It is a System.

I grant that the way I’m viewing it is perhaps different, and has deviated somewhat from those initial statements. I grant also the ever persistent problem that all these words we use mean different things to each of us.

Would it be accurate to say that what you are taking issue with in that statement is the idea that the “mob” has a conscious, clarified agenda, and is actively, intentionally out looking for people to ruin with the goal of weeding everyone out? That there is, to an extent, a “mastermind brain” to the mob? I think I’m losing you when you say “and let God sort them out?”.

The way I read it was saying for a mob (and I think perhaps the word mob is too loaded with connotation here - perhaps better to say the “movement”) (update: I mean here merely ‘a thing that moves’) there is a necessary pre-requisite that anyone who is punished is indeed guilty. The ‘movement’ cannot be viewed as a “reign of terror” if all those who have been tried and punished (and here we’re being generous in saying there even is a ‘trial’) were indeed guilty. So the “movement” cannot itself acknowledge that there is certain instances where it erred in judgement.

It must maintain itself to maintain itself.

Perhaps where we differ is I don’t view it as a “movement” or even a “mob”. I see it as a system. A system whereby when you introduce something into it, and encourage it, it has unintended consequences.

When social media was rising, there wasn’t any pernicious overlord (I could be wrong) hoping to entrap people and takes us to where we are today, getting everyone addicted, and infiltrating every aspect of our lives, but it becomes its own thing, against its creators designs. Like Frankenstein.

It’s looking at how an abstract system like that works out in reality, and how that reality feeds back into the system. It’s about how it is that the beautiful mathematical insights seem to recede further and further into the distance as the system trundles along and becomes its own thing—its own messy, unpleasant and inefficient human thing.

We know how politics work in these systems. Very often, if you’re not implementing the thought of the beloved chairman, your superiors will decide that there’s something wrong with you and you’re obviously a problematic political element who needs to be eliminated. So the categories you use are likely to reflect the ideas of your superiors, even if you know that they’re wrong.

Source: The Politics of Information | Five Books Expert Recommendations

Now saying that, I’m not suggesting that there is indeed a ‘chariman’, at least not in a physical embodiment. But the system cannot be controlled. That is what I worry about. That is why I wrote about the snowball slowly ascending the mountain. Perhaps no-one rolling the snowball means to hurt anyone on the other side of the mountain, but it doesn’t really matter. Once it reaches the crest, no moment of clarification can stop what is already in motion. It becomes harder to see where the lines are crossed, and it takes on a life of its own when it becomes the general, encouraged, only acceptable, way of being in society.

That’s maybe where we’re clashing. I’m not saying this an attack. I don’t think it is. I think there are people who genuinely think they are doing good. But the effects of this good must be considered. I’m certainly not smart enough to do the considering or ‘reckoning with’ myself. I’m trying to grasp hold of it just like anyone else. But it is troubling, and I think to pretend otherwise is playing fast and loose with a system that will not play prejudice. In the same way the virus does not care, soon, neither will the system. (System here meaning the inanimate glob).

Now where I maybe differ from @ayjay is I’m not attributing this necessarily to those lusting for social control—not in large. But I can see that a side effect of the system, this system in particular, will of course, in its evolved form, reflect something of the ideas of those that are right now doing the “cancelling”. So society then becomes the place where you don’t see the “mob” anymore, and that’s because there is no need for it; everyone is doing their diligent, scrutinising self-policing. There is no-one tweeting the research of a Black Professor that says “maybe violent protests aren’t blankedly a good thing” because they know if they do they’ll be fired from their job. So society sees no ‘mobs’ and everyone breathes easy, thinking all is good, but there are no mobs because no-one dare say anything that may waken the slumbering mob, even if they know the thing isn’t actually, or wasn’t once, an offence to lose one’s job over. This may seem hyperbolic but I’m really not sure it is.

If I were, today, to tweet out this particular research right now, and my employer could call me up and say they’re going to fire me for it… I don’t think it unreasaonable to be at least somewhat concerned with where this is heading.

Of course, this is by no means the bigest issue facing humanity right now. But I believe we brush it under the carpet and make excuses for it at our own peril.

To what you said about wishing “true and actual racist behaviour” were called out in the same manner, I would argue that it is, and has. That’s why there were protests. That’s why there there has been this awakening. That’s why the movement is moving.

The movement is not the snowball.

And lastly, to what you say about how “giving precious and plaintive column inches to the accused is out of proportion,” I would agree; but it goes both ways. It can’t be that we can print a piece that destroys someone’s life, then after the fact say “there are more important things we could be talking about than this, no-one should waste any more time and energy on it. Go do something proper about racism” “go print something that is actually about racism?” Have I missed your point there? It seems to me you’re saying that these pieces shouldn’t be printed in the first place (whether the initial ‘takedown’ or the pieces criticising the takedown?)

Because to say that everyday racism is getting “absolutely zero column inches” really doesn’t seem to be the case..?

To add to that; you cannot see the system from inside the system. Each time the “movement” metes out its punishment, whether it was justified or not, it reinforces in itself, in the system, it replicates, and convinces itself; it is just.

Do you, and this isn’t rhetorical, think that someone should get fired for tweeting a piece of research from a Black University professor of his findings regarding violent protests? Because I don’t. In the same way I don’t think that Priyamvada Gopal should have been fired for tweeting ‘white lives don’t matter’. And the thing is, this isn’t only just happening now. The snowball didn’t just start getting rolled two months ago. To say these are isoloated incidents doeesn’t seem true anymore.

I’m taking this out of context (it’s from Anna Wiener’s ‘Uncanny Valley’ and is referring to silicon valley, but I think it maybe explains in very few words what I feel I have failed to convey here:

They are half-accidentally creating an ecology with unexpected consequences and unanticipated evolutionary niches, occupied by strange new predator and prey relations.

Maybe, on second thought, a few more words would serve:

What happens is that people begin to turn the system to their own uses. She describes how the creepier elements of the alt-right and neo-Nazis begin to colonize GitHub as a means of first of all, organizing protests against the perceived dominance of the man-hating-women in the technology industry and then as a platform to organize support for Trump. This is not something that the designers of the system ever expected. But when they create these open systems, which have a minimal degree of human oversight, people are of course going to start finding unexpected ways to use them. Some of these unexpected uses can be wonderful and extraordinary and transformative, but given the way human beings are, some are going to be self-interested and some downright creepy and nasty.

Maybe it’s important to distinguish (note to self) that as much as it feels like Twitter is the nucleus of modernity, it actually only represents a small data set of the whole.

Maybe this guy wouldn’t have lost his job if instead of tweeting the research, the exchange was instead at a bar, or a bbq, or a friend of a friend’s wedding, and he merely said “Oh I read this thing”… I’m not sure.

Maybe I’m overstating how big a part of the ‘system’ the internet is. I don’t know.

To acknowledge there is both a baby and some bathwater is not to flush them both.

For anyone still following the conversation, in response to the interpretation I am urging to throw the baby out with the bathwater:

Since it it pertains specifically to me, I’d like to clarify that by no means was I “urging to throw the baby out with the bathwater”.

To express concern that a habit has the potential (and I’d argue it already has) to get out of hand should not be conflated with, nor construed as, me urging we do away with ever calling out intolerance, and sit idly by letting all say as they please.

“For we are what we repeatedly do”.

Forgive me in advance if this seems like a crude reduction of comparison; I once drank alcohol because it made me feel good, and I considered myself exempt from ever accruing a dependence upon it, and ignored and denied its capacity for pernicious consequences.

That didn’t stop me from ending up blind to said dependence for years, and falling victim to said pernicious conequences. Because not everyone is addicted to it, does not remove the fact it is an addictive substance.

Someone tells me “hey, be careful it’s addictive you know” and I say “don’t be silly, I have this under control, I’m not like them.

And then I start making excuses, and I start justifying why it’s okay to have just one more drink.

And I say “well how can it be that bad? Everyone else is doing it?” and society morphs itself into a place where it’s more frowned upon to refuse a drink than it is to partake.

And then there’s a glossy TV advert that takes the image I want to have of myself, packages it up and sells me it, and I drink it down, hook line and sinker.

Sinker being the operative word here.

And in preemptive response to those who shall surely see this and (perhaps rightly) say: “Look at this privileged white-guy grasping to draw comparisons to alcoholism and conbatting racism”, I’ll say there’s a reason allegory and parables exist. There’s a reason why we tell stories to paint the picture that would be otherwise missed…

“Well now, that coarseness that’s so upsetting to Ann’s feelings, is to my mind a recommendation, for it do always prove a story to be true. And for the same reason I like a story wi’ a bad moral. My sonnies, all true stories have a coarseness or a bad moral, depend upon’t. If the story-tellers could ha’ got decency and good morals from true stories, who’d ha’ troubled to invent parables?” – Thomas Hardy, Under the Greenwood Tree

And in light of the claim I am regurgitating “nonsense”, referencing what is said here I’d say I hadn’t read this post, and in light of having done so, I’d say it doesn’t actually say anything at all, except takes quotes from the original piece.

If we were to say I was regurgitating anything at all, I’d be more inclined to say I’m regurgitating what is said here.

And I enclose the word “nonsense” in air-quotes not because I am refuting it to not be nonsense, and more that I think hand-waiving-away a sincere request that we pause and say “are we sure we’re actually heading in the right direction here?” as nonsense, is in itself, quite poor “reasoning”.

The problem with the Washington Post publishing a 3000 word featrue article (online and in print), is, amongst many other things, it “twice violated its own editorial policy” forgetting that it claims “fairness includes relevance,”. Not about whether people at the party did anything about it (which they did), but about whether it is right for a major news publication to decide to run a piece like this, claiming it to be newsworthy, and of upmost importance is signifcantly undermimed by the fact that the employee in question who did nothing was meted out a punishment that amounted to… well… nothing:

But the lack of any managerial consequences for Toles would seem to undermine the newspaper’s case that the story was newsworthy: How can Toles’s failure to promptly order Schafer out of his house be simultaneously so important that it merits feature-length coverage in the paper and not important enough to merit workplace discipline?

And when we’re at a place where powerful news oganisations (on both sides) are being defended and applauded for deeming it their prerogative to run something like this, or anything or a similar nature, I think there’s enough “reasoning” to warrant someone pointing out that the snowball we currently see getting rolled up the mountain right now, however small or large it may presently be, has to, at some point, come bumbling down the otherside.

To save yourself, all you have to do is circumavigate, and start pushing it up with every one else. Or sit quietly by, and let them have at it.

If a person voicing their being concerned is equivalent to “insulting any community which engages in cancel culture” is what’s happening here, then so be it. (I don’t, however, believe it is), and insinutating any such thing is getting dangerously close to the tone policing that is decried.

To regurgitate some of my other thoughts on this, I’ll copy them below:

  1. Just because something becomes (or looks liable to become) a runaway train does not mean it didn’t have a (worthy and necessary) destination to begin with.

  2. However it simply feels reckless to dismiss the potential ramifications and clumsy-negative habits formed from allowing something such as this to go unchecked, granted immunity and impunity to moonlight as progressive, protected from any inquiry or criticism by virtue of its virtuous beginning.

  3. Things build from the bottom up, and because there is, and was, good in the beginning does not mean there is no room for misuse and when misuse becomes the norm the damage is done and must be unpicked in reluctant bashful hindsight.

  4. When the oppressor becomes simply anyone at all that is other than the one/group that calls out the oppressing, you’ve lost sight of the actual villain:

  5. “Where all are guilty, no one is; confessions of collective guilt are the best possible safeguard against the discovery of culprits, and the very magnitude of the crime the best excuse for doing nothing.” —Hannah Arendt

  6. To accept it as a justified end beccause it “turns out, that’s a shitty thing to experience.” would be to see the victims being only whites, which isn’t the case. Everyone and anyone is fair-game, except when a rival mob turns the cancelling on one of its own, when suddenly, conveniently, rules and bounds are now introduced. I also fail to see how a “see we ruined your life, it’s not very nice is it?” can be the most efficacious tract to take towards a unifying of cause. The mob eats its own, directing its ire redundantly at those who were already on board. The criteria of admission to the “good-side” becomes increasingly small. Deviation from the line is tantamount to Dissent; dissent then tantamount to herecy; the punishment; exile.

I’ll remind you, to paraphrase Elizabeth Bruenig:

“There’s something unsustainable about an environment that demands constant atonement but actively disdains forgiveness.”

I wonder: is this the snowball-ridden hill I wish to die on?

Morning discussion synchronously aligned with today’s poem. Cut the threads of revenge and disrobe the envenomed robe.

“Freedom is not achieved by satisfying desire, but by eliminating it” —Epictetus

Not more, but less. Not release, but removal. Not repression, but relinquish. Copy/Paste made this: “Freedom is not archived” which I quite like; bloody machines writing better than us—again.

📚 Poems Read:

Vuong’s success as a writer is all the more impressive for the way in which he has sought to challenge the often-closed circuit of the lyric: ‘I think the strongest poems allow themselves to collapse completely before even suggesting resurrection or closure’

“get up. The most beautiful part of the body

is where it’s headed. & remember,

loneliness is still time spent

with the world.”

One of Olds’s strengths as a poet is to write passages which read frictionlessly, but which on close inspection reveal complex and subtle formal patterning.

In addition to her descriptive and technical virtuosity, Olds is known for her ability to write poems of striking emotional candour and openness, in which the affective life of the poet is connected obliquely to questions of class, race, gender, national history and religious identity. In the remarkable ’Grey Girl’, included in her recording for the Archive, she describes herself walking down Park Avenue with the poets Yusuf Konumyakaa and Toi Derricotte. Olds proceeds to analyse her desire to tell these two poets about her knowledge of ‘white people’,about the particulars of her own upbringing, and her underlying desire in this moment to ‘win something in the war of the family, to rant in the faces / of the war-struck about her home-front pain’. What makes Olds’s more explicitly political poetry compelling, as in this instance, is her disinterest in exemplary conduct; rather, she examines closely a moment of complex self-absorption, and it is exactly this difficult work of self-scrutiny which gives rise to the poem’s most illuminating moments. ‘It is hard to see oneself as dangerous / and stupid, but what I had said was true’, she writes, and there is something in these two lines which illuminates a central principle of Olds’s project. Her work privileges the idea of saying the ‘true’ at the expense of other considerations, perhaps above all the question of how she, personally, might be perceived. If, at times, this has meant that her work has encountered resistance from a patriarchal poetic culture uncomfortable with her subject matter—notoriously, early in her career she received her rejection letter recommending she send her poems to Ladies’ Home Journal—the pursuit of truth in her writing has expanded the terrain of contemporary poetry, creating a space for a generation of subsequent poets to write poetry about their lives in a new way.

“on the sidewalk-as we kept going, I sensed

two living beings, and one

half idiot, a grey girl walking. Who did she

think she was, to relish herself

for hating herself, to savor, proudly,

the luxury of hating her own people.”

I adopt my Father’s mannerisms increasingly, non-consciously. Legs crossed eating with a targetless-gaze at nothing in particular.