Monday, October 26, 2020

Communist China Runs Your Bookstore and WorldCon too.


Difficult to know what to say about this. I'll just drop it here and y'all can make up your own minds.

As China tries to expand its influence abroad, it's going beyond politics and business to target literature and publishing. German publishers are among those that have been targeted by censors, as DW has learned.

The books were hot off the press when the request for changes came. Nora Frisch, owner of a small publishing house in the southwestern German city of Esslingen, was asked to stop the publication of a novel.

Dragonfly Eyes was written by Cao Wenxuan, a well-known Chinese author of children's and young adult books. Shortly after the German translation was completed, the Chinese publisher, who had licensed the translation, contacted Frisch and told her to take the book off the market.

The publisher told Frisch she would have to make some corrections. Otherwise, she was warned, a planned reading tour with the author would be canceled. "She was really verbally aggressive," recalled Frisch, whose Drachenhaus Publishing Company specializes in Chinese culture and literature.

Nora Frisch told them to cram it, apparently, and released the translation as it was. Good on her. But finding Chinese  government stooges getting involved in something that fine-grained is alarming.

Here's something else that's alarming:

As Chinese authorities have begun paying more attention to how China is perceived abroad in recent years, censorship has increased. President Xi Jinping has repeatedly stressed that he expects Chinese media and publishers to contribute to the country's soft power by "telling China's story well."

The impact of this policy recently became apparent in Germany, when Thalia, a large chain of bookstores, suddenly designated an unusual amount of shelf space to Chinese literature in some of its stores. Clients quickly noticed that the shelves lacked any literature critical of the Communist Party. Instead, speeches by Xi Jinping were front and center. 

Thalia later admitted that the display had been curated by China Book Trading, a German subsidiary of China International Publishing Group, which is owned by the ruling Communist Party. Thalia didn't disclose whether China Book Trading had paid for the prominent shelf space.

"Curated" is a euphemism for "bought-and-paid-for." Thalia may not have disclosed the information, but you can safely assume it was a display paid for by the publisher. What's alarming here is not that a publisher paid for a display, they all do that. What's alarming is that the Chinese Communist Party is making this kind of deep propaganda incursion into the West's culture. Obscure bookstores in dorky little towns in Germany have not escaped their efforts. Imagine what they do at Barnes & Noble.

In other news no one seems very bothered that the Chinese city of Chengdu is making a very well organized and handsomely funded bid to host the World Science Fiction Convention. Aka WorldCon, owner of the Hugo Awards. Puppy kicker extrordinaire and all-round asshole Steve Davidson at the link there is about the only person making a fuss. Everyone else in the SMOF universe seems perfectly fine with it. These are the same people who made an international media uproar over people like myself buying memberships to WorldCon and voting for books that we liked. You know, by the rules? They went so far as to label us all fascists and racists, and changed the rules of the convention to keep us out.

But the city of Chengdu is right in the middle of the Chinese Communist Party's effort to enslave the Uighur Muslims. The US consulate in Chengdu was closed by order of the Chinese government. (Interesting fact, if you Google "Chengdu Muslim" there's two pages of happy-slappy propaganda articles before you see the word Uighur in the results. Tell me that's not an arrangement.) Millions of people are incarcerated and made to work in prison factories. The correct word for that is slavery.

And nobody cares except Steve Davidson, apparently. (Sorry Steve, you're still an asshole. One good call doesn't make up for decades of assholery.) Plenty of comments over at the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is Vile 666 about how Chengdu is a nice city, and wouldn't it be nice, and can't we all just get along? In fact, Cat Rambo, another puppy kicker extraordinaire says Chengdu is a beautiful city that she remembers with great fondness, and hopes that things will work out in such a way that people feel comfortable going there.(No link, the Vile Ones do not get a free click from me.)

So far, there is no official or indeed unofficial objection from the publishing industry in Europe, Canada and the USA about Chinese interference, Chinese influence on their freedoms or indeed Chinese slavery. A vast cloud of quiet and "good manners" has descended on them all, the same people who still can't shut up about those eeeevile Sad Puppies and their racism.

Given all of the above, I speculate that a considerable amount of money has changed hands. Hunter Biden isn't the only one with "friends" I guess, there's suitcases full of Chinese cash showing up all over the place. If they can throw money at obscure German publishers they can buy Liu Cixin a couple of Hugos.

Update: Welcome Instapundit! Thanks for the linkage Sarah Hoyt! ~:D

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.