Quarantine: Day 54

It’s been close to two months since the quarantine started. I can no longer stand upright without the use of crutches. I weigh 87 pounds currently. I look like a much handsomer version of Christian Bale in The Machinist.

Not too much has changed since the last post. Things are still boring. I’m still spending way too much time on the internet. I’m also actually missing work for the first time in my entire life.

Perhaps one of the most interesting factors of this pandemic, is how much blatant over-reach certain authorities are exercising. When people have been whipped up into a high enough state of fear, they tend to relax their morals and let authoritarianism creep into their lives. They become more inclined to give up their freedoms for some minuscule sense of security.

We’re inching ever closer to that dystopian form of government wherein authorities use facial-recognition software to single out the “bad apples” and keep people in line. Similar systems are currently employed in China, tied into their glorious social credit score system:

Police forces in numerous countries are currently using drones to check up on people, even going so far as to peep into people’s backyards to make sure the lower classes aren’t gathering in groups. How very 1984:

These authoritarians often create and impose rules on others that they themselves refuse to abide by. The examples from the last month alone would be enough to fill an entire post, so here are two that happened to revolve around personal grooming:

It also turns out that most first world countries handled Covid19 about as incompetently as humanly possible, with very few places having actually taken effective measures. One such place was Taiwan. The same Taiwan whom the World Health Organization decided to actively ignore back in December. Taiwan then proceed to actively ignore the WHO and do things their own way. Here is an explanation as to why Taiwan barely had to employ much of a lockdown and is currently living life normally:

The WHO didn’t take Covid19 very seriously until March 11th, as outlined in my last post. They actively warned against travel bans and consistently downplayed the virus at first. Taiwan ignored all this advice and started treating this like a serious outbreak since the beginning of February. Part of their reasoning had to do with being hit so hard by SARS 15 years ago. They didn’t want to make the same mistakes, so they were extra cautious, and it paid off.

It’s also important to keep in mind that most Asian countries already have a culture of wearing masks in public. Masks work, so these countries already had a layer of protection in effect from the beginning. Meanwhile the “health experts” were providing this information elsewhere:

Who knows how many lives would have been saved if: a) we had an adequate stockpile of mask beforehand, and b) the above misinformation hadn’t been so widespread. Hopefully these mistakes aren’t made again, and more countries are properly prepared the next time this happens.

Finally, before I head out, here is China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Information Department™ calling Covid19 the Wuhan virus, only to start railing against the term a month later:

This change of heart lines up conveniently with the time Mr Zhao starts to push a theory that the coronavirus was brought to China via the U.S. military. The CCP narrative changed from “this is our fault” to “this is their fault”, so he starts using the WHO as a shield to deflect any criticism of the CCP on social media. It’s quite the clever tactic.

Despite the impressive title, this account is seemingly just a means of propaganda propagation. It’s to give the optics that China has an open representative on twitter. The funny thing about this, is that twitter is blocked in China, as are most non-Chinese social media sites (they use Weibo). The CCP doesn’t want its citizens using any platform that it doesn’t have ultimate control over the information on. The average Chinese citizen isn’t seeing anything this guy posts. He’s employed by the CCP to broadcast on China’s behalf on non-Chinese social media.

For all the talk of Russian meddling, and constant accusations from blue state boomers about people being “bots”, I have yet to see any suspicious Russian accounts on twitter. Ever. I’ve definitely looked. Perhaps I need to look harder. Meanwhile, it’s amazing how many accounts like this there are on twitter:

“Kate Carter” here is responding to Mr Zhao’s post about the U.S. Military bringing Covid19 to Wuhan. She also just so happens to “Love Chinese Fantastic Government System”. Seems like a totally legit, organically-created twitter account. It makes me wonder if there are U.S. government officials on Weibo with handles like 中国是最好的 actively spreading American propaganda. There probably are. I’d go looking for some, but Weibo is kind of a nightmare to navigate.

Quarantine: Day 40

It’s been almost six weeks now. I haven’t seen the sunlight in over a month. Does the sun still exist? Can the sun catch corona virus? I hope the sun is alright.

My muscles are starting to atrophy and I can no longer lift anything heavier than 10 pounds. I’ve been subsisting off a diet of nothing but tap water and chicken flavored ramen. My data usage this month was 85 terabytes.

There’s now speculation that the virus may have had something to do with the infectious diseases laboratory that is about 9 miles away from the wet market it was originally reported that covid19 originated from.

There are hundreds of wet markets all over China, but only 2 biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) labs there. A BSL-4 laboratory is where aerosol-transmitted agents and diseases with no current vaccines are studied. The Wuhan lab had even been isolating bat coronavirus sequences since 2005. Yet the narrative persisted until now that a random bat being eaten by a random person in a random market right down the road from a coronavirus lab was ground zero for this pandemic. This could just be a coincidence, but it’s a phenomenal coincidence if it’s in fact a coincidence.

Of course, any mention of this laboratory is being brushed off as a “conspiracy theory” by the USA=bad types, like this unhinged weirdo:

It’s also just a theory that the virus came from someone eating a bat. There is another theory that the virus came to China from the US, via soldiers participating in the 2019 Military World Games, which were held in: *drum roll, please* Wuhan! They’re all currently just theories because nobody is 100% certain where the origin was.

Ironically, Ben’s entire post is a conspiracy theory. Ben here thinks that anyone being critical or accusatory of China’s government is merely a bad actor, attempting to bolster an inevitable upcoming war against said country. His twitter feed is full of this conspiratorial nonsense.

Ben is one of those kids who read the Communist Manifesto when he was 15, and now just resorts to calling everyone he disagrees with a “neoliberal” or “imperialist”. If you do a search for these buzzwords or variants on his account, half his post history shows up. It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. He can’t comprehend that you can be critical of China, while also being critical of the US. His entire world view is dictated by the US always needing to be the worst by any given metric.

People like this have their reasoning so clouded by this creepy indoctrination that they miss crucial details. Details such as Trump having dozens of tweets like this on his twitter account:

It doesn’t seem like Trump is in a hurry to go to war with China any time soon. The guy practically has a closer relationship to Xi than he does with his own wife. It’s actually a little creepy.

There are also a lot of people attempting to shoot down the Wuhan Institute of Virology centered theory by pointing to this information:

This information merely verifies that the fringe who are pushing the theory about this being a biological weapon are wrong. The virus was not engineered, but is naturally occurring. Naturally occurring coronaviruses are held in that laboratory, and are capable of jumping from animal to human in such an environment as well.

This theory doesn’t need to be predicated on malicious intent. Someone at the lab could have simply messed up in some manner. Mishaps at laboratories happen with surprising regularity. The U.S has had a few incidents involving the mishandling of Anthrax at various labs over the last decade. The Wuhan lab in question also has a bit of a reputation:

To recap so far, there’s a biosafety lab in Wuhan that contained coronaviruses. It had a history of safety and containment issues. The Chinese government declared very early on, seemingly without proof that the virus came from a market 9 miles down the road. A large swath of US media has continued to regurgitate that narrative as fact, even though it too is still a theory.

In a bit of positive news, China looks to have temporarily put a halt on most of its wildlife markets. According to CNN: “Since the virus hit in December,almost 20,000 wildlife farms across seven Chinese provinces have been shut down or put under quarantine…”. However, wet markets were apparently banned in 2003 after the SARS outbreak, and poultry was banned from wet markets after the bird flu. These bans seem to have only lasted a short while after these outbreaks though. We’ll have to wait and see if the current bans actually come with any permanent change or not.

In related news, Trump seems to be hellbent on defunding the World Health Organization:

This is probably a dumb idea. We’re currently still in the middle of a pandemic and the WHO serves some sort of function, even though I’m not exactly sure what that function is. This is evidently a common sentiment, as there are 83 articles titled “What Does The WHO Do” on the internet. Having read a few, I’m still not entirely sure what exactly the WHO does.

Regardless, they do something, and perhaps it’s best to let them do whatever it is that they do until the pandemic passes. Then we can delve into issues of funding and accountability. If the WHO is guilty of some fault, we can probably worry about that down the line.

Evidently the issue here is that the WHO was selectively disregarding information about the virus, based on where it was coming from:

They then proceeded to release inaccurate data coming from potentially dubious sources:

It’s also important to keep in mind that this was the official consensus as of March 3rd, when the following was posted on the WHO’s website:

Covid-19 is both more contagious than the seasonal flu, and is absolutely driven by people who show no symptoms. Eight days after this post, on March 11th, the WHO declared covid-19 a pandemic. Given that the above paragraph was the official data as of 6 weeks ago, it makes sense that perhaps this thing wasn’t taken as seriously as it should have been by governors, journalists, and even Captain Trump.

March 11th is when the pandemic became official via the WHO. It was around this time that the shift from “it’s just the flu” to “this is serious” started to take hold in the media and in governments.

Trump pulled this about face in a mere 9 days:

To be fair, practically everybody pulled this about face around the same time. All the New York politicians from my previous post didn’t take the virus seriously until some time on or after March 11th. The mayor of London didn’t take it seriously until then. Vox, The Washington Post, and The New York Times didn’t take it seriously until then. At that point, the consensus was to start taking it seriously and start pointing fingers of blame. That blame more than likely lies with either the CCP or the WHO. Maybe we’ll find out in the next chapter.

Quarantine: Day 32

It’s day 32 of the Covid-19 social distancing extravaganza. I’m spending way too much time on the internet and potentially developing vitamin-D deficiency. I could just go outside I guess, but that would require leaving my room, so I’ll just deal with the loss of bone density and headaches for now.

Word on the street is the quarantine could end up lasting through the end of April, though I’m already hearing whispers of an extension through May. The first week or two were alright. It felt like being in school again, and having a long break because of a bad snow storm. Now it’s just starting to feel like being on house arrest, but without the ankle monitor and cool story to tell all my friends.

Amazon’s infrastructure obviously wasn’t designed to handle this many people stuck at home, ordering crap online. It used to take about two days to get a delivery in my area, and now it’s taking a week to 10 days on average to get my orders. I don’t think I can go on waiting 10 days every time I want to eat a box of Cookie Crisp™ cereal. This is truly a dystopian nightmare. It’s like I’m living in one of those Blade Runner movies or something.

The virus allegedly originated from someone eating a bat from an animal market in Wuhan. This is like the 19th pandemic that has originated from a bat and/or rat being eaten, so maybe those animals should be crossed off the “Animals to Eat” list for the sake of humanity. Or perhaps some kind of meal preparation regulation should be put in place to prevent pandemics from springing up every 5-10 years without fail. China is the world’s second largest economy. Surely they could form some equivalent of the FDA and institute a standard or two.

Trump initially downplayed the severity of the virus stating that he had things under control:

Currently, the Orange Man Bad brigade are using these tweets to dunk on Trumpy, but they’re somewhat predictably ignoring the fact that these sentiments were quite common among major media outlets and other government officials at the time as well:

Here’s Vox initially downplaying the severity of the virus, before doing damage control and deleting all the offending tweets as Vox often does:

Next up is the Washington Post. Here they are, first downplaying the virus, then pivoting to calling people who downplay the virus “hoaxers”. The journalistic integrity is astounding. *chef’s kiss hand motion*

Here’s the New York Times employing the “it’s racist to enact a travel ban from a Country with a deadly pandemic” approach. Brilliant.

Plenty of credible sources were saying it wasn’t safe to have open travel with China at the time, the CDC and State Department included. This didn’t stop members of our esteemed journalist community from continuously denying this fact. In hindsight, they were more than likely just parroting the World Health Organization’s completely incorrect appraisal.

Here they are early on, spreading false information because they somehow didn’t get the memo that China’s government is corrupt and generally shouldn’t be trusted:

It seems like only a few months ago that China came under fire for both their human rights violations against citizens of Hong Kong, and for that whole rounding up Uyghurs and throwing them in concentration camps thing. But yes, let’s take their government’s word without question.

As of this writing, New York is closing in on almost 200k confirmed Covid19 cases and 9000 deaths. Let’s have a look as to why that might be the case:

Oh, wow. That’s NYC’s health commissioner and the chair of the health committee brazenly suggesting that people mingle about in large crowds during a pandemic. That doesn’t seem very responsible. It was still early February however, so it’s not nearly as bad as these two:

Wait a minute. That’s New York’s gosh darn mayor and his habitually problematic school chancellor. Both of these goofballs were putting people in harm’s way a month ago. New York really needs to do a better job of who it’s electing into office.

It wasn’t only US elected officials who failed their constituents. Here’s London’s mayor pulling a whoopsie:

Whoopsie! And here we have the mayor of Florence attempting to tackle a dangerous statistical reality with hopes, dreams and unicorn farts:

As of this writing, Italy has over 15,000 confirmed deaths. Bravissimo! Maybe next time don’t advocated for hugging strangers during a pandemic there, Mayor meatballs.

Perhaps the greatest irony here, is that while all these officials were seemingly outright denying the reality of China being ground zero in this pandemic, China was a mere month away from doing this:

China’s government has done nothing but lie and divert responsibility over the last 3 months. Now they’re pushing the narrative that the virus came from outside of China, and blaming foreigners. Meanwhile, the U.S. media can’t seem to bootlick enough, even going so far as to write screeds chastizing people calling Covid19 the “Wuhan Virus”. That’s literally where it originated. You’re doing P.R. for China’s corrupt government, and helping them divert responsibility. Congrats on being mediocre.

We’re still lacking in masks and medical equipment, but hey, maybe we should continue to rely on China for quality goods:

Who could have seen that coming? Apparently, while China was lying about the severity of the virus and the numbers affected, they were also busy buying up supplies from other countries. Now those countries desperately need supplies and China is showing that it only looks out for number one.

Who knows how many countries this was taking place in, or just how many plane-fulls of supplies were shipped into China. I’m sure we’ll find out in the coming weeks. Keep in mind, China is still only claiming 3000 deaths from this virus. I’m sure we’ll find out how many zeroes they omitted from that number in the coming weeks as well.

Before I head out, here’s Trump seemingly celebrating the fact that we’re making history with how bad this pandemic is, but still winning, whatever that entails. So uh… sleep tight I guess?

Charity, Envy, and Entitlement

The continent of Australia is currently on fire. Let us not get into the “why” at present time, though I’ll probably write a piece about that in the future as well. It’ll be a harrowing tale involving the prevalent pandemic of cult-like political narratives, and how this regularly clashes with actual concrete scientific data, statistics, and reality. Stay tuned.

So multiple big-ass fires have occurred. Thankfully, people start donating their time and labor to the cause. That’s a very nice thing for humanity to do. But, if you’re going to be charitable, make sure you’re charitable enough. Otherwise, the most entitled cult of human beings on the planet might decide to direct their ire at you.

You see, we live in a dark era, where envy and entitlement have become the cornerstone of certain people’s identities. These types will no doubt deny this assertion, but actions dictate the adjectives that describe an individual, and not their own feelings towards those very words.

In the days following this fire, people started to give to charities and word of these donations spread across social media. Then Jeff Bezos decided to donate.

Jeff donated to a good cause, but made the fatal mistake of not donating “enough”. So of course this caused a torrent of backlash from the self-righteous gatekeepers of charitable donations on social media.

What a well-adjusted, virtuous individual. Feeling entitled to someone else’s money for donations really makes you look like the good guy in this exchange, Hipster McChewingGumFlavor.

Here is a nugget of wisdom from a generic cat avatar twitter user. Brilliant use of punctuation and capitalization. She also doesn’t seem to understand the concept of “net worth”, which isn’t terribly surprising. Net worth and money sitting in a bank account are two very different things. Unless she’s implying Bezos should sell off Amazon or his other business holdings to donate to charity, which I highly doubt.

Someone else who doesn’t understand how net worth works. What a shocker. And apparently $700k wasn’t enough of a donation, but one million dollars would have been sufficient for little miss entitlement here. I also appreciate the irony of someone who doesn’t donate calling someone else who does “greedy” for not donating enough. The absolute lack of self-awareness is magnificent.

She’s perfectly fine with wealthy people as long as they give money to her though. I’m sure when she has all that money, she’ll start donating it to people who need it more. I’m also sure I’m the queen of England.

This is the problem with these types of people. They want to live their own lives doing absolutely nothing to help out anyone else, but retain the right to constantly bitch about other people not doing enough. They want the special privilege of not being held to the same standards they hold others to. They are entitled by definition.

This would be like a group of friends having a potluck, only to have one “friend” show up empty handed, while having the gall to shame the others for not bring more. This entitled freeloader would rightly be regarded as the shitty person among the group, yet this kind of behavior is excused or outright celebrated on social media, and it’s gross.

Luckily this entitlement is called out to some degree:

Nailed it. Great job, sir.

Exactly. Call out that entitlement, king.

Sure it’s a bummer Jeff Bezos didn’t donate more. But it’s simultaneously a bummer that other people absolutely refuse to donate to anything, ever. Those who never donate, yet complain about others not doing enough are objectively the worst kind of people. They rarely get called out for this though, and are given carte blanche to throw around every sorry excuse in the book as to why even a dollar is too much for them. Every little bit legitimately helps. Stop being an entitled leech.

Donate below to help save some kolas, and perhaps even some wallabies:


Sacha Baron Cohen’s Descent Into Sarah Silverman

On Thursday night, Sacha Baron Cohen, known for his movie roles Ali G, Borat, and that French guy from Talladega Nights delivered a speech at the Anti-Defamation League summit. The speech was essentially about keeping hate, bigotry, and intolerance off social media. A noble cause indeed, but also an extremely dangerous one, as it teeters on that increasingly thin line between social justice, and authoritarian censorship.

In this speech he speaks of the dangers of unregulated free speech on social media, even going so far as to make the hyperbolic statement: “all this hate and violence is being facilitated by a handful of internet companies that amount to the greatest propaganda machine in history.” He goes on to specifically point the finger at the fact that Alex Jones and Breitbart are allowed to have a platform as proof of this “propaganda”. Never mind the fact that Alex Jones has literally been banned off every major social media platform, including Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Let’s not let inconvenient facts get in the way of our virtuous speech about banning things.

He somewhat predictably never mentions any sources of propaganda, outside of the two common low-hanging fruits of the right-wing, which somewhat hurts the sincerity of his message. It’s not terribly hard to find examples of propaganda on both sides of the aisle, unless of course you’re of the delusional mindset that propaganda only exists on the “other side”, which might in fact be the case with Mr Baron Cohen.

For example, It was a mere 4 days ago that the United Nations released a report claiming that the US currently has 100,000 kids in detention centers. As it turns out, this figure was actually from 2015, and that number is much lower currently. The UN is an absolute clown car of incompetency, so this gaffe shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. This is the same UN that recently gave Venezuela a seat on their Human Rights Council. The very same Venezuela whose government is currently involved in the routine torture and execution of its own citizens via death squads. Good job, the United Nations.

Regardless, numerous news agencies decided to parrot this statistic from a traditionally dubious source, including Reuters, NPR, APF News, NBC, Al Jezeera, the New York Times, and the Associated Press. Once it was revealed that this statistic wasn’t an indictment of [current President], and was in fact bad P.R. for [last President], the walk back of the articles began. We’re not talking about simply correcting the articles, and changing the year in question from 2019 to 2015, but the articles were outright deleted. Why else would these articles be deleted if the information in them was factual, save for a date being off? These are important statistics, regardless of what year they happened in. This is a form of propaganda in action. It’s doesn’t serve to merely inform, but serves to push a particular point of view.

Here’s a slightly more blatant example of this:

This was tweeted out by an affiliate account of “The Democrats”( who retweeted it), an account that has 1.7 million followers. It implies that the 100,000 number from 2015 is the result of Trump, and policies enacted via white supremacy. As you can probably guess, it was quickly deleted after the inconvenient revelation that a Democrat was President during this time. This isn’t the type of messaging a platform merely looking to inform engages in. It’s propaganda.

But hey, publishing and/or erasing articles that potentially serve to rewrite history and push a partisan narrative is definitely not as bad as a guy who peddles conspiracy theories about inter-dimensional lizard people who isn’t even on any mainstream platform.

Sacha goes on make the argument that social media companies should meticulously curate what information ends up on their platforms. This is an exceptionally stupid idea. The arbiter of what is considered fit to publish will always be whomever is at the top of the chain of command. Jack Dorsey has ultimate say over what ends up on Twitter, and Mark Zuckerberg decides what ends up on Facebook.

If Jack Dorsey wants Kamala Harris to win the presidency, surely it would be in his personal best interest to block any news that might be either beneficial to other candidates, or detrimental to Kamala. This is why it’s important that everyone have a platform to have their say, free of any biased curation. This concept goes out the window when you allow (or force) companies to decide what information they allow on their platforms and what information they do not, completely independent of their terms of service. As a matter of fact, Google is currently involved in a lawsuit regarding their unethical promotion/supression of individual candidates during this election cycle. The very same Google whose motto used to be “don’t be evil”.

Mr Baron Cohen, numerous times throughout this speech, brings up the Holocaust and Holocaust deniers. It seems his not-so-subtle beef with Facebook in particular is that they aren’t doing enough to police anti-Semitic content on their platform. The arbiters of what is fit to be published aren’t making the right judgements, i.e. those that Sacha believes in. So if these platforms aren’t policing their content correctly, who exactly does Mr Baron Cohen feel should be the arbiter? The government? What could possibly go wrong there? Should Sacha Baron Cohen himself get to decide what information is allowed on social media and what isn’t?

He goes on to make the king of disingenuous, bad-faith arguments. He states: “Mark Zuckerberg asked where do you draw the line… but here’s what he’s really saying: Removing more of these lies and conspiracies is just too expensive.”

Asking “where do you draw the line” is an honest and valid question. One that doesn’t have a simple, clear-cut answer. For example, Twitter has a notorious reputation for banning satirical accounts. Does Twitter have a problem with satire? No. These accounts don’t violate its terms of service. But people who feel slighted and entitled have a habit of mass flagging accounts that poke fun of “their side” or engage in humor that hits too close to home. These satirical accounts get banned because of the mass flagging, and then the owner of the account has to contact Twitter to get said account reinstated.

Is anyone making the argument that satire should be banned? The people who engage in this mass-flagging obviously believe so. If something offends a bunch of thin-skinned weenies, should it not be allowed to exist? Does society give up it’s freedom of speech because twelve people on Twitter got offended? Surely Sacha Baron Cohen would say no, but here he is, claiming there is no line and that money is somehow the only roadblock here.

All of this is ironic given that Sacha Baron Cohen made his fame off making jokes that were rooted in the topics of hatred, and bigotry. They are obviously jokes, and shouldn’t be treated as anything other than humor, but there was a line of decency that he had to walk with his comedy. Why should it be ok for him to make a career off jokes rooted in bigotry, but not other people?

Well, he essentially qualifies himself to make these kinds of jokes by explaining that he marched against fascism as a teenager, and wrote a thesis about the civil rights movement in college. He also makes it clear that the point of his comedy is to call out the hate, bigotry and intolerance that his characters espoused. He’s doing this to separate himself from those other “bad people” who might engage in jokes involving hate and bigotry, who don’t have the same virtuous background that he does.

He goes on to explain how his “Throw The Jew Down the Well” song he sang as Borat is a joke that works because “the audience shared the fact that the depiction of Jews as miserly, is a conspiracy theory originating in the middle ages.” This is of course, completely preposterous and delusional.

It’s doubtful that many people laughed at that Borat segment because of their extensive historical knowledge of antisemitism. That bit was funny because a) jokes involving stereotypes can be funny, b) people in the crowd actually start singing along to this wildly inappropriate song, and c) the song itself is actually funny and catchy in a juvenile way. No historical knowledge is needed to find this bit funny. The average kid seeing this segment in the early 2000’s, myself included, were laughing for completely different reasons than the one Baron Cohen gives. He’s trying to intellectualize away the reason most people found this bit to be funny.

But once again, it’s fine for him to joke about these things, but not others. He’s essentially gate-keeping here. The young kid on social media attempting to make a joke about something taboo will be banned or blocked, while Sacha Baron Cohen is free to continue doing his thing because he has the privilege of power and fame on his side.

Sarah Silverman did the exact same thing. She made her name off making jokes dealing with stereotypes, and racial-tinged humor, only to turn around and disavow that very humor once she was sitting comfortably in her gated community. It’s one thing to simply state you’ve grown out of the type of humor you used to do, but to speak out against others employing that same type of humor is outright entitled. It’s essentially taking advantage of a loophole to get ahead, then fighting to close that very loophole once you’re done taking advantage of it. When people do this in business or politics, it’s rightly called it. It should be called out in entertainment too.

To be fair, I think the problem with both Sarah and Sacha is that they existed as individuals at one point in their careers, only to become part of a collectivist monolith once they “made it” in Hollywood. When you exist as an individual, you answer only to yourself, whereas when you’re part of a collective, you answer to the monolith. If a person is surround by a group who all think in a uniform manner, that person is more likely to adopt those group views for fear of standing out or not being accepted within that group. It’s similar to how a cult operates, except in these cases, the individual is willingly conforming out of some need to fit in.

The ADL video is 24 minutes long, and not terribly profound. He pretty much makes the argument that social media should be heavily regulated to police harmful wrong-think. As is to be expected, the video was praised by some of the more authoritarian-minded, big-government types on twitter, and criticized by most of the free speech crowd. In a final act of complete irony, the comments are disabled under the YouTube video. Wouldn’t want anyone to voice a dissenting opinions about censorship, now would we? How very China-esque.

He also says this near the end as his pièce de résistance (How fancy):

“Maybe it’s time to tell Mark Zuckerberg and the CEOs of these companies, you already allowed one foreign power to interfere in our elections, you already facilitated one genocide in Myanmar. Do it again and you go to jail.”

Let’s use government force to imprison owners of social media companies for not removing things I personally disagree with, is a hell of a stance to take. Especially for somebody who starred in a movie about a satirical dictator.

He makes a few salient points here however. Kind of.

The “interference” he’s talking about here was essentially Russia creating accounts and running ads to create division within the U.S. These ads and accounts were all over the political spectrum ranging from pro and anti-Trump, to pro and anti-Clinton, to Black LivesMatter and various religious groups. This activity had apparently been going on as far back as 2014.

This meddling is not to be confused with the “Russian collusion” conspiracy theory that tried to prove Trump collaborated with Russia to swing the election. The same conspiracy theory that is also to blame for every leftist boomer on social media now calling anyone they disagree with online a “bot”, and the current delightful boomer trend of referring to Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard as “Russian assets”.

I’m not completely sure how Facebook could have known Russians were buying these ads, as opposed to US citizens, but if there was in fact a way for them to tell, they definitely should be held accountable. I also view this interference as a scapegoat for people’s political disappointments however. Americans have a tendency to be pathetically tribalist with their views to begin with, and this division existed without any sort of meddling to begin with. It’s like complaining that someone threw a lit match into your house that was already engulfed in flames. I’m not sure how much effect these ads even had to begin with. They seemed to merely be background noise, and not the existential threat to Democracy they’re being propped up as.

As far as the Myanmar statement goes, he has a somewhat stronger point. The Myanmar government had military personnel who were tasked with spreading anti-Rohingya muslim propaganda on Facebook. This was accomplished via posts from fake accounts under fake names, often on innocuous pages about entertainment. Many of these posts were aimed at swaying public opinion of the minority group, allowing the government to get away with atrocities against that group. This is something that seemingly would have violated Facebook’s T.O.S., and these accounts should have been deleted far earlier than they ultimately were.

To summarize, the actual decent points Sacha makes all involve Facebook’s incompetence in running their platform. Facebook should be held accountable for the poor management of their platform. However, this does not mean we need an online version of the TSA policing every corner of the internet, deleting everything that could be perceived as wrong-think. This is precisely the type of thing that commonly exists in all those human-rights violating countries. You don’t install government-backed powers that get to decide what is allowed to be said, and what isn’t. The inevitable result of this is government suppression of anything critical of that very government.

Virtue-based censorship is still censorship, and it’s dangerous. “We need to start limiting society’s freedom of speech because some infinitesimal percent are using that freedom to say bad things” is not a great argument. A company has the right to decide what is allowed on their platforms and what isn’t. A company is allowed to engage in this type of censorship. The government isn’t. The first amendment prevents this. You can hold individual companies accountable, without endowing the government with even more oppressive means of enacting censorship.

The pink areas on this map represent countries with governments who engage in censorship of press, i.e. the written (or typed) word. The United States, you’ll notice, is green. Sacha Baron Cohen would like it to be pink. Don’t be a Sacha Baron Cohen.

Buybacks And Loaded Language

There’s an ever-shrinking line between the modern journalist and the modern activist. Journalists are supposed to be objective messengers who relay factual information, while activists are biased campaigners who seek to enact change. In the twitter era, it’s become increasingly difficult to find journalists who aren’t activists first and foremost. There are countless examples to highlight this fact, but I’ll be focusing on just one in this writing: gun buybacks.

Gun buyback talk has been all the rage as of late due to back-to-back shootings that occurred on August 3rd and 4th in the U.S. As is consistently the case, whenever a shooting occurs that provides a beneficial political narrative, the gun legislation talk ramps back up. We know this to be the case, because shootings that can’t be used for political posturing never elicit the same heated response.

For example, there have been 25 mass shootings in Chicago this year as of this writing (gunviolencearchive.org). None of these shootings had trending hashtags on twitter or rampant calls for changes in gun legislation. Journalists weren’t tripping over themselves to write countless articles about this particular epidemic of gun violence. In Chicago, this violence is largely poor people killing other poor people. This isn’t a narrative that journalist activists can use to effectively demonize those on the other side of the political aisle, and whip latte-drinking, middle-class white people into a fervor, clamoring for government intervention. The victims themselves ultimately don’t matter to these people; feeding political outrage culture does.

This is where the loaded language comes into play. Loaded language is rhetoric attempting to influence by appealing to emotion or stereotypes. Take for example the very term “buyback”. This term is deceptive by very nature of how it is used.

If a government has not sold guns to its own citizens, that government cannot possibly have a gun “buyback” by very definition of the word. Governments do sell guns to other countries however, with the U.S. being responsible for 33% of worldwide gun exports. To the best of my knowledge, the U.S. doesn’t actually buy back guns it has sold to other countries; an act that would actually constitute a legitimate gun buyback.

Next, let’s look at another term often used for purposes of rhetoric:

“Returned” sure seems like an innocuous enough term at face value. Within the context of this subject however, it represents blatant loaded language. Returned implies that something was initially either borrowed or taken, i.e. the government in question owned these objects which are now being returned. This is obviously not the case, and any journalist writing an article on this subject would be well aware of this fact.

“Returned” is being used in these articles to imply that the gun owners who sold their belongings to the government were somehow in the wrong to begin with by owning them. It’s very subtle, but is completely intentional. You immediately know these journalist’s opinions on guns by the fact that the term “returned” was used. You’ll never see a Second Amendment advocate or absolutist using this term within the context of a government buyback, let alone an impartial journalist.

Finally, we have a rhetorical term that really doesn’t even try to hide it’s intentions:

This term is so loaded that it should be illegal to possess within a school zone.

There’s no alternate definition for this term that somehow implies anything other than what these publications are explicitly trying to get across. The people who owned these guns (legally) were somehow criminals for owning them (legally), and have consequently “submitted to the authorities”. Nice.

Maybe the casuals who read these types of publications are somehow under the impression that only the “bad guys” are turning their weapons in. This isn’t even remotely close to reality though. The guns that get turned in are usually inherited guns that people have no personal use for, or guns that gun owners no longer want in their arsenals. Criminals are the absolute last demographic who are going to willingly show up around police with a gun in their possession. The guns turned in to these buyback programs are guns that statistically would have never been used for illegal reasons.

Practically every last individual selling a gun at one of these events is a law-abiding citizen, yet the term “surrendered” seems to imply otherwise. It implies criminality. A bank robber or a hostage taker surrenders to authorities, not someone selling an object they legally own but no longer want. Publications who use a word like “surrender” are associating gun ownership with criminality, full-stop. If guns are only owned by criminals, then obviously we should strip everyone of their guns. It’s all very dishonest, yet completely intentional. It’s activism, not journalism.

The point here isn’t to take a side on New Zealand’s lawmaking decisions. New Zealand can do whatever they feel fit to as a country. The point is to show how journalist’s activist tendencies show through in their writings, and how easy it is to see through these biases by something as simple as assessing how a headline was written. This doesn’t just apply to topics like buybacks, and it doesn’t just apply to one side of the debate on any hot-button issue. It does serve to pull the curtain back and distinguish the objective journalists from the activist ones however.

The Legality of Echo Chambers

A few days ago Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had a lawsuit filed against her by Joey Saladino. Mr. Saladino is of course better known as “Joey Salads” of staged youtube pranks fame. He’s produced such hits as: “PUNCHING FRIENDS FOR MONEY *prank*”, “N-WORD PRANK (GONE WRONG), and perennial favorite “ABDUCTING CHILD IN FRONT OF DAD (Social Experiment)”.

The lawsuit was filed due to Mr. Saladino being blocked by Ocasio-Cortez on twitter. I can’t find exactly what it is he tweeted that resulted in his block, but ultimately it doesn’t matter, as Ocasio-Cortez is legally in the wrong here regardless. She could have used twitter’s mute function, but blocking other users from seeing her tweets is currently illegal, as per the recent ruling against Donald Trump.

From a New York times article dated July 9th, 2019: The First Amendment prohibits an official who uses a social media account for government purposes from excluding people from an “otherwise open online dialogue” because they say things that the official finds objectionable, Judge Parker wrote.

What this means, is that since Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez uses her @AOC account to discuss government matters, she cannot block people from that account. She also has an account (@RepAOC) that seems to serve as more of an “official account”, yet that one has a mere 45 tweets posted as of this writing, whereas her primary account has tweeted 8510 times. Perhaps she figured that only her “official” account was beholden to these rules, but Trump also has a primary account and an official account (@realDonaldTrump and @POTUS), and the ruling barred him from blocking people on either.

I think part of the bigger problem here is that the U.S. is electing a few too many insecure narcissists, who end up treating their government positions more as beneficial social-media venues than an actual jobs. They’re more interested in amassing likes and engaging in “clap-backs” than actually accomplishing anything of substance with the positions they were elected into.

This narcissism tends to involve getting rid of anyone who might criticize them in a public forum, potentially making them look bad. If you’ve effectively blocked everyone who disagrees with you, and only keep the people around who shower you with praise, you develop this erroneous delusion that everything you say is “right” and that everyone agrees with you. This is effectively what happens in communist regimes and dictatorships. If you send everyone to the gulags who opposes you, soon enough you’re left surrounded by only people who agree with you and “adore” you. This is why we have the First Amendment in the U.S. No government official or leader should be above criticism.

Another part of the problem is that prior to social media, government officials tended to just mind their business, and actually do their jobs. It was rare for the populace to know much about members of the House or Senate, other than those who represented their own state or region. Now, every member is trying to become a social media star, and with that, we are now privy to the less savory sides of these people. Politicians getting into pointless arguments, saying generally stupid things, and supporting terrible causes for social brownie points have all become the norm.

Trump and Ocasio-Cortez are two of the worst on twitter, so it comes as no surprise that they receive the most blow-back and end up blocking people in fits of thin-skinned rage. Between Trump’s constant name-calling and mud-slinging at people he dislikes, and Ocasio-Cortez’s incessant back-and-forths with people who so much as question the inaccuracies she regularly spews, it’s quite the shit-show. I have a folder on my computer that I screenshot and save dumb tweets to, and Trump and Ocasio-Cortez are by far the MVPs of said folder. They should star in a buddy cop film together.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens with this lawsuit and all the copycat lawsuits that inevitably happen in its wake. There’s quite a few other members of Congress who are guilty of having a heavy ban finger on social media. Politicians are probably going to have to start learning how to use that mute button.

The Appeal to Authority

Have you met my friend Dan here? He’s an expert in politics. How do I know he’s an expert in politics? Well, he has a political science degree from college™, and anyone who got a degree from college™ is automatically an expert in things. You can’t just pay like $10k a year, barely squeak by with a C average in some topic and not earn the title of expert in your field of study. That’s the way college™ works. Duh.

You gotta love the appeal to authority. That logical fallacy wherein someone proclaims themselves or a third party to be an expert on something simply because of some degree of schooling. Get into any kind of online debate? At some point someone has no doubt pulled out the Appeal to Authority card and proudly slapped it down on the table.

This designation of “expert” is often doled out from a place of bias, i.e. I agree with this person, therefore I’ll deem them an expert to strengthen my own point. That, or it’s a title people are likely to bestow upon themselves in order to assert dominance over someone in a debate. It’s quite a disingenuous tactic, but works quite well on, and is often used by individuals who get into arguments and desperately need an easy upper hand.

Reza Aslan was notably thrust into the spotlight via an interview he took part in on Fox News in 2013. The interview was a train wreck for two reasons. One, the host continually questioned his qualification to write a book about Christianity while being a Muslim, something that should have been a non-issue. Two, his response to his qualifications being questioned was to merely throw out continued appeals to authority. At one point, he literally said “It’s not that I’m just some Muslim writing about Jesus. I am an expert with a PhD in the history of religions.”

*It should be noted that Mr Aslan holds his PhD in theological studies, which is essentially a philosophical study of religious thought and tradition, as opposed to a religious studies PhD, which is a non-biased study of the actual history of religions. He does not in fact hold a “PhD in the history of religions” as stated, but merely a B.A. in that field.

One doesn’t need to be an “expert” on anything to write a book about that topic, mainly because the term “expert” is completely subjective and not an official title. Holding a college degree doesn’t necessarily qualify one as an expert in anything. This is the lie people continually buy into that overstates the value of many college degrees and continually drives the cost of commercial education into the stratosphere. Anyone who has done the requisite amount of research can write a book or become somewhat of an authority on a topic. All it takes, is merely doing the work.

If you were looking for historical data about the US Civil War, who would you deem more of an “expert” in the field: a kid who barely passed a class in college on the subject, but whom has a shiny degree in history from college™, or someone who never went to college™, but is a complete history buff, having read over a thousand books about historical wars? Surely you’d go with the kid, since he has the college™ degree, and therefore is the “expert”, right?

What about autodidacts? Guys like Einstein, who largely taught themselves subjects like math and physics. He did take math and physics in school, but did poorly, largely because he continually skipped class, preferring to work on these subjects on his own time. He received bad grades in math and physics however, therefore he can’t possibly have been an expert in either field. Meanwhile, his teachers with their assorted degrees, more than likely didn’t even make it into the footnotes of those history books that contain Einstein.

How about everybody’s favorite boomer anarchist, Tom Morello? A guy who occasionally makes astonishingly one-dimensional political and sociological hot takes, but continually hides behind the fact that he holds a political science degree from Harvard to deflect criticism:

Sweet appeal to authority there, Thomas. Make sure you whip that piece of paper out whenever possible to trump differing opinions, without ever actually debating ideas. And, look, he graduated from Harvard no less. The school that had a Jewish quota up until the 1960’s and is currently involved in litigation over discriminating against Asians. Sounds like a machine that should probably be raged against.🤔

In short, you should be wary of anyone proclaiming themselves to be an expert on something, because more than likely, their level of expertise is overshadowed by their level of narcissism.