Hey, Phantom’s back!

Happy news for one and all! He’s got his knickers in a twist about my post on Sarah Hoyt jumping full on to the Trump train and endorsing his attack on four US politicians: https://accordingtohoyt.com/2019/07/17/homicidal-charity/#comment-609077

“For a camel who prides himself on logic, he consistently fails to make logical distinctions between things like legitimate immigrants and ILLEGAL migrants.”

Hmmm. Yeah about that. The confused Canadian appears to have forgotten that Trump was attacking four *US CITIZENS* not ‘illegal immigrants’. Of the four ONLY ONE was not born in the USA (Ilhan Omar, who was born in Somalia, emigrated legally and is now not just a US citizen but an elected representative of the US people). Of course “it’s just illegals we object to” was always a lie but it’s become automatic so that even when right wing extremists are demanding citizens be deported they still chant it like a mantra.

While I’m on that point, let’s circle back to the post that Hoyt originally put up on her blog (written by Thomas Kendall):

“And Ocasio-Cortez is the daughter of a Puerto Rican [Sure, it’s a “territory” so she was technically born American. Have you ever been there? Looked at how people live there? Look at what she IDENTIFIES with? Yeah.] She is, in fact, a second-generation immigrant [Very Latin. Much minority. What she never identifies as is… one of us]. “

I always fail to estimate how supposed patriotic Americans are about their own country. Puerto Ricans ARE AMERICAN CITIZENS. A person born is Puerto Rico is American by law. It is part of America. Good grief, do some basic reading or you know, just learn something about the country you claim to love so much:

All persons born in Puerto Rico on or after April 11, 1899, and prior to January 13, 1941, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, residing on January 13, 1941, in Puerto Rico or other territory over which the United States exercises rights of sovereignty and not citizens of the United States under any other Act, are declared to be citizens of the United States as of January 13, 1941. All persons born in Puerto Rico on or after January 13, 1941, and subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, are citizens of the United States at birth. (June 27, 1952, ch. 477, title III, ch. 1, § 302, 66 Stat. 236.)

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/8/1402

Puerto Ricans don’t have to give up being “Very Latin” to be American.

Libertarian Embraces the Authoritarianism (again…)

Which in principle should be shocking news but we are up to who knows how many entries now in documented cases of supposed libertarians embracing the ideas and principles of the authoritarian right.

This time we have Donald Trump using the rhetoric of the overt racist https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jul/15/donald-trump-congresswomen-republicans-ocasio-cortez-tlaib-pressley-omar demanding that “If you’re not happy here, then you can leave” and “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime[-]infested places from which they came”.

This shouldn’t be a tricky one and it should be a simple matter to see that whatever your political views are (short of overt racism and ethnic nationalism) that a president that demands ideological tests of who gets to live in America is very, very bad news. In this case, attacking undisputedly American citizens as somehow being un-genuine, demonstrates exactly how the rhetoric against “illegals” is the thin of a wedge of political oppression. First strip “foreigners” of their rights and then decide by fiat who is and isn’t a “foreigner”. You shouldn’t even have to like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, or Ilhan Omar or agree with their views to see that this is a very, very dangerous turn for US politics.

If you are a regular reader then you will probably already have guessed which science-fiction writer has jumped in feet first to support Trump’s statement: Sarah Hoyt. Hoyt is an American and an immigrant to America, however she feels her bona-fides are stronger than the above four women because she thinks the right thoughts. She finishes her opening thoughts with “Fit in or Fck off. I’ll help you pack your bags. – SAH

Yup, the message of supposed libertarians and free-speech absolutists in the era of Trump is think-the-right-thoughts-or-leave. Short of literally using the term “thought crime” is couldn’t be a clearer endorsement of authoritarianism.

To be clear, this streak within libertarianism has always been there. The idea that effectively left wing politics should be forbidden from government has always been implied but in the past, they danced around the implications of how they would stop people electing left wing governments. What has been less obvious from the rhetoric but manifest in their practice, is how the sanctity of free speech was something that is used very selectively for the far right. Yes, it is turkeys voting for Christmas but it always has been.

Jordan Peterson’s new version of Gab will have all the same problems as Gab

I’m not sure I have to write a post to accompany the headline as I’ve encapsulated the main point in the headline.

The longer version is this. Jordan Peterson has announced his own social media platform “Thinkspot”

He described that freedom as the “central” aspect saying, “once you’re on our platform we won’t take you down unless we’re ordered to by a US court of law.” That will be a profound contrast to platforms that ban users for “misgendering” people who identify as trans, or for tweeting “learn to code” at fired journalists. The only other major rule on comments he mentioned was that they need to be thoughtful. Rather than suggesting that some opinions are “off limits,” Peterson said they will have a minimum required length so one has to put thought into what they write. “If minimum comment length is 50 words, you’re gonna have to put a little thought into it,” Peterson said. “Even if you’re being a troll, you’ll be a quasi-witty troll.” All comments on the website will have a voting feature “and if your ratio of upvotes to downvotes falls below 50/50 then your comments will be hidden, people will still be able to see them, if they click, but you’ll disappear.”

These are mainly features and claims offered by Gab or seen in other platforms. Gab, of course, descended so rapidly into nothing but Nazis, dodgy-porn, and dodgy pornographic Nazis that Vox Day found himself harassed off the platform by obnoxious Nazi trolls as if trying to embody the concept of “unintended irony”.

Peterson’s platform will have the added advantage over Gab in that there’s no shortage of Nazi-trolls who actively hate Peterson, so they’ll have an added incentive to destroy the platform intentionally in the same way the destroyed Gab unintentionally.

The only unusual feature mentioned is a minimum comment length. That will be very hard to beat I’m sure!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Peterson’s own pitch implies that they won’t ban users for harassment. This pretty much guarantees that people who don’t want to be harassed won’t use it (at least not for long) and the people who want to harass will.

Richard Dawkins saying poorly thought through reactionary things again

Oh dear:

And…

Alternatively we could not do anything like that because it is an appalling idea.

There are at least three levels of confused thinking here. The first is that in the past such attempts to ensure people were sufficiently ‘qualified’ to vote intellectually have been attempts to disenfranchise specific ethnic groups. When coupled with restricted access to education and with the test wittingly and unwittingly full of the biases of the more powerful ethnic group, such tests would be simply a way of creating a kind of apartheid electoral system.

OK, but what if somehow only people who could really understand the issues of the day could vote? Wouldn’t that be better? Isn’t it because of stupid people that we have Trump and Brexit? No or at least not ‘stupid’ as the term is usually used. Voting for Trump or falling for Nigel Farage’s propaganda are certainly daft things to do but a terrible secret of the world is that these are the kinds of ‘stupid’ that otherwise intelligent people do. There are connections between levels of education and political preference but they are neither simple nor straightforward. There is evidence of an ‘educational gradient‘ with how people voted in the UK on Brexit but that gradient does not account for other regional variations (e.g. Scotland). It’s also important to remember that any educational gradient represents people with quite different economic interests as well. Nor was that gradient as smooth as it might sound:

“So, based on the above, the Leave vote was not more popular among the low skilled, but rather among individuals with intermediate levels of education (A-Levels and GSCE high grades), especially when their socio-economic position was perceived to be declining and/or to be stagnant. “

https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/brexit-and-the-squeezed-middle/

Blaming the UK’s current Brexit confusion on stupidity maybe cathartic but it provides zero insight into a way forward. Further it ignores that the architects of the political chaos are products of the reputedly the best education you can get in Britain. Boris Johnson is manifestly a buffoon but he is a buffoon with a good degree in classics from Oxford. The Boris Johnson’s of this world would waltz past Dawkins’s test.

US politics also has a complex relationship with educational attainment. Conservative views peak at mid-ranges of education (e.g. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/09/15/educational-divide-in-vote-preferences-on-track-to-be-wider-than-in-recent-elections/ ) People with college degrees and more advanced higher education are more likely to vote Democrat currently but in the past (e.g. 1990s) this was less so. The growing (indeed, reversed) education divide doesn’t account for differences among ethnic groups or between genders. Other divides (e.g. urban versus rural) may work causally in the other direction (i.e. different economic demands making decisions about higher education a different choice in rural v urban contexts but the underlying politics resting on other urban v rural differences).

Even if we imagine a Dawkins-dystopia in which you had to have a university degree to vote (a much more substantial hurdle than the demands of either the UK or US citizenship tests) the proposal falls into the political fallacy of technocracy as an alternative to democracy. By ‘fallacy’ I don’t mean that competence or technical understanding or evidence-based policy are bad ideas or things we don’t want to see in government but rather that is a reasoning error to judge democracy in principle as a process by which technically competent policy is formed.

Democracy serves to provide consent from the governed to the government. That’s its purpose. It provides a moral and practical basis on which there can be any kind of government that is even vaguely just. Logically, a vote doesn’t determine whether something is true or not (except in trivial cases on questions about ‘what will people vote for’). Consequently, it is always easy to attack democracy by setting it up AS IF that’s what voting is supposed to achieve. A referendum can’t determine what the smartest course of action is but then that’s not what a referendum or an election is supposed to do. Instead asking people to vote is a way of trying to establish broad social agreement on what a country will do.

Without that kind of broad social agreement a country has only two options: disunity or authoritarianism. Restricting the franchise along any axis will lead to overt authoritarianism. Paternalistic ‘benevolent’ authoritarianism is still a system that depends on brutality.

The shorter version: democracy is about consent of the governed not about how smart voters are. The political divides we currently have wouldn’t be solved by a test that high school graduate would pass. A nation in which only college graduates could vote would be a shitty one and politically unstable. Well educated people can and do advance bad ‘stupid’ political ideas. Come to think of it, there’s a great example here: Richard Dawkins is very well educated and here he is putting forward a stupid idea.

Exclusive: New Trump Approved NASA video of Moon/Mars System

We are very lucky to get hold of the latest break through in astronomical science for the Dear Leader and stable genius of the Greater United States. Hitherto, the connection between the Moon and Mars has not been understood by weaker minds but now the complex dynamic of the unitary Moon-Mars system can be shown using this hi-tech computer animation of the current leading thoughts on the matter.

The moon-mars ‘dumbbell’ breakthrough

5G phones, metonyms and fear

Following on from yesterday’s post about nations, governments and how we talk about them, I want to talk about 5G phone networks. “5G” is the term for an upgraded cellular network for mobile phones using higher frequency bands for transmitting data. It’s also the term being used for the standard hype from mobile phone companies who would like you to spend more money.

Just as the advertising recapitulates past campaigns for 3G and 4G capable phones, so to does the pseudoscience recapitulate past campaigns about the dangers of electromagnetic radiation. Fears about radio waves causing illness are not quite as old as anti-vaccine scare campaigns but they have been going on for decades. The fears and claims are the same but shaped to fit the actual changes to the technology e.g. 5G signals using higher frequencies.

How does this connect with yesterday’s post? News stories about the 5G roll-out have touched on the geopolitics of both the Chinese and Russian governments in quite different topics.

The Russia-related story has been the RT news network. RT has been running 5G health scare stories. A recent New York Times article says:

The Russian network RT America aired the segment, titled “A Dangerous ‘Experiment on Humanity,’” in covering what its guest experts call 5G’s dire health threats. U.S. intelligence agencies identified the network as a principal meddler in the 2016 presidential election. Now, it is linking 5G signals to brain cancer, infertility, autism, heart tumors and Alzheimer’s disease — claims that lack scientific support.
Yet even as RT America, the cat’s paw of Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, has been doing its best to stoke the fears of American viewers, Mr. Putin, on Feb. 20, ordered the launch of Russian 5G networks in a tone evoking optimism rather than doom.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/12/science/5g-phone-safety-health-russia.html

The article is interesting and RT manifestly is a source of a huge amount of nonsense and misinformation. However, there are parts of the NYT article that worry me e.g.:

“It’s economic warfare,” Ryan Fox, chief operating officer of New Knowledge, a technology firm that tracks disinformation, said in an interview. “Russia doesn’t have a good 5G play, so it tries to undermine and discredit ours.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/12/science/5g-phone-safety-health-russia.html

On the one hand, RT definitely IS a source of dangerous nonsense targetted at gullible people on the other I find it implausible that RT pushing this specific health scare is some targetted piece of economic warfare. Given the range of nonsense it is pushing out, it would be surprising if they didn’t hit this particular spot. It is an example of the same kind of free floating fear mongering that anybody used to the British tabloid press will be familiar with, what Ben Goldacre described The Daily Mail as having: “an ongoing ontological program to divide all inanimate objects into ones that will either cause or cure cancer.”

Put another way, I can easily believe that RT is being used by Vladimir Putin to general stir-up fear and paranoia but I doubt that there’s specific agendas for each piece of nonsense, particularly when the nonsense long predates RT or Putin’s government. For example here is one such UK tabloid indulging in the same nonsense: https://www.express.co.uk/news/weird/1124956/5g-mobile-phone-4g-cancer-health-risk-conspiracy-theory

Of course, the ever horrible Express has its own long running right wing agenda but if you try and tie each piece of scaremongering to a specific agenda (except when it is obvious) you will end up with a pile of contradictions. The agenda is fear and insecurity in general and the more prosaic motive that alarm sells newspapers (or in RT’s case YouTube hits).

Meanwhile there is a different but still 5G related story about China. The tech companies Huawei and ZTE are now global players in telecommunications. Their prominence has led to fears that these companies might be exploited by the Chinese government to add surveillance features or backdoor routes through security systems in products in other nations.

These concerns led to Australia preventing Huawei’s involvement in 5G infrastructure projects in Australia.

A spokesperson from the Department of Home Affairs told the ABC that while the Government recognised the opportunities 5G networks presented, it was also important to ensure that Australia’s information and communications was protected at all times.
“Following an extensive review, the Australian Government is advising the companies that will build these networks [network operators] that they must ensure the protection of Australia’s interests above all others,” the spokesperson said.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-03-07/why-is-the-uk-seemingly-not-as-worried-about-huawei-as-australia/10866848

The Trump administration has taken an even more draconian line on Huawei: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concerns_over_Chinese_involvement_in_5G_wireless_networks#United_States_allegations_and_responses

I definitely don’t want the Chinese government to be able to spy on my phone data but then again I don’t want the US government to do that either! The tangle of commercial rivalries versus government machinations makes it difficult to take any claim at face value. The US government’s policy is tied up not just with (possibly legitimate) security concerns but also with Trump’s trade war with the Chinese government.

It is noise in multiple senses. It is distracting and it makes finding actual information difficult or impossible. https://www.bbc.com/news/business-46465438