Anatomy of a Social Media Challenge

As a Social Justice Warrior, I tend to favour diversity and inclusion as a principle. As such, I follow some people who share this interest. In fact, most of these people expend much more energy toward this end than I do. The challenge I am about to convey is that some people don’t read beyond the subject line, and don’t even attempt to assess the underlying claim, let alone the issue at hand.

I recently engaged in a nonsensical interaction that I am sharing and dissecting. It started with this share, an image of the border outline of Nigeria with an overlay caption that reads: “Nigeria becomes the first country to ban white and British models in all advertising”.

I’d like to point out two items in particular. Firstly, the caption is fabricated. I’ll get to the source reference presently. Secondly, the re-poster aptly corrects the caption when he shared it—”Well, all foreign models, but HELL YEAH!”

Nigeria recently passes a law that essentially assesses a tariff or levy on advertising content using non-Nigerian talent. There is no mention of ‘white’ models, though British models would fall under this umbrella. This protectionist law stems from nationalism. I’d guess that ‘white’ people comprise less than one per cent of the Nigerian national population, but I could be wrong. This is well outside my area of expertise.

My response was to say “Down with Nationalism and the Promotion of Otherism.”
I may be misinterpreting myself, but it feels to me that this is denouncing racism and other forms of otherness.

Sabrina responds, ‘Why is not having white models in advertising a bad thing?” and “Isn’t the whole point of advertising [for] people to…see themselves… ?”
In response, I should have pointed out that the initiative had nothing to do with skin colour. Instead, I responded to the second question: the point of advertising is to sell product. Full stop. If people see themselves with the product, then great. Clearly, this comprises a fraction of successful adverts. More common is to make a connection to what they aspire to. It’s not about making a social statement—unless, of course, that social statement will sell more product. If an ad with a white model will sell more product, a business would be derelict not to employ one; conversely, if white models result in lower sales, a business would be foolish not to switch to the more successful vector.

Sabrina really goes off the reservation with her reply, somehow conflating Nigeria with the African continent. Attention to detail is not her forte.

At this point, I feed into her laziness and send her a link to an Al-Jazeera article addressing the law.

She leaves with a parting shot, and I quote: “Have you ever thought about the harm you might cause by playing devil’s advocate and “creating an argument”?”

She’s off course and then attempts to diminish my point by calling it ‘playing devil’s advocate’ rather than admitting that she hadn’t even considered the rationale and possible ramifications. She didn’t even grasp the main point, so I suppose I should forgive her for not noticing secondary and edge cases.

At this point, Dr Perkins adds her voice. Her initial question is valid, and as I responded, the answer is “No”. The race card was introduced by some narrator who didn’t know what game he was broadcasting. But then she goes on to “applaud Nigeria for making a [decision] centering [on] Blackness”, save to say that was not what prompted the decision.

Notice, too, that other people “Liked” the other comments, a testament to the principle of least effort of the bystanders, too.

I recognise that the original post anchored the conversation off the actual topic, but it was also very easy to track down the reference and note the content discrepancy. Granted, this takes time and effort, but so does responding on a thread and then escalating commitment to a non-cause. And for one tilting at windmills to be tossing around accusations of playing devil’s advocate. It’s not a good sign.

But wait, there’s more. I commented on this post on a second thread.

In this case, Dr Anderson suggests that this is just “a country celebrating its own citizens by recognizing their beauty and knowing they can move product just as good, and probably better than white women, to which I responded that this is a testable hypothesis. It’s either true that on balance white models sell more product or black models do. Again, don’t fail to miss the point that none of this is about white versus black models.

Somehow, LinkedIn can’t seem to keep their threads in order, but Ms Rice takes my hypothesis testing point as a support for racism before precipitating to full-on troll mode.

It scares me to see that there are two academic doctors participating in this thread, neither with a trait of attention to detail nor even a fundamental pursuit of evidence.

This is why it is difficult to engage with social media. You have no idea what level a commenter is coming in on. And even when spoon-fed information, they refuse to alter their position. In fact, they tend to double down on their wrongness.
Moving on…

Boris Johnson Resigns

In other news, Boris Johnson resigns. Another Conservative politician hits the bin. I’m neither Conservative nor Liberal, so I think I am in a place where I can comment as a disinterested observer. Of course, I am not fully disinterested; I am rather apathetic to it all. None of my horses is in the prevailing parties.

As I’ve been reading (too much) Jonathan Haidt, of all things, a Liberal apologist for Conservatives aimed at a Liberal audience. I have to wonder why Conservative politicians are so corrupt.

Hear me out. Before you accuse me of a hack job, allow me to explain. Are Liberal politicians corrupt? Of course, they are. Probably as corrupt. By and large, they have the same handlers and funding sources. But then why call out Conservatives as being corrupt?

According to Haidt and his Moral Foundations Theory (MFT), Conservatives collectively have more moral dimensions than Liberals and they have elevated ‘disgust’ triggers. This is what makes them more obsessed with ‘purity’.

According to MFT, Liberals have two moral dimensions: Care and Fairness, regarding the left side of the value pairs. Conservatives share these, but they also include Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity.

“The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion,” Haidt 2012

I am distracted for a moment by the epiphany that this explains a lot about why American police units operate the way they do—dysfunctionally from the Liberal and minority perspective. Whilst they care and want ‘fairness’, how they care is typically different (though there are clear overlaps), and ‘fairness’ means something different to them. Next, dogpile on loyalty, authority, and sanctity.

Loyalty is to their group of other blue lives as well as their nationalistic and paternal fealty. Authority is them. They are the authority, and this is an inviolable relationship. Don’t question it. And then there’s sanctity. We need to clean up the neighbourhoods and cleanse them of criminals. The dirty people need to be taken off the streets as we perform our moral duties.

And I’m back. Whilst this intermission was a diversion, it is at the same time on point because they share this worldview with Conservative politicians—tough on crime, law and order. But what I am calling out is that if this is their worldview, they should be measured by a higher standard.

Distracted again, this also explains a lot about the outrage over Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, and Edward Snowden. Each of these people exposed unfathomable corruption, and Conservatives want their heads on platters. This reflects their viewing of the world through a deontological lens and as measured by a different sense of fairness.

I am not judging here. I am merely pointing out that their loyalty to country (or whatever) trumps the fairness mechanism. In a way, they see it as unfair that someone would have the audacity to betray their (notably corrupt) government. They even buy into the argument that they could have used the reporting mechanisms in place rather than air the dirty laundry in the public forum. These people find no discomfort in maintaining state secrets, even when the secrecy is for nefarious intent.

Back again. My point is that if these are primary drivers for Conservatives—fundamental attribution bias notwithstanding—, why do they subvert their own morals? For Liberals, there is no such subversion because they don’t believe these are relevant moral dimensions. This bleeds into the abortion debate—the sanctity of life: Life is sacred (and too much hypocrisy on the Right to unpack here), so you need to abide by moral code. Let’s not run astray again.

Wrapping this up, even if Conservatives are no more or less corrupt than Liberals, they are claiming to have a higher standard and yet they fail to abide by it. For a Conservative to call out a Liberal for the same violation is rather silly because the Liberal never agreed to the Terms & Conditions at the start.

Done

As I was mistyping the title, I realised that ‘resigns’ is ‘reigns’ with an inserted ‘s’. Nothing more.

Supernatural

There is a battle being waged in the United States today, but it is not centred on the lack of separation of Church and State. I suppose this may be a uniquely American issue given its Constitutional roots, but the root cause is rather a lack of separation between Natural and Supernatural, not between Church and State.

Tomorrow America is celebrating Independence Day [sic], but until we are independent of religion, we cannot be independent. The only real independence is for the politicians who are independent of British control. There is nothing more substantial than this, and nothing for the ordinary citizen, who might as well be taking orders from England. Canada doesn’t look any worse for the wear and tear. I’m not a Monarchist, but it’s no less ridiculous than the Oligarchy or Plutarchy in play today.

I’ve got nothing again churches, per se. I don’t prefer the brainwashing that passes as organised religion, but neither am I fond of the brainwashing that is organised politics. And why is it called ‘brainwashing’? It’s clearly mind-muddling. I digress.

I do believe that it’s in the best interest to separate Church and State, not least because I need freedom from religion. It is already force-fed down my throat and codified into laws. We need less, not more.

Of course, a key topical debate is the abortion issue. This is strictly a religious issue. Even if you want to argue that it’s a moral rather than religious issue, it is still the result of supernatural beliefs. This is where the separation needs to happen.

Why won’t it happen? It won’t happen because people who believe in supernatural forces—especially active supernatural forces—are easy to manipulate. This has been true historically as well as contemporaneously. It’s too convenient for politicians to pull the old Santa Claus trick—if you aren’t good, Santa won’t give you any presents; and if you’re bad, he’s going to bring you coal instead.

I’ve said my peace. In the end, I don’t really even care if you believe in the supernatural, but if you believe that you (or anyone) can interpret these forces, I claim foul and out of bounds. This belief is not different to believing that you can understand what your dog or cat is ‘saying’—or your pet unicorn in the garden. It’s certifiable.

I know that other countries have to contend with this interference. Some even don’t mind the union. Is this a problem in other countries? Is it a problem in yours? Or do you consider it to be a necessary solution?

DISCLAIMER: This post has absolutely nothing to do with the Supernatural television series.

Love. Hate. Bollox.

It’s a thin line between love and hate.

Persuaders/Pretenders*

What makes hate a unique emotion – and why that matters is an article by PhD candidate Cristhian A Martínez. I don’t think it does matter. I never thought it did. Like love, its counterpart, hate is nonsensical.

Love and hate are almost archetypal. In some ways, they are opposite ends of a spectrum, if not for the challenge of love having several other contexts that don’t serve to anchor the other end.

Hate and the love that opposes it are trebled versions of dislike or disdain and like or affinity. Both of these terms are hyperbole meant to elicit an emotional response. As such, they are abused to this end.

As Cristhian notes, hate is used as a qualifier—hate speech, hate crime, and other things people want to punctuate. It’s exclamatory. We might have rather presented it as !speech or crime! or perhaps borrow from Spanish, ¡speech! perhaps stylise it in all caps to double down on the effect ¡CRIME!

In any case, the intent is to manipulate emotions. Perhaps the intent is similar to the Spinal Tap parody of turning the volume to 11 — on a scale or 0 to 10. Hate is off-the-charts loathing. Perhaps it denotes a pathological response almost paralleling evil, another nonsense word.

Synonyms are detest, abhor, loathe, and so on. Hate seems to be just a smidge harsher.

I’d say that English has more than its fair share of nonsensical terms, but other languages have words to serve the same archetypal role. In French, there is a similar superlative— je le hais.

I don’t really have much more to add. I was just triggered by this piece, and I felt compelled to comment. Much language usage seems to be phatic, but in this case, I suppose emphatic is the word for the day.


* Thin Line Between Love and Hate is a song I first heard as a cover by Chrissy Hynde on the first Pretenders album, but it was first performed (perhaps even written by) The Persuaders, a fact I discovered searching for the video to insert here. The original sounds good, too. I just wanted to find the one who introduced me to it.

Cover image: pngtree.com

A World Without Whom

To whom it might concern…

Ever get in one of those moods?

You ever get in one of those moods?

Do you ever get in one of those moods?

I do. I am tired of the object pronoun, whom.

I started a petition to eliminate whom from the English language.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have fond memories of the word—a couple anyway.

For Whom the Bell Tolls — Hemingway or Metallica

Even if we retain it in a written form, perhaps we can agree to relinquish the M to silence. We’ve already seeded the ground. When M precedes N at the start of a word, it’s silent, so that gives me hope. Although to be fair, most of these words are silent in general. Save for mnemonic, I can’t say I’ve used any—and how often have I written mnemonic save for now? just to show off. Nobody ever seems to notice the silent M in pterodactyl.

Whom Protesters

But verbally, aurally, in speech, perhaps we can all agree to drop to M—a sort of silent protest. Sure, there are other solutions. Take ‘With whom am I speaking?’ as an example. When is the last time you said or heard this?

I mean, Who am I speaking to? only shifts the problem to be defended by other language guardians. And it’s really a grammar challenge of two fronts, as—misplaced, split infinitive aside—it should rather read Whom am I speaking to? That limits the battle to a single front. But if we drop the M-sound—making it silent—, we can slide this one by. And who would have the occasion to write ‘Whom am I speaking to?‘ This is something that is a spontaneous speech act.

Of course, we could simplify it further to SMS-speak: who dis? or who dat? This might create as many problems as it solves. Some people seem especially interested in the SMS-driven decline of the English language.

If you are tired of pretentious, dusty old words, help me to usher this one into retirement.

English Language in Decline

My first academic love was linguistics, and I am still very interested in language. Besides philosophy, I spend a lot of time researching, reviewing, and enjoying content on linguistics and music.

I’ve listened to several episodes of Jade Joddle, and she’s become disheartened with the decline of the English language—in particular, the demise of British English. In this clip, she shares her perspective on what she feels are the causes.

One of her peeves is American English. I know, right? Specifically, the bollox known as Netflix. Although it’s difficult to disagree with tripe that passes as content on Netflix, I’ll have to disagree with the notion of declining. It’s obvious that Jade is a prescriptivist—a characteristic more evident in women than in men for some reason—and a nostalgic conservative. She sees change as negative or dangerous, so she resists.

What’s interesting to me is that as a language teacher she doesn’t have a strong grasp of the fluidity of language. I’d love to see her in dialogue with John McWhorter or someone of this nature.

Jade has an episode from perhaps 2020 where she explains why she doesn’t smile much—because she’s serious. She is genuinely put off by a supposed lack of literacy and decay of standards. In her earlier videos, she was more playful and even performed what might be considered to be skits. She went on location, but then something changed.

Meantime, I do my part in maintaining proper British English—or World English, as I prefer to call it.

The first person who says she sounds like one of the teachers on Peppa Pig gets a demerit.

Checkmate Stalemate

Capitalism and apathy in the United States are leading factors in driving homelessness. Employing Capitalism and apathy is somewhat redundant as a major component of Capitalism is apathy and creating otherness—us and them; haves and have nots. People reaching retirement age—Boomers in the parlance—are finding themselves homeless—or as the sage, George Carlin reminds us, houseless.

An article titled America’s homeless ranks graying as more retire on streets was posted elsewhere with a comment, If they voted for Reagan, fuck ’em!

If they voted for Reagan, fuck ’em!

Facebook Poster

The feeling behind this sentiment is that this cohort did this to themselves. They shot themselves in the foot—or the face, as the case might be. They bought into the Darwinist mythos and envisaged themselves as coming out on top—except they didn’t and the music stopped and someone else had all the chairs. In fact, a few people had many more chairs than a person could ever need, leaving more people out of the game than strictly necessary. Illusory superiority is a cognitive fallacy that keeps things like Capitalism alive. And cognitive dissonance masquing mechanisms assuage the delta between perception and reality. And like lottery players, they convince themselves that one day their ship will come in. Yet at some point during the backside of midlife—however one defines that—, comes the foreboding that this is probably not in the cards. You’d gone all in and there was no payoff.

Whilst viscerally, I agree with the sentiment—as I sometimes feel schadenfreude for the people who vote for any major party candidates in election after election and are surprised that their candidate doesn’t move the needle because of [insert excuses here]. When the other party wins, nothing material happens because they don’t understand or don’t have it right. When their party wins and nothing material happens it’s because of entrenched opposition—perhaps, rather, controlled opposition.

Controlled Opposition

But what’s entrenched is not the other party. As I’ve noted before, there is no other party. There are no material choices. I don’t believe the image below is to scale because it makes it appear that they are less alike than they actually are. The image illustrates how the Democratic and Republican parties share the same foundation. I am fairly certain one could swap our Democrats and Republicans for Labour and Conservative, but I won’t speak out of school.

Twin Peaks

Almost nothing anyone can do in the near term can have any effect. In the long run, any real threat will be eliminated, neutralised, or assimilated. They may even allow an independent voice remain, but that is only for the sake of performance. It’s more like improv than scripted, but the impact will be negligible, in the manner of throwing a pillow at an aircraft carrier—even a firm foam pillow.

The most obvious connexion is that both parties—in practice all participating factions—are constitutionalists. Interestingly enough, my spellchecker autocorrected ‘institutionalist’ as ‘constitutionalist’, and that’s another commonality. As for foreign policy, the two are virtually indistinguishable. On domestic affairs, aside from vapid rhetorical and stylistic differences that might amount to some inconsequential veneer of a different tint, but their biggest differences above the water are hot-button items that spawn more words than action—especially from the Democrats.

In the US, there’s a notion of two Santa Clauses. Ostensibly, Republicans run roughshod and spend like drunken sailors when they are in power, but when Democrats are in power, Republican messaging accuses timid Democrats—and let’s be honest here; that’s most of them—of being free-spending liberals. Both parties are unrepentant spendaholics. The only difference is which people get the leftovers. I say ‘leftovers’, because their sponsors are first on queue to get paid.

The meter’s about to run out, so I’ll end my rant here. This is just one of two topics I wanted to get off of my chest. The other relates to racism—and otherness more generally, but that will have to wait for another day.

Covid Casualties

I’ve got several things on my mind, but they are ostensibly unrelated. I’ll post separately as time allows, but this is a personal story.

My sister has been visiting a dialysis centre three times a week for the past 5 years awaiting a matching kidney donor. She rang me the other day to tell me she was en route to hospital as they had found a donor. Found is probably a poor word choice. Some person had died, rendering the kidney superfluous for all intents and purposes.

My sister was excited to regain some control over her life. She was told that the host of this kidney had been diagnosed with Hepatitis C and was informed of the risks. The official cause of death was Covid—perhaps owing to a compromised immune system. No matter. My sister accepted the risk. It was evening, and the transplant was scheduled for the morning after running some test panels.

That morning, she was devastated by the news that she had tested positive for Covid, so she was no longer a candidate for a transplant. This is a reminder that Covid is not just about the effects of having caught it. She’d go back on the list and wait. Perhaps it wouldn’t take 5 years this next time, though there are no guarantees.

This is not my first experience with Covid. My 20-something-year-old daughter was hospitalised for over a week due to Covid. I’ve had friends and acquaintances get it, but they all survive–long-Covid effects notwithstanding.

I thought I’d written about the death of my last girlfriend who was another Covid casualty of the indirect variety. She died in June 2020. Her plight was sealed by deferring treatment of an infection for fear that hospitalisation would increase the probability of her contracting Coronavirus. This decision turned out to be fatal.

To be fair, there is a lot of information, misinformation, and disinformation abound, and it’s a challenge to sift out the relevant material. And neither is the ambient fear helpful. And so it goes…

Still a Slave

“Wage slavery is not the same as slavery, and this diminishes the experience of plantation slaves in the antebellum Southern US states” is a sentiment I’ve heard repeated over the years.

I’ll argue that it is the same. Saying wage slavery is like when the then-president of the United States, Bill Clinton, denied that oral sex was sex despite it being an obvious part of the name. When one says wage slavery is still slavery, s/he is making a commentary on the lack of agency, a lack of personal control. That the worker has a choice over which master to slave under is hardly a consolation. That a plantation slave has a choice of picking cotton or tobacco is of no consequence.

To disqualify wage slavery as slavery is to disqualify a 3-month pregnant woman as being not as pregnant as a 6-month pregnant woman. One might be closer to term, but they are equally pregnant.

That a plantation slave may have had less freedom and run the risk of physical beatings, torture, or even death is a sad commentary. That they may have separated from their families and have no autonomy is a matter of degree.

The slavery connexion occurs where the human needs to comply. Sure, a wage slave can opt out and live as a transient—ostensibly homeless; perhaps s/he can home-surf. Perhaps s/he can beg or live off the land.

Wage slavery is not the same as slavery

To me, the common missing element is to be able to operate as a functioning society, that as communities, we might contribute however we see fit. Of course, that narrative will quickly provoke an appeal to Tragedy of the Commons. People are selfish and act only in their own self-interests. And this is accepted uncritically as fact rather than evaluating whether this worldview is a consequence of Modernity or Capitalism, whichever nomenclature one has opted to adopt.

Wage slavery is slavery. Depending on the information source bout 50 per cent of Americans are a paycheque away from needing to deplete savings to survive; some have assessed a single paycheque from homelessness without intervention. One paycheque from poverty. Over two-thirds of Americans have been living paycheque-to-paycheque since the Covid-19 pandemic hit. If this describes you, it likely provides little solace that you are not alone. Who on the Titanic was relieved to know that other people shared their plight? Is there a silver lining for those who are paid fortnightly or monthly? And God forbid the ones whose paycheque arrive daily—perhaps in cash from the till.

Research from the Federal Reserve found that 4 in 10 Americans couldn’t afford a $400 emergency, and 22 per cent say they expect to forgo payments on some of their bills. It’s not much better in the UK, where the runway appears to end at 2.5 months rather than 1, although about two-thirds of renters would expect to make it more than a month.

Slavery, like turtles, all the way down. Just be thankful the worst that can happen is that one starves to death or pursues the life of Valjean. Dissociating wage slavery from plantation slavery is like separating the abbatoire from the butcher’s shop. When you’re the chattel it makes little difference.

Woe Anarchy, Democracy, and the Rest

Think about it: The average person has an IQ of 100. Essentially, half of the people have lower and half have higher. Not a good hand to be dealt. I don’t particularly buy into the whole IQ thing, but it serves this line of logic. Adopting this framework and reflecting on normal or so-called Gaussian distributions, this means (pun initially unintended) that within one standard deviation of the mean, 68 per cent of the population falls, which is to say having an IQ between 85-115.*

Zut Alors!

An IQ score of 100 wouldn’t be that bad if it was calibrated to Einstein or Hawking, but it’s not. The average police officer in the US has an IQ of around 103. Think about it. This is who democracy is asking to be in charge; this is who we expect to make good voting decisions. Amor fati. Memento mori.

Continuing on my It’s People riff, I am further struggling with options. As a Disintigrationist, I don’t feel compelled to provide answers, but as a personal matter, it seems that I am stuck in the middle. Idiocracy was supposed to be satire, but it’s serious.

So, accuse me of being an elitist. Call me a misanthrope. But it’s more patho-anthropy. It’s pity. Dunning-Kruger, be damned. On the one hand, a hierarchical structure leaves us with self-interested opportunists, megalomaniacs and narcissists; on the other, we get to know the political opinions of the Paul Blart‘s and Homer Simpson‘s of the world. And there’s nothing in between.

The Devil You Know

Following Plato’s Republic, the current system presumes a sort of meritocracy that elevates those who excel at politics to rise to the top. Optimistically, this is precisely what happens; pessimistically, this is precisely what happens. This is as good as it gets—self-serving politicos doing all they can to maintain their positions.

But what about the other people? Surely some honourable people are attracted to the political calling, right? Some who make it into the system are spat out by it; some are marginalised; the remainder are corrupted by it.

Then there’s the other side of the coin. There’s something to consider with local democracy. At least you know the idiots you are dealing with, but that’s not really a consolation. Here, Plato noted the benefits of rhetoric.

15 Things You Should Know About Dogs Playing Poker | Mental Floss
Police break up an illegal poker match—doggy style

Given the limited prospects for even a third-tier suboptimal solution, we might be better off by adopting RNG as a ruling system. No boundaries. No parameters. Remove any interference by humans. They’ll only muck it up.

Where to Go from Here

Hyperbole aside, what is the solution? Nazi Germans took a stab at it, but of course, they were idiots, too. Plain and star-bellied Sneetches. Pots calling the kettles black. People have tried literacy testing, income and wealth testing, lots, and any other number of approaches. The challenge is to have a system with no human intervention. Sadly, even this system would necessarily be constructed by humans, so we’re pretty much doomed.

Sneetches

Finally, to silence those who might label me an elitist, no, I don’t think that a society comprised and governed by people only with IQs at and above, say, 160 would fare much better because the problem is broader than facile intelligence.


* If your reaction is ‘but my IQ is in this range’, you may now get my trepidation.