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Hate Speech Is an Evitable Evil

Written By: - Date published: 7:00 am, May 19th, 2019 - 72 comments
Categories: censorship, Deep stuff, education, identity, internet, Media, schools, Social issues - Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Every day, millions of people flock online and to Social Media. In fact, some seem to be almost permanently connected. People go online because they want to be entertained, not informed, and to be excited, not educated. Because there is so much visual stimulation in your face, they tend to become desensitised; shock, horror, and awe have become the new norms. Content and material are becoming more extreme to cut through the increasing noise to ensure that revenue streams stay up.

With extreme content comes extreme behaviour. In this day and age, it is all about my personal values and me. Social and moral values play a secondary role and are neglected or ignored. Values are the basis of opinions. From this, it follows that disagreement of opinion can easily be perceived as an attack on one’s values, i.e. a personal attack. Values need to be defended, of course.

Self-defence is a legitimate excuse but only if one is under attack. Here is the catch, when one feels under attack it justifies a counter-attack. People often seek and/or receive support from others who might share the same personal values (but not necessarily social and moral values – they largely stay out of view). This can quickly escalate into an angry ‘lynch mob’ demanding that ‘justice’ is done. Ironically, tribal and pack mentality form quickly among seemingly like-minded people who in reality do not know each other at all nor will they ever meet in real life.

Without any regulation, this kind of behaviour is unavoidable and goes largely unpunished in the sense that there are no consequences for the mob – the mob rules because mob are good for (advertising) revenue. What is the answer to this serious and growing social problem? As always, education is one answer or, better, part of the answer. However, this is not necessarily school education only. Social and moral values can be learned at home, at sports (unless the über-competitive win-at-all-cost attitude dominates over fun and relaxation), or at work (same provisos as for sports), for example.

In the absence of education to raise self-awareness, empathy, and consideration for the effect one’s online actions have on others and themselves (i.e. reinforcing feedback), it is almost impossible to expect people to self-regulate and self-moderate their online behaviour – it is like an unsupervised kid in an unattended candy shop. Thus, it requires an authority to guide behaviours away from personal attacks and other harmful communication. If not an authority perhaps an advisory role is needed – instead of heavy-handed (…) regulators or biased (…) moderators a few level-headed mature people could step us as online ‘mentors’ on a particular site. Ultimately, if a person continues to demonstrate asocial or unacceptable behaviour they show that they are not fit to participate in that online community. This must result in direct consequences and corrective or mitigating actions for or behalf of the community and the social good.

Our whole society and social life is guided by rules, many of which are unwritten. Risky or dangerous behaviour is actively discouraged. Acts of violence are punished. Et cetera. Not only is this to keep others safe but also to make sure channels and networks remain open and unencumbered for all. It is inconsistent in the extreme that somehow social and moral values have little to no meaning and can be largely ignored when joining an online community – anonymity makes this a lot easier and people can act out their dreams, fantasies and frustrations seemingly without repercussions.

A useful guide for regulation and moderation of online communications is, in my view, to ensure participants respond to points, be it fact or opinion, without personal attacks – play the ball, not the man and don’t shoot the messenger. As soon as it becomes personal, a line is crossed. Differences of opinion, no matter how extreme, are just that. They are not direct attacks on one’s personal values or identity. In fact, what is ‘in view’ is only a tiny aspect of the vast number of values that underlie a person’s identity – the tip of the iceberg. Even in the case of public personae or celebrities we know much less about them than we think we do and often this embellished or fabricated.

As we do with bad behaviour in traffic the community needs to take more responsibility and ‘dob in’ those who violate the rules of good behaviour. This is neither banning nor curbing free speech but setting rules of conduct rather than rules of content.

72 comments on “Hate Speech Is an Evitable Evil ”

  1. Andre 1

    That behaviour vs content thing is a lot tougher than it looks in this post-truth and post-facts era. There's plenty of topics where there's clearly established factual truths, and the scientific debate is purely around uncertainties and nuances around the fringes of the established central body of fact.

    Yet there are always those that try to spread doubt and false fears about that established body of knowledge, using a variety of techniques. Such as spreading known lies made by proven liars, by misrepresenting debate about uncertainties and nuance at the fringes as debate about the core body of established fact (teach the uncertainty) and many many more.

    Consider climate change. It's established fact that human activities are releasing vast amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that are measurably altering atmospheric composition. This alters the balance of incoming and outgoing heat by different amounts in different parts of the world. Causing changes of long-established climate patterns and increasing average global temperatures.

    To be sure, there is plenty of ground for legitimate debate over how to respond to climate change. There's a range all the way from ignoring it completely, to trying to crash our entire civilisation and the survivors go back to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

    But when someone posts a JAQ-off asking for evidence of clearly established facts, is that "picking a pointless fight that's going to waste a lot of time and space" behaviour, and the appropriate response is to just tell him to fuck right off? Should it be considered legitimate content that one should attempt to politely respond to? Or just ignored? Or mocked?

    • Drowsy M. Kram 1.1

      If a commenter apparently genuinely believes what they are writing, and is not posting simply to stir, then of the possible responses you've listed, I would prefer (in order):

      1. Respond politely (ideally a brief exchange to establish a (counter) position).

      2. Ignore.

      3. Mock (again, preferably only once in any post, and only for repeat offenders).

      4. F**k off.

      This is a "Do as I say, not as I do." preference. smiley Mocking can be 'fun', but is not admirable behaviour (IMHO), and I hope I've never used the "fuck off" response on this blog. ‘Mocking’ and ‘f**k off’ are more problematic when employed in ‘pack mode‘, again IMO.

      [Queue responses from anyone who thinks I’m getting at them…]

    • Incognito 1.2

      The post was about hate speech and behaviour in this context. Picking a pointless fight is not hate speech IMO and as long as people stick to facts/factoids or even just opinions it won’t be hate speech. Not even when telling somebody to F-off. It is neither nice nor helpful and it would be better to ‘explain’ why somebody should F-off. In the end, we can agree to disagree and treat each other with (some) respect and common decency.

      In a public forum such as social media nobody ‘owns’ the space or platform and nobody has the ‘right’ to refuse somebody else ‘access’ or the right to express their opinion. When it becomes personal, it becomes a problem. This is where I see a role for appropriate regulation, moderation, and/or education in which the online community could play a positive role rather than piling on.

      We will never be able to debate controversial topics or issues if we cannot adhere to a few basic behavioural rules. These issues are not academic and won’t go away; they must be debated in public.

      • Andre 1.2.1

        The post was about hate speech…

        Good thing my response didn't get much attention and turn into a major derail.

        Personally, I see hate speech as a subset of harmful "shit speech", for want of a better term. So ideas and methods to manage other kinds of shit speech have a good chance of being applicable to hate speech.

        My ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, nationality and just about any other marker conceivable gives me the privilege of being very unlikely to cop any hate speech. Nor have I any expertise on hate speech. To my mind, that makes my reckons on hate speech worthless. Shutting up and listening to people that actually receive hate speech is a much more useful activity for me. But there are other areas of shit speech I can push back against.

        Whether public forums in online media should be treated as public space or private space is certainly a useful area for discussion. At the moment, places like The Standard or Stuff comments or Trademe message boards or Facebook certainly look to me like private spaces. They have owners that can arbitrarily choose to withhold use of the space however they choose, subject to some legal restrictions, or even arbitrarily shut it down completely. Those owners are also legally accountable for ensuring what happens in those spaces remains legal.Those laws are quite different to what applies if you want to go to a public park with a loudhailer and a bunch of placards.

        But when it comes to online piling-on, is it really that different to when, say, a few neo-nazis want to do a jack-booted march down a main street and are met with a counter-demonstration of hundreds expressing their contempt for neo-nazis? It also strikes me as an awfully big ask to separate out views about a person and views about the ideas that person holds and expresses when it comes to the likes of Phil Arps (owner of that neo-nazi Chch insulation business).

        • Incognito 1.2.1.1

          Very good comment, thank you.

          Yes, ‘shit speech’ and ‘hate speech’ have a lot in common and often intersect.

          At the moment, places like The Standard or Stuff comments or Trademe message boards or Facebook certainly look to me like private spaces. They have owners that can arbitrarily choose to withhold use of the space however they choose, subject to some legal restrictions, or even arbitrarily shut it down completely. Those owners are also legally accountable for ensuring what happens in those spaces remains legal.

          To me, they look like public spaces; anybody can join (in). I love the impartiality of TS and as a Moderator I do my best to uphold the spirit of inclusivity and the principle of to agree to disagree in a respectful manner. The TS Policy allows much flexibility for all but no pointless personal attacks, for example.

          Of course it is hard to separate the views from the person especially when those views fill you with utter disgust. But if cannot handle this, for whatever reason, it might be better to take a wee breather to avoid getting dragged down into a hole from which you can no longer escape. The trick is to not get too emotionally attached to it because your emotions will overwhelm and control you. When that happens you can be easily manipulated by others. Now, who would want that to happen?

          Today, there was another opinion piece on David Seymour calling Golriz Ghahraman “a real menace to freedom in this country”.

          https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/opinion/112868323/why-not-rebut-ghahramans-arguments-rather-than-label-her-a-menace

          Anger, contempt, disgust, hate are not effective arguments and leave violence as the only option. Think about it.

          • marty mars 1.2.1.1.1

            "the trick is to not get too emotionally attached to it because your emotions will overwhelm and control you."

            and the same applies to the rational part of the mind – too much rational thinking leads to dry debates devoid of life – just an academic exercise divorced from the real.

            A mixture of emotion and rational is great – in the work I do we call that Wise Mind.

          • Andre 1.2.1.1.2

            If any of this is about you feeling your way into your moderator role here, well, your interventions I've seen have all been spot on. Back yourself, your instincts are sound. And when you do something that on more reflection you think you should have handled differently, don't beat yourself up. After all, this is just an obscure discussion forum.

            I agree a comment primarily motivated by anger, hate, disgust is unlikely to be productive. But that's not the same as expressions of anger or disgust being totally out of place in rational discussion (hate deliberately omitted). Obama's White House Correspondent's Dinner Anger Translator skit strikes me as a particularly good example of angrily expressing genuine anger to make a serious rational point effectively.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6NfRMv-4OY

            • Incognito 1.2.1.1.2.1

              I needed that after today’s efforts here on TS especially in OM! Thanks for the support, Andre, you are very perceptive indeed. Moderating is not nearly as easy as it looks. Mind you, MickySavage keeps pumping out good posts and I have no idea how he does it!

  2. marty mars 2

    " As soon as it becomes personal, a line is crossed. "

    It's always personal. This dry, debate the facts, play the ball, stuff is playground rules. The people destroying the world don't play by those rules. The righties enacting anti abortion laws in the US aren't just hitting the guts. The malicious postings of some directly infect people with doubt and worse. Quite frankly trying to 'hear both sides' is right rubbish – does anyone not know the other side of these debates? So then it's the forum. We want civilised debate here with fairness for everyone including and especially for those who we don't like or disagree with. I'm cool with that – it will self filter as people go or get gone. For me I cannot stand or stand by when I see injustice – I'll try to use wit laced with scathing points and edges but I can't guarantee nobody will get hurt.

    • Sabine 2.1

      +1

    • McFlock 2.2

      I tend to agree.

      In the past few years these have become very interesting times indeed, and we can't always assume that the other parties to the discussion are discussing in good faith.

    • Incognito 2.3

      Yes, of course it is personal when having a heated discussion about a controversial issue with somebody you completely and utterly disagree with. That’s the whole point of the post: people engaging with other people online and having a robust debate such as here on TS. You may not be able to guarantee that somebody (else, I assume) does not get hurt but you could modify your behaviour to minimise that risk if you wanted to and still get your point(s) across or try and deal with the injustice that you want to fight. Going out of one’s way to inflict hurt or damage on somebody else is violence, plain and simple. Willingly and knowingly not mitigating against this is a means to an end? Because they do it too?

      • marty mars 2.3.1

        My behaviour is fine and I won't be modifying it so some right winger or racist doesn't feel hurt. I don't get why some are so worried about being nice to the perpetrators of hate.

        Going out of one's way to be nice to the perpetrators of hate speech (for instance) is the same as approving of it imo and adding a boot into the victims. It is not enough to not like these things – we must ACTIVELY FIGHT against them. Or we can bend and finally break to their will.

        • Drowsy M. Kram 2.3.1.1

          https://www.nytimes.com/1971/07/25/archives/we-become-what-we-hate.html

          What these paradoxes of opposites are all about is a phenomenology in which it is part of the very nature of passionate conflict to turn one into his own enemy. “We become what we hate” is an old yoga maxim. And in watching the conflict of the Irish Troubles, the Dublin yogi, George William Russell, developed the maxim into a principle of political science: “By intensity of hatred nations create in themselves the characters they imagine in their enemies. Hence it is that all passionate conflicts result in the interchange of characteristics.”

          If one stops to consider the implications of this principle for the conflicts of the Second World War, he will come to some disquieting conclusions. Japan is now Los Angeles and Detroit, and Big Sur, California, is a Zen Mountain Center. Germany is now a consumer society, and we are the largest militarist state in the history of the world. We have become our enemy.

          • Incognito 2.3.1.1.1

            smiley

          • marty mars 2.3.1.1.2

            That article is nice and there is no evidence within that article that we become what we hate. Mind you a lot has changed since 1971 when the article was written.

        • Incognito 2.3.1.2

          Let me say this then, one doesn’t go of his way to be nice nor does one go out of his way to be nasty. I don’t think I argued for being “nice” (or kind …) to people I disagree with and if I gave that impression I’d like to correct it, for the record. I’m very much in favour of standing my ground with everything at my disposal, within certain boundaries …

          Hate speech must not be tolerated but the post was about ways to prevent and avoid it online. When there are proper regulations in place (e.g. effective moderation) we should not have to fight against perpetrators of hate speech because they would be stopped in their tracks.

          • McFlock 2.3.1.2.1

            The thing about hate speech is that it becomes fuzzy – dog whistles, 8chan memes, and "ironic" trolling (e.g. pepe the frog) are the language of fascists in public. They only get explicit when they think they've won.

            And ignoring it just lets it fester – racism breeds in anoxic environments, because silence is acceptance.

            So it can't be prevented as such. It needs to be called out, illuminated, and scrubbed manually.

    • maggieinnz 2.4

      I'For me I cannot stand or stand by when I see injustice – ll try to use wit laced with scathing points and edges but I can't guarantee nobody will get hurt.

      And that is why I love your comments.

  3. Adrian Thornton 3

    I agree with Andre's first sentence, in this post truth era, where does one look for guidance in their online 'Social and moral values', in the US take a look at Iraq as an example, nearly every high profile media and political figure who got that wrong and endorsed that illegal war didn't only face absolutely no negative fallout, in fact most were rewarded, one is now leading the polls in the Democratic primary race.

    In contrast all high profile media voices that spoke actively against war ALL faced negative consequences both socially and professionally (most of them are on RT now)

    Lately with the Russiagate conspiracy that has now been debunked, are there consequences for the purveyors of this ridiculous hoax? of course not, no just a doubling down on a untenable position, further entrenching divide.

    So my point is, it is hard to see any future of a civil online discourse existing, when the people, politicians and institutions who (rightly or wrongly) should be setting an example of maintaining at least some semblance of truth, holding at least some sort of moral high ground are themselves mired in untruths, falsehoods and outright lies, when caught, double down on their lies, and worse are even rewarded handsomely for doing it.

    • Incognito 3.1

      I agree that without role models and moral leadership it is almost a mission impossible. So, we continue to lament this and do nothing? We wait for the rest of the world to change first and then follow suit?

      Maybe online discourse will stay ‘uncivil’ for quite some time but we must take action to curb the growing hate speech on- and off-line. Surely, that’s a starting point we can agree on?

  4. greywarshark 4

    This morning a wise and experienced woman speaking about groups on both sides – white supremacist and jihadist and who has made a film about it all.

    It is so interesting – try to find time to listen to it. I think it is very relevant to this post.

    10.04 Deeyah Khan: Up close and personal with extremists

    Deeyah Khan

    Islamic Director Deeyah Khan's spent the last part of her career looking at extremism in both white supremacist movements as well as Islamic groups. She's the daughter of an Afghani mother and Pakistani father born in Norway.

    She's also been involved with human rights activism through her debut film about an honour killing of a British Kurdish woman. Her last television documentary, White Right: Meeting the Enemy involved her interviewing committed white supremacists in the U.S who then invited her to attend, the now infamous, Charlottesville Rally.

    She speaks to Paul about the dangers of dealing with extremists and what she's learnt from them. She also offers her thoughts on the mosque shooting in Christchurch.

    Audio will go up later. I'll try to put it up, but if you go to Radionz and it's on Sunday Morning program.

  5. OnceWasTim 5

    Interesting posts @ Incognito and Andre

    The rise of the bubble!

    10 or 15 years ago, I started to worrydurry about people only ever exposing themselves to the things they solicit – or at least in most part. When that happens, it seems they become more insular and their interests are reinforced by their peers who share those interests.

    The "yea/nah not interested in politics" (for example) results in disengagement and a 'nothing ever changes or can be changed' and they're 'all the bloody same' mentality. I'll just stick to sport, or concentrate on my career and getting richer – whatever it takes.

    It's resulted in tribalism, fundamentalism and insularity – whether it's in things like sport, politics, communal life, whatever.

    And coupled with what Andre refers to – that uber-competitive spirit, where people compete because they try to be better than the other, rather than simply trying to be the best that they can be themselves. (As we often see on here, it seems to completely take over some people: deliberately provocative bullshit, the smart arse, arguing for the sake of it and to prove how wonderful they are – very Trumpian).

    In some ways, it's a shame there's no longer a lot more comedic ridicule that can be disseminated in a way that reaches people unsolicited rather than just through the medium they solicit; AND/OR exposure across class, racial, religious, etc. differences; AND/OR ………..

    It's possibly too late – who knows

    • Incognito 5.1

      Thank you for your comment.

      Yes, we need more satire.

      No, it is not too late. The time to act is now, as it has always been.

      Social and moral values have not been lost. They are buried under ego-centric personal values. We must remember them and re-calibrate for the present time. Otherwise we will continue to be “the best we can be” in the neo-liberal context instead of a social/socialist one. It all comes down to values IMHO.

      • OnceWasTim 5.1.1

        Well just so you know, there's no way I've given up. And after the past 24 hours, whether it's Soimon's effits on MR this morning, Sepuloni's 'patheticisms' with regard to a WINZ and a Rickard, and much else.

        A few things stand out for me. Comedic ridicule is long lost and in desperately in need of some widespread airing, (IF some of them could just see themselves FFS! in a way others see them – not looking at anyone in particular but Soimon is a standout, and at least Pulla has decided the best policy at the moment is to take gardening leave from the media – even if the real reason is she's undertaking a bit more plastic re-imiaging. By the way, as it happens, my neighbour is a Vein Doctor and I think a Caci Clunuk speshlust, and he doesn't use Nechrul Glow oiva).

        But unfortunately the bullshit extends far beyond the gNats.

        Labour has its adherents to it all as well – and it's probably going to be there downfall (eventually)

        • Incognito 5.1.1.1

          Well just so you know, there's no way I've given up.

          Good on you!

          Yes, the world is littered with BS but we can personally try to not heap more on it and even become pooper-scooper and do a bit of ‘beach and waterway cleaning’ from time to time. It may seem futile but it isn’t, I reckon.

  6. Sam 7

    Could have said the same things about the invention of the typewriter. In fact I remember a time on the Internet when no one knew what to call the humble "@" instead referring to it as the a with a circle around it. We have no right nor does anyone have the power to control speech transmitted via the Internet. We can control concentric circles with in concentric circles but no one has the power to control the whole internet. Controlling the Internet is just a fairy tale loony security advisors whisper into the ears of their superiors.

    Okay so it's legalish to smoke marijuana in California but illegal in New Zealand yet a bunch of woke lefties feel because their minority image may induce self harm or some shit marijuana users in California will have to self sesnsor themselves. And Stalin will be jumping out of his grave with joy.

    We can not allow the woke left to hit the imagination buttons of the Internet. All that will appear is those white lines and static.

    • greywarshark 7.1

      Too scared Sam to take on the authoritarian internet? We are too small so must roll over and accept just about everything; have a few cosmetic changes to placate the peeps. No worries mate!

      • Sam 7.1.1

        It is you who are far to brave and eggar to demonstrate how weak and inadequate New Zealand's cyber security is to international headwinds. Both Labour and National seek a strategic guarantor which means our economy will be open for business.

        If you are not engaging in guerrilla warfare then you are not disrupting the system. All that will be achieved is acts of foolishness, breaking formation and falling back like how Great Britian lost the Americas.

        • greywarshark 7.1.1.1

          I need to think about that last one Sam. As for Great Britain losing the Americas – there may be lessons to be learned from that which we can apply now but I don't see immediate relevance.

          Great Britain losing the Americas was inevitable. Everyone going there was looking for a new deal where they could get on without the upper class weighing them down and keeping them poor, and the religious didn't want to be involved in constant fights and changes as Church and State moved together sometimes, and apart in others, and the cost of war mounted.

          So people moved to the USA and found new ways of creating schisms and are busily fighting their own civic battles and imperialistic ones in other countries.

          The internet is a technological invention that offers much to everyone and comes with an apparent large cost beyond money. It can help to spread contagion very effectively, which seems to be debasing much of the good it provides, and like all inventions seems to be becoming utilised for purposes that aren't positive for ordinary citizens.

          • Sam 7.1.1.1.1

            The west was tamed by technological change. Y'know, the telegraph, railroad. Sitting Bull called it the apocalyptic train of doom. Now that infrastructure projects regularly unicorn above a billion dollars it's getting more and more difficult to police the graffiti and mischief. It's not just a million dollars at stake it's a billion that needs to be policed. Only the most gifted people can design and implement a precinct development that doesn't include homeless people living under the latest bridge technology.

            Hatespeech on the other hand needs to be put into perspective and that is we have no time for this bullshit. We've got infrastructure to be made efficient.

    • Incognito 7.2

      We cannot control the whole internet but we can control our behaviour when we go online (and off-line). We can speak out about bad behaviour and if it doesn’t change, we can ignore it by not giving it oxygen. Quite simple, really.

  7. greywarshark 8

    Just heard a lovely song on Radionz – The Immigrant by Neil Sedaka.

    • OnceWasTim 8.1

      There ya go @ greywarshark Exposing yourself to the unsolicited. You've come across Neil Sedaka and Deeya Khan (in relation to 5 above – just one example rather than listening to the formulaic playlists on rotate).

      • greywarshark 8.1.1

        OwT I take it that you think I done right! I do feel happier delving into the fertile soil of people trying to grow a green and wellbeing society. So I choose to go there and not harm my brain cells listening to an overdose of mean and predatory thinking and too much soppy sentimentality or at the other side totally pragmatic thinking. So I do limit myself from taking my mind to strange places – there be dragons.

        It ain't easy finding balance as I no longer look for uplift from organised religion alone, or from middle class mores etc. So keep up your comments OwT even when you have a rant I find something of value in your furious bouncing up and down (just don't use a trampoline, it might take you into the stratosphere.)

  8. Dennis Frank 9

    Excellent essay in political psychology, Incognito. Hones in on the motivations that transform social media commentary in political behaviour. Reminds us of how politics operates when rulers, governments, and democratic structures don't set the terms!

    Social darwinism is the historical arena, being illuminated in recent times by genetic theory, to discover what drives pack mentality, herding, and tribes. Best usage of mimetic theory on this stuff is McFadyen's Mind Wars (2000).

    Hate & evil are produced by fear, and have deep evolutionary roots. You're right to suggest that they are an inevitable part of human experience. WWII proved they have to be encountered and dealt with appropriately. The potential for them to take geopolitical form is ever present. That was the primary flaw of postmodernism: the pretence that they are disposable.

    • greywarshark 9.1

      I have found the meaning of postmodernism to be nebulous.

      Google: postmodernism

      noun: postmodernism;

      1. a late 20th-century style and concept in the arts, architecture, and criticism, which represents a departure from modernism and is characterized by the self-conscious use of earlier styles and conventions, a mixing of different artistic styles and media, and a general distrust of theories.

      modernism

      noun: modernism

      1. modern character or quality of thought, expression, or technique.

        "a strange mix of nostalgia and modernism"

        • a style or movement in the arts that aims to depart significantly from classical and traditional forms.

          "by the post-war period, modernism had become part of art history"

        • a movement towards modifying traditional beliefs in accordance with modern ideas, especially in the Roman Catholic Church in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

      So it sounds as if post modernism wants to go back to modernism which itself 'modified traditional beliefs' and post modernism wants to take bits from this or that time, and apparently doesn't approve of theories, so doesn't want to try and explain its direction.

      Sounds loony and irresponsible to me. What happens as a person rubs up against the sandpaper of real life and the effects on him/her trying to find the niche in society that enables their growing in to adult being, doing and belonging, acknowledged and respected? Anomic is the word for people without a niche, souls drifting around like spawn in the ocean looking for a rock to anchor themselves to. Like these gangs of white supremacists and vulnerable youngsters being gathered into jihadist groups.

      • Dennis Frank 9.1.1

        Yeah, all valid. I was commenting on how it manifested as a cultural trend here in the nineties, which that analysis on Wikipedia doesn't include. Nebulous is part of the essence due to academic origin: the insularity of acadaemia was by original design. Real life couldn't be allowed to get in the way. Downside of that is the ivory tower syndrome, and focus on theories at the expense of application…

        • greywarshark 9.1.1.1

          Df You mean that economics comes under this academic isolation, and ivory-towerism which used to be put downs on university-sourced ideas by the likes of Muldoon, who was more make it up as we go. How do we find practical paths between these opposites?

          • Dennis Frank 9.1.1.1.1

            Indeed. I see it as a dialectic writ large: theory & application. Science uses a methodology for testing truth-claims via experiments. So the practical path employs a similar empiricist stance, learning from experience. Theories model reality, and utility derives from how good the match is. Consensus of opinion then provides an outcome in the group mind.

            • greywarshark 9.1.1.1.1.1

              Should government have a branch where it announces to citizens that theories of… are being tried here and here, for at least six months, and will be analysed for … to see if they have been efficacious? And if so they will be carried through for another 18 months so two years in all. All in an effort to find a better way without having the Oppo jump on you joyously 'It didn't work. Money wasted. Bad management …etc.

              If would be beneficial if trying new things that appear after study, to offer better outcomes could become an accepted part of our NZ society striving to achieve betterment. They would usually be carried out appropriately within societal expectations, or perhaps at times experimenting to see if these should widen what have become societal limitations, Studying political history shows that we have often been 20 years behind introducing what are perfectly good and viable policies adopted by other similar polities.

              • Dennis Frank

                Dunno about a branch, but I agree with your general direction of thought. Trial & error is traditional, eh? Correcting application of techniques after each trial is part of human ingenuity. We just don't get enough of that in governance due to the inertial effect of bureaucracy.

                • greywarshark

                  To ne frank. The setup down't allow for trial and error that most bureaucrats work under. They have targets expected of them and which have to be ticked off, or they get ticked off.

                  The opportunity to run a trial needs clear steps, and checks, and sufficient funding for it to flourish, but not so that there are accusations of slush funds.

                  In other words well designed policy, with sensible reporting and updating and analysis of pros and cons, successes, partial failures but with unexpected achievement and so on. And not be considered by a profit-driven mind-machine with an expensive business or management award to pay for, but needs a practical wellbeing approach I think.

            • Gabby 9.1.1.1.1.2

              Praxis franko, praxis.

              • Dennis Frank

                Sorry, I forgot. Must try harder. The cruisy life of an oldster tempts one into easing off on self discipline… frown

      • Stuart Munro. 9.1.2

        Postmodernism represents the nadir of the academic enterprise.

        Where once operating theories could expect to be examined and interrogated, under post modernism the theories are not explicitly stated and thus immune to critique. A proliferation of privileged discourses is one result, which, being insular, go rather further than reasonable observers will accept. It is these discourses that generate the heat around identity politics for example.

        Part of this relates back to Kuhn's thesis – that all theories are socially constructed, so that nothing is truly objective. The debased theorists are those who embrace that observation, which licenses any kind of intellectual excess. Pragmatic theorists instead note that one gets a lot closer to objectivity by striving for it than not.

        • greywarshark 9.1.2.1

          Interesting SM. I can understand that, so you show an ability to explain in not a too high falutin' fashion. Ta for that.

        • Dennis Frank 9.1.2.2

          Yes Stuart, you've got a good sociological analysis of the postmodern movement happening there. 👍

        • RedLogix 9.1.2.3

          That's a remarkably concise and intelligent explanation Stuart.

          • Stuart Munro. 9.1.2.3.1

            My students never let me away with bullshit – nor should they.

        • Incognito 9.1.2.4

          Thanks for that, Stuart!

          Post-modernists might argue that there are no absolute truths and thus no clear lines that can or must not be crossed in a ‘anything goes’ kind of way. This is ok as an academic or intellectual exercise of the mind but does not serve society well at all.

          For us to move forward in a pluralistic or even global society we must draw up a few lines on which we all agree to comply with. This is necessary for cohesion or we will tear apart to become a collection of scattered egos all competing with each other. The answer is clear but the Devil will be in the detail.

        • OnceWasTim 9.1.2.5

          Ah shit – I knew there was somewhere I'd come across your name (if not the name, then the smarts and intellect). It was during that brief period in academia and its aftermath

  9. Stuart Munro. 10

    Aristotle considered that becoming angry appropriately was part of the moral landscape.

    When we consider the degradation of NZ democracy performed by the likes of the Key Kleptocracy, or the Fourth Labour Government for that matter, a dispassionate or coldly rational response seems to have fallen well short of what was requisite to produce meaningful ethical change.

    In the absence of robust sanctions to visit upon administrations that exceed their mandate or sell out to corporate or foreign interests, it is unsurprising if a lynch mob mentality prevails – the lynch mob being the prototype and foundation on which more refined models of justice are build.

    • Incognito 10.1

      I get the feeling that some people seem to think that I advocate dispassionate, coldly rational, dry (@ 2) academic/intellectual debates. Far from it! I think anger is a very useful state of mind (emotion) but it depends on how it is used or channelled. Anger can be self-destructive. In addition, I don’t believe such debates are even possible because we humans are incapable of completely suppressing our emotions. Before anybody gets the wrong end of the stick, I believe we should work with our emotions rather than trying to suppress them in favour of the supposedly superior rational mind – the biggest myth of mankind. When the body and mind (and spirit) are in harmony, we are truly human. When I offload my anger and aim it at another person there is only disharmony, with the other person, but also within me. Hate and harmony are contradictory …

      • Stuart Munro. 10.1.1

        I've read my share of Thich Nhat Hanh, and he's a good bloke as far as it goes.

        But if you try for harmony with insincere people, you will simply be exploited. The last thing the Left needs to do is humour the corruption or the dishonesty of the Key Kleptocracy. That's just pissing away the outcomes we're fighting for before we even start. If we want a better democracy, we need to draw a few lines in the sand, and say: this behaviour is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.

        The problem is the Alt Right are way ahead in such plays. The astroturfed activism and faux outrage didn't come out of nowhere or happen by accident. They will move heaven and earth to create false equivalences to try to impugn those who condemn them. But we must stick to our standards – truth, public interest, openness, justice. Wayne Mapp for example is one of the best the Gnats had. But civilians were shot on his watch and the inquiry did not progress until his party left government – it's not good enough, to be delaying justice for electoral purposes in that fashion. We must not compromise with such iniquity.

  10. Incognito 11

    Here is a nice illustration of some of the points I tried to make in the post:

    … and with our culture of sport that's so focussed on winning, of course from time to time, it's going to blow. Saturday sports are supposed to be fun and for the majority they are, but we are also the country where domestic violence rates increase when our favourite rugby teams lose.

    Looking at some of those comments I'd suggest it's no surprise we live in such a violent society. Where's the personal responsibility in all of this? Where's the reminder that when the final whistle goes, win or lose, it's just a game?

    Indeed, it’s just a game or it’s just an opinion.

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/opinion/112771401/sports-violence-a-mirror-on-society

    This is the complete opposite of what I have in mind, for example:

    Mass shootings predated social media. Columbine, Aramoana and Port Arthur all happened in a pre-Facebook world. It is possible that some features of social media have exacerbated the problem but if this is the case then a genuine think-tank should produce some data to demonstrate this.

    Taking one event and extrapolating from that a need to regulate is a recipe for unintended consequences, even if those intentions are noble.

    The rhetoric is strong in this one and it is the most facetious opinion piece I have read in a while. It is almost completely devoid of robust arguments and relies on innuendo and fear-mongering.

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/technology/112701737/mass-shootings-predate-social-media-so-lets-focus-on-the-real-problems

    Asking for scientific data is not wrong per se but to isolate one shooting and demand data before taking action is a cop out. Obviously, this is intentional. One has to wonder why our PM went to Paris if it was indeed about just (!) one single event in little old New Zealand.

    For Mr Grant’s education: Mass Shootings and Media Contagion Theory: Social Media’s Influence on Frequency of Incidents. Mr Grant could have used Google and done some legwork himself instead of waiting for “a genuine think-tank” to “produce some data”. Perhaps Mr Grant’s intentions were not so genuine or noble.

    • One Two 11.1

      Asking for scientific data is not wrong per se but to isolate one shooting and demand data before taking action is a cop out. Obviously, this is intentional. One has to wonder why our PM went to Paris if it was indeed about just (!) one single event in little old New Zealand.

      Very astute , Incognito.

    • Muttonbird 11.2

      A think tank sounds a lot like a working group without an objective.

      Is Grant for or against working groups, and why can't he make up his mind?

      • Incognito 11.2.1

        He’s stirring. Think-tanks don’t get paid with Taxpayers’ money nor should they.

  11. greywarshark 12

    Anti-abortion laws are I consider hate speech against women.
    This Is a Wave: Inside the Network of Anti-Abortion Activists Winning Across the Country

  12. adam 13

    The best bit about this debate, is how all the authoritarian types think they are being reasonable. Sure it the same feeling Lenin had just before he ordered the artillery to cut down those filthy Kronstadt communists.

    • Incognito 13.1

      I consider myself reasonable but I can easily lose my rag too. I would have hoped that you’d got more than some light and fleeting amusement from this debate but you can’t win them all, can you now?

  13. SHG 14

    I missed this thread so apologies for checking in late.

    People go online because they want to be entertained, not informed, and to be excited, not educated. Because there is so much visual stimulation in your face, they tend to become desensitised; shock, horror, and awe have become the new norms. Content and material are becoming more extreme to cut through the increasing noise to ensure that revenue streams stay up.

    This seems sensible to a layman but as someone who works close to if not completely in this space I can attest that this is not actually the way it works.

    The content you see on Facebook (also Twitter, Youtube, Instagram) is chosen for you by an artificial-intelligence-driven algorithm that learns as it goes what sort of content it should show you. The criterion by which it chooses what content to show you is simple: the content that will make more revenue for the host network.

    The network makes its money by getting you to click on ads. "Aha!" you say, "that means the AI is learning how to show me ads I am more likely to click on!"

    Nope. The AI's have worked out that the best way to achieve their simple goal (more money for the host network) isn't changing the ads, it's changing the audience. Predictable people are more valuable to the host network than unpredictable people. So to achieve their goal the AIs need to make the users more predictable.

    You know who's predictable? Extremists. They know what they know, they feel strongly about it, they will not change their opinions no matter what evidence is presented to them, and they will click on things that support their extreme views.

    So given a simple clearly-stated goal of "make more money out of the human users of this network" the AIs have logically concluded that the best course of action is to literally change the brains of the users to be more extreme in their beliefs about everything. Because extremists are predictable and predictable people are worth more money.

    If you start a blank Facebook profile or a blank Youtube profile and search for nutrition you'll get shown food advice. Click on a few links and before you know it you're looking at militant vegan lifestyle channels. Search for fitness and you'll get shown exercise videos. Click on a few links and before you know it you're looking at hardcore crossfit nutters.

    More extreme. In everything. Social media is literally turning normal people into extremists all day every day because that's a totally predictable consequence of the AIs following their instructions. But we're idiots so we didn't predict it.

    • Incognito 14.1

      That comment was edifying to this layperson, thanks.

      You don’t think desensitisation comes into it at all? There appear to be plenty of studies on emotional desensitisation by (violent) video games and online porn, for example. The latter can even cause erectile dysfunction …

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