Critical Ignorance of How Things Work

Whar Money?

On this news, one highly-upvoted person at 9gag had this to say:

Critical Ignorance

“The only person screwed was insurance companies.”

elonmustnt

Where does this person think that insurance companies get their money? How do they not understand that people pay what-are-called premiums for that coverage? How do they not understand that the insurance companies will pass increased prices on to their customers in the form of increased premiums? Even if they are employed with insurance, and never look at their pay stub, how do they not understand that employers covering only some of the costs of these premiums eventually pass increases on to employees, both in terms of raising their contribution, and by paying people less?

And lest you think this was brutally-ignorant take was isolated, there’s another, even more highly-upvoted post further down the comment section, with lots of replies, none of which correct this fundamental disconnect with the basic, underlying mechanism of good, old fashioned capitalism. Apparently everyone on 9gag is content with the explanation that the insurance companies were the only ones getting screwed by Shkreli, and they view his move as some sort of inverse, anarcho-capitalist Robin Hood maneuver. It’s almost insane.

I guess the question is: What did I expect from a post titled “Justice Served?” as if there were a popular misunderstanding of what was actually happening here. One comment gets at the truth: Shkreli is being made an example of, in order to send a signal to other people who make waves for Big Pharma. Yes, of course, every other pharma CEO wants to do what he did, but you have to do it quietly. Slowly. Like a frog being boiled alive. You can’t make moves so big or fast that they cannot be ignored.

It’s little wonder how we can’t find common ground in our politics today. People can post a critical misunderstanding of how something works to a top-10 web site, find validation from scores of like-minded people, and come away thinking that they’ve really got a handle on how the world works.

These are the people that political operatives are targeting with disinformation campaigns. The rubes that got snookered by the Cambridge Analytica election campaign for Trump? This is them. And they vote, thinking that they have “done their research,” and have insight into how the world really works.

I weep for the future. If there is one.

Be Careful What You Search For

I saw a post on Imgur that said that Little Cesar’s was going to raise the price of its “Hot and Ready” pizzas, so I wanted to go to Twitter, find an original reference, so that I could make a snarky comment about how my local shop never has any anyway.

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DO NOT SEARCH FOR “HOT AND READY” ON TWITTER.

Spoiler alert: It’s all gay porn.

Or do, I’m not the boss of you. Maybe that’s your thing.

Conservative social networks keep making the same mistake

Given the extremely predictable turmoil that emerged from Gettr’s content policies, though, I wonder if there isn’t something to this: a false-flag social network, set up only to watch it burn to the ground.

Source: Conservative social networks keep making the same mistake

In this… post-modern era of the Information Age, how are we ever supposed to actually conclude anything about anything? I’m still scratching my head over the twin scandals of Trump’s supposed “pee tape” — which was a false flag, but reported as true — and Hunter Biden’s “laptop” — which was a real story, but reported as a false flag. By the time the dust finally settled, and the actual facts of these stories have been sorted out, and the clown show of perpetrators and accomplices revealed, we find that the political sides don’t care about the truth anyway. The impressions of those stories are what they took away, and that’s all that mattered to the people who perpetrated them on the American public. Where does that leave us?

At this point, I think it’s becoming clear that one of the most important tools of a false flag operation is, in fact, to weaponize social media and news organizations to fight with each other, to occlude the facts until your disinformation campaign has entrenched enough people in the opinions you want them to have that it doesn’t matter when the truth comes out. By the time it does, they don’t care to learn any more about the stories, you will have had the effect on people you wanted, and while the talking heads are sifting through the rubble, your next operation is already underway. Again, as a society, where does that leave us?

I’m not hopeful, that’s for certain.

Netflix can’t shake Chappelle controversy | TheHill

Netflix can’t seem to close the door on “The Closer,” with the streaming giant only further inflaming controversy with its defense of Dave Chappelle’s mocking of the transgender community in his latest comedy special.

Source: Netflix can’t shake Chappelle controversy | TheHill

This article is a pristine example of what’s wrong with “internet” “news,” and why we, as a society, are so fractured and antagonistic towards each other.

  1. A Netflix co-CEO has responded to the backlash, and, frankly, was unequivocal about their position. The only reason they could be described as not being able to “shake” the controversy is because someone with an axe to grind at The Hill says so in an article designed to… incite more controversy. All links in the article refer back to… more articles at The Hill, and this article adds no new developments to the story.
  2. I watched the special. I worked through the language, and watched it till the end. There are some pointed opinions about gender expressed, which I can understand some people would take umbrage with, in particular. However, what cannot be misconstrued — unless you are specifically trying to misconstrue it — is that the overall message of the special — the entire point of it, in fact — is one of unequivocal support for human beings, no matter what social tribe they identify with. (Except if they’re white, which I actually appreciate in the context of his oeuvre.)

Towards the end, Chappelle makes one of the most compelling and compassionate statements about the modern human condition that I’ve ever heard anyone make, and I have a real problem with people who can’t see past their own prejudices to hear it. Anyone coming away from watching the show with any message other than love towards any minority is purposely trying to leverage selected quotes to gin up hatred towards Chappelle, and cash in on the resulting clicks. In my opinion, this sort of behavior is literally strangling society as we have known it up till now.

UPDATE: Hold up.

“I should have recognized the fact that a group of our employees was really hurting,” Ted Sarandos said in an interview.

Source: Netflix Co-CEO Says He ‘Screwed Up’ When Defending Dave Chappelle Special

$10 says they pull the special within a month. Now that the people decrying the program have seen that they can draw blood in the form of an apology for the reaction to the reaction, they will double down on getting the episode removed from the service.

David Sacks Says Facebook Isn’t the Bad Guy Here

Craft Ventures general partner and former PayPal COO David Sacks tells Emily Chang that, for all the bad rep Facebook has been getting, Facebook should not be uniquely to blame – and that the media, Hollywood, and the fashion industry all create more body image issues for teens and adults than the social network. (Source: Bloomberg)

Source: David Sacks Says Facebook Isn’t the Bad Guy Here

To sum up: The government is trying to do an end-run around the First Amendment, which prevents them from infringing the right to free speech, by getting private companies to do what they can’t do. Of course, we’ve known that for at least a decade now, but it’s interesting to see how they’re actually implementing the idea.

This guy points out that the “Facebook whistleblower” has been working with a Congressional committee for weeks, and the people on that committee are already on record as wanting censorship on social media. If you watch this, don’t be lulled into thinking that he’s excusing Facebook in the first half. He’s just setting up the ultimate point in the second half.

I posted this to Facebook. While I understand that not a lot of people in my circle would be into it, I got ZERO engagement with it. I’m wondering if Facebook didn’t shadowban the post.

The State of Social Media

Caught this today on an image sharing site, with the title “Failed the History Class.” Really? Let’s look at it.

We get one sentence which casts the situation hard to one side. Then another statement that casts the situation hard to the other side. Except that the truth lies somewhere in between. Libya was part of Italy at the time. Morocco was part of France (and part of Spain). The Philippines were part of the US. Vietnam was France. Burma was the UK. Ethiopia was Italy. Most of the other “2nd-world” countries still had such close ties with one of the legacy empires of England, France, and Spain that it’s probably unfair to call them independent.

Every country was involved in World War II to some degree, so it’s appropriate to say that the thing was independent of “whiteness.” But Germany started it, and they’re about as white as it gets. Italy joined in right away, and I guess Italians fit the description of “white” as the Left intends it. But then Japan jumped in, and they’re anything but Anglo or Christian or anything that even hints at “whiteness,” so it’s a strong counterpoint.

Almost immediately after the war was settled, the Cold War began, and America and the Soviet Union — both “white” for the purposes of this discussion — battled over global supremacy. And you could certainly admit that the OP saying that it was a fight to see who could “fuck up the world the most” wasn’t far off the mark. Both countries spent the next 60 years fighting for dominance in strange places, setting up and knocking down regimes in the so-called 3rd world, and engaging in espionage all around the planet. The result has been a lot of money spent, and a lot of lives lost, without much change in the global order. All of this effort could be considered “white,” if we’re fair about it.

Really, World War II was about getting Germany, Italy, and Japan to settle down, but the real war over control of this planets resources has continued to this day. Now that Russia and the United States have backed off the Middle East a little, China is ramping up efforts to take over everything in the South Pacific and the Chinese peninsula. Definitely not “white.” There will be another World War. If left to run its natural course, you can easily predict that whoever is left on the planet will fight for decades over control of what’s left standing.

Anyway, my point is that #SocialMediaIsDestroyingSociety. All day long, on every social media site, these kinds of exchanges are happening. Both sides feel they are right. Everyone involved pats themselves on the back for making such a good point. No one in the middle cares. No one is swayed. No one learns anything. No one is educated. Which side here “failed history class?” Both, if you ask me.

Any actual, global or societal problem or situation is far too complicated to wrap up in 140, or even 280, characters, and I’m really tired that Twitter and Facebook have managed to hypnotize society into thinking that this sort of discussion matters to anything other than their advertising revenue. It just forces everyone to grow up thinking that you gain identity by simplifying your thinking to 280 characters, and identifying with the hardest of takes, and these are both ingredients in the recipe for the doom of society.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act | Electronic Frontier Foundation

Tucked inside the Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996 is one of the most valuable tools for protecting freedom of expression and innovation on the Internet: Section 230.This comes somewhat as a surprise, since the original purpose of the legislation was to restrict free speech on the Internet. The Internet community as a whole objected strongly to the Communications Decency Act, and with EFF’s help, the anti-free speech provisions were struck down by the Supreme Court. But thankfully, CDA 230 remains and in the years since has far outshone the rest of the law.

Source: Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act | Electronic Frontier Foundation

I just read a TechDirt article condemning CBS’ 60 Minutes for disinformation regarding Section 230, which led me to the EFF’s page and infographic.

I respect the EFF immensely, but I remain unconvinced.

The EFF claims that if we didn’t have Section 230, places like Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter would effectively be sued out of existence. Or, even if they don’t get sued out of existence, they’ll have to hire an army of people to police the content on their site, the costs of which will drive them out of existence, or which they will pass on to users.

I don’t see what’s so valuable about Reddit, Facebook, or Twitter that these places should be protected like a national treasure. All three are proof positive that allowing every person to virtually open their window and shout their opinions into the virtual street is worth exactly what everyone is paying for the privilege: nothing. It’s just a lot of noise, invective, and ad hominem. And if that were the extent of the societal damage, that would be enough. But all of this noise has fundamentally changed how news organizations like 60 Minutes work. Proper journalism is all but gone. In order to compete, it’s ALL just noise now.

The EFF compares a repeal of Section 230 to government-protecting laws in Thailand or Turkey, but this is every bit as much disinformation as TechDirt claims 60 Minutes is promulgating. Repealing Section 230 would not repeal the First Amendment. People in this country could still say whatever they wanted to about the government, or anything else. Repealing 230 would just hold them personally accountable for it. And I struggle to understand how anyone — given 20 years of ubiquitous internet access and free platforms — can conclude that anonymity and places to scrawl what is effectively digital graffiti has led to some sort of new social utopia. The fabric of society has never been more threadbare, and people shouting at each other, pushing disinformation, and mistreating others online 24×7 is continuing to make the situation worse.

Platforms are being used against us by a variety of bad actors. The companies themselves are using our information against us to manipulate at least our buying behavior, and selling our activity to anyone who wants to buy it. There was some amount of alarm raised when it was discovered that AT&T tapped the overseas fiber optic cables for the NSA, in gross and blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment, but once discovered, Congress just passed a law to make it legal, retroactively. Now the NSA and FBI doesn’t need to track us any more. Literally every company in America which has a web site is helping to collate literally everything we do into a dossier that gets amalgamated and traded by 3rd-party information brokers. Our cell companies and ISP’s merge location tracking into the mix, and the government picks this information up for pennies on the dollar for what it would take for them to collect it themselves.

I don’t like this situation. I think it should stop. I think anything that would put a dent in Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit being able to collate and track everything anyone does on the internet, and sell it to anyone with a checkbook, needs to go away. If repealing Section 230 forces these companies out of business, I say, “Good.” They want to tell me that the costs to deal with content moderation in a Section 230-less world would put them out of business. I call BS.

If Facebook and YouTube can implement real-time scanning of all video being uploaded to their sites, and block or de-monetize anything containing a copyrighted song within seconds, they can write software to scan uploaded content for offensive content too. Will it catch everything? Of course not, but it will get the load down to the point where humans can deal with it.

There are countless stories of how Facebook employs a small army of content moderators to look into uploaded content, and how it pays them very little, and the job of scanning the lower bounds of human depravity is about as grinding a job in the world. But if they can create filters for pornographic content, they can create filters for gore and violence, and, again, stop 90% of it before it ever gets posted.

Don’t tell me it’s impossible. That’s simply not true. It would just cost more. And, again, if it costs so much that it puts them out of business? Well, too bad. If the holy religion of Capitalism says they can’t sustain the business while they make the effort to keep the garbage off their platforms, then I guess the all-powerful force of The Market will have spoken. The world would be better off without those platforms.

I remember an internet that was made of more than 5 web sites, which all just repost content from each other. It was pretty great. People would still be free to host a site, and put whatever they wanted to on it. It couldn’t be any easier, these days, to rent a WordPress site now, and post whatever nonsense you want, like I’m doing right here. You could even still be anonymous if you want. But your site would be responsible for what gets posted. And, if it’s garbage, or it breaks the law, you’re going to get blocked or taken down. As so many people want to point out in discussions of being downvoted for unpopular opinions, The First Amendment doesn’t protect you from being a jerk.

Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Imgur, and Google are all being gamed. As the last two Presidential elections have shown, world powers are influencing the content on these sites, and manipulating our national political discourse. This needs to stop. It seems to me that repealing Section 230 would cause those platforms to get serious about being transparent about where that content comes from, and be held accountable for it. Again, don’t tell me that they can’t. They just don’t want to spend the money to do so. In fact, they’re making money on the spread of such propaganda. Tell me why Americans should put up with these mega-companies making billions providing a platform to be used against us politically? Not just allowing it, but being financially incentivized into providing it? It doesn’t make any sense to me.

In summary, I don’t see how repealing Section 230 hurts any of the scenarios that folks like the EFF say that it does, and it would seem to hold all the right people accountable for the absolute disgrace that social media has become.

Twitter Decries India Intimidation, Will Press for Changes – Bloomberg

The social network reiterated its commitment to India as a vital market, but signaled its growing concern about the government’s recent actions and potential threats to freedom of expression that may result. The company also joined other international businesses and organizations in criticizing new IT rules and regulations that it said “inhibit free, open public conversation.”

Source: Twitter Decries India Intimidation, Will Press for Changes – Bloomberg

It is, perhaps, a little rich for Twitter to be complaining about inhibition of “free, open public conversation” after throwing conservatives off their platform after the last election, in fact, as part of a larger move, along with Facebook and Amazon, to simply cancel them from them from the internet entirely. You may or may not agree with the decision to do so, but you have to admit that the hypocrisy of complaining about pressure to do the same thing by a foreign government is a little too on-the-nose. The Indian government just wants some of the same social engineering and control that the political Left in America literally just demonstrated.

Either social media companies are common carriers, and free of any censorship (where affected parties can always sue for any and all illegal speech), or they are, by default, a platform in support and service of censorship, and fair game to be manipulated by anyone with the legal or financial pressure to do so on their behalf. You cannot have it both ways.

Liberals and Conservatives Are Both Totally Wrong about Platform Immunity | by Tim Wu | Medium

Everyone is, in short, currently asking for the wrong thing. Which makes it worth asking: Why?

One reason is that this area is confusing, and the idea of making tech “responsible” does sound good. There are, as I discuss below, ways in which they should be. Also, as described below, the mere threat of 230 repeal serves its own purposes. But I think, at its most cynical, the repeal 230 campaign may just be about inflicting damage. Repealing 230 would inflict pain, through private litigation, not just on big tech, but the entire tech sector.

We don’t like you; we want you to suffer. Very 2020.

Source: Liberals and Conservatives Are Both Totally Wrong about Platform Immunity | by Tim Wu | Medium

I’m not convinced by his arguments, but I can’t say his final conclusion doesn’t have a big part in my thinking about the issue.

When U.S. blamed Saudi crown prince for role in Khashoggi killing, fake Twitter accounts went to war

Saudi-based Twitter accounts using fake profile pictures, repetitive wording and spammy tactics sought to undermine the conclusion by U.S. intelligence officials, made public Friday, that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “approved” the operation that led to the killing of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Source: When U.S. blamed Saudi crown prince for role in Khashoggi killing, fake Twitter accounts went to war

More and more of our news cycle is centering on Twitter. The blue-check-mark journalists who enjoy relative stature on the platform get preferential treatment, and there’s hardly a news article today which doesn’t reference at least one Tweet for an official quote. Like Amazon reviews, American society is placing increasingly-serious trust in an inherently untrustworthy system, and the people who run it are doing so in opaque and unaccountable ways.

#SocialMediaIsDestroyingSociety