A Canceled Fear of Missing Out

All violence is an attempt to replace shame with self-esteem.

James Gilligan

I’ve never had a fear of missing out, what the kids these days refer to as FOMO. I really don’t know why this is. Growing up in a remote location you got used to the fact that stuff was happening elsewhere and you couldn’t be part of it. Growing up poor meant that there were things happening right in our own town that I couldn’t participate in because I didn’t have the money to be there for the thing when it happened. You will miss out on something. Accept this fact and move on.

This insight alone does not make me an Iconoclast or a non-conformist. I aspire to rate a label of iconoclasm, the crusader bent on objecting to accepted norms and beliefs in all their forms simply to illustrate the failings of same, and I loathe the knee-jerk non-conformist when I meet one. The petty, childish “I won’t do it!” that never produces positive results. I’ve never had a group that I put myself firmly inside of that was more defined than trekkie, liberal, atheist or libertarian; and all of those labels aside from liberal are represented by people that I’ve strayed away from and don’t want to be part of anymore. An iconoclast crusading against the vanillafication of trekdom?

In some way this knowledge that you can’t be part of everything important, everywhere that it happens, takes the edge off of FOMO for me. I think this understanding is why I unhesitatingly cancel people every day. If I don’t think a post is interesting and scroll past it? Canceled. If I block somebody because I don’t have time for their stupid? Canceled. I don’t run around telling everyone “cancel this guy, cancel that girl” I just do it and move on. No one cares what your opinions are anymore than you care what a random stranger’s opinions are on which shoes you wear today. If you do care, you need help.

I have canceled people for years now, online. I’ve been actively engaging in this behavior ever since I determined that vast swath of people post online specifically to stop the passage of information, the forming of understanding, between two other people or groups of people. I didn’t call it canceling, but cancel appears to be the word of the day these days:

On the Media – Shamed and Confused – June 4, 2021

Conservatives are so damned predictable. They accuse everyone else of creating death panels, then continue sentencing the poor to an early death just as they traditionally always have done. They accuse liberals of creating political correctness, then pass laws making sure that only their political views are taught in school. They accuse the liberals of creating a cancel culture, then they set about canceling liberals left and right as they see fit. It never ends and it is never surprising.

However, Conservatives are no longer satisfied with having created their own set of facts and their own news organizations that parrot the things they call politics but are in fact indistinguishable from the religious beliefs that they also claim. A broad spectrum of bullshit outlets that spew a carefully constructed view of the world that they won’t find troublesome. This is why we have such high percentages of Republicans that think that Donald Trump is still president right now, they have news outlets willing to tell them this comforting lie, day-in and day-out.

This blog is frequently visited by my opinions about the need for there to be a journalistic standard of ethics that is enforced by law or by the authority of a licensing board. Opinions like this one:

It is a common concern. How can we continue on as a country or a people if we can’t agree on a set of facts? Donald Trump is not president. Do you know how I know this? Because he is in Mar-a-Lago living in a made-up world that he has the money to create around him. The benefits of being wealthy on paper. He is not president because someone else is sitting behind the resolute desk and that person now controls the US government. That person could squash Donald Trump like a bug if he so desired.

So why doesn’t he? Therein lies the crux of the problem. Vladimir Putin is now sounding off about the persecution of the January 6th attackers and the stealing of the election from Donald Trump. He is doing this because he knows what he would do if he were sitting in Joe Biden’s shoes right now. What would he do? For starters there wouldn’t be a Mar-a-Lago anymore other than a smoking crater where the place once was, and he would have had most of the people opposing him executed or jailed pending execution. People like Vladimir Putin see restraint as weakness, because they don’t respect anything that isn’t bold action.

If Joe Biden shows any inclination to crush the rebellion at play in the United States, he plays right into Vladimir Putin’s hands, and into the hands of people who hate the United States simply for being the United States in all it’s failed glory. But he has to do something because the threat to the reality of the United States’ existence has never been more dire than it is right now. Not even Nazi Germany or Japan had the impact on the reality of the continuing existence of the United States as a global force that Vladimir Putin has had in getting Donald Trump elected to the presidency. That he has in continuing to support this disgraced, twice-impeached, former holder of the office of the presidency.

We need to cancel this cause celeb, this slow-moving coup d’état that is still in progress. There are traitors in our midst, and we need to sort them out of the rest. That requires investigation, and the investigation should have started already. As others have pointed out, Mitch McConnell still holds all the cards as far as getting anything through the Senate because of the filibuster rule, and this includes an investigation that has support from all sides concerned. The filibuster has to go, even if it means removing the senators who don’t want to see it go as a part of the process.

We need to cancel the Republican groups who are currently trying to cancel the American experiment. We need to secure ballot access for all Americans, even if that means that the Republican base will not support anything the rest of us do for a generation. We need not fear missing out on the future they have planned for the rest of us. That future has been painted in vivid color for anyone brave enough to read the speculative fiction that has been penned over the last hundred years. We can rest assured that future is not a thing we want to experience.


Eliminating GIGO

When I wrote:

…I think I got the most volume and some of the most varied feedback I’ve ever gotten for any post I’d ever written before. It ran the gamut from “this is easy to do and Facebook can’t seem to do it, so they must not care” or “Facebook is in bed with X group, their behavior demonstrates this.” to “Any attempt to moderate speech violates my freedom of speech.” When I queued up this episode, one of the first things that the guest says on mic is that she figured that the Facebook Supreme Court was just a way to get Facebook out of the crosshairs for making the decisions that need to be made, content-wise:

Radiolab – Facebook’s Supreme Court – February 12, 2021

…and by the end of the episode I was where Jad was “we have to ban Facebook, don’t we?” But then I thought some more about the varied responses to the tests that were put forward to illustrate just how hard it is to make judgements about what is or isn’t acceptable on social media, and I started to realize that what Facebook will ultimately achieve, if it succeeds, is some form of internet protocol for allowing the greatest amount of speech possible without misleading the populace or allowing for the targeting of segments of the population. I wish them luck with their supreme court experiment. Hope it all works out.

Tangentially, there were two more episodes later in my podcast feed that dealt with the same conundrum. Speech, the freedom and limitations of:

Amicus With Dahlia Lithwick – First Amendment Fallacies – Feb 27, 2021
What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law – Deplatforming and Section 230 – 02.27.21

If I were to craft a tweet for this episode of Trumpconlaw, as I have tried to do for it’s 49 brothers (failed at a few) It would run something like “Section 230 allows your internet to serve you the porn you want on demand, it does not enable Facebook to silence your god-king, no matter what he says about it.” The #MAGA remain MAGA no matter how many times they mash their faces against the screens, though.

…which reminds me. While #48 about pardons was largely a rehash of the previous pardon episodes of Trumpconlaw, #49 speaks explicitly to the title of this article because:

What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law – Incitement – 01.30.21

Incitement is by definition GIGO that should be eliminated. “Trump’s behavior since the November election proves that his intention was to incite violence on January 6th. He would have caused more violence on January 20th if he had not been deplatformed.”

Bullshit is Still Bullshit

June 2017. Cast your mind back all those eons ago to when the firehouse of daily outrage had just been turned on long enough for everyone trying to drink from it to start to drown. This is where I was:

As for the content of that article, I’ll freely admit to just dumping a bunch of comments that I had made on the various subjects that had emerged over the course of six months as I tried in vain to keep track of all the crap that spewed from the White House under the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) I wanted to do a thorough job of cataloging every single outrage that flew past me as I consumed the daily news, but even I had started to drown at that point.

There was too much. Too much lying by Trump. Too much pain caused by Trump. Too much of too many people running down blind alleys trying to address some bullshit that had emerged from Trump’s ass and splashed across the front pages of every website on the internet. There was no way to keep track of it all.

…And that was the point. That was the plan, if the OHM can be said to have a plan. Keep the outrage going for long enough for him to get re-elected on the same outrage from 2016 that got him elected the first time. That is why he has never stopped campaigning. If he stopped, people who supported him might have time to think about what he had made them all do, and that wouldn’t help him in any way.

So I wrote Bullshit is Bullshit and then altered my news consumption in such a way as to eliminate all news that began with the phrase “president Trump said”…and I did this purposefully, since everything he says is designed to disguise and distract. I blocked his Twitter account. I blocked his son’s Twitter account. What they say has no meaning, and so listening to what they say is to engage in self-destructive behavior.

I started actively blocking his voice. Hearing his voice on anything still causes me to stop whatever it is I am watching or listening to, and skipping forward until the hated noise stops. I refused to listen to arguments that included anything he said. At least, I refused to listen as far as is possible in this Orange-tinted sewer that is today’s America.

That is where I’ve been since shortly after the OHM’s election. Biding my time. Waiting for the day that the rest of the country woke the fuck up. The first glint of dawning understanding appeared after the 2018 midterm elections revealed that the electorate was far more aware of what was going on than the news media had led us all to believe. Which was good news.

Then a month ago the new congress finally understood that they would have to impeach the OHM, just like I knew they would have to do when the 2016 election rendered a verdict that Trump would be president. It was just a matter of time. It would have been nice had the Republicans not been so venal as to think that their president was better than anyone else’s president would be, even another one of their own that wasn’t stealing from the American people hand over foot, and taking bribes from foreign governments to boot, they were quite happy to let the theft go on and pretend that the clueless rubes that put the OHM in the White House would be enough of a voice to keep them in power.

So 2018 taught them the lesson that they could be trounced by a dedicated opposition. Liberal was no longer a dirty word. Conservative was becoming a dirty word thanks to Trump (finally) and now the Democratic majority in the house had the numbers to impeach the president. But they fumbled around with reasons to impeach, as if there wasn’t blatant evidence against the president just by his being Donald Trump, the fraud. And then Trump, being Trump, handed them the perfect reasons to impeach him by first being caught asking for bribes on the one hand, and then refusing to cooperate with congress when they tried to investigate his behavior on the other hand.

You see, boys and girls, refusing to respond to a subpoena is itself a crime. Now, you can argue about jurisdiction and privilege, but you have to go to court to do that, and that would have been admitting that the president wasn’t a king in Trump’s eyes. So, he committed the same acts that got every president before him impeached by trying to cover up his crimes and claim he didn’t have to explain his behavior. He is dead-to-rights guilty of the high crimes and misdemeanors that he has been accused of, as well as many others that remain unwritten.

…but still the bullshit continues. Not just from him, but from everyone around him that feels obliged to cover for his indiscretions. I have no idea why they do this. He’d throw every one of them under the bus if it meant his cowardly ass didn’t have to go to jail for his many crimes.

I’ve been listening to several podcasts (some of them are mentioned here) that deal with the impeachment of Donald J. Trump. Most of them just deal with the facts, but one in particular seems determined to pretend that there is a balance to be struck between the bullshit spewing from Trump and his yes-men, and the truth. The first time that Brian Lehrer invited one of Trump’s yesmen on the show I had to delete it unlistened to because the bullshit was flying fast and furious every time the guy opened his mouth.


Was my response on Twitter. Then Brian Lehrer invites the same guy back again a few weeks later, as if the guest was worth talking to a second time. The bullshitter calls for more witnesses, as if there wasn’t a move to have more witnesses speak before the House committees, and then Trump blocked them from speaking. Which he is being impeached for, now.

Listening to the constitutional scholars speaking about Trump’s crimes later that same week, I found myself agreeing with the guest who was invited by the Republicans. Which was quite shocking. I don’t know what the hurry is. Why do we have to have this all done by the end of the year? Republicans were happy to pretend nothing was worth worrying about for two years while Trump stole the nation blind and Moscow Mitch shoehorned every judicial nominee he stole from Barack Obama through an otherwise catatonic Senate. Republicans were happy to talk about #Benghazi for three years. What’s the rush? I say we keep the impeachment hearings going until November 3rd, 2020. I suggest they hold hearings on election day, even. Draw it out. Reveal the crimes of all of Trump’s yes-men as well as all of his 40 years of financial and real estate crimes.

Paint it all in glorious technicolor detail, for all the world to see. The damage has been done already, anyway. No one will trust the United States again. Not for a generation.

#MAGA: China Currency Manipulation?

If you really want to make your head spin, try to figure out how the currency manipulation that the OHM accuses China of engaging in is done, and how that might amount to something that is illegal.

Enconomist Radio – Money talks: Yuan-a fight?

According to The Economist, China is essentially taking the dollars it buys from the United States government, turning right back around and selling those dollars on the open market buying back its own currency in order to prop up the value of the Yuan. So if the OHM or the US government wants to stop China from manipulating the value of its currency on the open markets he and they should probably just stop selling dollars to China in the form of T-bills. Otherwise they are accomplices to the crime of China manipulating currency. Or maybe they should just #ImpeachTrump before he starts a war with China.

The Paradox of Tolerance

Someone on Reddit took the time to read the article I wrote titled GIGO is a Thing, or Why Freedom of Speech Isn’t Free (weird, isn’t it? That someone would actually read links provided as feedback?) and offered some commentary feedback of their own,

you’re probably already aware of paradox of intolerance, which applies perfectly to your article.

What I learned from that feedback is that I need to read more Karl Popper. Once I went looking for the paradox and found it as well as Popper’s name, I was happy to be reintroduced to some of his thinking. For those who haven’t run across this concept before, the paradox is stated as follows,

…if a society is tolerant without limit, its ability to be tolerant is eventually seized or destroyed by the intolerant.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Having refreshed the idea in my head, I remembered running across the paradox of intolerance before, or heard someone expressing it before, back in the seventies. Sometime in the immediate aftermath of white supremacy first being separated from federal power. The idea that we had somehow encouraged this evil in our midst.

None of us thought of it in the terms of unlimited tolerance, back then. We just knew, causally, that neo-Nazis started to appear among us. The subsequent discussions were about how to respond to them. The ACLU, rightly or wrongly, defended the rights of the neo-Nazis and Klansmen to speak. Many other Americans condemned them for this action, but I don’t think we’ve ever successfully dealt with the problem. It simply keeps re-emerging every generation to be dealt with again. Perhaps that is the human curse, to always be weeding out the bad ideas.

It’s only in hindsight, with a view towards history, with increasing experience, that you can see the unlimited tolerance as the weakness that needs to be offset, because it is a weakness as Popper rightly observed. It is a weakness and also a strength. How to filter the garbage without filtering the learning that comes from being exposed to the garbage? That is the crux of the paradox. You can’t see authoritarianism as an ill to be avoided from inside the authoritarian bubble. You only see it from the outside once you emerge. From inside it seems like a just use of power, like an anti-abortionist might see stopping what they deem murder or anti-vaxxers stopping harm to children. Until you stop believing a thing and look at it from outside that thing, you can’t test its falsity. While you believe, state power looks like the answer to stopping the sickness that you see.

This is why critical thinking is an absolute good that needs to be taught to everyone. Without critical thinking you simply do not have the tools to determine whether your beliefs are false or not. As I said in the GIGO article,

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty

To be eternally vigilant is to practice due diligence as often as required when it comes to the things you believe as well as the things you are told. What is due diligence? Caveat Emptor. The two states of mind are interchangeable. Healthy caution and skepticism. If you want to be at liberty, if you want to maintain liberty, then you must be skeptical of all things that are not immediately apparent. Due diligence is another way to describe critical thinking.

This is the difference between a belief and a philosophy. Between knowledge and belief. You can believe any damn fool thing you want, even demonstrably false things (doublethink) a philosophy (specifically scientific philosophy) requires that you test new beliefs against old beliefs to determine which is the sounder thing to believe in. Whether or not this new idea conforms to the other things you think you know already. When an old idea fails it should be rejected in favor of the new thing which at least appears to be more true.

Do You Believe in a Secular America?

Trump, The Pathological Liar

“To my mind, this question at the top level is so obviously answered, you cannot have a president who’s a chronic liar. I don’t care what your passions around tax cuts or regulation or immigration. I respect difference there,”

“The President of the United States cannot be someone who lies constantly. I thought Republicans agreed with that. It’s one of the reasons I’m no longer a Republican. I hope the American people will realize we have to start at that values level no matter what our political background and answer that question first. And if that’s a close question in an election, then get to the important policy differences.”

James Comey (via CNN)
Comey on 2020 election: “You cannot have a president who’s a chronic liar”

Methinks he feels responsible for the mess we are in. I agree with him. I also said it better in Bullshit is Bullshit. Better, but not shorter.

Google Delivers Russian Propaganda

I’ve got some feedback for Google

I don’t usually use Google now. I don’t know how many people even know what that is. If your phone is an android phone, you should be able to swipe right on the home screen to get to Google now. Google now isn’t even what it is called anymore, but it still is exactly what Google now used to be, it’s just referred to as Google these days. That makes the following feedback even more succinct.

Russia Today – RT.com

The screencapped story above was at the top of my Google feed today. A prime example of why I don’t use Google now very often in the first place. Top stories on my feed are almost always some flame-inducing bullshit from some less than trustworthy source. What does Google think I should read first today? A story from rt.com on Rachel Maddow. Google is suggesting I read an RT story about Maddow when there is a perfectly decent news article over on the Washington Post website that actually tells me what the real facts in question are. A news piece that isn’t about Rachel Maddow in the first place. So Google? Are you officially acting as a propaganda arm for the Russian government now? Why would I be offered a news story from rt.com in the first place, if not? RT is not a legitimate source for anything newsworthy. They are an even less reliable source than FOX is, which is saying quite a bit.

YouTube’s recommendation algorithms are designed to steer viewers to videos they may not have otherwise searched for, including by automatically playing more videos through its “Up next” function. But experts said that functionality can lead viewers down a rabbit hole of increasingly concerning videos of conspiracy theories, disinformation or offensive content.

YouTube’s algorithms have previously been designed to maximize watch time, which Chaslot and others have criticized as rewarding more shocking or sensational videos. YouTube said it now relies on information such as user surveys, likes, dislikes and shares to improve its recommendations.

Even its efforts to combat misinformation have in some cases backfired, as happened this month when videos of the flaming collapse of the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris were incorrectly identified by YouTube as imagery from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York.

Washington Post

Here’s a thought, Google. A thought I’ve offered to you as design advice more than once. I want the ability to exclude URL’s directly as an input function. I want to be able to key in URL’s directly and exclude those URL’s from my news feed. This would be useful in two ways. One, it would stop your customers from flaming you every time you offered an article that the user felt did not adequately outline the facts in question. Secondly, this block information should be useful as a rule of thumb determinate for the reliablilty and general acceptability of the source among the general public. A general trustworthiness rating of a site.

The subject in question is an excellent example of the problem. If I want to know how to get to the meaning of the Mueller report, I have plenty of reliable sources that I could go to, none of them controlled by the Russian government. Here’s one.

Thursday I surveyed the entire Mueller report. I read some sections carefully; I skimmed others. My job was to anchor Lawfare’s initial coverage, so I needed to have a sense of the big picture, as well as detailed knowledge of certain findings and arguments. Starting Friday, however, I am reading the entire document carefully, starting at the beginning. I’m writing up my thoughts as I go in this post. There will be no cohesive argument to this journal. It will simply be a collection of my observations, questions and thoughts as I go through the document. It will get long. I will not attempt to summarize the underlying document, merely to reflect on it, but I will organize this post by document section. I will update the post as I read. I hope people find it useful.

Lawfare Blog – Notes on the Mueller Report: A Reading Diary

Lawfare is world’s above in reliability for communicating legal information than any other site I that I can think off right off the top of my head. So, contrary to the talking head on the RT Youtube video that dismisses the entirety of the report as some kind of conspiracy against the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) you might discover that the Mueller team uncovered real crimes committed by the sitting president of the United States, and we might want to impeach him for these crimes. It would probably be a good idea.

It would probably also be a good idea not to act as the propaganda arm of any government, Google. The numbers of propaganda organs that survive unscathed after the existing powers are unseated is a number very close to zero. You might want to contemplate your future employment plans if you continue down this road. The vast majority of the American people are not fooled by this chicanery conducted by the OHM and his Russian buddies. There will be hell to pay, eventually.

Google is not the only culprit here, either. Google is simply the culprit pushing misinformation on my personal device. In this TED talk, listen while this journalist describes the multiple crimes and misinformation spread by the leave campaign, with direct ties to Donald Trump and Russia.

Carole Cadwalladr – TED2019 – Facebook’s role in Brexit — and the threat to democracy

This is the real harm in allowing ourselves to be used in this fashion. Allowing ourselves to be pushed in a direction we really don’t want to go except for the lies being told to us. The referendum that Theresa May thinks she has to honor was conducted outside the law. It baffles me why she thinks doing the stupid thing the referendum calls for, leaving the EU, is the thing that has to be done. What has to be done is to punish the lawbreakers who enacted the sham on UK citizens. The felonious results of the sham are irrelevant.

Twitter Trolls

Nothing about this man is real. I’d be willing to bet pretty much anything on that fact. His marriage to the Banshee Queen, his opinions about Trump’s mental health, his education and pretty much everything about him is probably fake. If the man exists at all, I imagine he lives in his mom’s basement playing fortnite and QQ’ing every time some twelve year-old ganks him.

If you believe anything he or his purported wife or her employer says, your head rings like a bell when you strike it. He is a troll. He’s a troll’s troll trolling Twitter trolls. The only thing to be gained from noticing this floating turd in the American toilet bowl of modern politics is this; his mere existence bears out my opinion that even listening to the noise around the Orange Hate-Monkey makes you more stupid. Bullshit is bullshit, no matter who is shoveling it.

I generally despise Twitter and only stay on the platform in order to cull the news from news organizations through my aggregator of choice, Nuzzel. That is the only real function Twitter serves. To give the average user the ability to troll the media directly.

Stepping on the Rattlesnake

There was a time when I was a Gadsden flag devotee. In my libertarian days I even used it as a prop for a speech, back in those days when I believed that overcoming fears was something that you just had to put your mind to in order to achieve. I never did get over my fear of public speaking, and I’ve long since given up even trying to do it. No two groups are ever the same, and repeated embarrassment in front of larger and larger audiences just spreads belief that you are incompetent at the task you are trying to achieve. Stop while you’re ahead, advice I should have taken a long time ago when it comes to public speaking.

By Benjamin Franklin – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3g05315.

The Gadsden flag is itself a token of fear, but it says more about the fear of the people who carry it than it does about the people they are opposing.
When Franklin came up with the severed snake image for the thirteen colonies, the imagery was undeniably effective. If the colonies didn’t form themselves into a cohesive whole, they would be killed and consumed separately by the world powers of the time. It was such an effective image that it was used more than once by Franklin to call the citizens of the colonies together to support a common cause. It reverberated again and again through the varying crisis that faced the fledgling colonies. Colonies that dreamed of one day being free of their European masters.

The snake on the Gadsden flag is whole. That snake represents the colonies standing as one. It’s a rattlesnake because early Americans had enough experience with rattlesnakes to appreciate the warning rattle they gave. The flag itself was a warning rattle to the British and their Scottish and German mercenaries that the American colonies were determined to be colonies no longer. But since the common European conscript had no idea what a rattlesnake was, the caption DON’T TREAD ON ME was added to communicate the important fact that the flag failed to communicate with its visual representation. We will fight you to the last man to establish our independence. We will take you down with us if you persist. This was a sentiment that we understood for ourselves, but have repeatedly failed to recognize in other former colonies when they fought for their freedom.

However, the necessity of putting text on the flag makes it a bad flag in the eyes of vexillologists. If you have to put words on your flag, your flag has failed to communicate the information you want to pass on. It’s also the first in a long line of bad revolutionary flags. Juvenile attempts to provoke an enemy that proceeds to do the thing that the flag says they can’t do.

Like this image does. It doesn’t matter that that foot will be bitten and probably have to be amputated. That the corporations will face retribution and regulation for their unwise actions curtailing free expression. Not all governments are equal, and not all societies are free. Doing the bidding of the powerful will never make you the friends of the weak, and the weakest among us is always going to be an individual somewhere. The corporations, if they proceed to tread on the snake of free expression, will die along with free expression. It is in the nature of ideas that this is true.

Stepping barefoot on a rattlesnake is a bad idea. Stepping on free expression is similarly a bad idea if you are a corporation that relies on people being able to speak their mind on your platform. Users will leave the platform for other platforms where they can express themselves the way they like without threats of punishment. The individual users need to be smart enough to know that they are being lied to, though. That they aren’t smart in that way is a failing of education, and there is no easy way out of this conundrum. You can’t foment revolution without consequences, and you can’t stop people from calling for revolution without infringing on free expression. GIGO, as I said previously. Garbage in, garbage out. Separating the worthwhile communication from the informational junk food. Not going on Facebook seems to be the first step to kicking the current informational junk food habit.

GIGO is a Thing, or Why Freedom of Speech Isn’t Free

In computer sciencegarbage in, garbage out (GIGO) describes the concept that flawed, or nonsense input data produces nonsense output or “garbage”.

The principle also applies more generally to all analysis and logic, in that arguments are unsound if their premises are flawed.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

As a libertarian I used to believe some pretty crazy things. I believed that a dollar was something you worked for, for one. A dollar is a debt instrument that every business in the United States is required to accept as payment. It is not a measure of hours worked or effort expended. You don’t work for dollars, you have to have dollars to pay for the things you need or want. You trade effort or hours for dollars if you are a working stiff in the modern age. If you have dollars you make the dollars work for you to create more dollars. This is a subtle but important distinction, one that anyone who desires excessive wealth should take to heart.

Similarly I believed, and most libertarians still believe, that freedom of speech meant you had to listen to every idea equally. Give every idea equal weight. This crazy notion is not limited to just fringe political groups, it has been embraced by a very large portion of conservatives and Republicans, and even American liberals don’t understand some of the finer points of what the first amendment, freedom of speech, means.

The problem with continuing to listen to bad ideas is that each successive generation receives those ideas as if they are all of equal value. This position is obviously false. Some ideas are incorrect. The world is not flat, it is visibly curved to any observer who cares to study the subject. The Earth, her moon, the other planets and their moons, etc. all move in mathematically predictable ways around the sun. We do not have to prove to each successive generation of human beings that the Earth is not the center of the universe. We need simply show how we know the Earth is round, the sun the center of a solar system, for them to grasp the math involved with these correct observations. These are factually demonstrable truths that do not have to be viewed equally with the Ptolemaic system, requiring each successive generation of human beings to determine which finding is the correct one. Learn a little math, do a few observations, yep, that confirms the heliocentric model. Onto the next thing we have to learn.

Not all truths are as obvious as the basic findings of astronomy, and even those findings are not universally embraced by all modern humans. There are a few disturbed people out there who still think the world is flat, and we don’t let those people run NASA for a reason. That reason? Because their denial of science disqualifies them from leading a scientific agency. They fail the test of expertise, another demonstrable truth.

There are things that experts know that the layman does not. I know things about CAD systems and architectural detailing that would bore the pants off of anyone who isn’t enamored of building systems and the illustration of same. That expertise qualified me to hold a high-paying job in the architectural field once upon a time. It had real value; and expertise, all expertise, is demonstrated through that value. If you plant lima beans for a living, and you do it successfully for long enough, you become an expert on lima beans. But that doesn’t make you an expert on rocket ships.

Which brings us to another truth. Expertise is limited in scope, and the farther outside your expertise you venture, the more likely you are to be wrong in your beliefs. This is the Dunning-Kruger effect in a nutshell. Everyone believes they know more about subjects that they are not experts in than they actually do. This is why a brain surgeon isn’t a good candidate to run a poverty program. The fact that Ben Carson successfully navigated a hierarchy as complicated as working in a hospital presents is probably the only reason he still has his cabinet position. He knows how to keep his mouth shut when he needs to. When he has a job to do and isn’t campaigning. He knows the value of expertise and he doesn’t visibly contradict the experts around him who know things about the department of Housing and Urban Development.

When the Republican party formed back in 1854, the value of expertise was understood. With little else to distract the population in the way of entertainment, politicians and pundits would debate for hours in front of huge crowds, working and reworking the issues of the day. Abraham Lincoln was an expert at navigating the treacherous terrain to be found between openly advocating for the abolition of slavery, and allowing slavery to encroach into the Northern states that hated slaves and slavery for what it did to the lives of average men. Hated slavery for the degrading poverty and dearth of industry in the South that slavery imposed on the economy of the South. The Lincoln-Douglas debates featured his abilities to master the subject, a success that eventually snagged him the nomination of the Republican party and through their growing influence, the presidency of the United States.

He then expertly managed to conduct the the office of the presidency, successfully, while maintaining a war with half of the original republic, and at the same time engineering the largest change in civil society, the abolition of slavery, that the United States had seen in its short 75 years of existence. Had he survived his time in office, had he not been felled by Southern hands and succeeded by a Southern sympathizer, many of the problems that we wrestle with today would never have manifested in the first place. That was the master politician that Abraham Lincoln was. That was the kind of organization that the Republican party was when it was progressive and liberal and on the right side of history.

From Lincoln to the Orange Hate-Monkey in 150 years.  That is what the Republican party gained from not understanding that there were real, actual truths underneath all the political posturing. That science and expertise have real, demonstrable value. GIGO or Garbage In, Garbage Out has taken its toll on the GOP and rendered it the political organ of a would-be fascist. A would-be fascist whose political supporters want to enact a racial cleansing on the United States. The party that ended slavery has become the party of the inheritors of slavery’s stolen wealth. The irony is almost rich enough to laugh at, if the fate of the world didn’t hang in the balance, and it does currently hang in the balance.

It hangs in the balance because Vladimir Putin did work to get Donald Trump elected as president. He worked to get Britain to embrace Brexit, and his troll farm is still actively attempting to subvert political processes in the United States and all across the world. He is seeking inroads to power wherever he can find them, and right now the internet is his tool of choice. All information on the internet is now suspect. Nothing can be taken for granted. Every platform, every system, every piece of information technology can now be possibly subverted by criminal actors attempting undermine the great advances that have been made in the world, and they are doing this with the technology we, the West, invented.

On the Media Everything Is Fake January 11, 2019

On Thursday, President Trump flew down to McAllen, Texas to push his pro-wall, anti-immigrant narrative. This week, On the Media examines how the community tells a more welcoming story about the border — and a dogged presidential fact-checker joins us to pick apart the Oval Office address. Plus, how some progressives used Russian election interference tactics against a right-wing senate campaign. Also, is everything online fake? 

On the Media Everything Is Fake January 11, 2019

Make no mistake, we have made great strides toward improving equality across the world. In between the war profiteering and other boondoggles embarked on by the powers that be in Washington DC, the technology we created has moved out of the United States and improved the lives of people everywhere. So much so that poverty in the world is the lowest that it has been at any point so far in history. But the spreading of information and equality through technological systems has opened the doors for misinformation and distraction to be spread in the same way, through the same mechanisms.

Political bias, racial bias, religious bias. All these things still exist, and all these things are corruptions of the truth. They are weaknesses that the power-hungry can exploit in order to gain more power. That is what Vladimir Putin has done in Russia by re-establishing the Russian Orthodox church. He gives ethnic Russians a thing to believe in now that the dictatorships that liberated the Russian people from Czarist rule have fallen. He foments friction at the edges of his political empire, his fake republic, and exploits the resulting distrust by seizing land belonging to neighboring nations, by re-asserting old Soviet alliances. His neighbors fear him, which is what he wants, and his old foes are confused, fighting among themselves. All by his design.

The first thing we need to do, if we want to oppose this new criminal oligarchy founded by Vladimir Putin and embodied in his paid-for stooge in the White House, is to know who it is we are fighting, why we are fighting them and how we intend to win this fight. The first casualty of this information war has to be the ability to promote falsities as truths. If we can’t even determine what is true and what is false, then we have already lost the war.

Garbage In, Garbage Out.

If we believe what we are told by others with no need to verify what is true, we are sheep lead to slaughter. Subjectivity is the enemy. The people we are fighting are liars. Charlatans. Confidence artists. People who say things we want to believe but which are not demonstrably true.

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty

Many people cite this quote, few understand it. To be eternally vigilant is to practice due diligence as often as required when it comes to the things you believe as well as the things you are told. What is due diligence? Caveat Emptor. The two states of mind are interchangeable. Healthy caution and skepticism. If you want to be at liberty, if you want to maintain liberty, then you must be skeptical of all things that are not immediately apparent.

As an example. Freedom of speech is not free. You cannot say whatever springs to your mind and expect to suffer no consequences. This is what most people think freedom of speech means. Speech without consequences. All speech has a cost, in that you may be held accountable for the results of the words you speak. This is why you are punished for causing a panic by yelling fire! when there is no fire. It is not the speech that is punished, it is the result of the speech. The cause of the harm was speech if anyone was harmed in the resultant panic. No harm, no foul, as the adage goes.

But how do you assess harm? Is all harm readily apparent? If you are not harmed by a person’s speech, but your neighbor is, should you care? What if your neighbor is a different race? A different religion? A member of a different political party? Insert Niemöller’s law here.

That way lies death. So harm, even delayed, indirect harm, should be guarded against. And that, dear reader, is the quandary. As I noted on my last article about Alex Jones, deplatforming is not censoring a person’s speech. All these people claiming they have been censored by social media have their own websites. They have just as much access to consumers as any other individual in the system has. They simply do not have a megaphone through which to spread their lies. We are fighting an information war here, and the first thing that has to go is information which is demonstrably false.

Kicking ethics violators off of Twitter and Facebook is not censoring them, it is applying objective rules to subjective life. This is necessarily a messy business, but then bad people do exist. Bad ideas do exist. Stupid people do exist, and they don’t know the difference between a good idea and a bad idea. This requires things like rules of order (Robert’s Rules) parliamentary procedures, etcetera. Objective ethical standards have to be in place and they have to be enforced so that ideas can be properly tested and debated. You cannot call for harming another person and not expect the platform from which you speak to be taken away. That is simply good information hygiene. Any platform which doesn’t distinguish between good (correct) and bad (incorrect) information is a platform which is doomed to be dominated by the most ruthless, because it is the ruthless people who have no boundaries. Ruthless people do not worry about harming others to get their way. Lies. Fraud. These are but tools in the hands of the ruthless. Does deplatforming cause them harm? Only if they subjectively deem that their lies bring them power. In that case they don’t need a platform, they need a therapist.

Any platform created to be all inclusive (Spreely.com, Minds.com, etcetera) will be dominated by the most hateful. There is no way to avoid this scenario if you do not set hard ethical lines which cannot be crossed. I hope these platform providers enjoy taking orders from fascists. Fascists that will tell them what and how to think; which is what fascists do and why fascists (like Nazis) shouldn’t be given a platform in the first place. It is a quandary, but it isn’t an unsolvable problem.

I’m still on Facebook, for now. They at least acknowledge the existence of incorrect information and harmful social interaction. I’m not happy with providing a platform for ideas designed to kill me. I won’t spend time on a social platform that allows them space to spread their lies. Consequently those who voice views about political purity, religious purity, racial purity, promote the lie that life is a zero-sum game that requires I harm others to win, these kinds of people and beliefs are not welcome anywhere that I am expected to be. I would ban these people myself. I do block and report these people when I’m given the tools to do so.

Authority might be necessary, but authority need not lead to authoritarianism. The difference between allowing Donald Trump to take office because existing mechanisms put him in position to assume that office, and not allowing Caudillo Trump to violate the law in the name of his whims or his stormtrumper’s whims is exactly how that ethical hair is split.

Wikipedia – First Amendment to the US Constitution