Free Speech, Censorship and Trump
Reply to: https://theconversation.com/no-twitter-is-not-censoring-donald-trump-free-speech-is-not-guaranteed-if-it-harms-others-153092
I find it remarkable how many conservative figures are right behind the power of the Free Market and the rights of private property holders to do whatever they fancy with their private property... right up to the point where it bites them (or someone they identify with closely, like Mr Trump) in the backside. Mr Trump has not been silenced by having his Twitter account access cut off - or rather, he has only been as silenced as someone who has full access to the White House press office, and to every single major media organisation in the USA, can possibly be.
He also hasn't been censored in the least. Censorship involves government action to block certain types of speech, images, concepts and so forth, from the public view. The various Australian government bans on various types of media (such as certain genres of manga, certain types of pornography and so forth) are censorship. Twitter choosing to ban a person from having an account on their service is not censorship, because no government action is involved. Twitter is a privately owned corporate entity. It is NOT a part of the US public infrastructure. As such, the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which starts with the words "Congress shall make no law ..." (being very clear about which entity it binds) does not actually apply. Twitter, as a corporate body, is allowed to make whatever rules it fancies regarding which speech is appropriate on their service, and which users are allowed and disallowed, and they're allowed to be exactly as arbitrary and petty about it as their user base will tolerate.
As someone on the political left (I think of it as being part of the evidence-and-reality-based caucus), I have heard every single one of the arguments about why Twitter is allowed to kick people off if they choose from conservative speakers, usually defending Twitter's choice to disallow speech from people of colour, transgender people, people with disabilities, women, people who aren't ethnically "white" and so on, simply because someone got under the skin of a bigot. Heck, look at the history of various journalists getting kicked out of their jobs, booted from social media and so on, because they dispute the nature, popular history, or value of ANZAC day, for example, or argue about the whole "Change the Date" thing from the side of Indigenous Australians. It is thoroughly amusing, in a rather jaded and cynical fashion, to watch all these conservative thinkers rushing around clutching their pearls about "censorship" and collapsing on their fainting couches, simply because for once, the boot is on the other leg.
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One Tweet Summarises an Election
[Eddy Jokovich; @EddyJokovich: The #Insiders panel asking “what will be the LNP agenda over the next three years”. I shouldn’t have to tell you this but aren’t these questions meant to be asked before the election? #auspol ]
What annoys me about this tweet is twofold.
Firstly, there's the whole point that firstly, the press were supposed to be scrutinising the various parties policy offerings (ALL the offerings of ALL the parties, guys, not just the big two) and providing the public with coverage of all of these. They were supposed to be doing this before the election. So clearly the Australian press have fallen down on the job, or they were lazy and didn't do their job, or they weren't trained properly and didn't know this was their job, or they were being actively prevented from doing their job. Any and all of these may apply, and all of them are horrifying to think about.
Secondly, there's the subsidiary point that we AS VOTERS were supposed to be looking into this OURSELVES. We shouldn't be relying on the press to spoon feed us everything in carefully measured sound-bites. We should, instead, be doing things like, oh, going to the various websites of the various political parties and reading their policy statements for ourselves. We should not be wholly reliant on the media to pre-digest these announcements for us. We should, instead, be doing some of our own damn legwork.
That a government was re-elected with absolutely NO policy information given, with every single question on policy matters turned aside as being "part of the Canberra bubble" or "it's all in the budget"; with ministers being missing in actions, with candidates doing their best impersonations of the invisible man or invisible woman; and with their only damn point being "look how terrible the opposition are"... this is a failure on two counts. Firstly, it is a failure of the press, who are supposed to be the public's advocates and watchdogs in such matters. Secondly, it is a failure of the electorate, because we have failed our democratic duty to ourselves.
The second is the more crucial failure, especially in this era of press consolidation and near-monopoly press control by the Murdoch media. We, as citizens in a democracy, have a responsibility to ourselves to be educated voters. To take the time to have a look at the various parties on offer, to learn what they stand for, to figure out whether we agree with this or not. Otherwise, we are failing ourselves, and we make ourselves into easy targets for the sort of exploitative, populist politics which delights in a divided electorate, and which chooses to divide and rule, pitting people one against the other. We owe it to ourselves; we owe it to each other; to create a country where we can all have a fair go. We didn't do this. We failed as citizens.
Now, the poor, the disabled, the sick, the elderly on the pension, the parents, the children who can't yet vote, the rural populations, the indigenous population, the recent migrants, the detainees in foreign lands, and everyone else who isn't earning over $200,000 per annum in this country are going to be paying the price for our failure. They'll be paying the price in reduced services, in more punitive welfare conditions, in increased prices for those services which remain, and in decreasing quality of service as well. They'll be paying the price in discrimination, in stigma, in negative coverage in the press, and in all the various little ways they've already been paying for the past six years.
We failed them. We failed ourselves. Now what are we going to do about it?
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What The Actual Fuck?
We've just embarked on a three year gamble. The Australian public, in their infinite self-centred, short-term-focused wisdom, have re-elected the Liberal-National Coalition government under Scott Morrison. I have no idea why they chose to do this - possibly it's because enough of them are deluded into thinking Australia runs on a presidential system, and they weren't happy about the idea of Bill Shorten as Prime Minister. Possibly it's because enough of them have fallen for the American way of thinking of themselves as not being members of a working class or a middle class precariat, but rather as a group of billionaires who are temporarily short on cash, so they want to do things like preserve franking credits, tax cuts for people earning over $200,000 a year, and negative gearing because one day they might, just might, get some benefit out of it. Possibly it's because they want the vicarious enjoyment of kicking the poor, which is always on the menu in a Liberal government. Possibly it's just because they don't want to think about climate change, an on-coming global recession, and any of the other big problems looming, and they think if they just hide their heads under the covers, it will all go away.
To be honest, I don't know, and I don't really care. This isn't about why the Australian people elected the government they did. It's about what's going to happen next.
The Liberal party went into this election with absolutely no new policy. Their entire campaign was "the ALP are big and scary and are going to eat your children". In the past six years of Liberal government, we have heard them, time and again, blame the ALP for every single problem which came up. It didn't matter what it was. If the problem wasn't caused by the ALP under Rudd and Gillard, it was caused by the ALP under Hawke and Keating, or the ALP under Whitlam, or even the ALP under Curtin. So we can expect another three years of hearing the ALP is responsible for whatever difficulties the government is encountering, and we can expect the government to be demanding the ALP do something about it (because of course it's the responsibility of the party in opposition to fix things, not the party in power). So there are problems waiting for this government when they get back in - things like the whole issue with the Murray-Darling scheme, and the water rorts there; things like the Centrelink robodebts and the paltry rate of Newstart; things like the lack of movement on wages in the past six years; things like the massive rip-off that is JobActive; the results of the banking royal commission, and so on. Problems they largely caused, and which they have been extremely reluctant to deal with.
Does anyone actually think they're going to do anything about those problems now?
We have a bunch of social issues which have been simmering away. There's the low movement on wages, which is making the lives of everyone who isn't already retired more difficult. There's the increasing casualisation of the workforce, which means a lot of people don't have the stability to do things like buy housing, make long-term plans, settle down, have families. There's the decay of our social support networks, and the increasingly punitive nature of our social security system. If you're applying for government assistance, you're automatically assumed to be sponging on the public purse for no good reason, and you have to jump through an ever-increasing amount of hoops in order to prove yourself a member of the "deserving poor". We have the rise of public white nationalism, and public anti-Semitism, and public anti-immigrant sentiment, and public anti-black sentiment - often led by members of the government. We have the rise of public anti-indigenous sentiment.
Does anyone think these things are going to go away?
Over it all, we have the looming spectre of global climate instability. The climate is changing. The climate has been changing for the last thirty or forty years now. It's reached the point where we can't pretend otherwise. It's starting to affect us. It's starting to affect every other species on this planet - and that's going to affect us because all life on this planet is linked together in a web. The web is starting to break. We've been told, again and again and again, that in order to deal with the problems facing us on the climate front, we're going to have to take drastic action.
We've just elected a government whose policy on climate change comes down to "if we ignore it, maybe it will go away".
So we've started a three year national gamble. We're gambling that for the next three years, nothing too terrible happens on the global economic front. We're gambling for the next three years, nothing catastrophic happens in terms of drought, floods, cyclones, bush-fires, or any of the other myriad manifestations of climate variability. We're gambling that for the next three years, we don't wind up getting pulled into a war, caught up in a trade dispute, faced with a global epidemic, or any of the other really big political problems which might crop up.
We're gambling this, because we have, with the full foreknowledge of their incompetence, re-elected a shower of MPs who have PROVEN themselves incapable of handling the challenges of government. This mob couldn't run a chook raffle in a country pub with the local CWA doing all the tricky bits for them. Why do we think they're competent to govern?
Seriously, Australia, what the fuck were you thinking yesterday?
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Five Things Make A Post 04 OCT 2018
1) ( Potentially distressing content under the fold )
2) In my other class, we're studying Foucault (a quick introduction to Foucault, discourse, and so on), and one of our readings is bringing up examples of current events (current at the time of writing/publication for the reading ... which was published in 2000) in US politics. Things like the Anita Hill case, the Clinton impeachment and so on. I was reading this yesterday and thinking "damn it, Brett Kavanaugh can't stop getting into everything". I'm hoping the rest of my readings this week won't be so... inadvertently synchronisticly appropriate, damn it.
3) One of the things I was asked to listen to for a previous weeks readings for one of my classes was "Four Chord Song" by Axis of Awesome. Which means I'm now hearing the chord structures and bass line of a lot of what I'm listening to these days, and thinking about the ways that various chord patterns are used and re-used to create music. There's the standard four chord song, the twelve-bar blues, the Romanesca (aka "that one in Pachelbel's Canon") and so on. So that gives me a bit of something to think about when I'm busy listening to music to block out the extraneous noise while I'm doing my uni readings.
4) As a side effect of stress, I am currently dealing with a complete lack of spoons for actual sensible cooking stuff. Which means I'm eating a lot of stuff which can be cooked by throwing it into the oven and reheating it. (Yes, I know this isn't healthy in the long term, but unless someone else is volunteering to come and cook for me for free, I suspect I'm going to be sticking with this for a while). One thing I have worked out is that it is cheaper for me to buy a $2.90 box of Coles plain brand frozen chicken nuggets, and re-heat them at home, than it is to get one of those "24 nuggets for $10" deals from KFC or Maccas - for $10 I can get three boxes of Coles nuggets, for a total of 66 of the little bastards, and all I have to supply is the oven to reheat them. Plus I can have my choice of dipping sauces (at present, the winner is Fountain Hot Chilli sauce) rather than being stuck with the options of watered down Sweet Chilli Sauce, or watered down Sweet and Sour Sauce or whatever. So, that can stand in for my reviews of recipes. I'll do more of them when I have the time and spoons to cook again.
5) Latest book up for the Farewell Re-read treatment is "The Ultimate Dracula" - a collection of short stories on a rather predictable theme, edited by Byron Preiss.
 In the words of Neil Innes: "I've suffered for my art; now it's your turn."
PS: I was serious about the Twitter thing. If you see me on Twitter any time before this whole thing has simmered down, remind me to get the fsck off there for the good of my blood pressure.
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Five Things Make A Post 30 SEP 2018
1) While I am thoroughly unsurprised that the Republicans are not budging on the idea of getting Brett Kavanaugh assigned to the Supreme Court, I do think it might be a good idea if parents in the USA point out to their children (particularly their sons) the behaviour he demonstrated is not appropriate behaviour in a job interview. The only way you get a job out of that sort of nonsense is if you're a highly privileged white man applying for a job which is a political appointment which has been largely sewn up from the get-go. Anyone else who tried that kind of behaviour in a job interview would have been confronted with a highly unamused "thank you for your time; we'll let you know" in the first five minutes and been slung out by security so hard they would have bounced if they'd continued.
2) I pause to note that in one of my units we had an assessment item due this week which was (in part) "write a piece of fanfiction". I believe I may have mentioned I love my degree? Certainly I'm getting more written for uni than I am for most of my current projects, so yeah... if not for uni, I might well have just stopped writing altogether.
3) The weather here in Perth is starting to warm up again, although yesterday was a return to freezling cold and rainy (although I didn't have to go out in it, which was good).
4) I've made a few changes to my daily routine, mostly along the lines of dropping a few things which weren't really amusing me (and were starting to be a chore). One of these is dropping Villagers and Heroes (MMO game, free to play, fairly nice and placid, but also rather pushy about users logging in regularly). The last update (around a week or so back) did something weird to either the executable, or the path for it in Steam, and I decided since I wasn't actually playing all that much, I'd just let it drop. So I gained the time that took back into my day, and lost something off my list of things to do. I also dropped playing Candy Crush for half an hour before I go to bed, because a few weeks back it started crashing out regularly after about five or ten minutes, becoming more "Candy Crash" instead. So what I'm doing with that half-hour is using it to work through books from my "Farewell re-read" shelves.
The "Farewell re-read" process is one where I go through books from the various boxes I have stashed in the storeroom, and start deciding whether I want to keep them, or give them to charity. A lot of the time, it's a pretty clear decision, but there's a certain quantity/quality of book where I'm not sure whether I want to keep it or not. So I give it one more re-read and decide at the end of that whether it's something I'd read again, or whether it's something where I prefer the space the book occupies rather than the book itself.
So far I'm up to my third book from the shelves ("Fast Food Nation", by Eric Schlosser - I think that one is going to be a "bye-bye" book), and I've kept one of them ("Emma" by Jane Austen).
5) I have discovered that Kettle Chips Chilli chips (with Jalapenos and Hot Chilli) are quite nice. Very hot and spicy, and very more-ish.
So, what's happening for everyone else?
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The Deconstruction of the Welfare State
( Essay under the fold )
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"Peeple for People" - Just When You Thought High School was Safely Behind You
The bits of Twitter I follow have been exploding in about twenty-seven different directions regarding "Peeple for People".
This article pretty much sums up what it's all about:
"Yelp for People" is pretty much the elevator pitch version of the idea. According to their FAQs, they largely envision it being used by folks to be all positive and caring and nice about people they know (in the same way Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are at present). Which, I think, says it all.
Essentially, this is how it would work - someone wants to 'review' you, and so long as they fulfil the conditions, they can do so. What kinds of conditions? They have to be over twenty-one, and have a Facebook account. They need to know your name, the city you live in, and your phone number (or know a phone number they can say is yours). Then they can create a profile for you, if you don't already have one, and publish 'reviews' of you. If someone posts a negative review of you, that review will get texted to your phone number (or to the phone number Peeple has for you) and the onus is on you to respond to that reviewer within forty-eight hours and see whether you can "change a negative to a positive".
(Those of you who are busy attempting to beat yourselves unconscious by head!desk-ing, I sympathise.)
Even getting off the internet altogether won't protect you from these negative reviews.
(Meanwhile, the people behind the app started the day with a locked Twitter account - which they've since unlocked to a degree; have taken steps toward getting a parody account mocking them on Twitter deleted; and are said to be deleting non-positive comments on their Facebook accounts. Nice for some, clearly.)
The system as it is described at present is wide open to abuse by stalkers, abusers, online hate mobs or just people who are feeling malicious on a particular day. It's all the worst possible social aspects of high school, pulled onto the internet and made international.
You can read their version of the story here:
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