culture

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Sunrise rebellion.

Comparing and contrasting Extinction Rebellion and the Sunrise Movement, specifically to unpick what it means to be an “apolitical” protest organization.

2021-02-11T08:40:46+11:0023rd February, 2021|Tags: , |

Violence begets.

In the nearly two decades that have passed since 9/11, America has been on a worldwide binge of occupying, destroying, meddling, and intervening, largely with impunity. As public attention to those wars has waned during the Trump administration, the beliefs of white supremacy have turned inward. It makes no sense for the country that lords over brown people in the Middle East to treat the same brown people with respect at home. This legacy of white supremacist wars abroad has thus fed and fostered the same beliefs at home. Faith in the necessity of constant and unrelenting violence has seeped into the nation’s soul.

On white wars.

To be fair, American was “occupying, destroying, meddling, and intervening” long before 9/11, as those of us ex of the Eastern bloc are well aware. But the point still stands.

2021-02-10T08:49:34+11:0020th February, 2021|Tags: , |

De-platforming.

The problem with so-called doom scrolling isn’t the scrolling, it’s the doom—the despair over the fact that our possibilities have been foreclosed and our lives have been made more precarious; the way that the platform economy has offered solutions that serve only to make surveillance more prolific and inequality all the more devastating. Neither addiction mitigation nor technological fixes can serve as the basis of the regulatory argument against Big Tech. To imagine a world beyond the platform giants, it’s vital that we look toward principles of redistribution and democratic control of the infrastructure we now depend on.

On regulating Big Tech.

2021-02-10T08:26:19+11:0018th February, 2021|Tags: , |

Lawyer brain.

So the post this is from is subscribers only but… gosh if this doesn’t articulate something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, especially when I see things like Mastodon communities imploding because admins are constantly trying to lawyer-brain bad actors rather than just kicking them off.1

  1. Ironically, most of those instances probably use a version of a common pro forma ToS that has a generic “we may revoke your account for any reason without warning” clause in it. (Ref. e.g. §IV.) But, yanno… []
2021-02-01T08:36:30+11:0014th February, 2021|Tags: |

Friends with (financial) benefits.

During the day, they teach you how to trade Treasury futures, and it is all so exciting and high-stakes and important. You shadow one experienced trader and quickly find yourself imitating his mannerisms, looking up to him, hoping to be like him one day. “Here is where I put in some fake orders to spoof the price higher,” he says; “a little razzle dazzle to juke the algos.” “Isn’t that, uh, illegal?” you ask timidly. “Hahahaha illegal!” he replies ambiguously. You do not press the matter. Three months later you are bragging in the desk’s electronic chat room about your own big spoofing victories. As you type “lol i just spoofed em so good hope i dont go to jail” into the chat window, you feel a rush of pride; now you really fit in, you are one of them. You go out for beers that evening and you are the center of attention; everyone congratulates you and celebrates your achievements. It is a great day. Six months later you are arrested.

Now imagine the same story except that you show up at work your first day on Zoom, and your colleagues seem kinda nice but talking to them is awkward and disjointed, and you have no idea what they do after work because nobody leaves their house, but you have a Zoom happy hour once and that’s pretty awful. And there is an electronic chat room, sure, and your colleagues make jokes in the chat, but you don’t get a lot of them because they reference stuff that happened in the office, in person, before you arrived. You learn to trade Treasury futures by reading some training materials. “I just put in some fake orders to spoof the price higher,” says one experienced trader in the chat one day. You frown and reference the training materials, which say “spoofing is super duper illegal and should be reported to compliance immediately.” You shrug and send the chat transcript to compliance. Your colleague gets fired and prosecuted. He may or may not feel a sense of personal betrayal that you turned him in, but you’ll never know or care

Matt Levine on frauds with friends.

Tl;dr one of the more amusing things to come out of the pandemic working-from-home thing has been a 31% jump in the number of people whistleblowing on illegal trading practices at financial firms.1

  1. Insert “they all went to Reddit instead” joke here. []
2021-02-01T08:27:11+11:0013th February, 2021|Tags: , , |

Trollspotting.

Can you spot which social media accounts are real, and which are professional foreign intelligence? Now with Real Actual Examples, as well as helpful pointers to learn the warnings signs!

For the record, I passionately hate the habit of calling disruptive foreign intelligence operations “trolling.” I think it undersells what’s actually going on by conflating it with, like, the activities of teenagers tweeting sarcastically at companies, for example. And like I know this horse has definitely already bolted but, man. I wish they’d come up with basically any other name for it…

2021-01-11T08:50:36+11:009th February, 2021|Tags: , , |

The lumpen.

The innocence is central to the story being told, one in which a sort of vulgar Marxism prevails. Pundits and political figures across the political spectrum, from reactionary liberals like Claire McCaskill to right-handed class warriors like Michael Lind to lefty polemicists like Thomas Frank, come together in a shared vision of white workers as lumps of inchoate class feeling who, but for the corporate propaganda of the right or all that identity crap on the left, would eagerly transmute their economic position into legible populist voting patterns.

The narrative leaves no room for the possibility that white working-class voters, exploited though they may be, might also derive benefits, material and otherwise, from the subordination of other people. That they might actually be voting their interests when they vote for the party of the racial and gender caste system. That class alone can’t account for the attractions of authoritarian populism, even a program as shambling and mealy-mouthed as Donald Trump’s. Four years later, our political culture still can’t see the appeal of someone like Trump because it refuses to see how people’s material concerns, about their jobs and their wage and their health, are bound up with their values, their identities—their culture.

On working white innocence.

2021-01-11T07:39:38+11:006th February, 2021|Tags: , |

Acedia.

The source of our current acedia is not the literal loss of a future; even the most pessimistic scenarios surrounding COVID-19 have our species surviving. The dislocation is more subtle: a disruption in pretty much every future frame of reference on which just going on in the present relies.

Moving around is what we do as creatures, and for that we need horizons. COVID-19 has erased many of the spatial and temporal horizons we rely on, even if we don’t notice them very often. We don’t know how the economy will look, how social life will go on, how our home routines will be changed, how work will be organized, how universities or the arts or local commerce will survive.

What unsettles us is not only fear of change. It’s that, if we can no longer trust in the future, many things become irrelevant, retrospectively pointless. And by that we mean from the perspective of a future whose basic shape we can no longer take for granted. This fundamentally disrupts how we weigh the value of what we are doing right now. It becomes especially hard under these conditions to hold on to the value in activities that, by their very nature, are future-directed, such as education or institution-building.

That’s what many of us are feeling. That’s today’s acedia.

Bruce Schneier on ended horizons.

That feeling you’ve been feeling for, like, all of 2020? There’s a name for that: acedia.

Also see: the bullshit jobs phenomenon (what happens when “work” is no longer a way to a materially better existence?), Millennial malaise re. life goal attainment (what happens when adult milestones are unobtainable and people feel trapped in an eternal childhood?), politics (what happens when democracy seems to bring no meaningful change?), climate change (what happens when the planet dies?)… a lot of things, really.

Welcome to the Acedic Century.

2021-01-07T07:52:31+11:004th February, 2021|Tags: |

Isolated individuals.

In the U.S., most of us aren’t taught to use our sociological imaginations. We’re not taught to think about social problems as structural problems. We’re not taught to see the forces that operate beyond our control – forces like capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy. And we’re not taught to see how those forces create many of the challenges we face in our lives and constrain our ability to make choices that could help us overcome those challenges.

Instead, we — especially women and people from other systematically marginalized groups — are taught to self-help-book our way out of structural problems. To believe that all our problems would go away if only we were to strictly follow some seventeen-step plan.

Jessica Calarco on personal and political.

2021-01-06T09:06:59+11:0031st January, 2021|Tags: |
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