Should a white person have an equal opportunity to get a job, or should the composition of the work force at a company or in government reflect racial equity in results, if the two objectives conflict?

This is not a theoretical issue.  NBC and MSNBC have announced they will hire 50% of their workforce from minority groups.

Carson, who is African-American and grew up in an underprivileged environment, makes cogent points.

The critical issue is whether our goal should be racial equality of opportunity, or racial equity of results.

Spirit of Voltaire

Categories
Reading and Thinking Social media

Living offline for a year; and the author’s Twitter experience

Aaron Rosenberg lived offline for a year, trying to understand what it was like in order to help him understand the subject of his academic research.

His experience is illuminating, particularly for those of us interested in maintaining the capabilities of our eighteenth century minds.

His approach was extreme, but the experience taught him some important lessons. He has found  that applying them has been more challenging than expected.  See the following account of his experience, which is definitely worth reading.

See,

Charlie Warzel, “He Quit the Internet 2 Months Before the Pandemic; When Aron Rosenberg decided to try living offline for a year, he thought his sabbatical might be painful; It turned out to be easier than his return, New York Times, March 10, 2021 (7:07 a.m. ET).

***

My Own Twitter Experience 

I myself experienced some of the extraordinary pull of Twitter while following in extremely close fashion political developments related to Donald Trump’s attempts to hang on to power after losing the election on November 3, 2021.

The temptation to follow the news almost hour by hour was great, and Twitter was the place where you could follow developments even more closely.  The suspense, and the sense that something important might happen at any minute, kept my nervous system on high alert.

There was one other addictive aspect. By following key people and sometimes getting a notification that your tweet had been liked or retweeted or quoted, it was easy to succumb to the momentary illusion that you were having an impact on the discussion, and consequently on events.

You knew analytically that this was not likely to be the case.  Still, in some bizarre way Twitter was a place where you could react in the moment to news or other tweets, and in the excitement of the moment you could feel that you were having some kind of impact on the discussion.

And “Who knows?”  Regarding some aspects of the story where you had specific, relevant professional knowledge, perhaps you were. You can see my comments on Twitter @Trenchantobserv.

But after January 20, 2021, I was able to withdraw from Twitter, and from my obsessive watching of cable TV news channels. Almost all of the really important news eventually showed up in the New York Times or the Washington Post or other newspapers which I read.

I admit it. I’m a news addict. Maybe like Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Payne or other Eighteenth Century Minds might have been too. What is different is the immediacy. They probably had to wait days or longer to to get their hands on some of the newspapers they read.

I “wasted” hours of my time on my Twitter addiction. But I have learned and am learning from the experience. Maybe it will help me break or at least sharply limit the time I spend reading newspapers online, succumbing to the at times irresistible pull of my news addiction. This is related to being a writer.

To be sure, David McCullough recounts how Theodore Roosevelt, during his years at Harvard, used to read up to 20 newspapers over coffee in the morning.  So at least I don’t suffer from a unique affliction.

On the other hand, I need to remind myself that I am not a freshman at Harvard, or anywhere else, I don’t have a political career ahead of me, and there are many other potential uses of my time.

Aaron Rosenberg’s experience is instructive. When thinking about my Twitter experience, I recall reading somewhere that the average life of a tweet is about 15 minutes.

Spirit of Voltaire

Categories
Reading and Thinking

Cancel culture at the New York Times

“We do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent, (emphasis added)” Baquet and Managing Editor Joseph Kahn wrote to staffers Friday.

See,

Elahe Izadi, “Two New York Times journalists at the center of separate controversies leave the company; Science reporter Donald McNeil Jr. leaves after revelations he repeated a racial slur, and audio producer Andy Mills resigns after ‘Caliphate’ fallout,” Washington Post, February 5, 2021 (5:36 p.m. EST).

Izadi writes:

High-profile science reporter Donald G. McNeil Jr.’s departure comes after the Daily Beast reported that he had repeated a racial slur during a 2019 trip to Peru for high school students. The Times also confirmed that McNeil, who has been a key reporter covering the coronavirus pandemic, “had used bad judgment by repeating a racist slur in the context of a conversation about racist language…

Friday’s staff news is the latest example of controversy within the Times newsroom spilling into public view, including the summer resignation of editorial page editor James Bennet — once considered a possible successor to Executive Editor Dean Baquet — after the publication of a controversial op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.)…

This week, staffers sent a letter to management saying they were “outraged” that the company’s previous investigation into McNeil’s comments had not resulted in a more severe punishment and that the company needed to do more. Managers signaled agreement.
“We do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent,” Baquet and Managing Editor Joseph Kahn wrote to staffers Friday.

See also the story in The Daily Beast:

Maxwell Tani andv Lachlan Cartwright,”The Star NY Times Reporter Accused of Using ‘N-Word,’ Making Other Racist Comments; The paper’s top COVID reporter joined a group of students on a trip to Peru in 2019. Participants alleged he repeatedly made racist comments,” The Daily Beast, January 28, 2021 (3:27 PM EY, Updated 8:48PM ET).

On the elimination of the NYT Public Editor position, see

1) Daniel Victor, “New York Times Will Offer Employee Buyouts and Eliminate Public Editor Role,” New York times, May 31, 2017.

2) Liz Spayd, “The Public Editor Signs Off,” New York Times, June 2, 2017.

On the installation of surveillance cameras in the NYT newsroom, see,

“New York Times adds to apparatus of a totalitarian state,” The Trenchant Observer, June 1, 2019.

The Sulzberger family must replace Dean Bacquet, and root out the “Cancel Culture” in the NYT newsroom

Executive Editor Dean Baquet has allowed a cancel culture to develop in the New York Times newsroom.

He has been supine in surrendering to the “cancel culture” in that newsroom.

He has acquiesced in the installation of a totalitarian system of surveillance monitoring in the newsroom.

Baquet is also responsible for the New York Times lack of coverage and analysis of President Trump’s statement that Russia was right to have invaded Afghanistan.

See,

“International Law after Trump,” The Trenchant Observer, January 10, 2019.

It is time for Executive Editor Dean Baquet to go.

It is time for the camera surveillance system in the newsroom to be removed.

It is time for the “cancel culture” in the newsroom and editorial positions to be rooted out.

Before anyone else is fired summarily, a new Public Editor representing the Readers should conduct a full investigation, and full due process guarantees should be afforded to anyone subject to potential dismissal.

No one should ever be removed for actions or statements made without regard to that person’s intent.

‘Intent” is a requirement for most serious crimes. ‘Strict liability crimes are rare, and usually limited to things like speeding tickets.

Loss of a job at the New York Times is a punishment more serious than those for many felonies. “Intent” should be a necessary element of any “firing offense” at the Times.

How can we trust the editorial judgment of the staff and editors at the New York Times when we know their editors are subject to the pressures of a “cancel culture” mob in the newsroom, and when they have exercised such atrocious judgment as that revealed in the cases cited above?

The Trenchant Observer

Categories
Reading and Thinking Sea of Irrationality SEA OF REASON

Deep Reading

Adam Garfinkle has published a thought-provoking article in National Affairs about how, with the introduction of Smartphones and the Internet, younger generations seem to have lost the ability to really engage with a book or a text, in a way Garfinkle refers to as “deep reading”.

George F. Will, in a column in the Washinton Post, summarizes Garfinkle’s argument. For those still capable of “deep reading”, the full article by Garfinkle is highly recommended.

See

Adam Garfinkle, “The Erosion of Deep Literacy,” National Affairs, No. 44 (Summer 2020).

George F. will, “What we lost when we stopped reading,” Washington Post, April 17, 2020 (7:00 a.m.)

Spirit of Voltaire

Categories
Cult Cult of Adolf Hitler Cult of Nazism Sea of Irrationality SEA OF REASON SEA OF UNREASON UNREASON

Navigating in a Sea of Irrationality

When we are surrounded by individuals swarming in a sea of irrationality, of UNREASON, how can we and others like ourselves with old-fashioned eighteenth-century minds navigate our way through this SEA OF IRRATIONALITY, in order to maintain our rational bearings and connect with other eighteenth-century minds?

The first step in this process is to study and understand the elements of UNREASON which surround us.

When we look at or engage with another human being we tend to assume that he or she is a rational human being, operating as it were more or less on the same planet as we are. This assumption has been pretty accurate in the past, with some notable exceptions.

One period of exception was in Europe in the 1930’s, most notably in Germany where the madness of UNREASON took hold in the form of Nazism and a blind cult of allegiance to Adolf Hitler. Something similar happened in Italy, beginning in 1922, with Benito Mussolini. For keen insights into these phenomena, see the brilliant play by Eugene Ionesco entitled Rhinoceros.

If you lived in Nazi Germany, it became extraordinarily important to be able to quickly perceive whether you were talking to a dedicated member of the Nazi and Adolf Hitler cult. Indeed, such recognition could be or become a matter of life and death.

But not all encounters with UNREASON are fraught with such immediate potential consequences. The risk may simply be that you waste an inordinate amount of energy and emotional investment trying to persuade, with reason, someone who is in effect on another planet, swimming in a SEA OF UNREASON.

Such individuals usually, but not always, cannot be reached by reason. If it is important to reach this or that person, some other approach, some other means of communication, must be found.

One approach is through the use of PROPAGANDA, and all of the tools that it employs to persuade individuals by manipulating their emotions. Here, the science of mass psychology is brought directly to bear. This approach is problematic, however, for advocates of a return to REASON. What can be done is perhaps to learn effective techniques of communication, developing methods for piercing propaganda bubbles and inducing individuals to return to the SEA OF REASON.

To reach an individual lost in the SEA OF IRRATIONALITY, the first thing that should be understood is that the goal must not be to win a rational argument on this or that point, or this or that fact or policy.

Rather, two goals must be simultaneously pursued.

The first is to get the person to pay attention and to listen to what you are saying.

The second and main goal must be to free the individual from the grip of UNREASON, to somehow get him or her to return to the world of Reason, to swimming in the SEA OF REASON.

This is harder to accomplish than it may sound.

To recap:

  1. Don’t waste your energy or emotional engagement on someone who is captivated by a cult or otherwise swimming in the SEA OF UNREASON; and
  2. If you engage at all with this person, do not try to win a rational argument over a fact, a public action or a policy. Instead, focus your efforts on using other means to burst the bubble of irrationality in which they are living, and to bring them back into the SEA OF REASON.

Applying these points to engaging with a Trump believer, there is little to be gained, for example, by arguing about the facts of the coronavirus pandemic.

More promising, perhaps, would be a visit to a morgue with Covid-19 victims’ corpses, or failing that publishing a list of all the names of people who died in a given city, in a given state, and in the nation as a whole, on each day, in all the corresponding newspapers, in all the social media, and on all the websites which those who swim in the SEA OF UNREASON usually frequent.

A name, a picture of a corpse (with family permission), or a picture of a funeral may have a better chance of puncturing that bubble of UNREASON than all the rational arguments in the world.

Cults of personality are not the only phenomena that may be responsible for individuals not operating in the SEA OF RATIONALITY.

They may simply not be paying attention. They may be lost in one of the other psychological worlds which the Internet, Social Media, and modern technology have made available to them.

Indeed, it is conceivable that we may one day be living in a world where most individials are simply not paying sustained attention to actual reality (a redundant but necessary term), making them all the more vulnerable to manipulation by masters of mass psychology and propaganda.

See Ruchir Sharma, “People Aren’t Reading or Watching Movies, They’re Gaming; During the pandemic, digital three-dimensional environments are where much of life is taking place,” New York Times, August 15, 2020.

The first step for eighteenth-century minds to keep their bearings, therefore, is to understand what is going on in the consciousness of those we encounter, who may or may not be experiencing reality as if they were on the same planet.

Only after we understand the geography of the IRRATIONALITY that surrounds us will eighteenth-century minds be in a position to navigate through the SEA OF UNREASON, and to try to protect ourselves from the depredations which UNREASON may unleash around us, or even aim in our direction. Only then will we be able to link up and plan effective action.

Spirit of Voltaire