In Extremis

I seem to argue a lot about extremism of late. The latest conversation I tried to join didn't go that well.

I wanted to point out that in my opinion (and as a general consensus) Megyn Kelly is a fair and talented journalist. Moreover, I do think shutting out different opinions is not only a bad idea, but the worst kind of extremist thinking that undermines the very core of democracy.

But let's start at the beginning.

I rarely have a set opinion. That makes me... a moderate, I guess?

I'm the only one who's not dramatically doing anything. (Don Keefer, The Newsroom)

I find it fascinating, in a terrifying way, how constructive disagreement is becoming more and more impossible. Seems like nuance is no longer recognized or accounted for in any discourse. Not just politics, but let's stick to that.

I've spent a lot of time thinking where I'd stand on the political spectrum, and came to the conclusion again and again that I stand outside of it entirely. I'm a progressive liberal on social issues; a fiscal conservative; and I think the smaller the government is the better.

I believe in common sense when it comes to politics. Can't remember exactly where the "you don't need a reason to make something legal; you need one to make something illegal" quote comes from, but it's true.

I never understood why any government would need to create laws that grant rights descending from universal human freedoms. Gay marriage, freedom of speech, women's rights, civil rights. Historically and culturally I do understand why these needed to be "legalized", but politically I don't think they have a place in a modern society.

Extremism is extremism, no matter where it's pointed at

Can I make a suggestion that doesn't involve violence, or is this the wrong crowd for that? (Wash, Serenity)

This is the point I feel most of the people can't fully grasp. The left recognizes right-wing extremism, but doesn't recognize its own. The right cries extremism as a way of some kind of kindergarten-level argument of "but Mommy they're doing it too!"

Talking about US politics specifically, there's apparently no layers and no nuances in either side's arguments. All Republicans are nazis and all Democrats are bleeding heart liberals, right?

Wrong.

There's plenty of validity in a conservative argument. And there's value in progressive thinking. Do you know what creates results? A balance between the two.

Free speech means sometimes you get offended, and democracy means sometimes the other side wins.

Hacking politics

More and more I think politics and political discourse (if we can call it that) is being hacked through emotion. Politics, which was supposed to transcend emotion and become the mediator between opposing arguments became driven by nothing but emotion.

What we end up with is a polarized populace getting more and more extreme.

In defense of... logic?

Taking a point from the thread I opened this post with, I was asked if I would defend Hitler's good points.

I would. If he had any.

On a more practical note, if Donald Trump would ever say something sensible, I'd defend that statement. I can do that without agreeing with anything else he said up to that point or will say after it.

This kind of critical thinking is almost completely gone from most people's conversations. Whether that's about government officials or journalists.

I defended Megyn Kelly for her integrity in her profession. That comes not only from my own personal opinion (but even if it did that'd be enough and shouldn't need to defend it, but whatever) but from most of her peers who judge her by the work she produces and not the beliefs she holds.

Trump Faced His Toughest Debate Opponent: Megyn Kelly

Republican front-runner Donald Trump has gotten the better of most of his presidential rivals at the 11 debates held so far. But on Thursday, he faced his toughest opponent: moderator Megyn Kelly. Trump first tangled with the Fox News host at the first debate in August, when she challenged him on some of the rhetoric he's used towards women.

I don't agree with everything she says, but I do trust she'll do a good job as a journalist.

In the same vein I'll condemn any and all unprofessional hacks (most of whom seem to be working for Fox News). And I will say that Fox News as an institution is becoming an instrument of right-wing extremist propaganda (of which there are varying kinds) but I'll refuse to say that every single person who works for Fox News is a puppet whose only function is to spew lies.

My favorite example - apart from Megyn - is Shepard Smith. Shep, a Fox News anchor, has been dissecting the Trump administration and that buffoon of a President since forever.

Shep Smith takes on Trump and catches hell from Trump fans

Smith had resumed his ongoing critique of Donald Trump, mocking the White House's complaints about anonymous sources and the president's refusal to release his tax returns. The anchor's Twitter feed, meanwhile, was flooded with calls for his job. More than a few observed that Smith, who has been with Fox News since its inception in 1996, should take his broadcasting talents elsewhere.

Do I agree with his personal politics? I have no idea. Maybe, maybe not. I'd love to find out. Which is also my point: you can't make informed decisions without at least hearing out all relevant information.

I'm happy to hear out conservatives, and heck: I'm even interested in listening to Vladimir Putin's interview. Once I did that I can form my own opinion.

"Only a Sith deals in absolutes"

Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader

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There's no absolute right or absolute wrong. (Which is an absolute statement, which - apart from it's generic sentiment that's also not to my liking - paradox is a discussion for another time.)

If you lean to the left, you don't have to hate all conservatives, or even be on the left in every issue. And being on the right doesn't mean you have to become a nazi either.

There are people in the Congress and the Senate whose names you never hear in the news. There are moderates on both sides of the aisle. Those who disagree, but still try and work together with the others.

Extremism is extremism, no matter where it comes from. When I talk about politics I tend to quote Aaron Sorkin a lot. Let me close with a quote from the West Wing's 'The Portland Trip' episode:

I agree with 95% of the Republican platform. I believe in local government. I'm in favor of individual rights rather than group rights. I believe free markets lead to free people and that the country needs a strong national defense. My life doesn't have to be about being a homosexual. It doesn't have to be entirely about that.

This one stuck with me.

Being passionate about an issue, any issue, is good. Being vocal about it, absolutely essential to a democracy. But never surrender to an entire platform for a single issue. There's plenty of room for disagreement, agreement, and compromise - all without surrendering what you believe in.


Cover image from der kindervolks biergarten.

'House Party' Protocol

I love Twitter.

Of all the social platforms it is my favorite, and while there's a lot I can say about why, there's also a large part of pure emotion playing into it. (Spock wouldn't be pleased.)

Recurring cultural phenomena have a tendency of attaching their particular versions to generations. For example, every generation has its own James Bond. And by now we have generations stamped with a preference for a particular social network.

Granted, there's a lot of movement and much larger cross section than, say, in the case of James Bond, but essentially the same thing happens. I see the generation before me warming up to Facebook, and the generation after me to Instagram and Snapchat.

Mine happen to be cozy on Twitter.

Love is blind

I am, or at least I used to be, a professional social media marketer. Considering that I'm not very "good" at Twitter, as long as we define "good" as "capitalizing on the platform".

And I don't want to. Not any more. I have the best damn Twitter tool to use (Meshfire) and I use it to embrace Twitter for what it means to me - not what it may mean to my business. I'm still not "good" at it in that sense either, but I keep coming back to it, learning it, never giving up.

I couldn't care less about my Facebook page. I use it because it makes sense for a variety of reasons. I like Instagram fine, I just don't love it. (And as a writer I tend to live inside my own head. That's a distinct disadvantage on a visual platform.) I wanted to take Snapchat seriously, but it's not my crowd.

Or maybe it is, and I just didn't invest enough time and energy into it? I don't really care, I have Twitter.

Or do I?

Trouble rears its ugly head

Twitter's in trouble.

Twitter Falls After Analysts Downgrade Stock on Slow Growth View

Twitter Inc. slipped after analysts at two firms downgraded the stock, citing a lack of confidence in the company's direction and ability to capitalize on new products. "What is Twitter? Quite frankly, we don't believe that question has been answered," said James Cakmak, an analyst at Monness, Crespi, Hardt & Co.

Or, rather, it's in trouble because it's special. Of course you'd say that about the thing (or person) you love, but part of Twitter's appeal to me is this special thing it has. I have a very similar connection with Medium, too, and it's no coincidence that Medium was founded by Ev Williams - one of the founders of Twitter itself.

What this special quality means is Twitter's standing against what we think of how we used to communicate and instead embracing how we likely will. This increasingly leads and adds to the mounting tension between technology and what society thinks of it.

And more importantly, how society's institutions react to it.

The 'Web 2.0' bubble has burst

Remember the dotcom bubble? When that bag of crazy ended violently a lot of folks got burnt.

Nowadays we're much more equipped with safeguards against such a fallout, but not equipped to prevent the bubble to form and disappear.

Just like in the case of dotcom, web 2.0 isn't going anywhere, but it is changing. And, even more importantly, it's changing communication as we know it.

I'm a technologist/transhumanist, not an economist

I'm approaching this topic as such. I'm not even nearly competent in evaluating the financial and economical impact of social media, nor how it affected/affects the financial world. But I know one thing: we're down to the very last of the pillars that held up the old world.

"We're living through the biggest communication shift that we've lived through since the printing press." (Gary Vee)

It's true.

My interest of course is not the impact this fact has on business (although I'm aware and account for it as much as I have to) but the larger movement this is a part of.

Current governance is simply not equipped to handle this new era of communication.

Wall Street expects financial results from Twitter (or from Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and the rest) based on an outdated model of ad revenue. Yet these platforms keep experimenting with new ways of generating revenue (that have zero guidance) - or even what it means to be 'successful'.

Twitter isn't inherently special, it just became special

I'm not sure even Twitter realized the impact it'd have on communications when it started. But it sure as hell have embraced it since.

Facebook, as a counter-example, seems to be content with playing by the old rules. It's the platform that's the most boring and least innovative, especially in recent years.

Snapchat, on the other hand, bravely stands its ground, and for some reason I'm not necessarily equipped to understand fully, it works. Their IPO of $25 billion (that's the one with a 'b') is mind-boggling.

Twitter has the same - if not even more - exciting position as Snapchat, only its executives aren't willing to be brave. Twitter keeps taking swings at shadows of ad revenue, trying to stay innovative and special and at the same time adhere to the old rules.

They won't be able to have it both ways.

"The era of big government is over"

I really love Toby's quote from The West Wing's 'He Shall, From Time to Time...' episode:

We have to say what we feel: that government, no matter what its failures in the past and in times to come, for that matter, government can be a place where people come together and where no one gets left behind. No one gets left behind. An instrument of good.

I love Sorkin's idealism. And the sentiment from that kind of idealism is apparent in what's happening right now: the advancement of technology creates an evolution of human society beyond what its governance can handle.

It's already been noted that government is far too ill-equipped to keep up with the accelerating pace of technology.

Google, Not the Government, Is Building the Future

Consider Google. On Wednesday, the internet search company kicked off its annual developer conference near its headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. The company showed off several advances to its voice-enabled assistant and its mobile operating system.

Even under the best of circumstances and with the very best of intentions (which are nowhere to be found, as seen in the USA or the UK) it's a futile attempt to regulate these new technologies using paradigms they willfully supersede.

We need to have a lot of very serious conversations or this will get "bloody" really fast. Technology will win, eventually, over outdated social constructs. The longer we wait for that to happen while hoping that it wouldn't, the more damage we're causing to our own future.

We need people with vision, and the ability to think outside the box. Both are important.

Twitter needs a leadership that can recognize the platform's effects beyond business. And if the current leadership isn't able or willing to break the rules and create new ones, we need new leadership.

Twitter users are trying to buy Twitter - Thoughts On Journalism - Medium

"Corporate sharks are circling around the platform we love," the American journalist Nathan Schneider wrote in a 2016 Guardian op-ed. "But there is another way: shared ownership, where the community takes control." Referring to the precarity of Twitter, the author went on to pose a simple question.

If we can create a case study from Twitter, it'll be easier to go forward with the others.

Time for the 'House Party' protocol

I urge everybody to sign the petition. Participate in discussion. Follow the news. Let your voice heard.

We can democratize Twitter

We are users and shareholders telling Twitter to study an exit from Wall Street to democratic ownership. Join us!

There's much more at stake here than the survival of a single platform. Even when an attack on Twitter is near-equivalent to an attack on free speech itself, it's not about Twitter.

And just so we're clear, there's absolutely no guarantee that the #WeAreTwitter movement succeeds, even if they do succeed. We don't know. Maybe it's the solution, maybe it's a solution, or maybe it's not a solution at all.

What's definitely not a solution, however, is letting incompetent people decide its future based on criteria that aren't applicable.

And going beyond Twitter, I'm not exaggerating when I say that this is about our future. It's no longer in our own hands, which is a scary thought. It's in the hands of people who don't understand - or worse: don't care about - how technology has irreversibly changed our society, and how it can do even more. That combination is dangerous.

Losing Twitter may not be the end of the line, but it sure as hell takes us way too close for comfort. It signals the decision-makers that their power is still intact and emboldens them to keep doing what they've been doing. It signals the people that things aren't improving at all. And it pushes back at technology that'll result, sooner or later, in a more violent attempt to tear down the old frameworks.

Time to take back the reins.


Cover image from Giphy.

Je suis Alamo Drafthouse

So this happened, and people are freaking out.

WOMEN ONLY SCREENING: WONDER WOMAN | Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

The most iconic superheroine in comic book history finally has her own movie, and what better way to celebrate than with an...

Let me correct myself: men are freaking out. No, that's not it either.

Ah, yes: insufferable, trollish bigots are freaking the fuck out.

Good, good. Let the hate flow through you.

Before I go into what I think is far more interesting to discuss, let's just take a moment to be a tad bit selfish, and enjoy the "suffering" of so many idiots. Because it's simply delightful.

Giphy

Alright, moving on.

"You can't born an '-ist'."

I generally don't identify as a feminist. Partially because the term is being thrown around - with many others - for everything it became meaningless.

But mostly because I subscribe to Joss Whedon's argument about equality.

I love the way he breaks down the word 'feminist'. He articulated what I always felt, and I'd even take it further: the real problem isn't the people who aren't regarding women as equals or even people. That's overt stuff that can be dealt with swiftly and easily. The real problem, in my opinion, is the people who don't even realize how horrifying the thought that there we can be anything but feminists. That we need a label and a statement.

Same goes for any 'ism' by the way.

Your lack of nuance is disturbing

My main concern with isms on both sides is the near-complete disregard of the truth that 'equal' doesn't equal 'same'. (See what I did there?)

Men and women are different. They shouldn't be in the social and legal sense, but there's a few thousand years of history working against you.

So if nothing else, a women-only screening of Wonder Woman makes sense because women are experiencing it differently. It's a shame they have to, but there's next to nothing we can do about that.

It's not a discrimination against gender, it's an acknowledgement of a different cultural context.

I love that Alamo Drafthouse recognized this nuance and is willing to take a stand for it. Diana is a cultural icon, and men and women experience that very differently. It's important to know that. (And that neither experience is better or worse, more or less important, than the other.)

I only wish there was a men-only screening of Wonder Woman somewhere, with an interview of the participants afterwards so we can see whether or not they caught the point of the movie. (Because, frankly, those who already do are not upset, and likely already defending the idea in the comments. There are plenty of us.)

We need the differences in each other

I'm attracted to strong and smart women because I'm neither strong nor... ok, I'm pretty damn smart but you get my point.

Because equality isn't "include everybody" - it's "recognize and accept the very real differences". As far as 'strong female characters' go, I think that they're better realized through men accepting and attracted to their strength. And vica versa: strong males need to be strong through others, not by themselves.

I'm not saying we're defined by others, and yet in a weirdly backwards way I am.

We need diversity for a lot of things. We need it for our species to survive biologically. We need it so things don't get boring. We need opposing arguments in politics, social issues, religion, art, everything.

Without argument there can be no movement. We'd stand still and become obsolete.

There's that anecdote (I can't remember where I heard it, or even if it's true - but , when flying into a cloud, wouldn't trust the artificial horizon and manually adjust the plane again and again. And when they finally come out of the cloud they'd be flying upside down.

My arguments here don't mean there shouldn't be any protection for equality and vulnerability, just mean that often times our society tends to err on the side of it and overcorrect. Which gradually leads to more and more overcorrection until we're flying upside down.

In the long run I think that's far more dangerous.

In equality...

... no one can hear you-- -r extremism scream.

What I find interesting is that equality seems to be missing its point on both sides of the aisle.

In the case of Alamo Drafthouse, it's not only a case of people trying to turn the equality argument on its head to get a handle on "liberals". It's also the self-professed "liberals" missing the point of what they're trying to defend...

...which fails wonderfully, by the way. This article points this out so perfectly that I figured I'd just link it instead of repeating:

A Man and a Woman Discuss the Women-Only Screening of 'Wonder Woman'

DANA: Vinnie, so as a man and on behalf of all men, do you feel personally persecuted by the fact that Alamo Drafthouse won't let you into that one screening of Wonder Woman? VINNIE: ALLOW ME FOR A MOMENT TO BE MAD ON THE INTERNET ON BEHALF OF ALL MEN.

I have a different take on this whole situation, or rather I'd like to talk about a different angle of it.

Equality is, or should be, the simplest concept in the world. We're equal in every way that's under our control. (And that caveat is only there to acknowledge and account for the differences that aren't under our control, such as biology.)

Joss Whedon Equality Now speech

Equality doesn't - and shouldn't, in my opinion - mean being afraid of opposing arguments. Even if someone thinks blacks are less than whites, women are less than men, or any of the 'us vs. them' arguments out there, I'll fight the bigotry in their thinking but never their right to that thinking.

You can be a racist, sexist, whatever. You shouldn't, and I'll deal with your rhetoric every chance I get. But I'll never deny your right to be any or all those things.

This is why we never should institutionalize any kind of thinking. I don't have a problem with a business owner being racist privately. I have a problem with a business being one institutionally. Separation of church and state not only means the churches and the state. It means the separation of ideology from governance.

(In a saner world, it's more than possible that I'd be a Republican. There, I said it. I don't think it's the government's place to regulate what people think and feel in either direction. But that's probably a discussion for another time.)

Free speech has its disadvantages - but the only way I can be sure that I can say whatever the fuck I want is by knowing that everyone else can say whatever the fuck they want, too.

Sometimes that means hurtful things. And that's okay. There's plenty of love to go around for every measure of hate out there.

That's why I love the internet

Sure, you can view the glass half empty, and think that Alamo Drafthouse's Facebook post is full of comments that prove how humanity is doomed. On certain days, days I don't like to think about, I may be inclined to agree.

On the other hand, both this post and Twitter is just explodingly full with hope. For every troll, every idiot, every narrow-minded bigot there's at least two smart, witty, and delightful person (men and women alike) to shut them down.

(And, as a sidenote from a social media professional, the way the Facebook page admins handled the haters in the comments should be taught.)

And that's a lesson here. An argument can certainly be made against feeding the trolls, but that's defeating the point of the internet as the great equalizer. Everyone has a voice on the internet. That includes of course bigots, too, but equality isn't wonderful because everybody agrees and sings kumbaya together.

Equality is great because everybody has an equal voice, and able to take part in experiences in any way they see fit.

And that's all sorts of amazing.

Supergirl

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Cover image from Giphy.

Sorry not sorry

I should apologize, shouldn't I? I mean I promised a daily blog and I didn't deliver. Even this post is a day late.

I ain't gonna say sorry. Or, well, I'm trying not to say sorry as much as I used to do. Unless I mean it. And even then...

But let's start at the beginning.

I do what I do

First of all, this is my blog. I write these posts because

  • I need to practice writing
  • I have things to say
  • I want to give you guys value

These are not in order of importance - they're equally important. And I want to do all three simultaneously. There's more to it than these three, of course, and they run deeper than a single sentence of intent. But for now let's start with these.

I'm a writer, so obviously I need to write to keep myself sharp and stretch what I can do. Granted, I'd like to write fiction more than I'm writing non-fiction, however my fiction (and poetry) writing process has devolved greatly. And I need the writing habit, the muscle memory of typing on the keyboard (or writing longhand, of which I was alarmed to realize I've fallen out) and communicating a point through text.

I have a lot of things to say, and I want to tell those stories. That said, focus is another skill I'm aiming to build up. Sometimes I have too much to say, and when I don't know where to begin or where to finish I end up not telling any story. At all. That has to change.

When I write I want it to be read. That only happens when there's a value exchange, your attention and time traded for the information you get. I can't stress this point enough. I'm tired of clickbait articles that give no value. I've had enough blog posts stating and then re-stating the obvious.

When you shoot for all three of these, writing becomes harder and harder. Sometimes you shoot and miss, sometimes you hit. Point is I need to keep shooting.

But I don't need to, and in fact absolutely shouldn't, apologize for not taking a shot that clearly doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell to hit.

Respecting myself

Tony Stark Iron Man 2 I think I did okay

Giphy

Constantly apologizing becomes a cancer on our own self-worth. Eating away at it, little by little. It makes us submissive, and gives away the awesome power we should deploy to its fullest potential.

Stop Saying "Sorry" And Say "Thank You" Instead

Unless you're Canadian, you're not doing anyone any favors by saying "sorry" all the time. New York based artist Yao Xiao takes this a step further in her comics, where she suggests that you say "thank you" instead.

I've decided to run this 'experiment' on myself. I'm in a constant battle with depression and anxiety as it is, and it serves me well not to dig myself deeper into a hole.

If I don't or can't respect myself, I'm in no position to expect others to do so. As a freelancer I'm in an even more vulnerable position as I'm constantly in negotiation with new clients who always try asserting themselves in a dominant position. I'm not saying others have it easier, but certainly less frequently or overtly.

That has already led to a number of pretty abusive working relationships. I've never really understood this dynamic - beyond what empathy can afford - until I've realized that constantly saying I'm sorry is actually making me become sorry, which in turn gives away my position as an equal.

It has to stop.

Turning the tables

Tony Stark Iron Man 3 Mark 42 I'm the best

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So this experiment is both about saying "sorry" less and saying it differently when I am, in fact, apologizing. I don't want to seem like an asshole, though.

It certainly is a challenging thing to do. Just by way of taking a step back and examining just how many times I tend to say sorry and what kind of effect it has on a particular conversation or relationship was an eye-opening and horrifying experience. A lot of times I can't control a lot of factors that may lead to saying sorry.

But I sure as hell can control everything around here.

This is my safe space. I decide what's going on here. The only thing I need to be (and indeed, am) worrying about is the relationship between who I am right now and who I want to be through what I do here.

The easiest way of not having to say sorry is not making promises. Which is what I'm doing right now. (Or not doing right now, depending on how you're looking at it.)

I'll still do my best to post daily, for the reasons explained above. I appreciate if you follow along, and even more so when you leave a comment. (And please do, even - and especially - if you disagree with something. I'm always ready for a discussion, and don't have anything I wouldn't change in face of convincing evidence.)

Have a happy weekend!


Cover image from Giphy.