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Guest Post - The Online Right (and Left)

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.22.17

Nick S writes: Vox has an interview with the author of a book about the alt-right, which includes this definition which describes it in a way that I hadn't seen before:

[Angela Nagle]: If they're using the term in the strict sense, it says they're against the idea that problems in society are socially constructed or even that most of our experiences are socially constructed. So they would say that gender is not socially constructed but a biological category. They say the same thing about race. They reject the idea that America is founded on abstract principles and instead believe it's a product of white Anglo-Saxon Protestants and that it could be no other way.

[Sean Illing]: I always wonder when it comes to stuff like this if it's more about a mischievous contrarianism or if they actually believe what they're propounding.

[Angela Nagle]: I think a lot of them start off by trolling and doing the anti-PC thing and resisting what they feel is dogma being shoved down their throats by liberal professors and parents, but where do you go from there? Do you reject all of these principles? There's not much else there in the way of new ideas to replace them, so it's very easy to end up going very far to the right at that point.

That sounds like a weird and somewhat surprising place to end up at intellectually. If true, I wonder how that relates to another comment I've seen about the alt-right which is that it celebrates weakness and failure as much as strength. A belief that major problems in society are based immutable reality has the effect of saying that it doesn't matter what an individual does to respond to those issues -- including ways that could be bad for either society or for the person in question.

Also, for reference, a link to a previous post on the subject.

Separately, the interview also end up being surprisingly critical of particular elements of the online left:

[Angela Nagle]: I think that you cannot take the left out of the picture and make any sense of what's going on, because particularly in these very online younger forms of politics, there was a battle of the subcultures going on online and then it spilled over into campus stuff as that generation of teenagers went to college.

People on the left were annoyed with me because they thought I portrayed a very small subculture on the left as representative of the left in general, but I don't think that's the case. I had to describe the online left accurately as I saw it, and the right was in an absolute state of panic about the fact that they were seeing all of these things happening on college campuses: speakers being shut down, platforms being denied, large groups of people ganging up on dissident voices.

...

What I criticized wasn't identity politics in general but a specific version of identity politics that was about performative wokeness, and in particular the reason I didn't like it was because it was very inclined to censor and it was very inclined to gang up on people. I hate that, and I think it deserves to be criticized

I'd be inclined to treat that as an overreaction. However I recently came across a of articles (which I see, looking them up, are from 2015) about "calling-out" vs "calling-in" which just sound exhausting and make that flavor of activism sound like not much fun.

Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and language use by others. People can be called out for statements and actions that are sexist, racist, ableist, and the list goes on. Because call-outs tend to be public, they can enable a particularly armchair and academic brand of activism: one in which the act of calling out is seen as an end in itself.

What makes call-out culture so toxic is not necessarily its frequency so much as the nature and performance of the call-out itself. Especially in online venues like Twitter and Facebook, calling someone out isn't just a private interaction between two individuals: it's a public performance where people can demonstrate their wit or how pure their politics are. Indeed, sometimes it can feel like the performance itself is more significant than the content of the call-out. This is why "calling in" has been proposed as an alternative to calling out: calling in means speaking privately with an individual who has done some wrong, in order to address the behaviour without making a spectacle of the address itself.

I have no interest in criticizing people who are doing the work, and I'm not part of either online left-wing groups or activist-y groups. But I would be interested in hearing from people who are to find out how much of that dynamic goes on?

Heebie's take: First rule - no false equivalences here about the online right and the online left. One is perpetuating morally abhorrent practices, and the other is sometimes bossy and smug, and the first is also sometimes bossy and smug. Both are bossy and smug.

On the alt-right: there's a certain kind of CS undergraduate who doesn't believe in shades of gray and thinks they're smarter than their humanities professor because they're better at algebra than she is. It's a dangerous combination of very concrete thinking and arrogance.

On the alt-left: "Performative wokeness" does capture something that I also found grating back when I was a young adult. That phrase itself is almost too ridiculous to utter. Sane people observe ostentatious wokality and are reminded that all of humanity is annoying. Insane people observe it and drift towards the alt-right.


 

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Name a form of transportation.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.21.17

Now that I am an expert on New York City, I will wax philosophic on travel times. In NYC, I'm going to claim there are concentric circles around your apartment, and the boundary between them is whether you'd walk there or take public transportation. (The metric is obviously the taxi cab metric, and technically the outer one is an annulus, and they are both closed sets with nontrivial annulus intersection.) So Zone 1 is walkable, and Zone 2 is easy public transportation.

These are strongly similar to concentric circles around HeebieHouse (freshly elevated, 2nd story walk-up) in Heebieville. All of Heebieville is the inner radius, Zone 1, and Zone 2 is all adjacent towns - three or four small towns, and then Austin and San Antonio.

In both locations, Zone 1 is the area that does not take much planning to go to. You can easily run home if you realized you need to change shoes or retrieve an item. All of your basic needs can be met in Zone 1 - grocery store, emergency room, schools, park, some restaurants, some shops.

Zone 2 requires planning. You cannot easily return home - you will be gone for several hours, or else the trip isn't worth it. My commute lands in Zone 2, but I wish it were Zone 1. (The zones do overlap in ambiguous territory, of course. Life is a highway and a spectrum. A hightrum.)

I hypothesize that while the density is wildly different, the population and array of commercial options in Zone 1 and Zone 2 is comparable across both locations. I am jealous of the density of New York and find it bustling and interesting, but I also like the silence and cicadas and relative stillness of Heebieville and when it's hot out, I am super glad to have my minivan lifestyle, with all the ambiguous feelings it gives me about myself. I don't think Zones 1 and 2 neatly map onto all locations. Life without Zone 2 would be depressing.


 

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Undercover Fucker

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.21.17

This is insane.

This is the first interview "Lisa", who wants to retain her anonymity, has given to the media. Only now, five years later, does she feel ready to describe how she has been devastated by the deception. She speaks eloquently, though the pain is still evident. Her boyfriend, Mark, always had a slightly mysterious side to him. In their last few months together his behaviour was, at times, erratic; but at other times, their relationship was blissful.

They were together for six years. What could explain his erratic, mysterious side?

The truth was not disclosed to her by him. Instead she and her friends found out through their own detective work and a chance discovery.
They established that he was Mark Kennedy, an undercover policeman who had been sent to spy on her circle of activist friends. For seven years, he had adopted a fake persona to infiltrate environmental groups. Their unmasking of him five years ago kickstarted a chain of events that has exposed one of the state's most deeply concealed secrets.

Oh fuck.

Via Helpy-chalk, elsewhere.


 

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Another sundry.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.20.17

I have a few articles from last week which are a little dated, but whatever, like the crazy fucking med school dean at USC. More recent editorial on the same dude.

Or this one (via Echoes) where the White House released a ton of emails from private citizens without redacting any personal information:

Unfortunately for these voters and others who wrote in, the Trump administration did not redact any of their personal information from the emails before releasing them to the public. In some cases, the emails contain not only names, but email addresses, home addresses, phone numbers and places of employment of people worried about such information being made available to the public.

Jesus christ they are beyond incompetent.



 

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ATM: Let him down easy

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.20.17

Dear Heebie,

Longtime lurker here. I have actually written to the mineshaft before, and by the way completely ignored all of your advice; things turned out just fine but every once in a while I think they would've turned out so much better if I hadn't. Sigh. Anyway, to the point.

I have been thinking about it for a while, and have recently decided to end a multiple year relationship. I've decided that we're too different and value different things in life, and come to the realization that the only reason the relationship has kept afloat is because I have sort of adapted to his ways/wants/needs. Some would say I've been able to do it because I'm spineless; I would say that I'm a pretty flexible and giving person that is willing to sacrifice to some extent to make those he cares about happy. Potayto, potahto. I've also decided that I'm not ok with monogamy right now.

Three complicating factors. One, I love him to death, I really do. The level of closeness we have reached is something I had never experienced before, and losing contact with him, although I feel must be done, will be as painful (or more) as losing all contact with a member of my immediate family.

Two, we had been living abroad for the past few years because I got a job and he moved there to be with me, but I have now moved to a new location (again for work). The move was rough at the beginning because he couldn't find a job, but he finally landed on his feet and now has what is probably the best job he's ever had. He is unhappy with his life in our previous common location, however, and until now it has been the understanding that he would move to my new location in a few months. The complication comes in that he is due to visit me in a few days and is likely to start making arrangements for the move. Now, I know I will feel uncomfortable leading him on, but it feels like waiting until a trip home we have planned to do it, so he can have the support of family and friends, would be the kind thing to do. On the other hand, the waiting option could result in him having given up his awesome job for something that isn't there.

Three, we've talked about our issues in the not too distant past, and things have been getting better. But it's precisely because the small issues have been getting better that I now see there is no future in the big picture. The issue here is that I think the timing will only confuse him more and add to the pain.

I guess my question is, given the above information, what does the mineshaft think is the best way to end it, with best defined as the option that: 1. minimizes his suffering, discomfort, damage to his self-esteem; 2. puts him in the best position possible to move on as quickly as possible; 3. has at least a slightly better chance than a snowball's in hell that we stay friends (or become friends again down the line), in that order of importance.

Cheers,
lurker.

Heebie's take: My then-boyfriend's older brother gave me this book when I was 21, in what I now see as a manipulative move. I read it, it was helpful, but the one detail that stuck with me most was a line that was something like, "There's no gentle way to toss someone a hand grenade."

In other words, there is no good packaging for the content that you need to wrap up and deliver, and yet you do absolutely need to deliver this content.

So here's my advice: break up with him when he comes to visit you. The bit about having his support system around is you overthinking things. In the age of email and cell phones, he has a support system with him always, and he will be okay without a physical hug from them until he gets back.

Furthermore, I would break up at the beginning of the visit, not then end. I think it would haunt you through out the visit to know it's coming, and the visit will not be a pleasant memory for him if that's how it ends. I would break up with him, and then have a couple options prepared, ie, "I will pay your change-fee if you'd like to fly home immediately, and here's your flight options. Or if you'd like to spend a day here and fly home tomorrow. And if you'd like to have a melancholy visit, that's okay, too." (Provided that you actually are interested in a melancholy visit. If not, don't offer it. But I think extending him a day is appropriate.)

On the fact that small issues have been improving: Again, this is just a hand grenade and you can't sugarcoat it. Tell him the truth:

[B]ecause the small issues have been getting better that I now see there is no future in the big picture.

You can elaborate some, but don't get trapped elaborating. There is no elaboration that masks a hand grenade.

Basically, of your priorities (1), (2), and (3), short of saying deliberately cruel things, you have no control over any of them. He gets to deal with it however he deals with it. As far as (3) is concerned, all you can do is reach out in a year or two. I don't think it works very well to maintain a friendship while he's reeling from a separation, and could potentially be really cruel to him.

I'm really sorry - you're being very caring and thoughtful and clearly do not want to hurt this guy. But hurting this guy in the shortterm is absolutely the right thing to do, so that he (and you!) can have longterm happiness in different circumstances.

As an aside: pre-therapy, in my early 20s, I had the following analogy for a break-up: a relationship is an island, and when it's time to break up, you have to step off the island and start swimming, and it sucks because you don't know how long it will take to find another island, and you're going to be tired and exhausted and scared that you'll never find a better island than the one you left.

This analogy is AWFUL. Clearly I found being single terrifying and lonely, and that's why I started seeing a therapist in the first place.

For our purposes, loosen the analogy where the islands are places of stability, and then it sort of works. The part that I think is right is that a break-up is forcing yourself to leave the shore and start swimming, and you've gotta do it to get off the island. And also you have to push your poor ex into the ocean against his will. This analogy is terrible.


 

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A sundry

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.19.17

1. We're back in our house and it's wonderful to be home.

2. Does your dentist use an ultrasonic cleaning thing? I loathe it so much. The dental tech and I have an agreement that she'll use the hand tool except for the worst of the worst, and then bring in the ultrasonic thing. The high pitched squeals give me near-continuous shivers and chills. She humors me, but will only say, "Yes, some people find the noise annoying," which doesn't really validate my feelings.


 

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We Will Let One Live

Posted by Ogged
on 07.19.17

You can quibble with some of the assumptions, but as a rich-guy-to-rich-guy statement of principles, it doesn't get much better than this.


 

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Guest Post - America Sucks at Building Stuff

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.18.17

Mossy Character writes: From Tooze's blog:

there are some sectors that exhibit not progress, but productivity decline. Of these, one of the most important and politically consequential is construction.
[...]
This matters because it structures the entire debate about public infrastructure and the capacity for public action, which is so urgent in the US. Whilst Silicon Valley offers a triumphant story of private sector innovation, the public sector finds itself discredited by association with the chronic inefficiencies of the construction sector and megaproject management.
[...]
Interestingly, the BLS showed that the pattern of productivity development was not the same across housing and road building. In road building In the US in the last decade there was actually some productivity improvement. The billion dollar question is from what level and how that path of improvement compares with other countries.
Not well!:
Although the US projects included are only in New York and San Francisco, both high-cost cities, similarly high costs occur in other cities, just the projects are above ground. Portland's light rail Milwaukie extension and Washington's predominantly above ground Silver Line both have cost ranges of about $100-150 million per km, enough for a full subway in many European cities.

Heebie's take: That's super interesting, and I had no idea we were so inefficient. I thought this:

What this suggests Smith argues, is that the key to higher US costs is "general inefficiency -- inefficient project management, an inefficient government contracting process, and inefficient regulation. It suggests that construction, like health care or asset management or education, is an area where Americans have simply ponied up more and more cash over the years while ignoring the fact that they were getting less and less for their money."

was particularly interesting, the comparison with industries that I'm more familiar with.

Also I have a crystal ball and this not get fixed during your lifetime. Sad!


 

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Rex Begonias

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.18.17

It sure would be good to post something late-breaking and interesting about the news after this drought!

So, I had occasion to discuss rexes begonia while in New York, and I got a detailed memory of a book I read as a kid. The main character's mother would regularly put rex begonium out on the fire escape to die, when they started to wilt on the vague hope that they'd revive in the fresh air. There was a weepy boy in the next apartment over who annoyed the main character with his wimpy, weepy ways, and one of the things he wept over was the dying rex begonialves. I can't remember if the main character was a boy or a girl. What book was this?


 

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