Wednesday 20 October 2021

Cancel Culture, Supposedly

I hear people complaining about being so-called cancelled. Woe is me! Of course, Godwin's Law takes over and now, it's the "Gestapo of Political Correctness" subjugating the masses to make them conform to what those G.D. libtards feel is socially acceptable.

Fine. Then I go look at the complainant and see what's been suppressed. I find racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, along with lies, misinformation, distortion of the facts, conspiracy theories and outright stupidity, coupled with an attitude of anti-education, anti-science, anti-expertise, anti-government, and anti-authority goddamnit, nobody's gonna tell me what to do! Fifty years ago, a nut would stand on a soapbox at a street corner with a megaphone. The potential audience was limited. Today, that same person can get their message out to millions.

We’re back to a fundamental question: We all want freedom, but should anyone be free to falsely yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater?

My Personal Experience with Facebook
I've had my knuckles rapped. On September 21, 2020, I posted the following meme. I believe this clearly indicates my pro-mask, pro-vaccine stance while being critical of those who downplay the severity of this public health crisis.

On September 21, 2021, one year later, I received this notification from Facebook.

Along with the removal of my post, Facebook also punished me by disabling my ability to post for 18 hours.

I forgot to take a screenshot of this, but somewhere was the threat that repeated infractions could lead to me being banned from Facebook.

Am I angry? No. Am I concerned? No. Am I amused? Most definitely. Why? Let's unpack this.


The Social Media Police
The giants, such as Facebook and Twitter have been loath to step in. Think about this. Collectively, we use social media to post our opinions. But then, we collectively became concerned at the outrageousness of the extreme ends of the political spectrum and asked, demanded, and have legislatively coerced these giants to censor these people. In other words, we can't control ourselves; we can't censor ourselves, so we're asking somebody else to step in. We're asking social media to play parent to us as feuding children.

Think about that. Collectively, we can’t police ourselves, so we have to ask somebody else to police us.

But what about that policing? Overzealous? Too tough? Too “politically correct”?

Let’s look at the stats. Facebook has 2.89 billion users. The world’s population currently stands at 7.9 billion. That means 37% of the people on the planet are using Facebook. Holy cow! That’s a lot of users.

Referring back to my above run-in with the Facebook censors, do I think a human being looked at my posting and manually clicked on the button to punish me? Considering my posting had been online with no problems for a year, I assume this is a new rule, but I also think this rule was carried out by an automated routine. Did this routine look at my wording? Did it look at the child trying to stick a knife in a wall socket? How does any of this promote suicide? Did the routine miss my sarcasm?

First off, I repeat that we’re in this mess because collectively, we can’t control ourselves. Secondly, the media giants are faced with an overwhelmingly complex problem of properly identifying and dealing with trouble. How to accurately zero in on what is the cause of the problem? Suicide prevention is a good thing but does my meme have anything to do with promoting suicide?

I worked in I.T. (Information Technology) for 30 years and can say from experience that computers are complex. I mean like really complex. Facebook has an enormous headache in trying to police the world and despite the advances in A.I. (Artificial Intelligence), computers remain stupid, doing only what we tell them to do. It isn’t that easy to instruct a machine to make the distinction between suicide prevention and political satire.

As such, I expect the pendulum is going to swing too far in the other direction, and now that Facebook is trying to take on this policing task, it’s not going to hit a bullseye on the first try. Heck, it may never hit the bullseye. Whether it’s a human being or a computer instructed by a human being, the rules, or the algorithms written to enact those rules, may cast a wide net, ensnaring what some may consider as being the innocent. The final decision may end up in some sort of court, to be decided by some sort of jury. I repeat Facebook is doing this because collectively, we couldn’t police ourselves, and we asked them to do this.

In the past few years, I’ve been startled, surprised, and shocked to discover that the level of intelligence and knowledge of your average citizen is, at times, appalling. I’ve heard people state that they believe such and such without a shred of evidence, never mind that such and such at first glance is patently absurd. To paraphrase: Never have so many said so much while knowing so little.

High-ranking Democratic Party officials, including Hillary Clinton and John Podesta, were involved in human trafficking, running a child-sex ring in the basement of a pizzeria.
-Pizzagate, 2016

This was absolutely insane, but this is but one example of the craziness being passed around the Internet. While I believe there are mischief makers making up sh*t because they get a kick out of stirring the pot, I also believe there is a significant segment of the population that is ignorant, myopic, and ripe to be led off on a wild goose chase. Armed with a laptop, an Internet connection, and Google search, all of a sudden, your average Joe has turned into a world-class sleuth tracking down “the truth” in quotations marks. While I’m sure there are bad things that go on in the world, government corruption, exploitation of the masses by big pharma, corporate tax fraud, etc., I do not believe there is some sort of illuminati who sit in a conference room around a board table, plotting on taking over the world. This idea has been floating around for centuries and considering they still haven’t taken over I have to assume these so-called illuminati must be pretty incompetent.

Cartoon by Jon Adams, The New Yorker
(I apologise. I do not have permission to repost this, but it is too good to pass up.)

How does the world work? Nobody knows so we make stuff up. We invent gods or the God. We invent unprovable explanations because we lack the science to properly describe things. And if none of that works, we invent conspiracy theories: Somebody has to be in control, pulling the strings; none of this could happen by chance.

Stochastic Terrorism
t**** is guilty of inciting the insurrection of January 6, 2021. Period. Full stop. Fox News is complicit, including Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and Jeanine Pirro. Other far-right personalities such as Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, and Ben Shapiro to name a few also contributed.

What is stochastic terrorism? In a nutshell, somebody makes inflammatory statements in the hopes of stirring somebody, anybody up enough to commit an act of violence. I heard t****'s speech. I saw him watching the TV afterward. He truly hoped the crowd would successfully storm the capital and take over so he could slip in and declare himself their leader.

The Pandemic
At the beginning of the pandemic, I watched Sean Hannity and other right-wing media personalities echo t*** by saying that every year, the flu kills thirty thousand people in the United States, while; the coronavirus had only killed five thousand people, so no big deal. All of these so-called pundits forgot to annualize the numbers. Take five thousand, multiple it by 52 weeks, and you end up with 260,000. Is that number large enough for ya? By the end of the first year, Covid-19 had killed a half a million people in the United States.

As of this writing, so many on the right are refusing the vaccines but some are promoting ivermectin, a medicine for treating parasites. Anti-maskers are incensed at their freedom being taken away but know nothing about respiratory droplets and the airborne transmission of infectious diseases.

No Big Deal
The Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 saw 50 million killed worldwide with 675,000 in the United States. Today’s pandemic has almost five million killed worldwide but with a far greater population. Adjusting for population, the comparable number of deaths for the United States would be over two million so we can argue that today’s pandemic is far less virulent than the pandemic of 1918. I’ve heard people use this point to argue for less stringent measures: no masks, mandatory vaccination requirements are government overreach, etc. I have to make note of one important point:

Those who say today’s pandemic is no big deal are alive.

I believe it pays to be prudent. I think it’s better to err on the side of caution. According to the latest headlines, covid deaths are rare among the vaccinated, and nearly all deaths in the United States are unvaccinated.

In February 2021, The Lancet Commission, tasked with assessing the health policy record of t****, stated that 40% of the deaths from Covid-19 could have been averted if rates had corresponded to those of other high-income G7 countries, the equivalent of almost three hundred thousand people. (The Guardian)

I can write that, and you can read it because we’re alive.

Social Media Filters
As I said, we can’t control ourselves, so we have to rely on someone else to control us. Whether Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc., are the tech giants going to get their filters correct? Let's add on top of the technical challenges that what should be censored is subjective.

I've been mulling over this article for some time but was finally prompted to write while reading an article by a blogger who reported being censured by Google. In talking about the pandemic, this blogger, who seems to take exception to the current vaccines as not being fully vetted and their mandated application, stated that WHO, the World Health Organization was putting out propaganda. He used the word propaganda which refers to biased or misleading information. Do I see a pattern? The Right, such as Fox News and cohorts, prone to the psychological condition of projection, constantly sends out the message that the Left is spreading “propaganda” while, in fact, the Left is putting out a message based on accepted “science”. Example: Dr. Fauci and the CDC promote vaccines while Fox News discusses ivermectin. I can see Google attempting to use the word “propaganda” as a flag for those trying to discredit a legitimate organisation such as the World Health Organisation. Is Google always going to get this right? Probably not. But we did ask them to do this.

Final Word
I've heard it said that despite the technological advances, humanity has not progressed spiritually. We have unprecedented access to information but remain as dumber than ever. We have the means of speaking to world, but as testimony to the Dunning-Kruger effect, we completely overestimate our understanding of the situation.

As I said, we can't control ourselves, so we're now asking social media to control us, a formidable task fraught with difficulties such as overreach. With 37% of the world population as its users, Facebook would ban little ol' me and not give it a second thought.

How big of a task is it to police 2.89 billion users? In a recent episode of Last Week Tonight, the host John Oliver pointed out that Facebook’s attempts at filtering out unacceptable material appears to be solely concentrated on the English language. Oliver showed a Vietnamese radio personality as crazy as Alex Jones whose message goes out unfiltered on social media. On top of it, Facebook is merely one of several communication platforms where individuals blindly pass around postings with no checks and balances. Pizzagate? Heck, say anything you want. Who’s going to prove you wrong?

As the old saying goes: “Perception is everything” or “Perception is reality.” We make jokes about people thinking the world is flat; the joke being is that we all know it’s not flat. And yet, there are a lot of people believing stuff which easily doesn’t pass the smell test, and we somehow accept this as all right.

I return to my initial statement: Should anyone have the right to falsely yell fire in a crowded theater? Of course, the debate is now on as to whether “falsely” is correct or not.

With rights, come responsibilities.

I repeat: Anyone who is anti-mask and anti-vaccine does not understand respiratory droplets and how they contribute to the airborne transmission of infectious diseases. Or, like the smoker who rejects the scientific evidence of the link between smoking and lung cancer, their own personal view is more important than the good of the community. They are so focused on their freedom; they do not respect my freedom. Like a smoker who smokes in front of me and makes me inhale second-hand smoke, an anti-mask and anti-vaccine person doesn’t care if they risk my life. Like the smoker who says smoking is not a health risk, the anti-masker is saying the coronavirus is a hoax or at least, an overblown issue. It pays to be prudent. It is better to err on the side of caution. You have the right to smoke but you have the responsibility to not smoke in public. You have the right to not wear a mask and not be vaccinated, but you have the responsibility to follow the rules where masks and vaccinations are required. You have the right to jeopardize your life, but you have the responsibility to not jeopardize mine.


Posted by Moveclips, Jan 18, 2015
YouTube: The Day the Earth Stood Still (4/5) Movie CLIP - Klaatu's Speech (1951) (2:37)

Klaatu: I am leaving soon, and you will forgive me if I speak bluntly. The universe grows smaller every day, and the threat of aggression by any group, anywhere, can no longer be tolerated. There must be security for all or no one is secure. Now, this does not mean giving up any freedom except the freedom to act irresponsibly. Your ancestors knew this when they made laws to govern themselves and hired policemen to enforce them. We of the other planets have long accepted this principle. We have an organization for the mutual protection of all planets and for the complete elimination of aggression. The test of any such higher authority is, of course, the police force that supports it. For our policemen, we created a race of robots. Their function is to patrol the planets—in space ships like this one—and preserve the peace. In matters of aggression, we have given them absolute power over us; this power can not be revoked. At the first sign of violence, they act automatically against the aggressor. The penalty for provoking their action is too terrible to risk. The result is that we live in peace, without arms or armies, secure in the knowledge that we are free from aggression and war—free to pursue more pro?table enterprises. Now, we do not pretend to have achieved perfection, but we do have a system, and it works. I came here to give you these facts. It is no concern of ours how you run your own planet. But if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder. Your choice is simple: Join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We shall be waiting for your answer; the decision rests with you.


Wikipedia: Shouting fire in a crowded theater
"Shouting fire in a crowded theater" is a popular analogy for speech or actions made for the principal purpose of creating panic. The phrase is a paraphrasing of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.'s opinion in the United States Supreme Court case Schenck v. United States in 1919, which held that the defendant's speech in opposition to the draft during World War I was not protected free speech under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The case was later partially overturned by Brandenburg v. Ohio in 1969, which limited the scope of banned speech to that which would be directed to and likely to incite imminent lawless action (e.g. a riot).

The paraphrasing differs from Holmes's original wording in that it typically does not include the word falsely, while also adding the word "crowded" to describe the theatre. The original wording used in Holmes's opinion ("falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic") highlights that speech that is dangerous and false is not protected, as opposed to speech that is dangerous but also true.

Wikipedia: Stochastic Terrorism
The first mention of the term "stochastic terrorism" appears to be in a 2002 article written by Gordon Woo entitled "Quantitative Terrorism Risk Assessment" in the Journal of Risk Finance.[36] The term is used to suggest that a quantifiable relationship may exist between seemingly random acts of terror and their intended goal of "perpetuating a reign of fear" via a manipulation of mass media and its capacity for "instant global news communication".

Wikipedia: Cancel culture
Cancel culture or call-out culture is a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles – whether it be online, on social media, or in person. Those subject to this ostracism are said to have been "cancelled". The expression "cancel culture" has mostly negative connotations and is used in debates on free speech and censorship.

my blog: Masks: How we hate change - Sep 28/2021
To mask or not to mask, that should not be a question.

my blog: The Enemy Is Us - June 15/2019
We are our own worst enemy.


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1 comment:

randallcrawford said...

Well-executed unpacking of that claim of "Cancelled".
I'll remember this if anyone has the audacity to claim victimhood given
those fundamental flaws. Your header "No Big Deal" reminds me of my youngest brother,
he sported that phrase on a bug deflector on his monster truck. He unfortunately
lived 8 years in NC, where he adopted a redneck personal, and had he lived to see T**** come to power, he would have been an ardent supporter and a conspiracy theorist inspired by hanity no doubt.