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Culture war games: the constant renegotiation of societal norms

Psychology Desperately Needs a Massive Influx of Skepticism
By Lee Jussim Ph.D.

Skepticism is crucial for good science in a way that has some similarities to why removing weeds is crucial for a healthy garden. Bad weeds can choke off healthy plants; bad science can choke off good science if, like a runaway weed, sometimes, bad science becomes popular, highly funded, and adopted as a basis for law, social policy, and personal use. It then takes away attention and resources from good science and leads to impressive promises of personal and social change that end up as dead ends, or worse.

Even plants that have some value like scientific claims that have some truth but are wildly oversold can mostly function as weeds, if they go too far. Consider ivy that covers windows and doors; bamboo that takes over a yard; and scientific claims that have some truth but are wildly oversold.

Science has a long history of bad weeds, everything from bad astronomy theories choking off good ones to bad medicine. Social psychology has a disturbingly impressive track record of such “weeds,” including social priming, the power of the situation, stereotype threat, implicit bias, ego depletion, power posing, stereotype inaccuracy, stereotype bias, grit, delay of gratification, the Stanford Prison Experiment, facial feedback, and more (and more and more).

WHO to say ‘gaming disorder’ is a mental health disorder
By Susan Scutti, CNN

Anthony Bean, a licensed psychologist and executive director at The Telos Project, a nonprofit mental health clinic in Fort Worth, Texas, counts himself as a member of the camp that opposes inclusion of gaming disorder in the ICD.

“It’s a little bit premature to label this as a diagnosis,” Bean said. “I’m a clinician and a researcher, so I see people who play video games and believe themselves to be on the lines of addicted.” In his experience, they’re actually using gaming “more as a coping mechanism for either anxiety or depression.”

Forthcoming research shows that gaming is a secondary diagnosis in coping with a primary diagnosis of anxiety and depression, Bean said: “When anxiety and depression is dealt with, the gaming goes down significantly.”

Absolutely anything — watching too much football on TV, doing too much research — could be considered behaviorally addictive if mental health professionals don’t insist on more rigorous study of the issue, Bean said: “Opening that door is a Pandora’s box.”

WHO Calls ‘Gaming Disorder’ a Mental Health Issue, But Some Experts Disagree
By Peter Hess

Video game addiction treatment centers have the potential to make a lot of money, now that the condition they treat will be reimbursable by insurance companies. Even though some would argue that the evidence to support the WHO’s decision is thin, some companies are already lined up to start treating people for gaming disorder.

“I think the biggest change will be financial,” says Chris Ferguson, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Stetson University who focuses on video games. “Down the horizon, it’s going to make this disorder a diagnosable thing, which means people can get reimbursed for treating it. There are definitely financial incentives for some of these treatment clinics that exist.”

Ferguson points out that predatory treatment clinics can charge thousands of dollars to “fix” kids whose parents think they have some sort of gaming related issue. And while some clinics may be legit, in the end, he argues that calling video gaming a disorder could leave people worse off, even if the most apparent symptom appears to improve.

“You may reduce people’s game time, but not treat the underlying mental health issue,” he says. “All you’re doing is taking away their coping mechanism.”

“They’re so focused on the symptoms-checklist view”
By Ella Rhodes

To play devil’s advocate – is there any benefit to have Gaming Disorder in the ICD-11?

I think yes, but there are downsides – it’s going to be very embarrassing when people realise how poor the evidence base is, it’ll be pretty embarrassing for the WHO. When somebody figures out that, say, half of one per cent of players are addicted, that’s still tens of millions of people on the planet. It will also be stigmatising. There’s a lot of people who play games to relax, to de-stress, and if they’re struggling with other things this will just be another one.

On the positives – I think individuals in the games industry are receptive to studying these kinds of topics, but I don’t think there’s any institutional appetite for it. Perhaps a carrot and stick of formalised diagnosis may be just the thing that the trade bodies need to get serious about open and robust scientific evidence. I don’t think the games companies should be able to pick their researchers and vice versa. I think that in the same way we apply for grants, researchers should apply for data.

There’s a profound asymmetry between the amount of data video games makers hold on players and the kinds of data academic scientists have access to.

Social media is ‘deliberately’ addictive
By Hilary Andersson

Social media companies are deliberately addicting users to their products for financial gain, Silicon Valley insiders have told the BBC’s Panorama programme.

“It’s as if they’re taking behavioural cocaine and just sprinkling it all over your interface and that’s the thing that keeps you like coming back and back and back”, said former Mozilla and Jawbone employee Aza Raskin.

“Behind every screen on your phone, there are generally like literally a thousand engineers that have worked on this thing to try to make it maximally addicting” he added.

There’s zero compelling evidence showing tech is as addictive as cocaine, according to scientists
By Isobel Asher Hamilton

“There’s a famous experiment with soup bowls,” Raskin told Panorama. “If a bowl, silently by itself just keeps refilling itself, where you don’t see it. Do people eat more? It turns out yes people eat a lot more. Because you don’t have the cue of ‘I’ve finished.'”

He claimed that by mimicking the soup bowl experiment in his design, “it became so powerful that it just addicts people.”

But according to Andrew Przybylski, this experiment has been heavily criticised within the scientific community. “We now know that that research has been very sloppily done. The researcher himself is under multiple investigations at the university of Cornell for self-plagiarism, for data manipulation, he doesn’t keep very good records,” he told Business Insider.

“If you actually knew anything about the research area, you certainly wouldn’t tell BBC that you think that this research is the model that you use to create addictive technology.”

Debunking the Biggest Myths About ‘Technology Addiction’
By Christopher J. Ferguson, Stetson University

Most of the discussion of technology addictions suggest that technology itself is mesmerizing, harming normal brains. But my research suggests that technology addictions generally are symptoms of other, underlying disorders like depression, anxiety and attention problems. People don’t think that depressed people who sleep all day have a “bed addiction.”

Some pundits have pointed to a recent rise in suicide rates among teen girls as evidence for tech problems. But suicide rates increased for almost all age groups, particularly middle-aged adults, for the 17-year period from 1999 to 2016. This rise apparently began around 2008, during the financial collapse, and has become more pronounced since then. That undercuts the claim that screens are causing suicides in teens, as does the fact that suicide rates are far higher among middle-aged adults than youth. There appears to be a larger issue going on in society. Technopanics could be distracting regular people and health officials from identifying and treating it.

Hold on. Does social media use really affect kids?
By Chris Ferguson

Let’s consider the claims of CCFC first – that social media use is linked to depression. CCFC cites one recent study by Dr. Jean Twenge correlating smartphone use with depression in youth. But this appears to be a misrepresentation of the data; this correlation is of trivial size and unlikely to be noticeable in the general public. Dr. Andrew Przybylski accessed the same dataset used by Dr. Twenge and said: “Based on that same data set, eating potatoes has the exact same negative effect on depression. The negative impact of listening to music is 13 times larger than the effect of social media.” But we don’t seem to be seeing those same headlines about the harmful effects of potatoes on today’s youth.

YouTuber discovers that cementing your head into a microwave is a bad idea
By Marwa Eltagouri

Emergency rescue officials hope the stunt will serve as a warning to other pranksters that YouTube views aren’t worth the danger associated with certain dares.

“As funny as this sounds, this young man could quite easily have suffocated or have been seriously injured,” Dakin said.

Minnesota teenage shoots boyfriend dead in YouTube stunt to ‘boost online profile’
By Harriet Alexander, New York and Helena Horton

A Minnesota teenager has been charged with manslaughter after firing a gun at her boyfriend in a stunt they hoped would make them famous on YouTube.

With two cameras positioned to catch their antics, and with their three-year-old son in the room, Monalisa Perez, 19, shot 22-year-old Pedro Ruiz in the chest from a foot away, while he held an encyclopedia as a shield.

He died at the scene.

The sheriff’s office received an emergency call from Miss Perez at 6.30pm on Monday, with the teenager telling them “her and her boyfriend were making a YouTube video and she accidentally shot him in the chest,” according to court documents.

“I really have no idea what they were thinking,” said Sheriff Jeremy Thornton of Norman County. “I just don’t understand the younger generation on trying to get their 15 minutes of fame.”

In the couple’s last video, posted shortly before the shooting on Monday, Miss Perez and Ruiz, a railway engineer, considered what it would be like to be a social media “star”, defining stardom as “when we have 300,000 subscribers.”

YouTube ‘prankster’ sued by In-N-Out Burger
By Leo Kelion

Other self-styled pranksters have run into legal problems of their own after making clips for the Google-owned platform:

  1. Four members of the UK-based Trollstation group were jailed in 2016 after staging a fake robbery and kidnapping
  2. A married US-based couple were sentenced to five years’ probation in 2017 for child neglect after posting videos of themselves destroying their children’s toys and making them cry
  3. An Australian man was fined 1,200 Australian dollars ($920; £651) in January after jumping off a bridge in response to being called a “silly salmon”

The editor of a YouTube-focused news site said that there was competition among some creators to create increasingly shocking content.

“It has become a trend to create the most crazy looking video you can. And the pranks themselves have been becoming more and more extreme,” TenEighty magazine’s Alex Brinnand told the BBC.

“And unfortunately it’s not as regulated as traditional media and television shows of a similar vein are.”

Slapstick Humor
By Josh Sanburn

On Oct. 11, the Museum of Modern Art held a screening of Jackass 3D, which opened in theaters on Friday. It’s safe to say that when Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Chris Pontius, Wee-Man and the rest of the Jackass crew started to film one another getting hit in the crotch, they probably didn’t expect to be featured by such an eminent artistic institution. While a healthy debate can be waged over whether making urine snow cones and eating them is art, their version of modern-day slapstick has its roots in a long line of classic comedy pioneers who realized that sometimes the funniest thing to watch is other people’s misfortune. As MoMA curator Josh Siegel told the New York Times, Jackass 3D is “merely the climax — or the lowest depths, if you prefer — of a tradition that dates back to 1895, when the Lumière brothers drenched a poor sap with a garden hose and filmed it.”

But it reaches further back than that, virtually to the beginnings of civilization. There are historical accounts of clownish performances in ancient Egypt and China, and classical Greek and Roman theater never missed the chance to indulge in bawdy guff. The definition of slapstick can be traced back to the 1500s. The word literally came from a stick composed of two pieces of wood that slapped together to produce a loud whack when it struck someone (often an actor’s behind). In the 16th century, the weapon was used in commedia dell’arte, an Italian form of theater where Harlequin, a recurring character in the genre, would use it to strike his comic victims. The Italian Renaissance dreamed up the character of Pulcinella, a hunchbacked, hook-nosed wife beater, who is still around today as the character of Punch in the Punch and Judy puppet shows.

Our contemporary understanding of slapstick began in the vaudeville era of the late 19th century. In the 1890s, Paris’ famous Moulin Rouge cabaret hall saw the performances of a certain Joseph Pujol, nicknamed Le Pétomane, or the fartomaniac, for his uncanny ability to produce sound effects with his posterior. The genre then took off in the age of silent film, with Buster Keaton narrowly avoiding getting crushed by an entire frame of a house, Charlie Chaplin’s hapless boxing and Laurel and Hardy’s physical antics. Into the 1920s and ’30s, Larry, Moe and Curly of the Three Stooges took over the mantle of absurd comedy with eye jabs, thumps on the head and nyuk, nyuk, nyuks.

Jackass: Lowbrow comedy or conceptual art?
By The Scotsman

The artistic key to Jackass, if there is one, can be found in Jonze’s work. He began his career making skateboarding videos that paid as much attention to wipeouts as successful manoeuvres, and his films (Where the Wild Things Are, Adaptation and Being John Malkovich) and music videos evince a taste for anarchy and a love of physical movement. But while Knoxville and Tremaine both clam up at the mention of art, Jonze is comfortable riffing on the more high-toned relations of Jackass.

“When we first started, I knew that it was lowbrow comedy,” he says, “but I also thought that we were doing conceptual art in some way.” Jonze describes his discovery of the performance artist Chris Burden as “revelatory”. In Burden’s most infamous piece, Shoot, from 1971, Burden arranged for himself to be shot in the left arm with a rifle. Jonze and Knoxville’s first collaboration was a video for the skateboarding magazine Big Brother that echoes Shoot. In a backyard “self-defence test,” Knoxville assaults himself with pepper spray and a Taser and finally, wearing a bulletproof suit, shoots himself in the chest with a handgun.Performance artists like Paul McCarthy and Vito Acconci were experimenting with bodily waste and fluids long before the Jackass team. There is also a street theatre aspect to Jackass, and the anti-social “acting out” also has much in common with more obviously artistic film provocations like Lars von Trier’s The Idiots and Harmony Korine’s Trash Humpers. A skit in Jackass Number Two involves the placement of a leech on an eyeball. In case anyone doubted that it was a nod to Un Chien Andalou, the transgressive classic that opens with the close-up slicing of an eyeball, that film’s director, Luis Bunuel is thanked in the Jackass credits.

Can YouTube pranks ever be art?
By David Barnett

Art is, of course, a moveable feast. I once went to an art gallery in Birmingham where there was a pile of rubbish – actual, literal rubbish – in a room. The artist said it was a work of art. I became complicit in the idea by looking at it, and considering it as such. In an alley outside, it would just have been a pile of rubbish.

So art is what someone says it is, and maybe I say that the juvenile pranks of today’s YouTubers are art, art with a long and illustrious lineage, art with meaning and power and sociopolitical overtones. What does staging a fake robbery at an art gallery tell us? That art must be set free, perhaps. What does cementing a microwave to your head mean? That we’re prisoners of the technology we think emancipates us.

Does it matter that Jay Swingler or Dan Jarvis might not even consider themselves artists at all? Could that be the most Surrealist aspect of the whole affair – they’re artists, but they just don’t know it?

Or, maybe this entire piece you have just read is a piece of Situationist art. Maybe it’s all a hoax. Maybe I don’t believe what I’ve just written. Maybe I just did it for the money. After all, like Oscar Wilde said, all art is quite useless.

FIRE Notes Uptick in Student-Driven Calls for Art Censorship as Salem State Shutters Exhibit [UPDATED]
By Alex Morey

Art is a unique medium. It may be the only vehicle to convey an idea or expression in the precise way the artist intends. Many times, art provokes intense, uncomfortable emotions. Many times, art offends. And many times, that’s the point.

Students should be encouraged to thoughtfully engage with art installations like the one at Salem State. If offended, they should respond with their own expression, not censorship.

When One Student’s Art Is Another’s Aggression
By Clare Foran

In the middle of September, students arrived on campus at the State University of New York at Buffalo to find “White Only” and “Black Only” signs plastered near elevators, water fountains, benches, and bathrooms. It was not immediately clear who put up the signs. But they summoned an era when segregation on the basis of skin color was the law of the land.

The backlash—on campus and across social media—was swift. The incident touched off a tense debate over racism and free speech that is still unfolding more than two months after the signs were taken down.

Ashley Powell, a black graduate student, created the signs as part of a project for a class offered by the Art Department. She says that reaction was exactly the point. “The signs are a reminder that just because you can’t see racism around you doesn’t mean it’s not there,” Powell said in an interview. “I wanted people to feel something. I wanted people to realize they must confront racism and fight against it in their daily lives.”

‘Too controversial’: Polk State College rejects professor’s anti-Trump artwork

In a Feb. 16 meeting, Tanyolacar discussed “Death of Innocence” with Falconetti, Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs Donald Painter, Jr., and Professor of Art Holly Scoggins. The administrators offered shifting justifications for the rejection of the piece, but again made clear that its “controversial” nature played a part in the decision. They reaffirmed that the faculty art exhibition — which opened on Feb. 12 — would not display “Death of Innocence.”

“For ‘Death of Innocence,’ my gallery display strategy is to engage dialogues with both the audience who appreciate the controversial imagery and the audience who may be offended by it,” Tanyolacar said. “No artwork should be barred from being exposed to the general audience in any academic institution. As educators and artists we must accept that our students cannot be protected or disconnected from the ideological controversies by the institutionalized moral authority. In fact, controversial artworks are essential to the intellectual growth of our students, and displaying them should be encouraged by both the administration and the faculty.”

Spanish Artwork Denounced Political ‘Persecution.’ It Was Ordered Removed.
By Raphael Minder

In a statement, the artist’s studio suggested that the “censorship” of the work vindicated Mr. Sierra’s efforts to denounce a clampdown on freedom of expression in Spain.

“This decision seriously damages the image of this international arts fair and of the Spanish state itself,” it said. “Acts like this one give sense and reason to a work like this one, which precisely denounced the climate of persecution that cultural workers have been suffering in recent times.”

The fair has exhibited controversial pieces in the past, including a work in 2012 called “Always Franco” that had a figure of Spain’s former dictator crouching inside a Coca-Cola refrigerator. A foundation that promotes Franco unsuccessfully sued its artist, Eugenio Merino.

Attempts at suppressing works can prove counterproductive, though. In one case, a judge halted distribution of a book that linked the former mayor of a northwest town to drug trafficking after the official sued the author, Nacho Carretero, and disputed the accusation. The book has shot up Amazon’s best-seller list in Spain.

Writers blocked: how the new call-out culture is killing fiction
By Lionel Shriver

What is the purpose of literature? To shape young people into God-fearing adults who say no to drugs? To accurately mirror reality? To act as a tool for social engineering? To make the world a better place? Certainly fiction is capable of influencing social attitudes, or trying to. But the novel is magnificently elastic. Fiction is under no obligation to reflect any particular reality, pursue social justice, or push a laudable political agenda. The purpose of any narrative form is up to the author. Yet contemporary university students are commonly encouraged to view literature exclusively through the prism of unequal power dynamics—to scrounge for evidence of racism, colonialism, imperialism, sexism, the list goes on. What a loss. What a pity. What a grim, joyless spirit in which to read.

How did we get so obsessed with virtue? A narrow version of virtue at that—one solely preoccupied with social hierarchy, when morality concerns far more than who’s being shafted and who’s on top. If all modern literature comes to toe the same goody-goody line, fiction is bound to grow timid, homogeneous, and dreary.

I don’t want to read only about nice people, and I don’t turn to novels to be morally improved. I was drawn to writing fiction in the first place because on paper I completely control my world—where I can be mischievous, subversive and perverse. Where I follow no one else’s rules but my own. Where I can make my characters do and say abominations. I have never confused sitting down at my desk with attending Sunday school. And I frankly do not understand readers who go at novels making prissy judgments of the characters and author both, and can’t just sit down to a good story.

We live in denunciatory times. Cynical times, too; we assume decency will only descend through legislation or an iron-fisted cultural fiat. Raise the issue of free speech at any gathering, and first thing everyone piles on with all the ways in which this awful freedom must be constrained.

am i wrong about hate speech bans?
By Kenan Malik

Many jihadi groups quote the Qur’an to justify their violence; many Christian homophobes or violent anti-abortion activists similarly find justification for their actions or beliefs. Should we then ban the Qur’an and the Bible? If not, why not, given that there can be few clearer cases of ‘non-imminent’ harm?

Anders Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer, cited writers such as Melanie Phillips and Bruce Bawer as central to shaping his murderous hatred of Muslims and of ‘cultural Marxists’. Again, this seems a clear case of ‘non-imminent’ harm. Should we ban the writings of authors such as Phillips and Bawer? If not, why not?

The writings of Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and Mao have again inspired many who have clearly caused harm. Should they be banned? If not, why not?

Fraternal Order of Police Challenges Summer Reading List in South Carolina High School

Both The Hate U Give and All American Boys have been highly praised for their complex handling of stories centering on the intersections of racism and police violence. The books are two of the eight options on a summer reading list for incoming freshmen, of which students must choose one.

According to local news reports, President of the Fraternal Order of Police Tri-County Lodge #3, John Blackmon, says that these books are “almost an indoctrination of distrust of police and we’ve got to put a stop to that.”

Buy Banned Books
By Bonny Brooks

There is a saying in North Korea, the fist is closer than the law, warning those who misbehave that citizen retribution often travels faster than the authorities can. In 2012, after a 19-year-old man was arrested for burning a poppy, the Guardian‘s Ally Fogg wrote: “The new tyrant is not an oligarch or a chief of secret police, but an amorphous, self-righteous tide of populist opinion that demands conformity to a strict set of moral values. What we are seeing has less to do with the iron heel than with the pitchfork.” The term ‘banned books’ may seem a bit outdated in the 21st century West. Perhaps ‘backed down on books’ would be more fitting (if less catchy). But the phenomenon has the same effect – intimidation, silence, conformity, and artistic straitjacketing.

Of course, the woke among us will shrug and say that Laura Moriarity should check her (white) privilege. Alas, such people suffer from hubris and fail to realise that, in the end, this identity puritanism will come for everyone – yes, even black and minority ethnic writers. Demanding that art be ‘native’ has a way of fetishizing minority artists and ghettoising them to stay within their respective lanes as well. But – probably more pressingly for the culture cops – if the acceptable range of representation continues to narrow, the time will come when some of the most talented writers around, BAME writers who are middle class (as many of them are) and/or privately educated, will no longer be allowed to ‘appropriate’ the experiences of black people of more humble means (as they frequently do). If we are to follow this fashionable train of thought, what gave Marlon James, who wrote the brilliant Booker Prize-winning A Brief History of Seven Killings, the right to portray shanty town kids when he’s the middle class son of a police detective?

‘Sensitivity Readers’ Are the New Thought Police, And They Threaten More Than Novelists
By Nick Gillespie

Let’s leave aside the not-insignificant fact that major publishers are not trying to crank YA or literary versions of The Turner Diaries. They are trying to engage readers who are seeking to either experience something different than what they know or to see their experience reflected back at them. These two aims aren’t mutually exclusive by any means, but something the right-wing and left-wing cultural commissars have long believed in what scholar Joli Jensen calls “instrumental culture.” In this view, books and other forms of art are essentially like medicine that’s injected into people and forces them to think or behave a certain way; bad books (and movies, music, TV shows, etc.) create bad citizens. But that’s the wrong way to think about the art we produce and consume, says Jensen, who makes the argument at length in her excellent 2002 study Is Art Good for Us?:

There’s an assumption that art is an instrument like medicine or a toxin that can be injected into us and transform us. But there’s very little evidence of a direct effect, and we all participate in creating the meaning of a particular piece of work. We should always be considerate about how we choose to tell stories and the stories we choose to tell. That’s an ongoing cultural conversation, but I mistrust attempts to control that conversation by excluding a priori categories of stories or by assuming that the stories we are telling are harming us.

Since Is Art Good for Us? was published after a decade of bipartisan attempts to censor rap music and video games, the movement to constrain what is considered acceptable discourse has grown exponentially.

The entire case against cultural appropriation, for example, is based on mistaken beliefs that only certain people can legitimately represent certain points of view even when it comes to cuisine, a traditional example of mongrelization gone beautifully mad (all cooking is fusion, as any pasta-and-tomato-eating Italian will tell you). If we cannot get outside of ourselves through the act of producing and consuming culture that transcends our genetics and sociological milieu, what a degraded experience we will be doomed to lead. In the current moment, sensitivity readers reflect not a good-faith effort to avoid stupid mistakes and offense but a thought-police goon squad enforcing strict parameters on what we can think and say.

Suing stand-ups: the latest free-speech battle
By Andrew Doyle

Thomas Reay has accused his former wife of breach of privacy and data protection with her show Hard Mode, and is seeking an injunction to prevent her from making further statements about him. Given that one of the main themes of her show was censorship, this makes for an apt, albeit potentially expensive, dénouement. Louise Reay intends to pay for her defence through crowdfunding, and she has garnered support from comedians and media commentators alike. Libel lawyer Mark Stephens has described this as a ‘test case’ that will reveal whether or not ‘the British judiciary understands a joke’.

Comedians are parasites. If you choose to associate with us, don’t be surprised if some of your more egregious behaviour ends up forming the basis of a routine. And although it might not feel altogether pleasant to be laughed at by proxy, it can be a kind of flattery. This is what I would tell any exes who felt inclined to press charges based on the content of my Edinburgh shows: surely they should be grateful to have been immortalised in an obscure late-night performance in front of a handful of drunken Scots.

Besides, I can think of no creative medium in which human interaction is not considered a rich source of artistic inspiration. John Cleese based Basil Fawlty on Torquay hotel owner Donald Sinclair. Jennifer Saunders allegedly channelled PR guru Lynne Franks in her portrayal of Edina Monsoon in Absolutely Fabulous. And given South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s highly unfavourable depictions of celebrities, it is a wonder that they haven’t been sued to the point of bankruptcy.

Louise Reay should be able to joke about whomever she pleases in her routines. Not, as a writer for the Guardian has argued, because her material was essentially truthful — comedians must always feel able to embellish for comedic effect — but rather because we must resist setting any precedent whereby the artist’s right to free expression is curbed.

Hannibal Buress has his mic cut off at Loyola University Chicago
By Bill Rickards

When universities impose restrictions on a performer’s speech like this, whatever their legal right, it is important to consider the implications of those restrictions and the question of what is accomplished by enforcing them. Comedy, in particular, is an art that often drives social change, allowing a speaker to set aside — or indeed poke at — discomfort around sensitive or charged subjects in order to challenge ideas and powerful people or institutions. For example, Buress sparked renewed public attention to allegations of sexual assault by Bill Cosby. Do academic institutions serve themselves well when they invite comedians to perform and entertain, so long as they don’t challenge those institutions?

Is ‘Ladies Lingerie’ a Harmless Joke or Harassment?
By Conor Friedersdorf

They could reason, “the phrase ‘women’s lingerie’ is reasonably likely to bring sexual matters to the minds of at least some of the people in a crowded elevator.” That precedent might get a future attendee in trouble for a pussy hat, while a joke about Pussy Riot, the Russian dissident group, would be okay, because it is directly germane to the discipline no matter what it conjures for anyone.

Alternatively, they could take Lebow’s side by quoting Gene Weingarten: “I have constructed a sophisticated explanation for why ‘underpants’ is the funniest concept in all of humor. It involves the folly and the frailty of human pretension, the fact that we clothe our private parts to deny that we are, in the end, just animals, which is a realization that delivers an existential feeling of discomfort, which we tame through inversion, with laughter. Not all of us can feel it; only those blessed with a fundamental appreciation of the absurd, which is the basis of all humor and unites us in our humanity. Underpants are a litmus test for a sense of humor, which attests to our essential goodness.”

To Fight Patriarchy, Female Cornell Student Presents Thesis in Her Underwear
By Robby Soave

The student, Letitia Chai, was practicing her presentation in class while wearing cutoff jean shorts. That outfit, The Cornell Daily Sun reports, drew a rebuke from professor Rebekah Maggor, who asked, “Is that really what you would wear?”

“I do not tell my students what to wear, nor do I define for them what constitutes appropriate dress,” Maggor later clarified in an email to the Sun. “I ask them to reflect for themselves and make their own decisions.” Indeed, the syllabus warns students to “dress appropriately for the persona” they plan to present.

Maggor apologized for the remark anyway, after Chai stormed out of the class. She eventually returned, stripped down to her underwear, and continued with the presentation.

Chai stripped again during her actual senior thesis presentation, in front of students and professors. She said she “stood in solidarity with people who have been asked to ‘question themselves’ based on others’ perception of their appearances,” according to the Sun. She asked the audience to join her—and some removed articles of clothing. Afterward, she led a roundtable discussion about diversity and inclusion.

Kanye and Ta-Nehisi
By Thomas Chatterton Williams

Is Coates seriously arguing, as he seems to be, that the desire for “liberation from the dictates of that we”—or any we, any tribe!—is ipso facto a kind of moral violation? He claims for himself, here and elsewhere, a Mullah-like authority to assert communal possession of other people he deems to be a part of his community. And when those people deviate from what Coates pronounces to be the acceptable group perspective—“West calls his struggle the right to be a ‘free thinker,’ and he is, indeed, championing a kind of freedom—a white freedom”—he claims for himself the right, not merely to refute a person’s arguments but to deracinate them entirely.

More chilling than the essay has been the rapturous response it has generated among many white liberals who seem somehow too eager to reinforce its dire racial proscriptions. It is undeniable that West has gotten an astonishing amount wrong, but one thing he gets just right is this: Too many people of all persuasions act as though there are views, based on one’s perceived identity alone, that others must share. No matter what else might be said, that is an extraordinarily warped view of freedom.

This radio station’s answer to Kanye West’s remarks on slavery? Mute his music.
By Eli Rosenberg

“We feel like Kanye has gone too far with his latest statement declaring that ‘slavery was a choice,’ ” the morning show hosts posted on the station’s Facebook page. “We are over it. We don’t want to hear Kanye’s music; we don’t want to play Kanye on our show; we don’t want to talk about Kanye anymore. So we are taking a stand, and we aren’t playing his music anymore; we just are refusing to give him a platform.”

One caller noted that it was a slippery slope to start banning musical artists — would they consider banning Chris Brown and R. Kelly over allegations of misconduct toward women?

Spotify Removes R. Kelly Music From Its Playlists As Part of New Hate Content & Hateful Conduct Policy: Exclusive
By Dan Rys

The hateful conduct provision is one part of the new policy, which also includes a provision for hate content. The company is making a point to acknowledge there are different cultural standards as to what could be considered offensive in different regions around the globe — Spotify is available in more than 50 countries worldwide — but worked together with several advocacy groups to determine its definition of hate content, including The Southern Poverty Law Center, The Anti-Defamation League, Color Of Change, Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), GLAAD, Muslim Advocates and the International Network Against Cyber Hate.

Feminist Group Demands Spotify’s New ‘Hate Content’ Policy Be Applied to Red Hot Chili Peppers, Eminem
By Christian Britschgi

Whether it’s Jerry Lee Lewis marrying his 13-year-old cousin or David Bowie taking the virginity of a 14-year-old, a lot of pop stars’ escapades don’t conform to modern norms of affirmative consent and gender equity. There’s no shortage of articles (start with this listicle from the Phoenix New Times) retelling tales of statutory rape and sexual assault by beloved rockers and rappers.

It doesn’t stop there. A fair number of rappers have been convicted of murder, manslaughter, or some other violent crime. Dig into the history of Norwegian black metal and you’ll learn that members of such foundational bands as Burzum, Gorgoroth, and Mayhem have been found guilty of church burnings, torture, and murdering bandmates.

And at least two out of four Beatles—John Lennon and Ringo Starr—were domestic abusers.

You too, Polanski
By Nick Cohen

Hollywood had spent decades lauding Polanski. Only a few years ago, no less an authority that Whoopi Goldberg had decided that his abuse of the 13-year-old Samantha Gailey that caused him to flee the US before a judge could sentence him was not “rape-rape” and therefore did not really count. When The Pianist won an Oscar, Martin Scorsese led the audience as it rose to give Polanski a standing ovation.

You could say in their defence that the life has nothing to do with the work; that an artist’s personal conduct is irrelevant. Wholesome and kind men and women can make terrible art and the most shameful specimens of humanity can make great art. Arguing against the “therapeutic fallacy” that art makes people better, Robert Hughes told the salutary story of Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta. The Lord of Rimini was one of the most discerning connoisseurs of the Renaissance. His patronage of Leon Battista Alberti, Agostino di Duccio and Piero della Francesca did not stop Pope Pius II making him after his death the only man to be officially condemned to reside in Hell — a distinction he earned by trussing up a papal emissary, the 15-year-old bishop of Fano, and sodomising him before his cheering troops in Rimini’s main square.

Moralism and the Arts
By Ian Buruma

If we were to remove all the art from museums or galleries because we disapproved of the artists’ behavior, great collections would soon be severely depleted. Rembrandt cruelly mistreated his mistress, Picasso was beastly to his wives, Caravaggio lusted after young boys and was a murderer, and so on.

It is hard to imagine admiring art that espouses child abuse, racial hatred, or torture (even though this seems to get people much less agitated than sexual content). But just as we should not condemn a work of art because of the artist’s private behavior, we should also be careful about applying norms of social respectability to artistic expression. Some art is meant to provoke, transgress, and push boundaries. People can do things in works of imagination that they would never do in life.

That is the way it should be. If we limited artistic expression to subjects that are commonly regarded as socially respectable, we would soon be left with moralistic kitsch, just the kind of thing rulers of authoritarian states like to promote in public, while doing things that are far worse than most artists would like to imagine.

Peppa Pig is banned in China for promoting ‘gangster attitudes’
By The Independent

The search term #PeppaPig was removed from video app Douyin, making as many as 30,000 videos of the playful pink piglet unreachable, according to reports in Chinese media.

The censorship came after Peppa’s likeness became popular with a subculture of internet users known as “shehuiren” or “society people – a group who some say hold “anti-establishment views” and “gangster” attitudes.

Users have reportedly been using the character in subversive memes, spoof videos or in the context of ‘vulgar’ or lewd jokes.

The Global Times explained said “society people” who have embraced Peppa as their unlikely symbol, are those “who run counter to the mainstream value and are usually poorly educated with no stable job.”

“They are unruly slackers roaming around and the antithesis of the young generation the (ruling Communist) Party tries to cultivate.”

Censorship and Stereotypes: China’s Hip-Hop Generation
By Thomas Clements

In October 2014, Xi Jinping delivered a speech at the Beijing Forum on Literature and Art encouraging those in China’s creative industries to promote output commensurate with communist values. In his speech, Xi stressed that Chinese creatives should “reflect the spirit of Chinese culture.” This emphasis is part of a broader spectrum of government restriction, inspired in large part in by Mao Zedong’s 1942 Yan’an Talks on Literature and Art, which drew in turn upon Stalin’s analogy of artists as “engineers of the human soul.” Intellectual and creative output in China must increasingly be used to wage an ideological war against the West and its import of a bourgeois “funeral culture” that encourages nihilism and self-indulgence rather than infusing people with ideological zeal.

The rules laid out by the Ministry of Culture are nebulous and sporadically enforced. That is, until they’re applied abruptly and harshly in a rather intimidating display of government power. Back in 2015, the regime launched a sweeping crackdown by removing 50 Chinese and Taiwanese hip hop tracks from popular streaming sites like iQiyi and Youku, and IN3, the rap group responsible for 17 of the tracks, were jailed for five days without charge.

She Posted Rap Lyrics to Remember a Dead Teen, So the U.K. Prosecuted Her for Hate Speech
By Scott Shackford

Chelsea Russell, 19, posted lyrics to a song by the Detroit rapper Snap Dogg (no, not Snoop Dogg) on the bio of her Instagram account to pay tribute to Murphy. The song, “I’m Trippin’,” released in 2016, is heavy on killing snitches and waving guns around and it has lots of use of the n-word. It’s the type of song that people point to when they say they don’t like rap music because it’s too violent.

According to the Liverpool Echo, Russell’s Instagram account was reported to a constable in a “hate crime unit” who found the lyrics “offensive and upsetting.” Russell was charged with sending a grossly offensive message by means of a public electronic communications network.

Should YouTube Forcibly Remove Music Videos Featuring Violent Lyrics?
By Daniel Sanchez

Blaming a music genre for the sudden rise in crime isn’t new. In the past few years, British authorities have blamed the rise of a cannabis strain – skunk – on grime music.

To combat grime music, the London Metropolitan Police introduced a controversial initiative – Form 696. The document asked for the names, stage names, addresses, and phone numbers of every artist and promoter in the country. Originally introduced in 2005, Form 696 unfairly targeted grime musicians – mainly black Londoners. After heavy criticism, including from the city’s mayor, the Metropolitan Police scrapped the initiative late last year.

Speaking on the outcry against drill music, MC Abra Cadabra, 20, said that authorities have merely blamed a complex social factor on the genre.

Parental Advisory Forever: An Oral History of the PMRC’s War on Dirty Lyrics
By Zach Schonfeld

Dee Snider: Gotta give John Denver [credit]. His testimony was one of the most scathing, because they fully expected—he was such a mom-American-pie-John-Denver-Christmas-special-fresh-scrubbed guy. Everyone expected that he would be on the side of right—right being censorship. When he brought up, “I liken this to the Nazi book burnings”—that’s what he said in his testimony—you should’ve seen them start running for the hills! His testimony was the most powerful in many ways.

Dweezil Zappa: The whole experience of that was that we watched our dad go up against these people and just speak in a way that was great, because he went straight to the root of the problem. That’s why it was great to hear him make remarks like that. He had one quote that was hilarious, where he said to the senators something to the effect of, “You are treating this problem like treating dandruff by decapitation.”

Spotify Cancels ‘Hateful Conduct’ Policy After an Industry Uproar
By Ben Sisario and Joe Coscarelli

After the policy went into effect, top industry figures quickly put pressure on Spotify to change it. Anthony Tiffith, the head of Top Dawg Entertainment, Kendrick Lamar’s label, said in an interview with Billboard that he gathered Diddy and Tommy Mottola, the former head of Sony Music, to lobby against the policy as one that inordinately affected hip-hop artists.

“I don’t think it’s right for artists to be censored, especially in our culture,” he said. “They could’ve picked anybody. But it seems to me that they’re constantly picking on hip-hop culture.”

NWA: ‘The world’s most dangerous group’?
By Rebecca Laurence

This article contains strong language that some readers may find offensive

Gangsta rap remained a political hot potato into the 1990s, with politicians such as Bill Clinton admonishing Sister Souljah and Dan Quayle criticising Ice-T’s Cop Killer – in what some would call cynical attempts to garner easy votes with conservatives. Journalists scrapped over provocative articles like The Rap Attitude by Newsweek’s Jerry Adler. More than 30 music critics wrote to the magazine’s editor, protesting the article “made [rap] seem gigantically more violent, obscene and confrontational than it is… artists who might be controversial were misrepresented.” Gangsta rap also divided the hip-hop community, with some denouncing apparent reinforcing of negative racial stereotypes, sexist and homophobic attitudes. The recent NWA biopic has been criticised for skating around these issues of misogyny and violence and resorting to hagiography.

In a 1989 interview, Ice Cube defended NWA’s refusal to compromise or apologise for their lyrical subject matter. “Our raps are documentary. We don’t take sides,” he said. Greg Kot adds: “When Chuck D described rap as the ‘black CNN’, NWA was the type of music he was talking about”. Many describe Straight Outta Compton’s vision of South Central as prophetic – foreshadowing Rodney King and the LA riots of 1992, and in the wake of the first anniversary of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri – prescient.

Last week, Dr Dre – NWA’s super-millionaire and mentor to countless rap superstars – released his first solo album in 16 years. He described it as his ‘grand finale’, passing the baton to young rappers such as Kendrick Lamar, who also hails from Compton. The neighbourhood’s streets are no longer as mean as in the late 1980s, when violence and homicides peaked.

The Parental Advisory Label still exists – even in a largely digital market – but the emergence of new technologies and declining sales means its importance is greatly diminished. “The sticker is here, and it is tolerated, to the extent it is even known,” explains Deflem. “Of course, the decline of the music industry has made the issue much more marginal than in the ‘80s and ‘90s when music sales were huge.”

Music Industry Soars Into Year 3 of Recovery Thanks to Spotify
By Lucas Shaw

“Primarily owing to growth in paid subscriptions, the industry continued to recover, though at levels still far below the peak of the late 1990s,” Josh Friedlander, the RIAA’s senior vice president of strategic data analysis, said in the report.

Spotify and Apple Music have converted millions of people who bought singles and listened for free into paying subscribers. More than 30 million people in the U.S. paid for a music subscription, more than triple the sum in 2015.

Streaming accounted for 62 percent of total industry sales in the first half, which gives the dominant players, Spotify, Apple and YouTube, tremendous leverage with their label partners.

Facebook Removes a Gospel Group’s Music Video
By Ben Sisario

Last month, Zion’s Joy!, a vocal ensemble from Indianapolis, posted a video to its Facebook page for a new song, “What Would Heaven Look Like.” The video opens with images of strife and protests — including scenes of demonstrators in Charlottesville, Va. — as the group sings lines including, “I know it might feel like this trouble will stay, but this world will soon fade away.”

“We want to touch people’s hearts and let people know that we can do better than the world is doing right now,” Robert W. Stevenson, the group’s founder, said in an interview.

After a week, Zion’s Joy! decided to promote the video by paying Facebook for a “boost.” That’s when the social media giant’s algorithm flagged “What Would Heaven Look Like” as “political content” and blocked the video altogether, Mr. Stevenson said.

Spotify removing R. Kelly’s songs is a sign of a worrying trend towards censorship
By Scott Davie

A bigger consequence of Spotify’s new policy may be its ramifications for other male hip-hop artists, whose lyrics have often been interpreted as sexually objectifying women. Researchers have identified a range of misogynistic themes in hip-hop, from legitimisation of rape and violence, to celebration of prostitution and pimping. Jay Z has, for example, referenced domestic violence in his lyrics, while Eminem has used hateful language directed at the gay community. How might Spotify deal with complaints about content from artists such as these?

Censorship of music and musicians due to the artist’s behaviour and politics is nothing new. Due to his denigration of the Jewish race, 19th century German composer Richard Wagner’s music has drawn immense opprobrium; its performance in Israel remains a taboo. Even so, the anti-Semitism of other composers (such as Frédéric Chopin, or many of the Russian school) has not caused censure.

In Soviet Russia, the music of Dmitri Shostakovich and Sergei Prokofiev was banned from performance for a period. Under the policy of “socialist realism”, music that failed to reflect the supposed benefits of the new system was blacklisted. In fact, the power that certain music and musicians exert in society can disturb many.

Ani DiFranco, Bob Dylan and The Dangers of Identity Politics
By Eboo Patel

I’ve been going back through my Bob Dylan catalogue recently, and am struck by his evolution from Woody Guthrie-styled folkie to rock-and-roll pioneer.

The shift was especially fraught because (for reasons that seem like a strange curiosity now but I’m sure made perfect sense at the time) the anti-war movement of the early 1960’s believed that acoustic music, political orthodoxy and personal integrity were somehow intertwined. The older generation had icons like Pete Seeger who upheld this definition of purity, and the younger ones felt like they had found their spokesperson in Bob Dylan.

“And here he is,” one of the old time folkie’s told the crowd at the Newport Folk Festival in the early 1960’s. “Take him, he’s yours.”

“What a crazy thing to say,” Dylan reflected in his memoir, Chronicles. “Screw that.” He wasn’t interested in being a blank piece of paper on which other people inscribed their orthodoxies.

The Futility of Standing Athwart Language Yelling ‘Stop!’
By Conor Friedersdorf

I suspect McWhorter is correct when he posits that, in coming years, linguistic change is “going to go faster than most of us ever thought was possible.” I hope he is additionally correct that, amid the inevitable disagreements about substance and manners and competing values, “we can learn to almost enjoy it if we have a better sense of why these things are happening.”

I would only caution readers that the “we” almost certainly won’t be universal—that change will be easiest for cognitive elites with strong verbal skills, for young people, for people in whatever social-media circles most influence new norms, and for people who, for whatever reason, are psychologically comfortable with difference and diversity and rapid social change.

Anyone can grasp the most basic taboos against the most hateful language. But for other linguistic change—even the wisest or most moral—those best positioned to embrace the new should treat with forbearance those who lag behind.

Why identity politics benefits the right more than the left
By Sheri Berman

Relatedly, research suggests that calling people racist when they do not see themselves that way is counterproductive. As noted above, while there surely are true bigots, studies show that not all those who exhibit intolerant behavior harbor extreme racial animus. Moreover, as Stanford psychologist Alana Conner notes, if the goal is to diminish intolerance “telling people they’re racist, sexist and xenophobic is going to get you exactly nowhere. It’s such a threatening message. One of the things we know from social psychology is when people feel threatened, they can’t change, they can’t listen.”

Liberals, You’re Not as Smart as You Think You Are
By Gerard Alexander

Within just a few years, many liberals went from starting to talk about microaggressions to suggesting that it is racist even to question whether microaggressions are that important. “Gender identity disorder” was considered a form of mental illness until recently, but today anyone hesitant about transgender women using the ladies’ room is labeled a bigot. Liberals denounce “cultural appropriation” without, in many cases, doing the work of persuading people that there is anything wrong with, say, a teenager not of Chinese descent wearing a Chinese-style dress to prom or eating at a burrito cart run by two non-Latino women.

Pressing a political view from the Oscar stage, declaring a conservative campus speaker unacceptable, flatly categorizing huge segments of the country as misguided — these reveal a tremendous intellectual and moral self-confidence that smacks of superiority. It’s one thing to police your own language and a very different one to police other people’s. The former can set an example. The latter is domineering.

Study: Voters Worried About Political Correctness Flocked to Candidate Trump
By Robby Soave

Grossmann’s piece cites the Montana/Syrcause study, among others, to argue that cultural issues mattered far more to Trump voters than economic issues. Raising the salience of cultural issues and political correctness—a strategy undertaken not just by the Trump campaign, but also inadvertently by the Clinton campaign, which thought smearing Trump supporters as racists and sexists would increase the pro-Clinton vote—helped Trump.

It’s difficult to parse how important this was, since many voters who picked Trump because he was anti-P.C. would have voted for him anyway. Conversely, voters who weren’t just anti-P.C. but outright racist may have picked Trump because they saw him as the more racist candidate. It might be true that they also wanted Trump to win for ordinary anti-P.C. reasons, but these voters can’t vote twice.

Conservatives Fail the N.F.L.’s Free Speech Test
By David French

The N.F.L. isn’t the government. It has the ability to craft the speech rules its owners want. So does Google. So does Mozilla. So does Yale. American citizens can shame whomever they want to shame.

But what should they do? Should they use their liberty to punish dissent? Or should a free people protect a culture of freedom?

In our polarized times, I’ve adopted a simple standard, a civil liberties corollary to the golden rule: Fight for the rights of others that you would like to exercise yourself. Do you want corporations obliterating speech the state can’t touch? Do you want the price of participation in public debate to include the fear of lost livelihoods?

Here’s the difference between Colin Kaepernick and Roseanne Barr
By David French

Right now, though, we see customers on the right and left locked in an arms race, competing to see which side can more effectively flex its muscle to silence the other. Google doesn’t face the kind of market pressure the NFL does, but its employees are key to its success, and all too many of Damore’s colleagues felt empowered to use their voices to silence his. In few arenas do conservatives exercise the kind of cultural sway that they hold over the NFL, and it’s unfortunate that rather than demonstrating the tolerance they seek on liberal campuses and in Silicon Valley, they’ve followed the president’s lead in demanding their own brand of ideological conformity.

So, where is the line? How about this: Corporations have their own free speech rights, and the proper exercise of those rights shouldn’t pose a risk to the speech of others. If a bank wants to have an opinion on reproductive freedom, have at it. That’s an exercise of constitutional liberty. At the same time, however, that bank should tolerate a wide range of dissent among its employees if that dissent is respectful, professional and doesn’t interfere with the employee’s core duties. If an employee wants to take to Twitter to oppose his bank’s support for, let’s say, Planned Parenthood, the employee should feel free. For our part, we, the customers, should expect excellence in a business’s core competency while exercising restraint in demanding political orthodoxy.

If you think that means “anything goes,” look to Roseanne. Nothing required ABC to cancel her show, but its cancellation doesn’t represent a threat to America’s free speech culture. Roseanne crossed a bright line, and in crossing that line, she brought a needed dose of perspective to the corporate speech debate. Tolerance for dissent is vital, but at the end of the day, professionalism and decency aren’t — or shouldn’t be — too much to ask.

How much should artists’ personal lives affect how we treat their work?
By A.M.

Like the rest of the human race, only slightly more so, artists and writers are not always nice people. But how much does that matter? This issue —how far readers and audiences should let an artist’s life influence attitudes to his art—has become especially pressing in the wake of the Weinstein scandal, and the grisly revelations and re-evaluations that have followed.

The contrasting examples of Malory and Mr Díaz point to the swirl of factors that affects these calculations. There are three main variables. First, time: how long ago the alleged misdeeds occurred and whether the artist is still alive. Second, the gravity of the offences. Third, the quality and importance of the artist’s output. Many people will tolerate in a genius something they would never countenance in a hack.

The trouble with these criteria is that all of them are changeable and subjective. Time passes and memories fade. The hierarchy of different sorts of wrongdoing shifts, not only across decades but in different places at the same moment. Tastes vary and evolve.

And, in truth, there is not, and can never be, a fixed rule for deciding what, in an artist’s biography, counts as disqualifying for his art. (An exception may be when offences are committed in the creation of the art itself, as they seem to have been on some film sets.)

That being so, removing books from shelves or school curriculums is both mistaken and patronising. It may or may not deprive people of art that would enrich their lives; it certainly deprives them of the chance to make up their own minds.

Tweets of Infamy
By Ian Buruma

The informal limits to free speech are subject to norms of social respectability. And these change, not just with time, but according to who speaks, when, and where. A comedian normally gets away with things that a politician, a university president, or a judge cannot. Until Trump came along, US presidents were held to stricter norms of behavior and speech than ordinary people.

Since norms in any given society are constantly being renegotiated, we need comedians, novelists, and artists to test the limits. Their works are part of the continuous negotiation. If ABC had fired Barr for something her comic character had said, she would have grounds to protest. After all, fictional characters should be allowed to be offensive. Many people might not approve of “Roseanne Barr,” but being crudely outspoken, even racist, is part of Barr’s act, just as it was for Carroll O’Connor in the role of Archie Bunker.

If Barr’s remarks had been made in private, that would not have been a sufficient reason to cancel her show, either. The question is where tweets fit in. Tweets are both personal and a performance; they are private thoughts made public, a kind of reality show – perfect, in other words, for a narcissistic huckster like Trump.

Normally we do not get to see or hear the unfiltered thoughts of other people, except possibly in a bar. Letters to the editors of newspapers used to be carefully screened, to prevent haters and cranks from getting public exposure. What was private remained private. This changed with the Internet, where anybody’s thoughts, no matter how obnoxious or absurd, can be aired.

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