My own existentialism

Throughout much of my I.T. career, especially the last fifteen years or so, I was often preoccupied with the possible consequences of any mistakes by me as an individual contributor.  I did have to get used to it. But in retirement, the idea that one can fall by making enemies or being on the wrong side, has made a troubling comeback, sometimes with ironic recalls of pressures earlier in my life to fit in vertically to social structures set up by others, to value other people in these communities more than my own head.

There is a lot more attention to asymmetry today, and to the randomness of “bad luck” and misfortune. I’ve never been OK with playing up victimization, especially when enhanced by belonging to an oppressed group. I go to memorial services, too; but I don’t brand myself by going to bat publicly for everyone out there on social media who is losing out because of disadvantage.

One idea that seems very critical to me is that, when something happens to “you”, especially because of someone else’s wrongdoing, recovering from it still starts with “you” before anyone else.  That’s not politics or social values; that’s just plain logic.  Otherwise, life will go on without you.  Of course, the full weight of the law or other agency (like military force) can be brought against perpetrators, terrorists, or ordinary bullies. But, I’ve never seen “sacrifice” as particularly honorable.  That kind of thinking played out bigtime in the days of the Vietnam era draft, when people with less privilege wound up making more of the sacrifices in combat. Likewise, it has, even with a volunteer army but a “backdoor” stop-loss draft, followed suit in more recent wars, like Iraq. You still see this today with risky civilian volunteerism, where overseas or in local volunteer fire departments.

So, then, we come to the inequality debate, which I covered today again in reviewing Robert Reich’s movie “Saving Capitalism”.   Much of the traditional debate has to do with classes of people, groups, and the way power structures reinforce themselves.  Yet, I still feel this all traces back to what we expect of every individual.

The unpredictability of personal tragedy plays out in many possibilities.  Besides the usual risks of drunk drivers and some older street crime, we have to deal today with ideologically driven terrorism, as if reaches those who have fallen behind in a hyperindividualistic society.  That plays into the immigration debate.  It’s still true, that in the US, the risk of dying from a lone wolf terror act is much lower than most other accidental perils, and such observations are used to justify a kinder policy on immigration (including asylum) than Trump will allow (or promised his base). But it also underscores the idea that those who resent our “elitism” are sometimes turning our free speech, especially on the Internet (with ungated speech) against us, with the terror recruiting, and the ease of finding destructive information online.  (But, remember, it wasn’t that hard in print before the Internet.  Remember Paladin Press?)

I say I don’t like to get into intersectionality or helping people leverage their collective oppression. Yet, everyone belongs to something, to various groups, often starting with family of origin. Hostility happens to groups as well as individuals, so people wind up as individuals pay the price for what their groups are perceived (often wrongly) to others.

That gets us back to the grim possibility of a real national catastrophe promulgated by a determined enemy, most recently by North Korea, as in recent posts.

That is what drives the moralizing of the doomsday preppers (like The Survival Mom on Facebook), who want everyone to have local, vertical value to others in very personal ways working with their hands, before they get any traction in a more global and abstract experience.  This is not a good thing for the dilettantes of the world, although it is possible that sometimes a self-absorbed  “austistic” person like “Shaun Murphy” has such indispensable talents in some area that still fits in.  For the rest of those people “like me”, it very much becomes a matter of “pay your dues” and “right-sizing”.  A lot of people believe that, before you are heard or listened to, you need to fit in to community engagement, as defined by the needs of others. In the future this idea of “no spectators” and putting “your own skin in the game” before you speak, could get formalized.  Morality finally gets allocated down to the individual from all his groups (my “DADT-IV” sequence).

All of that means that there is a great deal of moral premium in an individual’s adapting to whatever circumstances he or she must live in, because others can be affected or targeted, or have to take risks in “your” stead.  That was certainly the case when I was growing up (when “cowardice” was a real crime against the group).  Many protest movements turn out to be manipulative or based on overblown or frivolous interpretations of policy changes, where activists try to shame others into joining and become belligerent on their own. On the other hand, once in a while, you do have to “enlist”.  You have to figure out when it’s for real.  Dealing, as an individual, with the collective combativeness of others has indeed become a real problem.

These are ominous times for individualistic speakers who map out the flaws of everyone else without any particular commitment.  Is that what my own “do ask do tell” and “connecting the dots” have come to?  Despite perceptions to the contrary (and the illusion provided by some court wins as with COPA in 2007).  Although the issue is protracted and complicated, issues like the revoking of net neutrality and of Section 230 downstream liability protections, could seriously erode the continuation of independent speech, without the tribal influences of organizations on one side of another, constantly wanting to take over my voice with their partisan pimping.  Yet, “tribalism” at least raises the questions of how much people really matter (to me), both horizontally (minorities) and vertically (“taking care of your own first”).  Why speak if you don’t care about the people (personally) whose lives you purport to affect?  This is, at least, a “puzzlement” as in “The King and I”.  Well, if they aren’t “good enough” for me (absorbed by my own world), then why will I never show up in my shorts?   And it – addiction to the leverage of one’s own past shame — can become life threatening.  But for many “victims”, it is already too late.

(Posted: 10:45 PM EST Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017)

“Sexual Harassment Abuse: When Will It End?” Guest Post (David Essel)

Guest Post by David Essel”  “Sexual Harassment Abuse: When Will It End?”

How come people in positions of power, both men and women, haven’t become more actively engaged to stomp out sexual harassment and sexual abuse before now?

Number one best-selling author, counselor, life coach and radio host David Essel has been helping women in particular heal from sexual harassment and sexual abuse for the past 28 years, and yet even he has not seen the attention given to it right now.

“It seems like we finally have reached a tipping point. The point in life and society where individuals are saying enough is enough. I applaud Everywoman, every man, who has decided to take a stance against sexual harassment and sexual abuse.

But is it enough? When the president of United States, and leading power figures in the world of movies and television shows, as well as political talk show hosts are finally called out… Will this be what it takes in order to heal and move forward in life, to create a society where women feel safer?

In family counseling, just like in the world of business, we say everything is top down. And by that we mean that whenever there are problems in society especially when it comes to sexual harassment and sexual abuse, it starts from the top and trickles down. What does that mean? Well let’s look at the presidency.  Donald Trump bragged about his escapades with women before becoming president. That’s as high  in society as we can get.

And the family is no different. The core family. Which is where my work has been for the past 28 years. Whenever I work with someone who has sexual challenges, either they are overly engaged in sexual activities, or they completely have shut down sexually, we always look back to the patriarch or the matriarch of the family for clues as to why their child, a son or daughter, is facing sexual dysfunction.

I’ve worked with countless of women in their 40s, 50s and 60s who have suffered their whole life from sexual dysfunction, only to find out that it started with their father. Or their brother. Or their cousin, a male cousin who took advantage of them during something as innocent and simple seemingly as hide and go seek.

And when they finally open up to me in our sessions, which can often take 2 to 3 months of counseling sessions before they feel safe enough to open up about their childhood tragedies to a male, there’s a trail of distraction they left behind them. And the number one person destroyed? Themselves.

I worked with one young lady who was sexually abused by her father from the age of 11 until 21. That’s right age 21. She felt incredible shame, guilt, in saying no to her fathers advances even when she was in college. He had convinced her that she was dirty. She accepted it. And after 12 months of working together she finally rose up and shared her horrific story with her mother, Who dismissed it. Seriously once again damaging her daughters self-esteem.

But she didn’t give up. As we worked together she became stronger and stronger and stronger until she finally approached both her mother and father together and blew the door wide open.

Her strength was enormous. She shattered the family secret. And in doing so, protected generations down the road from having to go through the same abuse from another family member. She decided not to visit her parents in their house any longer, but rather stayed in hotels when she went home. The message was given. And on his deathbed, her father apologize profusely with tears running down his face as his life ended.

She is a born-again woman. Filled with strength and fortitude, and has use this to help others in life as well. She has encouraged me to share her story, over and over again, with some of my clients that are as young as 12 years of age who have been sexually molested. Her story, has given them strength as well.

How about my interviews with Olympic judo gold medalist Kayla Harrison, who was sexually abused by her judo coach from the ages of 12 to 16. In my interviews with her she said it was one of the hardest things to do at that young of an age, was to point her coach out for what he had done. But she is at peace, and has become an incredible role model for young women in athletics everywhere.

Recently, I started working with a woman in her 40s, that openly shared her extreme sexual dysfunction that was manifested through promiscuity her entire adult life. When we looked at the core issue, her brother had sexually molested her for four years as a little girl, and had threatened her with harm if she said anything to anyone.

After our work together that lasted almost 12 months, she healed, and for the first time in her life became involved with someone who is healthy. A man who could listen to her past story, without judging her, accepting her as she is today… A powerful, confident, healed woman. Her shame and guilt gone, her desire to be free and do the work necessary has allowed her to become a role model in her community as well.

There are thousands of women who have come forward, and walked into the light of healing. It takes incredible strength. I hope that through all of the media attention that is now being given to the most prominent of names, that individuals from all walks of life will seek help, assurance, and assistance in  healing any type of sexual harassment and or abuse that they have experienced .

Number one. Ask for help. Whether you go to a woman’s shelter, a spiritual center or church, or to professional counselors, the time is now. Please don’t wait any longer.

Number two. Read about women like the clients I’ve mentioned above, who have broken through incredible amounts of shame and guilt to become free. As women read more about others who have healed, it will give them incentive to walk down the same path of healing as well.

I don’t believe that we can totally eradicate the dysfunction of sexual harassment and abuse from our society, but I do believe maybe for the first time in my 28 years as a professional, that we are on the brink of something big.

A tipping point. Let us all hold hands, men included, to expose the dysfunction in our country in order to heal it for good.”

For more for Information on David, visit his website www.davidessel.com

ABOUT:

David Essel, M. S., Counselor, author, life coach, is a number one best-selling author, counselor, master life coach, and international speaker whose mission is to positively affect 1 million people or more every day, regardless of their current circumstances. David’s work is also highly endorsed by the late Wayne Dyer, chicken soup for the soul’s Mark Victor Hansen, as well as many other celebrities and radio and television networks from around the United States of America. Celebrity Jenny McCarthy says, “David Essel is the new leader of the positive thinking movement”

Publicist note:

The news is filled with recent stories, as well as age old stories, about sexual harassment in the workplace. At home. College campuses. What will it take for it to end?

From Donald Trump, Bill O’Reilly and Harvey Weinstein(it gets worse with Ronan Farrow’s New Yorker story on HW’s “Army of spies“). The list goes on and on and on. And let’s not forget  Bill Cosby  (case ended in a mistrial). .

Women, with the “me too” symbol, are starting to stand strong in unification together. Is this the first time this has ever happened in the history of United States?

We wonder, why did it take so long

Ed. Note:

Here are a couple of factual stories about the Olympic judo gold case.  (1) New York Times, Campbell Robertson, Aug. 2, 2002. (2) ESPN Allison Glock, April 13, 2017

Sometimes accusers have been sued for “defamation,” as in this story on Huffington by Dominque Mosbergen, about Brett Ratner suing Melanie Kohler.  In some cases, women (or even male victims) may not have the resources to defend themselves against “frivolous” litigation.

The whole matter of Kevin Spacey and “House of Cards” brings up the subject of possible make victims and gay harassment, which was generally thought to be relatively infrequent.  Elahe Izadi has a new story in the Washington Post.

David Brooks has a relevant column today, “Lovers, prospectors, and predators“.  One could add that a lot of men, maybe most, become too lost with themselves to remain lovers when there is no more prospecting.

(Posted: Monday, November 6, 2017 at 4 PM EST)

 

 

Yes, I could have become radicalized: my take on how it can happen

I just want to walk through a process that I experienced growing up in the 50s and 60s.

I came to perceive the world, even the U.S., as competitive place, where some people were better than others, and where people fit into a “rightful” station. I remember quarreling with my father on household chores about what is “low work”. To a large extent, good grades in school were the only currency (non fiat) that I knew. But I sensed that (as in Connell’s story and film “The Most Dangerous Game”) that the world tended to evolve toward “brains over brawn”. Yet, I thought, to be virtuous, a man needed both. You had to be both “manly” (and look “manly” and ahead of schedule biologically) and smart. That became my “idol” (as I confessed in a “religion” class after school in third grade). I suppose Jesus was presented that way in Sunday school, but the way “He” was to be “Followed” seemed like a moral paradox. I tended toward upward affiliation, but clinging to “better men” socially was generally not appreciated and tended to trap me. So as an antidote, as an adult, I developed fierce independence.

A rightful station in life implied the possibility of shame and the need to accept it. Through imprinting, I came to perceive upward affiliation to the edge of actual shame as sexually exciting, so, as I’ve explained in my books, I (by age 18) had called myself a “latent homosexual”. That led to my William and Mary narrative.

Shame” (the name of a Fassebender 2011 film for Fox) required my accepting my own. Since I was physically behind my contemporaries, I did not see myself as competitive enough to have or enjoy sex with a woman. I did not view procreation or having children as important, and tended to see it as an “afterthought” behind public cultural achievements; but in the back of my mind, in those NIH days (1962, overlapping the Cuban Missile Crisis) I also thought my genes should not be propagated. They could lead to a greater or enhanced risk of disabled children (as lineage). I was personally buying into a previous generation’s acceptance of eugenics. Ironically, I needed to believe in shame to experience (gay) sexual fantasies that could become personally satisfying. In a curious way, I get what Trump was getting at in those remarks to Billy Bush on Access Hollywood (about “Days of our Lives”) in Oct. 2016 about his own sexual attractions, but as upside-down cake.

At this point, I’ll link to a couple of essays by Milo Yiannopoulos again on Breitbart, “Sexodus: The men giving up on women and checking out on society”, Part 1, and Part 2. True, fewer men today want to get married and have their own nuclear families. Milo attributes this to aggressive feminism, with the end result that marriage is a bad deal for men (and it often is, as I began to notice in the 1980s with the increasing heterosexual divorce rate in Dallas where I lived). Milo maintains some men are intimidated into believing that the slightest mistake of misplaced assertiveness (“masculinity” in the Rosenfels sense) will get them thrown into jail (or at least lead to enormous guilt), and he may be right. But my own experience was the inverse of all this. I did not have enough physical confidences so I could eroticize shame instead, (Shame and guilt are feminine and masculine counterparts in Rosenfels terminology.)  So I built my own world, and managed to be stable and productive, without normal offerings of intimacy.  You can talk about having children as a “choice” with obvious responsibilities that follow, but family responsibility can happen anyway — eldercare and filial piety, as well as the “Raising Helen” scenario of raising relatives’ kids after family tragedies.  Childlessness could leave “you” as the insurance policy for other people with kids (second-class status, as in Elinor Burkett’s 2000 book “The Baby Boon“). The ability to offer personal warmth based on need in a family setting — building into community social capital beyond the expressive self — becomes its own moral issue.

So, in previous pieces here, I’ve talked about my soapboxes, how they maintain my independence, give me political influence (I understand Trump actually reads some of my stuff)  They can be taken away, by coercion, in a variety of ways. And I would be left with the question, what’s wrong with raising someone else up instead?

Maybe that would be what I would want if it resulted from my own “content”. Yet my own writings and scripts tend to emulate the angels, the para-Jesus figures, and at least hint that people with “average Joe” cognition would become the “Leftovers” But, if I actually did work on the right project with someone else, maybe I would elevate someone even on my own social media pages in some creative way. That would have to start by working with someone I know,

But generally, I’ve resisted making someone “below” become “all right”, or at least doing so publicly as part of my own message or brand. That would undermine my own ability to enjoy Shame (think Trump, again). I’ve also resisted attempts by others espousing some sort of systematic oppression to get me to “join in” and subordinate my own work to their messages, especially when their messages are “narrow” and tend to let people “off the hook” for their own personal inadequacies. Again, that would subvert my own pattern of “upward affiliation”.

I think you can see that this can become a dangerous pattern of thinking. Given incidents around the country reported by others, this sounds like a pattern that slips from schizoid personality sometimes into outright nihilism. (“Schizoid” refers to social behavior – or particularly, avoidance of unwanted social contact and extreme narrowness and pickiness in intimate partners, where as “Aspergers” refers to developmental arrest in social capacity; some of this can be a good thing, as with Alan Turing.) I had my worst taste of this in 1964, after the Kennedy assassination.   I rebounded from all that (it could have gone dark indeed) and managed to create my own world, in my own world, and become a stable individual contributor in I.T. before I switched to a largely unpaid second career in “provocateurship”, less flashy than Milo’s – but I’m four decades older.

For “shame” is related to meaning of everything around me. I think many people of my parents’ generation felt they could function actively in marriage if they knew everyone else had to. That gave it meaning, but implied that everyone has a “rightsize” or station in life. Marital initiative by men could be carried out if there was a consistent belief that masculinity meant something, even in terms of external trappings. In the days long before attention to public Olympic events in cycling and swimming, it was usually seen as girlish if men shaved their bodies; the belief seemed to be necessary then. Drag queens were OK if they really stayed just on the fringes. But, on an everyday basis, you wanted to see men look like, well, men. That was a little easier in a segregated society.

You can see how this can lay the foundations for authoritarianism, particularly on the right wing side (fascism, or perhaps some of the ideas of the alt-right, could link back to personal “body fascism”). If people love only when their visual expectations are satisfied, and resent connection to others beneath them, it’s easier to set up a system where some people are subjugated if they don’t make it. Yes, that sounds like Nazism. It doesn’t necessary get that far, but it can.

It’s also well to remember that many people who seem “weak” may be so because they have not have the benefit of political and economic stability that I have leveraged. No wonder the prepper mentality appeals to some people.

All of this is to say, them, if people want to sustain freedom, they need to learn to reach out of their own bubbles, in creative interpersonal ways, sometimes, outside the usual boundaries in a “mind your own business” society, with all its “do not track”. Commercially, it means you need to be willing to take calls from salesmen. They have to make a living, too. Otherwise, it’s all too easy to rationalize an order of “merit” maintained by a dictator. Maybe you get a “people’s republic of capitalism”.

Devin Foley has a somewhat different perspective in Intellectual Takeout. “Antifa and Neo-Nazi Propaganda: Are You Suscpetible?” You could add radical Islam to the title. The writer talks about not being willing to grow out of dependency. That’s interesting, but I think it’s also about a need to see consistent meaning.

(Posted: Tuesday, Aug, 29, 2017 at 10:30 PM EDT)

Cloudflare’s action against neo-Nazi site complicates debate about service provider responsibilities and capabilities

The responsibility and capability of large private companies to decide what stays on the Internet or can be accessed by ordinary users seems to be coming into focus as a real controversy.

Just recently (Aug. 4), I’ve discussed how recent well-motivated bills in Congress aimed at inhibiting sex trafficking (usually of underage girls) could jeopardize much of the downstream liability exclusion (Section 230) that allow user-generated content to be posted on the Web (and that allow individuals to express themselves on their own through social media, blogs, and their own share-hosted websites) without expensive and bureaucratic third-party gatekeepers. This is tied with an undertone, not often argued openly, of controversy over whether “amateur” web content needs to be able to pay its own way . That latter-day proposition becomes dubious at the outset when you consider the observation made recently on CNN’s series “The 90s” that the first businesses to make money with web sites were pornography, which even was the first content source to set up credit card use and merchant accounts online.

But judging from the quick reaction of offense in the tech community to the extreme right wing march in Charlottesville, leading to a tragic death of a peaceful counter protester at the hands of a right-wing domestic terrorist who showed up. Companies do know a lot about what is getting posted. Matthew Prince of Cloudflare wrote a disturbing op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, about his second thoughts after pulling the plug on Daily Stormer. Prince, while admitting that no service provider can possibly screen every user-generated item on its site, implies that providers do have a great deal of knowledge of what is going on and can censor offensive content (like racism) if they think they have to, Prince also makes the hyperbolic and alarming statement that almost any site with even mildly controversial content will eventually get hacked (or perhaps draw a SLAPP suit). Yet Prince’s own article would qualify the WSJ as such a site.

Prince argues that there needs to be some sort of international “due process” body regarding kicking sites or content off; it’s easy to imagine how a group like Electronic Frontier Foundation will react. In fact, I see that Jeremy Malcolm, Cindy Cohn and Danny O’Brien have a thorough discussion of the private “due process” issue and all its possible components here. Particularly important is that people understand the domain name system as standing apart from content hosting. EFF also points out that relaxing net neutrality rules could allow telecom companies to refuse connection to content that they see as politically subservice.

Indeed, there are many ways for content to be objectionable. Donald Trump, in a teleprompted speech to veterans from Reno today, mentioned the need to stop terror recruiting on the Internet . (Is this just ISIS, or would it include neo-Nazi’s and “anarchists”). Twitter’s controversy over this is well known, and we should not forget that most of this process happens off-shore with encrypted messaging apps, not just websites and social media. Other problems include cyberbullying (including revenge porn), fake news (and the way social media platforms can manipulate it – again a sign that providers do know what they are doing sometimes) and also possibly asymmetrically triggering foreign national security threats (hint: the Sony Pictures hack, as well as attracting steganography). “Free speech” may indeed become a very subjective concept.

(Posted: Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017 at 7 PM EDT)

It’s all too easy to act like a bigot, even without a lot of group-based prejudice

We often hear the word “bigot” to characterize persons of public influence whom we want to go away or don’t want to have to pay heed to.

Wikipedia treats the concept of “bigotry” as pretty much synonymous with “prejudice”.  But Merriam-Wesbter’s definition mentions intolerant or obstinate “devotion” to one’s own “opinions” and only then refers to the idea of prejudice against members of an identifiable group.

Typically, we’re used to thinking about “bigotry” more in terms of groups, particularly when we look at history.  For the United States, the most glaring example comes with the racism that followed the ending of slavery and, almost a century later, segregation and the evolution of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.  At the outset, bigotry by whites was first motivated by economic loss:  “property”, ill-obtained, was going to be expropriated from them by force.  This is the “Gone with the Wind” worldview of Reconstruction.

One problem was that it was possible to find “rationalization” for slavery or subordination of others int the Bible, with right away reminds us that you can justify almost anything with carefully framed “scripture” (Ephesians 6:5).  The idea that information could be passed to the “ordinary people” from those in power (as propaganda) was part of the problem.  Over time, people could use the Bible to maintain the convenient comfort and “security” of segregation, an idea my parents somewhat believed even though at the church I grew up in the 1950s (First Baptist of the City of Washington DC), Dr.Edward Pruden was one of the most progressive of the time (as in his 1951 Judson Press book “Interpreters Needed“).  Huffington takes this up in a piece about Bob Jones University; also see Lewis).

The other great “group” marker for prejudice has been , of course, religion.  Anti-Semitism in Europe leading to WWII and the Holocaust in part resulted from the idea that fascism could portray the Jews as “elitist” and against “the common people” or “folk”  and could scapegoat them for the economic difficulties after WWI.

And anti-Islam sentiment has become the most obvious example of religious prejudice in the past decades, as a predictable result of terrorism.  It’s clear that intolerant passages can be found in the scriptures of all religions (and get used by political demagogues), but the concentration of certain passages in the Koran does seem troubling.

And particularly with radical Islam, the focus on focus and violence seems to be related to the idea that modernism and individualism has created a world of abstraction and self-focus that doesn’t make sense to a lot of people, and that leaves a lot of “ordinary people” behind.  But that attitude is often found in some evangelical Christianity.

History is typically concerned with “vertical” groups of people, classified by nationality, ethnicity, religious affiliation, and race.  What’s more difficult is how any group deals with those in its midst who are “different”, especially with regards to gender expression and sexuality.

I’ve tended to regard affinity groups related to gender and sexuality issues as “horizontal”, as they are spread out among all vertical groups.  It’s rather like comparing the sprawling office buildings over land plots in Washington to the skyscrapers in New York.

Furthermore, most of these horizontal groups are somewhat characterized by attitudes and behaviors, things that are partially chosen, even if underlying drives have biological (epigenetic or genetic) aspects.  Typically people in horizontal groups are not noticed at first sight (so “do ask do tell”).

So this brings me back to “homophobia” or sometimes “transphobia”.  I covered that on Jan. 4.  Particularly significant is that many heterosexual men find the whole panoply of courtship, dating, marriage, and the same family bed for generations quite challenging, as is the economic burden.  That’s easier for a lot of men to handle if they think all other men have to play the same cards.

But there’s also the need, as a gay midwestern district attorney pointed out to me, some people believe they need to feel superior to someone.  One reason for “bigotry” is then the need to have people to boss over.  Procreative potential for some men becomes a convenient proxy for superiority.

In fact, this brings me back to an element of my own therapy in those days of William and Mary and NIH (covered in my books), that in my own mind, I would tend to equate people’s visible trappings as a proxies for moral virtue.  I like to see “perfect” men.  I am uncomfortable with the idea of promoting gender fluidity.  In practice, I generally just ignore it when I see it.  You see things all the time you don’t necessary approve of, say little or nothing, and just move on.  Isn’t that the “harmlessness” of libertarianism?  But I have made myself visible on my own, indeed, self-promoted my own “opinions” without the supervision of gatekeepers.  (Sustaining the capacity to do that can remain challenging).  But these days I get challenged, that I am not willing to be more pro-active, to step up to actively promote those who have less privilege and more need.  Sometimes (as with fluidity) it really is hard to tell what is “chosen” and what is immutable.  But to do less, and still continue to be heard, is seen as bordering on bigotry, even from me.

Indeed, if you think about the most extreme acts of ISIS or some lone wolf terrorists, it seems as though they are making a public stir of what they personally see as non-virtuous.  (You could get into a discussion of impulse control, too.)

You also wonder if unwillingness to consider dating someone (say trans) would be viewed by some people as bigoted. (An example is the episodeLean In” in the ABC series “Mistresses”.)

But the fact that there are different forms of bigotry does not detract from a perpendicular thesis of mine, that “how you should behave if you think you’re different”, and whether “being different” implies “being special”, is a worthy topic on its own and has moral substance.  It’s part of connecting the dots.

It’s also instructive to look up “bully” in the dictionary.

(Posted Monday, April 17, 2017 at 3 PM EDT)

Does quoting and analyzing “provocateur” speech (like Milo’s) make more extreme ideas become acceptable to the mainstream?

Does a pundit or columnist or quasi-journalist (and now blogger) like me “do harm” by repeating (in quotes) partially reasonable but hate-motivated arguments made by political, religious or social “enemies” of people in various marginalized groups?

The basic point made by minority activists (usually but not always on the Left) is that repetition of these kinds of points tends to make them sound more mainstream.  So more moderate politicians (elected, administrative, and judicial) are more likely to believe them, resulting in more harm to the people in the groups.

I’ve always questioned the overuse of “immutability” arguments to support “gay equality”, focusing more on libertarian paradigms, emphasizing individualism and harmlessness.  But of course hyperindividuaiism runs into bigger problems with essential inherited inequality, sustainability, and human need for cohesion (starting in the family and moving out).

I have indeed played “devil’s advocate”, to the dismay of some conventional gay activists.  In the early days of the AIDS epidemic, before HTLV-III was identified, I actually communicated by letter to some “enemies” who wanted to use AIDS as an exclusion to strengthen sodomy and gay-exclusion laws.  I was very concerned about the “chain letter amplification” theory that they had (an admission of herd effects, posting Jan. 4).  In these pre-Internet days, I developed a reputation with the Dallas mainstream media and medical community for being willing to even discuss these arguments as if they had a chance of being “truth” – I felt that they could have, even though history (fortunately, for “us”, didn’t turn out that way).

The comment is often made that “well-intended” commentators have made the supposed hate speech of provocateur (“@Nero”) Milo Yiannopoulos “credible” by even answering some of his more notorious comments with contextual analysis.  Most of his more “renowned” statements are intentionally hyperbolic, satirical, and with “grains of truth”.  Some of his statements seem like legitimate reactions to protective campus speech codes, “safe zones”, media-free zones, “trigger warnings” and the idea of “microaggressions”.  It’s gotten so “bad” that I would wonder if I could talk about White and Black as opposing forces in a chess game, when writing a metaphor, without sounding like I was race-baiting.  (Chess has been important in my life, but that’s another narrative.)   Of course, Milo has gained even more notoriety when his campus events are forced into cancellation by a “heckler’s veto” as recently happened in Berkeley.

But some of his statements also seem directed at “less competitive” people in society, especially with respect to physical or biological issues.  One of the more provocative concerned fat-shaming (as here on Breitbart).  The statement suggests that being in the company of an unattractive person lowers his own testosterone.  Maybe marginally true.  I’m reminded of how the Family Research Council made a point about lower testosterone levels in heterosexually married new fathers in trying to rebut gay marriage!

The Inquisitr tried to “mainstream” Milo’s quotes with some contextual analysis, that will work with “intellectual” people but that won’t hold on the streets.   Another more leftist site was less kind, but sill provided some background (although all of it rebuttal).   I showed this second article on my phone to a young white gay man at a social event (someone lean and “attractive” by modern gay norms), and he said the found the aggregation of them in an article just to refute them itself to be offensive.

But logical conclusion from some of the posts would be, to put it mildly, to reinforce CNN’s Don Lemon’s “pull up your pants” advice.   People from marginalized groups (or marginalized further within these groups by physical issues) presumably have some responsibility to deal with the expectations of others  on their own.  That’s not directly hateful, but it putatively does set up a social climate where people will get “left out”, even eventually in being able to find and form relationships.

But provocative speech often gains more attention because of coincidental circumstances at the time it is published or disseminated.  I found this out with a major incident when I was substitute teaching bacj in 2005 (see July 19, 2916 pingback).

We’re left, of course, with the observation that authoritarian people (Donald Trump) rally their support bases around slogans and misleading half-truths, and have no use for context.

Let us remember that Lyndon Johnson made rather disdainful remarks about “the Negro” on some of his tapes.  Times do change.

Link for review of “Real Time with Bill Maher” session including Milo on HBO.

(Posted: Sunday, February 19, 2017 at 8:30 PM EST)

Update: Feb. 20, about 8:30 PM EST

There was a lot of news about Milo today, not good.  I’ll have to sort this out.  The Associated Press has a succinct summary on Bloomberg here.  The book deal was canceled (I FB-ed to him that he should self-publish), and a speaking engagement at CPAC was removed, and his future at Breitbart may be compromised.  Milo has suggested that sometimes teens (while legally below the age-of-consent of a particular jurisdiction) provoke encounters with adults to have power over the adults.  That same idea is mentioned in my DADT-III.  Yes, it does really happen in rea life.  That statement does not promote pedophilia (but maybe “ephebophilia”).

Update: March 5, about 11;30 PM

Here’s a controversial link by a University of Chicago professor (Rachel Fulton Brown); a reply on Patheos and a blog post on “loving Milo”.

Charles Murray has had a similar problem at a college in Vermont, story.

Guest post on “Kindness as an everyday habit” and an answer to bullying

Guest post:  “A 4-step Process for Making Kindness an Everyday Habit in 2017” by Gabriela van Rij 

When Lady Gaga recently told her fans that kindness – not wealth and fame – is what creates harmony in the world she may have been on to something.

Research has shown that being kind makes us happier and also is contagious, inspiring others to be kind as well. For example, one such study published in the Journal of Social Psychology linked performing acts of kindness to an increase in life satisfaction.

That’s why as people make their resolutions for the coming New Year, they should make up their minds to commit purposeful acts of kindness every day, says Gabriella van Rij, a kindness activist and author whose latest book is Watch Your Delivery.

“Making kindness a habit changes lives – your own life and others,” van Rij says. “I believe we’re born with innate kindness, but we’ve just forgotten about it because we’re always running. We’re just too busy doing other things and we need to remind ourselves to be kind.”

She says we as a society have dropped the ball on human kindness and it’s time we picked it back up.

“I truly believe that we are all born with innate kindness, but then the hand that feeds us or the environment makes us abandon it pretty fast,” van Rij says. “By the time we are 5, we have learned to compete and to strive for success. It’s time for a new measuring stick for success.”

She says by following a four-step process, people can put a little more kindness in the world and quickly fall into the habit of committing kindness every day:

• Be kind to yourself. It’s hard to have the patience to be kind to others if we can’t even take the time to be kind to ourselves. “This might seem selfish, but it’s not,” van Rij says. “By being kind to ourselves, we shape our attitude toward others.”
• Answer rudeness with kindness. This one is difficult, van Rij acknowledges. “When someone is rude to you, the first thing you do is instantly react and not always in a positive way,” she says. “And the second thing you do is say it’s about me. They were nasty to me.” But van Rij says it’s not about you, it’s about the emotion. By answering rudeness with kindness, you diffuse the situation and there’s also a certain satisfaction in seeing the change in the attitude of the person who was rude.
• Watch your delivery. The tone that accompanies your words is as important as what you are saying. Do you need to soften your tone? Does what you say sound more aggressive than what you mean? Body language also can send a message you didn’t intend, so be aware of your body language and your facial expressions.
• Acknowledge kindness when you see it. When you acknowledge the kind acts you see, that person will be encouraged to continue to spread kindness. Acknowledging kindness in others also will serve as a reminder to you about how you can show kindness.

“Unfortunately, one of the reasons we don’t always treat each other well is that we are a fear-based society, and fear only breeds more fear,” van Rij says. “But luckily there is an antidote because just as fear breeds more fear, I believe kindness grows more kindness.”

Author contact:

Avery Coffman
Print Campaign Manager
News and Experts
3748 Turman Loop #101
Wesley Chapel, FL 33544
Tel: 727-443-7115, Extension 214
Picture: Lakeland, FL (Mine, 2015).

(Posted: Tuesday, December 13, 2016 at 2:45 PM EST)

Let’s give a reference on Cyberbulling , a topic mentioned by Melania Trump.  Note the use of the word “Resilience” in the organization’s strike page.

Women and most minorities don’t participate as well in online speech as well as “white men”

img32209

The Center for Innovative Public Health Research in New York City has published a study “Online Harassment, Digital Abuse, and Cyberstalking in America” here (58 pages), by Amanda Lenhart and Kathryn Zickuhr, link.

An article on Quartz by Alice Marwick says “A new study suggests online harassment is pressuring women and minorities to self-censor.”

The Internet, most of all modern social media, was built largely by economically advantaged white and Asian men, the article goes.  It also says “straight”, but there is “masculine gay” (mirroring straight values about power and success) and there is, well, “queer”.

The people who built social media they way it is are personally not very vulnerable to harassment or risk.  (Imagine who invulnerable the young Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network”, even as played by Jesse Eisenberg, looks – as well as his dorm buddies (one or two of whom were gay).   But people in various “groups” often are, and that includes most women, except for the most competitive or individually successful.  Women may be less likely to share because of fear or retaliation or stalking.  And in some families, individuals have to be concerned about bringing harm upon other family members (besides spouses and direct children).

Personally, I don’t like to share events I am going to on Facebook ahead of time, for security reasons.  Yet some people run events and organizations in such a way that they expect others to “play ball” in the way they use social media.  That works better with people who use Facebook with full privacy settings.  I do use Facebook as a quasi-publishing tool.  That has its own risks, which are more connected to politics than directly to personhood.  But that’s become my life.

Because I use these platforms now as a publishing too, I am fully empowered as a participant in the debates and resent others trying to claim I need to support their speaking for me.  But the study indicates that online self-censorship, out of security concerns, limits the participation of minorities even in debates, in the ability to speak for themselves, with the effect of democratization the Internet is supposed to offer everyone in the West.

Another issue of self-censorship, though, is many college campuses, with their trigger warnings and speech codes.

(Published: Monday, Nov. 28, 2016 at 9:30 PM EST)

Google develops tools to counter recruiting by terror groups; teen entrepreneur proposes a tool against cyberbullying; OSU attack and radicalism online

img31993

Partly out of healthy self-interest to be sure, Google is developing methods to intercept teens and young adults looking to join terror organizations (ISIS or otherwise) and present them with information that would discourage further pursuit.

NBC News Saturday Night carried the story by Ronan Farrow, Roch McHugh and Tracy Connor, here.

The project “Redirect” was developed by the think tank in NYC for Google, called Jigsaw, link. Was the name of the group inspired by a notorious horror movie villain (the Lionsgate “Saw” series), originated by Leigh Whannel?

img32014

Donald Trump and even Hillary Clinton had, last December, suggested clamping down on much Internet activity as necessary to stop terror recruiting, which Trump has, with some controversy, regarded as a potentially existential security threat, at least discouraging “nuisance” use (Nov. 7).

On Nov. 25, ABC Sharktank featured a contestant, a teen Trisha Prabhu, who had developed a smartphone app called “ReThink” which could help discourage teens from cyberbullying.  This idea could fit into first-lady Melania’s ideas about reducing cyberbullying.

Update: Monday, Nov. 28, 2016

ohio20

A major incident at Ohio State University this morning seems to provide evidence of radical recruitment (probably by ISIS) of a Muslim from Somalia (Abdul Razak Ali Artan) who vented his fraternal rage on Facebook shortly before the attack, as in this ABC News story  (with more details here).  He had apparently left Somalia for Pakistan and then come to the US legally with his family. This case can only heighten the security debate on the enemy online recruiting national security issue (Nov. 7).  Google’s tool is welcome news. (A later Inquisitr story on his rants is here.)

One video seems to give different facts about Artan. He does blame “the media” in part for the portrayal of Muslims.  This doesn’t quite agree with ABC’s account.

This one is blunt, probably from right-wing sources.

(Originally posted: Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016 at 11:30 PM EST)

Trump could crack down on journalists and bloggers in various ways, but even Obama has been more aggressive with classified info leaks

img29014

As the chances that Donald Trump comes from behind on the road and wins the presidency in extra innings (and holds off the courts in the bottom half of the inning) journalists and bloggers have to watch out.  One of the items pointed out by the New York Times as something Trump could do by Executive order is prosecute and jail journalists who publish leaked classified information.

Generally, the literature says that right now the government cannot enjoin publication of a leak, it could conceivably prosecute in some cases, probably under the idea of “mens rea”, that the writer is reckless and wants to inflict harm.  Well, harm to whom – the political establishment, or to real people or real troops in the field?

The obvious incidents that come up are, for example, the Pentagon Papers, unveiling the damaging secrets of the Vietnam War (which affected my life), then Wikileaks (centered around Chelsea Manning) and then Edward Snowden.

Trump could conceivably order many more prosecutions, or take other measures like putting people on the TSA No-fly list(which Laura Poitras had to deal with for a while)   .   In fact the Obama administration may have been more aggressive in a few cases than Bush was, and Hillary Clinton could prove more assertive on this issue than we expect.

Generally, mainstream journals take the side of journalists.  But the Huffington Post ran a piece in 2013 by David Schanzer that emphaszes the criminality of many leaks.  He also mentions amateur bloggers, who might feel incentivized to circulate a leak “because they can”.

But the “Law Fare Blog” discussion on freedom of the press and classified information, and an Atlantic article by Conor Friedersdorf, present a picture more favorable to journalists. Both (especially Atlantic) point out that cracking down on journalist won’t prevent a “criminally” inclined DOD (or NSA or CIA) contractor from leaking again.  The Atlantic article, referring to another piece on NPR, refers to the issue of possibly “licensing” journalists (Aug. 23) and having distinct tiers of journalism.  To a minor extent, we already have that – I can’t get “press credentials” easily to go to a White House briefing.  A professional blog posting on Reuters explains a couple of obscure cases where prosecution was pursued.

One aspect of this whole discussion is asymmetry.  In the age of ungated user-generated content, it’s more likely that an “amateur” really will “stumble” on major classified information.  This could particularly be the case with subjects like the location of hazardous waste or weapons components, or with known fugitives or terror suspects.   In the period after 9/11, on a few occasions, apparent “tips” were actually passed to me.  The most recent occurrence like this happened in the summer of 2005.  I did call law enforcement at least three times (and did not reveal what had been sent), and in 2005 I did have a 20-minute phone conversation with an FBI agent in Philadelphia over an email concerning OBL.  The “blessing in disguise” of social media (for security) is that amateurs may actually learn of threats that escape authorities because of more specific knowledge of monikers or clues buried in social media. ”See something, say something” matters.

On the other hand, some “in power” don’t like the idea that “amateurs” can magnify matters that don’t directly concern them (something I have called “gratuitous speech” on my legacy blogs).  This viewpoint could lead to pressures in the legal area to weaken downstream liability protections for providers (like Section 230), or to more occurrences of litigating even over people who provide mere hyperlinks (or embeds) to defamatory material first published by others.

Observers have expressed concern that Trump will try to undermine first amendment protections for speech normally legitimate –  under current standards, criticism (or “the Opinion Rule”) is not libel. But technically it is already illegal to republish material the speaker knows is legally classified, and probably it’s technically illegal even to link to it in a mere tweet.  But changing standards of defamation law may actually be harder to get past a conservative, Scalia-like court than it would be with our current SCOTUS.

Melania Trump spoke today about the “harshness” of Internet communication, especially in a world accessed by kids and teenagers, and she did say she wanted to address cyberbullying as potential first lady. That seems ironic given her husband’s sometimes crude behavior online. But Trump himself has been heard to say, people have become too dependent on the Internet and computers, they aren’t completely safe anymore.  That doesn’t sound good.  But he was critical of the US surrender of control of domain name registration to ICANN, on supposed deference to free speech.  If he gets elected, we’ll have to figure this out fast.

img25021

Update: Nov. 5

With Trump close in the polls, I want to reiterate what sounds like a call to do emergency shutdowns of some social media sites (or is it just specific accounts, which already happens), made in a hearing (at 1:10) in November 2015 after the Paris attacks (regardinf ISIS recruiting and maybe steganography, an idea that was circulated a lot after  9/11 and then forgotten). The ARS Technical story by Jon Brodkin refers to Joe Barton, and is called “To stop ISIS, let’s shut down websites and social media.”  I do get the “moral hazard” idea he is clumsily suggesting.

(Posted on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016 at 2:15 PM EDT)