Tag Archives: First Amendment

Europe Must Defend Itself Against A Dangerous President

By Klaus Brinkbäumer – There are times in life that really do count. Times when a person’s character is revealed, when the important is separated from the unimportant. Soon decisions are taken that will determine the further path a person takes.

Germany must stand up in opposition to the 45th president of the United States and his government. That’s difficult enough already for two reasons: Because it is from the Americans that we obtained our liberal democracy in the first place; and because it is unclear how the brute and choleric man on the other side will react to diplomatic pressure. The fact that opposition to the American government can only succeed when mounted together with Asian and African partners — and no doubt with our partners in Europe, with the EU — doesn’t make the situation any easier.

Under President Trump, both the justified and the contemptible will be melded. Injustice is a major issue of our times, as are fears of digitalization and globalization — and rightfully so given that the division of society and the speed of modern life is, in fact, extreme. Trump fuses these worries of his voters with nationalism and xenophobia. That’s how demagogues work and it is how they become effective.

The fact that the United States, a nuclear superpower that has dominated the world economically, militarily and culturally for decades, is now presenting itself as the victim, calling in all seriousness for “America first” and trying to force the rest of the world into humiliating concessions is absurd. But precisely because this nonsense is coming from the world’s most powerful man, it is getting trapped by him. more> https://goo.gl/PwClWJ

How to Build an Autocracy

By David Frum – No society, not even one as rich and fortunate as the United States has been, is guaranteed a successful future. When early Americans wrote things like “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” they did not do so to provide bromides for future bumper stickers. They lived in a world in which authoritarian rule was the norm, in which rulers habitually claimed the powers and assets of the state as their own personal property.

The exercise of political power is different today than it was then—but perhaps not so different as we might imagine. Larry Diamond, a sociologist at Stanford, has described the past decade as a period of “democratic recession.” Worldwide, the number of democratic states has diminished. Within many of the remaining democracies, the quality of governance has deteriorated.

Yet the American system is also perforated by vulnerabilities no less dangerous for being so familiar. Supreme among those vulnerabilities is reliance on the personal qualities of the man or woman who wields the awesome powers of the presidency.

A British prime minister can lose power in minutes if he or she forfeits the confidence of the majority in Parliament. The president of the United States, on the other hand, is restrained first and foremost by his own ethics and public spirit.

What happens if somebody comes to the high office lacking those qualities? more> https://goo.gl/IjMqiK

How social media is crippling democracy, and why we seem powerless to stop it

Tech-assisted gaslighting is destroying truth, justice, and the American way. Can anything be done?

By ason Perlow – Because so many of us that “are on the spectrum” work in technology, and so many of us use these tools for business and not just for recreational purposes, we all have to work extra hard to hone our “soft” skills, as all of these tools are not particularly helpful in developing our interpersonal relationships and how we interact with people in the real world.

The more disconnected from face-to-face relationships we become, the more our soft skills atrophy. And these tools not only make the soft skills deteriorate, but they also reinforce bad habits and amplify our negative personality traits.

We all know someone whose personality traits are amplified in this way.

These tools can do much more than alter and distort the way we perceive our relationships with others and how others perceive us. These tools can alter our very sense of reality. more> https://goo.gl/BXBk9J

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Free speech debates are more than ‘radicals’ vs ‘liberals’

BOOK REVIEW

Hate Speech and Democratic Citizenship, Author: Eric Heinze.
Excitable Speech, Author: Judith Butler.
On Liberty, Author: John Stuart Mill.

By Eric Heinze – The main schism in today’s free speech debates pits liberals, advocating unbridled speech as a tool of freedom, against radicals, who unmask unbridled speech as a tool of class privilege. But that rift tells only one story.

In almost all democracies today (the United States being the sole and oft-criticized exception), mainline liberal doctrines overwhelmingly require limits on provocative speech. Liberals today largely consent to drawing lines between the lawful and the unlawful expression of ideas.

They disagree only about where that boundary should lie. Indeed, an ever more distinct libertarianism has arisen in diametric opposition to the ‘balance of interests’ approaches of our more conventional liberal approaches. The strident (though still minority) libertarian would wholly abolish those lines in favor of free speech. Accordingly, far from dissenting from the more mainstream liberal line-drawing, radicals wish merely to draw the lines more tightly around certain types of expression. They differ from liberals only as a matter of degree, not as a matter of principle, even when they appear to adopt different philosophies or vocabularies.

If we want to avoid the impasses and repetitions plaguing the free-speech debates, one way is to stop assuming that ‘the liberal position’ always dictates one outcome, and ‘the radical position’ another. Both approaches supply plausible justifications for supporting restrictions on public discourse – but even stronger grounds for opposing them. more> https://goo.gl/DxjOMc

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How culture Is driving human evolution, domesticating our species, and making us smarter

BOOK REVIEW

The Secret of Our Success, Author: Joseph Henrich.
Guns, Germs, and Steel, Author: Jared Diamond.
Culture and the Evolutionary Process, Authors: Robert Boyd and Peter J. Richerson.
Foundations of Social Evolution, Author: Steven A. Frank.

(cartoonstock.com)By Tyler Cowen and Joseph Henrich – For much of human history, people believed in gods that were weak and whimsical, not very powerful. There was no notion of afterlife.

If we look at the earliest human societies, the first time you see monumental architecture, it’s always religious. It’s always a temple or a tomb. This seems to help consolidate power and expand this fear of reliable social interactions.

If we look at the smallest-scale human societies, hunter-gatherers, they still rely on all kinds of social norms and beliefs to cooperate even when they’re cooperating in relatively small bands.

Psychologists have now shown when you cooperate, when you participate in communal rituals, you become more cooperative and you have greater social solidarity with other members of your group. Even the smallest-scale human societies are already using all these tricks of cultural evolution to make them more social.

The simplest and clearest one is this idea that I call the collective brain. This is simply the idea because we’re so dependent on learning from each other in order to do innovations and to construct increasingly fancy technologies, larger and more interconnected populations tend to have fancier tools and technologies.

Culture changes our biology and causes us to think differently.

War in some cases can foster cooperation, especially over the longer haul.

The trick the West pulled off is to manage to make individuals so that information could freely flow among individuals. more> https://goo.gl/YnVnsU

Putin’s Real Long Game

By Molly K. McKew – What both administrations fail to realize is that the West is already at war, whether it wants to be or not. It may not be a war we recognize, but it is a war. This war seeks, at home and abroad, to erode our values, our democracy, and our institutional strength; to dilute our ability to sort fact from fiction, or moral right from wrong; and to convince us to make decisions against our own best interests.

So far, Trump seems far more likely than any of his predecessors to accelerate, rather than resist, the unwinding of the postwar order. And that could be a very bad — or an unexpectedly good — thing. So far, he has chosen to act as if the West no longer matters, seemingly blind to the danger that Putin’s Russia presents to American security and American society.

The question ahead of us is whether Trump will aid the Kremlin’s goals with his anti-globalist, anti-NATO rhetoric– or whether he’ll clearly see the end of the old order, grasp the nature of the war we are in, and have the vision and the confrontational spirit to win it. more> https://goo.gl/vgwEmY

I’ve left Twitter. It is unusable for anyone but trolls, robots and dictators

By Lindy West – Twitter, for the past five years, has been a machine where I put in unpaid work and tension headaches come out. I write jokes there for free. I post political commentary for free. I answer questions for free. I teach feminism 101 for free.

Off Twitter, these are all things by which I make my living – in fact, they comprise the totality of my income.

But on Twitter, I do them pro bono and, in return, I am micromanaged in real time by strangers; neo-Nazis mine my personal life for vulnerabilities to exploit; and men enjoy unfettered, direct access to my brain so they can inform me, for the thousandth time, that they would gladly rape me if I weren’t so fat.

I talk back and I am “feeding the trolls.” I say nothing and the harassment escalates. I report threats and I am a “censor.” I use mass-blocking tools to curb abuse and I am abused further for blocking “unfairly.” I have to conclude, after half a decade of troubleshooting, that it may simply be impossible to make this platform usable for anyone but trolls, robots and dictators.” more> https://goo.gl/YTbReR

Donald Trump’s Global Agenda: What Have You Got to Lose?

By Stewart M. Patrick – Taken at face value, Trump’s ambitions portend a rupture with more than seven decades of U.S. global engagement dating from the end of World War II—as well as a break with older American values.

They signal a new U.S. global role that is more insular, transactional, and narrowly interest-driven. Gone is any mention of U.S. global leadership, the promotion of universal values, or the defense of a “free world.”

The pursuit of world order will be replaced by the art of the deal.

At this stage of the presidential transition, it is impossible to know whether Trump will actually govern as he campaigned. Perhaps his campaign pronouncements were just red meat tossed to his populist, isolationist base and should not be taken literally as a guide to policy.

Perhaps. But for now, let’s assume that he meant what he said … more> https://goo.gl/HOO1Dz

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Solving the Problem of Fake News

By Nicholas Lemann – What we are now calling fake news—misinformation that people fall for—is nothing new. Thousands of years ago, in the Republic, Plato offered up a hellish vision of people who mistake shadows cast on a wall for reality.

The framers of the American Constitution devised a democratic system shot through with restrictions: only a limited portion of the citizenry could vote, and even that subset was permitted to elect only state and local politicians and members of the House of Representatives, not senators or Presidents. In guaranteeing freedom of the press, the framers gave a pass to fake news, since back then the press was mainly devoted to hot-blooded opinion.

They felt protected against a government that came to power through misinformation, because the country wasn’t very democratic, and because they assumed most people would simply vote their economic interests.

Only in the twentieth century, as the United States became a complex modern society with mass media and professional journalism, did people begin to worry about the fake-news problem, and when they did they usually came down either on the side of restricting democracy or restricting the media. more> https://goo.gl/hsyJyu

Trump’s Challenge to American Democracy

By John Cassidy – The United States, thank goodness, isn’t Weimar Germany or early-twentieth-century Italy. The country hasn’t been invaded, the economy has grown for seven years in a row, and the commitment to democracy is deeply rooted. All this suggests that what we know as the American system is unlikely to be felled in one blow.

The real danger, as Jeff Colgan and others have pointed out, is that we will witness a gradual uprooting of the system’s foundations. Broadly speaking, this is what we have witnessed in Russia and Turkey during the past fifteen years. When Putin was elected, in 2000, following a decade of chaos, he claimed a mandate to restore order. It was only over time that he concentrated power in his hands, harassed and imprisoned his opponents, and cracked down on many forms of dissent. Using a rationalization for repressive measures that dates back at least to the French Revolution, the Russian President cited national-security imperatives, such as the need to confront Chechen terrorism.

Thankfully, the United States isn’t Russia or Turkey, either. On his first day in office, Trump is unlikely to ban protests or abolish a suspect’s Miranda rights. Other dangers loom, however, beginning with how he runs the Justice Department and other key agencies.

Then there is the issue of how Trump will deal with the press, which, for all its faults, remains a bulwark of American democracy. As he showed last week during his interview with the Times, the President-elect can butter up the Fourth Estate when he wants to. But, as he demonstrated during the campaign, he is also perfectly willing to attack journalists personally, boycott shows that run segments he doesn’t like, and bar entire news organizations from covering him. Through his Twitter and Facebook accounts, he has a personal “fake news” network with enormous reach, which he can use to circumvent the mainstream media. And in Steve Bannon, his former campaign C.E.O. and now his chief strategist, he has a skilled and unscrupulous propagandist. more> https://goo.gl/iO6HQH

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