January 31, 2021

"Like baseball, everyday reality is an adventure that begins and ends at home base, where we are safe."

"No society can police everything all the time, least of all a democratic society. A healthy society rests on a consensus about what is a deviation and what is normal. We venture out from the norm, but we know the difference between the outfield and home, the reality of everyday life. Without that, as we have now experienced, things fall apart.... Society renews itself as common sense evolves. This requires trustworthy, transparent, respectful institutions of social discourse, especially when we disagree. Instead we are saddled with the opposite, nearly 20 years into a world dominated by a political-economic institution that operates as a chaos machine for hire, in which norm violation is key to revenue. Social media’s no-longer-young men defend their chaos machines with a twisted rendition of First Amendment rights. Social media is not a public square but a private one governed by machine operations and their economic imperatives, incapable of, and uninterested in, distinguishing truth from lies or renewal from destruction. For many who hold freedom of speech as a sacred right, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’s 1919 dissenting opinion in Abrams v. United States is a touchstone. 'The ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas,' he wrote. 'The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.' The corrupt information that dominates the private square does not rise to the top of a free and fair competition of ideas. It wins in a rigged game. No democracy can survive this game."

A very small sample from "The Coup We Are Not Talking About We can have democracy, or we can have a surveillance society, but we cannot have both" by Shoshana Zuboff, an emeritus professor at Harvard Business School (NYT).

The "coup we are not talking about" is the way internet companies have engineered "surveillance empires" with "unaccountable power" —"a fundamentally anti-democratic epistemic coup." 

51 comments:

Lurker21 said...

Wasn't that a George Carlin routine?

gilbar said...

Thank GOD that life isn't a football game!

gilbar said...

“Violent ground-acquisition games such as football are in fact a crypto-fascist metaphor for nuclear war.”

n.n said...

The democratic/dictatorial deception. A constitutional republic, if we can keep it.

Achilles said...

Instead we are saddled with the opposite, nearly 20 years into a world dominated by a political-economic institution that operates as a chaos machine for hire, in which norm violation is key to revenue.

Good description of our federal government.

Lurker21 said...

Help me parse this. She seems to be arguing against a coup by social media, but is actually arguing for a coup by social media and the government? Her complaint is that social media is too chaotic and this is the result of a coup sponsored by social media which could be undone by social media and/or the government locking out chaotic individuals and groups?

Achilles said...

For many who hold freedom of speech as a sacred right, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’s 1919 dissenting opinion in Abrams v. United States is a touchstone. 'The ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas,' he wrote. 'The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.' The corrupt information that dominates the private square does not rise to the top of a free and fair competition of ideas. It wins in a rigged game. No democracy can survive this game.

This is the argument that Regime supporters use when they lose.

The Regime knows that we have a mountain of evidence of their theft of the election.

So they have to ban all discussion because the truth is a "rigged game."

Achilles said...

Lurker21 said...

Help me parse this. She seems to be arguing against a coup by social media, but is actually arguing for a coup by social media and the government? Her complaint is that social media is too chaotic and this is the result of a coup sponsored by social media which could be undone by social media and/or the government locking out chaotic individuals and groups?

Their position is untenable. That is why she posted so many words.

Everything in that article boils down to "We have to ban opposing speech." The rest is just misdirection and justification.

They are fascists acting like fascists.

Bob Loblaw said...

Social media is not a public square but a private one governed by machine operations and their economic imperatives, incapable of, and uninterested in, distinguishing truth from lies or renewal from destruction.

I don't see any reason to think social media isn't the public square. And I can't help thinking her impulse is to label her views as "truth" and those of people she disagrees with as "lies".

campy said...

'And I can't help thinking her impulse is to label her views as "truth" and those of people she disagrees with as "lies".'

Not just "lies," but "destruction."

Lucid-Ideas said...

OMG. THE NYT IS TALKING ABOUT EPISTEMIC THREATS TO FREE SPEECH AND INSTITUTIONAL FREEDOM FROM BIG TECH.

IT HAS BECOME SELF AWARE. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

Sebastian said...

"No society can police everything all the time, least of all a democratic society."

Never kept progs from trying. You don't have to police everything to instill sufficient fear, and democracy is just a train you get off when you have reached your destination.

"This requires trustworthy, transparent, respectful institutions of social discourse, especially when we disagree."

A nice sentiment, but not shared by any progs.

"a chaos machine for hire, in which norm violation is key to revenue."

Not sure that's true. How much does Google make from chaos"?

"We can have democracy, or we can have a surveillance society, but we cannot have both"

OK, fine. Progs pick surveillance. But surveillance is just a tool, not a goal in itself. The goal is to crush all opposition and solidify power. Hence the prog purge.

"a fundamentally anti-democratic epistemic coup"

But the "coup" is in fact the assertion of power by the ruling class. If the techies deviated from the party line at all, or surveilled leftists a bit too much, they'd suffer right away. How many tanks do Google and FB and Twitter have?

Robert Edick said...

Are we still allowed to quote Justice Holmes? You know, the same guy who declared that "three generations of idiots is enough" in the Buck v Bell opinion.

wildswan said...

The Biden economic plan is a government version of maxing out the credit cards. It rests on something different - anonymous young men flipping digital gates without regard for any law or rights or traditions in the certainty that the digital illiterates around them will never trace their name or trace their particular action or be able to do anything. They're just clerks really, digital world clerks, but, for the moment, these little clerks are powerful, are like Harvey Weinstein or Jeffrey Epstein - above all restraints, happily ruining lives, knowing there will be no reckoning.

Unknown said...

Another dishonest leftist who doesn't believe in free speech. We've always had liars and we've always had bad speakers. This is nothing new. The alleged liberals who want to punish bad speakers, and censor people, that's new. We need a new name for these assholes. "Liberal" does not describe them.

madAsHell said...

Soooo......is this why the ammo shelf at the sporting goods store is still EMPTY???

rhhardin said...

The NYT thinks the wrong experts are running the public debate.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Kind of wondered how long it would be before the cracks would start to appear between the Govt, @jack and the Zuckerborg.

I mean, if they can shut up and isolate Trump.....

Kate said...

She throws in the obligatory anti-Trump bone, but she's still (accurately) describing social media as malicious. Edited and removed from the NYT in 3, 2, 1 ...

William said...

"Professair" is that a typo or a sly dig?.....Oliver Wendell Holmes was on the wrong side in the eugenics debate,but the fact that we now universally accept it as the wrong side is proof of his argument regarding the free exchange of ideas....Oliver Wendell Holmes refused to grant a stay of execution in the Sacco-Vanzetti case. The abuse that was heaped upon him by his former admirers on the left was monumental. Back then they didn't have the power to cancel, but it wasn't for lack of trying.

pacwest said...

The one, near singular, thing I see some agreement between common people both right and left is that we don't want a surveillance state. A discussion on some Republican site back in the '00's still sticks with me. The author of the post made a logical argument that Facebook should censor radical Islam posts. About 90% of the commentariat we against that. Slippery slope. Hopefully I'm not wrong in my assessment.

Rabel said...

Worked my way through the whole thing (and its 38 uses of "epistemic") to find her solutions to the problems she identified (an "epistemic coup" empowered by the social media companies for profit through data collection) and sure enough all the way down at the end I found it.

- Government takeover of the social media companies and government control of the messages they promulgate. Of course.

Jamie said...

It's bizzare that she uses the argument "The truth will out" to defend not allowing tests of the truth against other ideas.

Earnest Prole said...

“Emeritus professair” makes her sound like a bit of a lightweight.

Bob Boyd said...

It seems like Zuboff's concern is not what is being done, but who is doing it, as if the government would never abuse these tools, just those darn capitalists.

The fact is, there's no clear line between these "private companies" and the intelligence community. They are one. They built and operate the surveillance state together.

This collaboration really got going after 9/11 with the WOT. Who didn't want to help stop terrorists in those days? Who didn't want to be the internet age version of the legendary OSS recruits, the best and the brightest, breaking codes and inventing brilliant devices and strategies to use against the Nazis?
So everybody had a ball and they got rich in the process. They weren't just smart, they were good. And who wants to go back to being a regular old business man or woman if you can keep fighting bad guys? All you have to do is find some more.

Now here we are, the monster fighters becoming monsters before our very eyes and the abyss staring hard-eyed into us all.

J. Farmer said...

"Like baseball, everyday reality is an adventure that begins and ends at home base, where we are safe."

I thought basketball was the metaphor for life.

Ann Althouse said...

""Professair" is that a typo or a sly dig"

ha ha

fixed

Francisco D said...

J. Farmer said...I thought basketball was the metaphor for life.

You mean that people goof around for their first 60 years and then when faced with retirement they become serious?

That sounds like pro basketball. The second half of the fourth quarter is when the real game is played.

n.n said...

Thus the relatively novel order of our first Orange-American President to work with urban stakeholders, and not community leaders, to pursue a policy of revitalization, rehabilitation, and reconciliation. Save the baby and relieve, not your "burden", but your burden. Reform begins with a diversity of individuals, minority of one, at home.

YoungHegelian said...

I learned about "epistemic threats" when I took that Epistemological Engineering class in grad. school.

That Father O'Malley was a hard man to please, let me tell you!

Bob Boyd said...

When they started building the surveillance machine it was in an intoxicating binge of patriotic feeling. Interesting how they have devolved, over 20 years of chasing that increasingly elusive moral rush, to consider themselves "citizens of the world", stateless beings, like mercenaries.

Ambrose said...

The baseball, home base line, comes from an old George Carlin monologue.

Leland said...

I think many people have been talking about the coup by the tech companies. I think that's the reason the same tech companies are supporting Democrats by allowing the message that the right is insurrectionist that need to be identified and... well, removed, but quiet as to what removed from society means. Or at the very least "re-programmed".

Alas, few people with authority to stop it cared about the surveillance of the Trump campaign. Sharyl Attkisson wrote a book about surveillance of journalist under Obama. So it is not just the tech companies.

And if you want to feel safe at home, ask the McCloskey's if that's allowed.

J. Farmer said...

@Francisco D:

That sounds like pro basketball. The second half of the fourth quarter is when the real game is played.

I'll have to take your word for it. I've never seen a game in my life. The closest I've gotten was watching Ken Howard in The White Shadow on Nick-at-Nite.

Mike of Snoqualmie said...

When a college professor is demonized by the woke crowd in a cancel culture explosion, said professor should sue the college for maintaining an unsafe work environment. And if this kind of thing has happened more than once, which it probably has, then seek RICO damages. Demand that the college expel said cancel culture students, require them to attend two years of remedial education in U.S. history and U.S. Constitution and also 20hr/wk of manual labor, such as toting and fetching at a construction site, raking leaves or mowing the lawn. Then, if CC students can pass a U.S. history test and a civility test, then they can be readmitted to college. Otherwise, they can "learn to code."

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Lost my comment. Stupid of me.

I have said for years that the solution to everything is for people to read more CS Lewis. This is a top-tier example of why that advice is still true, even though I am an old guy wandering around with cheap wine shouting at the sky.* She needs to start somewhere, anywhere, in the Lewis (or GK Chesterton) corpus and just listen for a while. There is nothing intellectually or culturally complicated here. The complications are all social and emotional, because she fears being thrown into the internet abyss and ceasing to exist.

*I know the trails in southern NH and have extra walking-sticks if any of you want to come by. I even know places you can shout at the sky. Glad to have you, really.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I got te above in the wrong thread. This belongs under the "What should sound weird?" I will delete the above and put it there, but if something goes wrong, you will kindly make adjustments.

stephen cooper said...

AIV - please comment more often!

MartieD said...

Are we witnessing a power struggle within the ruling class? The tech overlords versus the political class? Nancy Pelosi not wanting to answer to Mark & Jack?

h said...

I really truly wish that public intellectuals on the left would stand up and object to censorship by private corporations like facebook. If this kind of censorship had occurred in the 1970s when the only source of media interaction was newspaper letters and op-eds, and if the censorship had been to silence voices opposed to corporate interests, the left would have be on this and in high dudgeon, to object to the economic power of the media. But where we are today is public intellectural

DavidUW said...

I'm not reading a NYTimes article because I can predict the conclusion.

Thanks bye.

hired man said...

It’s “”home plate” in baseball, godammit, not home base. When she gets this wrong, she loses all credibility.

Bob Loblaw said...

Are we witnessing a power struggle within the ruling class? The tech overlords versus the political class? Nancy Pelosi not wanting to answer to Mark & Jack?

There's no actual struggle. The Zucks pay the rent. If Pelosi doesn't like it she'll find herself retired.

robother said...

Well, those Silicon Valley fortunes aren't gonna defend themselves. Promoting identity politics hatred to ensure the Democrat Establishment political power, and turning the working and middle classes into serfs is the future. California is the Beta model.

MartieD said...

Loblaw & robother,
Agreed.

Mrs. X said...

Author has some idea of what the problem is but draws wrong conclusions. It’s so badly written, too, that I could hardly wade through it. Academic prose—God save us from it.

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donald said...

Not hardly Pacwest.

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The Crack Emcee said...

Blacks traveled, from slavery in the South to the Western US - looking for safety - and never found it.

Not even at home.

Hercules, not that one though said...

Crack -
nobody has a home here.

You were blessed with a different color shirt. Why is that? Who gave you that shirt?

I thank God he didn't give me your shirt. He gave it to you.

If the shirt is wearing heavy upon you, get your ass out here to where I am for a weekend. Get some air. Come out and learn to fly-fish, or teach me how to do it. You're 60.

I live in the whitiest, white, white place known. Folks lynched a guy a hundred years ago for stealing a horse.

We've got black people like you here too, if the shirt is wearing heavy upon you.