Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Tolerance Weapon

Don't we feel foolish.  Tolerance, the once promising key to a better tomorrow, has been turned to crap.

The haters,  in this case the self-anointed victims of the Civil Rights Movement, have finally figured out how to screw up our best intentions. They now claim that they too are entitled to be tolerated.

As truly social deviants, and unlikely to qualify to be tolerated, the haters have recast themselves in more socially neutral terms. They no longer call themselves right-wing, white rights or European traditionalists.

They are now Alt-Right. A term so ambiguous as to obscure their true principals and confuse the less informed. As a result, the fringes of the Alt Right contain some relatively normal people. The true right-wing core of the Alt Right movement uses the appearance of normality at its fringes to claims a right to be tolerated in the social and political arena.

Make no mistake, these are white supremacists and fascists trying to paint their picture with a brush broad enough to attract those people who are even slightly disgruntled.  And who of us isn't slightly disgruntled?

So, the sore losers of the Civil Rights Movement, the malcontents of the "Second Reconstruction" have decided that if they can't beat tolerance, they would cripple it, usurp it and undo it.

This all started with David Duke who encouraged the Klan to “get out of the cow pasture and into hotel meeting rooms.” In essence, to seek the appearance of legitimacy and so be able to believably claim to be legitimate. Many other right-wing groups have followed his example. All clamoring for tolerance they neither believe in or deserve.

Hate deserves no respect, no tolerance. Not from anyone - regardless of race, religion, country, sex or political belief.

What now? Maybe it's time to abandon political correctness in favor of common sense. Not beliefs, just reality and truth.

We fought a war for this. Anyone remember? ,

Thursday, August 25, 2016





DEAR INTERNET, IT’S been a while, right? We here at WIRED talk about you a lot (mostly good things!), and we’ll admit it feels a little weird to address you directly. But we need to have a talk. And yeah, no, this is not going to be a fun one. Because things aren’t great, Internet. Actually, scratch that: they’re awful.

You were supposed to be the blossoming of a million voices. We were all going to democratize access to information together. But some of your users have taken that freedom as a license to victimize others. This is not fine.

Are we talking about Leslie Jones? Sure. Today. But we should’ve mentioned something to you Monday when some of you went after the woman running Ireland’s Twitter account. Or earlier this summer when anti-Semitic trolls started crowing about their nested-parentheses bat-signal. Last year, it was the assumption that of course we should have a pro-Gamergate panel at SXSW. Or two years ago, when some of you hacked Jennifer Lawrence and a slew of other folks in that ugly display known as—this is as gross to type as it is to read—the Fappening.

Did you know 40 percent of Internet-using adults have experienced online harassment? Do you know how many Internet-using people commit harassment? Us neither. It’s not many. But that minority is literally the worst. And they’re screwing it up for the rest of us.
When you were born 25 years ago, people were so overjoyed that they just wanted to talk with each other. Then they wanted to spend money. Great! Except the companies that rushed to fill that void figured something out: For anyone trying to spend money, odds are there’s someone else trying to take it. They added fraud protections to protect people and themselves.
But that didn’t protect anyone against what people said to each other. As you got bigger and stronger, more people wanted to talk—but some of them were jerks, or worse. Remember flame wars? You had no immune system, and you started to rot. Now that rot has turned to blight. And here we are.
The networks we use to talk to each other have managers, and they don’t seem to know what to do about it. We don’t either. We don’t know how to make you a place where information is still free but people are safe, too. We only know that silence is unacceptable.
You had no immune system, and you started to rot. Now that rot has turned to blight. And here we are.
Here’s what a Twitter spokesperson said when we asked about the problem of abuse on its platform: “We don’t comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons.” After a hate mob drove Leslie Jones off Twitter last month, Jack Dorsey appealed to bureaucracy: “Our rules prohibit inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others.” There are rules? Well. As long as there are rules.

Except, you know what’s not making a difference, Internet? Rules. Do you know what happens when people talk to usabout how to stop harassment? They get harassed! Threatened. Other people email them their home addresses and name their family members!

And do you know what happens when we highlight how people respond to hate with love? Just read the replies.

Internet, it has to stop. And since you are this enormous, limitless beast with many heads and hearts and faces, the best way we know to get your attention is to talk to the companies and people who form your backbone and your bloodstream.

So. Companies that created the tools that let us communicate: no more passes. You have the ability to help people feel safe in their daily online lives. You havesophisticated tools to fight spam, and you take down content that infringes on copyright in the blink of an eye. This is a call to action. And a plea. You can’t say “we suck at dealing with abuse,” promise to do something, and then drag your feet. Because it’s starting to look like you care more about your next earnings call than the people who actually use your sites.

Maybe you’re not a company! Maybe you’re a hacker who can come up with some solutions to this problem. Go get ‘em, White Hats. And companies who pay hackers andresearchers to poke holes in the Internet, how about putting a bounty on fixing this enormous hole at the heart of the Internet? Help some people out.

If you’re someone who organizes, executes, or fuels abuse and hate crimes online, then let us be blunt: You are not our people. We trust you can find the door.

And if you’re someone who organizes, executes, or fuels abuse and hate crimes online, then let us be blunt: You are not our people. We see you dominating the comments on our Facebook posts. We see you shouting louder than anyone else in the comments of our stories, and in our Twitter timeline. Stop. Just don’t. You’re an embarrassment to the sites you frequent. We trust you can find the door.

Back to you, Internet. After all, we’re stuck with each other. You’re how we live our lives, and you’re how we’re going to continue to live them. We wouldn’t trade that for the world. We just want to make sure we work together—with you, and the people who built you and maintain you and depend on you—to become the place you were supposed to be, and be better than you are.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Fiction of Non-Fiction

Historically, libraries have divided books into two broad categories; fiction and non-fiction. Examples of fiction are stories, fables and fantasies. The rest is non-fiction, widely considered as fact.

Merriam-Webster defines it as:
"writing that is about facts or real events: all writing that is not fiction."

The digital world has inherited that default definition for non-fiction and is suffering for it. 

The first of many problems is that the fiction or non-fiction classification is bestowed by the author. A written piece about traveling to the moon in a basket carried by geese could be speculative non-fiction on alternative methods of spaceflight or a fictional fairy-tale. There is no objective measure which way it is classified. As a result, there are non-fiction writings about  how the Holocaust did not happen, genetic superiority or how the government is controlling people through microwave towers, among various other nonsense. 

If people just laughed, and some do, that would be fine. However, the ignorant and manipulative people point out that these writings are non-fiction, therefore true and irrefutable. By the assumption of truth and delegation to the category of non-fiction, these falsehoods become defictionalized. They are now free to permeate reality and distort politics, history, science and society.

We need to abandon the old classifications for written material. The writer's desire to portray their work as fiction or non-fiction is irrelevant. What is important is understanding what is true or speculation; what stands up to examination and what is intentional distortion. 

Literature and journalistic classification that categorizes writing, imply no degree of validity would be a start. A letter classification (1) Subject (2) Postulation (3) Position. Historic (H) Opinion (O) Critical (C) for example. It would then be up to the writer to support and defend what they espouse  rather than simply assigning an implication of truth.

Free speech is not about saying anything without being criticized or not having to defend a position.   Free speech is about debate, discourse; embracing good ideas and rejection of flawed, malicious or bad ideas.

David Duke, David Irving, Willis Carto, William Piece, Ben Klassen, Ernst Zundel and George Rockwell for example have all written works of malicious fiction which are classified and tragically accepted as non-fiction.

If we want to avoid drowning in the noise of presumed and unsupported alleged facts, then something must be done. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

We Are All Journalists

So many of us are journalists, storytellers, relaters of experience. Blogging, vlogging and micro-blogging. Some hoping to be the next Drudge or Huffington, others just needing to speak. Not since the Instamatic camera has our existence been chronicled so richly.

There are all kinds of journalists. Career journalists, science journalists, entertainment journalists and foremost, citizen  journalists. All are important and valuable, but a mixed bag. Some career journalists are amateurs and some citizen journalists are professionals. The difference between professionals and amateurs is not a matter of experience. It is a matter of dedication to journalistic standards, ethics and practices. Not everyone has that dedication.

The problem is dedication and commitment are great attributes, but not a great shield from abuse. More and more, as we citizen journalists, we need a shield or two.  In this election year we have seen just how badly  professional journalists can be abused for seemingly innocuous reasons. The reality is, citizen journalists have been subject to this level of abuse and worse for years.

Professional journalists have some level of support in place, from their colleagues to their publishers. Citizen journalists have no such support network. In many cases intelligent, well-meaning people have been harassed and driven off the internet because their opinions displease some people. We are not talking about radicals, racists or extremists. Can anyone honestly say that reasonable people, even if unpopular, should be abused into silence?

Blogging, vlogging, Tweeting and whatever comes next, should not put users at inordinate risk. It is counter to the concept of a free press. When writers meet basic journalistic standards they should be afforded the same respect and protection as any professional reporter.

As a species we are storytellers. If we don't protect the ways we have to tell our stories, we start becoming less.

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Sightless Still See Hate

Many online service platforms have long advocated user initiated local blocking as a preferred method for fighting hateful content.  As much as I appreciate the problems faced by the companies, simply having users block hate from their feeds is a bit like stopping the bleeding,  but leaving in the bullet.  The problem is still there, and will fester.

Think of a hearing impaired person, walking down the street, followed by someone screaming obscenities, abuse and taunts at them. Just because the victim can't hear the abuse does not mean they are not being abused.

When hate is directed at a person,  or a group, or is posted in a place where the person or members of the group are likely to encounter it, that's wrong, inappropriate, uncivilized. Even if blocked from the victims view, it is seen and used by collaborative haters. It feeds the destructive environment.

User experience controls are a useful feature, but they do not combat cyberhate.

Let's be real. I can't recall ever seeing benevolent hate. Hate is meant to be harmful, offensive, marginalizing, degrading and malicious. The purveyors of hate have always worked very hard to get around filters, policies and blocks. They try to assure that their messages do the damage they intended.