Facebook, free speech and control

 

 

Matt Taibbi

One of the most important take-aways from Tim Wu’s The Master Switch is that censorship is facilitated by control of the market. Speech control follows ownership concentration. He points out how the Catholic Legion of Decency gained control of movies in the 1930s because of the vertical integration between movie theatre chains and production studios. In Wu’s phrase, a Catholic priest was controlling movies produced by Jews for a majority Protestant nation. The Legion of Decency could attach itself successfully to the movie business because the control of it was already secured by the owners of the studios.

“It is industrial structure that determines the limits of free speech.”

“The trick is that a concentrated industry need not be censorial by nature in order for its structure to produce a chilling effect on the freedom of expression….The problem is that a “speech industry” – as we might term any information industry — once centralized, becomes an easy target for external independent actors with strong reasons of their own for limiting speech. And these reasons may have nothing to do with the industry per se.” (The Master Switch at pp 121-123)

This brings us to Matt Taibbi’s article in Rolling Stone on Facebook: Can we be saved from the Social Media Giant?

The article needs to be seen as a useful changing of the subject, from Russia and Trump, to Trump and Facebook, to Facebook itself. It also signals a change in the description of the Internet, from an information cornucopia to an “informational landscape… controlled more or less entirely by a pair of advanced spying operations, Google and Facebook – and Facebook especially”.

Taibbi says that, “in many ways the [current] Facebook controversy is a canard”, meaning that the issue is media control, pure and simple, not Trump, and not Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Facbook has 2.1 billion customers today and grows by 50 to 100 million users per quarter, with revenues of $40.7 billion in 2017.

After a great deal of sanctimonious drivel from Taibbi about how everyone is becoming imprisoned in their own information ghettos – when were we not?- he gets to the real point. The “fake news” issue  is only the outer manifestation of the targetting of viewers with information, which is  a wholly legal advertizing technique. Moreover, it is “what the product was designed for.”

“Simply by growing so large that his firm ended up standing between media publishers and media consumers, constantly creating rules about who saw what, Zuckerberg and Facebook have created a thing America has never had before: an entrenched de facto media regulator”.

Obviously this is not fully accurate: see the discussion above about movie censorship, which lasted from the 1930s  until the 1960s. But Taibbi is accurate when he says that Facebook and Google can sell eyeballs to advertizers with exquisite accuracy, with the result that the two of them garner 63.1% of digital advertizing revenues

The complaint of publishers is that 1) they can never learn how the Facebook algorithm works, which determines who sees what, and 2) they receive frequently changing information on how to optimize content to reach maximum attention.

Taibbi indulges in a lot of ‘de haut en bas‘ – condescending –  talk about how the press used to work better in the days of printing presses, and how the soiled masses insist on getting their own reality manifested in their choices of media. He writes from the point of view of a Democrat contemplating the frightfulness of the lower orders insisting on their right to receive the information they want, which is part of the reason why Trump now sits in the White House.

Nevertheless, there is justice in his conclusion that “a functioning free press just can’t co-exist with an unaccountable private regulator”.

His argument ends up resembling the argument about net neutrality, which applies to underlying physical carriers of signals – or not. In net neutrality regimes, such as Canada’s, there exists a regulator that determines whether a behaviour by a carrier amounts to unjust discrimination against a particular use or a group of users. “Neutrality” is not an absolute but a sliding scale of offences and permitted actions. Most important, there is a referee.

In the case of Facebook and Google, we are not dealing with a carrier, but with a software platform, and no law governs their behaviour towards publishers seeking to reach audiences through them. No one has assimilated software platforms to common carriers, yet. No one has to my knowledge proposed common carrier obligations for Facebook and Google. Moreover the US Federal Communications Commission has just removed net neutrality obligations from the carriers. Verizon and Comcast and the like can now squeeze content and viewers as they think best.

It is evident that the forces assembling against Google and Facebook will be coming from the political Left, and not only from conservatives concerned that these companies are running political cults.

My concern remains that, if the technical structure permits it, if there are points of control, these will be used to limit free discussion.

 

 

 

Way to go, Janice!

I urge you watch Professor Janice Fiamengo’s video report of her appearance before the Ontario Human Rights Commission—that abomination, supported by the execrable Liberal Party, that subverts the rights of Canadian citizens.

A series of lies and frivolous complaints were brought forcing her to defend herself before this band of commissars. Eventually, the complaints were dropped, but not after causing her much grief and, of course, money. The complainant was never disciplined in any way or required to back up the absurd claims made before the commission. Such is the travesty of justice that these bastard star chambers are.

It is clear that tyranny does not depend on or require secret police forces, simply intimidating decent people with lies, slander, and violations of their fundamental rights will be sufficient to suppress free speech.  And the Government is doing this to us, the citizens of a supposedly free country.

Human Rights Commissions are a violation of the principles of justice that are the foundations of Western society—they are the modern successor to the witch hunt. No evidence is required, the defendant is assumed guilty, and no penalties are suffered by anyone making false claims, that is, inventing lies to slander good people.

It is precisely what communism looks like, and is. —Courtesy your Liberal government.

Rebel Yell

Science is superior to native traditional knowledge. And no, I am not sorry.

 

 

Science is a procedure of verifiability, or if you prefer, falsifiability. It is not a racial or cultural trait. If you cannot establish a proposition that is capable of being shown to be untrue it is not science, it is belief, it is conjecture, it is myth, it is “traditional knowledge”

On the other hand, science – by the post modern (racialist) definition – is “white” by accident of being derived from Europe. I am not asserting racial superiority here, but I am asserting that neither Hindu, Islamic or Chinese civilizations managed to develop this form of knowing the world, the one that has produced the greatest improvement of the state of most people in the world in the last 400 years.

In the current environment of insanity, it is dangerous to suggest that there might be conflicts between assertions of traditional knowledge and science. It is a ‘racism of intelligence’.

A Quebec civil servant raised a ruckus when he pointed out that a conflict could arise between science and “traditional aboriginal knowledge”. Bad man! Outrage proceeded from the professionally outraged.

Quoting the National Post article in question:

Bill C-69, which received first reading in the House of Commons on Feb. 8, would require that before a project subject to a federal assessment is approved, “traditional knowledge of the Indigenous peoples of Canada provided with respect to the project” be taken into account — though it provides no definition of “traditional knowledge.” The bill further states that when traditional knowledge is provided in confidence, it “is confidential and must not knowingly be, or be permitted to be, disclosed without written consent.”

A federal law of general application to the assessment of projects would establish, or fail to establish:

  • no definition is given of “traditional knowledge”, and
  • if presented in confidential format, no disclosure of it is required in open court.

The civil servant quite reasonably observed that

“to systematically place Indigenous knowledge on equal footing with scientific data “could prove problematic in cases where Indigenous knowledge and science are found to be in contradiction.” He said criteria should be established to evaluate the accuracy of the traditional knowledge.”

If I were an aboriginal, by these provisions I would be  enabled – for example – to submit to the Court confidentially that the Great Spirit has vouchsafed us a knowledge that He would be wrathful if a pipeline went across our “traditional” territories. It would be “traditional knowledge” if we said it was, and hence its contents would be unverifiable; indeed their contents would be unknown to the parties in the proceeding, they would be undiscussable, and the reasons of the court could not be made available if they relied on it, without written permission of the aboriginal group. So we could have a system of legal review that could not review the reasons for a government decision. A court could not rely on the accuracy or completeness of a record of a proceeding.

Anyone familiar with the trial of Galileo knows that he asserted that the earth went around the sun, that some of the moveable stars, as they were then known, like Jupiter, had their own moons, and that the surface of the moon was pockmarked with craters. The Church held that Aristotle was right, and that these three points were contradicted by the Great Philosopher. Yet in the case of Aristotle, the Church asserted a known, public doctrine.

So the position of the future Galileos in Canadian society is even worse in a way than it was for Galileo. Because you will be brought to trial for offending a traditional doctrine without knowing what that doctrine was, unless the Aboriginal band decided to make it public. To the uncertainty of what will arouse the wrath of Social Justice Warriors will be added secret doctrines, known to the initiates of tribal customs, and unknown to all others.

If you doubt for a moment it will soon be a hate crime to contest traditional knowledge, observe the accusation by the Ottawa law professors against the Quebec civil servant, Mr. Beauchesne, of “racism” for favouring science in a ‘hierarchy of knowledges’.

When I heard Jordan Peterson say that the social constructionist attack on knowledge will soon attack biology for contradicting what the Left says about race, sex, and other biological facts, I thought he might have been extrapolating reasonably. It has become my clear conviction that the days when “white science” will be attacked as racist, sexist, homophobic etc. is already underway.

First they call you a ‘settler’. Then they call you a ‘scientist’.

 

 

 

 

Women and black students less likely to defend free speech

If you think the headline is provocative, that is because the facts are provoking.

Inclusivity is more important than speech, a majority of students say.

When forced to choose, a small majority of college students say inclusivity is more important than free speech, though they widely believe in the importance of both to democracy.

Diverse and inclusive society                       Protecting free speech

All                                                          53                         46
Men                                                       39                         61
Women                                                 64                         35
Whites                                                   47                         52
Blacks                                                    68                         31
At historically black institutions      53                         46
Democrats                                            66                         34
Independents                                       49                         50
Republicans                                          30                         60

The full report is given here.

Michael Barone comments:

So the difference between male and female students may reflect different power positions, with those most at risk of proscription more favorably disposed toward free speech. It may also reflect differences between male and female temperaments on average. Psychological studies over many years conclude that women tend to prize agreeableness and consensus, while men tend to seek out conflict and competition. One can easily imagine evolutionary explanations for this group difference, which of course would not be apparent in every individual.

Female students’ willingness to subordinate free speech to political values is disturbing, in a time when habits of mind and behavior developed on campus tend to leach out to the larger society.

Technical details:
Results for the college student sample are based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 3,072 U.S. college students, aged 18 to 24, who are currently enrolled as full-time students at four-year colleges. Gallup selected a random sample of 240 U.S. four-year colleges, drawn from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), that were stratified by college enrollment size, public or private affiliation, and region of the country.

 

Badly behaved children grow up to be left wing

Study shows….. was the favourite expression of a long dead friend of mine. Say it with appropriate tones of cynicism.

Check the questions that were asked of the people in the study. This is a study a conservative might like to believe but, like anthropogenic global warming, deserves a wary eye.

 

Badly behaved children are more likely to grow up to be left-wing, a study has shown.

A study of 16,000 British people in their 30s found those with troubled childhoods were more likely to favour radical socialist policies.

The study was a follow-up to research conducted when they were children at the ages of five and seven.

Those whose parents reported they had ‘conduct problems’ at in primary school were more likely to favour radical socialist polices and to smash the status quo.

Badly behaved children are more likely to grow up to be left-wing, a study has shown

….The parents of the children in the study completed an assessment of their chilld’s behaviour at the ages of either five or seven.

They were asked to say whether their children had problems relating to anxiety, conduct or hyperactivity.

When adults – at the ages of 30 or 33 – the participants filled in questionaires that assessed a variety of traits.

These included economic conservatism, political cynicism, racism, authoritarianism, and attitudes about gender inequality.

The participants were asked how much they agreed with statements such as: ‘Government should redistribute income”, ‘People like me have no say in what Government does”, “Would not want a person from another race to be boss”, “law breakers should be given stiffer sentences” and “Men and women should have [the] chance to do [the] same kind of work.’ The researchers combined the scores into two broad factors: economic and political discontent and social conservatism.

(My own answers to those questions would be:

  1. It already does enough of that, thank you.
  2. no, and neither do you.
  3. It would depened on whether they were affirmative action candidates. I have seen enough over-promoted women French Canadian civil service managers to be skeptical of all forms of affirmative action in management, which always comes down to the idea that there are too many white males in positions of authority. Out goes Reginald Skippon from Yorkshire and in comes Claudette Blanchard from Rimouski to manage ship’s engine repair in the Coast Guard. You know the drill.
  4. Penalties are hard enough already. Someone should read the penal code if they disagree.
  5. Yes, they should. But see answer 3 above.)

 

Dr Lewis found that childhood conduct problems led to economic and political discontent in adulthood – and this was true across social classes and regardless of the individual’s intelligence.

He added that conduct problems in childhood may reflect difficulty with self-control and long-term planning or early rejection of authority – either of which could lead to economic or political discontent.

Dr Lewis said: ‘We all wonder from time to time why it is that those on the other side of the fence came to be that way,’ Lewis notes. ‘These findings take us a little further down the road to answering that question.’

There will always be turbulent and clamorous people. Nowadays they are called “left wing”.

Transgenderism as a metaphysical belief

From Commentary, and article by Sohrab Ahmari

The trans movement is asking Americans to accept and indeed to make their lives and their perceptions of reality conform to a set of extraordinary ideas based on very little debate. These claims are often put forth in the language of psychiatry and psychology, and they implicate the lives of real people, many of whom suffer genuine, sometimes unbearable anguish. Which good American can say no to the cries of a suffering minority, especially when they are amplified by scientific authority?

The science isn’t there yet, in point of fact. The case for accepting and advancing the cause of transgenderism is, at root, a radical philosophical argument—one that goes to the heart of what it means to be human. Accepting the trans movement’s argument requires us to lend credence to an extreme form of mind-matter dualism, and involves severing the links between bodily sex, gender identity, and erotic desire.

But first: What do the activists claim? If there is one unshakeable tenet, it is that gender identity and expression—a person’s self-concept as a gendered being and how that person outwardly manifests it—are different from the sex organs that have distinguished male from female since the emergence of the species. They argue that while a physician might “assign” a sex to a newborn, that label may well be at odds with the baby’s true gender. As the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) puts it in a guide for journalists, a transgender person is one “whose sex assigned at birth is different from who they know they are on the inside.”…

At the same time, the activists hold—and this is their second major tenet—that gender itself is largely a social construct, since it is society that labels various traits or characteristics “masculine” or “feminine.”…

The third tenet is that gender identity and sexual desire have nothing to do with each other. According to a model school-district transgender policy drawn up by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, sexual orientation is “a person’s romantic and/or physical attraction to people of the same or opposite gender or other genders. Transgender and gender nonconforming people may have any sexual orientation.” PFLAG likewise bifurcates gender identity and sexual preference: “It is important to note that gender identity neither relates to, nor determines, sexual orientation…. People who are transgender can also identify as gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, or queer….

Now we have the necessary elements to put together the vision of the human person offered by the trans movement. Each person has a strong innate sense of gender that, according to the activists, may or may not align with his or her physical sex. When the two don’t align, we are dealing, in essence, with brains or minds that are trapped in bodies with the wrong sex organs.2 It is incumbent on the rest of us, then, to recognize the “true” self that is so trapped and help it break free from the prison of the body.

This is a profoundly metaphysical, even spiritual, vision.

See the rest of the article. As usual, a few minutes of clear thought is enough to skewer the pretensions of folly.

Why are the equinoxes not statutory holidays?

As we come from a country where seasons forcibly affect our beings, where we suffer from winter, rejoice in spring, relax in summer and get to work in the fall, why do we not have appropriate holidays to mark the seasons?

Yes I acknowledge that Christmas (25th December) is laid over the winter solstice (December 21st) in the northern hemisphere, by religious and social fiat. That is one out of four.

Easter varies by 28 days (a lunar month) + 7 days. It is celebrated  on first Sunday after the first new moon after the spring equinox. As a movable feast, it is useless as an equinoctial celebration. As the observance of the death and resurrection of Jesus, Easter is too explicitly Christian. It has never taken off the way Christmas has, largely because the pagan origins of Yule coincide with the solstice, whereas Easter was made a movable feast by a decision of the Church in the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. The summer solstice is overlaid with  St Jean Baptiste Day in Quebec and a week later English Canadians get July 1st, but neither is explicitly about the summer solstice.

We are too busy working on September 21st to pay much attention to the autumnal equinox, but we ought to mark the passing of the year more formally.

My plea is for a set of holidays that acknowledge we are on a planet that revolves around a sun, and which tilts and wobbles. We do not mark sufficiently our place in the universe.  Having holidays like this would allow parents and educators to instruct the ignorant. If you think I exaggerate, I can relate my experience of a nice 50-year old taxi driver I had in Washington, D.C. last year, for whom the relationship among the solstices, the tilt of the earth, and  the relationship of the seasons to these facts, was a revelation. I am not kidding, and he was not kidding me.

So yes, folks, for this and many other reasons, I favour statutory holidays on the summer solstice, and the spring and autumn equinoxes. Christmas is well covered, thank you.

A Christian Arab and an Levantine Jew were talking about Islam

Their insights into how a minority comes to dominate a majority are worth heeding. (The relevant portion starts about 20 minutes into the conversation).

Gad Saad and Nicholas Nassim Taleb in conversation.

In Arabic, “din” means ‘law’. In Hebrew “din” means ‘religion’.

Slow Islamization of the West is accomplished through two simple rules: 1. Once you get in you cannot get out. 2. If any of the parents are Muslim, all the children are Muslim.

A very slow conversion rate results in a society that, after a 1000 years, goes from 95% Christian to 95% Muslim.

Only the Wahhabist faction of Islam is truly dangerous, says Taleb. Wahhabism drives the tolerant majority of Muslims to intolerance. Shia and other forms of Islam are not a problem.

The same dynamic of intolerant minorities works on campuses. The social justice warriors drive universities because they are an intolerant minority.

Having heard this, I understand better why, in the Scottish Reformation, a Scottish earl chained a bunch of  extreme Calvinists to a rock and drowned them at high tide. He understood the power of intolerant minorities.

Taleb: “Anything that does not involve costly signalling is not a religion. Gods demand sacrifices. No sacrifices: no religion.”

One of the costly methods of signalling your Christianity – or freedom from Islam – is not eat the sacrificial meat of Islam, halal. Costly signalling is the basis of real religion, says Taleb.

Do All Philosopher’s Names Have an S in Them?

The latest from the Cuckoo’s Nest of Academia comes from the formerly renowned Oxford University in the UK. From the UK Daily Mail:

Oxford University will ‘feminise’ its philosophy curriculum in order to appeal to more female students and boost writers [sic] profiles.
The university’s Faculty of Philosophy requested that 40 per cent of the recommended authors on its reading lists are women.
Academic staff have also been asked to use writers’ first names when compiling reading lists instead of their initials, in order to highlight those that were written by women.

Ideas are of course not important, only the sex of the writer. Perhaps due attention should be paid to whether the philosopher is left-handed or right-handed? Blond or brunette? Cat-lover or dog-lover? Surely those criteria are equally relevant?

I demand that the philosophy curriculum be “feline-ized” because only cat-lovers can philosophize feline-istically.

It’s hard to parody universities these days, they are populated by people who would make morons look smart. Orwell nailed it when he said that some ideas are so stupid, only intellectuals will believe them. But, true to form, Monty Python’s crowd figured this out years ago…

Philosophers’ names have an “S” in them, is that right, honey?
(here)

It doesn’t matter if the philosophy curriculum at Europe’s oldest university is reduced to parroting the piffle of cultural Marxism, what really matters is their feelings.

Free sick bags all round.

Rebel Yell