An Unenviable Situation

Thursday, May 06, 2021


New Brooklyn Intellectuals Accuse Old Upper West Siders of CAREERISM
Louis Menand’s big new book on art, literature, music, and thought from 1945 to 1965 instills the conviction that the 20th century is well and truly over. It seems like the right gift for the graduating college senior this year. Born in 2000, the proud degree-holder may not recognize the Jackson Pollock reproduced on the accompanying congratulations! card, or know the Allen Ginsberg lines misquoted in the commencement speech, but can look them up in The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War and confirm that this past is truly past. 

An old friend's comment after being stuck in Park Slope for an afternoon 15 years ago. "We're so liberal we live in Brooklyn."


I do not like the critical language of approval and disapproval. I always felt there was a lot of moral righteousness among the critics of that period. I can’t think that way. I want to empathize (not sympathize) with the people I’m writing about, to get inside them. You do learn their limitations that way, and in that sense you are rendering a judgment, but your job is to, in the words of Howard Cosell, “Tell it like it is.” You want to help readers think without telling them what to think.

Howard Cosell fits John Roberts' model for a Justice of Supreme Court, or Jack Webb's cop. A historian looks for the origins of moral imperatives. It's not a book about the work; it's about about the only thing the readers care about: careers. Everything about reinforcing the opinions of the present.

Greif's comments about Rauschenberg and Warhol are pathetic. Reading the interview with Menand I can't imagine the book's any better. 
update: I was right. I have a Warhol tag, but this is enough. Click through. There's plenty to criticize in Clark.


But I anticipate. For the time being, all that needs to be established is that Pollock's drip paintings, when they started, and maybe even as they continued, were alternately Alchemy and Sea Change - Alchemy always failing, Sea Change never. The pictures were dazzling ("almost too dazzling to be looked at indoors," wrote Clement Greenberg of one of them at the time). They were lordly and playful, like something a master had thrown off. Magic Mirrors. Shooting Stars. Enchantment was part of them. And this seems to me true of modernism in general. Of Sweeney Agonistes as much as of Harmonium, of Picasso as much as of Matisse. An art of high negativity - books about nothing, paintings done with consciousness deliberately on hold - is not necessarily anarchical, scabrous, or otherwise low. On the contrary, it has often come out of courtly surroundings. Dukes have gone in for it, on horseback, as part of their general "contempt for nature in all its particularity." Negation is stylish. For stylish, at certain moments, read fashionable.

Scent. So it proved in Pollock's case. On 1 March I951, Vogue magazine published four pages of photographs, black and white and color, by Cecil Beaton (figs. In and I78). In them Irene and Sophie showed off a range of the season's evening dresses in front of pictures by Pollock from a show just closed at Betty Parsons. Beaton had ideas about how the pictures and dresses matched. He reveled in the analogy between Lavender Mist's powdery transparency - or the transparency his lighting gave it - and that of the chiffon and fan. The fan struck a Whistlerian note. He tweaked Irene's black cocktail dress into a to and fro of diagonals which made it quite plausibly part of Pollock's Autumn Rhythm behind. And so on. The effects are not subtle, and did not need to be. Hedging his bets just a little, the Vogue subeditor informed readers that "the dazzling and curious paintings of Jackson Pollock, which are in the photographs on these four pages, almost always cause an intensity of feelings." 

Vogue in the 1940s and 1950s was not to be sniffed at. It sold copies and was on Pollock's side. The magazine had printed a full-color photo of Reflection ol the Big Dipper as early as April 1948, the first time a drip painting was reproduced in color (beating Life with Cathedral by a full six months). Financially speaking, early 195 I was not a very good moment for Pollock: he was waiting for his contract with Betty Parsons to expire, and broke with her once it did; nobody seems to have made much money out of the show the previous December - the one Beaton used - and in any case Pollock had a reputation for working the media when he had a chance (Mark Rothko to Barnett Newman in I946: "Pollock is a self contained and sustained advertising concern"). His tone when he mentioned the Vogue event to Alfonso Ossorio in February was matter of fact: "This issue of Vogue has three pages of my painting (with models of course) will send a copy." These things happen. They help a bit. "There is an enormous amount of interest and excitement for modern painting there [he means in the wider America] - it's too damn bad Betty doesn't know how to get at it."

Taken on their own, the Vogue photographs are slippery evidence. They are falsely conclusive, like the formal analogies Beaton went in for. I did not quote Rothko to Newman thinking the photographs just proved Rothko's point. Certainly they suggest some of the terms of Pollock's reception in his own time. But the fact that Vogue was a fashion magazine does not mean that paintings appearing in its pages were, or became, fashionable. Fashion is a fragile construction, which regularly feeds on its opposites. The opposites often stay much as they were. Beaton in 1951 occupied a particular (lordly) place in the culture industry. His photos were meant to produce a slight intake of breath. And in any case, there is always the option open to us of dismissing the Beaton episode altogether, at least as evidence about Pollock. I remember seeing the model in front of Autumn Rhythm for the first time in a lecture, and thinking it made a powerful point, but then afterwards having the comment reported back to me: "So the Pollocks got used as background in a fashion magazine. We all know that by now. So what?"

There is a phrase that sticks in my mind from a similar conversation about the work of Serge Guilbaut - about his book How New York Stole the Idea of Moden Art - to the effect that his account of Pollock and Abstract Expressionism amounted in the end to an exercise in "guilt by vague association." For is not any art of real complexity (this is the implication) fated to be used, recruited, and misread? What are we supposed to say, for example, about a photo of Mussolini's shocktroops running in formation through the Arch of Constantine? (This too I saw in a lecture, at much the same moment as the Beaton images, and the comparison struck home.) Are we to put the blame on the Arch, somehow? Pretend that the Fascists got Roman architecture right? (To which the reply might reasonably be, in fact: Are you saying they got it wrong? What, after all, was the Arch of Constantine for?)

"Dukes have gone in for it, on horseback" Clark's making a reference to a few pages earlier. It's here, and of course here

Warhol wasn’t the first American artist whose work got cleaned up to make it palatable, and he wasn’t the first to play both sides. As Rothko put it: “Pollock is a self contained and sustained advertising concern.” A salaryman’s alienation was everywhere in Rauschenberg’s greatest early combines; Monogram and Bed are so violently anarchic that they remain unrecoverable by any but the most sophisticated polite imagination. They come from the same world as Death of a Salesman and A Streetcar named Desire, and are crueler than either. But Rauschenberg’s process quickly became aestheticized, while Rothko’s interests, like Pollock’s, were in the “Tragic and Timeless” and grandeur’s raison d’etre as Cecil Beaton understood, is reassurance. Pollock understood that too, better than Rothko. 

And as long as I'm at it,  from 2008. Klub Kids and Philosophers.

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

It's predictable but academics who argue for determinism to whatever degree always exempt themselves. Artists who have the same beliefs never do. It's the extension of my point about Euthyphro /Alcestis.
If all humility is false humility then Socratic humility, as Socratic irony, is the irony of contempt. Euripidean irony is the irony of shared burdens and failures.
This is all a repeat but I have new readers.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Neal Ascherson in the LRB 

Written​ constitutions? ‘Because of where I came from, these documents seemed profoundly exotic.’ In spite of where she came from, which was England, Linda Colley became many years ago the first English intellectual to explain to her nation just how exotic ‘Britishness’ was. Now, with the same pioneering enthusiasm, she has produced a book about constitutions. Not the unwritten playground rules that supposedly guide the Anglo-British state, but those semi-sacred printed sheets of paper for which men and women in the outside world have been known to die. 

The book comes at the right moment. Constitutional storms are massing over the old United Kingdom. One, of course, is territorial: the matter of Scottish secession and perhaps Irish reunion. Another approaching hard rain is less obvious but more dangerous. This is the accelerating offensive of the Westminster executive against its restraints: against rival centres of power in Brussels or Edinburgh, against plural interpretations of history, against law itself. Most British governments since Thatcher’s have sought to stamp out what they see as a spreading ‘European heresy’: the notion that supreme law should stand above parliaments, that judges in a democracy may reverse the will of an elected government if it violates a constitution.

This storm has been brewing for a long time. Take a late 20th-century example: during one of those recurring leak panics, somebody in Whitehall revealed to a journalist that a cabinet minister was lying. In the uproar that followed, a civil servant was challenged to confirm that she owed unconditional loyalty to her minister. But she demurred. ‘At the end of the day, I answer to the little lady at the end of the Mall.’ That reply confirmed that the United Kingdom is still essentially a monarchical structure. Not in terms of direct royal intervention, but as a polity in which power flows from the top down. The idiotic doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty – the late 17th-century transfer of absolutism from kings endowed with divine right to an elected assembly – excludes any firmly entrenched distribution of rights. Popular sovereignty in Britain is a metaphor, not an institution....

One of the virtues of this book is that it isn’t Eurocentric. The Polish constitution of 1791, which so much excited radicals and intellectuals in France and Britain, gets only a passing mention. Instead, Colley discusses the 1821 Plan de Iguala in Mexico, whose famous Twelfth Article overthrew racial (but not sexual) discrimination: ‘All the inhabitants of New Spain, without any distinction between Europeans, Africans or Indians,’ it held, ‘are citizens of this monarchy.’ And she finds a connection between the plan and the extraordinary Calcutta Journal, edited in those years by the radical English wanderer James Silk Buckingham and his friend Rammohan Roy, a high-caste Bengali intellectual who campaigned to reform Hinduism and attacked the ruling East India Company. Both men believed in the reforming power of written constitutions for India and republished the Plan de Iguala in their paper.

I'm a fan of written constitutions –living trees, not dead ones- a council of elders, forms of "elitist theater for all." "Because I understood," he said.

Monday, May 03, 2021

"The Ministry for the Future seminar"  reminds me of "The Art of the Future Warfare"
Henry will never learn, and neither will Cooper. He belongs with them. Using the connection to Obama, in 2021 is just hilarious. I'll add the tag for the discovery of experience, because they still haven't. And freedom of speech because they oppose it.

Futurists, moralists, puritans, and fascists. 

"The claims about Art criticised in Art, an Enemy of The People, are very similar to those made by most religions, namely that there is a special category of people (prophets or artists) and a special category of activities (Religion or Art) which yield transcendent insights into the human condition, and which should be accorded special privileges over other people and other ways of finding meaning and enjoyment in life."

“… Search [in Shakespeare] for statesmanship, or even citizenship, or any sense of the commonwealth, material or spiritual, and you will not find the making of a decent vestryman or curate in the whole horde. As to faith, hope, courage, conviction, or any of the true heroic qualities, you find nothing but death made sensational, despair made stage-sublime, sex made romantic, and barrenness covered up by sentimentality and the mechanical lilt of blank verse."

Fantasies and Fantasists. Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophy. 

"Science Fiction was created by men trying to get away from the alien environment populated by their wives."

"Art, an Enemy..." is Quiggin. And it's perfect that Francis Spufford has appeared in comments at the new one. And I need to add Shalizi.

And since D2 made an appearance at the Spufford "seminar"...

"However, one mark of crass consequentialism is to ignore the possibility of tragic dilemmas, yes?"
A “tragic dilemma”, as I understand it, is a situation in which consequentialism gives a clear answer about which alternative is better, but the answer in question is unpalatable. I don’t see why, in such a situation, consequentialism should be described as “crass” rather than, say, “jolly sensible”.

utilitarian psychopathy, autism and morality. 

Sunday, May 02, 2021

From 2015

a comment at the Boston Review.  (BR stripped all comments years ago.): 

This entire debate is absurd. Singer says we should aim for more than doing well; we should do good. But regardless of his claims even the word "Altruism" is a form of patting himself on the back.

But what do the naysayers have a response. Angus Deaton refers to studies by the Cochrane Collaboration, and who are they?
We are a global independent network of researchers, professionals, patients, carers, and people interested in health. 
Cochrane contributors - 37,000 from more than 130 countries - work together to produce credible, accessible health information that is free from commercial sponsorship and other conflicts of interest.
Effective Altruists? 
The only point worth making about this stupid debate, the one point avoided, is that you can't do good without getting dirty, if not physically dirty then morally dirty. Deaton's arguments as intended are as anti-political as Singer's: everything seen from the distance of "reason" of one sort of another. 
I met a woman in a bar. She was an ER surgeon. She's been doing it for 20 years and wanted to do nothing else. I said "You feel like a god until you kill your first patient". She looked at me, shocked. "You understand!" Nurses if you're curious have their own kinks. 
Altruism is virtue ethics for pedants, and Deaton responds with the condescension of political realism delivered as a kind of intellectual idealism. How's that for perversity! 
A friend's neighbor is a trial lawyer: big money, drugs and guns and everything else. He says "I'm at the forefront of the defense of your civil liberties". He's right.

The world is the playground. The library is a place to visit not to live in. But still I'd be a bit ashamed to be as rich as Singer or Deaton.
I was thinking tonight about the surgeon at the bar. I searched the blog to see if I'd told the story before. 

I'd changed the tone of her response. She wasn't shocked; the exclamation mark belonged with what she'd said before: "I love my job!" Her response to my reply was subdued and she looked down at her drink. I wanted her to laugh.

In 2017 I spent a day in the emergency ward at Mount Sinai, with a friend who would die at the hospital  a week later. The noise was constant, the rhythmic beeps of the machines, like a nightclub with nothing in sync, 50 little boxes and no bass, and the air an overpowering mix of adrenaline and estrogen. After 12 hours I was high. I walked up to a nurse, an older woman, a dark-skinned Latina:"You love this place don't you!?" It was obvious I felt the hormones in the air, and understood that the tension was connected to competence. She looked right back at me and her eyes went wide. "30 years! You see everything!" We both laughed.

I've always felt at home in clubs. I think that's why I haven't spent more time in them. The anonymous hum is a kind of warmth. I've been out in NY, Las Vegas, and Beijing. The ER is the best of both possible worlds. 

That's the pretentious way to put it, with the in-joke reference to philosophy. The other way is just to say it's the best of both worlds, like drugs and risky sex, but your body made the drugs and maybe you saved someone's life. Or maybe not.

It's called International Capitalism

adding the update at the top this time.

"The fact that Raoul Peck’s new HBO film on white supremacy exists shows that something profound about the world is changing."


In the final episode of Raoul Peck’s HBO documentary, “Exterminate All the Brutes,” Peck says in a voice-over, “The very existence of this film is a miracle.” That is 100 percent true. Before this moment in history, it would have been impossible to imagine that one of the world’s largest corporations — AT&T, owner of HBO, with a current market cap of $220 billion — would have funded and broadcast a film like this. The fact that it somehow squeezed through the cracks and onto our TVs and laptop screens demonstrates that something profound about the world is changing. Decades, centuries of people fighting and dying were required both to widen the cracks and mold someone like Peck, the right human at the right time, to step through.
I doubt it covers Liberia or Israel.
The second one is from 2010

Saturday, May 01, 2021

"Behind the chiliasm of modern man, is the megalomania of self-infinitization."

This last post on Milanovic, and the references/links made me think it's time to make a new list.

"Being alone is both our preference and a response to a world of competitiveness, commodification and higher incomes. The new world that we can glean will not be dystopian. It will be a Utopia, with a twist."

"Her story perfectly illustrates the fact that parents and children suffer the more we privatize caregiving...."

"Our belief in negotiated commitment – that people are not obligated to relationships they did not choose" 

"These relationships [between parents and children] are inegalitarian in deep ways. The parties to partial relationships can exclude others..."  "Legitimate Parental Partiality"

"Xenofeminism. If nature is unjust, change nature."

"We Can't Have a Feminist Future Without Abolishing the Family" Full Surrogacy Now

"I teach a standard Contemporary Moral Issues/Applied Ethics course once a year.... We discuss topics such as abortion, inequality in education, parental licensing,..."

I grew up as a middle class Jew in a black working class neighborhood. When we moved there I didn't have a choice. I had to adapt, to accommodate myself to others. 

I could go on and on just adding related links. Fascism is utopian. Utopianism is fascist. Liberalism becomes fascist because individualism becomes its opposite.

Friday, April 30, 2021

The problem for programmatic liberalism as for radicalism is that both are fantasies sprung out of individualist imagination; both deny the fact of what Arendt called human “plurality”. The truths of liberalism and radicalism are singular because they’re generalizations; the truths of art are plural because specific. Brecht’s decadence is far less problematic than Walter Benjamin’s for the same reason Borges’ decadence is more problematic than Billy Wilder’s. But Modernism takes what it can use. Self-hatred is as appropriate a topic in discussing Borges and Philip Roth as Mapplethorpe, Fassbinder, Celine, Mishima, or Houellebecq. “Céline is my Proust!” as Roth said. But the only people to refer openly to Roth’s self-hatred use it to attack his work. And he’s defended from the charge with the same loyalty as defenders of Borges, for reasons that have nothing to do with the work itself, but only with the role they’re made to play, even though Borges deals in generalizations, and Roth in specifics.

Katha Politt on Roth and Bailey isn't bad, but not good enough. What does it mean that Cynthia Ozick is as twisted as Roth?

The rest started as a new post, but two days later it makes sense to join them,

John McWhorter in the NYT    

(I should also note that I am concerned here with “nigger” as a slur rather than its adoption, as “nigga,” as a term of affection by Black people, like “buddy.”)

That's as far as I got.

"Nigga" only works within the group. It means "us". Outsiders don't use it, and shouldn't. Gay men call each other "faggot", acknowledging their shared status as marginal, outside, "down by law".  The language toughens you, but includes self-hatred. This is all obvious to anyone who's not a proud deluded American "liberal". 

I had a long conversation a couple of days ago with a foreign-born academic. A major figure. On Zoom. At his suggestion. It's nice when someone at that level says flatly, "I know what you mean." "Americans have no sense of irony"

Milanovic is such a fucking idiot

Here I want to discuss another issue where we face a fundamental contradiction between the principles according to which hyper-capitalist societies are organized and what may be considered desirable outcomes. The topic is authenticity in arts, and to a lesser degree, in social sciences. When we deal with reproducible goods, the advantage of capitalism is that profit can be made only if somebody else’s needs are satisfied. Thus two objectives, personal needs of a buyer and the profit goal of the producer, are aligned.  

But this is not the case in arts. The reason is that arts thrive on, or require, individualism, uniqueness and authenticity. When you try to guess public’s preferences in shoes, and produce such shoes, this is good and useful. But when you try to guess public’s preference in literature, films or paintings, it may, if you guess them correctly, make you rich, but from the point of view of artistic creation, it could very easily be fake and ephemeral. In arts, we are interested in an individual’s view of the world, not in an individual’s ability to ape public preferences or prejudices.  

I will illustrate it with some extreme examples. When we read Kafka’s Diaries, we are  sure that they represent his own true and unvarnished take on the world: he wrote them for himself, never thought they would be published, and explicitly asked that they be burned. The same is true, for example, with Marx’s 1848 manuscripts which were saved largely by accident and were published more than a century after they were written. Whether one likes or not either is a matter of taste and interest. But there is no doubt that they are authentic works of these two people.

But when we watch a film whose ending was tested on different audiences to produce the ending that most people would like to see, and pay for, there is—likewise—no doubt that the author’s role in such an enterprise is diminished, and in some cases totally obliterated. The same is true for works of fiction. If they are written with the main objective of money-making they have to play on popular preferences and to present as little of author’s personal opinions (which may be unpopular) as possible. Why should one then, if in search of new or challenging ideas, read such novels?

"While it is true that commercial art is always in danger of ending up as a prostitute, it is equally true that noncommercial art is always in danger of ending up as an old maid." 

Social life is compromise, in the bedroom or the legislature. Art is social. Notwithstanding Arendt's separation of the social and the political family life is intimate politics. Milanovic can't even imagine that the nomenklatura functions as a set of social relations. He's really that blank. 

repeats. The first two are Milanovic and Sartre, 

Being alone is both our preference and a response to a world of competitiveness, commodification and higher incomes. The new world that we can glean will not be dystopian. It will be a Utopia, with a twist.

Let us consider this waiter in the café. His movement is quick and forward, a little too precise, a little too rapid. He comes toward the patrons with a step a little too quick. He bends forward a little too eagerly; his voice, his eyes express an interest a little too solicitous for the order of the customer. 
"He was owed", not even "I owed him". 
Communication as contract: between the selfish and self-conscious, but not un-self-aware. All the grey areas in a relationship described as lines. I’m sure she feels the children were “owed” too. 

The MIT professor who considered medical castration as a cure for male privilege...

Scott Aaronson couldn't accept that getting laid is a social exchange, but felt ashamed of wanting to rape.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

notes before returning to an argument. A polite one.

Idealism vs the historicization of idealism. If humanism is the study of the past, rejecting authority but respecting tradition, as Panofsky put it, then it is not strictly speaking "idealist".  Idealism is dogma. The brief period we call the High Renaissance was the moment between idealist dogma and the moral panic: the affect of Botticelli and Bronzino. If balance is achieved it's only in passing, and mourning it too much only reinforces reaction.

"The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear."

Periodization works. Historicism works. Relations exist, but tempora mutantur. Times change. 

Art and money are in tension, not opposition.  The seriousness in the art world, the world of "non-commercial art" was not a world without commerce.  The parallels are obvious.

"The university belongs, like the church and the military, to the social institutions that are situated at a considerable distance from democracy and adhere to premodern power structures."

Art and money in the art world—the world of "fine art"—are no longer in opposition, or no more so than the tension between design and money—design and architecture are distinct (that's a subject). But that tension exists more and more, and more openly, in film and other forms of entertainment, except gaming (and again).

Gaming will be an art form beyond design when designers introduce tragedy. As Schrader says:"it’s still in the realm of the techies." The other option is not in games as such but "world creation", something covered late in Halt and Catch Fire, when test players and marketers become confused, and nonplussed, because the game designer Cameron has designed a game that's impossible to win. This is 2017 looking back at 1995. Schrader's article came out in 2014. Tempora mutantur

Cannes vs The Biennale  

Panofsky, 1934

"Today there is no denying that narrative films are not only “art”—not often good art, to be sure, but this applies to other media as well—but also, besides architecture, cartooning and “commercial design,” the only visual art entirely alive."


Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Great title. 

The Paranoid Style in American Diplomacy: Oil and Arab Nationalism in Iraq
Iraq has been the site of some of the United States' longest and most sustained military campaigns since the Vietnam War. Yet the origins of US involvement in the country remain deeply obscured—cloaked behind platitudes about advancing democracy or vague notions of American national interests. With this book, Brandon Wolfe-Hunnicutt exposes the origins and deep history of US intervention in Iraq.

The Paranoid Style in American Diplomacy weaves together histories of Arab nationalists, US diplomats, and Western oil execs to tell the parallel stories of the Iraq Petroleum Company and the resilience of Iraqi society. Drawing on new evidence—the private records of the IPC, interviews with key figures in Arab oil politics, and recently declassified US government documents—Wolfe-Hunnicutt covers the arc of the twentieth century, from the pre-WWI origins of the IPC consortium and decline of British Empire, to the beginnings of covert US action in the region, and ultimately the nationalization of the Iraqi oil industry and perils of postcolonial politics.

American policy makers of the Cold War era inherited the imperial anxieties of their British forebears and inflated concerns about access to and potential scarcity of oil, giving rise to a "paranoid style" in US foreign policy. Wolfe-Hunnicutt deconstructs these policy practices to reveal how they fueled decades of American interventions in the region and shines a light on those places that America's covert empire builders might prefer we not look.

HRW, late to the game but you expect nothing else: Abusive Israeli Policies Constitute Crimes of Apartheid, Persecution.

Years of protests until even the big names join in. 

Modal mixture common tone enharmonic double chromatic mediant modulation

I'm not interested in Celine Dion, and I don't follow youtube "creators". I found it by accident. It's had a million views in 11 days, and I'll take sophistication where I find it. I don't assume it exists where it's supposed to. This is a document of something living; catch what isn't meant as a reference, to T.S. Eliot and Diderot, but is right, as they were. Whether Dion pulls it off is another thing. I think she's unbearable; every note is fake. But she's a great technician.

I'm going to add another. His manner annoys me a little but it's very sophisticated discussion of music, technically and rhetorically, and art in general, for a popular audience. He's also funny,  and so is his editor. 

Monday, April 26, 2021

It is generally known that John Stuart Mill spent his working career in the service of the East India Company, but very little has been written about him in this capacity. As an administrative official of the company, the home government of India, John Mill's activities have been greatly overshadowed by the influence exerted upon Indian policies by his father, James Mill, historian of British India and a member of the Examiner's Office of the Company from 1819 until his death in 1836. Like his father, John Stuart recognized the company's government of India for what it actually was—a despotism of an alien race, which, despite the good accomplished by it in the last decades of its existence, was established by conquest, treaty, and annexation. And yet, he spent almost half of his life as an official of this establishment, drafting dispatches to the India government, and, in defence of the company's rule against extinction by Parliament, wrote what Lord Grey described as the ablest state paper he had ever read.


We imagine that platforms can bring the whole sprawling chaos of human behavior into compliance with the law. Make our lives policeable, and policed, to a degree no govt in history could have imagined. Not only do we seem to think it's possible– we think it's a good idea.

Whaddaya mean "we" Kemosabe?

Facebook India (image added 4/29)


“Our main concern is the secrecy in the censorship,” said Apar Gupta, executive director of New Delhi-based Internet Freedom Foundation, a digital-rights organization. “Any legal order for directing blocking of websites should contain reasoning and be made public. Neither of these steps are being carried out right now.” 

Evelyn Douek of Harvard Law. tweets the above and adds: "The total opacity is one of the most troubling parts"

The blocking itself is a problem.

The Wire (India): At Government Request, Twitter Takes Down Some Tweets Critical of Official COVID Handling

New Delhi: Twitter has withheld from public view around 50 tweets in India, a good chunk of which criticised the manner in which the Narendra Modi government has handled the COVID-19 pandemic.

India is currently in the midst of a brutal ‘second wave’, with daily infections passing 300,000, and the total number of daily deaths running over 2,000.

According to Twitter’s filings with the Lumen database [two links]– a transparency initiative run by Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Centre which tracks content removal requests – the affected tweets have been taken down in response to a request by the Indian government....

Significantly, the content removal list uploaded by Twitter also includes a handful of tweets put out by verified accounts. This includes politicians like the Congress’s Revanth Reddy and Pawan Khera, and minister in the West Bengal government Moly Ghatak.

Tweets put out by filmmaker Avinash Das and filmmaker Vinod Kapri have also been removed from public view in India. 

repeating from Friday. ProPublica: Sheryl Sandberg and Top Facebook Execs Silenced an Enemy of Turkey to Prevent a Hit to the Company’s Business
Turkey was demanding the social media giant block Facebook posts from the People’s Protection Units, a mostly Kurdish militia group the Turkish government had targeted. Should Facebook ignore the request, as it has done elsewhere, and risk losing access to tens of millions of users in Turkey? Or should it silence the group, known as the YPG, even if doing so added to the perception that the company too often bends to the wishes of authoritarian governments?

It wasn’t a particularly close call for the company’s leadership, newly disclosed emails show.

“I am fine with this,” wrote Sheryl Sandberg,...  

 NYT: Is an Activist’s Pricey House News? Facebook Alone Decides.

On Wednesday, I learned a new way to get a news article erased from much of the internet.

If the article shows your home or apartment, says what city you’re in and you don’t like it, you can complain to Facebook. Facebook will then ensure that nobody can share the article on its giant platform and, as a bonus, block you from sending it to anyone in Facebook Messenger.

I learned this rule from a cheerfully intense senior Facebook lawyer. The lawyer, who was supplied by Facebook’s public relations department on the condition she could speak only anonymously to discuss a specific case, was trying to explain why the service had expunged a meanspirited New York Post article about a Black Lives Matter activist’s real estate purchases.

The policy sounds crazy because it could apply to dozens, if not hundreds, of news articles every day — indeed, to a staple of reporting for generations that has included Michael Bloomberg’s expansion of his townhouse in 2009 and the comings and goings of the Hamptons elites. Alex Rodriguez doesn’t like a story that includes a photo of him and his former fiancée, Jennifer Lopez, smiling in front of his house? Delete it. Donald Trump is annoyed about a story that includes a photo of him outside his suite at Mar-a-Lago? Gone. Facebook’s hands, the lawyer told me, are tied by its own policies.

NY Post: Social media again silences The Post for reporting the news.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Watching Devs. No surprises.
Determinism has been ubiquitous for 40 years (that tag's as good as any). Now it's overt, and labeled as such.
No surprises but the details. The details are the art.
Looking through the actors, people connecting Parks and Recreation and Will and Grace to Martha Clarke, and The Good Wife to Richard Foreman, remembering that the man behind the visual construction of I Love Lucy shot Metropolis. The music used, beautifully, in a transition, written and performed by Mormons from Duluth. I'm loyal to the arts, and to artists. 

Friday, April 23, 2021

But those who’ve adopted the cause of wild animal suffering believe we ought to address even the problems that exist when humans aren’t around. If humans suddenly vanished tomorrow, flesh-eating screwworms would still infest deer, slowly eating them alive from the inside. Lions would still hunt gazelles and violently wrench the meat from their still-moving bodies.

Such language, not least because it echoed much of the redemptive idealism of the Risorgimento, had fallen on receptive soil, and anarchism had begun to spread swiftly in regions such as the Romagna and Campania, especially after the Paris Commune of 1871 and the Spanish revolution two years later had indicated the insurrectionary potential of the International. In 1874 a band of 150 anarchists had set out from the town of lmola, hoping to stir up a rising among the local peasantry (who had recently been involved in agricultural strikes and food riots) and capture the city of Bologna. But the police had stopped them with little difficulty. In the spring of 1877 two of the most prominent young anarchists, Errico Malatesta — a diminutive former medical student from the province of Caserta — and Carlo Cafiero — a wealthy Apulian landowner, with a deeply mystical and religious turn of mind who was later to die incarcerated in a lunatic asylum agonizing about whether he was getting more than his fair share of sunlight through the window — had tried to lead a rising in the Matese mountains to the north of Naples. Twenty-six anarchists had gone to the small town of Letino, burned the tax records, proclaimed the social republic, and handed out a few old guns to the bemused peasants (though one local priest had apparently tried to help by explaining that socialism and the teachings of Christ were much the same thing). But nothing had happened, and the insurgents had quickly been rounded up by troops
Tagged Freedom of Speech because the "philosophers and scientists", who want to protect gazelles from lions –sheep from wolves– want to protect us from ourselves, most recently, by advising and defending Facebook. 
As Turkey launched a military offensive against Kurdish minorities in neighboring Syria in early 2018, Facebook’s top executives faced a political dilemma.

Turkey was demanding the social media giant block Facebook posts from the People’s Protection Units, a mostly Kurdish militia group the Turkish government had targeted. Should Facebook ignore the request, as it has done elsewhere, and risk losing access to tens of millions of users in Turkey? Or should it silence the group, known as the YPG, even if doing so added to the perception that the company too often bends to the wishes of authoritarian governments?

It wasn’t a particularly close call for the company’s leadership, newly disclosed emails show.

“I am fine with this,” wrote Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s No. 2 executive, in a one-sentence message to a team that reviewed the page. Three years later, YPG’s photos and updates about the Turkish military’s brutal attacks on the Kurdish minority in Syria still can’t be viewed by Facebook users inside Turkey.

 I'd have a tag for Liberal Fascism, but it's covered already.

I might submit a paper to the Journal of Controversial Ideas on the subject of controversial ideas. The editorial board is a hoot. I know two names right off the bat who've called for censorship. I'm sure there're more. 

From Leiter, of course. Haidt is on the board. Leiter's not even paying attention

Jonah Gelbach on Haidt and Amy Wax. I've linked to it before. 
The issue isn't Haidt's racism. The record's clear enough.  
As I've said before, he'd have a hard time getting a job as a newly minted PhD.  Times change. 
The issue now is if he should be removed from teaching required courses. Any black student who wants to protest a grade has a prima facie case for discrimination. I'd sue over a B+. 

This time I'll go belt and suspenders.
A Federal judge has ruled that City College of New York may not punish a professor for writing that "on average, blacks are significantly less intelligent than whites."

The professor, Dr. Michael Levin, who is tenured in the philosophy department, had sued the college president and dean, charging violations of his civil and constitutional rights.

According to the ruling, college officials abrogated Dr. Levin's rights to free speech and due process when they formed a committee last year to investigate Dr. Levin, failed to discipline protesters who broke school rules by disrupting his classes and departed from tradition by establishing separate sections of his courses for students who might have been offended by his views, which he never expressed in class.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

banging my head against the fucking wall.


Reflecting on the reported advance for Amy Coney Barrett's book: She has a salary of $265,600, a spouse who works for a small law firm, and seven kids, at least some of whom are going to go to college someday. Is it too -- I don't know -- banal to suggest that she might actually need the money?


Tuesday, April 20, 2021

It's called progress

Guilty on all charges. 
In spite of the earnest defenders of looting, and the equally earnest –only tacitly [sic]– racist reactionaries. I'm with Killer Mike, again, still.

"Black Lives Matter is a cry for full recognition within the established terms of liberal democratic capitalism."

Everything that's annoying, even pathetic, about the new pseudo-leftism, is worth some level of celebration as the new bourgeois reformism.