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Slaves to speech suppression are masters of nothing

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Comes the news that the Python project has merged a request to partially eliminate the terms “master” and “slave” from its documentation on “diversity” grounds. Sensibly, Guido van Rossum at least refused to sever the project from uses of those terms in documentation of the underlying Unix APIs.

I wish Guido had gone further and correctly shitcanned the change request as political bullshit up with which he will not put. I will certainly do that if a similar issue is ever raised in one of my projects.

The problem here is not with the object-level issue of whether the terms “master” and “slave” might be offensive to some people. It’s with the meta-level of all such demands. Which the great comedian George Carlin once summed up neatly as follows: “Political correctness is fascism pretending to be manners.”

That is, the demand for suppression of “politically” offensive terms is never entirely or usually even mostly about reducing imputed harms. That is invariably a pretense covering a desire to make speech and thought malleable to political control. Which is why the first and every subsequent attempt at this kind of entryism needs to be kicked in the teeth, hard.

Technically Carlin was actually not quite correct. Fascism has never become quite sophisticated enough at semantic manipulation to pose as manners. He should more properly have said “Political correctness is communism pretending to be manners”; George Orwell, of course, warned us of the dangers of Newspeak through his portrait of a future communism in 1984.

But Carlin leaned left, so he used the verbal cudgel of a leftist. Credit to him, anyway, for recognizing that the “manners” tactics of his fellow leftists are, at bottom, corrosive and totalitarian. The true goal is always meta: to get you to cede them the privilege of controlling your speech and thought.

Once you get pulled onto the on the PC train, it doesn’t stop with the mere suppression of individual words. The next stage is the demand that your language affirm politically-correct lies and absurdities in public. The most obvious example of this today is the attempted proliferation of gender pronouns. There are principled cases, grounded in human sexual biology, that two or three might be too few, but at the point where activists are circulating lists of 50 or more – most of which have no predicate that can be checked by an impartial observer – the demand has crossed into absurdity.

The purpose of such absurdities is never to convey truth and increase the precision of language, but rather to jam the categories and politics of some propagandist into your head – to control your mind. It is not accidental that terms like “inclusiveness” are vague and infinitely elastic; if they were not, they would not serve the actual purpose of making you feel guilty, wrong and malleable no matter how frantically you have deformed your speech and behavior to meet the propagandist’s standards of “manners”.

The manipulation depends on you never quite recovering your balance enough to recognize that your own autonomy – your ability to think and speak as you choose – is more important than the ever-escalating demands for “manners”. The first step to liberation is realizing that. The second step is resisting their attack even if you happen to agree that an individual term (like, say, “master” or “slave”) might be construable as offensive. The meta-level matters more than the object.

The third step is realizing that the propagandists for those demands mean to do you harm. They are selling “manners”, “diversity”, “inclusiveness”, but what they mean to to do is break you into loving Big Brother – becoming the primary instrument of your own oppression, ever alert to conform to the next diktat of the Ministry of Truth as expressed by the language police.

As with individuals, so with the cultures they assemble into. These “manners” demands – like the attempt to hijack the Lerna license I condemned in my last blog post – are an attack on the autonomy and health of the hacker culture. All who cherish that culture should refuse them.

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Netflix can't be trusted. It has turned its back on American families.

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Shiny and powerful, Netflix is the entertainment industry’s Trojan horse — a seeming gift for families, allowing parents some control over what their kids can watch. In reality, what Netflix delivers should give parents extreme pause.

In just over 20 years, Netflix has gone from being a relatively small-scale DVD sales and rental company to an entertainment industry superpower with an estimated 125 million subscribers worldwide and the ability to attract A-list writing and acting talent while garnering top awards and industry accolades.

Unfortunately, during these years of stratospheric growth, Netflix seems to have given little thought to the family audiences that have proved to be the backbone of the company and provided the solid foundation for growth and stability that has attracted investors and enabled Netflix to make multimillion dollar development deals.

Netflix has been happy to build its business on the backs of family audiences — throwing them the occasional bone of a reboot of an older, favorite TV series like "Gilmore Girls" or "Full House" or offering a reliable, yet oddball collection of children’s programming (that runs the gamut from "The Little Prince" to "Captain Underpants") or even announcing a commitment to building faith and family-based shows. (Netflix hasn’t released any detail about what this will look like.)

But Netflix has been unwilling to make the kind of meaningful reforms that would make family viewing a safe and enjoyable experience for all members of the family, and has been too willing to defend potentially harmful, problematic, even pornographic, content.

Netflix distributes pornographic content

Last year, Netflix released "13 Reasons Why" — an original series based on a popular young adult novel of the same name, about a teenage girl who commits suicide, despite concerns from school counselors and suicide prevention experts about the possibility of “suicide contagion.”

After it debuted, Google searches on how to commit suicide spiked by 26 percent. Nevertheless, Netflix renewed for a second and even a third season.

When asked about the controversial program during the 2018 shareholder meeting, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings callously remarked, “Nobody has to watch it.”

Well, of course nobody has to watch it. But people do. Kids do. And based on news reports, some of those kids have been inspired by it to consider taking their own lives.

More: Doctor visits about suicidal thoughts rose with '13 Reasons Why.' Handle Season 2 with care.

'This Is Us': Toxic stress on TV is reality for many Americans

How '13 Reasons Why' gets suicide wrong: Voices

Last December, Netflix began airing Argentinian film "Desire," which depicts a 9-year-old girl masturbating to the point of orgasm. In response to critics, director Diego Kaplan said, “Everything works inside the spectators’ heads, and how you think this scene was filmed will depend on your level of depravity.”

He also prefaced this remark by saying, “Because I knew this scene might cause some controversy at some point, there is ‘Making Of’ footage of the filming of the entire scene.” Why should he have anticipated that the scene might cause some controversy if the “depravity” is all in the viewer’s head?

This is the kind of hollow defense of indefensible content Netflix is making more and more often these days.

Petitions to cancel teen-targeted "Insatiable" for fat-shaming content have fallen on deaf ears. Same with the petitions to cancel the disturbingly sexualized animated series about puberty called “Big Mouth.”

Difficult for parents to monitor child experience

A 2017 analysis by the Parents Television Council revealed that nearly 60 percent of Netflix’s original offerings were rated for mature audiences only; just 1 percent were rated for general audiences, and only 8 percent were rated PG.

And although Netflix does offer some parental controls, our research found that even if a child might not be able to stream adult-rated content when those controls are turned on, there was nothing to prohibit a child from browsing through an adult user’s profile, where he might see highly sexually suggestive titles and cover art, like "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" or "Nymphomaniac."

Our research also found adult titles grouped with child-targeted content, so that titles like "Sausage Party" — with its cartoonish yet suggestive cover art — appeared next to family titles like "The BFG"; "Family Guy" appeared next to "Finding Dory"; and the image of a sex toy on the cover art for "Grace and Frankie" was displayed just above the “Children and Family” menu options. We also found that it was difficult for parents to entirely eliminate categories of content they didn’t want displayed at all.

It's important to note that Netflix recently added a way to let parents block individual titles — and that’s a good step. However, this also requires parents to know about each and every title available on the platform. With the thousands of titles available at any one time, that’s impossible.

Families have become increasingly reliant on Netflix as an alternative to traditional broadcast and cable television, but the reality is that Netflix is not trustworthy. And to date, Netflix is defiant when it comes to owning any responsibility for the potentially harmful products it delivers.

At a time when all of Hollywood is rightly consumed with #MeToo, and when the most powerful are falling left and right, how can Netflix execs simultaneously ask us to be entertained by rape-driven teen suicide? Or to laugh at the sexualization of children? To be amused by girls struggling with vicious bullying and fat-shaming? 

Netflix executives need to adopt some old-school principles and realize that they’re either part of the problem or part of the solution. They can’t have it both ways. Unless Netflix is willing to better serve families and distance itself from these more problematic programming choices, or until Netflix shareholders use their voices to drive change from within the company, families would do better to choose alternative streaming services. 

Tim Winter, a former NBC and MGM executive, is president of the Parents Television Council. Follow him on Twitter: @TimWinterPTC.

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rlauzon
46 days ago
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There's an easy way to fix this: Cancel your Netflix. Best place to hurt someone is in the wallet. Read books. Watch DVDs you choose. There are many options.
tingham
46 days ago
This ^ [Or limit the availability of the service to a single shared screen in the house (just like how we grew-up in the 80s)]
kazriko
46 days ago
My son's TV is within view of my desk. Of course, he normally watches Youtube instead of netflix.
tingham
46 days ago
@kazriko - Smart.

How a Trump tariff is strangling American newspapers

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How a Trump tariff is strangling American newspapers:

Newspapers, magazines and print advertisers have seen the cost of their most basic commodity rise at double-digit rates since the Commerce Department began imposing the tariffs in March on Canadian imports, by far the publishing industry’s dominant paper source.

The result has been a kind of slow-motion breakdown for newspapers, long beset by declining ad revenue and disappearing readers. Even in an increasingly digital world, old-fashioned ink-on-paper remains the lifeblood of most newspapers. Print ads and subscriptions account for 75 percent or more of the revenue of an average daily newspaper. Newsprint is typically a publication’s second-biggest operating expense after labor.

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rlauzon
50 days ago
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Newspapers have been dying for years now. Trump has nothing to do with it.
wmorrell
50 days ago
Grandpa has been dying for years now. Holding a pillow over his face has nothing to do with his death.

There’s Support, and Then There’s Support

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Stupid me: I’ve been using mine for a doorstop! Thought this would be a good follow-on to Friday’s post. (When choosing categories for this one, I debated about whether to click “Religion” — and while typing this, I decided the answer had to be yes.)
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rlauzon
104 days ago
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Ahhh... The only way Apple products are useful. 8)

Ask Slashdot: Have You Ever 'Ghosted' an Employer?

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"Suddenly, calls and texts went unreturned," writes LinkedIn's editor at large, describing a recruiter who suddenly discovered the candidate she'd wanted to hire failed to respond to 12 messages, including emails like "Please let me know that you have not been kidnapped by aliens. I'm worried about you," and even a snail-mailed greeting card. Recruiters complain that prospective employees are now borrowing a practice from dating -- and "ghosting" recruiters and employers to let them know that they're not interested.

"Candidates agree to job interviews and fail to show up, never saying more. Some accept jobs, only to not appear for the first day of work, no reason given, of course. Instead of formally quitting, enduring a potentially awkward conversation with a manager, some employees leave and never return. Bosses realize they've quit only after a series of unsuccessful attempts to reach them.... Meredith Jones, an Indianapolis-based director of human resources for a national restaurant operator, now overbooks interviews, knowing up to 50 percent of candidates for entry-level roles likely won't show up."

Long-time Slashdot reader NormalVisual writes, "It'd be interesting to hear Slashdotters' experience with this." Have you ever ghosted a potential employer, or perhaps more relevant, have you ever been ghosted by a potential employer during the hiring process? Do you feel it's unprofessional, or simple justice for the behavior of some companies when the balance of power was more on their side?
Inc. magazine blames the low unemployment rate and "the effects technology have had on the communication style of younger generations." But leave your own thoughts in the comments.

Does ghosting show a lack of professionalism, or is it simple payback for the way corporations treated job-seekers in the past? And have you ever "ghosted" an employer?
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rlauzon
105 days ago
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I've never done this. But in a recent job search, it was done to me by companies many times.
jepler
105 days ago
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HR have been ghosting applicants all along. But how HR's feelings have been hurt.
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm
copyninja
94 days ago
And no one wrote when applicants feelings were hurt due to ghosting of HR

Finland is killing its experiment with basic income

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Since the beginning of last year, 2000 Finns are getting money from the government each month - and they are not expected to do anything in return. The participants, aged 25-58, are all unemployed, and were selected at random by Kela, Finland's social-security institution.

Instead of unemployment benefits, the participants now receive €560, or $690, per month, tax free. Should they find a job during the two-year trial, they still get to keep the money.

While the project is praised internationally for being at the cutting edge of social welfare, back in Finland, decision makers are quietly pulling the brakes, making a U-turn that is taking the project in a whole new direction.

"Right now, the government is making changes that are taking the system further away from a basic income," Kela researcher Miska Simanainen told the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet.

The initial plan was for the experiment to be expanded in early 2018 to include workers as well as non-workers early in 2018, but that did not happen - to the disappointment of researchers at Kela. Without workers in the project, researchers are unable to study whether basic income would allow people to make new career moves, or enter training or education.

"Two years is too short a timeframe to be able to draw extensive conclusions from such a vast experiment. We ought to have been given additional time and more money to achieve reliable results," professor Olli Kangas, one of the experts behind the basic-income trial, told Finland's public-service broadcaster YLE.

In recent years, a growing number of tech entrepreneurs have endorsed universal basic income (UBI), a system system in which every individual receives a standard amount of money, simply for being alive.

Entrepreneurs who have expressed support for UBI include Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, and Google's futurist and engineering director Ray Kurzweil.

These tech moguls recognize that UBI, as well as combatting poverty, could also help solve the problem of increased robotization in the workforce, a problem they are very much part of creating.

At the 2018 TED conference, Kurzweil made a bold prediction about the future of "free" money, predicting that by the 2030s, UBI will have spread worldwide - and that we'll be able to "live very well on that."

Contrary to universal basic income, however, which advocates say should apply to all citizens regardless of background, Finland's trial is only targeting people in long-term unemployment.

The existing unemployment benefits were so high, the Finnish government argued, and the system so rigid, an unemployed person might choose not to take a job as they would risk losing money by doing so - the higher your earnings, the lower your social benefits. The basic income was meant as an incentive for people to start working.

But in December last year, the Finnish parliament passed a bill that is taking the country's welfare system in quite the opposite direction. The new 'activation model' law requires jobseekers to work a minimum of 18 hours for three months - if you don't manage to find such a job, you lose some of your benefits. And Finance Minister Petteri Orpo already has plans for a new project once the basic income pilot concludes in December 2018.

"When the basic income experiment ends this year, we should launch a universal credit trial," Orpo told Finnish newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet, referring to a system similar to that currently in use in the United Kingdom, which collects a number of different benefits and tax credits into one account.

No official results of Finland's basic income experiment will be published until 2019, after the pilot has come to an end.


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rlauzon
177 days ago
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I'm surprised that it took Finland that long. Socialism doesn't work, has never worked and will never work.
rocketo
176 days ago
Truly we should continue to support the shining model of capitalism
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