Thursday 25 March, 2021

Quote of the Day

”The only way to escape misrepresentation is never to commit oneself to any critical judgement that makes an impact — that is, never say anything.”

  • F.R. Leavis

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Mozart | Ave Verum | Cello Solo in the Irish countryside | Patrick Dexter


Long Read of the Day

How to Become an Intellectual in Silicon Valley 

Nicely barbed essay. The keys to success, apparently, are:

First, the point of your interventions in the public sphere is not to “win” any “argument,” nor to attract new adherents or convince neutrals of the righteousness of your cause. It is to avoid competition. When competition seeks you out, as it invariably will, your task will be to lose the debate and propose ideas that “seem” (and often are) “shit,” since popular discourse is a test of conventional mindedness; to be truly radical, you must be wrong. Second, there is no absolute moral evil that cannot be playfully reframed on irrelevant grounds as a net historical good. Take, for instance, poverty: what looks to most people like a recipe for social inequality, resentment, division, and violence will be, in your spritely retelling, the most powerful mechanism for income mobility in the history of human civilization. Or consider, say, Pol Pot’s killing fields: bad for the people who got stuck in them, but good for Cambodia’s startup ecosystem? Nazis did bad things to the world in the middle of the twentieth century, but there’s no reason to think they won’t do wonders for agency culture at the Food and Drug Administration in the early 2020s. Your success as a Silicon Valley intellectual will depend on your ability to insert difficult but necessary conversations like these into the public domain. A couple of half-decent ratioed tweets about the beauty of population control or the necessity of transphobia, and you’ll be well on your way to securing your status among the Silicon Valley elite.

Read on. And if you’ve enjoyed it, consider reading Adrian Daub’s What Tech Calls Thinking: An Inquiry into the Intellectual Bedrock of Silicon Valley.

Facebook guidelines allow users to call for death of public figures

People sometimes look askance at me when I describe Facebook as one of the most toxic corporations in existence. Obligingly, the company keeps delivering confirmations of this proposition.

For example, this from the Guardian:

Facebook’s bullying and harassment policy explicitly allows for “public figures” to be targeted in ways otherwise banned on the site, including “calls for their death”, according to a tranche of internal moderator guidelines leaked to the Guardian.

Public figures are defined by Facebook to include people whose claim to fame may be simply a large social media following or infrequent coverage in local newspapers.

They are considered to be permissible targets for certain types of abuse “because we want to allow discussion, which often includes critical commentary of people who are featured in the news”, Facebook explains to its moderators.

So how does the company define a ‘public figure’?

The company’s definition of public figures is broad. All politicians count, whatever the level of government and whether they have been elected or are standing for office, as does any journalist who is employed “to write/speak publicly”.

Online fame is enough to qualify provided the user has more than 100,000 fans or followers on one of their social media accounts. Being in the news is enough to strip users of protections.

“People who are mentioned in the title, subtitle or preview of 5 or more news articles or media pieces within the last 2 years” are counted as public figures. A broad exception to that rule is that children under the age of 13 never count.

And this is the outfit which we now allow to curate the public sphere.

Other, hopefully interesting, links.

  • Job Posting: Assistant Professor of Robotics and Animal Husbandry with a Specialization in Dance. by Kate Brennan. You think it’s a spoof? You haven’t been reading job ads in US universities. Link
  • Four musicians and one cello. Link

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