Althouse | category: Twitter



an endless succession of beans and nuts.

"[I]f we were able to more-or-less end teenage cigarette smoking over the last 20 years, it shouldn’t be out of the question to try to do the same with social-media use."

Says Bret Stephens, a NYT conservative columnist, in conversation with Gail Collins, a NYT liberaI columnist. 

Collins agrees and says she's "happy to insist" that Apple prevent the download of social-media apps to phones known to be used by teenagers.

Stephens asserts that "most teenagers" would "welcome" this exclusion from social media.
It’s hard enough being 14 or 15 without needing to panic about some embarrassing Instagram pic or discovering too late that something stupid or awful you wrote on Facebook or Twitter at 16 comes back to haunt you at 20.... We owe it to the kids to shield them from creating public records of their own indiscretions and idiocies. Life will come roaring at them soon enough. I say no social media till they’re old enough to vote, smoke and maybe even buy a drink. Full-frontal stupidity should be left to the grown-ups — like us!

You can see he thinks he's cute... just delightful. So blithely depriving teenagers of freedom of speech. Not even a word about freedom, just safety and protection, and no insight whatsoever into what you are teaching young people these days or awareness of what they will think of you and your repression of them and the values you crudely imposed.

Speaking of wearing blinders... in another part of this rambling but short conversation, they talk about the accomplishments of Jimmy Carter, and Stephens says, "Made air travel affordable to middle-class America for the first time," then barrels on to the next subject. I know this column is supposed to be jaunty, moving swiftly from one topic to the next, but it made me stop and think of the topic the good-thinkers always think about except when they don't: Global warming.

Isn't Jimmy Carter a major villain in the story of anthropogenic climate change? 

Matt Taibbi talks to Joe Rogan about the Twitter Files.

It's all interesting, but let me highlight the part that begins around 10 minutes in, when Taibbi explains Twitter's "glorification of violence" policy, which he says is "the speech version of stochastic terrorism":
Stochastic terrorism is... this idea that you can incite people to violence by saying things that are not specifically inciting but are statistically likely to create somebody who will do something violent even if it's not individually predictable. 
That's what they did with Trump. They basically invented this concept that yes, he may not have actually incited violence, but the whole totality of his persona is inciting, so we're going to strike him. So they sort of massively expanded the purview of things they can censor, just in that one moment.

In The Twitter Files, people, in real time, devising this policy and deciding that it's the right idea. 

There was an article in Scientific American last November about stochastic terrorism: "How Stochastic Terrorism Uses Disgust to Incite Violence/Pundits are weaponizing disgust to fuel violence, and it’s affecting our humanity." That's by Bryn Nelson. 

Why have I never noticed this term before? From the Scientific American article:

Dehumanizing and vilifying a person or group of people can provoke what scholars and law enforcement officials call stochastic terrorism, in which ideologically driven hate speech increases the likelihood that people will violently and unpredictably attack the targets of vicious claims.... 

Propagandists have fomented disgust to dehumanize Jewish people as vermin; Black people as subhuman apes; Indigenous people as “savages”; immigrants as “animals” unworthy of protection; and members of the LGBTQ community as sexual deviants and “predators” who prey upon children.... 

People who are trying to outlaw gender-affirming care for transgender kids and purge pro-gay books from library shelves have stirred up disgust by invoking the specter of sexual “grooming”; others have made the same accusations against those speaking out against such legislative efforts, and some have used the idea to fuel disinformation about the cause of scattered pediatric monkeypox cases. The manufactured grooming mythology has spurred another round of moral disgust and outrage.... 

Researchers have estimated that transgender people are more than fourfold more likely to be the victims of violent crime than their cisgender counterparts, and while not a direct link to violence, other scientists have linked disgust sensitivity and authoritarianism to a higher opposition to transgender rights.....  

So if your criticism of something you don't like elicits disgust, you can, in fairly short order, be accused of inciting violence. I certainly have been seeing this form of reasoning, which, as Taibbi said, "massively expand[s] the purview of things [some people believe] they can censor." It's so threatening to free speech values, especially when biased censors are deciding which speech fomented the disgust they find... disgusting.  

Here's Christopher Rufo's response to the Scientific American article: "The 'Stochastic Terror' Lie/The Left’s latest gambit for suppressing speech is built on preposterous grounds." 

What does the word "stochastic" mean? OED: "Randomly determined; that follows some random probability distribution or pattern, so that its behaviour may be analysed statistically but not predicted precisely."

The idea of "stochastic terrorism" seems designed to blame someone as a leader of a group when there is no group. And the "leader" is a speaker who has only stimulated the beliefs and emotions that may cause some listeners to decide individually and on their own to take action.  

I don't like seeing Elon Musk flaunting this kind of hostility.

I don't like seeing Elon Musk flaunting this kind of hostility.

ADDED: Musk's tweeting this is ambiguous. He could mean I am this person. But he could mean Guys like this are pathetic and dangerous. Presumably, he intends the ambiguity. And the simplest interpretation is that he wants us to heat up Twitter with debate about what the hell this means. 

"The lightest batting-away of videos you don’t like in favor of ones you do goes on to influence the algorithm’s future range of offerings..."

"... in a way seemingly more sophisticated than the rudimentary logic of, say, YouTube rabbit holes. This has delivered a decisive blow to the centralized feeds of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al.... The days of manually choosing whom to follow and what Netflix genres you’re interested in will be rendered quaint; soon we’ll simply be escorted down the internet burrow supposedly of our choice, and quite happily so. The rapid deterioration of Twitter under Elon Musk’s ownership signals the incoming death of at least one centralized feed, particularly when no one can agree on a worthy alternative.... There’s a part of us that senses all of this and is seeking a less fleeting connection elsewhere. We reach for one another in Discord servers, shady Close Friends allusions, invite-only newsletters, and meme accounts...."

Writes Delia Cai in "The Year TikTok Made the Multiverse Real (And Murdered the Newsfeed in the Process)/As TikTok and its cunningly customized rabbit holes subsume culture, the rest of the internet will splinter further into algorithmic isolation" (Variety).

Upstairs to downstairs texting at Meadhouse.

Upstairs to downstairs texting at Meadhouse. 

I need to contextualize that last remark. It all goes back to something I reminisced about and blogged in 2014:

The phrase "jacking up" normally goes with opposition to taxes, so it's a humorous flip to use it when you're actually in favor of more taxes. I'll never forget the time, back in 2010, when we watched the Obama rally from the TV set up on the Union Terrace, in a big enthusiastic crowd of mostly students. I wished I'd caught this one guy on video. Upon some mention of taxes, he stood up facing the crowd and yelled "Taxes?! I say jack 'em up!!!" He did this with a big, clownish, full-body gesture that ended with arms aloft and thumbs up. Meade and I have been imitating that guy for years. For the drunk-on-beer/drunk-on-Obama Terrace crowd, maybe it all seemed like a dream or a joke. Need money? Get money! Jack 'em up!

"It is not clear what is more chilling: the menacing role played by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Twitter’s censorship program..."

"... or its mendacious response to the disclosure of that role. This week saw another FBI 'nothing-to-see-here' statement to the release of files detailing how it actively sought to suppress the Hunter Biden story before the 2020 election, gave millions to Twitter, and targeted even satire or tiny posts that did not conform with its guidelines. The releases document what some of us have long alleged: a system of censorship by surrogate or proxy. The FBI has largely shrugged and said that there is nothing concerning about over 80 agents working on the censoring of posters, including many American citizens...."

Writes Jonathan Turley.

"'The men and women of the FBI work every day to protect the American public. It is unfortunate that conspiracy theorists and others are feeding the American public misinformation with the sole purpose of attempting to discredit the agency.' What is striking about this statement is that the FBI is now adopting the language of pundits on the left that any objections to its role in censorship is a 'conspiracy theory.' Rather than acknowledge the concerns and pledge to work with Congress to guarantee transparency, it is attacking free speech advocates who are raising the concern that Twitter had become an agent of the government in censorship."

Matt Taibbi talks to Joe Rogan about the Twitter Files.I don't like seeing Elon Musk flaunting this kind of hostility. "Jesus Christ is Alive"... trending on Twitter.Upstairs to downstairs texting at Meadhouse.

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