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Culture war games: don’t mention the war

The Downfall Of YouTube’s Biggest Star Is A Symptom Of A Bigger Illness
By Jacob Clifton

We got so used to invoking Godwin’s Law (the idea that every internet discussion will eventually reach the point of comparing something to Hitler or Nazis) that we internalized it, and can’t hear certain terms anymore because they’re too big to let in the door. When you are saying something that big, taking it that far, and still don’t feel heard, you get louder and louder, doubling down every time — and then to still feel invisible?

Make Hitler Happy: The Beginning of Mein Kampf, as Told by Coca-Cola
By Max Read

Is Coca-Cola a white nationalist organization? Its Twitter says: Yes.

It’s true—we asked Coca-Cola to tweet about its concern for the continuing existence of the white race. But this is not particularly different from asking for a retweet from a brand or a celebrity. If we asked Coca-Cola to retweet, for example, the first four paragraphs of Hitler’s autobiography Mein Kampf, would it?

As it turns out, yes. Gawker Editorial Labs director Adam Pash built us a bot to tweet the book line-by-line, and then tweet at Coke to #SignalBoost Hitler and #MakeItHappy. Below, read Mein Kampf, as told by the global soft-drink manufacturing and distribution corporation Coca-Cola …

A.J. Daulerio is Ready to Tell His (Whole) Gawker Story
By Maximillian Potter

“Thiel now has a playbook to obliterate the media,” Daulerio says. “We have Trump in office, and this person who is very close to him has this playbook.” When I ask him if Thiel was right to call Gawker “sociopathic,” Daulerio goes off on a long rant. “Maybe you need that sociopathic bully to fight back against a sociopathic bully. And the thing is, Nick is out. I’m not out.”

The Internet Rewards the Meanest People Most
By Chris Thilk

Why? Why aren’t we thinking of how something may or may not be ruining someone’s life before we publish? Even aside from that, why aren’t we thinking about the implications of what we do before we hit the Publish button?

What Biddle never fully addresses, as least not to my satisfaction, is why Sacco’s tweet was news? What was the value in bringing its existence to the awareness of people beyond those following her? “The tweet was a bad tweet” is a low journalistic bar to clear.

And if we’re not able to adequately answer the question of the tweet’s journalistic value then all that remains to justify Biddle’s post is that it was meant to fill the outrage vacuum, the gaping maw that exists solely to let people righteously wag their fingers at people who have stepped out of line. Biddle cops to this by saying “…outrage is traffic.” Which translates in internet-speak to “…outrage is ad revenue.”

Slate’s David Auerbach on What’s Wrong (and Right) With the Media
By Jeff Wise

You were saying that these banner ads were paying less and less, so publishers had to get more and more clicks, so a desperation set in.
Desperation. Fear. Because they were becoming more reliant on Facebook, and purely Facebook. So, especially in 2014, 2015, you really started seeing a race to the bottom, where the sheer quantity of content was just building up. People were generating a huge amount of material, a huge amount of outrage bait. The opposite of outrage is hate. Sometimes the outrage was at the article itself, which is where you get hate clicks, where the target becomes not the person being written about, but the actual author.

You see this with op-eds. It was actually easier to get virality if you published something ridiculous. “I think that Bernie Sanders supporters are Gamergaters” or “I think that if you eat meat you are racist” or “I think that if you watch The Walking Dead you are as bad as Dylann Roof” … There’s a general reticence to take responsibility for any of this. “Why do people get so upset that we publish controversial things? It’s just freedom of the press.” Yeah, but now you’re publishing stuff purely for the sake of provoking your readers. Provoking your readers is now the ultimate goal. People share stuff that they actively loathe by saying, “Can you believe this shit?” When the media says, Why are we getting so much criticism and abuse? Well, it’s because you are constantly kicking the hornet’s nest to get clicks. So, yes, they do have the right to complain.

Americans’ Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low
By Art Swift

With the explosion of the mass media in recent years, especially the prevalence of blogs, vlogs and social media, perhaps Americans decry lower standards for journalism. When opinion-driven writing becomes something like the norm, Americans may be wary of placing trust on the work of media institutions that have less rigorous reporting criteria than in the past. On the other hand, as blogs and social media “mature,” they may improve in the American public’s eyes. This could, in turn, elevate Americans’ trust and confidence in the mass media as a whole.

16 Fake News Stories Reporters Have Run Since Trump Won
By Daniel Payne

… all of them, taken as a group, raise a pressing and important question: why is this happening? Why are our media so regularly and so profoundly debasing and beclowning themselves, lying to the public and sullying our national discourse—sometimes on a daily basis? How has it come to this point?

Perhaps the answer is: “We’ve let it.” The media will not stop behaving in so reckless a manner unless and until we demand they stop.

That being said, there are two possible outcomes to this fake news crisis: our media can get better, or they can get worse. If they get better, we might actually see our press begin to hold the Trump administration (and government in general) genuinely accountable for its many admitted faults. If they refuse to fix these serial problems of gullibility, credulity, outrage, and outright lying, then we will be in for a rough four years, if not more.

not post-truth as too many ‘truths’
By Kenan Malik

When I suggested earlier that the idea of ‘alternative facts’ draws upon ‘a set of concepts that in recent decades have been used by radicals’, I was not suggesting that Kellyanne Conway, or Steve Bannon, still less Donald Trump, have been reading up on Foucault or Baudrillard, or that the aim of the postmodern left was, as it is for Conway and Bannon and Trump, to make lies acceptable. It is rather that sections of academia and of the left have in recent decades helped create a culture in which relativised views of facts and knowledge seem untroubling, and hence made it easier for the reactionary right not just to re-appropriate but also to promote reactionary ideas. It is also that, having spent decades promoting relativism and the politics of identity, the left is in no position to challenge the identitarian right.

On Meaning, Identity Politics and Bias in the Academy — An Interview with Clay Routledge
By Claire Lehmann

If you can, tell us more about what the psychology of inter-group relations means for Identity Politics… And considering the state of hyper-polarisation today in the US and elsewhere, what are some important findings to keep in mind from psychology, that might help shed some light on all of this instability?

Identity politics, especially what is going on within the academic left, is strange because it is at odds with much of what we know about intergroup relations. Decades ago, psychological scientists established that dividing people into groups and highlighting group differences leads to in-group bias. It also leads to hostility if the groups perceive themselves as fighting over scarce resources. It is human nature to defend one’s in-group and to be suspicious of and hesitant to trust out-groups. Identity politics makes relations between groups worse because it constantly reminds people of their group identity and what distinguishes them from members of other groups. Experimental research also shows that making people feel like victims, which is common in identity politics and on college campuses, increases feelings of entitlement and reduces prosocial behavior.

Feelings of victimhood are also contagious. This is called competitive victimhood. Research shows that when one group is accused of victimizing another group, it causes members of the supposed victimizing group to perceive their own group as victims. Therefore, a lot of identity politics activism is causing harm to intergroup relations. The key to helping members of disadvantaged groups and improving intergroup relations more generally is to focus on what unites people, not what divides them. We often call this a common in-group identity or a superordinate group identity.

For instance, in the U.S., it is better to highlight that we are all Americans instead of constantly thinking about all the different group memberships we hold. This doesn’t mean we ignore historical or present-day discrimination. We should recognize and stand against discrimination, but the goal should be to advocate for equality because we all share a common humanity, and should thus all be treated with the same dignity and have the same rights. Identity politics is divisive. It encourages feelings of victimhood, a lack of personal control or agency, and distrust of and anger towards different others. The postmodern fields that promote identity politics ignore decades of good research on both what creates conflict and the best ways to reduce it.

The Truth about Propaganda
By Noam Shpancer

… the biggest underlying problem with propaganda is not who is using it, but the extent to which it’s used to the diminishment or exclusion of reason, science, fact and truth. That is to say, if our camp wins by using propaganda, it will be no victory at all, because it means the people are gullible, and are vulnerable to the next skilled propagandist, who may well come from the other side. Only a people educated about the process of propaganda and adamant about not letting it override the processes of science will be truly civilized, liberated, and safe.

Many Americans Believe Fake News Is Sowing Confusion
By Michael Barthel, Amy Mitchell and Jesse Holcomb

Frequent spotters of made-up online political news are more likely to believe fake news causes confusion – and are also more confident in their ability to identify it. Roughly eight-in-ten (82%) of those who say they often see fake news online think such completely made-up news causes a great deal of confusion, compared with 56% of those who see fake news less frequently. And 51% of those who often see fake news are very confident in their ability to identify fake news, compared with a third of those who see it less often.

To be sure, there are limits to what this self-reported information can capture, as it cannot determine whether these levels of confidence are truly warranted. There could, for example, be more fake news on the internet that goes unnoticed (despite high confidence in one’s ability to detect it) or some news that is erroneously thought to be made up. Further research could help tease out these different possibilities. What’s clear even now, however, is that Americans perceive fake political news stories to be a consistent threat online – but see themselves as fairly adept at detecting when a story is made-up.

2017: What Scientific Term or Concept Ought to be More Widely Known?
By David Pizarro

It is very possible that because of motivated reasoning, I have acquired beliefs that are distorted, biased, or just plain false. I could have acquired these beliefs all while maintaining a sincere desire to find out the real truth of the matter, exposing myself to the best information I could find on a topic, and making a real effort to think critically and rationally about the information I found. Another person with a different set of pre-existing beliefs may come to the opposite conclusion following all of these same steps, with the same sincere desire to know truth. In short, even when we reason about things carefully, we may be deploying this reasoning selectively without ever realizing it. Hopefully, just knowing about motivated reasoning can help us defeat it. But I do not know of any evidence indicating that it will. 

Why More Democrats Are Now Embracing Conspiracy Theories
By Brendan Nyhan

Even some prominent liberals like Robert Reich, the former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, seem open to conspiracy theories of the sort typically espoused by figures like Alex Jones and Glenn Beck. (After the recent violent demonstration at the University of California at Berkeley, Mr. Reich raised the possibility that the far right “was in cahoots” with the agitators, writing a blog post titled “A Yiannopoulos, Bannon, Trump Plot to Control American Universities?”)

A simple explanation for this shift is that misperceptions often focus on the president and are most commonly held by members of the other party. Just as Republicans disproportionately endorsed prominent misperceptions during the Obama years (like the birther and death panel myths), Democrats are now the opposition partisans especially likely to fall victim to dubious claims about the Trump administration.

Conservative Outlets Gave Their Audiences a Very Different View of Trump’s Press Conference
By Conor Friedersdorf

The American right complains about the media as much as any ideological movement ever has, even as it wallows in a right-of-center media ecosystem far more dishonest and less rigorous than The New York Times on its worst day. Some of its most popular figures pander and mislead and constantly vilify the other side. Insofar as that other side writes off their entire audiences, the populist right-wing will keep winning. Its Achilles’ heel is that it relies on blatant misinformation to win. Can conservatives or libertarians or liberals pierce the bubble? Are they even trying?

Are Liberals Helping Trump?
By Sabrina Tavernise

Liberals may feel energized by a surge in political activism, and a unified stance against a president they see as irresponsible and even dangerous. But that momentum is provoking an equal and opposite reaction on the right. In recent interviews, conservative voters said they felt assaulted by what they said was a kind of moral Bolshevism — the belief that the liberal vision for the country was the only right one. Disagreeing meant being publicly shamed.

Is PewDiePie More Like Mel Brooks Than Milo Yiannopoulos?
By Cathy Young

Meanwhile, Aja Romano on Vox refers to “the litany of evidence suggesting [Kjellberg is] more sincere in promoting anti-Semitism than he says” — then grasps for such straws as possibly neo-fascist haircuts. After noting that Kjellberg “uses Nazi imagery to represent something he views as exaggerated and hyperbolic,” Romano asserts that “this has the side effect of turning Nazism into a cheap joke” and “normalizing Nazi ideology.” Hold on. Mockery of Nazism promotes Nazi ideas? Does Nazi propaganda include the parody videos that turn Hitler’s rant from the movie Downfall into an angry reaction to just about anything? Was Ben Fritz, one of the authors of the Wall Street Journal article, normalizing Nazism when he joked on Twitter about watching the alternative history series The Man in the High Castle because of a “hard on” for Nazis?

PewDiePie: Alt-Right Nazi, Victim of Political Correctness, or Just an Idiot?
By Robby Soave

Disney, of course, is well within its rights to can PewDiePie for any reason—and not wanting to be associated with Nazi humor is a reason I support. It is not censorship when one private actor refuses to endorse or fund the speech of another private actor. It’s just business. We shouldn’t treat Kjellberg like a victim—of political correctness, or of anything else. Even without Disney and Youtube, he’s still a 28-year-old millionaire with a sizeable audience. He can clean up his act and try again.

The Pewdiepie fiasco is a massive overreaction
By Dave Smith

But this incident is an important reminder that jokes — whether they’re funny or not — aren’t always communicated very well over the internet, and it’s all too easy to get up in arms if you’re missing the context that gives it meaning. It’s the same reason people shouldn’t get mad at comedians when they say offensive things on stage, but should get mad if those said things are said on the street: Context matters.

Flemming Rose Against the Worldwide Suppression of Speech
By Nick Gillespie & Todd Krainin

Nick Gillespie: Where are the threats coming from? Are they exclusively coming out of religious intolerance? Is it Islamic Jihadists? It is broader than that?

Flemming Rose: It’s far broader than that and I think fundamentally it has all to do with our ability to manage diversity in a world that is getting increasingly globalized and I think the debate of free speech is going on in a qualitatively new situation driven by migration, the fact that people move across borders in numbers at a speed never seen before in the history of mankind. The consequence being that almost every society in the world right now is getting more and more diverse in terms of culture and religion. That’s one factor.

The second factor is the digital technology. The fact that what is being published somewhere is being published everywhere and people can react to speech across cultures, but in a situation where speech loses context and can be manipulated and exploited and political and so that’s what happened to me.

Nick Gillespie: Because it was a series of Danish imams who took the cartoons, added cartoons that never appeared or were never commissioned by you and toward the Middle East and stoked anger.

Neo-Nazi Richard Spencer Got Punched—You Can Thank the Black Bloc
By Natasha Lennard

The black bloc I joined met at Logan Circle, some two miles north of the inauguration parade route. We peered through bandanas to find friends. We gathered in bloc formation behind wood-enforced banners, filled the street, and began to march. The bloc takes care to stay together, move together, and blend together. Within minutes, bottle rockets were shooting skyward and bricks were flying through bank windows. You don’t know who does what in a bloc, you don’t look to find out. If bodies run out of formation to take a rock to a Starbucks window, they melt back to the bloc in as many seconds. Bodies reconciled, kinetic beauty. If that sounds to you like a precondition for mob violence, you’re right. But this is only a problem if you think there are no righteous mobs, or that windows feel pain, or that counter-violence (like punching Richard Spencer) is never valid.

Violent protest is not the answer
By Tom Owolade

Several problems afflict this argument. For one, there is a tendency amongst the political left to define loosely who can described as a fascist. Although this tendency is acute amongst many relatively sober intellectual types, it is probably worse amongst people who actually do the punching. If punching a fascist is the right thing to do simply because fascists are bad, then it is vitally important that the term fascist is agreed upon by and is known intuitively by the general public. Some think Zionism a far-right belief system, and there has been calls for Zionist to be punched.

… Important to their justification of punching fascists is their sense of being on the right side of history. Being on the right side of history communicates an entitled sense of righteousness where the norms of civility and the principle of charity don’t apply. Affirming you are on the right side of history is another way of saying “god is on your side”. When the puritans lashed those they suspected of heresy and took pleasure in the ritual of public humiliation they too felt God was on their side.

Inside the black bloc militant protest movement as it rises up against Trump
By Paige St. John

Those activists interviewed expressed no remorse for the property damage. They said it should pressure the university to think twice about allowing such events in the future. They hold the same regard for violence against people.

Bloc activists accompanying demonstrators against a white nationalist rally at the Capitol in Sacramento in the summer were met by white supremacists armed with knives.

Two law enforcement agencies continue to investigate the June 26 clash. Five people were stabbed, all on the side of the antifa, the anti-fascist movement. One was Felarca, who said assailants used box cutters and knives taped to their protest sticks. She required 24 stitches in her arm and head.

‘That’s not somebody’s Honda’: Owner of limo torched on Inauguration Day unsure if insurance will cover damages
By Justin Wm. Moyer

Ashraf, a Muslim who came to the United States 30 years ago from Pakistan, said his driver was injured as he fled and is too traumatized to speak out. He said he’s not sure insurance will cover the repair bill because he still doesn’t know where the car is. He’s awaiting information from D.C. police.

“I do believe strongly that no protest requires any kind of violence or destruction,” Ashraf said.

Flemming Rose: The Reluctant Fundamentalist
By Simon Cottee

What about those who died in protests over the cartoons? “I regret that,” he told me. “And I don’t think that a cartoon is worth a single human life. But the dilemma for every one of us is what do you do when other people think that way? Do you bow down because they say, ‘This is so important to me that I want to kill because of a cartoon?’”

In Trump Era, Censorship May Start in the Newsroom
By Jim Rutenberg

This is how the muzzling starts: not with a boot on your neck, but with the fear of one that runs so deep that you muzzle yourself.

Maybe it’s the story you decide against doing because it’s liable to provoke a press-bullying president to put the power of his office behind his attempt to destroy your reputation by falsely calling your journalism “fake.”

Maybe it’s the line you hold back from your script or your article because it could trigger a federal leak investigation into you and your sources (so, yeah, jail).

Or, maybe it’s the commentary you spike because you’re a publicly supported news channel and you worry it will cost your station its federal financing.

In that last case, your fear would be existential — a matter of your very survival — and your motivation to self-censor could prove overwhelming.

“Our establishment is more threatened by satire than by jihadists” says ISIS in Sylvania artist
By Mimsy

“ISIS in Sylvania” is not just about the childish and barbaric ideology of ISIS, it’s about the childish idiocy of the west too. The British political establishment, police, media and universities continually infantilize and portray those going to fight for ISIS as innocent children, duped by nasty older men. It’s as if they are toddlers unable to make a decision. When I was 18 years old, I knew not to chop anybody’s head off.

But the decision to censor shows that our establishment is more threatened by satire, clarity and truth than by young men willing to kill, rape and pillage in the name of Islam. Apparently my images were “potentially inflammatory” to terrorists. This is the equivalent of saying an anti-Nazi cartoon in the late 1930s was offensive…to Nazis. Those who justify and protect barbaric totalitarianism, in whichever form, are on the fast track to becoming totalitarian themselves.

Techdirt’s Readers Kept This German Comedian Out Of Prison
By David Meyer Lindenberg

First, a little historical context. Böhmermann’s poem came at an inopportune time for the German government, which relies on Turkey to help stem the flow of Syrian refugees into Europe. And Erdogan, the Turkish strongman who was himself imprisoned in 1997 for reading a political poem out loud, is exactly the kind of guy to endanger a bilateral agreement over his hurt feelz.

These feelz of his are very sensitive, indeed. For example, he doesn’t like it when you compare him to Gollum. (There are some alleged similarities between the two.) If you’re a Turk and ask him to guess what you’ve got in your pocketses, he’ll have you convicted of a crime. On the other hand, if you’re fortunate enough to live somewhere with freedom of speech, the worst he can do is block you on Twitter.

What if you live in a foreign country that nevertheless has archaic, repressive speech laws? As a lot of surprised Germans found out in mid-April, it may mean Erdogan and other delicately minded people can reach out to your government and get it to punish you for them.

We need to talk about sense and sensitivity
By Lionel Shriver

While I don’t choose to be gratuitously offensive in my novels, I can’t keep others from becoming incensed anyway, now that indignation has become an international sport. Like other responsible colleagues, I do my homework. But good fiction is daring – it takes risks – and too much contemporary fiction is already bland. The publishing industry doesn’t need more gatekeepers to make it blander yet and still more timid. The day my novels are sent to a sensitivity reader is the day I quit.

I Helped Create the Milo Trolling Playbook. You Should Stop Playing Right Into It.
By Ryan Holiday

If you actually want to fight back against these trolls, here’s a strategy to consider: Organize all you want, get as many people as you can to show up at their events, but don’t try to shut them down. In fact, the only thing you should try to shut down are the instigators who try to incite violence. Regain the moral high ground by saying that you absolutely respect their right to free speech.

And then, actually listen and talk to them. To me, the most effective retorts against the alt-right were when Trevor Noah had Tomi Lahren on his show and when Elle Reeve profiled Richard Spencer for Vice. Both came off looking mostly like jokes. Tomi Lahren showed her age. Richard Spencer revealed his movement to be mostly a collection of a few thousand sad dorks. Wale’s Twitter exchange with Tomi was effective too—there was no outrage, no opposition, just teasing.

They say sunlight is the best disinfectant. But it is also what allows you to see whether the emperor has any clothes. And it’s this sad, and often pathetic reality, that the collective hysteria has beneficently covered up in those it’s trying to fight. What should be seen as farce somehow looks like real fascism.

How Did Maajid Nawaz End Up on a List of ‘Anti-Muslim Extremists’?
By David A. Graham

There are legitimate disagreements about the most effective way of fighting Islamophobia. There are also grounds to argue about whether what Quilliam is doing is truly making much difference. But what makes Nawaz’s appearance on the list so peculiar is that he and SPLC share the goal of fighting back against unfair targeting of Muslims. If even natural-seeming allies are preoccupied fighting each other about tactics, what hope is there prevailing in the fight against real bigots?

St. Louis Responds to a Rise in Anti-Semitism
By Daniel A. Gross

In my own family, the news from St. Louis brought back old memories. My father grew up in Creve Coeur, and attended college a few miles from the vandalized cemetery. In the seventies, he learned to swim at the Creve Coeur J.C.C.; a few decades later, while visiting my grandparents during school vacations, so did I. “I lived a mile from the Jewish Community Center, and I never heard of anybody doing any bad stuff there,” he told me. He now lives in California, and was surprised to learn about the recent anti-Semitic acts. “I’ve always felt that acts of violence, terrorism, whatever—they’re always the tip of an iceberg of discontent,” he said. “Because for every person that’s willing to go and turn over tombstones in a Jewish cemetery, there’s probably thousands of people that don’t like Jews.” At the same time, he didn’t want to read too much into these incidents. “Most people are not calling in bomb threats against Jews,” he said. “Most people don’t hate Jews. So let’s be wary, let’s try to apprehend those who are responsible. But let’s not let them divide us as a country, as a people, any more than we are already divided.”

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