Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

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More on distortion of literary works

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After my texts on the distortions of the books of Roald Dahl ([1]) and the semi-cancellation of Scott Adams, I ran into a great number of texts on related topics. To look briefly at some of them:

The vandalism of Dahl’s books is made the worse by Dahl’s strong objections (long before the fact, of course):

*Here and elsewhere with reservations for e.g. formatting.

He told [friend Francis] Bacon: “I’ve warned my publishers that if they later on so much as change a single comma in one of my books, they will never see another word from me. Never! Ever!”

In the recording, the writer, who had Norwegian roots, added: “When I am gone, if that happens, then I’ll wish mighty Thor knocks very hard on their heads with his Mjolnir. Or I will send along the Enormous Crocodile to gobble them up.”

(For my part, I can only second this opinion: I absolutely and categorically forbid such vandalism of any and all of my writings and other works, be they current, past, or present.)

In stark contrast to the vandalizing Brits, the French and the Dutch are saner, distance themselves from such acts, and seem set on keeping the existing translations*.

*Of course, the fact that the translations are translations automatically implies some level of distortion, and those capable of reading a book in its original language should try to do so, but this is a distortion of a different kind and, when done with sufficient competence and professionalism, a distortion that is not grossly unethical and destructive. (Unlike e.g. some absolutely atrocious German translations, e.g. of works by Terry Pratchett.)

However, as expected, Dahl is not the only victim. After the many failures of Blofeld and SPECTRE, James Bond finally takes a hit. The problem is similar to the one with Dahl—use of “sensitivity readers”* to determine what is and is not acceptable to real readers, while leaving the will of both the real readers and the author out of the picture. Who is next? Paddington Bear for stereotyping foreigners or for being offensive to abandoned children? And why has no-one taken down Jane Austen yet? Is not her books filled with stereotypical and offensive depictions of men and women in those horrifying, outdated, and sexist traditional gender roles?

*Also see below for some info on such “sensitivity readers”.

Then we have a case of defacement. This article deals with an (unsurprisingly, both female and deranged seeming) bookbinder who rebinds “Harry Potter” books in order to remove references* to their author and “create a ’safe space’ for fans who struggle to align themselves with the writer’s views”.** This is idiotic, as removing a name does not change the authorship or history of the books; and anyone who actually wishes to own and read the books, while being “triggered” by the mere name of the author on the cover, shows both a wish to have-one’s-cake-and-eat-it-too and an inability to understand what is important.*** It is, however, yet another interesting example of a Leftist tendency to believe in “word magic”. I am also reminded of the very common Leftist (implicit or explicit) view that individuals only exist to serve the collective or some party/cause/whatnot—produce all you want, but expect no recognition or reward.

*Including, apparently, replacing the copyright pages with “alternative versions”, which could raise very serious questions about the legality of the operation. (Note that she is not performing an on-demand modification of books already purchased by a long-term owner. She, herself, “seeks out second-hand copies of the series” and sells the modified versions at exorbitant prices.)

**The quoted statement, in my eyes, means something different from what is obviously intended. (And is very awkwardly formulated, even aside from the issue of meaning.)

***In contrast, a “I will never buy Rowling again!!!” would at least be somewhat understandable. It would, from what I have seen until now, be based on a faulty premise of Rowling as some hateful and evil individual, out to oppress and “discriminate” transsexuals, but, given that someone holds the premise to be true, it might not be unreasonable.

Another article from the same source deals with imagining “Harry Potter” without Rowling. In light of this, it is not inconceivable that we will see a long-term trend of detaching authors from their works, in order to deny any sign of accomplishment to those deemed heretics and to allow the True Believers to enjoy these works without themselves being viewed as heretics and/or falling victim to the “guilt by association” tactic so popular on the Left. Indeed, looking at [1] and the removal of references to Kipling in favor of Austen, would it not be expedient to just credit the one “approved” author with the works of someone not “approved”? If, say, a book mentions a character reading “The Jungle Book”, why not just proclaim it a work by Austen? (Or some other, preferably female, author who is a better chronological fit.) This would not just solve the PC problem of having the “wrong” authors show up, it would also remedy the “under-representation” of this-and-that and ensure that at least half of all important works were seen-as-written by women, that various minorities are credited with works in proportion to their numbers, etc.

Steve Sailer links to a National Review piece on the “sensitivity readers” behind the vandalism of Dahl’s works. Unfortunately, the latter page does not display for me, but Sailer has some quotes (and the comment section contains more than a few comments of interest).

Of the “sensitivity readers” mentioned in the text, at least four out of six are women*, the fifth a “transgender male poet”,** and the sixth a “queer, trans, and intersex individual” (my emphasis). Of the four official women, they are all at least one of LGBT-etc.-etc., Black, “neurodiverse”,*** and Muslim.

*Or, at any rate, have traditionally female names and/or are referred to with traditionally female pronouns. In the particular context at hand, this might not mean anything at all.

**Which likely implies “transgender female poet”, as abuse words is very common in these contexts. A woman who wants be a man is a transgender female resp. transgender woman, but is usually mislabeled as “transgender male” resp. “transgender man”.

***As a likely Aspie, I am puzzled by how many allegedly “neurodiverse” group with the Left. Stereotypical traits among the “neurodiverse” include a high degree of rationality, which is incompatible with the Left and many or most of their claims and behaviors. Whether such stereotypical traits match reality is often unclear, but I cannot suppress the suspicion that many of them are actually just “NTs” looking for another label to make themselves even more “intersectional” (note how often such individuals report with a handful of labels) or otherwise engage in mislabeling or misinterpretation. (Also note several comments following Sailer’s text.) It might even be argued that the “-diverse” part is a sign of a politically or ideologically driven identification, as opposed to actually being an Aspie, HFA, or whatnot.

This is a group that skews very heavily and very heavily into “demographics” with a strong tendency to support (and be manipulated by) the New Left, it is a group that is unlikely to be representative of mainstream readers, it is a group unlikely to be high in rational thinking, it is a group disproportionally likely to contain mental ill individuals, and it is a group that seems preselected to achieve a certain outcome. Even if (!!!) the idea of such rewrites had been legitimate, this would not be the way to go about it.

As an aside, if such skews are common, which seems plausible, it would go a long way to explain the excesses of e.g. many media franchises and how out of touch they can be with the actual audience.

In a similar direction, the British Prevent Scheme appears to deem an absurd amount of works normally considered harmless or beneficial as causing far-Right radicalization. A particularly interesting re-quote:

Historian and broadcaster Andrew Roberts said: ‘This is truly extraordinary. This is the reading list of anyone who wants a civilised, liberal, cultured education.[’]

‘It includes some of the greatest works in the Western canon and in some cases — such as Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent — powerful critiques of terrorism. Burke, Huxley, Orwell and Tolkien were all anti-totalitarian writers.’

To this, I note that some of the key differences between the Left and (at least portions of) the non-Left is their relative prioritization of conformance in opinion vs. critical/own thinking, the collective vs. the individual, big government vs. small government, and similar. Taking things to their natural conclusion, it is not really unexpected for someone on the Left to consider those who want to think for themselves and make decisions for themselves to be e.g. far Right, as their ideas/wishes/whatnot are antithetical to the Leftist ideal. Ditto to consider books “evil” that oppose government control of the people or do not indoctrinate into Leftist ideas but present ideas to be judged on their own merits or, worse, present ideas that contradict the Leftist dogmas. Etc.


Written by michaeleriksson

March 4, 2023 at 6:43 pm

Distortion of literary works / Roald Dahl

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I have repeatedly* written about the distortion of various past works by reader- and author-despising editors and whatnots—especially, those abusing their positions to push a PC extremist (or otherwise Leftist extremist) agenda.

*E.g. concerning Enid Blyton ([1]). Also note the overlapping issue of overruled choice.

As I learn today, Roald Dahl has fallen victim to a particularly large and ill-advised set of distortions. Several articles have appeared alone in “The Telegraph”, including [2] and [3], the latter partially discussing Salman Rushdie’s condemnation of the distortions.

To look at some quotes from [2]:*

*The usual disclaimers about formatting, etc., apply.

The publisher, Puffin, has made hundreds of changes to the original text, removing many of Dahl’s colourful descriptions and making his characters less grotesque.

Utterly inexcusable.*

*I use this formulation repeatedly. There is a reason for this—that the shoe fits! If anything, I use it too little: what goes on here should by rights be illegal.

The word “fat” has been removed from every book –
Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory may still look like a ball of dough, but can now only be described as “enormous”.

This is an example of a hysterical treatment of words and an obsession with words over meanings and implications. If he still looks like a ball of dough, why would it matter that the word “fat” is used? A word, I note, which was seen as perfectly harmless not long ago, and where only massive* pressure from deranged lobby-groups have brought on a very recent change—a change so recent that not even I had expected “fat” to be problematic in contexts like these. Then again, we have reached a state where pointing out that someone might live longer through eating better and exercising more is seen as fat shaming by such fanatics and where they consider well-trained models offensive.**

*Is “massive” still allowed?

**But then we have the opposite risk, should we dare suggest that someone is not fat enough, as seen in e.g. a discussion of bad-faith assumptions. (Search for “Gabriella2”.)

This also comes with the problem of what to do when fat-as-a-substance is intended. I have seen Feminists flip out over use of the word “bitch” in the context of dog breeding—might not any use of “fat” be targeted next? (Also note the discussion of “female” below.)

And what happens when someone decides that not just a description as “fat” is illicit, and that Augustus must now be made entirely generic and as skinny as Charlie? What then would the point of the character be? And why would being fat be worse than being a spoilt brat, an idiot, or whatever applied to Augustus and/or some of the other children?

Passages not written by Dahl have also been added. In The Witches, a paragraph explaining that witches are bald beneath their wigs ends with the new line: “There are plenty of other reasons why women might wear wigs and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.”

Not only an inexcusable act of vandalism*—but something entirely superfluous. Comparing this with some vandalism mentioned in [1], far greater future issues are to be expected in the future, unless the backlash is strong enough, say, turning Blyton’s “Famous Five” into social-justice warriors or removing direct or indirect criticism of the Left from other works (maybe, those by George Orwell).

*I stand by that word. This is not a matter of creating a new (if highly disputable) mustached version of the “Mona Lisa”—it is a matter of doing away with the original, so that only the mustached version is ever seen.

References to “female” characters have disappeared – Miss Trunchbull in Matilda, once a “most formidable female”, is now a “most formidable woman”.

Another example of hysterical treatment of words. I note, in particular, that some seem to have an obsessive and irrational hatred of the word “female” (but not “male”; I have e.g. seen texts contrasting “women” with “males”), despite this being a perfectly normal and highly useful noun,* both for variation and for flexibility—even when restricted to humans, “female” has a wider meaning in common use, as e.g. a girl of five is a female but not typically considered a woman. It might or might not be argued that some individual (noun) use would benefit from “woman”, in order to avoid misunderstandings when specifically an adult human female is intended, but this is not the choice that the author made—and these changes are driven by irrationality and a PC agenda, not a wish for disambiguation. (And this without opening the can of worms created by the theft of the word “woman” to refer to men-who-want-to-be women.)

*And the main or sole option as a modifier. For instance, “women physicians” are gynecologist and the like (and might or might not be women, themselves), while physicians-who-are-women are correctly referred to as “female physicians”. Also note the enormously misleading headline of “Women abusers on the rise” mentioned in [4].

“Boys and girls” has been turned into “children”. The Cloud-Men in James and the Giant Peach have become Cloud-People and Fantastic Mr Fox’s three sons have become daughters.

The first is a pointless modification, unless the editor is, utterly inexcusably, trying to enforce a “sex does not exist” agenda. My extremely vague recollections of “James and the Giant Peach” does not allow me to comment in detail, but if the change was along the lines of “prefer humankind over mankind” it is, at best, an illicit, if possibly well meant, distortion of the author’s language, while a change of a previously male group into a mixed group would be utterly inexcusable. The Fox daughters, finally, are a horrifying spread of screen distortions to the written word—bad on the screen; utterly inexcusable here, as the screen version is a mere adaption, while here the original is distorted.

Matilda reads Jane Austen rather than Rudyard Kipling, and a witch posing as “a cashier in a supermarket” now works as “a top scientist”.

Blatant, utterly inexcusable, agenda pushing.

To boot, one that makes Matilda looks worse, as Jane Austen appears to have far less to offer as an author, especially from an intellectual point of view, than Kipling did. Mathilda is reduced from reading literature to reading chick-lit. (Cf. an earlier discussion of “Pride and Prejudice”.) And, no, Kipling was by no means just a children’s author, no matter what the relative popularity of his works might lead the modern reader to believe. He wrote novels, short stories, and poetry for adults too, received a Nobel Prize, and is rumored to have been offered (but declined) the position as Poet Laureate. For that matter, I would not rule out that “The Jungle Book” and “Kim” are worthier reads even for an adult than “Pride and Prejudice”.*

*My own contacts with the two former are too far back to say for certain, but took place at an adult age and left a more positive memory.

To boot, one that could potentially* miss an important point, e.g. (!) that “evil might be found anywhere”, which can work as both a life lesson and as a means to increase the scare value of a certain book/scene/character. (Monsters under the bed are much worse than monsters in some faraway forest.)

*Here too, my own contacts are too far back to say for certain. (Not even at an adult age, this time.)

The words “black” and “white” have been removed: characters no longer turn “white with fear” and the Big Friendly Giant in The BFG cannot wear a black cloak.

Here we reach a point of such insanity that even my own nightmare scenarios cannot keep up: A little more than a month ago, I wrote that “[…] the words ‘black’ and ‘brown’ have so far not been under general attack (presumably, something still too absurd even for the modern Left) […]”. The simply truth appears to be that nothing is too absurd for the modern Left.

Written by michaeleriksson

February 19, 2023 at 11:55 pm

The true value of Musk buying Twitter

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A brief note on Musk’s buy of Twitter:

In advance, there was much speculation on how this might affect Twitter, e.g. by allowing an increase in free speech and a reduction of partisan censorship. So far, there seems to have been a considerable improvement in these areas, but something else seems to be more important, especially with an eye on the many services (e.g. Facebook) that he has not bought—the revelations of how much shit has been going on behind the curtain at Twitter. This includes censorship and external* influence on a more perfidious and more blatant level than even I had expected, but also great signs of improfessionalism, including abysmal handling of security issues, laziness, wastefulness, whatnot.

*Notably, from the government, which partly raises the question of what censorship was a matter of internal Leftist bias respectively government pressure (noting that the U.S. government is currently solidly in the hand of the Left or far Left). It is also strong proof of how important it is to prevent such government interference, be it with regard to Leftism, COVID, or something else yet. (Unfortunately, the worldwide development seems to be going in the other direction, ranging from covert pressure to various unconscionable, anti-Rechtsstaat, and anti-democracy laws against unapproved thought and speech.)

This is doubly interesting, as it (a) shows how justified the criticisms of Twitter et al. have been in terms of distortion of debate (very contrary to public Leftist claims), (b) gives a strong indication that many other similar businesses have a greater emphasis on “Potemkin” than on “village”. (Not to be confused with the overvaluation that might have occurred through investors being naive or falling for a bandwagon effect.)

As an aside, it is not inconceivable that the dirt brought to light by Musk ends up destroying most of Twitter’s market value—and the hit for that would then likely land on Musk and his investors, not those who originally caused and hid the problems. (In turn, both a sign of how unfair life can be and a reason why many others could choose to cover up such issues, even when caused by prior owners, employees, whatnot.)

Written by michaeleriksson

December 13, 2022 at 12:31 pm

Reach vs. speech

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Recently, courtesy of Elon Musk, the issue of reach vs. speech has been on the table, notably in the idea that a right to speech does not imply a right to reach. In some ways, this is a sound point; in some ways, it is not. Above all, it is important to discriminate between different cases.

Most importantly, more so than the actual reach issue, we must note that A’s right to speak does not equate to B’s duty to listen. We should all have a right to protect ourselves from messages that we do not wish to hear—with questions like “Why?” and the potential risk of missing something important being a matter for the prospective listener to consider (not, e.g., for the government, political activists, and advertisers).* Then, again, this right to refuse to listen is constantly violated by those who can get away with it, with examples including intrusive and unjustified** advertising and the type of “presidential alerts” mentioned two days ago.

*This with some very few exceptions relating to various (justifiable) legal and/or ethical obligations, e.g. in that a service provider might prefer to ignore a valid customer complaint, but would be in breach of contract (or otherwise out of bounds) if it does, that a notification of a lawsuit is ignored at one’s own peril, whatnot. These, however, have a very different character than e.g. political speech.

**Exactly where to draw the border is a complex question and opinions will vary, but I would certainly argue that most, maybe all, advertising announcements in grocery stores are an unethical and unjustifiable intrusion, especially with an eye at the two facts that the customer has no means of escape and that he already is involved in an activity that will transfer money from him to the store, both of which should individually move him out of bounds. Spam is a great example when the reader is actually inadvertently exposed to it; even when he is not, it remains an intrusion through the additional effort needed to filter and delete, lost download volumes, etc.

The more relevant aspect of “reach”, however, largely amounts to when and whether a third-party has a duty to relay messages and to do so in a fair and undistorted manner. For instance, it would be unconscionable to require a regular newspaper to publish any and all articles sent in by prospective contributors.* This would not only be contrary to the idea of a newspaper, but might well lead to catastrophic consequences for the paper, through e.g. a lowered quality,** an increase in costs, and a lessened willingness of paying readers to remain paying readers.

*However, even here, a complete block of external input is not reasonable. For instance, if someone is the subject of claims by the newspaper or in a published letter-to-the-editor, he must have the right to point out any errors made and see the newspaper relay his objections to the readers.

**Well, maybe not these days, where journalists seem to be one of the single most incompetent groups of professionals in existence, but certainly in the past.

However, consider in contrast a telephony provider, an email provider, or similar: if any of these could unilaterally ban certain messages based on an opinion expressed,* it would be obviously and grossly unethical—not to say preposterous. The point of such providers is solely to, in exchange for some form of payment, allow the customers to engage in communications as they see fit, and to merely relay the messages at hand from the sender to the correct recipient. If the communications are not outright illegal** and do not constitute a fundamental abuse*** of the medium, the character of the communications are none of the provider’s business and it has no right to interfere.

*As opposed to, say, that these messages contained unsolicited advertising and other types of inherently illegitimate communications. Also note the great difference in principle between, say, an email provider blocking messages from a certain address “because racism” or whatnot and the intended recipient doing so. The former is a violation of rights; the latter a mere exercise of the right not to listen.

**Even in the case of illegal communications, there is legitimate room to debate who should intervene under what circumstances, and the current common stance that e.g. the likes of Facebook have a duty to not only intervene but to intervene preemptively, on its own initiative, and without proof, is extremely dubious. (And outright inexcusable when we move from legitimately illegal contents to those merely unwanted-by-the-government or those illegitimately illegal, as with various cases of legitimate speech that violates some too broadly defined “hate speech” law.)

***For instance, by using a medium intended for person-to-person contacts to engage in the automated sending of advertising messages to a greater group. In contrast, any political leaning expressed in a message is entirely and utterly irrelevant here.

Now, when it comes to service providers like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube, the ostensible purpose is to give the various users a channel to express themselves on arbitrary topics,* read/watch/hear the expressions of other users, keep in contact with each other, or similar. In this, they are far more similar to e.g. telephony providers than to newspapers. To this must be added complications like an often near monopoly position, where a refusal or restriction of service will hit disproportionately;** the great investment of time and similar that many users have behind them that would be lost if services are terminated; the existing audience that would be lost; etc. Most importantly, by skewing the debate through censorship, termination of service, “demonetization”, “shadow banning”, artificial penalties in search listings, addition of spurious “fact checks”, whatnot of those with the “wrong” opinions, there can be a very severe negative impact on society, as can be seen with the COVID censorship.*** Remember that any act of censorship is not just directed at and potentially harmful to the speaker but also at/to his intended audience. With providers of this type, very similar rules to e.g. a telephony provider must, then, apply—the provider must be virtually agnostic of the contents of messages and who is the sender and recipient of the messages.

*In contrast, a (clearly, officially, and from day one declared as) dedicated provider for a certain topic, e.g. Feminism, or a certain group, e.g. Feminists, would have more legitimate reasons to limit topics resp. debaters to Feminism resp. Feminists or whatever applies. However, even here, a sufficiently early communication must be made or a sufficient border be present. For instance, to just pretend to be an open forum and then to retroactively throw debaters out for being non-Feminist would be unacceptable. Similarly, if someone puts a blog in the world with an open comment function, complaining about or censoring commenters with the “wrong” opinions or the wrong sex is unacceptable—if someone wants a forum reserved for female Feminists, it should not be publicly available to any random visitor/commenter in terms of technology. (And, yes, I have encountered this type of blog repeatedly in the past.)

**Similar to the situation of a telephony provider in the old monopoly days, but as opposed to the situation today.

***While some politicians, Leftist activists, etc. claim that such providers have a duty to quash “misinformation”, “racism”, or similar, I see it as exactly the other way around: they have a duty to ensure that no opinion is suppressed and that the citizens’ right to form their own opinions is preserved. If in doubt, most of what I have so far seen condemned as “misinformation”, “racism”, whatnot has been nothing of the kind. Claims of “racism” are typically entirely unfounded, while true racism (e.g. through CRT) is given free rein. The claim of “misinformation” has been applied to anything from the factually correct and scientifically supported to the actually incorrect, with (especially for COVID) a significant portion being things yet to be determined and where the allegedly false position was not obviously implausible—indeed, often (again, especially for COVID) has later been validated by newer scientific results. This while true misinformation, including much of Leftist propaganda and government COVID propaganda, has been left alone. Indeed, whether a claim is factually right or wrong rarely seems to be a concern, while “is or is not compatible with the Official Truth” is the primary concern.

To this must be added ethical issues similar to those described in an older text on blog ownership and censorship, which hit the harder when the censor is not an immediately involved blog owner but an abstract far-away entity or an employee of that entity. Of course, individual blogs are another category worthy of discussion, but I will contend myself with the linked-to text, the many earlier texts relating to censorship in a largely blogosphere context, and the overlap with the above.

Excursion on abuse by employees, etc.:
Yet another reason why providers like Twitter should be very careful about censorship (etc.) is the risk of abuse through activist employees or employees who otherwise want to use the power of their employer to further a private agenda. Going by recent revelations, Twitter already had an official policy of censoring those in disagreement with the Left and/or the government, but it is easy to imagine a scenario where an employer has a policy of tolerance and this policy is undermined or circumvented by activist employees. By limiting censorship to extreme cases, e.g. child porn, and by having a reasonable set of due-process and appeal mechanisms, such abuse can be minimized. By having a culture of censorship at the drop of a hat, such abuse is set to flourish.

Excursion on other issues:
Chances are that there are quite a few other issues that also imply that providers must avoid censorship (etc.), and the above should not be seen as a complete analysis. Consider e.g. that a provider who already has a censorship-friendly culture will the more easily be turned into a tool for government censorship. (Note the recent revelations by Elon Musk of what went on in the pre-Musk days of Twitter.)

Excursion on gay weddings and service providers:
I must again note the odd hypocrisy involving the likes of Twitter vs., say, private web designers and bakers of cakes. If it is even remotely acceptable for Twitter as a relayer of information and as a provider of technical infrastructure, to censor information provided by the users or to ban users outright, how could it conceivably be wrong for a web designer to turn down a job to create a web site with a message that he disagrees with—a job involving hours, days, or more of personal work. Here we clearly see that it is not a matter of right-and-wrong or a developed ethical or pragmatical position of some other kind—it is matter exclusively of whether certain speech, behavior, whatnot is in accordance with the Leftist* orthodoxy. If we were to grant a right for Twitter to make such decisions, the we must a fortiori grant it to web designers and bakers of cake; if we were to deny web designers and bakers of cakes such a right, the we must a fortiori deny the right to Twitter.

*With minor variations in certain contexts, e.g. that some censorship might be directed at “COVID orthodoxy” or “government orthodoxy”, which, while often overlapping strongly with Leftist orthodoxy, are not synonymous.

Written by michaeleriksson

December 10, 2022 at 1:35 pm

Overruled choice

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And yet another few words on choice (see [1], [2], [3] for earlier entries):

Sometimes we have, or should have, a choice and we make that choice—only to have someone else overrule it. This was first brought to my mind again by seeing one of my recent posts altered by WordPress and its absurd handling of “Wordpress” vs. “WordPress”. I very deliberately write this name/word with a “p”; however, WordPress illegitimately and user-hostilely alters this “p” into a “P”. Correspondingly, chances are that the reader sees four variations of “Wordpress” in the two preceding sentences, out of which one is correctly spelled with a “p”, because the whole word is in quotations marks (which have so far prevented this illegitimate change), one is correctly spelled with a “P”, because I put it there for contrast, and two incorrectly and illegitimately with “P”, because the correct “p” was altered without my doing and without my consent. (Also see [4] for a variety of other absurd distortions by WordPress.)

This might be seem trivial, but it shows a very harmful attitude—and other examples abound.

To just remain with texts, we have cases like Twitter (at least, pre-Musk) manipulating messages by users; over-aggressive auto-correction/-suggestion distorting messages in a sometimes humorous, sometimes harmful manner;* over-aggressive automatic censorship in forums;** and, as I describe in [5], German police officers replacing coherent texts and other claims with the nonsense of a high-school dropout.

*I can only recommend turning these off. (“Hey, honey, I just kissed your sister. MISSED! MISSED!”)

**Notably, the type that stars out letters in certain words, e.g. by replacing “cock” with “c*ck” and “ass” with “*ss”. This is ethically dubious to begin with; and, more pragmatically, the victims of this include roosters and donkeys, and, in extreme cases, the likes of “cocktail” (“c*cktail”) and “Hancock” (“Hanc*ck”). Some star out the entire word and have no sense of word boundaries—whatever you do, do not write a text about an assassin assaulting and assassinating the unassuming passport-assessor’s assistant in a massive massacre—or you will look like a complete arse.

Consider a few non-text cases:

  1. I have read about (but do not remember the names involved) a museum dedicated to a single artist, that was set up in a particular house with a particular set of paintings in a particular configuration by the artist—with the non-negotiable stipulation that this setup must remain unchanged, house included. Long after the artist’s death, the board (or whatnot) of the museum decided to move the paintings to another building in another configuration because the old building would be too small to meet demand. (Not to mention: allow all of the potential profits to become realized profits.)

    A similar case can be argued for the Nobel Prizes, which are often given with little regard for the original stipulations* and to at least some** that Nobel would have strongly disapproved of.

    *The Peace Prize is a common sinner, to the point that it is not necessarily awarded for anything relating to peace… Note e.g. the ridiculous award to IPC and Al Gore. Also note a general trend to use the Prize as a means to send a political message, rather than to reward the winners. Last time around (2022), it was very obviously a message on the war in the Ukraine, with the actual merit of the Laureates quite secondary—if not them, then some similar constellation.

    **I know too little about Nobel’s personal preferences, ideology, whatnot to make a strong guess (beyond those met with near-universal skepticism, e.g. Yasser Arafat); however, in light of the extreme politicization and arbitrariness of the Literature and Peace Prizes, I assume that each contains a number of examples, even should the science Prizes not deliver any.

    In a similar family, we have a likely endless list of foundations, charities, and beneficiaries ignoring various stipulations and whatnots when they become inconvenient and there is no-one left to file a lawsuit.

  2. Leaving behind a spotlessly cleaned dorm room in Sweden before my move to Germany, I was hit with an entirely unjustified cleaning invoice* and the claim that I had stolen a lamp (or something similar—this was in 1997 and my memory is vague). I decided to take a stand and refuse payment, especially as the dorm company had repeatedly shown a student-hostile behavior and failed to live up to its contractual obligations, and I could only conclude that this was a deliberate attempt to defraud me. My mother went behind my back and paid the invoice “to avoid trouble”.

    *No, there was no blanket inclusion of this in the contract.

    In a similar family, we can include e.g. lawyers settling out of court when they have been instructed to pursue the case to the end.* I have read of at least on such German case, and suspect that they occur comparatively often. (I have also heard of one German case where a lawyer triumphantly told his client that he had fought a criminal case down to a heavy fine instead of a month (?) in prison. The client was upset, because he could not afford the fine and would have preferred a short prison sentence. This is more of a communication error, but it does demonstrate the pitfalls involved.)

    *Note the difference between telling a client that he should settle, even that he is an idiot for not settling, and unilaterally overriding his decision not to settle.

  3. Decisions that should belong to the one are sometimes unfairly vetoed or altered by the other. A stereotypical example is a sitcom couple going through a variation of “Peg! I’m going out with the boys!” and “No, you are not, Al!”.*

    *Note the major difference in principle between this and e.g. a hypothetical “Peg! I’m going to sleep with the neighbor’s wife!” and “The hell you are, Al!”. In the one case, the decision involves something which usually has no major effect on “Peg”, or where the refusal would affect “Al” the more or be more in violation of his rights; in the other, the potential effect, metaphorical breach of contract, whatnot, is usually far, far larger. A veto in the latter case is typically fair.

    (I have some trouble finding examples, as I seem to land at the border to other cases and non-cases, maybe from another text in this series. Consider, e.g., a traveller being turned away at a foreign border despite having done, and done correctly, everything that could and should be done before reaching the border, including all paperwork: How exactly is this to be classified? Will the classification depend on details not given in the example?)

  4. The world of software has many examples. For instance, when I last had my screen locker on, a few minutes ago, it displayed an annoying message about being out-of-date. This results from a conflict between the maker of the program (xscreensaver) and my Linux distribution (Gentoo; but I first encountered this issue as a Debian user)—the one wants updates to go over “upstream”, and has added an artificial check; the other over “downstream”, where updates can take place in a controlled and standardized manner, with checks for intra-distribution compatibility of various package and library versions. Here both are trying to thwart the choice made by the other.*

    *Who is in the right is open for debate, but I would side with the distribution when the software has been installed through the distribution (e.g. per emerge or apt-get), as opposed to a manual download/compile/install. This annoying message was the reason that I moved to another screen locker under Debian, and it might be time to repeat the process under Gentoo.

    A highly annoying case occurred when I travelled with a business notebook using Windows, provided by my then employer. I had deliberately put the sound on “mute” to avoid any negative surprises, overly loud noises, whatnot—including that I would only activate the sound at the right time* when watching a DVD in the evening. However, the pre-installed DVD player automatically and with no query unmuted the notebook as soon as it began playing—inexcusable.**/***

    *I.e. after any and all menus, trailers, and other annoyances.

    **And something that ideally should not even be possible: the system-wide and program-local settings for sound should be separate from each other, and the program should only have access to the program-local.

    ***Likely, one of the many, many cases where some idiot has reasoned that “unless we do this, some absolute beginner might be confused, unable to resolve the situation, or, worse, actually call the hotline; ergo, we do it and the real users can go fuck themselves”. (Sorry, “[…] f*ck themselves”.)

    Firefox is known for its idiotic practice of disabling existing options, while resetting the behavior of the browser to the behavior wanted by the developers—not the user. This in two forms: either by removing functionality from the official settings, while leaving the corresponding switch in about:config (with the value potentially altered from the user-chosen value), or by making a setting in about:config have no function, without giving any error or warning* to the user.

    *The reasoning seems to be that if there is an error or warning, someone could see this error or warning, or a script could fail—and either would be a disaster. This is an outright amateurish attitude, a true beginner’s error. The correct attitude is to do show an error or warning, so that (a) users know that something has changed, (b) they can adapt accordingly. This, of course, in particular in a script setting, where the consequences could otherwise be extremely unpredictable.

Excursion on drawing borders between cases:
It is often hard to draw borders between cases that are a good match for the above, cases that involve deliberate sabotage,* deliberate malicious distortion,** incompetence,***legitimate overrulings (cf. below), and maybe some other categories.

*Say, someone manipulating a (paper or digital) ballot to make the ballot invalid or to indicate another candidate than the one chosen by the voter.

**E.g. someone misquoting someone else for malicious purposes, e.g. in a court case.

***Consider e.g. a HTML form that has been (accidentally) misprogrammed or mislabeled to reverse the meaning of a checkbox or to scramble the possible meanings of a radio button.

A good example is Emvie Martin, an utter sub-human shit who cut down, distorted, and commented on my comments to create the impression that I agreed with her, when my comments actually disagreed. (And, yes, I feel very, very strongly about this type of horrifying behavior—the fraudulent invoice above was a lesser evil, in my eyes.) I originally planned to include this above, but soon realized that it fit better with “deliberate sabotage” and/or “deliberate malicious distortion”, leading to the writing of this excursion. Some acts by e.g. Twitter might also be closer to one of these, depending on the exact details, including the intentions behind the respective act.

Excursion on legitimate overrulings:
There are, however, many cases where an overruling is legitimate. Consider e.g. an employee told to order something for his employer. He fills out an order form indicating “green” as color choice, gives the form to his superior for verification/approval/corrections, and the superior changes the “green” to “blue”. Here, the legitimacy arises through only making a delegated choice for someone else’s benefit, where the “someone else” has a reasonable right to override the decision.

Choices that might seem unilateral but actually have other parties involved form an other case family. (Or are quasi-unilateral at one point of time, but not at another, after circumstances have changed.) Consider e.g. a scenario of one romantic partner inviting the other to Christmas dinner with the parents. Should they break up before the dinner, the original choice often becomes pointless or, if some variation of “I’ll be there!”, contingent on the approval of the other party. Similarly, if “the parents” raise objections, the original invitation might be void and the original choice, again, pointless.

A third family includes many instances of parents overruling the choice of a young child. Note e.g. the headache-pill story below, which I am open to view as a legitimate overruling and have not included in the main text. (The method and the breach of trust is a very different thing.) In contrast, the above story with the fraudulent invoice is not an example, as I was already 22 and in my 5th year as a legal adult. (Off-topic, I would also argue a civic duty to fight back against such fraud.)

Related cases, although arguably based more on potential misunderstanding of the nature of the apparent overruling than a true overruling, include those where the scope of a choice is limited and the choice, per se, is respected. For instance, the choice to appeal a verdict rests with the appealer, but the court handling the appeal might* have the option to turn the appeal down without more than cursory study. If so, it is not a matter of overruling the choice to appeal, which remains with the appealer, but of making a separate choice in a step following the appeal. (An analogue example with less risk for a misunderstanding of the mechanism is a marriage proposal: it is the decision to propose that rests with the proposer, not the decision to get married, which requires the consent of the “proposee”.)

*I am not aware of how this is handled in general and worldwide, but the SCOTUS certainly rejects more requests for certiorari than it accepts. A great many other courts might throw something out for formal reasons like “wrong court” or “past the deadline”.

Excursion on breach of trust and mothers:
As a word of warning to any readers who are mothers (or fathers): The above payment of an illegitimate invoice was one of several incidents that contributed very strongly to my drifting apart from my mother and not keeping contact and confidence during my adulthood, because they taught me that I could not trust and rely on my mother (in at least some regards). The, likely, first such incident took place when I was a very young child, maybe three or four, and she gave me a sandwich with a hidden headache pill of some kind. I did have a headache, but I had also refused the pill. That she tried to trick me into taking it hurt me more than if she had tried to force me to take it. It also raised questions like how many other times she had tricked me in the past, without my discovering it, and what other surreptitious manipulations of my food were taking place. (Try to see this event through the eyes of a small child, not of an adult.) The, maybe, last was when I was in my twenties and she began to brag to a random stranger, a cashier in a store, about something that I had told her in confidence. Yes, it was something positive, but it was also something that I did not want to be public knowledge—and even if I had, it was mine to tell, not hers.*

*A common fault of women is that they assume that anything told, seen, whatnot is free-for-all gossip material.

Disclaimer on completeness:
Neither this text nor the text series as a whole are intended to be complete analyses. There are bound to be many other interesting cases, exceptions, and complications, but I will draw a line here for this text and attempt to do so for the text series too.

Written by michaeleriksson

November 2, 2022 at 11:14 pm

Addenda to earlier texts

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Two addenda:

In [1], I speak of a fetus being connected to the mother by the umbilical cord. Strictly speaking, the umbilical cord connects fetus and placenta, with the placenta having an interface (or whatever term might be used) to the mother. In my case, I spoke without thinking the situation through; in the case of some others, there might be a genuine belief in the umbilical cord as a direct physical connection, similar to how the esophagus (and many other “pipes” and “cables” in the human body) is firmly attached at both ends,* and unlike how a pipe in a plumbing installation or an electric cable typically will be detachable on one or both ends. If so, it would go some way to explain the discussed misconception of the fetus as an actual part of the mother’s body. (Maybe, in that only the severing of the umbilical cord would create a physical separation, like the surgical separation of two Siamese twins. See excursion.)

*Indeed, with an eye at developmental history, the esophagus might be seen as part of a single long piece of plumbing, from mouth to anus, with a mere differentiation in role along the way. However, this does not affect the analogy.

In [2], I note that the West shut down access to Russian news-media over the Ukraine situation, with the implication of a wish to censor Russian war reporting and Russian perspectives on the war. There might, however, be something else behind it: I have visited the German web-edition of RT once or twice a week since the blockade began,*/** and have noted a considerable amount of non-war news and opinion contrary to what the German government likes to see. This includes critical takes on the German handling of COVID and on German energy policies. Maybe, the true reason is a wish to silence external critics of the German and other Western regimes? That the likes of RT might have broken through the one-sided, one-voiced, partisan messaging with an alternative take? (The war was then only a welcome excuse for the shutdown.)

*There are replacements sites and I use the tor network for most of my surfing, which makes the blockade easy to circumvent. I will not mention an explicit site, to avoid any anti-democratic or anti-rechtsstaatliche repercussions; however, finding one over an Internet search is likely easy.

**As I noted in some earlier text, the very fact of the blockade made me curious—Streisand effect.

Excursion on Siamese twins:
Siamese twins provide two other angles of attack against the “my body, my choice” idiocy. Firstly, even Siamese twins are typically* two adjoined bodies—not one shared body. Sometimes, the join might be extensive; sometimes, small and shallow. Sometimes, the one twin might depend on organs from the other; sometimes, they are independent. Even should umbilical-cord-is-a-fix-connection thinking be correct, it would be absurd to speak of the fetus as part of the mother, as, by implication, the one Siamese twin would a fortiori be part of the other.** Secondly, by applying “my body, my choice”, we could have situations like one twin committing suicide and taking the other, still wanting to live, with him.

*Maybe, always. I would need to research this more in depth. If, for instance, they are separate from the hips up, but have only one pair of legs and whatnots, is the lower body strictly shared—or is it more accurately viewed as belonging to one of the twins, with the other being legless and adjoined? In contrast, two fully formed bodies that just happen to stick together at the hips is clearly different from each other.

**With another complication of who is the “true” person and who the mere part.

Written by michaeleriksson

May 24, 2022 at 3:11 am

Further problems with freedom of speech, etc.

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After my recent text on Odd reactions around Putin and Russia / Problems with cancellations, freedom of speech, etc. ([1]), it seems that I run into examples of issues with freedom of speech everywhere, especially of the “conform or else” type.

To give some examples:

  1. Swedish blogger Gunnar Wall writes that he and others have been condemned as “farliga” (“dangerous”) och “skadliga” (“harmful”) for questioning the very dubious and widely criitcized quasi-identification* of Stig Engström as the murderer of Olaf Palme and because they “sår tvivel” (“sow doubt[s]”), which society would not need. Should we conclude that it is more important to have an undisputed “truth” than to have a debate about what the (real) truth is? That anything claimed by officials must be taken as true and beyond discussion?

    *See [2] and a number of backlinked texts for more information on my own take.

    Commenter “Michael” (not me) has a particularly insightful comment at “12 mars 2022 kl. 19:45”. A part (and approximate translation) of this long comment:

    Det tycks som om totalitära tänkesätt nästan blivit mode även i västliga demokratier. Anklagelserna mot de som åtminstone försökt […] sakligt klarlägga vad som faktiskt hände den där mordnatten […] faller tillbaka på de som yttrat dem. Att benämna fria debattörer och journalister som både “farliga” och “skadliga” är oanständigt i en demokrati. Har man invändningar eller tycker att något inte stämmer bemöter man på ett civiliserat och sakligt sätt. Absolut tilltro till staten är minst lika farlig som dess absoluta motsats.


    It appears that the totalitarian way of thinking has become fashionable even in Western democracies. The accusations against those who at least have tried […] to factually clarify what actually happened during the night of the murder […] condemns* the accusers. To call independent debaters and journalists “dangerous” and “harmful” is indecent in a democracy. If one has objections, or believes that something is wrong, one meets them** in a civilized and factual manner. Absolute trust in the state is at least as dangerous as the opposite.

    *Literally, “falls back on”. Think “I’m rubber; you’re glue”.

    **The “them” is arguably an interpolation. Both “them” and “meets” are slightly speculative for “bemöter”.

  2. A U.S. source claims that the DHS will target those with non-conforming opinions, specifically those with concerns over the 2020 elections and the official COVID claims. This despite the former being very legitimate and despite the latter being highly problematic. Notably, problems with COVID claims include repeated changes* to the official line and valid scientific criticisms that have not been debated with facts and arguments but attacked with “Fake news! Fake news!”.

    *That the official position changes in light of more information is not a problem; however, such changes (a) validate prior criticism, (b) clearly imply that other claims might turn out to be in need of revision or be outright faulty—and must therefore be open to criticism.

    Based on what I have seen of the U.S. in the Biden era, and often before that, this is more likely to be a bad-faith political attack on the Conservatives than a good-faith attempt at anything. (The source, Gateway Pundit, should be taken with a grain of salt in its interpretations, as it is almost as partial, in the other direction, as most of MSM. However, I have seen enough from other sources and my own observations to not give the DHS the benefit of the doubt here. Indeed, there seems to be a strong drift to mark large areas of non-Leftist opinions (!) as “domestic terrorism”.)

    This is particularly dangerous with regard to the elections, as the result, should this approach be used permanently, is that even a clearly fraudulent election, as when a Socialist dictator gains 99 percent of the votes, could not be criticized. Effectively: We have a count from the election—and that count must be accepted, no matter what irregularities, miscounting, misreporting, ballot harvesting, whatnot, took place. Democracy, my ass!

  3. Multiple sources concern how DeSantis is pushing a bill to remove opportunities for early brainwashing of children in Florida. Firstly, this bill appears to hava been grossly misrepresented by the Left as a “don’t say gay” bill. (The more absurd, as the Left is far more likely to push for the ban of words and phrases and/or to prescribe other words and phrases than the non-Left.) Secondly, extremely childish Leftists have made a point, based on this gross misrepresentation, to get into the faces of Republicans and chant “Gay! Gay! Gay!” or to perform similarly idiotic stunts.

    That reality distortion is a core strategy of the Left is nothing new, but this is an extremely illustrative example, both of the type of “we are good and tolerant; they are evil and intolerant” distortions that are so often used (and, as here, often prove the exact opposite in the process), and what type of harassment is considered legitimate or illegitimate based on who is the perpetrator and who is the victim (instead of the act and the facts)—reverse the roles and the same act might be condemned as hate speech. Violate the increasingly far-Left teachings and you will be slandered and mocked.

  4. The Daily Sceptic discusses Roger Harbin and the BBC respectively their anti-scientific take on climate change. The problems include a 2006 unilateral decision that the science would now be settled (of course, with condemnation of gainsayers as “climate deniers” or some other derogatory term) and odd terminology changes like replacing “global warming” with “global heating”.

    The latter is not only extremely misleading in its natural connotations*, but (according to the article) was brought on by a lack of warming over a prolonged time—absent what we warn of, we must warn the harder and use the more alarming words, lest our support diminishes. (Note that this well matches my observations on the Left, e.g. in that Feminists cry the louder how disadvantaged women would be the less disadvantaged they actually are—let alone when women are actually advantaged, as in e.g. my native Sweden, where public debate might create the impression of 19th-century conditions for women.)

    *Contrast e.g. “warm day/air/water” with “hot day/air/water” with an eye at the temperatures involved. Indeed, with water as a baseline, even “teppid” might be an exaggeration.

    The former, more on topic, is a splendid example of an “Official Truth” that must not be opposed—or else. This is the more sad as my own take on global warming, climate change, whatnot, has become increasingly sceptical the more I have informed myself. While I have yet to arrive at a firm conclusion, I note that there is a disturbing tendency to just shout “Climate denier! Climate denier!” instead of rationally debating the many concerns raised by various scientists and debaters—up to and including whether a warming trend or trend towards more CO2 is automatically a bad thing. (Something, which is more assumed, as another indisputable “Official Truth”, than it is explained by factual arguments.) Of course, as with COVID, this refusal to engage in scientific debate makes it the harder for us laymen to actually develop a valid opinion.

  5. A Substack interview with Eugyppius goes into related issues with an eye (mostly) on COVID.

    To just quote a portion of the first question, as it sets the scene well (and note that “random internet denizens” are increasingly prevented from speaking their minds):

    Over the last 6 years or so I’ve seen a kind of (as of yet) unidentified sclerosis creep into widely used online infrastructure; the internet as I knew it became less responsive to my questions and interests, more prone to elevating mainstream sources to satisfy query inputs, less likely to guide me to the individuals actually concerned with whatever problems I was facing. The usual channels for learning more about niche experiences like Google and YouTube became virtually useless, and I began to spend more of my time looking to people on Twitter or rustic web forums for answers, most of whom were anonymous like yourself. But this phenomenon seemed intuitively backward—random internet denizens were somehow producing more insightful commentary on pretty much every matter than highly credentialed experts and capital-heavy institutions.

    (I recommend reading the entire text.)

Finally, I point to a long discussion of both free speech and Russia–Ukraine by a Catholic archbishop. While the free-speech part probably does not add anything new relative my own writings, the Russia–Ukraine part goes through much of what amounts to the other (non-Western) side of the story in [1], which makes it a good complement to that text.

Written by michaeleriksson

March 14, 2022 at 9:52 pm

The intellectually dishonest harming their own causes / Follow-up: various

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As I have discussed in some earlier texts (e.g. [1]), the problems associated with replacing a fair debate with “Fake news! Fake news!”, censorship, and other anti-intellectual and intellectually dishonest methods can be grave. An interesting issue is that this type of “argumentation” often backfires, both in that the intellectually dishonest lose credibility, much like the boy who cried wolf, and that they will lose an audience for solid arguments (should they exist) resp. the chance to present these arguments.

In particular, those who are strong critical thinkers, know science and logic, are used to think for themselves, etc., are exactly those who tend to be put off by this type of “argumentation”. In contrast, those who fall for it tends to be the gullible, those who cannot or will not think for themselves. (Note the stark contrast with official propaganda around COVID, where, somehow, the gullible are the enlightened and the thinkers in need of “education” or whatnot. Also note [2], where I discuss by own vaccine situation and the issues of intellectually dishonest, sometimes even outright terrifying, propaganda.)

Consider the case of side-effects from the COVID-vaccines. There appear to be two camps over the last year-or-so:

Firstly, the mainstream camp, which claims that side-effects are far too rare to be of concern—and which supports this opinion more with defamation of the other camp than with arguments, statistics, science, whatnot. An important special case is the sometime identification of those skeptical towards the current COVID-vaccines or their use with the older and more general anti-vaccine movement. (Yes, members of the latter are highly likely to be members of the former, but the opposite does not automatically apply and there are legitimate concerns around the COVID-vaccines and their use that are not relevant to the debate on vaccines in general.)

Secondly, the opposing camp, which claims that the side-effects outweigh the benefits for those not in a risk-group, and at least try to support this stance with arguments, statistics, science, whatnot.

This second camp, however, contains a spectrum ranging from those who believe that the risks, while unnecessary and not outweighed by any vaccine benefits, are very small, to those who believe that the risks are very large. (And especially the latter might make further going claims than those mentioned above.)

If (!) the mainstream camp is correct, or at least approximately correct, in that the “very small” side of the opposing spectrum is correct, why not take the debate, clarify the situation, and avoid fears in the population that the “very large” side of the opposing spectrum is correct? Vice versa, if the mainstream camp is incorrect, this should be established as soon as possible, to reduce the risks to the people.

Example: Apparently, a great number of athletes have dropped dead after taking a vaccine and are making the headlines of alternative media,* while being ignored or explained away with (often) weak arguments in mainstream media. Assume that we were instead to perform some type of baseline comparison, to establish whether the aggregate numbers are higher than they normally are and/or whether the rate of death is higher within some time after taking the vaccine than among the unvaccinated. If they are not, this would be a significant (and, for once, legitimate gain) for the mainstream camp; if they are, this should be brought to common knowledge and begin** to influence policy as soon as possible.

*Sometimes, regrettably, after merely dropping dead, with only a speculated connection to the vaccine—neither camp is perfect.

**However, an increase does not automatically give us vaccines as the cause of that increase. The conclusion would be tentative and the correct measure would be to scale back vaccinations (outside risk groups) while further investigations are made.

Similarly, the mainstream camp has pushed a narrative that the unvaccinated would be a threat, would allow the virus to survive*/mutate/become more virulent/whatnot. This usually through argumentation-by-assertion. The opposing camp has the opposite take—that “over-vaccination” creates more dangerous versions of the virus, and that the vaccine is better left to risk groups. This stance is supported by arguments, empirical knowledge about viruses in general,** and reason. Indeed, when it comes to antibiotics, the mainstream stance is (or has historically been) the same—we should use antibiotics with restraint, lest some bacterial strains develop immunity and leave us defenseless. Again: if the mainstream camp has it right, it should take the debate and try to win that debate based on better arguments; if it has it wrong, we must learn this as soon as possible and policy must be adapted.

*A particular perfidious claim as there is no greater chance of exterminating COVID than the flu—even with a fully vaccinated population.

**Where the characteristics of different viruses have to be factored in. As has been noted repeatedly by experts, the characteristics of e.g. the viruses behind smallpox and COVID are very different, making the successful anti-smallpox strategy pointless with COVID. In contrast, COVID does have much in common with the flu, and lessons from major flu epidemics are more valuable.

Speaking for myself, I am genuinely concerned about at some point being forced to take one of the current vaccines. This, and pay attention here, not because I believe that the risks are very large, but because the risks are unknown to me. In particular, as things currently stand, there is no possibility for me to give “informed consent” in any reasonable sense of the phrase—the behavior of the mainstream camp has ensured that I am uninformed*. In contrast, COVID is a known risk—and that risk is very small for me, as I am not a member of a risk group. I would effectively be weighing a known very small risk against an unknown risk somewhere in the range from very small to very large.**

*Note that this is a type of uninformed that differs from that of the ignorant average citizen: I have a considerable, if still layman-level, amount of information on various topics and sub-topics, but they are often subject to great uncertainties and conflicts of “presumed-expert-A says one thing and presumed-expert-B another”—and where clarity cannot be found, because the one side refuses the debate with the other, implying that any single source will present its arguments (or “arguments”) unopposed. (To which, cf. the next footnote, must be added that some items might still be unknown or unknowable even to competent experts.)

**And this just looking at the somewhat near future. In addition, I have seen some raise concern about unknown long-term damage. This is both natural and valid, but it is interesting that the mainstream camp raised early such concerns about COVID, but is now trying to squash any such concerns about the vaccinations. Again, the argumentation is not directed at rational decision making but at increasing COVID fears or avoiding vaccine fears—and never mind the underlying reality.

To this I might add that the incorrectness of claims from the mainstream camp is often indisputable—not merely an issue of something unknowable, a difference in opinion, or similar. For instance, some months back, I read a text where some utter idiot argued that because our school children would be extra super-duper vulnerable to COVID, it would be extra super-duper important to prioritize vaccinations for said school children. However, experiences gathered over roughly two years show indisputably that school children are extremely unlikely to fall victim—either they avoid infection to begin with or the infection, with very, very few exceptions, never moves beyond something trivial. Indeed, school children might be the single age group(s) who are naturally the safest.

On the upside, there seems to be a trend towards more common sense at the moment, including positive claims by the WHO and the U.K., but it is too early to be truly hopeful—and it has yet to make any noticeable change in Germany (where I live).

Written by michaeleriksson

January 20, 2022 at 3:49 pm

Spiegel Online and Cancel Culture

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Looking for some information on the current heat-wave, I made the mistake of visiting the truly loony Left German magazine Der Spiegel/Spiegel Online.* I found nothing on the heat-wave, but stumbled on a frightening and frighteningly ignorant piece on “cancel culture”. I will not even try to analyze this (additionally confused and poorly written) piece in detail, but a few remarks that show how absurdly the Left sees and/or distorts the world:

*A very large proportion of the main newspapers and magazines in Germany are paywalled. Der Spiegel is an at least partial exception.

The main thesis appears to be that the term “cancel culture” is an evil rhetorical trick to avoid justified criticism—an outrageous insult to the many who have been canceled and lost jobs, friends, whatnot, over often harmless or scientifically correct opinions.

That the criticism is justified is taken as a blanket truth, again quite contrary to what is seen in real life. Indeed, the vast majority of all such accusations that I have seen have at best been exaggerated or out-of-proportion, and quite often outright wrong. (Cf. a number of older texts.)

The effects of cancellation are trivialized through claims like “In Einzelfällen verlieren die Kritisierten dadurch einen Job, kriegen aber oft sehr schnell einen anderen.” (“In individual cases* the criticized lose a job, but often rapidly find a new one.”). Not only are these “individual cases” quite common,** but far from everyone manages to find a new job in a timely manner, and even those who do find a new job might pay a major price through a loss of income, a career reset, the need to relocate, …

*“Einzelfälle[n]” has a stronger note of rarity than “individual cases”.

**Indeed, as I recently noted, even a spouse with the wrong opinions can be grounds for a firing in the U.S. The situation is not as dire in Germany, but it is bad and growing worse. Idiocies like the linked-to text do further harm.

The cancellation* of an appearance by Lisa Eckhart** during a literature festival (“Literaturfestival”) is taken as a non-issue: her appearance was canceled at short notice for fear of attacks or whatnot and the author of the linked-to text has the audacity to speak of “ein Gespenst”***. In a best case scenario, this amounts to a dubious “there was nothing to fear but fear itself”; in a worst case, it puts the entire phenomenon of “cancel culture” on the level of “just imagination and exaggeration”. The latter is born out by the rest of the text, which to a large part makes that claim; the former could be a contextual half-truth, in that the fears that lead to the cancellation might have been unfounded. That does not remove the damage done to Frau Eckhart and it sets a dangerous precedent for Germany that follows an established U.S. pattern: “We really do support free speech and would love to have you appear. Buuuut: We simply cannot take the risk.” That too, reduces freedom of speech, the spread of opinions, and whatnot, and ultimately it does not matter how someone is brought to an involuntary silence—only that someone was brought to an involuntary silence.

*Note that some of the variations of “cancel” that appear here are literal.

**She was not previously known to me, so I will not speak on details around her. She is alleged to, as a professional comedian, have made homophobic/racist/whatnot jokes.

***Contextually, “phantasm” or other imaginary threat. However, note “Ein Gespenst geht um in Europa” and how that once turned out.

This is the type of blind-to-the-world (or the-truth-does-not-matter) Leftist populism and extremism that makes Spiegel Online unreadable, a news source for idiots, the type of thing that really would need to be canceled. It is also a proof that there is a “Lügenpresse” and/or an “Inkompetenzpresse”.

Written by michaeleriksson

August 12, 2020 at 8:27 pm

Destructive anti-“fake news” measures

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One of the worst parts of the whole fake-news-and-whatnot debates are attempts by e.g. Facebook, Twitter, and Google to filter what others read. I point e.g. to the recent interventions of Twitter against Trump’s twittering (cf. e.g. [1]) or repeated complaints by Ron Unz that his website(s) has been recently thrown off Facebook and severely punished in Google’s search rankings (at least [2], [3], [4]).* The move, e.g. in Germany, towards laws that would increasingly force Internet services to perform such censorship or distortion is horrifying.

*To boot, Ron Unz seems to have been hit in an entirely unfair and illogical manner, based on guilt by association, despite his site being intended for free speech from any and all direction. (But beware that I have only skimmed through the linked-to articles—they are quite long.)

In the current free-speech crisis this is a disaster—and it would be so, even if the distortions were guaranteed to be introduced fairly and competently. In reality, however, more-or-less the opposite is guaranteed. (Cf. earlier texts, notably [5].)

Such interventions will not only reduce free speech for e.g. ignorants, but will also cause both true statements to be censored and highly legitimate opinions to be drowned out, cementing existing opinion corridors. A particular danger is that services like Facebook will tend to over-censor based on complaints, e.g. that a dozen people write in and says “this text is racist” causing Facebook to delete it to avoid criticism, controversy, or legal measures, even when the text was nothing of the kind.*

*I am not aware of Facebook’s current policy and behavior, but I did repeatedly observe exactly this type of behavior for comments on Swedish online news-papers some ten to fifteen years ago, when I still read them. Someone complains about e.g. xenophobia and a comment was gone—regardless of whether the comment was xenophobic and whether there was some value to it. (Whether one of mine was ever affected, I do not remember, but I have plenty of own experiences from e.g. Feminist blogs. Cf. many texts from my early years on WordPress.)

A good example is the COVID-19 debates and how certain opinions are deemed inviolably true and others “fake news” in a situation where the actual scientific knowledge is/was* limited and even highly qualified experts often disagreed—indeed, even statements by a highly qualified expert were considered “fake news”, if they did not adhere to “the official truth”. Or consider topics like IQ, where the near scientific consensus among experts is overruled by journalist, politicians, and social scientists making claims outside their area of expertise (and very often driven by ideology to boot).

*The state of knowledge is still (2020-05-27) highly incomplete, but it is much, much better than a few months ago. Still, the “fake news” claims where present even back then …

Looking at Trump (cf. [1]), apparently:

Twitter slapped a warning label on one of President Trump’s tweets for the first time on Tuesday, cautioning readers that despite the president’s claims, “fact checkers” say there is “no evidence” that mail-in voting would increase fraud risks – and that “experts say mail-in ballots are very rarely linked to voter fraud.”

Firstly, the fear, even outright opinion, that mail-in ballots would increase the risk of fraud is perfectly legitimate and nothing that e.g. Twitter should interfere with. Should someone be of the opposite opinion, have strong counter-arguments or references to solid research, whatnot—then twitter back. To find the truth, to allow the individual to form his own opinions, etc., we need debate and not various types of censorship and imposition of “truth”.

Secondly, how do we now that the “fact checkers” are worth their salt? Competent and unbiased? Who, at all, are they? Are we talking a group of neutral leading political scientists (or whoever might have expertise on mail-in ballots) or two Democrat-voting, minimum-wage Twitter employees sitting in a basement? Similarly, what experts? What do other experts say?* Etc.

*While I have no own knowledge in the area, I note that [1] claims e.g. “[…] several experts have called mail-in balloting an invitation to widespread fraud.” and “”Absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud,” read the conclusion of a bipartisan 2005 report authored by the Commission on Federal Election Reform, […]”, which makes it likely that the issue cannot be written off as e.g. a “real medicine vs. homeopathy” stand-off. (And, unlike with homeopathy, the claim is not ludicrous a priori.)

The current trend must be turned on its head: Laws must non-negotiably require various service providers to deliver all contents, not obviously illegal*, that a user publishes unaltered, unabridged, uncommented, uncensored, un-discriminated-against (in e.g. search rankings). Moreover, they must required e.g. that everyone is accepted as a user on the same terms**, irrespective of e.g. political beliefs and how many others might disapprove. Should e.g. the government, the PC crowd, the film industry want to shut-down or censor a user, they will have to target*** that user on their own. The only action allowed, barring a court order of some kind, by the service providers is to provide the complainants with enough information to proceed—and even that might, depending on the exact situation, require a court-order. (This notably when a reasonable anonymity, a pre-requisite for free speech in e.g. dictatorships, would be threatened—say that a Chinese dissident uses an anonymous U.S. service, that the Chinese government request his name and address, and that the service provider just hands it out.)

*Some types of file sharing or child-pornography, e.g., might fall in the category “obviously illegal”.

**These terms might, however, include provisions that are fair and relevant, e.g. that certain services require payment (from all users …) or exclude minors.

***By notifying the police, filing a civil lawsuit, requesting a court order, or what might be appropriate in any given case.

More generally, the common attitude that “I have the right to change statements by others as I see fit” must disappear. Cf. e.g. various texts on distortions by WordPress (if comparatively minor) or the absolutely inexcusable comment manipulations by Emvie Martin—which make me hope that there is a hell so that she can burn in it. Her behavior was so far beyond the acceptable that there should be a law against it.

Excursion on “the official truth” (“den officiella sanningen”):
This phrase was already quite popular in Sweden certainly fifteen, possibly even twenty, years ago, e.g. with regard to gender-feminist pseudo-science, which was thoroughly disproved by real science, yet held sway among journalists and politicians (and, sadly, still does). Over the last few years, many other countries have caught up and the phrase is highly relevant for e.g. the current U.S.

Written by michaeleriksson

May 27, 2020 at 7:36 pm