Archives For: Updates

Vengeance Of The Nerds, Ctd

Oct 22 2014 @ 9:44am

Readers won’t let go of the debate:

As Arthur Chu artfully pointed out, the basic dynamic of #GamerGate is no different than that of the Tea Party: white dudes angry about Those People encroaching on their turf. What #GGers lambast as the “corruption” of gaming journalism isn’t part of the creeping menace of sponsored content; it’s the default mode of operation. Gaming publications have always been willing and enthusiastic adjuncts of the industry PR machine. The field’s evolution is no different than any other kind of entertainment journalism – critical film, music, and sports coverage didn’t emerge until the 1960s. To this day, no major entertainment media outlet meets the journalistic standard #GamerGate purports to demand (see: ESPN and the NFL). Really, where’s the scandal?

The difference now, of course, is the existence of social media and how it enables new ways of lashing out. No one has more skill with the Internet’s tools of harassment and abuse than the stereotypical gamer. Pretending that violent threats against outspoken women – whose collective influence in gaming, I should point out, is minuscule at best – have nothing to do with #GamerGate is absurd.

Freddie responds to these readers at length:

The video game media, generally speaking, is garbage. … But here’s the thing, you guys: if video game journalism is garbage, then #gamergate is garbage from an Egyptian restaurant that’s been baking in the sun in July in a heatwave on a New York corner, complete with extra dog poop and infested with cockroaches that have names like Misogyny and Threats Against Women. However well-intentioned some members of #gamergate may be, and however much I may agree with some criticisms of the video game media, the grimy sexism and hideous threats that have been made in the name of #gamergate renders the whole “movement” totally unpalatable to me.

Read On

Stalker Stories, Ctd

Oct 21 2014 @ 3:19pm

During this relatively slow news week, a reader draws our attention to “the latest thing blowing up (a small corner of) the Internet”:

Kathleen Hale, YA author and fiancée of Simon Rich (Frank Rich’s son) wrote this article about her experience with a nasty review on Goodreads of her non-yet-published book. She became obsessed with the reviewer, who was also a book blogger. Hale eventually discovered that the reviewer was operating under a false identity, stolen photos, made-up job, faked vacation photos, etc. Against all advice, Hale decided to confront the reviewer, to find out why she had it in for her, going so far as to find her real name and address, pay for a background check on her, and go to her house.

What makes the story so interesting is the reaction to it. I don’t know if Hale thought she would get a sympathetic reaction to her confession, but she has instead set off a firestorm.

Read On

Epistemic Closure Watch

Oct 21 2014 @ 12:42pm

Media Polarization

Pew looks at how conservatives and liberals consume their news:

When it comes to getting news about politics and government, liberals and conservatives inhabit different worlds. There is little overlap in the news sources they turn to and trust. And whether discussing politics online or with friends, they are more likely than others to interact with like-minded individuals, according to a new Pew Research Center study.

John Avlon is distressed:

A few decades ago, politicians sent talking points to talk radio hosts. Today, talk radio hosts and online echo-chamber pundits send talking points to politicians. They keep their readers and listeners addicted to anger. The durable wisdom of the late, great Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan—“everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts”—gets discarded when people come to political debates armed with their own facts.

Justin Elis’ take is more nuanced:

On their face, these findings might seem to lend support to the idea that we’re becoming a country of smaller and smaller filter bubbles, personalized universes of news and people that fit our own interests. But the connection between how Americans get news and their political polarization is not black and white.

Read On

Vengeance Of The Nerds, Ctd

Oct 20 2014 @ 6:14pm

A few readers provide key counterpoints to the controversy:

Your latest post presents only one side of a very complex, many-sided argument and unfortunately perpetuates the narrative that #GamerGate is mostly a reactionary, misogynistic movement. Please understand that the vast majority of GamerGate is not misogynist. The vast majority of GamerGate does not think death threats are trivial. GamerGate is a movement that has embraced women, gays, trans-gender people of all political stripes and nationalities, worldwide.

GamerGate is many things, but it is largely a reaction against the huge amount of abuse that gamers have suffered over the years, culminating in a coordinated campaign by a dozen or so articles that appeared on numerous gaming news sites nearly simultaneously on August 28-29, proclaiming that gamers were dead, spear-headed by a piece on Gamasutra by Leigh Alexander, who called gamers:

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Reacting to news that “the Obama administration is about to announce $100 million worth of apprenticeship grants – and wants to spend another $6 billion over the next four years,” Tamar Jacoby considers whether German-style apprenticeships would work in the US:

The first thing you notice about German apprenticeships: The employer and the employee still respect practical work. German firms don’t view dual training as something for struggling students or at-risk youth. “This has nothing to do with corporate social responsibility,” an HR manager at Deutsche Bank told the group I was with, organized by an offshoot of the Goethe Institute. “I do this because I need talent.” So too at Bosch. …

The second thing you notice:

Read On

A Smashed Pumpkin Festival

Oct 20 2014 @ 3:00pm

Caroline Bankoff recaps one of the stranger stories from this weekend:

Keene, New Hampshire’s annual Pumpkin Festival – which features a community-wide effort to “set a world record of the largest number of carved and lighted jack-o-lanterns in one place,” according to CBS Boston – saw at least 14 arrests and dozens of injuries this weekend as hordes of Keene State College students and their guests took to the small town’s streets for no apparent reason other than to cause trouble. The Boston Globe reports that hundreds of people were seen “throwing bottles, uprooting street signs, and setting things on fire,” as well as overturning cars and dumpsters. Cops outfitted in SWAT gear responded with “tear gas, tasers, and pepper spray.” The Keene Police Department claims that one group of rioters “threatened to beat up an elderly man” while others threatened the lives of the cops, who had to call for backup from nearby towns.

Will Bunch raises his eyebrows:

[I]f you have a few minutes, read the news accounts of what happened in New Hampshire – the youths who set fires and threw rocks or pumpkins were described as “rowdy” or “boisterous” or participants in “unrest.” Do you remember such genteel language to describe the protesters in [Ferguson] Missouri? Me neither. …

Read On

Hathos Alert

Oct 20 2014 @ 2:46pm

Hard to beat this ad from Michigan via Weigel:

Update from a reader:

I suspect you aren’t much of a college football fan and didn’t see a recent Tennessee House of Representative candidate’s ad. Lane Kiffin was a former head coach (I’d say THE former head coach, but firing Fulmer has prove a bad choice by the Volunteers) who is pretty reviled by Tennessee fans as he didn’t stay long, didn’t have much success and some of his actions resulted in NCAA sanctions. Kiffin is now the offensive coordinator at Alabama after getting fired mid-season last year.

Fifty Shades Of Racism?

Oct 20 2014 @ 1:17pm

Reviewing James Booth’s Philip Larkin: Life, Art, and Love, Alexander Adams praises the biographer for pushing back against Larkin’s more vociferous critics, especially those who dwell on his private sexism and racism. About the latter charge:

Any biographer has to take into account the criticism Larkin has faced for racist comments made in private letters. Those who are quick to apply the label ‘racist’ are usually unwilling (and NPG x12937; Philip Larkin by Fay Godwinunable) to distinguish causes and types of racism.

Racism is a spectrum of views, ranging from the pseudoscientific conviction that certain groups are genetically superior/inferior to a dislike of certain cultural manifestations. The causes of racist sentiment can be anything from displaced dissatisfaction, cultural prejudice, political partisanship, religious conditioning and nationalist sentiment in time of war right up to paranoid delusion. Dyspeptic misanthropes often express disgust in racist form when their frustration is of a general unfocused kind.

There is no suggestion that Larkin ever uttered a racial insult to a person’s face or engaged in any discriminatory behaviour (indeed, Booth presents examples of where Larkin supported the careers of non-white authors). Booth points out that Larkin only voiced racist opinions to receptive individuals (Amis, Monica, etc) in private and often undercutting epithets with irony or self-mockery.

While true, this does not make Larkin’s racist expressions false.

It would be surprising if a culturally conservative white Englishman with mild nationalist sentiments did not resent some of the cultural changes of Britain from the 1950s onwards, just as it is equally unsurprising that he felt somewhat ashamed of his prejudices and unwilling to hurt anyone directly. Booth has no need to excuse Larkin’s prejudices, just as we should have no reason to require excuses. HP Lovecraft’s racist view on life is an essential part of his writing; Larkin’s racist comments about West Indian cricketers and Indian doctors are peripheral and irrelevant to understanding his poetry.

There is also a very English Amis-Larkin cultural sub-text here: the ironic private use of racist and sexist language as a kind of mock meta-protest at the forces of progress. Jonathan Raban, in a review for The New Republic, discussed this question – without flinching from the actual words – this way:

In 1978 [Larkin] wrote to Robert Conquest: “We don’t go to Test matches now, too many fucking niggers about.”

Read On

Legalization Crosses The Border

Oct 20 2014 @ 10:19am

Cannabis Supporters Hope For Legalization

Christopher Ingraham maintains that “the news coming out of Colorado and Washington is overwhelmingly positive.” And that other nations are paying attention:

Countries, particularly in Latin America, are starting to apply these lessons in order to craft smarter policies that reduce violence and other societal harms brought about by the drug war. Uruguay, for instance, has moved toward full national legalization of marijuana, with an eye toward reducing the thriving black market there. Mexico’s president has given signs he’s open to changes in that country’s marijuana laws to help combat cartel violence. The Organization of American States recently issued a statement in favor of dealing with drug use as a public health issue, rather than a criminal justice one.

Regardless the eventual direction of marijuana legalization in the U.S., steps toward reform here are already prompting other countries to seek out more pragmatic solutions to their drug problems. In short, they’re making the world a better place.

However, Ed Krayewski is underwhelmed by Uruguay’s experiment:

Read On

Yesterday, House Republicans dragged CDC Director Thomas Frieden and other health officials onto the floor for a little grilling and grandstanding about why we haven’t instituted an Ebola travel ban yet:

“None of us can understand how a nurse who treated an Ebola-infected patient, and who herself had developed a fever, was permitted to board a commercial airline and fly across the country,” said Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman. “It’s no wonder the public’s confidence is shaken.”

Upton joined other lawmakers, including Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) and House Speaker John Boehner, who want the Administration to consider travel restrictions between the U.S. and West African countries, where the outbreak has killed more than 4,500 people. “It needs to be solved in Africa but until it is, we should not be allowing these folks in, period,” Upton said at the hearing. … Frieden countered that the Administration can better track people from the most vulnerable countries in West Africa without restrictions on travel.

Dr. Steven Beutler, an infectious disease specialist, favors quarantining everyone who travels to the US from an Ebola-afflicted country:

This obviously will result in considerable inconvenience and some expense, and in this respect I realize that it sounds draconian. But the fact is, it will prevent most importation of the disease.

Read On