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Category: Contemporary Life

I have had health insurance through my employer these past seven years, but I still depend on the Affordable Care Act. It has made the scope of coverage meaningful, especially… Read more

Dear National Security Establishment, Please stop your collective freak-out about North Korea. The power of that country’s weapons lies mainly in our inability to tolerate any risk whatsoever.

Information and Meaning

False information gains strength from its roots in stories that make sense to a lot of people; mow down the latest false facts and more will soon sprout until we address those stories themselves—and the reasons people believe them.

– Paul, J. Croce, “What We Can Learn from Fake News,” History News Network, July 23, 2017, http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/166400.

Information, Sociability, Reality Check

I’ve been off RSS readers for a while, in part because of Google’s exit from the game, but also because of information overload. Thinking about using it again and revisiting some old stomping grounds in the blogosphere, I found Dan Cohen’s relevant comments on Ann Blair’s Too Much to Know. Seems I am in good company with my occasional ignoring of information—ignoring that I prefer to think won’t lead to, might even prevent, ignorance. I treat Twitter rather cavalierly too, as if it were a place to hang out, learn… Read more Information, Sociability, Reality Check

Rumors

If we pass around quotes on images without even a hint of the quotes’ origins, aren’t we part of the problem? #socialmediabehavior

What’s Going On?

No really, Laurel Leff wants to know. This isn’t a poltical-rhetorical question but something bigger. What are we to make of the president’s recent nod to Holocaust denial? We need to consider the matter in an open, fearless, and dispassionate way, but how? “For those of us who teach and research the Holocaust and anti-Semitism, the Trump administration’s refusal to mention Jews in a statement commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day has been both horrifying and confusing.” Read Leff’s whole piece, and if you haven’t read Deborah Lipstadt on why “Holocaust… Read more What’s Going On?

Assault on Facts and Credibility

All administrations lie, but what we are seeing here is an attack on credibility itself.

The Russian dissident and chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov drew upon long familiarity with that process when he tweeted: “The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.”

Charles J. Sykes, ”Why Nobody Cares the President Is Lying,“ New York Times, February 4, 2017

Correction to ‘Governmental Data Erasure’

I was motivated to write about governmental data erasure yesterday because of an Internet Archive tweet regarding the preservation of USDA documents, whose deletion seemed clearly related to the Trump administration’s erasure efforts in other areas, but I was wrong. My general point about politics and information still stands, but I should have sourced examples of data erasure and rescue more thoroughly. Moreover, in the apparently clearest-cut case of the EPA, there might be a gap between initial Trump administration impulses and present reality. Even that situation is in flux,… Read more Correction to ‘Governmental Data Erasure’

Governmental Data Erasure

The following piece contains an important error, which I have highlighted in yellow below. I have corrected the record in a follow-up post. In the USSR, during certain periods, key individuals were erased from photographs and history when they fell out of favor. Trotsky was perhaps the most famous example. Such attempts to falsify images and textbooks for political ends went further, however. Historical reality itself—not just its interpretation and instruction—needed to bend to the regime’s will. Who knew that such crude reality-bending tools would be used in the United… Read more Governmental Data Erasure

Totally Normal

Asked whether federal workers are dissenting in ways that go beyond previous party changes in the White House, Tom Malinow­ski, who was President Barack Obama’s assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, said, sarcastically: “Is it unusual? . . . There’s nothing unusual about the entire national security bureaucracy of the United States feeling like their commander in chief is a threat to U.S. national security. That happens all the time. It’s totally usual. Nothing to worry about.”

Juliet Eilperin, Lisa Rein, and Marc Fisher, “Resistance from within: Federal workers push back against Trump,” The Washington Post, January 31, 2017

The Past in the Present

Am still shaking my head over the new administration’s discriminatory ban on Muslims entering the United States. It was no surprise after the hateful rhetoric of the election season, but announcing it on Holocaust Remembrance Day? And not mentioning Jews in a statement about the Holocaust? I wish I could call these actions tone-deaf, but they feel more intentional and sinister than that, even if the more apt historical parallels are the U.S. rejection of Jews fleeing Nazism and the internment of Japanese-Americans as an entire class of people during the Second World War.