Recently (around World AIDS Day Dec. 1) Justin Ayars, the publisher of Q Virginia Magazine, a glossy publication for the LGBT community with a lot of commercial material especially for gay married couples, wrote a very succinct statement on Facebook about HIV-infection detection and prevention, with regard to how PrEP and PEP (pre-exposure and post-exposure prophylaxis) work. Here is the best link.
Then I noticed that the mainstream men’s magazines, most of all GQ, published ads for Truvalda, showing glossy photos of attractive young gay men (all races).
I shared this with a friend on Facebook and got this comment:
“My only issue with Prep and Pep is it has completely changed the “safe sex” mindset that came after the AIDS crisis. Guys now demand to bareback as par for the course. The pills have to be taken on schedule, and I sincerely doubt a lot of men stick to the schedule precisely. It would be interesting to find research that shows any uptick in HIV infections as a result of this mindset change that is fueled by Truvada. marketing. It’s my understanding the infection rate has gone down in the last few years, but I don’t have any precise study I can point to.
“In other words, barebacking has become the norm again. And the expectation of anyone who grew up post-AIDS crisis.”
At age 74, I can hardly expect to be the center of “action” or attention in any such events. But I do have social contact or online with younger gay men, especially in film or music as well as academia. I do not get the impression that the practice is as widespread or reckless as my friend claims.
I can remember what it was like in the mid 1980s. I was living in Dallas at the time. Most of my own friends were getting infected or diagnosed by late 85. I also recall the political scare in early 1983, when the religious right tried to push through very draconian legislation through the Texas legislature based on a hypothetical spread of AIDS to the general population after mutation, your sci-fi horror movie scenario.
I also remember my eventful last year in New York City, 1978 (yup, Bucky Dent’s home run), where there was an incident of sorts that possibly previewed and warned me of what could come and contributed to my decision to make a job change and leave for Dallas at the beginning of 1979.
I had my “first experience” in a Club Baths in early 1975 (age 31), after a lot of attention to myself on the issue, as a “fallen male”, to borrow from George Gilder. From New Years Day 1976 until the spring of 1983, I was in the practice of “going home” with “tricks” or vice versa. Maybe there were 50 or so “numbers” (as with the book in the Pententuch). I did not get infected. But to a “normally married” person with “a family” at the time that would have seemed really excessive. I survived partly out of perversely reverse Darwinism (as Larry Kramer of “The Normal Heart” has said); my relative unattractiveness by the time of come-out turned out to be a survival advantage (although not reproductive). Maybe I am lucky with some genes that make me harder to infect, but I wouldn’t gamble on it.
The PrEP and PEP issues would naturally come up in any attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare. It’s all too easy to say, health insurance companies shouldn’t be forced to cover diseases related to “behavior choices”, and it will be hard to argue that down. But we think about this argument with substance abuse (needles) and now opioids. Along these lines, this piece on Vox by German Lopez is worth a look.
(Posted: Saturday, December 23, 2017, at 2 PM EST)
There are useful parallels in the issues behind both the network neutrality debate (that is, the Trump administration’s determination to end it all on Dec. 14) and the Masterpiece Cakeshop case regarding (in over-simplified rhetoric) balancing anti-discrimination (against gay couples) with free speech and property rights (the latter may be more relevant in the end). True, net neutrality isn’t back in court yet, but it probably soon will be.
I’ll walk this plank starting with the net neutering (pun?) first. I have to admit, I personally would feel more comfortable if telecom companies were forced to keep the legal designation as utilities (common carriers), which will end some time after Dec. 14. But regulating the designation category of any business can have unintended consequences.
So, first, we have to ask ourselves: may we regulate very large businesses more closely than some small businesses? Libertarians may not like the idea, but in practice the need to do that is very well established in our system. We needed “better regulation” after 2008 of large financial institutions to prevent massive Ponzi setups. Likewise, we’ve long had some regulation in broadcast television. We’ve had rules that prevent movie studios from owning theaters (they seem to be circumvented sometimes), supposedly to prevent too much power in which films consumers see staying with the largest studios. It’s easy for me to imagine extensions of these rules that would prevent me from producing a film literally from my own books, in order to enhance employment opportunities for union writers. Ajit Pai is correct in opposing too much regulation. But – it’s true – with big companies, we have different concerns, like anti-trust laws. The FTC and DOJ can still enforce these against anti-competitive practices by the Comcasts of the world. As a single author and micro-business person, I can’t monopolize an industry or threaten it.
So then we ask, what is a “utility”. A telephone company (Ma-Bell in the past) is a utility, but a TV network is not – the later is a content company (and it is regulated because airwave space, like real estate, is finite). A cable company, however less regulated than a legacy airwaves network, is a content company. A telecom company offers Internet, digital voice phone, and cable, so it is a hybrid of common carrier and content company. A social network like Facebook is a content company (and that gets into Section 230 as to whether Facbook is really a “publisher”). A hosting provider like Blue Host functions like it was a utility for Internet content publishers, but it’s possible imagine that such a company has some influence over content (look at what happened after Charlottesville and the Daily Stormer problem). Most of these companies have fiduciary responsibilities to investors, so regulation is a sensitive issue. Where does the public interest fit in? There seem to be competing interests and various ideological scenarios that can play out. For example, I could imagine (after Charlottesville) some day winding up with a system where no one self publishes until he/she demonstrates some “community engagement”. But it’s also hard to imagine how such a rule could comport with economic self interest (even if the abrogation of net neutrality would let it happen legally).
I do think that over time small business has reason to worry, if Congress and the courts don’t force some sort of regulatory balance. Small business could be forced into franchising to afford the branding that large favored websites have. They could have new requirements for security (https everywhere), website rating, or “pay your own way” reportability some day. And hurting “really small business” in favor of the oligarchs will not promote local manufacturing; it will not “make America great again” as Trump wants. So the “Dems” have some reason to want to regulate. Yet, I have no right to demand that the regulatory environment protect me from more accountability myself, even if that means that a couple years from now many consumers might not be able to access this posting through their own Internet Service provider (which I still doubt will really happen).
I’ll interrupt myself for a moment – and note the PBS interview where one speaker notes that in Portugal, there is no net neutrality and only one provider, and consumers have to pick “bundles”. Can ordinary sites be accessed in Portugal, like on a hotel’s broadband? (I was there in 2001 and could.) The important thing from my perspective is that a consumer be able to get access to everything as today in one package, still reasonably priced if at the high end (as with cable offering all possible channels).
A quick check of Godaddy and other hosting companies still shows inexpensive hosting and an expectation that their business would continue as usual.
I’m left grasping for straws on what the principled answer to Aji Pai’s libertarian-leading claims should be. You need some regulation, but where do you draw the line?
So then, we circle back to “gay rights” and “marriage equality” — where we’ve made so much progress even as the safety of the country is threatened (previous post) and as tribalism frays the political process (as with Trump’s election and his horrible appointments in some areas, even if Trump is all right on gay people himself). And we come to the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, argued before the Supreme Court Tuesday.
There are three areas at issue: property rights, free speech (as connected to religion), and discrimination. Although I sympathize with the libertarian focus on private property rights (as Jacob Hornberge explains on Intellectual Takeout), civil rights law with respect to public accommodations (retail businesses open to the public) is well established. The owner can’t rightfully refuse to sell a cake to a gay couple. Saying we don’t serve “gay weddings” is a bit more ambiguous. I am sympathetic to the idea that the cakeshop owner shouldn’t have to design a cake showing a same-sex couple as décor – but what if his business is based on made-to-order cakes? What if an artist at a county fair refuses to draw black people, or even transgender people? The artist has made himself a public accommodation.
How all these things could affect me – it’s all pretty distal. I could, for example, start a small press (I’ve thought about it) or a small movie production company – because I’m aware of a few projects around the country that could use help that have something in common with what I do. As a small business – yes, unfettered Internet access from the public would matter (so net neutrality could matter). But the right to chose my own content to promote would matter. Publishers, and movie studios, like any content-oriented business, pick the content that they want to promote. “Property rights” is what allows them to do that (which they can’t do the same way in places like Russia and China, where the government demands the content producer serve some higher statist common good, just like movie studios had to during WWII). It’s all too easy, though, once I start selling to consumers with a store – what about providing for other kinds of consumers – like blind ones – that I don’t have the scale to serve. I’ve been pestered quite a bit in the past few years to become more involved with scalable operations – to the point that it jeopardizes my time to spend on content and research.
I don’t reproduce press releases from advocacy groups on this blog often, partly because the scope of many releases is too narrow to really affect many people. But this one, from Outright, seems more important. It maintains that some countries, especially Russia and Egypt, are trying to influence Olympic committees to jettison their protections for LGBTQ athletes and fans.
Remember that in February 2014, when the winter Olympics were held in Russia, Vladimir Putin had actually asked gays to “leave the children alone,” in response to the international condemnation of the 2013 law in Russia prohibiting promotion of homosexuality, much of this based on, in Russia’s case, concern over a low birth rate and the idea that many women especially might feel empowered to refuse to give men more children.
It’s worth remembering that a disproportionate percentage of the cases of LGBTQ asylum seekers in the U.S. seem to come from these two countries (and will probably include Chenchnya in Russia — that region’s president has made some of the most horrific statements imaginable in encouraging family honor killings), rather than Central America.
It’s worth noting that the 2017 Pyeongchong Winter Olympics in South Korea sound under a cloud because of tensions over North Korea’s rapid progress with nuclear weapons and the fear that Trump could start a war at any time.
For this press release, the media contact is Rashima Kwatra at 1 (917) 859-7555. The title is “Russia and Egypt Attack Sexual Orientation Protections in Olympic Truce at the UN”.
Here is the text of the release:
“Over the next two weeks, a decision will be made at the United Nations (UN) on whether governments globally will accept discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation at the 2018 Olympics in South Korea. While the UN General Assembly cannot remove the ban on discrimination from Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter itself, Egypt and Russia are leading a stealth attack on the Olympics at the UN General Assembly that is laden with meaning and must be stopped.
“Every two years, member states of the UN General Assembly negotiate the “Olympic Truce Resolution”, which calls for peace among nations during the Olympics and the one week preceding and one week following the games. Since 2015, Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter has banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Now, Russia and Egypt are aggressively trying to remove all reference to Principle 6 from this year’s Olympic Truce Resolution.
“In recent weeks, Egyptian authorities have arrested 60 people perceived to be members of the LGBT community, and last week, a member of parliament introduced a bill that would criminalize life, speech, and activism for LGBT Egyptians and their allies. In recent months, the Russian government has turned a blind eye to the one hundred plus gay men in Chechnya arbitrarily arrested and tortured.
Jessica Stern, Executive Director at OutRight Action International, commented:
““’Egypt and Russia are not simply fighting over symbolic language but over the levels of violence governments are allowed to use against LGBT people. After systematic attacks on LGBT people in their own countries, they are now setting their sights on promoting violence and discrimination in every country of the world. The Olympics Games are supposed to be a time for sport, technique, pride and community, not for politicking, hatred and violence’”
“In 2015, the UN General Assembly, under the leadership of Brazil, included the principle of non-discrimination in the Olympic Truce Resolution with a reference to Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter. Since that year, Principle 6 has included sexual orientation as a prohibited grounds for discrimination, a development deemed necessary following Russia’s attacks on gay and lesbian people in the lead-up to its role as host of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games.
“In the back rooms of the UN Headquarters over the last two weeks, Russia and Egypt have proposed an ultimatum: remove explicit reference to Principle 6, or they will not sign the Truce. Their ultimatum has put South Korea, leader of the negotiations as the 2018 Olympics host, in a precarious and difficult position.
As in the style of UN negotiations, the removal of reference to Principle 6 from the Olympic Truce Resolution this year could mean never seeing these protections in the peace agreement again. Recognizing the high stakes, a cross-regional group of States has come out against the ultimatum by Egypt and Russia.
“OutRight has utilized its access to the UN General Assembly to monitor developments and advocate throughout the closed-door negotiations. OutRight has worked with key States to ensure cross-regional support for the inclusion of Principle 6. OutRight continues to triangulate information between governments and civil society, encouraging stakeholders to remain informed and actively engaged.
“In reaction to this threat, Stern concluded,
“’Russia and Egypt are known anti-LGBTI campaigners at the UN, and they are prepared to sacrifice the Olympic spirit to do it. We cannot allow this type of bullying to target LGBT people or undermine the principle of global community’.”
Posted: Monday, October 30, 2017 at 7:30 PM EDT
Update: Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017 at 1 PM ESR from Outright
“Today, 17 professional athletes came out against attempts by Egypt and Russia to thwart non-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation in the United Nations Olympic Truce Resolution. The letter, endorsed by respected athletes such as Billie Jean King, Greg Louganis and Martina Navratilova, is part of the #OlympicSpirit campaign spearheaded by OutRight Action International and Athlete Ally. It calls on countries to ensure that sexual orientation remains grounds of protection in the Olympic peace agreement.
“The Olympic Truce Resolution promotes civility among nations during the Olympics and the one week preceding and one week following the games. It is negotiated by all 193 United Nations Member States every two years. In 2015 it included, by unanimous consensus, a reference to Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter. Principle 6 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation at the Olympic Games.
“Breanna Stewart, 2016 US Olympic basketball competitor, commented on the situation, saying,
“Sport and society thrive when we embrace the diversity of our world. The Olympic spirit is grounded in inclusion, fair play and solidarity, and the explicit mention of Principle 6 within the Olympic Truce Resolution sends a clear message that we take these values seriously.””
“This year, the inclusion of Principle 6 has come under attack, with States, such as Egypt and Russia, trying to remove all reference to Principle 6 from the Olympic Truce. Both countries have openly persecuted and criminalized lesbian, gay, and bisexual people at home and exported their homophobic agenda to the United Nations.
“The letter released today emphasizes that, “At a moment when oppressed communities around the world remain under attack, we can’t afford to turn our back on our most vulnerable communities. Explicit reference to Principle 6 in the Olympic Truce Resolution sends a strong signal of our community’s support of respect, inclusion and diversity — values sport holds inherently close. Afterall, regardless of where in the world we practice sport, the rules are the same and apply to everyone. They are based on our shared values.”
“Layshia Clarendon, a WNBA basketball star, also voiced her opinion on the inclusion of Principle 6, stating,
“Athletes and fans deserve the opportunity to enjoy the Olympic Movement free of the fear of discrimination, and should have the ability to live openly and authentically — regardless of sexual orientation. I believe sports performance happens at its highest level when one feels unburdened and free to focus on their games. The explicit mention of Principle 6 within the Olympic Truce Resolution sends a clear message that we take inclusion seriously.”
Luckily, with thanks to cross-regional support and pushback from key Member States, the efforts of Egypt and Russia have so far failed and Principle 6 still remains in the Truce. However, there is still time for Egypt and Russia to thwart a consensus and challenge the inclusion of Principle 6 in the Olympic Truce.
Hudson Taylor, Founder and Executive Director, Athlete Ally, commented,
“We’re witnessing the greatest expansion of athletic activism in modern history — never before have we seen athletes speaking out so regularly for the protection and inclusion of the LGBTQ community. Today, the athletic community stands with its LGBTQ constituents and commits to not being sidelined in the fight for equality.”
Seventeen professional athletes have signed on to the letter and reject any opposition by Egypt and Russia, as well as any other State, that is attempting to undermine the spirit of the Olympics. OutRight Action International and Athlete Ally stand with all the athletes in calling for public support of States to include reference to Principle 6 in the Olympic Truce.
A vote on the Olympic Truce Resolution will be made on November 13th, 2017.
Jessica Stern, Executive Director of OutRight Action International, concludes,
“Egypt and Russia are invested in promoting discrimination at the Olympics, undermining the very spirit of the games. Thankfully, there are other States which recognize that there is no place for discrimination at the Olympics. Today, we hear clearly from these Olympians that the Games is a place for friendly competition, athleticism, and diversity, not a place for politics and divisiveness.”
John McCain, starting a statement that at first would have accused Donald Trump (like Bill Clinton) of draft dodging, seemed to demur as he then criticized a system in the 1960s that allowed rich kids to get doctors to write them medical disqualifications, while poor people went. Dan Merica has a typical story on CNN. At first glance, it may sound to male millennials or even younger men that different moral standards are applied to men of earlier generations than to them or to women.
Actually, there was a sequence of privileges that I outlined in the footnotes to my DADT-1 book, after 48b, where it says “Chapter 2 additional conclusion” and I supply a table.
For a while, during the Kennedy years, married men with children were protected, and then married men without children were protected until a single-male pool was exhausted. The marriage and paternity deferments were ended under LBJ in 1965, but the student deferments, which figured so much into the course of my own life, continued until the lottery started in 1969. In my case, deferemnt meant that I was much less likely to see combat or even go to Vietnam when I went in, in 1968.
It is well to look at statistics of Vietnam War deaths by race, and also by conscription status (War library; world history)
McCain blithely speaks of an obligation to be available to serve your country. Of course, it sounds a lot more credible from him than Trump. But it’s always seemed like a contradiction to the idea of the “right to life”. For a while, men who did not consummate procreative sexual intercourse with women were more likely to be drafted.
The Supreme Court, in Rostker v. Golberg, had upheld the male-only Selective Service registration iin 1981, but recently there have been bills in Congress to require women to register, as in Israel.
The capacity to share risk and sacrifice was a major part of the moral climate when I was growing up. Cowardice was a real crime. If you evaded your share of the risk, someone else had to pick it up in your place. That certainly complicates the moral compass compared to the more linear idea of personal responsibility and harmlessness in libertarian thought in more recent times. It also complicates the meaning of marriage.
The deepest “meaning” might have had to do with community resilience. Most men experienced the sense of shared duty to protect women and children, with some degree of fungibility or interchangeability. Some duties in life were very gender-based. Milo Yiannopoulos said as much, that manhood included willingness to lay down one’s life for others, although I can’t find the best link right now, here’s a related one. But spouses of men who came back from war maimed and disfigured were to be expected to remain interested in their partners for life – an expectation that my projection of fantasy life in my days at NIH attacked.
There are other ways men take risks – dangerous jobs of the Sebastian Junger viariety help men “pay their dues”. Yes, women can do them sometimes, maybe most of the time. But I didn’t see any women as hotshots in “Only the Brave”, about wildfire firefighters. All of this invokes the low-level hum of debate over national service.
McCain’s echo of the obligation to offer oneself to military service needs to be considered in light of his reluctance to support the end of “don’t ask don’t tell” at the end of 2010. Yet today he seems to support the service of some transgender members, and he opposed Trump’s brusque attempt to re-impose a transgender ban on Twitter. But I advanced arguments in my first DADT book that the possibility of future conscription (or even the “Stop-Loss” backdoor draft of the Iraq war) added to the moral urgency of ending the gay ban and DADT. Few writers tried to make this argument. My staying in this way may (online with search engines, letting my content go to “It’s Free”) have helped with the repeal.
There is a way that people today take risks that weren’t expected in the past – that is, in going all out in very personal ways, like organ and bone marrow donations, to save lives. That’s partly because medicine makes such outreach – using your own body components — possible as a new kind of sacrifice. This gets personal and intimate in ways that were unknown when I was growing up.
The New York Times has a couple of impressive pieces on this topic. Michael Stewart Foley describes “The Moral Case for Draft Resistance” in the 1960s here. Even more challenging may have been John Kelly’s ancillary statement about the ignorance of Americans who haven’t served in a NYTimes “editorial notebook” piece by Clyde Haberman, which argues for the return of the draft, or maybe some kind of national service (civilian service could recur into old age). Remember how Charles Moskos had helped author “don’t ask don’t tell” but decided the whole ban should be lifted after 9/11 when he started arguing for return of the draft.
Recently the New York Times ran a constructive op-ed by Michelle Goldberg “The Worst Time for the Left to Give Up on Free Speech”, featuring a split demonstration poster demanding to “Shut Down Milo Yiannopoulos”.
The editorial makes a central point that democratic societies typically feel they need to take certain topics off the table as legitimate content for discussion. For example, the essay gives, the idea that women and people of color should be subordinate to white men (you can expand that to cis white straight men). The editorial relates an incident at William and Mary recently where an ACLU speaker was heckled and disrupted for supposedly working for white supremacists, which activists demand there be zero tolerance for.
There are plenty of similar examples, such as bans on neo-Nazi speech in present day Germany. The most obvious bans are usually intended to protect groups defined by race or religion (and sometimes ethnic nationality) from being targeted again by future political developments.
By way of comparison, many people believed, back in the 1950s, that there was a legal ban on discussing communism. The federal government, for example, who not employ people who could not ascertain they had never been members of the Communist party. Communism could be banned if it was construed as embedding violence (or the attempt to overthrow the US government) as part of its definition (as compared to socialism, even Bernie Sanders style). But Communism generally, as defined, did not target specific races or religions (although we can certain argue that Stalin persecuted people of faith, including Jews, and so did Communist China).
You could have a similar discussion about trying to overanalyze the roots of homophobia and gender or sexuality related discrimination and persecution in the past, and today in many authoritarian countries. Much of my own writing has dealt with this for the past twenty years, especially the three “Do Ask, Do Tell” books. I’ve generally (as in my post here Jan. 4, 2017) offered arguments that a lot of it had to do with family patriarchs keeping their own confidence in their own power to have biological lineage (procreation). I’ve also paid heed to the past public health arguments that got made in the 1980s in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, before the cause was identified. In my writings I’ve paid particular heed to the history of military conscription and past deferment controversies.
A lot of people don’t appreciate my rehearsing the ghosts of the past (John Carpenter’s metaphorical “The Ghosts of Mars” (1995)), for fear that I could be legitimizing lines of thinking long thought debunked and bringing them back. Sound familiar? Is this what people fear from Donald Trump, or, more properly, the people he has chosen in his group? (How about Mike Pence?)
Goldberg doesn’t go there, but the Left is in a real quandary when it wants to shut down all biological speech The Left has demonstrated against and protested Charles Murray for his past writings on race and biology. They object to James Damore for his Google memo on biology (whether this expression belonged in a privately owned workplace is a different discussion). They would probably object to Nicholas Wade’s 2014 book “A Troublesome Inheritance” (media commentary, July 24, 2017). But then what about the gay Left’s dependence on immutability to demand gay equality? I do think there is scientific merit to discussion of genetics (especially with regard to gender identity) and epigenetics (especially with regard to sexual orientation, most of all in non-first-born men) I don’t think that replaces libertarian ideas of focus on “personal responsibility”. But if you want to discuss homosexuality and biology (as in Chandler Burr’s monumental 1996 book “A Separate Creation”) with possible political change as a result, you have to accept discussions of biology, evolution and race. Admittedly, some people can skid on thin ice when they ponder these things, as they consider plans to have or not have their own children (eugenics used to be an acceptable idea a century ago).
That brings me back to a correlated area: that the identity of the speaker matters, as well as the predictable behavior of the listener of speech (possibly creating risk for the original speaker or others connected to him) — what I have called “implicit content”, a most disturbing and sometimes offensive notion. The most obvious example in current events news is, of course, the manipulation of social media especially by the Russians to sow discord among different American classes or quasi-tribes, beyond simply influencing the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. The Russians and other enemies used fake accounts and posted fake news in supposedly legitimate-looking news sites and in advertorials. All of this follows earlier concerns about the misuse of social media, especially Twitter, for terrorist recruiting (by ISIS), as well as cyberbullying or stalking and revenge porn. The Russians seemed to have noticed that Hillary-like “elites” would not pay attention if “deplorables” could be lured by silly, divisive supermarket tabloid-like content and false flags; elites tend not to care about people “beneath” themselves in this “mind your own business” world much until those people suddenly knock at the door for personal attention (which is something that happens to speakers who make themselves conspicuous, especially on social media).
You can raise a lot of questions here. Is fake news libel? Maybe. Litigation is often impractical because it involves criticism of public figures (actual malice, etc). You get to Trump’s ideas about using Britain’s standard on libel. But a bigger idea is that the fake news fiasco shows why authoritarian leaders keep a tight lid on dissent, even on individual bloggers’ speech, perhaps maintaining that the dissemination of news to the public need be “licensed” to guarantee (alternative) “truth” (sic). That hasn’t really happened with Trump, yet at least; Trump seems to admire individual speakers even as he hates the established liberal media.
A related idea is whether political ads, and whether commercial ads, are protected by the First Amendment the same way as other speech. That topic was covered in the second session at a recent Cato conference (Oct. 3, 2017 posting here). Generally, the answer is yes. But this topic has become controversial with regard to campaign finance reform, long before Trump.
In fact, back in the 2002-2005 period, there was a concern that even “free content” of a political nature posted by bloggers like me could constitute illegal campaign contributions (as if not everything in life can be measured by money). The June 12, 2017 post here gets to that, as does this 2005 editorial in the Washington Times, which wormed its way into a major incident when I was working as a substitute teacher then.
That brings us to what I do, which is put out my own series of article and blog posts on the news, augmenting my three “Do Ask, Do Tell” books, under my own brand(s). No, this doesn’t pay its own way. I have exactly the situation the 2005 Washington Times editorial was talking about.
I’ve been at this since the mid 1990s. I originally entered the world of self-publishing as a way to participate in the debate over gays in the military (and the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy from Bill Clinton’s compromise that predates Trump’s current transgender ban controversy). I made a lot of unusual, very individualistic arguments, often but not always consistently connected to libertarianism. Generally, most of what I have said starts with the individual, apart from any group he or she belongs to. The first book sold decently (in 1997 and 1998, especially) but then became old hat. The subsequent POD books have not really sold all that well, and I get hassled about it because “other people” can’t keep their jobs based on my books, I guess. I did have the resources from a well-paid job and from stock market good luck under Clinton (Democrats can be good for the stock market, as Hillary’s elite knows). I got lucky with the 2008 crash and that turned out well for me. (Short selling?)
But you see where this is heading. In line with the thinking of McCain-Feingold, one person can have political influence, with no accountability for how the funds were raised. I actually focused on issues, not candidates (which a lot of people seem not to get), and have very little interest in partisanship. I could even claim that I know enough about policy and am temperate enough in my positions that I could function in the White House better than the current occupant, but I don’t know how to raise money for people, or for myself. I but I know the right people to get health care to work, for example. (Do the math first.)
Then, there is the issue of the left-wing boogeyman, “inherited wealth”. Yes, I have some (from mother’s passing at the end of 2010). My use of it could be controversial, and I may not have been as generous (yet) as I should be. But I have not needed it to fund the books or blogs or websites. (I I had, that could be a problem, but that’s too much accounting detail to get into right here. But I can’t just turn into somebody else’s safety net.)
I do get prodded about other things I “should” be doing, as a “prole”, because others have to do them. Let’s say, accept “the free market cultural revolution” and prove I can hold down a minimum wage job (like in Barbara Enrenreich’s book “Nickel and Dimed”). My life has its own narrative, and that narrative explains my personal goals now. They’re my goals; they don’t need to be anyone else’s. I don’t need to appear on Shark Tank to justify my own “business model”. But I’m corkscrewing into a paradox: if morality is indeed about “paying your dues” before you’re heard, then it’s really not just about group solidarity.
Both sides of a polarized political debate, but especially the Left, would like to see a world where individuals are not allowed to leverage their own speech with search engines the way I have (with an “It’s Free” paradigm, after Reid Ewing’s 2012 short film, where blog postings become “free fish”), but have to march in step with larger groups that they join. Both sides want to force others to join their chorus of some mix of relative deprivation (the alt-right), or systematic oppression (the Left). Both (or two out of three) sides want mass movements (as in Eric Hoffer’s 1951 manifesto, “The True Believer”). Religious groups often follow suit, demanding people join them in proselytizing (which is what an LDS mandatory missionary assignment is all about). It is certainly personally shameful to walk in a (Charlottesville) torchlight march screaming “You shall not replace us”, but I find carrying anyone’s picket rather shameful. Other’s will tell me, get over it. Well, you get over it only if you’re on the “right” (sic) side? I won’t bargain away my own purposes.
To me, the existential threat is being forced or coerced (maybe even with expropriation) to join somebody else’s chorus, or hiding from personal responsibility behind a curtain of “systematic oppression”, to be allowed to speak at all. Some pleas for donation to political opinion sites (from both the Right and Left) make insulting, hysterical clams that only they can speak for me, as if I were impotent and had no right to my own branded voice. They want to force me to join their causes to be heard at all. It would be more honorable to become a slave on a plantation, or at least a minimum wage worker, whose turn it is now to be exploited just as he was once the undeserving exploiter, until dropping dead. And then there is no funeral.
But, you ask, why not “raise people up” in a personal way, when they knock, in a way “you” had not considered before you were so challenged. Is it up to me to make others “all right” in a personal way if others once did that for me? Maybe. But that’s entirely off line. It doesn’t seem like “accomplishment” (maybe it’s a “creative” challenge for someone who did not have his own kids). It doesn’t replace my mission of delivering my own content first.
Recently, the “Gay Tribal Elder” Don Kilhefner aired a Ted video by James O’Keefe, “Homosexuality: It’s about survival, not sex.”
The talk at first attempts to explain why homosexuality persists in practically all populations at a consistent level (roughly 3-10%) despite the obviously low reproduction by gay people, and in the face (especially in the past, and today in authoritarian cultures) of discrimination and persecution.
The general explanation is that sexual orientation (and probably gender identity, which is at odds with biological gender (transgender or even gender fluidity) much less frequently than homosexuality) is directly related to turning genes on and off with chemical messengers, largely generated when the bay is still in the mother’s womb. This is called epigenetics. It is this process which favors the development of homosexuality in a population of humans and other social mammals.
If you look at the natural world, with social carnivores (and perhaps many primates like bonobo chimps, and maybe some whales and dolphins), it seems to be common that not all of the males reproduce or get their genes propagated. There is often an “alpha male” dominance (lion prides, wolf packs). This might sound like a Machiavellian “survival of the fittest”, which seems offensive to consider today (remember the debates on eugenics early in the last century and where that led). But there may be another reason: in animal social groups or extended families, the survival of the tribe as a whole is enhanced if some adult members specialize in altruistic behaviors for the rest of the members of the group rather than in propagating their own genes. A similar model also applies, as O’Keefe argues, with social insects, like bees and ants. This raises another question in my mind, about distributed consciousness capable of transcending and surviving an individual member’s own mortality; that’s an idea I’ll come back to again in a future post. O’Keefe argues that in most of these animals, chemical messengers turn on and off various genes, influencing future behavior. In a matriarchal ant colony, a queen can determine the “personalities” of individual workers (warrior or forager) by selecting their food when the young are still larval.
So it is in human families. When a mother has several children (especially several sons), the brains of later born (younger) kids are likely to get different chemical stimulation in utero. Part of the reason is to prevent overpopulation (too many mouths to feed, although on the frontier you needed a lot of kids for labor in the past). But the other reasons is to provide altruistic backup for family members who do bear the kids and future generations. It does seem true, later born sons are more likely to be gay. And sometimes among identical twins there is discordance, which suggests an epigenetic influence.
My own case is unusual, as I am an only child. Indeed, my own college expulsion in 1961 after admitting “latent homosexuality” to a college dean (after prodding) now sounds motivated by the idea that I was announcing a “death penalty” for my parents’ hope of a future lineage, which might matter in religious or spiritual matters (again, I’ll cover later).
I was also an example of the “sissy boy” syndrome. While that expression was a popular myth in the 1950s and Vietnam-draft 1960s, in general it does not turn out to be true of the gay male community as a whole, when you talk about cis gay men (not trans). Gay men, for example, can play professional sports, an idea that the big leagues must embrace. (Baseball will probably have a trans relief pitcher some day, but that’s another matter.) What seems remarkable in retrospect is that, at least in cis gay men, sexual orientation (attraction) is linearly independent from all other physical expressions of what we perceive as “masculinity”. That’s really apparent on most gay disco dance floors, where lean masculinity seems to be celebrated. (Milo Yiannopoulos is dead right about this.)
As my own adult life unfolded, independence became a paramount value for me, particularly as an answer to otherwise possibly clinging to people. For long stretches of years, I lived in other cities far away from my parents and their social groups, and developed my own “real world” contact groups, long before social media. That seemed to be what an adult was supposed to do. I did, necessarily, have a double life, until after retirement, where work and personal relationships and personal cultural expression (even publications and books) were separate. That became normal. Publicly recognizable personal accomplishment, whether winning chess games from masters or publishing books on issues like gays in the military, became a primary virtue; family, having or adopting and raising children, became viewed as an afterthought. I viewed the rest of the “straight world” this way. When I was working, I thought everyone felt this way, particularly for my own lens of “upward affiliation” in personal relationships. I got a taste of “otherwise” at the Ninth Street Center in the 1970s, but I really didn’t have to come to grips with this until my own mother’s heart disease and decline, as well as the “social” values that were pushed on me in retirement, where salesmanship (even outright and aggressive hucksterism), rather than content production, became the new expectation. Manipulation, driven by tribalism, seemed to replace individualized truth-seeking.
O’Keefe’s video seems to imply that gay people (equates to non-procreative) are expected to stay around home to be the backup for the rest of the family when things happen. Indeed, this was often the case in previous generations especially for spinster women (not so much gay men). With there being fewer children today, the childless (as I found out the hard way) are more likely to become involved in their parents’ eldercare for years. In some families, childless people wind up raising siblings’ children after family tragedies (like in “Raising Helen” or the series “Summerland”), sometimes as a condition of a will. Many states have filial responsibility laws that, while rarely enforced (with a notorious 2012 situation in Pennsylvania) can undermine the independence of childless people.
Likewise, in the workplace, in many areas with salaried (non-union) people, childless people sometimes wound up doing the unpaid overtime for their coworkers who took family or maternity leave (DADT-1 reference). This happened to me sometimes in the 1990s, and has contributed to the movement today for paid family leave (or at least parental leave). I was the person with the disposable income would could be leaned on for sacrifice. Sometimes I was feared as someone who, with fewer responsibilities, could work for less (“gays at a discount” was a common insult in the 1990s) and lowball the salaries of others. That sort of thinking at one time had even affected the thinking of the military draft, when John Kennedy wanted to allow marriage and fatherhood deferments (dashed by the Johnson buildup in 1965, although student deferments remained until 1969).
So I have to see O’Keefe’s views, at least in my own life, as a call for second-class citizenship. But that may not be the case for people who necessarily experience life through surviving as a group or tribe together. Many tribal societies (most notably in the Muslim world) are ferociously anti-gay and want every adult to share in the responsibility of having children (as do some evangelical Christians, for example). O’Keefe shows that these ideas, however religiously driven, don’t promote the long term welfare of the group. Biological immutability seems relevant.
On the other hand, the whole idea of marriage equality, in my own perspective, has been about “equality” for those like me who remain topological singletons.
(Posted: Saturday, September 23, 2017. At 12 noon EDT)
Attorney Jason Dzubow has advised everyone about a new State Department rule that would tighten scrutiny of people who apply for non-immigrant visas, especially at consulates. His post is “New Rule Spells Trouble for Asylees”. The rule would penalize persons who “engage in conduct inconsistent with non-immigrant status” within 90 days of arrival.
The column then anticipates that USCIS would apply a similar rule as part of Trump’s “extreme vetting”. That presumably could mean that if someone applied for asylum after having entered the country as “non-immigrant”, that the asylum request would be more likely to be denied. In practice, Dzubow argues that real deportations would be unlikely. But the situation could provide more problems for those who would assist or host asylum seekers, who probably would not be allowed to work on their own.
Again, the lack of a formal system of sponsorship (outside of the I864 mechanism for relatives for example) in the US makes it very difficult for those who assist asylum seekers to know their responsibilities. It throws the whole thing into an under-the-table operation of grass-roots resistance, very much predicated on local social capital.
This development may become particularly troubling for LGBT asylum seekers, especially from countries besides the Middle East (like Russia and Chechnya).
I’ve had a running debate on Facebook Messenger with a particular friend in northern Virginia’s LGBT leadership, and he asked that his name not be reproduced because be feared (however facetiously) the “alt-right”.
I have said to him that I resist being drawn into specific initiatives sponsored generally by the political Left on narrow issues mostly having to do with discrimination (however “systematic” the “oppression”) against (members of) self-defined groups. Likewise, right now at least, I don’t raise money under my own name (like with GoFundMe) for “other people’s causes” however compelling (I don’t ask people to give for the Houston flood, except maybe here in this post; I simply do it myself.) That could even change in the future with certain circumstances. I’ve said I want to focus on civilization-threatening problems like North Korea, nuclear weapons, power grid security. I also want to focus on subtle free-speech (and gatekeeper resistance) problems, like downstream liability and implicit content. I’ve said that “we” have bigger problems than bathroom bills. (As I type this, I hear on CNN that North Korea claims now to have miniaturized ICBM-mountable hydrogen bombs, not “just” Hiroshima-like atomic bombs. And we have Trump with the nuclear suitcase.)
My friend (whom I see as pretty centrist between Left and Right, more or less with Hillary Clinton’s positions on most things, much more conservative than Sanders or even Obama) agrees that the GOP should focus on actually fixing healthcare, securing infrastructure security and solving the problems with refugees, and with enemies like ISIS and North Korea — and facing the responsibility to future generations on climate change. He says it is the GOP that looks for scapegoats (right now, transgender people) with bathroom bills or pseudo-religious freedom bills. I agree. And some parts of the alt-right make scapegoats of all immigrants, and are more aggressive in a desire to subjugate non-white people than I would have believed. This puts pressure on me to come back to focus on defending “oppressed groups” rather than paying attention to existential problems that can affect us all. In my situation (benefiting from inheritance and trying to downsize myself out of a house partly for “political” reasons), it gets harder to work on what I want than on what others would demand of me. It’s harder to stay away from unwelcome personal entanglements.
Here are a few of his comments:
“Focusing on infrastructure like FDR did during the Great Depression, of that scale, is definitely the winning ticket. The real problem is the GOP in Congress doesn’t want to spend money, especially on big national projects. However, they will if it is funneled through the largely Republican controlled states. So the grid and space projects all have to be designed as pork spending to states with only a small national office to coordinate, if that. Moreover, the money has to go to key swing states.
“I’m getting tired of this extreme bipolar discord manufactured by billionaires who spend their money on this negative crap rather than helping society in productive ways. None of this was in the news (Page 1) until Trump began dangling red meat at crowds to capitalize off fringe. Even the labels of left and right are becoming meaningless. Whatever happened to a sense of decency? It’s been replaced by circus clown.
“I look at another way. The bathroom bills are pushed and funded by right wingers who make it a priority over everything else. The LGBTQ-activist aren’t to blame for reacting. The blame lies squarely with the well-funded right that wants to obliterate all the gays off the face of the earth. And any progress made in the last 20 years. Why pinpoint blame people who fight against them for human rights and social justice. It makes no sense to me. You are right however, that the priorities of the nation need to be focused on things like infrastructure and beefing up national defense.”
I think there is more to say here. People “on the right” see meaning in forcing others to comply with the same moral rules they think they should follow; that’s their answer to “inequality”. They also have to deal with the logically existential idea of personal “rightsizing”.
It strikes me that the alt-right uses identity politics and even “intersectionality” much as does the radical Left. The groups are different. But the exploitation of “relative deprivation” (and the personal undeservedness of others) is the same, even if the Right seems to have much less justification in history.
(Posted: Saturday, September 2, 2017, at 9 PM EDT)
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.
The recent queasiness in Congress and the FCC about matters like Section 230 and network neutrality bring this question back. Yes, I’ve talked about the controversies over “citizen journalism” before, like the day before the Election on November 8, 2016. And recently (July 19) I encountered a little dispute about access requiring “press credentials”.
The nausea that President Donald Trump says the “media” gives him seems to be directed at mainstream, larger news organizations with center-liberal bias – that is, most big city newspapers, and most broadcast networks, and especially CNN – he calls them all purveyors of “fake news” as if that were smut. More acceptable are the “conservative” Fox and OANN. Breitbart and Milo Yiannopoulos (with his own new site) seem to be in the perpetual twilight of a tidally locked planet. Perhaps I am in the same space; Trump doesn’t seem to have the same antipathy (or hostility) to “independent” or “citizen” journalists (which I had feared he would when he said he didn’t trust computers), but a lot of other people do.
I digress for a moment. Coincidentally has set up his “Trump News Channel” on Facebook (Washington Post story) but the URL for it reverts to “Dropcatch”, with Twitter won’t even allow as a link as supposed spam.
The basic bone politicians and some business people pick with journalists is that “they” spectate, speculate and criticize, but don’t have to play, like right out of the script of the Netflix thriller “Rebirth”. Politicians, hucksters, sales professionals, and perhaps many legitimate business professionals, and heads of families – all of them have accountabilities to real people, whether customers or family members. They have to go to bat for others. They have to manipulate others and concern themselves with the size of their “basis”. Journalists can do this only through double lives.
I could make the analogy to kibitzing a chess game, rather than committing yourself to 5 hours of concentration in rated game. (Yes, in the position below, Black’s sacrifice hasn’t worked.)
But, of course, we know that renowned journalists have paid their dues, most of all in conflict journalism. Sebastian Junger broke his leg working as an arborist before writing “The Perfect Storm”. Bob Woodruff has a plate in his skull but recovered completely after being wounded in Iraq. Military services actually have their own journalists and public affairs. Young American University journalism graduate Trey Yingst helped found News2share before becoming a White House correspondent, but had done assignments in Ukraine, Gaza, Rwanda, Uganda, Ferguson, and was actually pinned down at night during the Baltimore riots in April 2015.
That brings us back to the work of small-fry, like me, where “blogger journalism” has become the second career, pretty much zoning out other possible opportunities which would have required direct salesmanship of “somebody else’s ideas” (“We give you the words”), or much more ability to provide for specific people (maybe students) in directly interpersonal ways.
Besides supporting my books, what I generally do with these blogs is re-report what seem like critical general-interest news stories in order to “connect the dots” among them. Sometimes, I add my own footage and observations when possible, as with a recent visit to fire-damaged Gatlinburg. With demonstrations (against Trump, about climate change, for LGBT) I tend to walk for a while with some of them but mainly film and report (especially when the issue is narrower, such as with Black Lives Matter). I generally don’t venture into dangerous areas (I visited Baltimore Sandtown in 2015 in the day time).
I generally don’t respond to very narrow petitions for emergency opposition to bills that hurt some narrow interest group. What I want to do is encourage real problem solving. Rather than join in “solidarity” to keep Congress from “repealing” Obamacare by itself, I want to focus on the solutions (subsidies, reinsurance, the proper perspective on federalism, etc). But I also want to focus attention on bigger problems, many of them having to do with “shared responsibility” or “herd immunity” concepts, that don’t get very consistent attention from mainstream media (although conservative sites do more on these matters). These include filial responsibility, the tricky business of reducing downstream liability issue on the Web (the Section230 issue, on the previous post, where I said Backpage can make us all stay for detention), risks taken by those offering hosting to immigrants (refugees and asylum seekers), and particularly national security issues like the shifting of risk from asymmetric terror back to rogue states (North Korea), and most of all, infrastructure security, especially our three major electric power grids.
My interest in book self-publication and citizen journalism had started in the 1990s with “gays in the military”, linking back to my own narrative, and then expanded gradually to other issues about “shared risks” as well as more traditional ideas about discrimination. I had come into this “second career” gradually from a more circumscribed world as an individual contributor in mainframe information technology. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” had suddenly become a particularly rich issue in what it could lead to in other areas. So, yes, I personally feel that, even as an older gay man, the LGBTQ world has more to worry about than bathroom bills (Pulse). I think the world we have gotten used to could indeed be dialed back by indignation-born “purification” (as a friend calls it) if we don’t get our act together on some things (like the power grid issue). But I don’t believe we should have to all become doomsday preppers either. We should solve these problems.
A critical component of journalism is objectivity and presentation of Truth, as best Truth can be determined. Call it impartiality. You often hear Trump supporters say that, whatever Trump’s crudeness and ethical problems, what Trump promotes helps them and particularly family members who depend on them. Of course many journalists have families without compromising their work. But this observation seems particularly relevant to me. I don’t have my own children largely because I didn’t engage in the desires or the behaviors than result in having that responsibility. I can “afford” to remain somewhat emotionally aloof from a lot of immediate needs.
In fact, I’ve sometimes had to field the retort from some people that, while some of the news out there may be dire, I don’t need to be the person they hear it from. I could be putting a target on my own back and on others around me. Indeed, some people act as if they believe that everything happens within a context of social hierarchy and coercion.
My own “model” for entering the news world has two aspects that seem to make it vulnerable to future policy choices (like those involving 230 or maybe net neutrality). One of them is that it doesn’t pay its own way. I use money from other sources, both what I earned and invested and somewhat what I inherited (which arguably could be deployed as someone else’s safety net, or which could support dependents, maybe asylum seekers if we had a system more like Canada’s for dealing with that issue). That means, it cannot be underwritten if it had to be insured, for example. I can rebut this argument, or course, by saying, well, what did you want me to do, get paid to write fake news? That could support a family. (No, I really never believed the Comet Ping Pong stuff, but the gunman who did believe it an attack it claimed he was an “independent journalist.” I do wonder how supermarket tabloids have avoided defamation claims even in all the years before the Internet – because nobody believed them? Some people obviously do.) No, they say. we want you to use the background that supported you as a computer programmer for decades and pimp our insurance products. (“We give you the words,” again.) Indeed, my withdrawal from the traditional world where people do things through sales middlemen makes it harder for those who have to sell for a living.
The other aspect is that of subsumed risk. I can take advantage of a permissive climate toward self-distribution of content, which many Internet speakers and small businesses take for granted, but which can be seriously and suddenly undermined by policy, for the “common good” under the ideology of “shared responsibility”. I won’t reiterate here the way someone could try to bargain with me over this personally – that could make an interesting short film experiment. Yes, there can be court challenges, but the issues litigated with CDA and COPA don’t reliably predict how the First Amendment applies when talking about distribution of speech rather than its content, especially with a new literalist like Gorsuch on the Supreme Court.
A lot of “Trader Joe” type people would say, there should be some external validation of news before it is published. Of course, that idea feeds the purposes of authoritarian rules, like Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping, or perhaps Donald Trump. But we could see that kind of environment someday if we don’t watch out.