Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Streisand Effect: Glen Reynolds column refused by USA Today, printed by The Phantom instead.

(This was meant to be today's column in USA Today, by Glen Reynolds. They told him they weren't going to print it. That was a #mistake. The Phantom)


Glenn Harlan Reynolds

In my 2019 book, The Social Media Upheaval, I warned that the Big Tech companies — especially social media giants like Facebook and Twitter — had grown into powerful monopolists, who were using their power over the national conversation to not only sell ads, but also to promote a political agenda. That was pretty obvious last year, but it was even more obvious last week, when Facebook and Twitter tried to black out the New York Post's blockbuster report about emails found on a laptop abandoned by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's son Hunter.

The emails, some of which have been confirmed as genuine with their recipients, show substantial evidence that Hunter Biden used his position as Vice President Joe Biden's son to extract substantial payments from "clients" in other countries. There are also photos of Hunter with a crack pipe, and engaging in various other unsavory activities. And they demolished the elder Biden's claim that he never discussed business with his son.

That's a big election-year news story. Some people doubted its genuineness, and of course it's always fair to question a big election-year news story, especially one that comes out shortly before the election. (Remember CBS newsman Dan Rather's promotion of what turned out to be forged memos about George W. Bush's Air National Guard service?)

But the way you debate whether a story is accurate or not is by debating. (In the case of the Rather memos, it turned out the font was from Microsoft Word, which of course didn't exist back during the Vietnam War era.) Big Tech could have tried an approach that fostered such a debate. But instead of debate, they went for a blackout: Both services actually blocked links to the New York Post story. That's right: They blocked readers from discussing a major news story by a major paper, one so old that it was founded by none other than Alexander Hamilton.

I wasn't advising them — they tend not to ask me for my opinion — but I would have advised against such a blackout. There's a longstanding Internet term called "the Streisand effect," going back to when Barbara Streisand demanded that people stop sharing pictures of her beach house. Unsurprisingly, the result was a massive increase in the number of people posting pictures of her beach house. The Big Tech Blackout produced the same result: Now even people who didn't care so much about Hunter Biden's racket nonetheless became angry, and started talking about the story.

As lefty journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote in The Intercept, Twitter and Facebook crossed a line far more dangerous than what they censored. Greenwald writes: "Just two hours after the story was online, Facebook intervened. The company dispatched a life-long Democratic Party operative who now works for Facebook — Andy Stone, previously a communications operative for Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, among other D.C. Democratic jobs — to announce that Facebook was 'reducing [the article's] distribution on our platform': in other words, tinkering with its own algorithms to suppress the ability of users to discuss or share the news article. The long-time Democratic Party official did not try to hide his contempt for the article, beginning his censorship announcement by snidely noting: 'I will intentionally not link to the New York Post.'"

"Twitter's suppression efforts went far beyond Facebook's. They banned entirely all users' ability to share the Post article — not just on their public timeline but even using the platform's private Direct Messaging feature."

"Early in the day, users who attempted to link to the New York Post story either publicly or privately received a cryptic message rejecting the attempt as an 'error.' Later in the afternoon, Twitter changed the message, advising users that they could not post that link because the company judged its contents to be 'potentially harmful.' Even more astonishing still, Twitter locked the account of the New York Post, banning the paper from posting any content all day and, evidently, into Thursday morning."

This went badly. The heads Facebook and of Twitter, Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey, are now facing Senate subpoenas,the RNC has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, arguing that Twitter's action in blacking out a damaging story constituted an illegal in-kind donation to the Biden Campaign, and most significantly, everyone is talking about the story now, with many understandably assuming that if the story were false, it would have been debunked rather than blacked out.

CNN's Jake Tapper tweeted:  "Congrats to Twitter on its Streisand Effect award!!!" Big Tech shot itself in the foot, and it didn't stop the signal.

Regardless of who wins in November, it's likely that there will be substantial efforts to rein in Big Tech. As Greenwald writes, "State censorship is not the only kind of censorship. Private-sector repression of speech and thought, particularly in the internet era, can be as dangerous and consequential. Imagine, for instance, if these two Silicon Valley giants united with Google to declare: henceforth we will ban all content that is critical of President Trump and/or the Republican Party, but will actively promote criticisms of Joe Biden and the Democrats. 

"Would anyone encounter difficulty understanding why such a decree would constitute dangerous corporate censorship? Would Democrats respond to such a policy by simply shrugging it off on the radical libertarian ground that private corporations have the right to do whatever they want? To ask that question is to answer it."

"To begin with, Twitter and particularly Facebook are no ordinary companies. Facebook, as the owner not just of its massive social media platform but also other key communication services it has gobbled up such as Instagram and WhatsApp, is one of the most powerful companies ever to exist, if not the most powerful."

He's right. And while this heavyhanded censorship effort failed, there's no reason to assume that other such efforts won't work in the future. Not many stories are as hard to squash as a major newspaper's front page expose during an presidential election.

As I wrote in The Social Media Upheaval, the best solution is probably to apply antitrust law to break up these monopolies: Competing companies would police each other, and if they colluded could be prosecuted under antitrust law. There are also moves to strip them of their immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects them from being sued for things posted or linked on their sites on the theory that they are platforms, not publishers who make publication decisions. And Justice Clarence Thomas has recently called for the Supreme Court to revisit the lower courts' interpretation of Section 230, which he argues has been overbroad. A decade ago there would have been much more resistance to such proposals, but Big Tech has tarnished its own image since then.

Had Facebook and Twitter approached this story neutrally, as they would have a decade ago, it would probably already be old news to a degree — as Greenwald notes, Hunter's pay-for-play efforts were already well known, if not in such detail — but instead the story is still hot. More importantly, their heavy handed action has brought home just how much power they wield, and how crudely they're willing to wield it. They shouldn't be surprised at the consequences.

There you go, ladies and gentlemen. The internet treats censorship as damage and routes around it. The Phantom

Friday, October 02, 2020

Trump tests + for 'Rona, Washington Post cheers.

 Every time you think the media have sunk as low as a human being can go, they dig even deeper.

Cernovitch: "Less than an hour after news broke of Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis, the Washington Post tweeted, “Imagine what it will be like to never have to think about Trump again.”"


Not to be outdone, Canada's National Post takes a swing:

National Post: "Trump COVID-19 infection puts large group of people at risk — including Joe Biden"


Melania Trump also tested positive for the WuFlu, what's the headline on Drudge today? "Melania swears like a sailor!"

Yeah, no kidding. She's got a lot to swear about these days.

Hydroxychloroquine, now a major scientific scandal.

"Just keep going, it'll be okay!"

You will recall that several highly promoted studies in big medical journals were recently retracted. That story has not gone away, despite being ignored by the media.

It sounds absurd that an obscure US company with a hastily constructed website could have driven international health policy and brought major clinical trials to a halt within the span of a few weeks. Yet that's what happened earlier this year, when Illinois-based Surgisphere Corporation began a publishing spree that would trigger one of the largest scientific scandals of the COVID-19 pandemic to date.

At the heart of the deception was a paper published in The Lancet on May 22 that suggested hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug promoted by US President Donald Trump and others as a therapy for COVID-19, was associated with an increased risk of death in patients hospitalized with the disease. The study wasn't a randomized controlled trial—the gold standard for determining a drug's safety and efficacy—but it did purportedly draw from an enormous registry of observational data that Surgisphere claimed to have collected from the electronic medical records of nearly 100,000 COVID-19 patients across 671 hospitals on six continents.

The article is long, and goes on to expose the fraud and stupidity of the medical literature establishment in considerable detail. Certainly worth a read just to get the straight goods on what happened.

But even here the Trump Derangement Syndrome is coming in. " antimalarial drug promoted by US President Donald Trump and others as a therapy for COVID-19..." Well, I saw that news conference. Mr. Trump was not promoting the drug. He mentioned it as being a possibility. He said it "looked good" as a potential treatment. As soon as he mentioned it in an approving manner, reporters were up in his face demanding "How do you know? You're not a doctor!"

Following that the news media made killing that treatment a holy crusade. The medical journals gleefully signed on. Because Trump liked it. No other reason.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Ammunition sales up 139%

That means 139% more reasons for rioters to stay home this year.
Go big or go home?

National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) indicates that ammunition sales were up 139 percent in the first six months 2020 as compared to sales during the first six months of 2019.

NSSF president and CEO Joe Bartozzi spoke at the 2020 Gun Rights Policy Conference over the weekend where he delivered the news on the surge in ammunition sales. He also noted that gun sales were 95 percent higher in the first six months of 2020 than they were during the same time period in 2019.

I would surmise that continued rioting might well be a health hazard for the participants. Just sayin'.

The Phantom

Friday, September 18, 2020

Yoga is too White. No, really. We need a government program!

Headline: "Chances are the wellness spaces in your city are owned, and patronized, by white people. That's a problem."

Last year, when Alison Hill realized she was burned out, she tried to turn to yoga. "The narrative is to take care of yourself," she says. "So, I would go into different wellness spaces to take care of myself, and I would be overlooked and ignored. I didn't necessarily fit what a 'fit' person would look like – I'm not a skinny person. I'm a beginner in most of these spaces. I would usually leave feeling almost like I was in high school and I was trying to get into a club, but I just didn't have what it took to be there."

Hill's experience as a Black woman is not surprising. As Self magazine argued in 2018, the wellness industry – worth US$4.5-trillion in 2018, according to Global Wellness Institute – has a race problem. "From racial disparities in health outcomes to a booming wellness industry that caters almost exclusively to white, wealthy people, wellness should be accessible to everyone but too often isn't," the magazine's editor-in-chief, Carolyn Kylstra, wrote at the time. The industry's stars – including Goop's Gwyneth Paltrow and Fabletics' Kate Hudson – are overwhelmingly white, and mainstream wellness companies rarely target BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of colour), likely due to the perception that they can't, or won't, spend money in these spaces.

One expects to see this type of thing in NOW magazine, that's the advertising rag they have in boxes all over the city. It has that just-starting-out-in-journalism feel to it. But in the Globe & Mail? Apparently yes, this is what they've decided is important.

Cutting to the chase, what is this article -really- about? Well, hidden in the bottom of a paragraph is this little gem here:

But making existing wellness spaces more diverse is the wrong goal, according to a new cohort of wellness practitioners. The right one is creating opportunities for BIPOC to build wellness spaces of their own.

This article is about the Liberal Party of Canada's Black Businesses push. That's what is really going on here. But the author does not mention the Black Entrepreneurship Program by name, or the $220 million bucks earmarked for it. No, what she does is focus on why the federal government needs to have a  Black Entrepreneurship Program to fight the evile racism of all those White people.

White-owned and -run companies are also starting to face consequences for being exclusionary. Take this summer's controversy at Toronto's Misfit Studio, a 10-year-old Pilates studio in the city's west end that closed its doors after students and teachers detailed their negative experiences with the studio's mostly white management team.

Yeah, "consequences for being exclusionary" sounds bad, right? Sounds like they were kicking black people out of the club for being black. 

According to Renelyn Quinicot, a former teacher at Misfit, this wasn't a new problem; the studio had received critical feedback about race and other aspects of inclusivity before – from her, and other BIPOC teachers at the studio.

"I tried to make them understand the extra weight every person of colour carried as they walked into Misfit Studio," she says. "And that you can't just invite BIPOC folks in; you have to create a structure that supports them and acknowledges that they experience your space differently than white folks."

The real deal is that Misfit Studio specifically marketed to "BIPOC folks" but a couple of people didn't like the flavor they were serving, so they went on Twitter and Facebook to complain. The complaints basically sum to: "That White woman looked at me funny." That's the "extra weight every person of colour carried as they walked into Misfit Studio" that she's talking about. 

Essentially what we have here is a Liberal propaganda piece pushing a new Liberal program and using racial hatred to do it. The Globe wants us to know we need a whole special government program to give out free money so that black women can go to yoga class and not have to see those skinny white bitches doing it better than them.

That sounds really horrible and racist when I say it like that, doesn't it? Maybe so, but what do you call a government program that hands out business loans based on skin colour?

Friday, September 11, 2020

Monday, August 31, 2020

Tesla vehicles 100% hacked.

It develops that in 2017 an enterprising hacker managed to hack his way so far into Tesla's server system that he gained control over -all- Teslas everywhere.

A new Electrek story details the saga of Jason Hughes, a whitehat hacker who says he managed to gain a flabbergasting level of access to Tesla's internal servers — managing to seize control of the company's entire fleet of electric vehicles.
The alleged hack took place back in March 2017, and Hughes immediately alerted Tesla's security team, which quickly patched the security hole. Still, it's a fascinating glimpse at the perils of connected vehicles.

The Jewel in the Crown hack. Mr. Hughes managed to activate the "Summon" command of individual Tesla cars. When used the car comes to your location from where it is parked, by itself. Meaning he could steal any Tesla in the world without even being there.

Let us consider a few things.

1. This is proof that the Tesla company has remote control over your Tesla vehicle. And by remote control I mean they can make it start up and drive away from where you left it. Not a conjecture anymore. Proof.

2. Possibly the Tesla company could make your Tesla vehicle go where they want, with you in it. It depends how they wrote the software. There might be a "police" function that ignores input from the steering, brakes and accelerator. I would not be amazed to find such a thing was written and downloaded to every car, but not implemented. That's how Silicon Valley thinks.

3. Tesla's security is about average. If random hacker Jason Hughes can get in, guys with ulterior motives can get in. Also, people who work for the company are potentially corruptible. You wave some money (or other things) in front of people, one of them may take it.

Now, the cherry on top. This situation applies to ANY VEHICLE that can accept wireless computer updates. Any Ford, GM, Chrysler, Audi, BMW, Mercedes can be hacked in this manner. If it has a self-driving feature like some electric cars do, it can be instructed to drive away. Not just Tesla. All of them.

Just thought you ought to know.

Friday, August 21, 2020

SFF Fandom: Let's erase the past!

More pointless SFF fandom bullshit, notable only in that we called this one ages ago. Even the regular voters think WorldCon is getting hijacked by the Woke. And they don't like it.

When in doubt, rub it out.

From the WorldCon, home of the idiots who decided they needed to erase John W. Campbell's name from the eponymous award and substitute "Amazing!" Instead, we find the 2023 bid from Memphis to host the Worldcon wants to drop the Retro-Hugo awards.

The easiest question to answer is whether or not we intend to run Retro Hugo Awards: No, we do not. While we understand that some family members very much appreciate getting Hugos for the work their parents (or grandparents) did, the reaction to the Retros has been increasingly mixed. On balance, we therefore believe it is time to move on from these, at least for the time being.

Why, one asks, would they want to drop the "looking back ~50 years award" that reminds people of what has gone before them?

Because -this- year, the first year since Campbell's name was purged from the Campbell Award and replaced with an adjective, Mr. Campbell won the award for best editor. As well, HP Lovecraft won the "best series" award. Lovecraft is famous lately for having his likeness removed from the World Fantasy Award in 2015.

On the one hand, we saw the Wokesters flip out because the WorldCon voters had DARED to vote Campbell and Lovecraft a Hugo this year, 2020, in the midst of #BLM and Antifa in their ascendancy.

On the other hand, there was nobody to blame this time. No Sad Puppies to point at and scream "RAAAAACISTS!!!!11!" Just those oh-so-purehearted WorldCon voters who went to such great lengths to make sure that evil people like... me, I guess, couldn't pollute the Holy Award with our dire and horrible prolish Conservatism.

Last year the Inner Party voted to erase Mr. Campbell. This year the Outer Party told them to shove it in no uncertain terms. What to do? Double down, of course! " On balance, we therefore believe it is time to move on from these, at least for the time being."

Translation: if you voters can't do what you're told, we'll just cancel the fucking thing.

Ugh, we're talking about the "canon" of science fiction literature, again, for reasons (most imminently the recent Hugo award ceremony and its fallout), and whether, basically, newer writers and readers should and must slog through a bunch of books in the genre that are now half a century old at least, from a bunch of mostly male, mostly white, mostly straight writers who are, shall we say, not necessarily speaking to the moment.

Scalzi is many things, most of them unpleasant, but no one can say he doesn't have his finger on the pulse and his eye on the main chance. He's quite in favor of cancelling those " mostly male, mostly white, mostly straight writers" who are so 1947, y'know? Real oldsville, man. Antique! Not hip and with it, like Scalzi.

Yes, Mr. Scalzi is down with the cool kidz's, for shore. He's old, male, white, and straight and knows his position in SF mainstream publishing is precarious. One wrong move and ZIP, that's all she wrote brother. He's outta there.

It also doesn't hurt him if nobody reads all those old white guys whose work Scalzi mines for gold. If you've never read "Starship Troopers", then "Old Man's War" looks really fresh and new. There's also the -really- subversive shit that they never mention in case somebody might read it. Like The Weapons Shops of Isher.

That's a general problem in SFF these days. People who read older work come to the recently published stuff with fresh eyes. Eyes which see things like SJW themes crammed into stories to the point where the Wokeness takes the place of plot, characterization and world building.

I read all of it back in the day. Most of that stuff from the 1940s on is pretty fun. Adventure stories, light on the bullshit politics. Just what SJWs hate the most.