How does a white supremacist get invited?

Texas A&M university allowed a white supremacist to hold a meeting “a packed room of about 400 people at the Texas A&M University Memorial Student Center.” His views are racist, with misogyny and fat shaming thrown in for good measure. Now I understand that some campus grounds are public spaces and therefore universities cannot prevent people from speaking – but really this person gets to use the facilities, the room? The Chronicle of Higher Education reports

The university’s president, Michael K. Young, said last week that while he found Mr. Spencer’s views “abhorrent,” and that no one from the university had invited him, A&M had to allow him to speak because of the university’s commitment to free speech.

Mr. Spencer was invited to speak at A&M by Preston Wiginton, a white supremacist who briefly attended the university a decade ago.

How is this even possible? Would Texas A&M allow anybody to use their facilities just for this flimsy connection? So if I wanted to use the room to sell snake oil all I need to do is to get invited by anyone “who briefly attended the university a decade ago”?

The university president did organize a competing event “to show the university’s opposition to such divisive rhetoric” and he also said that the white supremacist message had  “no place in civilized dialogue and conversation.” and that “It’s beneath contempt.”

But the question remains – how can an invitation like this stand? At what point doesn’t the university just stop the event that hasn’t been organized and officially sanctioned?

Aldous Huxley on Technodictators

I like this – but I don’t believe that technology is neutral since it is created, embedded, and used in a setting.

“All technology is in itself morally neutral. These are just powers which can either be used well or ill, it’s the same thing with atomic energy. We can either use it to blow ourselves up, or we can use it as a substitute for the coal and the oil which are running out.” -Aldous Huxley

 

Books to Read

The Atlantic published A Reading Guide for Those in Despair About American Politics. It’s a list worth looking through, and of course, reading…

  1. Americanah By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  2. The New Jim Crow By Michelle Alexander
  3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian By Sherman Alexie
  4. Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom By Ryan T. Anderson
  5. The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism By Edward Baptist
  6. Taking Rites Seriously: Law, Politics, and the Reasonableness of Faith By Francis Beckwith
  7. The Coming By Daniel Black
  8. The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism By Pascal Bruckner
  9. Between the World and Me By Ta-Nehisi Coates
  10. Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics By Cathy Cohen
  11. Evicted By Matthew Desmond
  12. Roads to Dominion: Right Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States By Sara Diamond
  13. Sleeping Giant: How the New Working Class Will Transform America By Tamara Draut
  14. Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America By Martin Gilens
  15. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion By Jonathan Haidt
  16. The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements By Eric Hoffer
  17. Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right By Arlie Russell Hochschild
  18. Book of Judges
  19. In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men, and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in the 20th Century By Alice Kessler-Harris
  20. The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism By Yuval Levin 
  21. The Possessive Investment in Whiteness By George Lipsitz
  22. Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class By Ian Haney López
  23. A Canticle for Leibowitz By Walter Miller
  24. Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 By Charles Murray
  25. Dreams From My Father By Barack Obama
  26. The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America By George Packer
  27. Citizen: An American Lyric By Claudia Rankine
  28. Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty By Dorothy Roberts
  29. The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdown By Paul Taylor
  30. Because of Sex: One Law, 10 Cases and 50 Years That Changed American Women’s Lives at Work By Gillian Thomas
  31. Habibi By Craig Thompson
  32. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! By Mo Willems
  33. American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America By Colin Woodard

Would Warren and Brandeis be Luddites?

Last week I taught “The Right to Privacy” by Warren and Brandeis. Their article was published in 1890 but is filled with sentiments and quotes that could be addressing technology today. The language is a bit aged but the ideas are still clear.

This could be about social media…

The intensity and complexity of life, attendant upon advancing civilization, have rendered necessary some retreat from the world, and man, under the refining influence of culture, has become more sensitive to publicity, so that solitude and privacy have become more essential to the individual; but modern enterprise and invention have, through invasions upon his privacy, subjected him to mental pain and distress, far greater than could be inflicted by mere bodily injury.

And their fear of technology

“Instantaneous photographs and newspaper enterprise have invaded the sacred precincts of private and domestic life; and numerous mechanical devices threaten to make good the prediction that ” what is whispered in the closet shall be proclaimed from the house-tops.”

There is lots more. Their work reflects ideas found in The Shallows by Nicholas Carr or any of the later books by Sherry Turkle. People who we generally see, to a varying degree, as anti-technology. Usually when people go against the current technology we throw about the pejorative term Luddite!

And Warren & Brandeis may have faced similar criticism in their time. The article was well received. For example an article in the 1891 Atlantic Monthly wrote (from Glancy The Invention of the Right to Privacy Arizona Law Review 1979):

…a learned and interesting article in a recent number of the Harvard Law Review, entitled The Right to Privacy. It seems that the great doctrine of Development rules not only in biology and theology, but in the law as well; so that whenever, in the long process of civilization, man generates a capacity for being made miserable by his fellows in some new way, the law, after a decent interval, steps in to protect him.

But an interesting social critique comes from Godkin writing about the Right to Privacy article in The Nation in 1890

The second reason is, that there would be no effective public support or countenance for such proceedings. There is nothing democratic societies dislike so much to-day as anything which looks like what is called “exclusiveness,” and all regard for or precautions about privacy are apt to be considered signs of exclusiveness. A man going into court, therefore, in defence of his privacy, would very rarely be an object of sympathy on the part either of a jury or the public.

He also wrote about how their ideas were interesting but maybe belonged to a certain class of individual… (from Glancy The Invention of the Right to Privacy Arizona Law Review 1979)

” ‘privacy’ has a different meaning to different classes or categories of persons, it is, for instance, one thing to a man who has always lived in his own house, and another to a man who has always lived in a boardinghouse.”

 

Its much too easy to look at the past and judge it from the perspective of the present. But I wonder if I called Warren & Brandeis luddites if I had been around at the time?

Digital Ethics in Chicago

I’m looking forward to participating in the Sixth Annual International Symposium on Digital Ethics which will be in Chicago on Friday, November 4.

The keynote speaker will be Lilie Chouliaraki, author of The Spectatorship of Suffering and Professor of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics.

Featured Speakers:
Whitney Phillips | Assistant Professor, Mercer University | Author of This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture
Ryan Milner | Assistant Professor, College of Charleston | Author of The World Made Meme: Public Conversations and Participatory Media. Co-author with Whitney Phillips of a new bookBetween Play and Hate: Antagonism, Mischief, and Humor Online.
Max Schrems | Privacy Activist | Founder of Europe v Facebook | Author of Kämpf um deine Daten (Fight for your Data) and Private Videoüberwachung(Private Video Surveillance Law)

Meg Leta Jones | Assistant Professor in Georgetown University’s Communication, Culture & Technology Program | Author of Ctrl+Z: The Right to be Forgotten.

Julie Carpenter | Author of Culture and Human-Robot Interaction in Militarized Spaces: A War Story.

Digital Ethics Symposium
Friday, November 4, 2016
Loyola University Chicago
Lewis Towers | Regents Hall | 16th Floor
111 E. Pearson
8:30 a.m – 5:00 p.m

“Quantity has a quality all its own”

Quantity has its own quality – The quote is often falsely attributed to Stalin. It was used in this great article by Will Self: The awful cult of the talentless hipster has taken over

Aside from the great article it got me thinking about the quote which then led me to find out a examination on Quora written by Nils Barth it’s worth repeating:

Presumably Thomas A. Callaghan Jr., influential US defense consultant of the 1970s and 1980s and director of the Allied Interdependence program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, arguing for increased spending on weapons.

Earliest result I could find is “Quantity has a Quality All Its Own,” Allied Interdependence Newsletter No. 13, Center for Strategic and International Studies, 21 June 1979 (which Callaghan produced and presumably authored), cited in Naval War College Review, “How much is not enough? The non-nuclear air battle in NATO’s central region”, Volume 33, March-April (1980), footnote on p. 77, quotation on p. 68, echoing similar sentiments by Sam Nunn (“At some point numbers do count.”). This looks like the origin of the phrase.

The phrase has been popular in the US defense community since the 1980s, sometimes acknowledging it as a US coinage, but often misattributing it to Clausewitz, Lenin, Stalin, and Brezhnev, but mostly to Stalin.

The general principle that quantity begets quality is a key tenet of the Marxist theory of dialectical materialism, as formulated by Marx and Engels, phrased as the law of the passage of quantitative changes into qualitative changes. This in turn is attributed to Hegel (Science of Logic), who in turn attributes it to Ancient Greek philosophers, notably the paradox of the heap Eubulides: a quantitative change in the number of grains of sand leads to a qualitative change in being a heap or not. While Marx and Engels are quoted by various Marxist and communist authors, including Stalin, this formulation is not found in their work or in English translation. (Re: “Quantity has a quality all its own” source?, Tim Davenport, H-Russia, April 5, 2010)

Enough to sate the social urge

Via Mark Carrigan

Online friendships afford a similar bounty: instantaneous, often hilarious adventures in debate, discussion, dialogue. The ties are strong enough to sate the social urge, but their gossamer threads never bind us tightly, rarely ask for the commitments and cohabitations of our closest relationships.

Damon Young “Distraction” pg 154

Who sells books for a penny?

The book market is a mess and the second hand book market is even weirder. As a buyer the second hand books on Amazon are amazing as many hardcover, good condition books are listed at a penny $0.01 of course the shipping is added to this but at $4 a book this is still a sweet deal. After buying the 5 volume History of Private Life and having it shipped to my house for a total of $20 dollars I tried to figure out how it was even possible.

 

 

The massive set consisted on Volume I: From Pagan Rome to ByzantiumVolume II: Revelations of the Medieval WorldVolume III: Passions of the RenaissanceVolume IV: From the Fires of Revolution to the Great WarVolume V: Riddles of Identity in Modern Times. Its authors are respected historians and the weight alone makes this an impressive purchase.

Naturally it made no sense and I was at a loss to how it worked. Finally, after Googling, I came across this thread. Its from 2012 but it throws some light on how the whole thing works.

In brief:
A seller lists a book for $.01
Amazon collects $3.99 from the buyer and gives $2.66 ($.01 + $2.64 shipping allowance) to the seller. (The $1.35 ‘closing fee’ is subtracted from the shipping allowance by Amazon)
The seller is a ProMerchant, so doesn’t pay the $.99 fee (but does pay $40 per month to be a ProMerchant).
The 15% fee on 1 cent is zero.
The seller pays $2.38 or $2.88 in postage for a 1 or 2 pound package (or less, if it is very light weight and can go First Class. Much less if the penny seller is high volume and uses Bulk Mail).
The seller cost for the book is zero, because he got it for free somehow.
The seller used recycled packing materials, so those cost nothing, too.
The seller ends-up with $.27 (if it’s 1 pound media mail) in a domestic shipment (a bit more if it’s mailed using Bulk Mail).
The seller is happy with his “profit”.
Amazon ends up with $1.35 from the shipping.
Amazon is even happier than the seller.

Its not exactly big bucks but it does explain a little more how 1penny books can be sold at a (sort of) profit.