Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Understanding Internet Discourse in 2015

Scott Alexander:

But as it is, even if many journalists are interested in raising awareness of police brutality, given their total lack of coordination there’s not much they can do. An editor can publish a story on Eric Garner, but in the absence of a divisive hook, the only reason people will care about it is that caring about it is the right thing and helps people. But that’s “charity”, and we already know from my blog tags that charity doesn’t sell. A few people mumble something something deeply distressed, but neither black people nor white people get interested, in the “keep tuning to their local news channel to get the latest developments on the case” sense.

The idea of liberal strategists sitting down and choosing “a flagship case for the campaign against police brutality” is poppycock. Moloch – the abstracted spirit of discoordination and flailing response to incentives – will publicize whatever he feels like publicizing. And if they want viewers and ad money, the media will go along with him.

Which means that it’s not a coincidence that the worst possible flagship case for fighting police brutality and racism is the flagship case that we in fact got. It’s not a coincidence that the worst possible flagship cases for believing rape victims are the ones that end up going viral. It’s not a coincidence that the only time we ever hear about factory farming is when somebody’s doing something that makes us almost sympathetic to it. It’s not coincidence, it’s not even happenstance, it’s enemy action. Under Moloch, activists are irresistably incentivized to dig their own graves. And the media is irresistably incentivized to help them.

Lost is the ability to agree on simple things like fighting factory farming or rape. Lost is the ability to even talk about the things we all want. Ending corporate welfare. Ungerrymandering political districts. Defrocking pedophile priests. Stopping prison rape. Punishing government corruption and waste. Feeding starving children. Simplifying the tax code.

But also lost is our ability to treat each other with solidarity and respect.

Similarly, this is a at best borderline example of doxxing, since at most it exposes a locally prominent public official through their official contact information. It is much more annoying as an example of sexism expressed through using an informal picture of a female public official instead of her official one. But if it is someone's introduction to the idea of doxxing, you're immediately leading them in the wrong direction.

It is also a confusing example because unless I'm missing something, the people who would be most upset by the memo would be Pearson and NJDOE, who presumably already know how to get a district superintendent on the phone.

A second post by Bob Braun is a better example of inappropriately including someone's personal information in a post, and, unless I'm missing something, Braun has removed the relevant address, so... lesson learned, at least by Braun? Was an apology required? The larger problem with the post is that he's barking up the wrong tree entirely due to a mis-understanding of how the economics of open source licensing works, which is understandable.

The controversy around Braun's posts is a good example of what Alexander calls "The Toxoplasma of Rage." I highly recommend his post.

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