Of Statistics and Other Mythical Beasts
"When we read any statistical claim, several questions should strike us immediately, to decide whether those numbers are credible or reliable. We always need to ask how the individual data points were reported and collected, and how the numbers were compiled. Specifically,

Who is doing the counting?

What are they counting?

Are those agencies or groups in a position to observe and assess reality?

Do they have motives to interpret the stats in particular ways?

What can the raw numbers tell us about attitudes or behaviors?"
from instapaper
1 hour ago
The Critical Zone of Science and Politics: An Interview with Bruno Latour - Los Angeles Review of Books
"Why do you go to church? Why is that meaningful to you?

Because the Church, in spite of all its limitations and the slow transformation of religion into belief and identity, is still active in many ways. It is words — the Logos, the Spirit — that transform the life of those you address. This is something I want to cherish, but it’s very different from believing.

In terms of information, the content of the Bible is very limited. But you need to push aside a certain definition of religion, which unfortunately is now dominant almost everywhere. It’s also happening in the sphere of politics, which has been replaced by issues of identity — again, by belief. “I believe in this and I don’t want to dispute it. It’s indisputable.” So a country like the United States now links political belief and religious belief. You cannot do politics with these feelings."
from instapaper
1 hour ago
Letter of Recommendation: Detroit Techno - The New York Times
In the early ’80s, the Roland Corporation, a Japanese electronics company, developed two machines that would soon become obsolete and change the world, in that order. The TR-808 Rhythm Composer and the TB-303 Bass Line — synthesizers with built-in sequencers — were designed for musicians to practice with at home, by programming artificial accompaniment. They used voltage-­controlled oscillators to generate sound waves intended to resemble an acoustic drum set and an electric bass. Sonically harsh and rigid, they were considered largely unsuitable by serious musicians, and they trickled into thrift stores, garage sales and pawn shops. Eventually, they were discovered by D.J.s in the Midwest, who used them to create sounds that no existing instrument was capable of making.
3 hours ago
Cicero "De Officiis" (44 BC)
One thing that reading De Officiis made me wonder is: how far does this pre-‘Modern Moral Order’ book of ethics develops a farmer's rather than a hunter's ethics? I wouldn't want this to become my King Charles' Head where matters of physics, philosophy or morals are concerned, but it is surely a meaningful distinction. So: a hunter's ethics cannot put too high a priority on empathy—identify too closely with your prey and your ability to kill will become impaired, and you'll starve. But the farmer needs to husband his or her empathy: to understand what their crops and livestock need in order to flourish. The hunter needs to track and then overmaster; the farmer needs to slot themselves into the rhythms of the seasons, to attend to the order of nature. The hunter cuts across the natural cycle, sometimes literally so, to wrench life out of nature; the farmer aligns him/herself with the natural cycle to coax nature into doing its thing more fruitfully.

At any rate, I wonder if this may be a way of reading the De Officiis (particularly its Book 1), and its repeated emphasis on Natura.
politics  nature  anthropology  criticism  from instapaper
6 hours ago
The Myth Gap: What Happens When Evidence and Arguments Aren’t Enough?
What we need, according to Evans, are new, capacious myths to help us think of ourselves in terms of a ‘larger us‘ and in a ‘longer now;’ myths that affirm agency, encourage big picture thinking, and help us envision a ‘better good life’ (against consumerism as the default myth–gap filler). These myths must not only tell us who we are and what kind of world we live in, but also capture our sense of guilt, even grief, for our eco–sinful complicity in environmental degradation. They must give us hope for the future, showing the possibility of redemption, even restoration. I’m with Evans on this last point. Sticking to the strikingly religious language that pervades the entire book, I say: ‘yes and amen.’ Yet I find myself asking if he has overestimated how guilty Westerners actually feel about environmental degradation.
politics  mythology  rhetoric  from instapaper
6 hours ago
The Crisis of Intimacy in the Age of Digital Connectivity - Los Angeles Review of Books
The basic contradiction is as simple as it is desperate: the sharing of private experience has never been more widespread while empathy, the ability to recognize the meaning of another’s private experience, has never been more rare. In Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein confronted exactly this problem, of the meaning of intimacy and the intimacy of meaning. “The essential thing about private experience is really not that each person possesses his own exemplar, but that nobody knows whether other people also have this or something else,” he wrote. “The assumption would thus be possible — though unverifiable — that one section of mankind had one sensation of red and another section another.” Wittgenstein thought it was unverifiable, but the internet has verified it. Is the dress blue or gold? Do you hear Yanni or Laurel?

The connection of the TCP/IP promises universality of reference; it does not promise shared sensation. And shared sensation is the essence of intimacy — the conviction that I feel what another or others are feeling, and another or others feel what I’m feeling. It’s the desperate human question: Do you feel what I feel? Is the little tremor in my heart meaningful to others? Wittgenstein posed this pathetically needy, essentially human question in his famous parable of the beetle in the box...
tech  socialmedia  philosophy  psychology  from instapaper
6 hours ago
A Reactionary Renaming: Stanford and English Language Politics - BLARB
In short, one of these two men went into battle against Native Americans and it was not Junipero Serra.

The Stanford Advisory Committee acknowledges that larger structural forces were more to blame for the devastation of native communities and cultures than Junipero Serra himself: “Historical references indicate that he combined piety, self-sacrifice, a love for Native Americans, and a religious passion for their salvation with strict and punitive paternalism, sometimes moderated by significant acts of leniency.”

Meanwhile Walter Isaacson, in his highly praised biography, all but ignores Franklin’s role as an armed combatant. “Franklin enjoyed his stint as a frontier commander,” Isaacson writes, focusing on Franklin’s efforts to get militiamen to go to worship services and his interest in the marriage customs of nearby Moravians. “After seven weeks on the frontier, Franklin returned to Philadelphia.”

So while the California Mission system was devastating to native culture and that the Spanish military presence was genocidal, perhaps Serra’s life and work ought to be evaluated in comparison to the Colonial-era Native American experience on the Atlantic coast. The devastation of native communities by English speaking colonists was arguably more brutal.
history  politics  from instapaper
6 hours ago
The Deal of the Art | Jonathon Sturgeon
If the urge to destroy is creative, and if capitalism relies on creative destruction, perhaps Banksy is hinting that his intention was to increase the value of his work by destroying it. The proof, I think, can be found in his name, which brings to mind a small, one-man bank. If that doesn’t convince you, look to the latest news: the artist has just re-authenticated the trash-work and renamed it “Love is in the Bin,” to the satisfaction of the original buyer. Judged as an episode of extralegal short-term price-fixing, Banksy’s act of autoshredding was an accomplishment for all involved; in the long-term, its status as the supposed first work of art created at an auction means that it will likely appreciate wildly in value. In this respect, with all things being equal, Banksy is the Thomas Kinkade of his generation, inasmuch as both rely on opportunistic financial schemes and clashing effects: Kinkade’s sinister warmth, Banksy’s dark money do-gooderism.
art  economics  from instapaper
6 hours ago
The Consciousness Deniers
What is the silliest claim ever made? The competition is fierce, but I think the answer is easy. Some people have denied the existence of consciousness: conscious experience, the subjective character of experience, the “what-it-is-like” of experience. Next to this denial—I’ll call it “the Denial”—every known religious belief is only a little less sensible than the belief that grass is green.

The Denial began in the twentieth century and continues today in a few pockets of philosophy and psychology and, now, information technology. It had two main causes: the rise of the behaviorist approach in psychology, and the naturalistic approach in philosophy. These were good things in their way, but they spiraled out of control and gave birth to the Great Silliness. I want to consider these main causes first, and then say something rather gloomy about a third, deeper, darker cause. But before that, I need to comment on what is being denied—consciousness, conscious experience, experience for short.
philosophy  mind  neuroscience  from instapaper
7 hours ago
Predictive Processing & Art as Cognitive Remodeling
We appear to treat artistic works simultaneously as communications — where accuracy in judging interlocutor intent is valuable — and as maps or models of reality, which is perhaps why we also use words like “authenticity” and “truthiness” in talking about art, or why a work which doesn’t “ring true” is written off. Predictive processing is a way of explaining our attraction to both types of artistic ambiguity, that is, those which play off our understanding of artworks as communications and those which play off our understanding of artworks as reality-training inputs. Insofar as we (often unconsciously) see works as reality models, or eligible inputs in the brain’s predictive training set for reality testing, we look for models which upend, qualify, or otherwise add nuance to any in the system’s current set of all top-down predictions. If a work or a part of a work does not “ring true” or “resonate,” it is dismissed by the predictive processing system so as not to contaminate learning. To use neural network terms: Upon recognizing some kind of fundamental difference between the underlying logic or grammar of the work and the underlying logic or grammar of previously interpreted reality, the brain excludes the stimulus from its training set; the input-space is filtered and constrained by network assessments. While resonance is a necessary heuristic, it is a poor one.
neuroscience  art  criticism  from instapaper
7 hours ago
Hannah Arendt on the Time She Met W.H. Auden
It seems, of course, very unlikely that the young Auden, when he decided he was going to be a great poet, knew the price he would have to pay, and I think it entirely possible that in the end—when not the intensity of his feelings and not the gift of transforming them into praise but the sheer physical strength of the heart to bear them and live with them gradually faded away—he considered the price too high. We, in any event—his audience, readers and listeners—can only be grateful that he paid his price up to the last penny for the everlasting glory of the English language. And his friends may find some consolation in his beautiful joke beyond the grave—that for more than one reason, as Spender said, “his wise unconscious self chose a good day for dying.” The wisdom to know “when to live and when to die” is not given to mortals, but Wystan, one would like to think, may have received it as the supreme reward that the cruel gods of poetry bestowed on the most obedient of their servants.
auden  poetry  from instapaper
7 hours ago
What is worship?
When I became an Anglican, I was at first quite puzzled by the choice of Scripture passages that Anglican (that is, Church of England) services kept coming back to—the Benedictus (Luke 1.68–79) in Morning Prayer, the Magnificat (Luke 1.46–55) in Evening Prayer, and the Nunc Dimittis (Luke 2.29–32) at night. For one thing, all these come from one gospel and one section of that gospel. For another, if you were going to repeat a small number of passages again and again, are there not other passages you would choose first? How about the hymn to love in 1 Cor 13? Or the summary of the gospel in 1 Cor 15? Or the ‘Christ hymn’ of Paul in Phil 2? Or John’s magisterial prologue in John 1? (Of course, most of these do find their way into Anglican liturgy in the form of credal affirmations or canticles.)

It took some time for me to realise the importance of the passages from Luke as programmatic summaries of what God was doing in Jesus; fulfilling the hopes of his people Israel in bringing forgiveness, true liberation and peace (the Benedictus); enacting the Great Reversal of God’s grace over against human pride, following the pattern of Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel (the Magnificat); and bringing to completion God’s plan not just for Israel but for the whole world, in anticipation of Jesus’ followers being his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (the Nunc Dimittis).

The other passage that puzzled me was the choice of Ps 95 (also known by its opening words in Latin, pointing back to the influence of the Vulgate translation), the Venite, and its alternative Ps 100, the Jubilate. But it has slowly dawned on me that Ps 95 offers a comprehensive account of what worship involves.
worship  Anglican  from instapaper
8 hours ago
Opinion | The Tyranny of Convenience
We need to consciously embrace the inconvenient — not always, but more of the time. Nowadays individuality has come to reside in making at least some inconvenient choices. You need not churn your own butter or hunt your own meat, but if you want to be someone, you cannot allow convenience to be the value that transcends all others. Struggle is not always a problem. Sometimes struggle is a solution. It can be the solution to the question of who you are.

Embracing inconvenience may sound odd, but we already do it without thinking of it as such. As if to mask the issue, we give other names to our inconvenient choices: We call them hobbies, avocations, callings, passions. These are the noninstrumental activities that help to define us. They reward us with character because they involve an encounter with meaningful resistance — with nature’s laws, with the limits of our own bodies — as in carving wood, melding raw ingredients, fixing a broken appliance, writing code, timing waves or facing the point when the runner’s legs and lungs begin to rebel against him.
tech  from instapaper
8 hours ago
“It was no way to die”
At the center of all of these arguments about the religious core to secularism is a belief in a Christian past that can neither be lost nor forgotten. Even when people have abandoned all of the internal and external markers of Christianity, even when they have given up belief and practice, even when they desperately try to distance themselves through polemics from their Christian heritage, Christianity’s influence persists in the faith they accord the sovereign, the arguments they use to bomb foreign countries, the wonder with which they face art. Secularism debates are an argument for history as haunting.
secularity  from instapaper
8 hours ago
Inventing Clerical Celibacy
Tertullian was certainly drawing on sectarian and especially Montanist ideas, even if he was not yet a wholehearted convert. But even within the orthodox mainstream church, the idea that sexuality was incompatible with holiness gained popularity during the third century. Partly, this reflected a growing sense of the power of the Eucharist, and the expansion of celebrations to a daily basis. If a priest or bishop was expected to be celibate before celebrating that rite, and if it occurred in a daily or near daily basis, that de facto demanded strict, permanent, celibacy. As that practice spread, so later Christians, especially in the West, found in Tertullian’s writings an eloquent manifesto for celibacy. No later than 250, Christian monasticism originated in Egypt and Syria, and spread very quickly in both regions. Hermits and solitaries naturally rejected sexuality.

I am not arguing simplistically that “The Montanists invented priestly celibacy” (a position actually adopted by some modern opponents of mandatory clerical celibacy, in order to discredit the practice). Rather, the idea arose most vigorously on the sectarian margins of orthodoxy, but they could only have won mainstream acceptance if they reflected deeply held ideas of the time. What gave those themes special power and influence was their expression by such an influential thinker as Tertullian, who gave them entrée into Latin-speaking Christendom.
Catholic  christian  from instapaper
8 hours ago
Intelligent Life Elsewhere? Maybe It’s Hiding - WSJ
effective computation must involve interactions and that the speed of light limits communication. As a result, the most effective—fast, but synchronized—thinking must take place in small spaces.

Consider a computer operating at a speed of 10 gigahertz, which is not far from what you can buy today. In the time between its computational steps, light can travel just over an inch. Accordingly, powerful thinking entities that obey the laws of physics, and which need to exchange up-to-date information, can’t be spaced much farther apart than that. Thinkers at the vanguard of a hyperadvanced technology, striving to be both quick-witted and coherent, would keep that technology small.

Thus, truly advanced, information-based civilizations might choose to expand inward, to achieve speed and integration—not outward, where they’d lose patience waiting for feedback. If that’s the case, then the answer to Fermi’s “Where are they?” is: Out there, but inconspicuous.
science  intelligence 
8 hours ago
The More Things Change… | National Review
But the other powerful difference between the situation of these observers of the academy half a century ago and ours is the sheer physical intensity and danger of the campus radicalism they confronted. It was violent in a way that ours is not. Indeed, we easily forget how violent leftist social radicalism in general was in the late 1960s and early 70s, and in this sense how much more disordered and dangerous our public life seemed (and was) in that time, even compared to what we now think of as our era of discord and fragmentation. Our political culture is divided and polarized today, to be sure. But the United States experienced some 2,500 domestic bombings in an 18-month period in 1971-72. That is not the world we live in, thankfully.

But although the campus activism (and the broader social strife) of that era was more violent and dangerous, it was also to a far greater degree an expression of weakness. Today’s campus activists are much stronger, precisely because they speak for the cultural prejudices that dominate the academy, and so are enforced by the faculty and frequently by administrators. Campus conservatives generally aren’t in physical danger today (with a few prominent exceptions), but they are in constant danger of social ostracism and professional sabotage. The activists speak for the contemporary academy, not against it, so their targets and critics face a different sort of minefield.
8 hours ago
The future’s so bright, I gotta wear blinders | ROUGH TYPE
For much of this year, I’ve been exploring the biases of digital media, trying to trace the pressures that the media exert on us as individuals and as a society. I’m far from done, but it’s clear to me that the biases exist and that at this point they have manifested themselves in unmistakable ways. Not only are we well beyond the beginning, but we can see where we’re heading — and where we’ll continue to head if we don’t consciously adjust our course.

Is there an overarching bias to the advance of communication systems? Technology enthusiasts like Kelly would argue that there is — a bias toward greater freedom, democracy, and social harmony. As a society, we’ve largely embraced this sunny view. Harold Innis had a very different take. “Improvements in communication,” he wrote in The Bias of Communication, “make for increased difficulties of understanding.” He continued: “The large-scale mechanization of knowledge is characterized by imperfect competition and the active creation of monopolies in language which prevent understanding and hasten appeals to force.” Looking over recent events, I sense that Innis may turn out to be the more reliable prophet.
futurism  tech 
Tom Vanderbilt Explains Why We Could Predict Self-Driving Cars, But Not Women in the Workplace
Like the hungry person who orders more food at dinner than they will ultimately want—to use an example from Lowenstein and colleagues—forecasters have a tendency to take something that is (in the language of behavioral economics) salient today, and assume that it will play an outsized role in the future. And what is most salient today? It is that which is novel, “disruptive,” and easily fathomed: new technology.

As the theorist Nassim Nicholas Taleb writes in Antifragile, “we notice what varies and changes more than what plays a larger role but doesn’t change. We rely more on water than on cell phones, but because water does not change and cell phones do, we are prone to thinking that cell phones play a larger role than they do.”

The result is that we begin to wonder how life was possible before some technology came along. But as the economist Robert Fogel famously noted, if the railroad had not been invented, we would have done almost as well, in terms of economic output, with ships and canals.3 Or we assume that modern technology was wonderfully preordained instead of, as it often is, an accident. Instagram began life as a Yelp-style app called Burbn, with photos an afterthought (photos on your phone, is that a thing?). Texting, meanwhile, started out as a diagnostic channel for short test messages—because who would prefer fumbling through tiny alphanumeric buttons to simply talking?
China Is Building A “Social Credit” System. So Is The United States.
In the U.S., there is no law against denying the holocaust or hurling racial epithets. What we lack in legal redress, however, we are quickly and successfully suppressing via business, media, and academia. These institutions increasingly find themselves overrun by “internet mobs,” those vicious and fickle masses of self-styled online vigilantes who comb the internet for transgressions by public figures. The pattern is predictable: targets are identified based on their statements or positions, their offenses are amplified on social media, and then a litmus test is presented.
Companies overwhelmingly respond by capitulating. Universities respond by de-platforming speakers, or students drown them out with protest. Though universities have historically been the bastions of rigorous intellectual debate, they are also, like businesses, adapting to their new boundaries. Media entities, especially mainstream ones, more often than not succumb to calls for eliminating perspectives that fall afoul of the approved discourse.
In Stalinist Russia, citizens were encouraged to report their neighbors for “counter-revolutionary” thought or behavior. Mere accusations were often enough to ensure the banishment of the state’s “enemies” to gulags to die of torture, starvation, and disease.

The United States is not Soviet Russia or Maoist China. Neither is modern-day China. Nevertheless, both share outcasting as a potent social and economic weapon. The ruling class in Russia and China was of course the government. In the U.S., where the government is regularly refreshed, our ruling class is comprised of those who define our accepted modes of discourse through the institutions—many of them non-governmental—that they control. While no one serious has suggested the transgressors of today be sentenced to hard labor in a gulag (though certainly some non-serious individuals have), it is alarming how accepting many have become to inflicting on these transgressors a direct hit to their careers as just punishment for their wrongthink. Today’s mob scans and censors the citizenry like past regimes have, except businesses and academia are the enforcement mechanism.
politics  socialmedia  policing 
Opinion | The Rich White Civil War - The New York Times
The report, “Hidden Tribes,” breaks Americans into seven groups, from left to right, with names like Traditional Liberals, Moderates, Politically Disengaged and so on. It won’t surprise you to learn that the most active groups are on the extremes — Progressive Activists on the left (8 percent of Americans) and Devoted Conservatives on the right (6 percent).

These two groups are the richest of all the groups. They are the whitest of the groups. Their members have among the highest education levels, and they report high levels of personal security.

We sometimes think of this as a populist moment. But that’s not true. My first big takeaway from “Hidden Tribes” is that our political conflict is primarily a rich, white civil war. It’s between privileged progressives and privileged conservatives.
In defence of women (and why I ain’t no little bird)
Hey, I have my own sexual abuse story, and it’s way worse than Christine Ford’s. You’ll have to take my word for it — or not — because it’s my business. But it irks me to feel obliged to trot out my Official Abused Person credentials, without which I’ve apparently no right to pass comment. The last year, that’s been the take-away: every woman needs a tale of sexual violation to secure standing. No ‘survival’, and you have to shut up. But I do have standing. Thus I can testify that what happened to me does not haunt my adulthood unduly, does not explain all my problems, and did not result in a host of ineradicable neuroses. I don’t mean that others who still battle demons as a consequence of sexual trauma simply need to suck it up. I mean only to establish that moving on is possible, and to suggest that we start celebrating resilience as well as baring our scars. [...]

That awful expression ‘rape culture’ puts penetration at knifepoint and unwanted knee-touching under the same indiscriminate umbrella. Such zero-tolerance levelling is not in women’s long-term interest. It portrays us as hypersensitive if not hysterical, dangerous to consort with and lacking in common sense. Democrats’ pumping up of Ford’s moderately unpleasant story into a tear-inducing tragedy reinforces the worst of stereotypes: that we women are little birds so terrifyingly delicate that a mere brush against adversity leaves us broken-winged for life.
6 days ago
Book review of Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World by Maryanne Wolf - The Washington Post
Wolf sees good reason to be alarmed, but “Reader, Come Home” veers away from despair over the life digital. This isn’t Nicholas G. Carr’s “The Shallows.” Wolf thinks (hopes) that a “biliterate brain” will evolve in young humans, who could learn to develop “distinctly different modes of reading from the outset.” She wants kids to become “expert code switchers,” able to move among media and from light reading to deep analysis and back again the way bilingual people switch between languages. We can hope.

Practical interventions will be necessary. Wolf recommends that early-childhood education continue to focus on print materials, with digital devices and lessons added over time. That includes how to code — essential for learning “that sequence matters,” whether it’s in a piece of writing or a piece of software — and how to handle time and distractions. (Sign me up.) Wolf calls for teachers to be better trained to use technology effectively in classrooms. Handing out iPads does not teach children how to read well on those devices or manage time on them. That requires active guidance from adults in the classroom and at home. She also wants more (and is involved in) research on how best to support learners, including people with dyslexia, who are not served by traditional approaches to literacy. It’s one of the brightest prospects sparked by the digital leap.
8 days ago
Is Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party Anti-Semitic? - The Atlantic
Now, suddenly, faced with the increasingly likely prospect of a Semitically unfriendly Labour Party winning the next election, some English Jews are talking loudly about leaving the country of their own accord. Just what Jeremy Corbyn’s party will do to them if they stay they aren't sure. Line them up and shoot them, ha, ha? Only a few weeks ago posters appeared on bus shelters in London saying israel is a racist endeavor. They came down as soon as they went up, but who’s to say what will be posted next time, and how long it will stay posted? Though I’m not planning to go anywhere myself for the foreseeable future, I don't laugh when others express deep anxiety and even bring up Berlin in the 1920s. When do you know it’s time to leave? It’s a fair question.  Some do laugh and point to the vastly different circumstances. But then, skeptical Berliners would doubtless have said the same had anyone brought up the pogroms in Kishinev or Kiev. It will always be more comfortable to believe that nothing’s going to happen. Mainly it doesn’t; the trouble is … and then suddenly it does. If we haven’t learnt yet how quickly a friend can become an enemy, or an enemy become a worse one, we haven’t learnt anything.
antisemitism  Judaism  England 
8 days ago
Exposure to opposing views on social media can increase political polarization | PNAS
There is mounting concern that social media sites contribute to political polarization by creating “echo chambers” that insulate people from opposing views about current events. We surveyed a large sample of Democrats and Republicans who visit Twitter at least three times each week about a range of social policy issues. One week later, we randomly assigned respondents to a treatment condition in which they were offered financial incentives to follow a Twitter bot for 1 month that exposed them to messages from those with opposing political ideologies (e.g., elected officials, opinion leaders, media organizations, and nonprofit groups). Respondents were resurveyed at the end of the month to measure the effect of this treatment, and at regular intervals throughout the study period to monitor treatment compliance. We find that Republicans who followed a liberal Twitter bot became substantially more conservative posttreatment. Democrats exhibited slight increases in liberal attitudes after following a conservative Twitter bot, although these effects are not statistically significant. Notwithstanding important limitations of our study, these findings have significant implications for the interdisciplinary literature on political polarization and the emerging field of computational social science.
8 days ago
In Defense of Hoaxes - Justin Erik Halldór Smith
They do not know about Paul Coleman-Norton's equally ingenious “Amusing Agraphon,” published in the Catholic Biblical Quarterly in 1950, claiming to be the description of a newly discovered saying of Jesus that the author had happened upon in a Greek manuscript while serving in World War II in Morocco. According to Coleman-Norton, the agraphon has Jesus warning his disciples: “In the furnace of fire there will be moaning and gnashing of teeth.” One of the disciples asks: “But Lord, what if we have lost our teeth?” To which the Lord answers: “Teeth will be provided.” It was twenty years before one of Coleman-Norton's students informed the world that this had all been a joke. The author had produced a rigorous scholarly apparatus, had himself composed the agraphon and the relevant paratexts in Greek: had, in short, displayed his scholarly expertise. His hoax, I would contend, counts as great scholarship, and I would much rather read it, to learn both about Biblical philology and about the potentials of creative metafiction, than I would read just about any “real” article ever published in any of the journals lately punked in the Sokal Squared hoax. 

I myself have written no small amount of documentary metafiction (see, e.g., here or here), in which la règle du jeu is a strict poker-faced silence about the truth-value and the purpose of the undertaking. Is it hoaxing? Is it dishonest? Is it bad practice for an academic? I don't care. 

Any academic who thinks hoaxing as such is unethical or nugatory is a dull and petty functionary, and evidently has no interest in participating, or revelling, in the ongoing life of ideas. 
10 days ago
Cardinal Ouellet Writes Open Letter to Archbishop Viganò
Dear pontifical representative emeritus, I tell you frankly that to accuse Pope Francis of having covered up with full knowledge of the facts this alleged sexual predator and therefore of being an accomplice of the corruption that is spreading in the Church, to the point of considering him unworthy of continuing his reform as the first pastor of the Church, is incredible and unlikely from all points of view. I can't understand how you could let yourself be convinced this monstrous accusation could stand. Francis had nothing to do with McCarrick's promotions in New York, Metuchen, Newark and Washington. He removed him from his dignity as a Cardinal when a credible accusation of child abuse became apparent. I have never heard Pope Francis allude to this self-styled great adviser of his pontificate in relation to [episcopal] nominations in America, even though he does not hide the trust he gives some prelates. I sense these are not your preferences, nor those of your friends who support your interpretation of the facts. However, I find it aberrant that you take advantage of the sensational scandal of sexual abuse in the United States to inflict on the moral authority of your Superior, the Supreme Pontiff, an unprecedented and undeserved blow.
10 days ago
Should Law Professors Sign Letters on Public Issues if They Don't Fully Agree with the Letters?
The letter's attack on Kavanaugh's tempermament starts with this: "The question at issue was of course painful for anyone. But Judge Kavanaugh exhibited a lack of commitment to judicious inquiry. Instead of being open to the necessary search for accuracy, Judge Kavanaugh was repeatedly aggressive with questioners." Whatever one thinks of Kavanaugh in general, or his temperament more specifically, or his temperament during his testimony even more specifically, this line of attack is absurd. The "question at issue" was whether Kavanaugh was a violent sexual predator. He completely denied it. If Kavanaugh was telling the truth, there was no reason for him to have a commitment to any further "inquiry," judicious or not, nor to be open to a "search for accuracy," because he already knew that the "issue at hand" was malicious slander. If he was lying, then the issue was his lying, not his temperament.
11 days ago
There is no cleaning up this Brett Kavanaugh mess - The Washington Post
So I hope that when he becomes Justice Kavanaugh, he will remember what the past three weeks revealed: just how much rage is waiting to erupt at a moment’s notice, and just how frayed are the ties that bind us together as a nation. I hope that, having seen how bad things can get, he will be wary of any sweeping action that makes them worse.

And because I am an optimist, I even dare hope for one more thing: that one day, when Justice Kavanaugh finds himself hearing the appeal of some criminal defendant, he’ll think back to his own moment in the dock. And that, remembering how it felt to be facing a hostile jury with his entire world hanging in the balance, he’ll find a little extra room for mercy in the law.
12 days ago
Sokal’s Children | Social Geometer
To extent the hoax draws attention to a problem with the journals, it isn’t some error in the peer review process that keeps people from noticing that My Struggle with Whiteness was plagiarized from Hitler, or Dog Park Rape Culture had fake data. The problem is there are reviewers and editors out there who think such things are good and important work. And they’re not randomly distributed.

Several commentators have pointed out that we haven’t learned much from this stunt. Some nutty and sloppy papers got published in journals that we already know publish nutty and sloppy papers. That was the whole impetus: write something that mimics the crazy stuff getting posted on Real Peer Review. The hoax papers are no worse than the real ones.

No surprise that if you mimic the kind of stuff published in an outlet, you stand a good chance of getting published yourself. “Model your paper on what they’ve already published” is generally good publishing advice.
12 days ago
Rage Politics on the Left | R. R. Reno | First Things
Donald Trump raises the emotional stakes of political debate. This has been the key to his political success. But his success has come at a cost. Trump’s politics of rage unsettles establishment Republicans. Staid suburban voters who are moderate conservatives see Trump as a destabilizing figure in our body politic, putting a hard ceiling on his support.

In this context, Democrats have much to gain by presenting themselves as the responsible adults, the ego to Trump’s id. Dianne Feinstein and most other Democratic leaders are ultra-establishment figures with no interest in upheaval. Soon they will pivot back to playing the “responsible party” against Trump and Republican “extremism.” But the rage on display during the Kavanaugh hearings will not be easy to contain. It is fueling Leftist populism, which is on the rise. It highlights the Left’s own destabilizing politics of rage and destruction.

Ever since Trump’s ascent, the strongest arguments against him have focused on his temperamental unfitness for the presidency and his polarizing effect on our society. These are arguments for establishment competence and sobriety. In the aftermath of the rage-driven strategy to derail Kavanaugh’s appointment (quite different from the quiet, procedural tactics of Mitch McConnell, which derailed Merrick Garland’s appointment), these arguments are harder to make.

The Democrats may imagine that they, like Trump, will benefit from the politics of rage. But the Democrats’ power flows from their monopoly on the “responsible center.” The last season of leftwing rage came as the 1960s crashed to a close, and it did great harm to the Democratic Party. This time is different, in that both sides are drawing upon reservoirs of rage. But in my estimation, the Democrats will suffer more than the Republicans, because the Democrats have long been the establishment party. The politics of rage are far more likely to undermine than to renew the Ivy League–Goldman Sachs–Silicon Valley liberalism that has stood astride our politics since 1945, for rage always upsets the calculations by which establishments maintain their grip.
politics  anger 
12 days ago
Why I’m done with Chrome – A Few Thoughts on Cryptographic Engineering
For ten years I’ve been asked a single question by the Chrome browser: “Do you want to log in with your Google account?” And for ten years I’ve said no thanks. Chrome still asks me that question — it’s just that now it doesn’t honor my decision.

The Chrome developers want me to believe that this is fine, since (phew!) I’m still protected by one additional consent guardrail. The problem here is obvious:

If you didn’t respect my lack of consent on the biggest user-facing privacy option in Chrome (and  didn’t even notify me that you had stopped respecting it!) why should I trust any other consent option you give me? What stops you from changing your mind on that option in a few months, when we’ve all stopped paying attention?

The fact of the matter is that I’d never even heard of Chrome’s “sync” option — for the simple reason that up until September 2018, I had never logged into Chrome. Now I’m forced to learn these new terms, and hope that the Chrome team keeps promises to keep all of my data local as the barriers between “signed in” and “not signed in” are gradually eroded away.
google  privacy 
12 days ago
Brett Kavanaugh and the Problem With #BelieveSurvivors - The Atlantic
Hamill also described to me the undermining effects of unreliable procedures. “There is not a feeling of fundamental fairness in college settings a lot of the time,” she said, “and so then the results often feel illegitimate or not credible.” She added that she welcomed the voices of women in society at large telling their stories, but urged that we should not repeat the mistakes made under Title IX. “You have to have integrity to a process that allows people to bring their claims forward but also allows for the accused to meaningfully defend themselves.”

This should have been the lesson that emerged from the resignation from the U.S. Senate of the Democrat Al Franken of Minnesota. Last year, Franken was publicly accused by several women of grabbing them while being photographed together. He welcomed the Senate Ethics Committee inquiry that was underway, saying he was confident it would clear him. But last December, after another woman came forward, Gillibrand became the first senator to announce that Franken should quit immediately, declaring that she believed the women. Other Democratic senators quickly joined the call, and Franken soon resigned. His departure, though, has continued to leave many Democrats uneasy about both its abruptness and the unresolved questions about the allegations.

We don’t even have to imagine the dangers of a system based on automatic belief—Britain recently experienced a national scandal over such policies. After widespread adoption of a rule that law enforcement must believe reports of sexual violation, police failed to properly investigate claims and ignored exculpatory evidence. Dozens of prosecutions collapsed as a result, and the head of an organization of people abused in childhood urged that the police return to a neutral stance. Biased investigations and prosecutions, he said, create miscarriages of justice that undermine the credibility of all accusers.

The legitimacy and credibility of our institutions are rapidly eroding. It is a difficult and brave thing for victims of sexual violence to step forward and exercise their rights to seek justice. When they do, we should make sure our system honors justice’s most basic principles.
politics  sexism  abuse 
12 days ago
Marina Warner reviews ‘This Little Art’ by Kate Briggs, ‘Translation as Transhumance’ by Mireille Gansel, translated by Ros Schwartz, ‘Sympathy for the Traitor’ by Mark Polizzotti, ‘The 100 Best Novels in Translation’ edited by Boyd Tonkin
The contest between Augustinian scrupulous faithfulness and Hieronymite wilful nudging was very helpfully glossed by Dryden when he identified three different levels of translation: the first, hewing close to the original, he confusingly called ‘metaphrase’; the second ‘translation with latitude’, which he again confusingly called ‘paraphrase’; and the third and most illuminating ‘imitation, where the translator (if he has not now lost that name) assumes the liberty not only to vary from the words and sense, but to forsake them both as he sees occasion; and taking only some general hints from the original, to run division on the ground-work as he pleases.’ This ‘liberty’ may verge on travesty, but it catches the ideal aims as set out by Polizzotti, when he writes that ‘language is not all about designation.’ ‘Its real meanings hover in the spaces between utterances, in the movement generated by the particular arrangements of words, associations and hidden references. This is what literature does, in the best of cases. And it’s what translation can do as well.’ He contrasts the revered translator Richard Howard’s version of a 1930 love poem by Paul Eluard with Beckett’s rendering – and there is no doubt that Beckett’s unpunctuated cascando, composed in the heraldic mode of courtly love, and signed ‘Thine in flames’ communicates the French original’s outpouring far beyond Howard’s more accurate version. [...]

For Clive Scott, the new proximities and the new estrangements wrought by global flows of people, goods, finance, communications – have given literary translators a more urgent part to play than ever before. It is among poorer, smaller groups that multilingualism is now common; it is speakers of smaller languages (Dutch, German) who have historically made huge efforts to translate. It is a paradox that many translators into English are joining the struggle to keep alive cultural and linguistic diversity, working from Korean, Frisian, Breton, Maltese, Icelandic, Sardo as well as from Spanish, Chinese, Arabic and the other ‘big’ languages. But Polizzotti quite rightly sounds a note of warning about upholding the moral good of translation, instrumentalising its political effects and treating writers as mouthpieces for their cultures. He warns that ‘minority language literatures … can become so many corporate acquisitions’ and that ‘translation becomes both the bridge linking civilisations and the measure – even an aggravator – of the gulf separating them.’ However, to take myself as an example, most of what I know about many places, their people and their history comes from poetry and fiction in translation – from Arthur Waley’s rendering of Chinese when I was young to László Krasznahorkai, more recently, in the versions of George Szirtes and Ottilie Mulzet, which read enthrallingly in English, though needless to say I have no way of knowing what the originals are like.
12 days ago
What to Expect When a Woman Accuses a Man in Power | by Kate Maltby | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books
What I can’t shake from my mind, either, was the gale of Damian Green’s anger. There was fury in his first threat to sue me. (Understandable, one might say, if he were a man who had been falsely accused.) Then in his public repudiation, two months after his sacking, of the apology the prime minister had demanded he give me. (Hurtful, but some might still sympathize with him.) And then the Mail on Sunday obtained text messages—presumably, as even a fellow Conservative MP said, from “Green’s allies”—that were altered to create the false impression that I had been pursuing him. (Inexcusable.) Much ink has been spilt about the path to rehabilitation for the men tarred by #MeToo. This much I know: that forgiveness comes only after repentance.

With Green, as with so many of these men, it was the campaign of intimidation, not the initial encounter, that requires the apology. It was that forgery of text messages, not the foolish pass of an old man, which leaves me scared to this day of his possible retribution in the future. Fools make mistakes; but abusers lash out. More than one senior journalist has since remarked to me that Green was so well known for more egregious sexual pestering than I had encountered that his conduct toward me had likely been too trivial by his own standards to make much mark in his memory. I suspect that’s true. Predators play numbers games, cornering a teenage girl here, propositioning an insecure employee there, knowing that eventually they’ll hit upon vulnerable prey. When one woman’s memories come back to challenge them, demanding they account for an incident they’d barely registered at the time, they explode with fear and internalized denial.
sexism  power  abuse 
12 days ago
The Ivy League is the problem
Indeed, "quality of education" is in some ways a canard. Obviously we want capable, intelligent people in positions of high influence. But just as important (and probably rarer) are decency, honesty, humility, integrity, and all the other virtues. In a country of 325 million people it is flatly impossible that the nine people on the Supreme Court will be the absolute "best" lawyers in the land, if such a thing could even be defined.

We should want people who do land on the court to recognize their inescapable colossal good fortune, and take it into account when making decisions. What we actually have is an aristocratic conspiracy of privilege masquerading as a talent search — with the side effect of producing elites who have invested vast effort into apple-polishing and networking.

There are two main ways this conspiracy perpetuates itself. First is Ivy Leaguers who got their jobs thanks to connections handing jobs to Ivy Leaguers coming up behind them — disguised somewhat behind a meritocratic veneer and including a few high-achieving children of working-class parents, like Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Second is the ridiculously inflated reputation of an Ivy League education, maintained through the inarguable success of the patronage networks, the schools using their vast resources to game college rankings, and the arrogance of the graduates. This applies especially within the Ivy League itself, where Princeton is regularly denigrated, even by Douthat. (You can't have winners without losers.)
politics  academentia  status  class 
13 days ago
Dismemberment and Integrity | Comment Magazine
To say that dismemberment is a necessary moment in the achievement of integrity is to say that we must find our point of integration outside ourselves. We can put this more strongly: When we try to protect our given integrity, we disintegrate. The point is easier to see at an interpersonal level. We can’t achieve social harmony so long as each individual retains his integrity intact. If every household is self-sufficient, there will be no economy, no exchanges, to bind them together. Households must disintegrate to be integrated in a larger whole. Nations have to go out of themselves to become part of a community of nations.

What is true for interpersonal, inter-domestic, and international order is also true for the individual. Individuals are not, cannot be, self-sufficient entities, complete and whole in themselves. When we try to retain our individual integrity intact, we refuse the gifts that made us individuals in the first place. Our dismembered lives cohere only by grace. It is in Christ, and him alone, that things hold together.
13 days ago
Long-Lived macOS
⌘⇧Y: send selected text to a new Stickies note on the desktop. Uluroo is astonished that he had never known this shortcut until yesterday. Apple has let Stickies fade into the background of macOS, but at least it hasn’t killed the app completely. It’s very useful for storing tidbits of text for a short period of time, and Uluroo plans to use it more in the future with the help of this keyboard shortcut.

⌘⇧4 followed by Space: screenshot a specific window.

Holding ⌥ while doing that: screenshot a window with no drop shadow. (Thanks to Casper for those two.)

⌥⇧ while changing volume and brightness: adjust those in quarter increments. This gives similar precision to that offered by the brightness and volume sliders in iOS.

⇧⇥ while adjusting volume: hear an audible tone to see how loud you’re making the sound. (Thanks to Joshua for those two.)

⌘-click on the directory name in a Finder title bar: show a selectable folder hierarchy of your location in the file system. (Thanks to Mars for that one.)

⌘-click to drag open windows around the screen without leaving the current window. (Thanks to Simon for that one.)

⌘⌫ returns an item in the Trash to its original folder. (Thanks to Ed for that one.)

⌥-click the Notification Center menubar icon to turn on Do Not Disturb. (Thanks to Mike for that one.)

⌥-click a lot of menu items to get more options. (Thanks to Steve for that one.)
13 days ago
Christmas greetings to the members of the Roman Curia (21 December 2012) | BENEDICT XVI
The Chief Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, has shown in a very detailed and profoundly moving study that the attack we are currently experiencing on the true structure of the family, made up of father, mother, and child, goes much deeper. While up to now we regarded a false understanding of the nature of human freedom as one cause of the crisis of the family, it is now becoming clear that the very notion of being – of what being human really means – is being called into question. He quotes the famous saying of Simone de Beauvoir: “one is not born a woman, one becomes so” (on ne naît pas femme, on le devient). These words lay the foundation for what is put forward today under the term “gender” as a new philosophy of sexuality. According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature, that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society. The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves. According to the biblical creation account, being created by God as male and female pertains to the essence of the human creature. This duality is an essential aspect of what being human is all about, as ordained by God. This very duality as something previously given is what is now disputed. The words of the creation account: “male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27) no longer apply. No, what applies now is this: it was not God who created them male and female – hitherto society did this, now we decide for ourselves. Man and woman as created realities, as the nature of the human being, no longer exist. Man calls his nature into question. From now on he is merely spirit and will. The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man’s fundamental choice where he himself is concerned. From now on there is only the abstract human being, who chooses for himself what his nature is to be. Man and woman in their created state as complementary versions of what it means to be human are disputed. But if there is no pre-ordained duality of man and woman in creation, then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation. Likewise, the child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him. Bernheim shows that now, perforce, from being a subject of rights, the child has become an object to which people have a right and which they have a right to obtain. When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being. The defence of the family is about man himself. And it becomes clear that when God is denied, human dignity also disappears. Whoever defends God is defending man.
theology  sexuality  self 
13 days ago
Brett Kavanaugh & American Politics: The Situation Can Only Get Worse | National Review
From this distance, it seems to me that it is not only Judge Kavanaugh who has been put in “zugzwang,” but the whole nation. Every which way it now turns — at the political and judicial level — will only make the situation worse. For instance, people might choose to sink even lower than the depths that their opponents are plumbing. Or people could try to take the moral high ground, which at this stage would be akin to allowing a political massacre.

The only obvious upshots are an ever-increasing layer of public distrust and cynicism and an ever-greater dearth of sane people willing to volunteer for any role in public life. But as Kevin Myers showed, for a society not to spin its way down into any and every madness, it has to have at least some agreement on basic mores and facts. It is hard to find an area of American public life that does any longer. And that is a fact that should worry America’s friends as well as its citizens.
15 days ago
When Allegorical Exegesis Wins | Blog | Think Theology
The issue of Nicene orthodoxy is that here you have a tradition, grounded in exegesis that has persisted for 1500 years, and it has resulted in a stable, Trinitarian and Christological set of doctrines that undergird the faith, that have been embraced by all kinds of different traditions: Eastern, Western, first world, third world, Pentecostal, Catholic, Orthodox, Baptist. And on the other hand you have what you get when you go to SBL. You get all these different groups meeting in different rooms, using different methodologies, coming to different conclusions; nobody knows what the Bible is about as a whole; nobody agrees on exegetical matters.

So isn’t it ironic that the supposedly subjective method of allegory, that allows you to read anything you want into the text, results in a stable, unified tradition that is coherent and enduring—and on the other hand the scientific, objective method that rescues you from the hopelessly subjective method of allegorising, results in a completely fragmented set of traditions that don’t interact with each other, that don’t cohere in any meaningful way, and can’t tell you what the Bible means at all? Obviously there’s something very wrong here.
bible  interpretation 
15 days ago
N.T. Wright's creative reconstruction of Paul and his world: A review
But for Paul, the problem is not that individuals and communities sin and need forgiveness; in fact, Israel had a system of atonement to deal with sins. The problem is that sin and its henchman death use even God’s good law to hold humanity captive, to deceive and to work death. In Paul’s letters, sin is rarely a verb denoting human action that needs to be forgiven, as if the primary problem were human wickedness. Rather, sin is a power that holds humans captive and lords it over them.

We can track this language in Paul’s letter to the Romans, for example. In Romans 2:12, 3:25, 5:12, and 6:15, humans are the active subjects of the verb “to sin.” As such, they accomplish (2:9), “do” (3:8), and “practice” (1:32, 2:1–3) wrongdoing. But by doing so, they demonstrate that they are “under sin” (3:9); they are not simply free agents making bad choices. Rather, their sinning demonstrates the reality of sin’s overarching dominance in human history. And in Romans 5:12–8:4, Paul reframes the story of humanity’s sinfulness within a larger narrative of bondage to sin as a “colonizing” power that holds humanity captive, entering human history in tandem with death (5:12), expanding exponentially (5:20), reigning over death (5:21) and in mortal bodies, using bodily members as weapons of unrighteousness (6:12–13), and paying out death to its hapless slaves (6:23). Sin now does what human beings did in the earlier narrative, “doing,” “practicing,” and “accomplishing” evil (7:15–21). If we take this language seriously, we are led to an account of Paul’s gospel in which the good news is more than forgiveness for individual or corporate wrong. It is deliverance from sin as a larger-than-life power that holds both individuals and societies captive.

This deliverance is great good news. It speaks into situations that a narrative of guilt and forgiveness simply does not ad­dress adequately, including addiction, oppression, abuse, cognitive impairment, injustice, and social blindness, just to name a few. Forgiveness certainly has an important part to play in the overall message of the New Testament, particularly in Luke-Acts. But it is not, of itself, adequate to address human suffering in its myriad forms. We need to hear Paul’s distinctive and far-reaching preaching about sin, its lethal use of the law, and Christ’s victory over it. To do so, we must allow his letters to speak on their own, without trying to harmonize them with other parts of scripture.

By using the speeches in Acts to tell us what Paul thought, Wright mutes Paul’s radical diagnosis of the human condition. That diagnosis is far more global than simply viewing Rome as the enemy. In fact, Paul talks very little, if any, about Rome or Caesar. They are not worth his notice, and they are not in view when he uses the language of bondage and freedom. Whereas Wright emphasizes Jewish antipathy to Rome and posits that Paul wanted to plant his gospel of Christ’s lordship in opposition to the imperial claims of Caesar, Paul sets his sights on enemies far greater than any human power or institution. The enemies, as he repeatedly says, are sin and death, and it is the brutal reign of these suprahuman powers that Christ overthrew on the cross, thereby setting humanity free. That is the regime change that truly liberates.
bible  NewTestament  theology 
21 days ago
The art of taking offence
No sensitive person, however ignorant he might be of the Muslim faith, would fail to take off his shoes when entering a mosque – not because he feared the reaction of the worshippers, but because he knew that long-standing custom requires this, and that not to observe that custom is to show disrespect for a sacred space. Somehow we are supposed to forget that principle when it comes to long-standing customs of our own. For us too there are sacred spaces, and the public square is one of them: it is the space that belongs to others, not to you, and where you meet those others face to face. When we encounter those who refuse to accept this we are supposed to think that the entitlement to take offence rests entirely with them, and the tendency to give offence entirely with us.

Is it not time to get this whole matter into perspective, and to recognise that we must live together on terms, that Muslims must learn to laugh at themselves as the rest of us do, and that the art of taking offence might be a profitable business to the experts, but is a huge loss to everyone else?
21 days ago
Six years in the gender wars – Sarah Ditum
I have spent six years thinking about gender identity. This is what I believe now:

There is no such thing as gender identity.

Sex matters.

When we pretend sex doesn’t matter, women lose.
25 days ago
IASC: The Hedgehog Review - Volume 20, No. 2 (Summer 2018) - Privilege -
The institutional desideratum—the political antipode to hated “privilege”—is no longer equality, but diversity. This greatly eases the contradiction Furet identified, shielding the system from democratic pressure. It also protects the self-conception of our meritocrats as agents of historical progress. As was the case with the Soviet nomenklatura, and the leading Jacobins as well, it is precisely our elite that searches out instances of lingering privilege, now understood as obstacles to fulfillment of the moral imperative of diversity. Under this dispensation, the figure of the “straight white male” (abstracted from class distinctions) has been made to do a lot of symbolic work, the heavy lifting of legitimation (in his own hapless way, as sacrificial goat). We eventually reached a point where this was more weight than our electoral system could take, as the election of 2016 revealed. Whether one regards that event as a catastrophe or as a rupture that promises the possibility of glasnost, its immediate effect has been panic in every precinct where the new class accommodations have been functioning smoothly, and a doubling down on the moralizing that previously secured them against popular anger. We’ll see how that goes.

The term shibboleth is interesting. Its definitions include “a peculiarity of pronunciation, behavior, mode of dress, etc., that distinguishes a particular class or set of persons” and “a common saying or belief with little current meaning or truth.” It is a random Hebrew word that acquired its present meaning when it was used by the Gileadites as a test to identify members of an enemy tribe, the Ephraimites, as they attempted to flee across the Jordan River. Ephraimites could not pronounce the sound sh (Judges 12:4–6). I think it is fair to say that one’s ability to pronounce the word diversity with a straight face, indeed with sincerity made scrupulously evident, serves as a shibboleth in this original sense. It answers the question of whether one wants to continue as a member in good standing of those institutions that secure one’s position in the upper middle class.
culturewars  race  sexism 
26 days ago
The Data-Intensive University
In my own work, I argue that we are on the verge of a new challenge for the university under the conditions of a society that is based increasingly upon digital knowledge and its economic valorisation. These post-industrial societies are structured around using knowledge and new knowledge production through computational technologies. The acquisition of new skills and these new knowledges are fundamental drivers of innovation in and around an economy based on data, information and digital techniques. As such the university continues to play a key role in undertaking basic research, a highly concentrated output of academia, but also in encouraging its use and innovation. There are two essential platforms for the university in this new economic environment, (1) the creation of new knowledge, and (2) the capacity for the transformation of knowledge into new forms of invention and transformation. I argue that a university’s growth will increasingly depend of its ability to integrate and transform new knowledge, compelling it to equip itself with new structures for research and teaching. This new formal structural capacity is fundamentally reliant on digital processes of the creation, collection, experimentation and analysis in research through digital tools, methods, and techniques, combined with a critical capacity to assess theoretical and methodological foundations for such knowledge claims. As such these structures enable a data-intensive research university to flexibly adapt to the kinds of shifts in the core income streams necessary for university sustainability and growth.
4 weeks ago
Metafoundry 30: Confusion Matrices
In this fantastic interview for Rawr Denim, William Gibson talks about clothing and fashion: “There’s an idea called “gray man”, in the security business, that I find interesting. They teach people to dress unobtrusively. Chinos instead of combat pants, and if you really need the extra pockets, a better design conceals them. ...[T]here’s something appealingly “low-drag” about gray man theory: reduced friction with one’s environment.” That made me wonder: “What does a 'grey woman' look like?”, which made me think about how Deborah Tannen used the linguistics terms marked and unmarked to describe gender and clothing. Just as many English words are default male (unmarked), with a changed ending to connote female (marked; think 'actor' vs 'actress'), she argued that men's dress can be unmarked but women's dress is always marked. That is, there are decisions that men make about what they wear that are defaults, that aren’t even seen as a decision. In contrast, every decision that a woman makes about what she wears—heels vs, flats, pants vs, skirts, the length of a skirt and the height of a neckline, haircuts, jewelry—is freighted with cultural baggage. Take makeup. Especially in professional settings, for a woman, not wearing makeup is a noticeable, and notable, decision: marked. But for a man, not wearing makeup is not a decision—nobody notices when men aren't wearing makeup: unmarked. (Of course, a man wearing makeup is very marked indeed.)
semiotics  gender 
5 weeks ago
Being Disarmed – Covenant
The traditionalist perspective in the Episcopal Church — particularly with regard to the meaning of marriage — has been completely defeated within the councils of our church. The continued existence and witness of traditionalists within this church is entirely at the sufferance of those in the theological majority, some of whom look upon us with a mixture of pity and contempt, even as others (notably the House of Bishops) call us “indispensable.” It is no longer possible to have dialogue about the theology of marriage. The dialogue is only about whether those who cannot accept the new teaching will be accommodated. It is likely that future conventions will restrict those circumstances further. [...]

This is, I think, the point we have reached, and I believe there is a grace in this moment. The grace is in a profound identification with the Lord in his Passion. In the garden he tells Peter to put away his sword and goes to make his final witness utterly disarmed, at least in the way the world thinks about these things. Finally, he is stripped of everything but his obedient suffering. But on the cross, “he disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them” (Col. 2:15).

The call for many of us now is to be weak, to be powerless, and to identify ourselves with the Lord in his humiliation before the rulers of both the state and this church — and there to find the power of his suffering obedience. There is still room in the Episcopal Church to do this. There is still room to witness faithfully to Jesus in preaching and teaching and holiness of life. Very little is left to us other than the inherent power of the truth and the luminosity of personal holiness.

Perhaps it is a blessing to be forced to be so disarmed, forced to identify with the Lord in his weakness and in his suffering obedience. Perhaps there is an opportunity before us to enter more fully into the power of his weakness and so with him to put ourselves more completely into the hands of his Father.
Anglican  church 
5 weeks ago
Why I Quit Twitter - The Chronicle of Higher Education
What really made me pause and briefly reconsider, however, were the close friends and prolific colleagues who argued that the value of Twitter — the conversations, the ability to "try out arguments" and get immediate feedback — outweigh its drawbacks. Maybe I was limiting my ability to have a voice and secure my own reputation as an expert in my field.

Then I realized that all but one of those colleagues had yet to finish their book manuscripts. Although they churn out a lot of online content, they aren’t productive in ways that are going to ensure their tenure. And so I have to wonder how much of this defense of social media is a bulwark against admitting to their own "productive" procrastination habits.
6 weeks ago
Unpacking Peggy McIntosh's Knapsack - Quillette
All of which means that pretty much anything you read about ‘white privilege’ is traceable to an ‘experiential’ essay written by a woman who benefitted from massive wealth, a panoply of aristocratic connections, and absolutely no self-awareness whatsoever. This alone calls into question the seriousness and scholarly validity of the derivative works, since they are all the fruit of a poisonous tree. But McIntosh’s hypothesis was eagerly embraced nonetheless, because it served a particular purpose—it helped to mainstream a bitter zero-sum politics of guilt and identity. This dark epistemology has quietly percolated through the universities and the wider culture for two decades now. It has had the effect of draining attention from a massive and growing wealth gap and it has pitted the poor against one another in public spectacles of acrimony and even violence. Even so, it was readily embraced by progressively-minded professors who might otherwise have had trouble squaring their thirst for social justice with their high six figure salaries. In the last decade, this dogma has come screaming out of the nation’s august halls of learning and into mainstream civil discourse (although to call most of what passes for discourse today ‘civil’ somewhat labours the definition). And, still, we are endlessly and forcefully reminded that to question this concept in any way is, in and of itself, racist.
6 weeks ago
CRB | Dissent of Man | A review of Mind and Cosmos and Darwin's Ghosts
After all, if human behaviors and beliefs are ultimately the products of natural selection, then all such products must be equally preferable. The same Darwinian process that produces the maternal instinct also produces infanticide. The same Darwinian process that generates love also brings forth sadism. The same Darwinian process that inspires courage also spawns cowardice. Hence, the logical result of a Darwinian account of morality is not so much immorality as relativism. According to Lewis, the person who offers such an account of morality should honestly admit that "there is no such thing as wrong and right...no moral judgment can be ‘true' or ‘correct' and, consequently...no one system of morality can be better or worse than another."

Others who have offered arguments similar to Nagel's on the incompatibility of Darwinian materialism with our cognitive faculties include contemporary Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga of Notre Dame University. Plantinga's most recent foray into the area can be found in his book Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (2011).

If the fundamental thesis isn't exactly new, why has it proved to be such a shock to the cultural establishment?
philosophy  neuroscience 
7 weeks ago
I was reading the excellent book MARS BY 1980 (UK) (US) in bed last night and this term just popped into my head as I was circling sleep. I had to do that thing where you repeat it in your head twenty times so that I’d remember it in the morning. I have no idea what refuture or refuturing really means, except that “refuturing” connects it in my mind with “rewilding.” The sense of creating new immediate futures and repopulating the futures space with something entirely divorced from the previous consensus futures.

Refuture. Refuturing. I don’t know. I wanted to write it down before it went away.

Which I guess is what we do with ideas about the future anyway.
7 weeks ago
The New American Anti-Humanism – Jacob Siegel
What makes today so different from past surges of populist and anti-humanist politics is two things. One is the way, in their joint attack on the center, they have become wrapped around each other. The other has to do with the hyperliberal, oppositional politics of the New Left that has captured much of the Western ruling class. The result is a modern liberal establishment that is uniquely unprepared to defend itself, at a moment of massive transformation of the basic material conditions on which liberalism is based.

The anti-humanist critique of Enlightenment rationalism as inherently totalitarian fits quite well with the racial epistemology and authoritarianism of the alt-right. As a result, nominally antithetical political claims can sound indistinguishable—resting as they do on common philosophical sources. The alt-right, for instance, is unique in the history of American conservative movements for openly drawing influence from the work of Frankfurt School theorists like Adorno and Horkheimer. Similarly, in an article about the resonances between Ta-Nehisi Coates’ ideas and those of white identitarians, Thomas Chatterton Williams wrote that while Coates’ work, “is not at all morally equivalent, it is nonetheless in sync with the toxic premises of white supremacism. Both sides eagerly reduce people to abstract color categories, all the while feeding off of and legitimizing each other, while those of us searching for gray areas and common ground get devoured twice.”
politics  populism 
8 weeks ago
Why Social Class Matters, Even if We Don’t Agree What It Means - The Chronicle of Higher Education
The critics of "class," to be sure, had a point: The concept involves a complex circulation of nonconvertible currencies. Like all social identities, it has objective and subjective dimensions and disputed boundaries. We’ll never have a clean way of demarcating it. Peter Calvert was right when, invoking a term of the political philosopher W.B. Gallie, he called it an "essentially contested concept." But he was wrong to see this as a reason to stop talking about it. Justice, democracy, dignity, fairness: All are essentially contested concepts. So is equality. Arguments over what those things mean can be of immense value. If they matter to us, the best solution to the lure of reductionism remains a touch of class.
8 weeks ago
The Unsexy Truth About the Avital Ronell Scandal - The Chronicle of Higher Education
I have no doubt that Ronell believed, at times, that the language she used was shared. People in positions of power, abusing that power, often believe that. (Reitman cites emails from Ronell suggesting she knew how unwelcome her attention and demands were, but rather than backing off, it only seemed to inspire her to double down on her behavior.) But there is enough evidence cited in his complaint — not post-hoc, manufactured after the fact to justify Reitman’s position now, but emails and voice messages apparently sent at the time — to suggest that it was not shared, that Reitman tried to make that clear, both to Ronell and to others in power, and that, once he discovered that he was on his own, he did what other people in his position often do.

For all of Ronell’s talk of shared codes and such, there is one experience, one code, in this story that every academic — gay, straight, male, female, black, white, brown, trans, queer — has shared: being a graduate student. I’ve never suffered the harassment Reitman claims to have suffered, yet I can well remember that experience of having to navigate the demands of some professors, those who were mercurial, volatile, whose reactions you could never anticipate or predict, and doing my best to preserve and protect myself while keeping the relationship intact. Inevitably, it involved compromises, compromises I’m not proud of, but ones that all of us, or at least many of us, have had to make to ensure our position, to preserve our place.
8 weeks ago
An Anatomy of Radicalism - American Affairs Journal
In Young Radicals, Jeremy McCarter explores the lives and views of five American radicals, who thought that society had to be remade in fundamental ways. John Reed, Alice Paul, Raymond Bourne, Max Eastman, and Walter Lippmann are his cast of characters. I want to use McCarter’s account to cast light on five enduring radical “types”: Manicheans, democrats, identitarians, propagandists, and technocrats. All of them should be immediately recognizable today, especially on the political left. (Importantly, we can find analogues on the right as well.)

I will suggest, with some qualifications, that we do not need Manicheans, propagandists, and identitarians. (I will be especially hard on the first and last of these.) But we do need democrats, or at least a certain kind of them. Insofar as she opposed something like a caste system, Alice Paul was an American hero. We also need technocrats, whom we will not be able to categorize in ideological terms. In a period in which expertise of all kinds is under serious pressure, we are past due for a Lippmann revival. Some of his work is clunky, and some of it seems dry and desiccated; it is not exactly teeming with life. But it speaks directly to our current situation. [...]

But Lippmann was on to something important, and too often neglected. We are used to thinking that large-scale questions legitimately split people with different political convictions, and that what separates citizens, and nations, are values, not facts. But think about air pollution, food safety, infrastructure reform, the opioid epidemic, increases in the minimum wage, and highway deaths. If we can agree on the facts, it should be possible to agree about what to do, or at least narrow our disagreements.

We live in an era in which experts and technocrats are in disrepute. Obviously they can be arrogant or mistaken. They might act on the basis of their own values and interests, rather than their expertise. But good technocrats are aware of their own fallibility; they have a duty to disclose what they do not know (and to stay in their lanes). It is important to ensure, through institutional design, transparency, and democratic accountability, that they are not empowered to act on the basis of private or ideological interests. All that is true and important. But we need expert help to fix a broken train, to deal with a serious medical problem, or to figure out how to build a skyscraper. Many policy problems are very similar, or even the same. To deal with data privacy, health care reform, and infrastructure improvements, we need specialists who can resolve difficult issues of fact.
Technopoly  politics 
8 weeks ago
Self-invasions and the Invaded Self | Rochelle Gurstein
Moral coarsening—the wearing away of the capacity to recognize what one has become—was both the deepest anxiety and the deepest insight of the party of reticence. If it is our very capacity for sensitivity, our feeling for “certain differences and decencies”—what used to be regarded as a sense of shame—that we lose as a consequence of inhabiting a world where no one is guaranteed the refuge of privacy and no subject is afforded the protection of silence, then this goes a long way toward explaining why more than a century later—after the invention and proliferation of the radio, television, cell phones, twenty-four-hour news cycles, and the internet—so many of us today have such a hard time recognizing what we lose when we lose our privacy. It turns out that the very atmosphere in which we move and breathe deprives us of the perception we need to recognize our predicament.

But it is not just our moral coarsening that has made our condition all but invisible to us. It is that the very idea of moral coarsening—and, for that matter, “delicacy,” “decency,” “propriety,” “sanctity,” and “shame”—sounds old-fashioned or worse. This is because alongside the nineteenth-century reverence for privacy as the guarantor of individuality and dignity, there arose a competing cult of candor and openness that interprets every attempt to maintain one’s privacy as proof of evasion or repression, as some form of guilty cover-up.
privacy  socialmedia 
8 weeks ago
How high to dream? | On the rise of human rights
The heart of his argument is that human rights suffered from bad timing. When core documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) were being drafted in the wake of the Second World War, left-wing demands for distributive equality enjoyed a prestige and common currency they now lack. But the opportunity to enshrine those demands explicitly in the Declaration was missed. And if the drafters were open to them, it was only in limited terms: as demands for equalization within nation states, not between them. Moreover, when calls for international equality finally began to gain currency in the 1970s – partly due to energetic pleading on the part of newly assertive and historically disadvantaged postcolonial states – the timing wasn’t quite right.
history  politics  rights 
10 weeks ago
Before You Get Too Excited About That Trigger Warning Study… | Slate Star Codex
Some people read a trigger warning saying disturbing passages could cause emotional harm. Then they read a disturbing passage. Then, on a test, they were slightly more likely to agree with the statement that disturbing passages could cause emotional harm. Of note, they did not claim that they themselves had been harmed or triggered by the passage. In fact they specifically denied this; there was no difference in anxiety between the two groups after reading the passage. They just agreed, in a theoretical sense, that trauma was harmful.

The most boring possible explanation is that if you gave someone a passage saying “TRIGGER WARNING: SOME SNAKES BEAR LIVE YOUNG”, then made them read a book about torture-murder, then asked them whether some snakes could bear live young, they would be more likely to answer yes. Reading the statement about snakes doesn’t cause the snakes to bear young. It just convinces the reader of it.
psychology  academe 
10 weeks ago
How Donald Trump hacked the media - Vox
It is hard to read this paragraph from Postman without feeling he is speaking specifically about us:

When Orwell wrote in his famous essay “The Politics of the English Language” that politics has become a matter of “defending the indefensible,” he was assuming that politics would remain a distinct, although corrupted, mode of discourse. His contempt was aimed at those politicians who would use sophisticated versions of the age-old arts of double-think, propaganda and deceit. That the defense of the indefensible would be conducted as a form of amusement did not occur to him. He feared the politician as deceiver, not as entertainer.
The chaotic swirl of information, anger, conflict, identity, performance, and trivia that characterizes Trump’s governance also characterizes the mediums that created him. For all the talk of normalizing Trump, it was our normalization of the platforms he thrived on — reality television, cable news, and Twitter — that made Trump possible. Could Trump have won the Republican primary and the presidency in the days before he could call into cable news shows at will, get his rallies carried live on television, drive media coverage from the comfort of his Twitter account? Could he have won if we hadn’t come to see our politicians as entertainers, to believe conflict the true story of governance, to connect the quantity of media coverage with the quality of candidates? I doubt it.
10 weeks ago
‘Let the Whorehouse Burn’
"Speaking to Die Zeit in late June, two of the German architects of the euro, former finance minister Theo Waigel and former head of the finance ministry’s Europe division Klaus Regling, alluded to the lack of a Europe-wide bailout fund as a Konstruktionsfehler, or “design mistake.” If so, it is a design mistake that offers extraordinary political advantages to those guilty of the misdesign. The single currency is doomed to failure on every front except one—it is devilishly difficult and risky to dismantle. As long as the euro survives, its designers will hold onto the hope of provoking a crisis that forces European unity on recalcitrant nation-states, that achieves what Mody calls “fiscal union by the back door.”

European leaders provoke crises and emergencies that they use to seize power from democratic electorates. That has always been their preferred model of continental consolidation."
from instapaper
10 weeks ago
inch by inch — I get emails, sweet emails, from people who ask me...
I guess the thing that people want me to come back to is Being Somebody. That’s the seduction, of online life, is that you become an entity; you become defined, socially, and for awhile you think that definition makes you real. So many people - so many smart, good people - spend all day, everyday online, feeling out the contours of themselves as they are reflected in the gaze of others, trying to learn their own shape as they clumsily fail to dictate it. And it is that same dynamic, that false community-drawn portrait of the self, that motivates people to think that I need to apologize to them, or who think that they know me, my illness, my history. Because if you base your sense of self on other people, then you must define other people in turn, or else there is no bedrock to your life. It’s no way to live, and the people who are caught up in it lost the ability to see it long ago. So they police the boundaries, and they react violently to those who transgress.

So I’m not coming back. Not to that. Not ever.
10 weeks ago
The new catechism
The Catechism is the summit of the consensus John Paul II forged. It cites, insofar as we can tell, scripture, the acts of the Second Vatican Council, and John Paul’s magisterium, almost to the exclusion of anything between the death of the last Apostle and 1963. The Catechism represented the idea that history had ended within the Church: we could finally say that there was a definitive compendium of Catholic teachings. Yet this end of ecclesiastical history in the Church required John Paul’s force of will to maintain the consensus. And as soon as John Paul went on to his reward, that consensus crumbled. Benedict XVI backed away from it, beginning with the Christmas address to the Curia, and definitely with Summorum Pontificum. And Francis has backed away from it even more decisively. As we have noted elsewhere, history has begun again in the Church.
Catholic  from instapaper
10 weeks ago
Happy 21st Century! - Charlie's Diary
Forget barbed wire, concentration camps, gas chambers and gallows, and Hugo Boss uniforms. That's the 20th century pattern of centralized, industrialized genocide. In the 21st century deep-learning mediated AI era, we have the tools to inflict agile, decentralized genocide as a cloud service on our victims.

Think in terms of old age homes where robots curate the isolated elderlies (no low-paid immigrant workers needed) and fail to identify their terminal medical conditions until they're too advanced to treat. People fed by vertical farms where solar/battery powered robots attend to the individual plants (thank you, Elon Musk's younger brother), food delivered by self-driving vehicles from lights-out warehouses, an end to high street shopping and restaurants and a phasing out of cash money.

Think in terms of a great and terrible simplification of our society that cleans out all the niches the underclass (which by then will include the struggling middle class) survive within.

Think in terms of policing by ubiquitous surveillance and social scoring and behavior monitoring. Think in terms of punishment by "community service"—picking up litter on starvation wages (and I mean, wages calculated to induce death through slow starvation), where if you fail to comply your ability to purchase the essentials of life using e-cash will simply stop working. Prisons where extensively drug-resistant TB runs rife as a discipline on the community service peons (as in: if you receive the sanction of an actual prison sentence, they won't need to execute you: 50% will be dead within 6 months).

There's no state censor in this regime. Just a filter bubble imposed through your social media and email contacts that downranks anything remotely subversive and gently punishes you if you express an unconvenient opinion or show signs of noticing what's missing—the way you don't see people with dark skins or foreign accents any more, for example. The corporate social media will of course comply with state requirements for a safe and secure internet—if they want to stay in business, that is.
algorithms  dystopia  futurism 
10 weeks ago
Where Else Could We Go? Reflections on #Revoice18
"Saying that Revoice is a work of the Spirit does not absolve it of criticism. I’m not seeking to appeal to the Spirit as a trump card that suggests that any with concerns about the conference or individual teachings should simply “take it up with God”. In fact, the conference desperately needs good-faith critics who can offer valuable pushback in places where it has gone too far affirming either spirit of the age or a spirit of self-righteousness. There are important conversations to be had about how to use language with respect to our sexuality at this cultural moment. There are differences among participants about how to talk about our identities as they relate to our orientations (though not a single attendee I met said anything other than that their primary, foundational identity was in Christ). There are important discussions to be had about how to best pastorally care for people who are single and celibate in the church—how can we make space for them to flourish in churches whose primary programs and small groups are often centered around the nuclear family?"
from instapaper
10 weeks ago
Reckless Love: Notes on Revoice '18
There were straight people at Revoice and that is great–parents of gay attendees, spouses in mixed-orientation marriages, pastors seeking to learn about our community and its needs. But the large majority of the attendees were not straight. I mentioned in my other Revoice post that gay people have often been conditioned to believe that we’re uniquely difficult to love–that we’re “challenging” Christians, if we’re even Christians at all. This is one reason I think it’s so important to get to know other gay people. As you begin to love and admire them, and see them as imago Dei, you start to trust that you yourself might be loved by God and made in His image. You begin to know that God loves in a way that isn’t abstract or dutiful; you learn that He can delight in His gay children, because you do. This is a gift Revoice gave to so many isolated or suffering people. [...]

But the reality is that we are trying something, if not completely new, then in a new context and facing new challenges. And we will make a lot of mistakes in doing that. I was struck by how often people discussed (often very insightfully!) ways of life they had been living for less than ten years. People who could have been our mentors are mostly very closeted, very heretical (often because very wounded by Christians), or very dead. And so we have these like thirtysomethings doing their best to guide and mentor people. Those who have been serving longer, like Tim Otto, have so much to teach us, but I know some of our witness is callow because the “elders” in our movement often don’t remember so far back as the disco era. This means that lots of younger people project their hopes and longings onto us–tell me there’s an okay future for me!–and we can be tempted to overpromise, and to put up a facade that we’re doing better than we really are.
sexuality  christian  from instapaper
10 weeks ago
The Useless French Language and Why We Learn It - Los Angeles Review of Books
"The linguistic comedy of Collins’s cross-cultural domestic life with Olivier sheds further light on her American habits of mind. She grew up “conditioned to believe in the importance of directness and sincerity, but Olivier valued a more disciplined self-presentation.” Unlike American men, with their claims to prefer a “natural” look, Olivier “trusted in a sort of emotional maquillage, in which people took a few minutes to compose their thoughts, rather than walking around, undone, in the affective equivalent of pajamas.” Americans may feel oppressed by the high regard in which the French appear to hold carefully constructed sentences and carefully constructed appearances: “Where I saw artifice, he saw artfulness.” But Collins doesn’t need to inhabit the francophone world for long to realize that “[t]he baseline register of my English — the English of an educated, coastal-dwelling white American — sounded like exaggeration. I might have been speaking in all caps.”"
from instapaper
10 weeks ago
The Bullshit Web
An actual solution recognizes that this bullshit is inexcusable. It is making the web a cumulatively awful place to be. Behind closed doors, those in the advertising and marketing industry can be pretty lucid about how much they also hate surveillance scripts and how awful they find these methods, while simultaneously encouraging their use. Meanwhile, users are increasingly taking matters into their own hands — the use of ad blockers is rising across the board, many of which also block tracking scripts and other disrespectful behaviours. Users are making that choice.

They shouldn’t have to. Better choices should be made by web developers to not ship this bullshit in the first place. We wouldn’t tolerate such intrusive behaviour more generally; why are we expected to find it acceptable on the web?
internet  from instapaper
11 weeks ago
The Backdrop of Reality
I have never hitched my hopes for the church to the character of the nation or of national life. Those who have conflated these have set themselves up for disappointment. When you disentangle these things, you see all sorts of space for the church to become the church again. I also think that the old paradigms by which Christians sought to engage the world are mostly exhausted and, in my view, none too soon. Christian believers are longing for a new vision of human flourishing and ways to live that out effectively in a world that generates as much hurt as ours does. This is a moment of extraordinary creative opportunity. I don't think the church as a whole is prepared for it, but I do see seedlings of innovation taking root and beginning to grow. To see them come to maturity in the form of an alternative cultural economy will require extraordinary intellectual, educational, ecclesiastical, entrepreneurial, and financial resources, as well as time, but these things are within reach.
church  innovation  from instapaper
11 weeks ago
Behemoth, bully, thief: how the English language is taking over the planet
The gravitational pull that English now exerts on other languages can also be seen in the world of fiction. The writer and translator Tim Parks has argued that European novels are increasingly being written in a kind of denatured, international vernacular, shorn of country-specific references and difficult-to-translate wordplay or grammar. Novels in this mode – whether written in Dutch, Italian or Swiss German – have not only assimilated the style of English, but perhaps more insidiously limit themselves to describing subjects in a way that would be easily digestible in an anglophone context.

Yet the influence of English now goes beyond simple lexical borrowing or literary influence. Researchers at the IULM University in Milan have noticed that, in the past 50 years, Italian syntax has shifted towards patterns that mimic English models, for instance in the use of possessives instead of reflexives to indicate body parts and the frequency with which adjectives are placed before nouns. German is also increasingly adopting English grammatical forms, while in Swedish its influence has been changing the rules governing word formation and phonology.
language  from instapaper
11 weeks ago
Trump Turns the Power of the Government Against His Foes
On the one hand, no one wants a partisanship that takes no prisoners when parties exchange office. But this is not a normal time, and unfortunately, the Republican Party is no longer a normal party, but the compliant and spineless possession of a political buccaneer. It may not be entirely improper to teach the lesson that if you sign up with an administration so utterly lacking in decency, so contemptuous of historical norms of bipartisanship in national security, so lacking in consideration for critics and defeated opponents, you are not going to be treated with the respect normally accorded to senior members of the loyal opposition. The men and women in the shadows, who for the sake of a corner office and an official car and a high title have held their tongues and dishonored their principles, might want to think about that when Sanders tells her next lie.
politics  from instapaper
12 weeks ago
We need a new model for tech journalism
There is currently high-level global debate as to whether the tech giants should be broken up in the public interest. We should also have a debate about whether tech journalism should be broken up for the same reason: We need a new journalism which treats tech the same as every other major vested corporate interest—people who can sit back and aside from the tech industry maelstrom and try to see the picture from above.

Maybe we should simply scrap the idea of a “tech desk” altogether: The sector needs scrutiny, but since technology now touches every aspect of our society, keeping it siloed from the rest of the newsroom now feels artificial. Let it be covered, extensively, across desks.
tech  journalism  socialmedia  from instapaper
12 weeks ago
Opinion | Whatever Happened to Moral Rigor?
If even a fraction of the charges against him are true, Mr. Weinstein should be banished to the distant reaches of society. But however justice is finally administered in his case, we should try to grasp what social and psychological forces made him what he is, without the shrill, distracting din of moral denunciation forbidding us from doing so.

In matters of law and public morality, let justice take its course along the lines of due process and fair play. But in the realm of the free operation of intellect and imagination that is culture, let there bloom the suspension of moral judgment for the sake of a better understanding of our moral natures. It’s not because we owe anything to the likes of Harvey Weinstein; it’s because of what we owe ourselves.
ethics  politics  from instapaper
12 weeks ago
One of the more worrisome findings to come out of recent opinion polling is this: amongst white evangelicals, approval of Trump’s performance is now approaching 80%. In some ways, this is perfectly understandable. Trump has gone out of his way to shore up his (white) evangelical base. Amongst other things, he has assiduously courted (white) evangelical leaders and nominated many pro-life judges to the federal bench.

But in other ways, this continued support is completely incomprehensible. For Trump has also gone out of his way to attack the norms and institutions of American democracy. He has repeatedly lied to the American public and incessantly attacked the press and the judiciary. To say nothing of his personal and business conduct. Evidently, many American evangelicals have decided that achieving their policy goals is more important than protecting our democratic institutions.

Perhaps we should not be so surprised by this. After all, there is no necessary relationship between Christianity and democracy, either theologically or historically. The Christian scriptures are filled with talk of kingship and lordship, and Christian institutions were long conjoined with monarchical ones.
evangelical  politics  from instapaper
12 weeks ago
Does Facebook Need a Constitution?
Infowars has, among other things, claimed that the Sandy Hook shootings were a staged “false flag” event, that Democrats were planning on launching a civil war on July 4, and that the government is putting chemicals in the water that are turning frogs gay. At the very least, setting “banning” aside, it seems less than ideal to allow a publication like that to represent itself on Facebook as a “News & Media Website.” Similarly, Holocaust deniers are engaged in a specific political project intended to diminish the impact of anti-Semitism and rehabilitate the Nazi state. It’s naïve, at best, to say you can’t “impugn” their intent.

But at the same time, you can understand the company’s anxiety. It’s not just that Facebook is wary of activating the grievance machinery of modern conservatism (though it very obviously is), it’s also that it has a philosophical, institutional allergy to making qualitative judgments about truth and falsehood. And, frankly, shouldn’t it? I’m pretty sure that I don’t want to live in a world where Mark Zuckerberg gets to determine what counts as true and what doesn’t, even if he and I agree about Infowars and the Holocaust. (Especially since he seems to be under the impression that there’s some large portion of Holocaust deniers who are merely misinformed, not actively mendacious.)
tech  news  media 
12 weeks ago
The Expressive Function of the Russia Freakout
"Think of it as “the expressive function of the Russia freakout.” Just as there is what Cass Sunstein called “the expressive function of law” — “the function of law in ‘making statements’ as opposed to controlling behavior” — there’s a purpose served by the constant keening over Putin. It conveys liberals’ sense of bewilderment and disorientation at a country they no longer recognize — a feeling not so different from that which motivated the Right’s manifold freakouts in the Obama era.

On both sides there’s a sense of loss about a bygone America that no longer exists: for the Right, the white, middle-class utopia of the Eisenhower years. For liberals, the upright decency of the Jed Bartlet administration. The problem with these fantasies is neither of them ever existed."
from instapaper
12 weeks ago
Fundamental Value Differences Are Not That Fundamental
"I’m not saying you don’t have to fight for your values. The foreign aid budget still has to be some specific number, and if your explicitly-endorsed principles disagree with someone else’s explicitly-endorsed principles, then you’ve got to fight them to determine what it is.

But “remember, liberals and conservatives have fundamental value differences, so they are two tribes that can’t coexist” is the wrong message. “Remember, everyone has weak and malleable value differences with everyone else, and maybe a few more fundamental ones though it’s hard to tell, and neither type necessarily line up with tribes at all, so they had damn better learn to coexist,” is more like it."
from instapaper
12 weeks ago
Exploring The Digital Ruins Of 'Second Life' - Digg
I wonder if we can think about our digital social spaces in the same way. Many of those that were popular in the '90s and early '00s are now vaporware. The companies went bankrupt or were purchased and mismanaged to death. Users fled. Communities were destroyed. Data was liquidated.

We should be concerned that a majority of our online spaces are owned by corporations who do not have our best interests in mind, despite fuzzy PR statements about "building communities." Our digital spaces can suddenly be destroyed or altered in disturbing ways without our consent. Why don't we have control over them? Why can't we? Always remember: Facebook and Instagram and Twitter are malls, not parks.
july 2018
The Kingdom of God Has No Borders—An introduction – The Immanent Frame
Throughout all three sections of the book, I argue that US evangelicals have been captured by two distinct (but linked) postures toward the rest of the world. The first of these I call “enchanted internationalism”—a longing for emotionally powerful forms of religious experience that American evangelicals have often identified with Christianity in the global south. American evangelicals have frequently operated with the assumption that worship in the modern West is too often stale and dry—disenchanted, in Weberian terms. As US evangelicals looked beyond their borders after 1960, toward the Christian populations of Africa, Latin America, and Asia, they often envisioned people in those regions as living embodiments of authenticity, passion, and zeal. In the charismatic worship styles of much of the evangelical community in Africa and Latin America—with their stories of miracles and faith healings—American evangelicals saw an exemplary “enchanted” faith, practiced by believers who were more intensely committed and perhaps more ideally Christian than most Europeans and Americans. In the late twentieth century, American evangelicals increasingly sought to enliven and “re-enchant” their own religious experience. This longing manifested itself in many ways, including the rise of Pentecostalism and “spirit-filled” charismatic churches, the fascination with apocalypse and end times theology, a renewed focus on ritual, and a growing belief in faith healings.

The other lens through which evangelicals saw the world was “victim identification.” The book traces how American evangelicals became galvanized by a vision of their own (global) persecution, as they spoke of Christians being martyred all over the world, prevented from spreading the gospel and persecuted for their faith. The spectacle and display of violated bodies of Christian martyrs was never simply informational. Instead, it engaged a complex Christian imaginary about the body—its centrality and its untrustworthiness. The process of both identifying with victims and identifying as victims has been a double-edged sword for evangelicals. Attention to victimization sometimes provides resources for social justice (showing, for example, how people have suffered from hunger or are oppressed by racism), yet that same attention has also laid the groundwork for the kind of “injury politics” identified by Wendy Brown, which constructs identity through a cultivation of woundedness.

I argue that Christian persecution, however real in certain times and places, also became a symbol that resonated far beyond what might be expected from the facts on the ground. Persecution became the logic through which some evangelicals envisioned a global conflict with Islam. Frequently, the discourse of persecution has tended to read political conflict as religious conflict, and thus it augmented the sense of anxiety, anger, and religious aggression that dominated far too much of the world’s politics in the twenty-first century. It is through an embrace of both enchantment and victimization—orientations that are religious, political, and emotional all at once—that American evangelicals have come to understand their place in the world.
christian  evangelical 
july 2018
Elite Colleges Have No Monopoly on the Liberal Arts - The Chronicle of Higher Education
In covering topics like the emergence of new disciplines, changing classroom technologies, community-based learning, and speech on campus, feature articles on the culture of education draw on anecdotes from a small number of elite colleges. Meanwhile, writing about mass education uses data sets to represent students as groups and populations in stories about the price of college, student retention, and changes in majors and enrollments. These different kinds of evidence create the impression that students at elite institutions are individual learners connected to disciplines, while everyone else is a victim or vector of financialization in need of training, a bundle of responses to economic conditions.

This polar view of education serves the interests of those who profit from the idea that mass education can be scaled, commodified, and privatized, and those who make political capital out of culture wars and class polarization. But it does not reflect the reality of higher education, and it does not serve the interests of students. Teachers and students know that in practice, people pursuing vocational education are learners, not only trainees, and that liberal and vocational education are part of the same story.
july 2018
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