08 June 2017

Private property is theft, personal property is fine

That awkward moment when reality meets your ideology. Some anarcho-communist is having a fanny wobble because informal settlers got evicted in Newtown. But wait! Anarchist communism doesn't approve of private property, only personal property. So on what grounds does anyone have the right to reside anywhere?

Property is theft

You may ask:  Isn't this maxim a bit of a wank?

Let's try to unpack this bromide which was so obviously flawed that even Karl Marx could see its shortcomings.
  1. You're allowed personal property, so things like bicycles and underwear.
  2. You're not allowed private property, so you can't put up a fence. Ouch, right in my rent-seeking feels!
The corollary is that you're allowed to have stuff like bicycles and underwear, but you're not allowed to keep your stuff anywhere. You're also not allowed to own stuff like bicycle and underwear factories. Property is theft! But only private property. Personal property is the category error we invented.

The Vespa Militare. In the abscence of property rights, all personal property bicycles would probably be have to look like this? Read more about the bazooka Vespa here!

But no, it's not a bit of a wank, you pleb. This ad hoc hypothesis oops I mean well-founded ideology of the ages is just too deep for you to understand. You just need to read (insert author you've never heard of for the plain and simple reason that they're not worth being read here). 

Because they too repeat bromide aphorisms designed to impress impressionable minds, but they take much longer to get to the point which you so rightly pointed out is a bit of a wank. 

Hang on while I reinvent the wheel so I can explain who should produce things like bicycles when they have no ownership claim on where to manufacture them, and who would purchase bicycles when they have no ownership claim on where to put them once purchased.

Kim Jung-on, at least one emperor who isn't naked. He doesn't believe in property rights either.


But I'll never admit that my emperor is naked, not even when he is sans underwear! You just don't knit underwear very well with your eyes!

23 April 2017

Why has outrage come to dominate platforms like Twitter?

This question was posted on twitter by Sarah Britten Pillay. I shall try to answer that here, or at least address some of the topics surrounding this notion.

What makes a platform like Twitter more outrageous than the next?

A brief summary of my thoughts on the topic:
  1. It would be interesting to contrive some outrage meter that could detect outrage levels in a piece of text.
  2. Plenty if not most of social media outrage is manufactured as a distraction.
  3. Outrage that isn't manufactured can be analysed by means of kin selection concepts from biology.
  4. If you aren't entirely sold on the sociobiology idea, then the balance of risk and incentive from game theory can also shed some light on the rationale behind social media outrage.

Outrage levels are too damn high

I do agree that social media platforms tend to be filled with more outrage than others, but as far as I know there is no means of detecting or measuring outrage. The need exists for some outrage quotient or some method of classifying platforms into categories according to their outrage content.

Intuitively, a platform like Twitter is more prone to outrage than a platform like Facebook, where your more close friends and family members are watching you in some perverse panopticon.


It is also intuitively more filled with outrage than Linked-In, because some employers might be loathe to hire people with free-flowing outrage. They much prefer hiring people with pent-up rage, those ticking time-bombs of the workplace, and people who confuse Linked-In for a dating platform.

If the assertion is that outrage dominates a platform, then there needs to be a gauge akin to the signal-to-noise ratio. Except here it would be a signal to outrage ratio, where outrage and signal are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but for the most part I think it's safe to regard outrage as just noise. White noise, even. In this manner, one could establish not only whether one platform is more outrageous than the next, but also whether outrage dominates a given platform.

I'm currently not drunk enough to math yet. Using a different approach, some chatbots can copy emotion. This approach can already help to classify a given piece of text in terms of emotional content, and by extension detect the presence of outrage. Perhaps even the level, then, when the amount of words associated with outrage as a ratio to neutral words or words related to the key concepts are considered. For the topic of this discussion, let's just assume that when it comes to outrage, Twitter has more of it than Facebook, and more of it than corporeal platforms like a coffee shop meeting or a braai gathering.

Plenty of outrage is manufactured - Fauxtrage, if you will

The recent Bell Pottinger white monopoly capital saga illustrates how this outrage is frequently intentionally engineered as bread and circuses distraction. The fact that it didn't work to add fuel to the fire of South Africa's perceived strained race relations, shows that outrage is frequently more bark than bite.

White monopoly capital. More real than the manufactured outrage campaign.
 

It also suggests that being numerate can help one to discern signal from noise, even in this medium. But being numerate is overkill. Purely sharpening critical thinking skills, with the aid of FiLCHeRS or PEARL, is sufficient to see when people are for example playing identity politics, or when there really is smoke to the fire. This counts especially for people like me who went to a tertiary institute suffering from the delusion that it will teach one critical thinking. It will not, unless you specifically take a course on critical thinking. It is far more likely to infect your mind with a particular ideology, like science must fall's peculiar notion of decolonising education. In other words, it doesn't teach you how to think, it rather teaches you what to think.

Bearing this in mind, plenty of the outrage on social media platforms can safely be assumed to be pure fabrication. As the public, we should hold the media to account, but it's more important to foster critical thinking skills so that inappropriate, context-free outrage has no fertile ground on which to fall.

What about real outrage?

No doubt there are some angry sociopaths out there hitching a ride next to the information superhighway. Why is this? Assuming that Facebook as a more personal and intimate platform contains less outrage than Twitter, and also less outrage than Linked-In, it points to two aspects:
  1. A more intimate platform has less outrage.
  2. A platform where outrage counts as a liability has less outrage.
This pattern seems to fit the perceived outrage of social media platforms in general. It can be analysed, though not sufficiently explained, by kin selection and Game Theory.

Hamilton's Rule: How kin selection emboldens outrage



Kin selection is the notion that traits detrimental to individuals in a given population would become more widespread if these traits increase the odds of survival for the entire population. In more crude terms, individuals would do silly things that prevent them from getting laid, if it means that their peers enjoy an increase in the odds of getting laid. If their shenanigans does work to get their peers laid, then this kind of savage behaviour can be expected to become more widely adopted. Enter the wingman.



Q: Mr Haldane, would you give your life to save your dying brother?
A: No, but I would give my life to save two brothers, or eight cousins.

What does this have to do with outrage? Of course genes don't get transferred in the biological sense here, but memes do spread in an analogous way. Certain groups treat activism as a commodity by means of the commodification of activism, whereby you virtue signal your sacrosanct virtues uncritically in order to be part of an in-group, and in order to cast aspersions with impunity onto any out-group that dares question these values. Try to tell someone that you're not a feminist, for example. Automatically, it means that you oppose gender equality. And if you are comfortable with the feminist religion, chances are someone has called you a feminazi.

By Todd Huffman from Phoenix, AZ - Lattice, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3365538
I like bees! Bee behaviour can be explained by kin selection.

As an internet troll on a platform where you have fewer close connections in your network, you then have incentive to be particularly incensed and make yourself unattractive to potential mates. This is purely because it is less risky to do so than on a platform where you have a more close-knit network.

Can Game Theory explain why someone would have a Britney Spears-level outrage meltdown on social media?

Game theory is the practice of analysing actions in terms of risk and reward pay-offs. The particular game form relevant here is the Volunteer's Dilemma. Similar to the kin selection notion, the Volunteer's Dilemma demands a sacrifice from one member of the group, which would be detrimental to that member, but which would gain a higher reward for the rest of the group.

It's completely rational not to be the poor sod handling the grenade, from an individual perspective. I deduce from this that on social media dominated by outrage, outrage must have a larger reward pay-off than it has risk. This despite the fact that knee-jerk outrage mongering could have one losing your job embarrassingly. 

Some groups attach value to anti-social displays. On a good day, this results in a kind of introspection and constructive criticism. On a bad day, these anti-social displays just make those displaying them look like troglodytes.

Conclusion

While there is no gauge of outrage as yet, it does appear that some social media platforms are more dominated by outrage than others. It is also important to reckon the manufactured, fake outrage out there and then perhaps stop taking outrage on social media seriously. It's not easy to discern between noise, outrage, real outrage, fake outrage, pure signal, and signal that is just abrasive or tactless.

Outrage itself is not necessarily a problem, since the platforms offer tools to deal with outrage. Some downsides of these tools are that they could lead to echo chambers and the loss of online anonymity. While we should hold the media to their own standards and point out their hypocrisy where we see it, the rest of us also have responsibility to sharpen our critical thinking skills.

By utilising kin selection concepts from biology and some risk-reward pay-off concepts from game theory, we can rationalise why people would seemingly go out of their way to huff and puff like firebrand revolutionaries on some social media platforms, while being meek and mild on other formats.

20 April 2017

Shelley Garland: a case study of post truth media

This past week saw a prank of Sokal Affair proportions, only within the context of our own ailing media. You can read the entire Shelly Garland saga here, and I would be completely over it by now if it weren't for the fact that the Huffington Post tried to wiggle their way out of this one by means of Spanish Inquisition.



Background to the Shelly Garland saga

A blogger passed around some bait in order to expose the hypocrisy of those custodians of ethical journalism who had been warning us about fake news, post truth media, alternative facts and a whole new basket of deplorables. It was a meticulously crafted prank.

To their credit, the Daily Maverick saw the Shelly Garland bait for the tripe that it is, and said take this cup away from me. Which is to say they had an editor who wasn't asleep at the wheel and just performed some rudimentary editing. Also known as doing your job.

The local chapter of the Huffington Post fell for the prank hook, line and sinker. Which shouldn't surprise anyone because it's just an agitprop channel for sanctimonious douche-bags. If it bends over and performs fellatio on my sensibilities, I shall just publish it. Screw ethics, screw fact checking, screw the public and their trust. It sounds good, it paraphrases canon. Publish!

What is the thanks Shelly Garland got for exposing evil hypocrites who prey on public trust?

What was their reaction after having been exposed for enabling the exact same fundamentally unethical journalists that they were claiming to combat?

They tracked down the author at their place of work, marched in there with a paparazzi army, hauled him over a rack, extracted a confession out of him, and returned with all but his scalp and his testicles. The poor bastard had to resign in embarrassment, and all this for having the gall to try out independent thought for size.

Blaming the victim, but when we do it, it's for a good cause

Victim blaming is when one holds the victim of a wrongful act responsible for that wrongful act.

This should sound familiar.

That is per definition what has happened here. The Huffington Post publishes a helpful guide on how to spot fake news, plus their own terms and conditions, but they must have cleaned out their orifices with those.

Those moral principles that we nail to the door of the cathedral are there for the common people, not for the gentry and the clergy at the Huffington Post. The Huffington Post has the divine right of journalist kings and they're here for the head of Shelly Garland, that naughty wife who at first seemed to be producing the heirs they so badly desired, but then revealed it had been stillborn.



I guess nobody should be surprised after exposing hypocrites when they behave in a hypocritical manner. But hey, everybody makes mistakes. Why no second chances?

Why the editor of the Huffington Post should resign


Why no second chances, you may say?

Because, frankly, the editor in charge of the Huffington Post ended up there for manufacturing fake news while simultaneously being the editor of another publication, the Mail & Guardian.

This is already the second chance. This person has brought another publication into disrepute, for doing exactly the same thing, again.

What was their response the first time?

"I have made many mistakes of course, and these have been carefully documented and picked over by social media - but this is the lot of any editor and the unfortunate truth is that women editors will always have it harder" ~ Verashni Pillay


Let's unpack that: She says being a woman means she is incapable of being held to the same standard as anybody else who does editing. So it's not her fault, it's her sex's fault.

She thus admitted that this job is too hard for her and that she is incapable of doing it up to the standard that is required for editors in general. But of course, what she actually meant was, equality is about a doublethink double standard whereby we should have a set of standards for editors who are not women, and another set of standards for editors who are women.

And here I was under the impression that feminism was about equal rights of the sexes. This is what we bash into people's skulls and enforce by means of torture and confession, but when the same standards are expected of us, then being fundamentally evil hypocrites, we respond with fundamentalist hypocrisy.

Even worse, if someone points out this hypocrisy to us, they are the ones in the wrong. When we are called out on our crimes and our harmful actions towards people, those whistle blowers were asking for it by the way they dressed.



Please, if you value your profession at all, spare us the doublethink and do the right thing for once in your life.  If this is not out of incompetence and neglect, then it must be wilful. In neither case, when your miserable and atrocious neglect causes people to lose their income and then you turn around and have the gall to try and make it seem like it's their fault, you should in addition to resigning also consider seeing a professional about that narcissism.





Private property is theft, personal property is fine

That awkward moment when reality meets your ideology. Some anarcho-communist is having a fanny wobble because informal settlers got evicted ...