Friday, December 28, 2018

FAUX HATE 2018

"If one doesn’t maintain some kind of victimhood status, your opinion is worth less, your accomplishments are dismissed, and your success is written off as the product of privilege."

Well one of the claims heard often this year is that there has been a big increase in hate crimes, the "most ever" according to some.  Some claim this is because of the evil President Trump's malign influence, like the shadow of Mordor over America.

There's a bit of a problem with this.  First off, the report being cited (from the FBI) is for the calendar year 2017.  So its not about 2018 (after all, its still 2018, how could the FBI put out a full report yet?).  Also, the reporting is highly subjective, as is the entire category as they require trying to determine the motivations and internal intent of perpetrators.  Given that the FBI so diligently tries to avoid assigning any motive whatsoever to any terrorist attack, this seems inconsistent.

The FBI also ignores some crimes (usually crimes which would be considered 'hate' if the victim were not white), and reports others which end up being false.  Further, there are more systems in place to collect claims than before, such as Minnesota's infamous hotline and social media, which may be causing more reports than in the past when the incidents are not more common.

And of course, there's the Anti Defamation League's report that antisemitic crimes are higher than ever this year, which as Eugene Volokh notes is problematic at best.  Trump opponents want to claim its his supporters and rhetoric are to blame, but ignore Muslim hate toward Jews which has been increasing each year in America.

In any case, here's the annual rundown.  There are fewer fake events this year, as it seems to go in cycles depending on the mood of the country.  2016 was a low point, with a huge number particularly right after the election.  Most of the fakes were clustered at the end of the year (which seems to be a regular pattern based on previous years).

  • January: An 11 year old girl in Toronto is attacked for wearing a Hijab, the claim went.  Police find that nothing of the sort happened.
  • April: A 13 year old girl claims a knife-wielding man called her a terrorist and threatened her because of her hijab.  The event was reported to the police, but an investigation reveals that she'd made the whole thing up.
  • July: A viral story erupted about a racist note left for a waitress in Texas.  With further investigation, its found that the whole thing was invented.
  • August: a woman says that another woman will not leave her doorway and calls the police.  Social media pounced on "Doorway Debbie" and her cruel white girl behavior toward a black woman.  Except both were Hispanic, and the woman who called the police has autism and panicked because the larger woman would not go.
  • September: A woman claims she was assaulted by a group of teenagers who shouted "Trump 2016" and claimed that she didn't belong there. She also claimed that after she parked her car in front of her house, she woke up the next day to find slashed tires and a note that read, "Go Home."  Police investigation discovered that none of this actually had taken place.
  • September: Students living at an apartment complex at Kansas State University find a racist note attached a door.  Police investigate and find out that a student posted it on their own door.  Students held a "unity rally" anyway.
  • October: A college student receives death threats regarding her lesbianism, repeated notes found in her desk and elsewhere.  When investigated, it is discovered that she wrote the notes herself.
  • November: Man shouts "Heil Hitler" repeatedly during a Fiddler on the Roof performance.  Social media immediately insists this is clearly a Trump Supporting White Nationalist. He's arrested and banned from the theater, and the ACLU immediately insists "more should be done."  The man is later discovered to be a leftist who hates Trump.
  • November: A man in Antioch California is arrested for painting swastikas, racial slurs, and ethnic attacks on cars, businesses, and city hall.  He's black.
  • November: Nooses hung around a Mississippi town are viewed as a threat against black voters, spawning outrage on social media and news sites.  Upon the slightest examination, signs clearly visible on the nooses show that they are meant to be a statement about racism by a left wing activist, claiming nothing has changed in the state.
  • November: Swastikas, the letters "KKK," Racial slurs and other graffiti were found on Groucher College campus in Maryland.  They particular targeted hispanics and blacks.  An investigation determines that a black student targeted himself and friends with the graffiti.  College administrators still claim its part of a bigger racist problem on campus.
  • November: Drake University students receives racist notes on campus.  Of the five, four are determined to be copycats sent by a leftist student trying to make things look worse, described by college officials and police as a "hoax."
  • The Daily Mail collected a list of hate crime claims that the Metropolitan Police ("Scotland Yard") finally released from 2015 and 2016 and it contains gems like a racist dog, a man who said he's voting for "Brexit" and a dispute over a line judgement in a tennis game.
  • And as an honorable mention, a study of UK colleges claims that a full third of Muslim college students report abuse while studying on campus.  Upon closer examination, however, the study reveals only that "A third of the respondents said they were “fairly or very worried” about experiencing verbal abuse, physical attacks, vandalism, property damage or theft at their place of study, relating to their religion or belief."  So no actual attacks, just some personal worries.

Lets hope there are even fewer next year, but I'm not optimistic.

This is part of the Faux Hate series, an ongoing feature at Word Around the Net for 8 years.

Friday, December 14, 2018

THE RURAL FUTURE?

"We are in danger of making our cities places where business goes on but where life, in its real sense, is lost."
--Hubert Humphrey

I went downtown a while back to do some Christmas shopping and hit my bank to turn in a check.  The place was a ghost town, it was scary how few people were out in stores.  Maybe I was out too early in the day to see the crowds, or there before the Christmas wave really hit, I don't know.  But it got me thinking and a chain resulted in some future speculation.

Currently, we're still in a system of economics and social structures that has been in place for thousands of years.  Even when people lived in huts and walked to work, towns were built around economic activity.

TOWNBUILDING
The way it works is this.  People need goods and services.  They offer their services and goods to others, in exchange for the goods and services of those other people.  This original system was barter, and it works okay on a small level.  The more established this becomes, the more you end up with markets, where people bring all their stuff and offer their services in a convenient, central location.

This location is so convenient that some of these people set up shop permanently and build homes there.  When the market meets, they're already set up and always ready to go.  They get supplies from others and offer them at these fixed shops.  As time goes on, more and more people start using this model, and a town begins to form.  The town then starts offering goods and services to take advantage of the fixed shops: blacksmiths, bakeries, clothiers, etc.

Certain businesses which develop cannot work in the farm-to-market model, such as factories.  They need to gather all the goods used to make something more complicated in a central location.  The existence of towns and an economic hub makes that kind of thing possible, so things become increasingly more sophisticated over time as a result.

The convenience of having everything in one location cuts down on labor and travel time, resulting in... leisure.  Which when you're living hand-to-mouth sun up to sun down just to eat and survive you have little to none of.  And leisure means people want something to do, so entertainment arises: plays, paintings, music, parks, movies, games, etc.

And while barter works between a few farmers out in the field, in a town it becomes a bit awkward to trade your cloth for chickens when what you need is firewood, but the firewood guy only really wants liquor from the supplier who needs honey... well you get the idea.  It starts to become one of those really obnoxious time-wasting quests in a computer game.

So money was invented.  All money is, is a representation of barter.  We're all still bartering, we're just using these coupons that represent our goods and services, or time spent at labor.  That dollar has virtually no intrinsic value, and even it did, the clothier needs firewood, not strips of cloth with a president's face on it (or even silver coins).  The value is that everyone has agreed upon it representing a certain amount of barter, so instead of trading cloth for firewood, we trade money for firewood, as a universal barter coupon.

As time goes on, these towns get bigger and bigger, as more people are attracted to the money and potential the town offers, and more people set up shop to serve these people.  Joe works in the restaurant to earn money to buy paintings from Fred, who uses that money to buy clothes from Jane, who uses her money to buy... well you see how it works.  Its all an interconnected, self-supporting system.

THE AMAZON REVOLUTION
Now, let us propose that a system arises which allows everyone to connect remotely to a network of exchange which allows them to purchase what they want from that central network and have it delivered to their home.  And let us suppose that nearly everything you used to buy at the market/town you now can do from the comfort of your La-Z-Boy on your phone and have sent right to your door.  Down to food and groceries, and some of it just delivered directly to your device like entertainment.

What happens to the towns, when people stop going to stores, and buy everything from central delivery services?  Well some stuff its best to buy in person such as a car or clothing (although not always).  And people still like shopping in stores, so culturally some momentum will keep the shops open at least seasonally.  And let's be honest, its good to get out of the house once in a while, no matter what a shut in kind of introvert you might be.

However, after a while that cultural momentum may slow and end, with the culture being instead isolationist, with everyone in their safe space getting what they want and shunning everything else.  But here's the thing: why live in a town, then?  If the shops close down, where are you gonna work?  When you don't buy shoes from the Shoe store, but instead Shoez.com, then the shop closes down for lack of sales -- or closes its store front and just ships shoes out online.  And when they're gone, the support network for them goes too.  Restaurants can't stay open if nobody working nearby eats there any more.

Online work is the only reasonable alternative -- that and either government work or laboring at BigDelivery.Com's warehouses and fulfillment centers.  You can deliver stuff, so that you earn enough to get them delivered to you as well.

So is it possible that towns as we know them begin to just melt away, leaving only the municipal structures of government and infrastructure, and big delivery hubs?  You don't need the library, book store, art gallery, playhouse, clothing shop, grocery store, etc any longer.  Just places to deliver those things to you at home or in your hand to your device.  And the people living nearby there who work at the delivery places and for the government

So how rural would it get, if the towns aren't towns any more but rather are big corporate hubs with a government protecting them?  And what happens to the economic structures we know and are familiar with if everything is overturned like that?  Since at latest Akkadia, humans have been living in clustered communities, sometimes with walls to keep out the barbarians.  But without barbarians and without the pressure of religion or economy to keep people close by each other, will people spread out more?

Particularly as technology advances, delivery may become less dependent on huge infrastructures like roads and railways.  Older technology such as Airships make landing areas less significant while carrying huge loads, and newer technology such as drones which right now are little more than toys, could be able to some day actually deliver goods directly to homes rather than just the publicity stunts Amazon engages in.

GETTING MEDIEVAL
Except for the very poor.  Unable to afford to get many deliveries and heavily dependent on the largess of the government, the poor would cluster near municipal centers for handouts and sustenance, in slums that spread out around the area.  These would be people who don't have the skills or ability (or desire) to work in the big delivery places or infrastructure like fire and police.  And they'd simply survive based on how many goodies the government hubs give them, like bread from Caesar.

This sort of feels like Medieval times, with the lord in his castle surrounded by peasants that he protects and allegedly cares for like children, taking from them what he desires to survive with.  Feudalism never really has gone away, but its been modified with the times; people still cluster around cities to live off the government's handouts and pay heavy taxes to the state in exchange for protection and goodies.

I don't know if any of this is reasonable or not.  It just seems like a plausible future where the entire structure of human civilization is overturned by the information highway.  People talk about how the internet is the next big thing like the steam engine or the industrial revolution but... it could be even bigger, changing civilization entirely.  Changing what we even know and understand about society and structures such as cities and towns, even nations.

Time will tell but one thing is for certain: time moves a lot faster than it used to.  Big cultural shifts like this used to take generations.  Its taking years now, not decades.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

READ ANOTHER BOOK


"We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided"
--The Goblet of Fire

There is an interesting trend in pop culture these days which grew to full form in the Obama years.  Books, music, movies, and so on started in the Clinton years showing the future as bleak, miserable, and scary.  For the first time, major films depicting a fictional president as a bad person, even criminal murderer, began to come out.

Dystopian futures have become quite popular in popular culture; a future where things have gone wrong, where tyranny, oppression, sadness, lack, and even disaster are the main themes.  Zombie apocalypses, post-nuclear holocaust, economic collapse, and so on. 

And in the middle of this, young people have been fed a steady diet of dystopian novels such as Hunger Games, Maze Runner, Divergent, even Harry Potter (whose books go from somewhat sad to miserable and bleak by the seventh novel).

Running through these books is a constant theme of the weak and lowly becoming powerful; of someone who is chosen or special or uniquely gifted taking on the powerful and wealthy and triumphing over the dystopia to reshape their world.  Young snowflakes raised by helicopter parents to face no hardship or difficulty, challenges, or failure are raised on these stories of sadness and rebellion defeating the Big Evil.

For some time now, I've pondered what effect this has on psychology and how it may explain a lot of the attitudes and behavior of young people today. How being raised to never face difficulty but having your head filled with tales and psychology of misery which the few good ones overcome to triumph in a new age of wonder and light affects young minds.

 And recently a pair of Cambridge political scientists examined how dystopian novels are affecting growing young people.
Given that the fictional narratives found in novels, movies, and television shows enjoy wide public consumption, memorably convey information, minimize counter-arguing, and often emphasize politically-relevant themes, we argue that greater scholarly attention must be paid to theorizing and measuring how fiction affects political attitudes. We argue for a genre-based approach for studying fiction effects, and apply it to the popular dystopian genre. Results across three experiments are striking: we find consistent evidence that dystopian narratives enhance the willingness to justify radical—especially violent—forms of political action. Yet we find no evidence for the conventional wisdom that they reduce political trust and efficacy, illustrating that fiction’s effects may not be what they seem and underscoring the need for political scientists to take fiction seriously.
What they're saying here is what those in other disciplines have long known: the stories we grow up on shape our worldview and understanding not only of ourselves, but of the world around us.  They help mold our psychology and outlook to a profound degree.  If you grow up on a steady diet of cheerful hopeful, positive, and encouraging stories, you will tend to be more of that sort of person.  

And if you look about you, it is pretty clear that young people raised on these stories of Vampires and freedom fighters and wizards forced to live under the stairs have taken these stories to heart.  They don't face difficulty or sadness; their lives are enormously blessed with riches, health, comfort, and ease.  But they have been raised to expect hardship and darkness and look for it around them.

And they think they've found it.  Remember, the teens of 1995 are now in their 30s and 40s.  They're the ones running the news room, the Hollywood studios, the Television programming.  They're the ones who are directly and most significantly impacting popular culture.  And these are the driving force behind "The Resistance" a misnamed movement if there ever was one.

Having grown up believing that the chosen one can rise up to overcome the great evil, that the future holds only bleak sadness and difficulty that the few can defeat, they are hungry for just such a world and think they found it with President Trump.  Older, cynical politicians are eager to exploit this viewpoint as well.

There's a reason that these people continually refer to events and people in terms of the books they grew up with and loved: Harry Potter most prominently.  Its not just because that's what everyone does (previous generations used to refer to the Bible, to great works of literature, to ancient myths and legends, and faerie tales).  Its because they have been raised to see the world through that lens.

Consider, in the past, stories people grew up with as compared to now.  Robin Hood is somewhat like these tales, but always from the perspective of heroism and joyful exuberance vs a single evil antagonist, not an overwhelming, crushing miserable culture of dystopian darkness.  The Bible is the story of redemption and hope.  Faerie tales are stories of wonderful things happening to help people overcome trouble.  Myths and legends tell of great deeds of power and glory.

In the past, the stories were about heroism and goodness against bad.  Now its stories of special people defeating a world of darkness.  Lord of the Rings deliberately had the protagonist the weakest and least -- the anti-Chosen One -- to fight against the rising darkness.  These new tales are always some bullied nobody, someone unknown who is mocked... that turns out to be The Greatest Of All Time, specially gifted beyond all those around them.

Older stories were about heroism, these new ones are about being owed great things.  You're not just a guy trying to make his way, Harry.  You're a Wizard surrounded by mundane nobodies who are stupid and mean.  You're the best archer ever.  You're the one character who can defeat the enemy, not out of your courage and heroism, not due to honor and hard work but innately you're just special.

Every generation has their stories they grew up on and were shaped by; this generation has a combination of a super protected upbringing, a lack of moral compass, and dystopian tales resulting in Trigglypuff and angry professors calling for "muscle" to remove a journalist. 

Remember President Obama's campaign?  "We are the ones we've been waiting for."  You are special, you will save the world, you will be the future you want to see and everything will be wonderful once all those stupid old poeple die.  Maybe we should help them along.

Never before in my lifetime has a generation so privileged and well treated acted as if they were the most put upon and miserable people of all time.  Facing a reality that isn't their snowflake upbringing, these younger people wail in despair at how unfair it is they have to pay their college loans back and that somehow an election was lost.

Even the Russia Russia Russia narrative is part of this.  We didn't really lose, a sinister evil cabal stole it from us!  There's a bad guy out there we have to as the special chosen ones, defeat and bring about a new era!

Ultimately this is a sad reminder of what we as the older generation failed in: raising children properly with moral guidance, good teaching, and challenges that force them to grow into the adults who can face the real world.  They're sad and deluded, mistaken and wrong, but they are that way because we failed them.  

Not everyone of the younger generations is a mess like this, no more so than everyone of older generations avoided these failures.  There are plenty of people in my generation and older who are part of this pathetic Resistance nonsense, singing the same songs about how they'll overcome the great Hitler of their time.  I mean Trump, not Bush, who was Hitler before him and now is considered not such a bad dude.  But this time he really is, honest!

How we turn this around I have no answers for.  It may simply take some grand failure or disaster that forces people to face the world as it is instead of how they wish it or believe it to be.  911 did that for a short time.  Reality shows like Survivor plunged in popularity, for example.  People were suddenly not very interested in faked challenges when forced to look at the real challenges of life.

Barring that, I don't think there's any way to reach these people.