Author: Mathias Klang
A certain interior solitude
Came across this quote by Thomas Merton a very interesting character (an American Trappist monk, writer, theologian, mystic, poet, social activist, and scholar of comparative religion.)
“In actual fact, society depends for its existence on the inviolable personal solitude of its members. Society, to merit its name, must be made up not of numbers, or mechanical units, but of persons. To be a person implies responsibility and freedom, and both these imply a certain interior solitude, a sense of personal integrity, a sense of one’s own reality and of one’s ability to give himself to society–or to refuse that gift.”Merton – Thoughts on Solitude
The quote was part of the podcast episode Never Mind the Stasi, where the host Hari Kunzru explains: “without privacy, without the ability to make basic decisions for yourself, society could not exist. Unless you have freedom to act and can take responsibility for your actions; you are not human in society, just a function, a cog in a totalitarian machine.”
Kunzru is the host of my current favorite podcast – bingeing it now called “Into the Zone” after listening to the episode on cyberspace, I immediately began listening to all the episodes in order.
Facial Recognition Webinar
Live Facial Recognition: People, Power, and Privacy in the Surveillance Machine
Drs. Nora Madison and Mathias Klang
Live Facial Recognition (LFR) represents the next evolution in the surveillance society. This talk will provide an overview of the development and implementation of LFR systems, discuss the ethical implications of LFR, and briefly introduce techniques and technologies for avoiding or subverting LFR. The goal is to demonstrate the need for a deeper understanding and societal debate before uncritically accepting this far-reaching threat to our privacy.
Jul 30, 2020 04:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Why not to like Trump
The following cites Quora as the original source, but no link to that source is ever provided.
“Why do some British people not like Donald Trump?” Nate White, an articulate and witty writer from England wrote the following response.
A few things spring to mind. Trump lacks certain qualities which the British traditionally esteem. For instance, he has no class, no charm, no coolness, no credibility, no compassion, no wit, no warmth, no wisdom, no subtlety, no sensitivity, no self-awareness, no humility, no honour and no grace – all qualities, funnily enough, with which his predecessor Mr. Obama was generously blessed. So for us, the stark contrast does rather throw Trump’s limitations into embarrassingly sharp relief.
Plus, we like a laugh. And while Trump may be laughable, he has never once said anything wry, witty or even faintly amusing – not once, ever. I don’t say that rhetorically, I mean it quite literally: not once, not ever. And that fact is particularly disturbing to the British sensibility – for us, to lack humour is almost inhuman. But with Trump, it’s a fact. He doesn’t even seem to understand what a joke is – his idea of a joke is a crass comment, an illiterate insult, a casual act of cruelty.
Trump is a troll. And like all trolls, he is never funny and he never laughs; he only crows or jeers. And scarily, he doesn’t just talk in crude, witless insults – he actually thinks in them. His mind is a simple bot-like algorithm of petty prejudices and knee-jerk nastiness.
There is never any under-layer of irony, complexity, nuance or depth. It’s all surface. Some Americans might see this as refreshingly upfront. Well, we don’t. We see it as having no inner world, no soul. And in Britain we traditionally side with David, not Goliath. All our heroes are plucky underdogs: Robin Hood, Dick Whittington, Oliver Twist. Trump is neither plucky, nor an underdog. He is the exact opposite of that. He’s not even a spoiled rich-boy, or a greedy fat-cat. He’s more a fat white slug. A Jabba the Hutt of privilege.
And worse, he is that most unforgivable of all things to the British: a bully. That is, except when he is among bullies; then he suddenly transforms into a snivelling sidekick instead. There are unspoken rules to this stuff – the Queensberry rules of basic decency – and he breaks them all. He punches downwards – which a gentleman should, would, could never do – and every blow he aims is below the belt. He particularly likes to kick the vulnerable or voiceless – and he kicks them when they are down.
So the fact that a significant minority – perhaps a third – of Americans look at what he does, listen to what he says, and then think ‘Yeah, he seems like my kind of guy’ is a matter of some confusion and no little distress to British people, given that:
• Americans are supposed to be nicer than us, and mostly are.
• You don’t need a particularly keen eye for detail to spot a few flaws in the man.
This last point is what especially confuses and dismays British people, and many other people too; his faults seem pretty bloody hard to miss. After all, it’s impossible to read a single tweet, or hear him speak a sentence or two, without staring deep into the abyss. He turns being artless into an art form; he is a Picasso of pettiness; a Shakespeare of shit. His faults are fractal: even his flaws have flaws, and so on ad infinitum. God knows there have always been stupid people in the world, and plenty of nasty people too. But rarely has stupidity been so nasty, or nastiness so stupid. He makes Nixon look trustworthy and George W look smart. In fact, if Frankenstein decided to make a monster assembled entirely from human flaws – he would make a Trump.
And a remorseful Doctor Frankenstein would clutch out big clumpfuls of hair and scream in anguish: ‘My God… what… have… I… created?’ If being a twat was a TV show, Trump would be the boxed set.
Happiness in the time of covid
Ending a course is always bittersweet. I am happy it’s over but we are finally a functioning group and everyones personalities are starting to show. Ending a course online due to covid was going to suck because it felt like it was all going to fade away.
So for the last class, I asked my students to share a picture of something that makes them happy and after the usual stuff I ended with the presentation of the pictures. Best Zoom ever, here are the slides
Clocks and Watches. – Necessity of Punctuality.
The perfection of clocks and the invention of watches have something to do with modern nervousness, since they compel us to be on time, and excite the habit of looking to see the exact moment, so as not to be late for trains or appointments. Before the general use of these instruments pf precision in time, there was a wider margin for all appointments; a longer period was required and prepared for, especially in travelling… men judged of the time by probabilities, by looking at the sun, and needed not, as a rule, to be nervous about the loss of a moment, and had incomparably fewer experiences wherein a delay of a few moments might destroy the hopes of a lifetime. (page 103)Beard, G. M. (1881). American nervousness, its causes and consequences: a supplement to nervous exhaustion (neurasthenia). Putnam.
American Nervousness was published in 1881 and it reminds me of the regular panics surrounding smartphones today.
The Political Pose
While listening to a Guardian podcast episode about why people hates vegans I came across this quote:
Alicia Kennedy considers it troubling that the internet has transformed something with such a rich political history into “a wellness thing” that allows would-be consumers to label themselves vegans without having to engage with the “excess baggage” of ideology.
This nails the whole slacktivism argument so elegantly, seeming political without the “excess baggage” of ideology.
Of course social media allows for this form of poseur to thrive. But this does not mean all that looks like a pose is hollow. The challenge is identifying the difference.
Farkas Post Truth Discussion
In New York next week? Come and join us for Post Truth discussion!
Next Friday, October 18, the McGannon Center will host Johan Farkas for a lunchtime discussion from 12:30pm to 1:45pm in Room 7-119 at the Law School. Farkas, who is a PhD Fellow in Media and Communication Studies at Malmö University in Sweden,will talk about his book, Post-Truth, Fake News and Democracy: Mapping the Politics of Falsehood.
Mathias Klang of Fordham’s Communications and Media Studies Department will moderate the conversation. You can learn more about Farkas and his book here.
Do you have a book idea?
I’ve got a new position as Book Series Editor at the Fordham University Press! Yay!
We are looking to revitalize the McGannon Book Series, and looking for books that “…interrogate the ways in which media and networked communication technologies (1) constitute social, economic, cultural, and political arrangements and (2) affect the distribution, regulation, and control of information flows.”
If you have an idea you would like to discuss, reach out!
The problem with hacktivists is… Fashion?
This is quote was worth saving, maybe?
“When I was young there were beatniks. Hippies. Punks. Gangsters. Now you’re a hacktivist. Which I would probably be if I was 20. Shuttin’ down MasterCard. But there’s no look to that lifestyle! Besides just wearing a bad outfit with bad posture. Has WikiLeaks caused a look? No! I’m mad about that. If your kid comes out of the bedroom and says he just shut down the government, it seems to me he should at least have an outfit for that.”