RSSCategory: Orwellian

John Cleese Speaks Out on Political Correctness

December 10, 2017 | By | Reply More

John Cleese argues that if we don’t reign in political correctness, we will drain our society of humor, all of which challenges, and is critical. If allowed to an extreme, political correctness drives us not toward something useful, but to something Orwellian.

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The Effect of Concepts Creeping to the Left

October 24, 2017 | By | 3 Replies More

In this paper titled, “Why Concepts Creep to the Left,” Jonathan Haidt supplements Nick Haslam’s paper titled “Concept Creep,” in which concepts such as bullying, trauma and addiction morph over time. And there are newish terms that have become prominent and expansive in recent years, “trigger warnings” and “microaggressions.” But these concepts don’t merely change. They change to the whims of the political left. And they especially change for current students and young adults rather than those over 40. In his article, Haidt asks why there is a direction to that change. Haidt writes:

These terms are part of a new conceptual package that includes all of the older concepts long referred to as “political correctness” but with greatly expanded notions of harm, trauma, mental illness, vulnerability, and harassment. These concepts seem to have expanded in just the way that Haslam (2016) describes — horizontally, to take in new kinds of cases (such as adding the reading of novels to the list of traumatizing activities) and vertically, to take in ever less extreme versions of older cases (as is made explicit by the prefix “micro” in the word “microaggression”). In this conceptually augmented political correctness, the central idea seems to be that many college students are so fragile that institutions and right-thinking people must all work together to protect vulnerable individuals from exposure to words and ideas that could damage them in a lasting way. If this protection requires banning certain speakers from campus, or punishing student newspapers that publish opinions that upset the dominant campus sensibility, then so be it.

What are the reasons for this expansion of these concepts to the left. Haidt explores several possibilities . ..

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Time to take down the Confederate Statues.

August 19, 2017 | By | Reply More
Time to take down the Confederate Statues.

At National Review, Arthur Herman gives his best reasons why the public Confederate statues should remain in publicly owned spaces.   I do believe that Herman put the best foot forward of the “Keep the Statues” crowd.

I disagree with him. These statues belong, if anywhere, in the Jim Crow wing of a history museum.  Herman received strong pushback in the comments to his article, many of these comments echoing my beliefs. Here are some samples of the comments critical of Herman’s defense of the statues:

“The timeless virtues of slavery. Symbols of Southern history of slavery.”
“Most of those statues were NOT erected in the days after the Civil War. Nor were they erected in the days since the 1970s, when Jim Crow was over.”

“They were put up as part of the wave of “Lost Cause” historical revisionism that swept the South in the first half of the 20th century. The purpose was to try to redeem *the cause for which the South had fought*.”

File-Lee_Park,_Charlottesville,_VA.jpg

“I don’t have a problem honoring the ordinary enlisted men–the privates and sergeants–who fought bravely on both sides of the Civil War. But the Confederate leadership–and this includes Lee–should not be honored because the cause they fought for was *to break up the United States*.” Most of those statues were NOT erected in the days after the Civil War. Nor were they erected in the days since the 1970s, when Jim Crow was over. They were put up as part of the wave of “Lost Cause” historical revisionism that swept the South in the first half of the 20th century. The purpose was to try to redeem *the cause for which the South had fought*.”

“Thomas Jefferson is NOT honored because he had slaves. He is honored because he wrote the Declaration of Independence, which asserted the equality of all humanity before God. Tear down his memorial and you would be tearing down the Declaration of Independence too.”

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What if Obama had said it (rather than Trump)? Bill Maher’s excellent experiment.

August 8, 2017 | By | Reply More

On a recent show, Bill Maher asked what we would think if Obama had said the things Trump has actually said, verbatim? Then he put comedian Reggie Brown to work:

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The Heroism of Chelsea Manning

May 20, 2017 | By | Reply More

Now the that Chelsea Manning has finally been released from U.S. custody, Glenn Greenwald takes this opportunity to recount her heroism:

Though Manning was largely scorned and rejected in most mainstream Washington circles, she did everything one wants a whistleblower to do: tried to ensure that the public learns of concealed corruption and criminality, with the intent of fostering debate and empowering the citizenry with knowledge that should never have been concealed from them. And she did it all knowing that she was risking prison to do so, but followed the dictates of her conscience rather than her self-interest.

BUT AS COURAGEOUS as that original whistleblowing was, Manning’s heroism has only multiplied since then, become more multifaceted and consequential. As a result, she has inspired countless people around the world. At this point, one could almost say that her 2010 leaking to WikiLeaks has faded into the background when assessing her true impact as a human being. Her bravery and sense of conviction wasn’t a one-time outburst: It was the sustained basis for her last seven years of imprisonment that she somehow filled with purpose, dignity, and inspiration.

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On interfering with elections

April 25, 2017 | By | Reply More

The U.S. has accused Russia of interfering with the recent U.S. Presidential election. That accusation needs to be viewed in context:

The U.S. has a long history of attempting to influence presidential elections in other countries – it’s done so as many as 81 times between 1946 and 2000, according to a database amassed by political scientist Dov Levin of Carnegie Mellon University.

That number doesn’t include military coups and regime change efforts following the election of candidates the U.S. didn’t like, notably those in Iran, Guatemala and Chile. Nor does it include general assistance with the electoral process, such as election monitoring.

This  information is from a detailed article in the LA Times, with many specifics. For instance, the U.S. tried to interfere with the election of the Russian leader in 1996. According to the same article, Russia attempted to interfere with “36 foreign elections from the end of World War II to the turn of the century.”

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On Reverse-Engineering a Soldier’s Death to Justify More of the Same

March 3, 2017 | By | Reply More

From Glenn Greenwald, of The Intercept:

While there is certainly truth in the claim that Trump’s use of the suffering of soldiers and their families is politically opportunistic, even exploitative, this tactic is hardly one Trump pioneered. In fact, it is completely standard for U.S. presidents. Though Trump’s attackers did not mention it, Obama often included tales of the sacrifice, death, and suffering of soliders in his political speeches — including when he devoted four highly emotional minutes in his 2014 State of the Union address to narrating the story of, and paying emotional tribute to, Sgt. Cory Remsburg, who was severely wounded by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

George W. Bush also hauled soldiers wounded in his wars before cameras during his speeches, such as his 2007 State of the Union address, where he paid tribute to Sgt. Tommy Rieman, wounded in Iraq.

There are reasons presidents routinely use the suffering and deaths of U.S soldiers and their families as political props. The way in which these emotions are exploited powerfully highlights important aspects of war propaganda generally, and specifically how the endless, 15-year-old war on terror is sustained.

. . .

By dramatizing the deaths of Americans while disappearing the country’s victims, this technique ensures that Americans perpetually regard themselves as victims of horrific, savage, tragic violence but never the perpetrators of it. That, in turn, is what keeps Americans supporting endless war: These savages keep killing us, so we have no choice but to fight them.

Greenwald points out that our natural sympathy for family members of brave dead soldiers is consciously reverse engineered at events such as President Trump’s recent speech, such that the heroism of the soldier appears to make the war a worthy war and the President a worthy President.

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Electronic Frontier Foundation Priorities for 2017

January 26, 2017 | By | Reply More

I’ve followed and supported the work of Electronic Frontier Foundation, and will continue to do so with even more energy in coming months and years in light of recent political events. To be fair, my position would not be much different even had Hillary Clinton been elected. The attacks on digital freedoms seem to be a defect of both Democrats and Republicans, as reflected in this recent statement by EFF:

But as EFF has learned in the course of defending our fundamental rights over four American presidencies, our civil liberties need an independent defense force. Free speech and the rights to privacy, transparency, and innovation won’t survive on their own—we’re here to ensure that government is held accountable and in check.

Technological progress does not wait for politicians to catch up, and new tools can quickly be misused by aggressive governments. The next four years will be characterized by rapid developments in the fields of artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, virtual and augmented reality, connected homes, and smart cities. We welcome innovation, but we also expect to see an explosion of surveillance technologies designed to take advantage of our connected world to spy on all of us and our devices, all the time. That data will be used not only to target individuals but to project and manipulate social behavior. What will our digital rights look like during these uncertain and evolving times? Will our current rights remain intact when the baton is passed on once again?

What follows in this EFF article is an excellent articulation of priorities and strategies for preserving digital rights of all Americans.

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Suspect CIA

December 16, 2016 | By | 2 Replies More

Why is the US media so hyped up to believe the CIA claims that Russia hacked the US presidential election? Reverse engineering the situation reveals that this belief can be used for various political purposes, even in the absence of credible evidence. It’s par for the course these days. This article in The Nation reminds us to be extremely suspect of CIA “information.”

In 1977, Carl Bernstein published an exposé of a CIA program known as Operation Mockingbird, a covert program involving, according to Bernstein, “more than 400 American journalists who in the past 25 years have secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency.” Bernstein found that in “many instances” CIA documents revealed that “journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America’s leading news organizations.”

Fast-forward to December 2016, and one can see that there isn’t much need for a covert government program these days. The recent raft of unverified, anonymously sourced and circumstantial stories alleging that the Russian government interfered in the US presidential election with the aim of electing Republican Donald J. Trump shows that today too much of the media is all too happy to do overtly what the CIA had it once paid it to do covertly: regurgitate the claims of the spy agency and attack the credibility of those who question it.

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