Sunday, September 25, 2016

Planet of Slums

Planet of Slums by Mike Davis
London:  Verso, 2006
ISBN-13:  978-1-84467-160-1

(9)  Indeed, in many cases, rural people no longer have to migrate to the city:  it migrates to them...

The result of this collision between the rural and the urban in China, much of Southeast Asia, India, Egypt, and perhaps West Africa is a hermaphroditic landscape, a partially urbanized countryside that  [Gregory] Guldin argues may be "a significant new path of human settlement and development... a form neither rural nor urban but a blending of the two wherein a dense web of transactions ties large urban cores to their surrounding regions."  German architect and urban theorist Thomas Sieverts proposes that this diffuse urbanism, which he calls Zwischestadt ("in-between city"), is rapidly becoming the defining landscape of the twenty-first century in  rich as well as poor countries, regardless of earlier urban histories.  Unlike Guldin, however, Sieverts conceptualizes these new conurbations as polycentric webs with neither traditional cores nor recognizable peripheries.

(21)  The UN authors [of The Challenge of Slums] acknowledge a particular debt to Branko Milanovic, the World Bank economist who pioneered these [global household] surveys as a powerful microscope for studying global inequality.

(27)  As the anarchist architect John Turner famously pointed out, "Housing is a verb."

(61)  In early 1960, for example, Cuba's new National Institute of Savings and Housing, led by the legendary Pastorita Núñez, began to replace Havana's notorious shantytowns, (Las Yaguas, LLega y Pon, La Cueva del Humo, and so on) with prefabricated homes erected by the residents themselves.

(77)  Lea Jellinek, a social historian who has spent more than a quarter-century studying the poor in Jakarta, in turn, recounts how one famed NGO, a neighborhood microbank, "beginning as a small grassroots project driven by needs and capacities of local women," grew Frankenstein-like into a "large, complex, top-down, technically oriented burueacracy" that was "less accountable to and supportive of" its low-income base.

From a Middle Eastern perspective, Asef Bayat deplores the hyperbole about NGOs, pointing out that "their potential for independent and democratic organization has generally been overestimated.  [The] professionalization of NGOs tends to diminish the mobilizational feature of grassroots activism, while it establishes a new form of clientelism."

(85)  Timothy Mitchell, "Dreamland:  The Neoliberalsim of Your Desires," Middle East Report (Spring 1999), np (internet archive)

(118)  In City of Walls (2000), her justly celebrated study of the militarization of urban space in Brazil, Teresa Caldeira writes that "security is one of the main elements in its advertising and an obsession of all involved with it."  In practice, this has meant vigilante justice for criminal or vagrant intruders, while Alphaville's own gilded youth are allowed to run amok;  one resident quoted by Caldeira affirms:  "there is a law for the mortal people, but not for Alphaville residents."
NB:  Ballard's Super-Cannes

(127)  Erhard Berner adds that a favorite method for what Filipino landlords prefer to call "hot demolition" is to chase a "kerosene-drenched burning live rat or cat - dogs die too fast - into an annoying settlement...  a fire started this way is hard to fight as the unlucky animal can set plenty of shanties aflame before it dies."

(134)  Patrick Geddes (the true father of bioregionalism)

(140-141)  "The absence of toilets," writes journalist Asha Krishnakumar, "is devastating for women.  It severely affects their dignity, health, safety and sense of privacy, and indirectly their literacy and productivity.  To defecate, women and girls have to wait until dark, which exposes them to harassment and even sexual assault.

(158)  Indeed, some researchers argue that SAPs [Strategic Adjustment Plans] cynically exploit the belief that women's labor-power is almost infinitely elastic in the face of household survival needs.  This is the guilty secret variable in most neoclassical equations of economic adjustment:  poor women and their children are expected to lift the weight of Third World debt upon their shoulders.

(184)  An NGO worker in Haiti, Yolette Etienne, describes the ultimate logic of neoliberal individualism in a context of absolute immiseration:

"Now everything is for sale.  The woman used to receive you with hospitality, give you coffee, share all that she had in her home.  I could go get a plate of food at a neighbor's house;  a child could get a coconut at her godmother's, two mangoes at another aunt's.  But these acts of solidarity are disappearing with the growth of poverty.  Now when you arrive somewhere, either the woman offers to sell you a cup of coffee or she has no coffee at all.  The tradition of mutual giving that allowed us to help each other and survive - this is all being lost."

(191)  Of the world's megacities, only Dhaka is as poor, and Kinshasa surpasses all in its desperate reliance upon informal survival strategies.  As an anthropologist observes with some awe, it is the simultaneous "miracle and nightmare" of a vast city where the formal economy and state institutions, apart from the repressive apparatus, have utterly collapsed.

(193)  The Kinois, indeed, were caught up in a desperate frenzy of betting:  French horse races, lotteries organized by the big breweries, bottle cap games by the soft drink companies, and, most fatefully, a pyramidal money scheme, secretly controlled by the military.  (A similar quasi-magical "pyramidmania" would sweep Albania with equally devastating results in 1996-97, sucking up and destroying half the impoverished nation's GDP.)

(194-195)  In the face of the death of the formal city and its institutions, ordinary Kinois - but above all, mothers and grandmothers - fought for their survival by "villagizing" Kinshasa:  they reestablished subsistence agriculture and traditional forms of rural self-help.  Every vacant square meter of land, including highway medians, was planted in cassava, while women without plots, the mamas miteke, went off to forage for roots and grubs in the brush.  With the successive collapses of the world of work and then of the fantasy universe of gambling, people returned to a reliance upon village magic and prophetic cults.  They sought release from the "disease of the whites," "yimbeefu kya mboongu":  the fatal illness of money.  In the place of abandoned factories and looted stores, tiny churches and prayer groups set up shop under crude but brightly painted signs.  In huge slums like Masina (locally known as "The Republic of China" because of its density), Pentecostalism spread at a tropical velocity:  "At the end of 2000, it was reported that there were 2,177 religious sects newly constituted in Kinshasa, many who meet during all-night prayer sessions.

(196)  As a result, literal, perverse belief in Harry Potter has gripped Kinshasa, leading to the mass-hysterical denunciation of thousands of child "witches" and their expulsion to the streets, even their murder.  The children, some barely more than infants, have been accused of every misdeed and are even believed, in the Ndjili slum at least, to fly about at night in swarms on broomsticks.  Aid workers emphasize the novelty of the phenomenon:  "Before 1990, there was hardly and talk of child witches in Kinshasa.  The children who are now being accused of witchcraft are in the same situation:  they become an unproductive burden for parents who are no longer able to feed them.  The children said to be 'witches' are more often from very poor families."
NB:  Canetti's Crowds and Power

(199)  The late-capitalist triage of humanity, then, has already taken place.  As Jan Bremen, writing of India, has warned:  "A point of no return is reached when a reserve army waiting to be incorporated into the labour process becomes stigmatized as a permanently redundant mass, an excessive burden that cannot be included now or in the future, in economy and society.  This metamorphosis is, in my opinion at least, the real crisis of world capitalism."
NB:  USA today

(203)  All the armed services, coordinated by the Joint Urban Operations Training Working Group, launched crash programs to master street-fighting under realistic slum conditions.  "The future of warfare," the journal of the Army War College declared, "lies in the streets, sewers, highrise buildings, and sprawl of houses that form the broken cities of the world..."
NB:  Ballard's High Rise

Monday, September 19, 2016

Notes on Jaron Lanier's Who Owns the Future?

"Every day more photos are taken with the iPhone than any other camera."

“At the height of its power, the photography company Kodak employed more than 140,000 people and was worth $28 billion. They even invented the first digital camera. But today Kodak is bankrupt, and the new face of digital photography has become Instagram. When Instagram was sold to Facebook for a billion dollars in 2012, it employed only 13 people. Where did all those jobs disappear? And what happened to the wealth that all those middle-class jobs created?”

_Who Owns the Future?_ by Jaron Lanier
NY:  Simon and Schuster, 2013
ISBN 978-1-4516-5496-7

(1)  Maybe you bought, or stole a physical copy, paid to read this on your tablet, or pirated a digital copy off a share site.
NB:  No library, first paragraph of the book

(12)  Nonspecialist doctors have already lost a degree of self-determination because they didn't seize the centers of the networks that have arisen to mediate medicine.  Insurance and pharmaceutical concerns, hospital chains, and various other savvy network climbers were paying better attention.
NB:  US-centric

(18)  When music is free, wireless bills get expensive, insanely so.
NB:  US-centric

(19)  Lately, network-empowered finance has amplified corruption and illusion, and the Internet has destroyed more jobs than it has created.
NB:  Any data to back that up?

(20)  In the event that something a person says or does contributes even minutely to a database that allows, say, a machine language algorithm, or a market prediction algorithm, to perform a task, then a nanopayment, proportional _both_ to the degree of contribution _and_ the resultant value will be due to the person.
NB:  like copyright?  for how long?

(45)  We just went through taxpayer-funded bailouts of networked finance in much of the world, and no amount of austerity seems enough to fully pay for that.
NB:  No Keynes

(46)  Unfortunately it turned out that buying a home, one of the principal strategies of that movement [Rich Dad, Poor Dad], summarily turned into an invitation to be scammed.
NB:  Why?  A network effect?

(51)  The peasant's dilemma is that there's no buffer.  A musician who is sick or old, or who has a sick kid, cannot perform and cannot earn.
NB:  No healthcare and no social security

...Please notice how similar music is to mortgages.  When a mortgage is leveraged and bundled into complex undisclosed securities by unannounced third parties over a network, then the homeowner suffers a reduced chance at access to wealth.  The owner's promise to repay the loan is copied, like the musicians' music file, many times.

(52)  To put it another way, the promise of the homeowner to repay the loan can only be made once, but that promise, and the risk that the loan will not be repaid, can be _received_ innumerable times.  Therefore the homeowner will end up paying for that amplified risk, somehow.  It will eventually turn into higher taxes (to bail out a financial concern that's "too big to fail,"), reduced property values in a neighborhood burdened by stupid mortgages, and reduced access to credit.
NB:  Bailout banks but not homeowners is a choice

(54)  Finance got networked in the wrong way.  The big kinds of computation that have made certain other industries like music "efficient" from a particular point of view were applied to finance, and that broke finance.  It made finance stupid.

(56)  The latest waves of high-tech innovation have not created jobs like the old ones did….  This is documented in Martin Ford's book_The Lights in the Tunnel_.

(60)  Misrepresented assets flowed through Great Recession-era funds that were bailed out, but as of this writing most of the beneficiaries have escaped any of the downsides, which were radiated out to taxpayers and ground-level investors.
NB:  ass-backwards;  he treats the net as prime mover rather than financialization

……the primary business of digital networking as come to be the creation of ultra secret mega-dossiers about what others are doing, and using this information to concentrate money and power.
NB:  NSA information inequality and Big Data/Big Servers

(61)  We are not benefiting from the benevolence of some artificial intelligence super being.  We are exploiting each other off the books while those concentrating our information remain on the books.  We love our treats but will eventually discover we are depleting our own value.

That's how we can have economic troubles despite there being so much wealth in the system, and during a period of increasing efficiencies.  Great fortunes are being made on shrinking the economy instead of growing it.  It's not a result of some evil scheme, but a side effect of an idiotic elevation of the fantasy that technology is getting smart and standing on its own, without people.
NB:  Naive

(66)  It seems as though online services are bringing bargains to everyone, and yet wealth disparity is increasing while social mobility is decreasing.  If everyone were getting better options, wouldn't everyone be doing better as well?
NB:  And it's only the net driving this?

… When health insurance companies turned into digital networks, general-practice physicians became somewhat marginalized, serving increasingly as nodes in a scheme run by statistical algorithms and, to a lesser degree, pharmaceutical concerns.
NB:  US only?

(67)  instead of economics being about a bunch of players with unique positions in a market, we devolve toward a small number of spying operations in omniscient positions, which means that eventually markets of _all_ kinds will shrink.
NB:  Late stage capitalism, economic and political totalitarianism

(72)  In the network age there can be collusion without colluders, conspiracies without conspirators.

(86)  …the United States, which has ever-fewer manufacturing jobs to protect anyway.
NB:  Really?  Conventional wisdom masquerading as insight.  US manufacturing jobs have stabilized and the sector may actually be growing after declining since WWII.

(115)  When correlation is mistaken for understanding, we pay a heavy price.  An example of this type of failure was the string of early 21st century financial crises in which correlations created gigantic investment packages that turned out to be duds in aggregate, bringing the world to indebtedness and austerity.  Yet few financiers were blamed, at least in part because the schemes were complex and automated to such a high degree.

(135)  "See, in the old days, they worried that technology would make people obsolete and it didn't happen.  Similar worries today are just as silly."

To that I say, "I agree completely that the fears were wrong then and wrong today, in terms of what's actually true.  People are and will always be needed.  The question is whether we'll engage in complete enough accounting so that people are honestly valued.  If there's ever an illusion that humans are becoming obsolete, it will in reality be a case of massive accounting fraud.  What we're doing now is initiating that fraud.  Let's stop."
NB:  Taylorism, no Weiner and Human Use of Human Beings

(153-154)  Health insurance companies in America, by using cloud computer analysis to mostly insure people who didn't need insurance, similarly ejected risk into the general system.  But there wasn't some giant vastness to absorb the waste.  Instead, the economies in which finance and insurance could exist in the first place were weakened.

(167)  What if the eHarmony algorithm analyzed a customer and calculated that she was gay even though she had never realized that before?
NB:  Does he not know eHarmony has refused gay clients?

(184)  If people are paying money to use your server, don't accept any of it directly if you can possibly avoid that.  You should be a broker between buyers and sellers to the degree that's possible  You can then earn commissions, placement fees, visibility fees, or any number of other fees yet to be conceived, but without taking any responsibility for the actual events that took place.
NB:  cash vs credit - credit costs

…….These click-through agreements are the grandiosely verbose descendants of the Zen koan about a tree falling in a forest that no one hears.
NB:  Not a koan

(200)  Spymaster Siren Servers thrive in all countries by now.  We tend to hear more about the excesses of foreign ones in China or even Britain, but the trend is universal.

… When governments engage in the Siren Server game, they get good at it fast.  (It appears that governments are getting better at getting ahead of citizen cyber-movements than commercial schemes, which consistently outwit regulators.)
NB:  First admission of big corruption, he implies that commercial Siren Servers exist before government Siren Servers

(201)  Economic interdependence has lessened the chances of war between interconnected nations.
NB:  Friedman's naive McDonald's theory of peace - no two countries with McDonald's will declare war against each other.

(207)  And it's not Facebook's fault!  We, the idealists, insisted that information be demonetized online, which meant that services about information, instead of the information itself, would be the main profit centers.

That inevitably meant that "advertising" would become the biggest business in the "open" information economy.  But advertising has come to mean that third parties pay to manipulate the online options in front of people from moment to moment.  Businesses that don't rely on advertising must utilize a proprietary channel of some kind, as Apple does, forcing connections between people even more out of the commons, and into company stores.  In either case, the commons is made less democratic, not more.
NB:  No Ostrom;  intellectual property rights

(223) Ted Nelson's Xanadu:  The first principle is that each file, or whatever unit of information the thing is built of, exists only once.  Nothing is ever copied.

(224)  The pre-digital world had evolved a set of laws and conventions for how people could reflect and reuse each other's expressions.  This is the familiar and uncomfortable web of logistics and procedures including copyright, fair use, libel laws, and so on.
NB:  Extended and undermined at the same time

(225)  IN a Xanadu-like system, you could extract a misleading out-of-context passage of a politician's video because that would be a free speech right.  You wouldn't need permission.  But the link back to the original would always be right there. 

(227)  A core technical difference between a Nelsonian network and what we have become familiar with online is that Ted's network links were two-way instead of one-way.  In a network with two-way links, each node knows what other nodes are linked to it.

That would mean you'd know all the websites that point to yours.  It would mean you'd know all the financiers who had leveraged your mortgage.  It would mean you'd know all the videos that used your music.

(240)  A more incremental path to security would not answer the hard philosophical questions about such concepts as copyright, but it would make them less contentious.  In a world in which a person starts to earn royalties on tens of thousands of little contributions made over a lifetime of active participation on the 'net, it will matter a little less if there is a conflict about attribution in some minority of those cases.
NB:  Siren Server, what about people who don't make information contributions?

…. If everyone gets a taxi medallion, then medallions become worthless.  That also means speculators can buy up medallions and corner the market, undoing the original purpose.  What we should seek instead is a system where value _increases_ as more and more people participate in it.
NB:  Already happened in Boston and NYC and not how taxi medallions have ever worked

(246)  In humanistic information economics, provenance is treated as a basic right, similar to the way civil rights and property rights were given a universal stature in order to make democracy and market capitalism viable.
NB:  Civil rights and property rights now being systematically removed.

(257)  The crazy network-based wealth of inscrutable investors lately can serve as both a warning and an inspiration.  What I'm arguing is that just because networked finance boomed at everyone else's long-term expense, there's no reason in principle a similar outbreak of lucky-starism couldn't happen much more broadly, so that more people could enjoy the fruits of modernity based on more complete accounting.
NB:  His model is kleptocratic finance

(274)  You meet a future spouse on an online dating service.  The algorithms that implement that service take note of your marriage.  As the years go by, and you're still together, the algorithms increasingly apply what seemed to be the correlations between you and your spouse to matching other prospective couples.  When some of them also get married, it is automatically calculated that the correlations from your case were particularly relevant to the recommendations.  You get extra nanopayments as a result.

(278)  Financial concerns, through the magic of digital networks, can now take risks without paying for those risks, while gaining benefits for successes.  It's sometimes called "too big to fail."
NB:  It's not just a network effect but planned legalization of criminality

(286)  There can't a a different kind of dollar just for certain stores.
NB:  Never heard of local currencies?

(289)  Mortgages were a reliable, clean mechanism for many years.  What happened in the early 21st century was exceptional, and caused by the poor use of digital networks.

(293)  A liberal might be inclined to extend the safety net, perhaps including a highly evolved version of the public library.  In such a place you might be able to print out the medical prosthetic you need for free.  In that scenario, the state would serve as a surrogate customer for information services for those who cannot afford to be customers directly, beneficiaries would have access, but perhaps not in precisely the most convenient way.
NB:  First mention of libraries

(300)  If homeowners with mortgages had been owed something resembling royalties whenever a mortgage was leveraged, then there would not have been over leveraging.  The cost of risk would have been built in from the start, and would have been paid for by the investor creating the risk.  Benefits would have been shared with those who were creating the fundamental value:  homeowners who promised to pay the mortgages.  Economic symmetry would have prevented investors from taking risks on other people's uninformed behavior, using yet other people's money.

(311)  No amount of regulation can keep up with perverse incentives, given the pace of innovation.  This is also why almost no one was prosecuted for financial fraud connected with the Great Recession.
NB:  Um, no

(363)  The human mind is particularly susceptible to engagement by rapid-fire feedback that taunts on the edge of granting treats.  Semi-random feedback is a more intense dominator of attention than consistent feedback.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Confidence Game: A Guide to the 2016 Presidential Election?

Found this book at the library and thought I'd read it to understand the 2016 Presidential election cycle.  It's been useful in that regard.

The author arranges the chapters in the way she defines the structure of a confidence game.  Each chapter explores the progressive steps in the con:  Put-up, play, rope, tale, convincer, breakdown, send, touch, blow-off, and fix.  You can play along until Election Day 2016 by identifying each step of at least one candidate's confidence game as he/she strings the public along.

The Confidence Game:  Why We Fall for It… Every Time by Maria Konnikova
NY:  Viking, 2016
ISBN 978-0-525-42741-4

(5)  “Religion,” Voltaire is said to have remarked, “began when the first scoundrel met the first fool.”

(18)  “There’s a sucker born every minute, and one to trim ‘em and one to knock ‘em.”

(34-35)  According to psychologist Robert Feldman, who has spent more than four decades studying the phenomenon, we lie, on average, three times during a routine ten-minute conversation with a stranger or casual acquaintance.

(36)  Would you be a grifter - even a mild one - if given the chance?  Try this short test.  Take your index finger, raise it to your forehead, and draw the letter Q.

Done?  Which way is your Q facing - tail to the right, or tail to the left?  The test, described in detail by Richard Wiseman, a psychologist and famed skeptic, is a way to gauge your “self-monitoring”tendency.  If you drew the letter with the tail to the left, so that others could read it you are a high self-monitor.  That means you are more concerned with appearance and perception - how others see you.  To achieve the desired effect, you are likely more willing to manipulate reality - even just a bit - to make a better impression.

(59)  In one series of studies, [Nicholas] Epley and his colleagues found that people were far slower to discern a different perspective from their own, and that under time pressure they were unlikely to do so at all.  He called it “egocentric anchoring”:  we are our own point of departure.  We assume that others know what we know, beleive what we believe, and like what we like….

We never learn to be expert people-readers because that expertise can backfire spectacularly.  Why form accurate judgments when the inaccurate ones make our lives far more pleaseant and easy?

(82)  Fred Demara:  “Americans would rather be liked that right.  (This fact allowed you to operate after reasonable suspicion was aroused.)  Americans are amazingly forgiving to the errant sinner (almost everywhere you went they would take you back).  Americans are among the most trusting people in the world.  Accept you at your word and at your face value until proven otherwise.  (They don’t stand and watch you or quesiton you but wait for you to volunteer your own information.  This, of course, is a great asset to the impostor.)  The test of freedom of this country.  Where else but in American could a guy like me operate?  On ability of famed impostor to circulate:  If they aren’t looking for you, they don’t see you."

(111)  The con artist can employ something called “wishful identification.”  We don’t feel sorry for the character;  we want to be him.  He has attained presicely what we want.  And don’t we deserve that, too?  Now it’s our turn.  The more similar the characters in the story are to us, whether because of appearance or social position, the more likely we are to relate to them. The more we like the confidence man, the more we relate to him.

(118)  It’s no coincidence that cons tend to thrive in the wake of disaster:  natural disaster, illness, economic disaster, national disaster, personal disaster.  The play is almost built into disaster zones from the start.  Emotions are already high.  There’s already a compelling story line.  Imagine the implications for the play:  create a sense of fear, and then the feeling of relief (not to worry!  there’s a solution!) and your mark is all but guaranteed to fall.

(121)  In one study, arousal alone was enough to get someone to agree with a request for help;  it little mattered what the content of the request might happen to be.  

What visceral states do is create an intense attentional focus.  We tune out everything else and tune in to the in-the-moment emotional cues.  It’s similar to the feeling of overwhelming hunger or thirst - or the need to go to the bathroom - when you suddenly find yourslef unable to think about anything else.  In those moments, you’re less likely to deliberate, more likely to just say yes to something without fully internalizing it, and generally more prone to lapses that are outside the focus of your immediate attention. 

…Cons, long and short both, thrive on in-the-moment arousal:  we have no time to repent.  The best play makes use of that tendency.  Con artists heat us up.  That is their living.  As one put it, “It is imperative that you work as quickly as possible.  Never give a hot mooch time to cool off.  You want to close him while he is still slobbering with greed.”

(133)  The first, alpha, was far more frequent:  increasing the appeal of something.  The second, omega, decreased resistance surrounding something.  In the one, you do what you can to make your proposition, whatever it may be, more attractive….

The put-up identified the mark and mapped out his idiosyncrasies, hopes, and fears.  The play caught the mark’s attentioin and baited the hook.  The rope makes sure he bites and the hook sinks deep - else, with a bit of wiggling, the almost-sure-deal prey swim hastily away.

(133-134)  Robert Cialdini…. argues that six principles govern most persuasive relationships:  reciprocity (I rub your back, you rub mine), consistency (I beleive the same thing today as I did yesterday), social validation (doing this will make me belong), friendship or liking (exactly what it sounds like), scarcity (quick! there isn’t much to go around), and authority (you seem like you know what you’re talking about).  These are all alpha principles, used to increase persuasive appeal…

(136)  In 1966, Stanford University psychologists Jonathan Freeman and Scott Fraser observed an interesting phenomenon in their experiment:  someone who has already agreed to a small request - like opening the door for you - would become more, not less, likely to agree to a larger request later on.

(137)  As Cialdiini points out, one of the elements that make us more vulnerable to persuasion is our desire to maintain a good image of ourselves.  If something is framed so as to make us feel like worthy people, we are much mroe likely to comply with it.  We want to behave in a way that’s consistent with the image we’ve created.

Consistency here plays a crucial role in the other direction too - not just in our evaluation of ourselves but in our evaluation of the person we’re helping:  if I’ve helped you before, you must be worth it.  Therefore, I’ll help you again.

(139)  But niceness isn’t the only way to go.  Another effective technique that Cialdini first identified in 1975 is the door-in-the-face, a near opposite of the foot-in-the-door.  When someone we don’t really know asks us for a large favor - or even someone we do know catches us on an off day - and we (understandably) refuse, we _do_ indeed feel rude, just as [Daryl]  Bem would have predicted.  But we don’t like feeling rude.  And so we also feel something else we don’t like:  guilty.  So what happens when the person we turned down asks us for something else, something smaller, something that seems far more reasonable in comparison?  We say yes.  Guilt assuaged - and con artist’s mission accomplished.

(142-143)  In 1986, Santa Clara University psychologist Jerry Burger proposed a persuasion - or roping, if you will - tactic that relied not on a comparison between two separate favors but on a comparison within the favor self:  the that’s-not-all-technique.  An effective approach, Burger found, is to start with a false baseline (that is, not at all what you’re planning to eventually propose) and then, in quick succession, make changes and additions to that starting point that make it seem increasingly attractive.  You make an initial bid - how would you like to get in on this land deal in Florida? - and before your mark can respond, you turn it into something else.  “That’s not all.  You also get a guaranteed return on your initial investment.”  People who were approached with a that’s-not-all story, Burger found, were more likely to buy into it than those who heard the great offer right away.  (The that’s-not-all-ing, incidentally, can continue for a while.  You need not stop at one.)

That’s-not-all is actually a member of a broader set of persuasive tactics, known as disrupt-then-reframe techniques.  First you disrupt someone’s understanding of an attempt to influence her, and then you reframe the attempt in a way that makes her more vulnerable to it.  Here’s how it works.  Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert proposes that we understand the world in two stages.  First we take it at face value, in order to decipher the sense of what someone is telling us.  And then we evaluate it, in order to judge the soundness of what we’ve just deciphered.  Disrupt-then-reframe attacks the evaluative part of the process:  we don’t have a chance to give a proper assessment because each time we try to do so, the situaiton changes.

(144)  A request for a tiny amount of money legitimizes you in the eyes of others.  If you were a swindler, you’d ask for a lot, wouldn’t you?

(145)  A closely related approach is Cialdini’s lowball technique.  This time, you tell your intended victim that what you wnat is actually quite small - and oncehe commits to doing it, raise the stakes.

(149)  In their influential 1959 work “The Bases of Social Power,” John French and Bertram Raven posited that there were five major bases from which power derives:  reward power, or the belief that someone is able to reward you;  coercive power, or the belief that someone is able to punish you somehow;  legitimate power, or an actual basis of authority;  referent power, or power derived from your affiliation with someone (or desire to be affiliated with them);  and expert power, from someone’s expertise on a topic.

(154)  When someone in power tells us to do something, we tend to do it.  The rope is often at its most effective when we trust the power of its source, the con man….

One of the first things a con artist does is establish trust - often by being the exact type of person he thinks you aspire to be, or at least, want to be associated with.

(155)  And there was something else crucial about Madoff:  he was part of the Jewish community.  A community he leveraged to its full extent.  As Michael Shermer put it, “It was an affinity scheme, it was insidery.  We have to take care of each other;  he’s one of us.”  Madoff is far from alone.  Con artists often use communities to quickly gauge character and belief targets…  The authority we grant someone comes often as more of an afterthought than anything else, by virtue of their belonging to the exact right group, one that we’re particularly eager to either join or be liked by.

(159)  Our desire to be accepted as a member of groups that appeal to us is, according to Cialdini, one of the strongest motivators in our being persuaded by something:  it is an important reason that the rope often works effectively.  We are more likely to go along with something if it has the stamp of approval of a group we trust or promises us entry in a group we’d like to belong to.

(160)  Take this example:  by the order in which someone presents us with options, she can reliably make those options look better or worse - even if we wouldn’t naturally think so.

(161)  … position effects - where something is located physically….  default effects - or what your choice is by default….  anchor effects - the initial cues you see that influence your subsequent decision...

(163)  Information priming works so well because it exploits an effect we’ve already seen several times:  the ease that comes from familiarity. Mention something in passing , and then when you elaborate on it later - especially if it’s a few days later - it seems that much more convincing.  It’s a phenomenon known as the illusion of truth:  we are more likely to think something is true if it feels familiar.

(165)  Something else happens, too, when our minds feel bombarded from all sides.  In situations where we’re overtaxed, psychologist Katherine Milkman has found, we are more likely to make decisions that fit with what we _want_ to do rather than what we _should_ do.  The two are often in conflict, and even without outside help, it can be difficult to choose the path of the “should.”

(183)  Simply put, when it comes to ourselves - our traits, our lives, our decisions - our personal attachment overshadows our objective knowledge.  We systematically misevaluate evidence based on our own characteristics, and if we’re given evidence that something about us poses a threat, instead of thinking about how to change our own behavior, we call the evidence itself into question.  

(188)  Memory is a tricky thing, and once we’ve been taken once, it becomes all the more likely that we will fall for a con again.  There is no better mark, many a con artist will tell you, than one who has already been duped.

(195)  “The secret of rulership,” wrote George Orwell, “is to combine a belief in one’s own infallibility with the power to learn from past mistakes.”

(205)  Had it been up to Raines, he might have kept believing until the end.  It would have been a simpler, happier reality.  And that basic desire for a happier, simpler reality is at the center of the convincer’s success.

(235)  That’s the question at the heart of the breakdown, the moment when the con artist sees just how far he can take us.  In the put-up, he picked us out of the crowd with care.  In the play, he established a bond through some emotional wrangling and expert storytelling.  In the rope, he laid out his persuasive pitch for our already-willing ears.  In the tale, he’s told us how we will personally benefit, relying on our belief in our exceptionalism.  In the convincer, he’s let us win, persuading us that we’d been right in going along with him.  And now comes the breakdown.  We start to lose.  How far can the grifter push us before we balk?  How much of a beating can we take?  Things don’t completely fall apart yet - that would lose us entirely, and the game would end prematurely - but cracks begin to show.  We lose some money.  Something doesn’t go according to plan.  One fact seems to be off.  A figure is incorrectly labeled.  A wine bottle is “faulty.”  The crucial question:  do we notice, or do we double down?  High off the optimism of the convincer, certain that good fortune is ours, we often take the second route.  When we should be cutting our losses, we instead recommit - and that is entirely what the breakdown is meant to accomplish.

(237)  Changing your perception or your memory is easier than changing behavior.

(263)  The send is that part of the con where the victim is recommitted, that is, asked to invest increasingly greater time and resources into the con artist’s scheme - and in the touch, the con finally comes to is fruition and the mark is completely, irrevocably fleeced….  Once the send is in motion, with the mark recommitted to raising the stakes the touch - the con’s end - is inevitable.  Once we are in, well and good, we are all in.

(366)  … once we’ve invested heavily in something, we no longer see it clearly, no matter the costs.

(367)  [Richard] Thaler termed the phenomenon the sunkuuu-cost fallacy….

In theory, we should only care about new, incremental costs.  What we’ve already put into something shouldn’t matter:  it’s lost anyway, whatever “it” happens to be - time, money, energy, whatever else.  We should stick with it only if it still seems worthwhile in light of new evidence.

(271)  In psychology, that idea is called the endowment effect, first articulated by Thaler in 1980.  By virtue of being ours, our actions, thoughts, possessions, and belief acquire a glow they didn’t have before we committed to them.  Sunk costs make ys loath to spot problems and reluctant to swerve from a committed path.  Adn the endowment effect imbues the status quo - what we’ve done - with an overly optimistic rosy glow.  It makes us want to hold on to it all the more.

(273)  The status quo bias only makes things worse.  We like things as they are.

(286)  In the blow-off, the confidence artist has one main goal:  now that the touch has been taken, get the mark out of the way as quickly as possible.  The last thing you wnat is for someone to complain and thus draw attention to the whole enterprise.  The blow-off is often the final step of the con, the grifter’s smooth disappearance after the game has played out.  Sometimes, though, the mark may not be so complacent.  If that happens, there’s always one more step that can be taken:  the fix, when a grifter puts off the involvement of law enforcement to prevent marks from making their complaints official.

(307)  “When people want to believe what they want to believe, they are very hard to dissuade.”  - David Sullivan

(310)  We’re really adamant we have free will,” [Jennifer] Stalvey said.  “But so often, that’s simply not true.  everyone has a weakness.  We want to connect to someone or something greater. 

(311)  Joshua Jelly-Shapiro:  “They [cults] are all founded on meaning, community:  what everyone wants.”

That’s why [David] Sullivan found cults to be a particularly enraging confidence game, more infuriating than most:  it was a co-optation of a very legitimate quest for meaning.  Everyone wants to believe, everyone wants meaning, everyone wants stories that make sense of incoherence.

(312) … the key to resisting persuasion and manipulation was to have a strong, unshakeable, even, sense of self.  Know who you are no matter what, and hold on to that no matter what.  It isn’t easy - it was years before Sullivan was able to find a suitable female infiltrator;  Stalvey, he said, was an exception.  “It’s very rare to find someone to put into a cult.  You have to have a very strong sense of your own identity,” he said.  “And it’s not easy to do this.  The psychological techniques that are now employed to coerce you are phenomenal.”

When we spoke, Stalvey elaborated on the approach her mentor had taught her.  One of the most important things, she said, was to maintain objectivity:  logic to counteract feeling.  You know your emotions will be manipulated - they always are, in any con, big or small.  That’s the whole point of the put-up and the play.  And once you become emotional, your reasoning can easily become short-circuited.  “Always pay attention to the details,” she told me.  That is one way to ensure that you are staying rooted in the physical, the objective, rather than the psychological, the subjective…. “Through it all, you have to make sure you are observing as much as feeling.”

(313)  Know what people you’re likely to trust, what triggers are likely to catch you, whether positive or negative, and try to be aware enough of your own behavior that you won’t get swept up in it.  In short, hone your skills of observation and detail-noting, as Stalvey puts it, when it comes not just to others but to yourself.

Another key element is Stalvey and Sullivan’s arsenal:  set limits.  “I’d decide before I went in what my limits were, the lines I wouldn’t cross, physically or emotionally,” Stalvey said.  She made sure that trusted others knew those limits and were ready to step in if she was getting close to the edge.

(320-321)  Nobody joins a cult, Sullivan repeated often and emphatically.  People join something that will give them meaning.  “They join a group that’s going to promote peace and freedom throughout the world or that’s going to save animals, or they’re going to help orphans or something.  But nobody joins a cult.”  Nobody embraces false beliefs:  we embrace something we think is as true as it gets.  Nobody sets out to be conned:  we set out to become, in some way, better than we were before.

(327)  The Big Con by David Maurer

(328)  Hustlers and Con Men by Jay Robert Nash

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Losing the News

_Losing the News:  The Future of the News That Feeds Democracy_ by Alex S. Jones
NY:  Oxford University Press, 2009
ISBN 978-0-19-518123-4

(14)  My best guess is that the amount of serious reporting on important topics would average around 15 percent...

(38)  Reverend Jerry Falwell came to Miami to support [Anita] Bryant, and not long after founded the Moral Majority...
NB:  The culture war is the war against gays and was founded first and foremost in that battle

(43)  According to [Robert] Entman, the media can be divided into four categories:  traditional journalism, tabloid journalism, advocacy journalism, and entertainment.

The first way to distinguish each from the other is on the basis of its commitment to five key journalism standards.  The first four are accuracy, balance, holding government accountable, and separation of news from editorial and advertising.  The fifth standard is the degree to which there is a determination to maximize profit.  Bear in mind that all these forms of media are intended to make a profit, but one of Entman's key insights is that they are different in the _degree_ to which maximizing profit is a motivation.

(48) Until the recent downturn, a local television station that was showing less than a 60 percent profit margin was performing below the industry standard. This is three times the profit margin of most local newspapers.

(59)  Lost in the mists of history is the fact that three states did not ratify the Bill of Rights until 1939, in anticipation of its sesquicentennial:  Georgia, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.

(77)  Libby, who was a top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, had systematically leaked information to reporters on a confidential basis that was intended to discredit a C.I.A. report that was judged harmful to the administration's case that Iraq was seeking nuclear weapons.
NB:  No mention of Valerie Plame

(81)  What _makes_ journalism good?  Everyone would agree on accuracy.  For most consumers of news, the next requirement would be lack of bias:  journalism should be fair and balanced.
NB:  No mention of context

(87)  As Kovach and Rosenstiel point out, "In the original concept, in other words, the _method_ is objective, not the _journalist_."

His example of a failure of objectivity in the press is the debate over "partial birth abortion," in which most sources took the word of the pro-life faction that few of these late term abortions were done and that they were done because of health issues, something that didn't hold up under investigation.  Seems to me that this is less a failure of objectivity than a failure of fact-checking.

"If your mother tells you she loves you, kid, check it out" or, as BB King put it, "Nobody loves me but my mother and she could be jiving too"

(90)  "news consumer" "truth"
NB:  not informed citizenry, facts

(92)  Ruth Padawer of Bergen County Record and David Post of Washington Post reported on the facts of "partial birth abortions" or late term abortions

(106)  A slightly different way of framing journalism's ethical demands was distilled in _The Elements of Journalism_....
1.  Journalism's first obligation is to the truth.
2.  Its first loyalty is to citizens.
3.  Its essence is a discipline of verification.

(107)  The first _obligation_ is to truth.  Finding truth is a universal journalistic responsibility.  It is not a goal, but a duty. [?!]

(109)  ...a promise of confidentiality may have to be breached as the lesser evil

This dilemma of conflicting claims on honor lies at the heart of the worst ethical problems in journalism.
NB:  Honor?!

(123)  When the investigative series appeared, the meat and potatoes consisted of material unearthed by hard-nosed, shoe-leather reporting.  But the most sensational and titillating bits were verbatim quotes from company officials that could have come only from voice mails.  The truth quickly came out, and under pressure from Chiquita, the Gannett Company, owner of the _[Cincinnati] Enquirer_, renounced the entire series, removing it from the paper's Web site.  They also paid a multimillion-dollar settlement and issued an abject apology.  The reporter was charged with a crime, and his career was over.  He had, in a sense, integrity.  He told himself that he had done it to expose what he thought was an abusive company. 
NB:  Integrity?

(129)  With this ploy, he [Gutenberg] won the contract for printing indulgences....

(137)  In an institutional sense, newspapers took on a fatherly role for their readers.  They assumed a position of superior knowledge and gave direction as to what one should think. 

(161)  The problem at this moment for the papers whose stock is publicly traded isn't just one of making a profit.  The problem is making enough profit to satisfy Wall Street and also to pay off the huge debt that many newspaper companies carry from their purchase of more newspapers.

(175)  And as for news, his [Dean Singleton] formula was - to my ear - both realistic and chilling.  Newspapers can survive "if we print what our readers - not what we - want;  if we discard our arrogance and old ideas;  if we let our readers participate."

(191)  One of the most innovative efforts to marry participatory journalism with traditional reporting is under way at Public Insight Journalism, the brain child of Michael Skoler...

(192)  "You listen to people who listen to you," [Michael] Skoler told an audience of traditional journalists in October 2008, "and journalists have not listened to the public for ages."

NB:  Clay Shirkey:  Media that's targeted at you but doesn't include you may not be worth sitting still for.
Cluetrain:  A market is a conversation
Talk is cheap and silence is fatal.

(201)  The newspaper industry that emerges will be leaner and, when the economy turns and some of the lost advertising returns, the new revenue will have an outsized reviving power like food to a starving man.
NB:  Really?

(208)  Perhaps the Web will facilitate a restoration of close ties, but I believe that it will more likely come from something that is based not so much on the Web's interaction as on demonstrating commitment to a community, presenting a distinctive personality, and reflecting a genuine affection for the people it serves.  Perhaps it is counterintuitive given the open forum of the Web, but these things - to my mind - show themselves more persuasively in print than online.
NB:  No listening here.  Never read _Virtual Community_ I guess

(221)  My nightmare scenario is one of bankrupt newspapers, news by press release that is thinly disguised advocacy, scattered and ineffectual bands of former journalists and sincere amateurs whose work is left in obscurity, and a small cadre of high-priced newsletters that serve as an intelligence service for the rich and powerful.
NB:  That's not today?

NB:  George Seldes was dedicated to the facts, to truth, and to history. He ends his memoirs with a conversation he once had with William Allen White, editor of the Emporia Gazette of Kansas:

"As his final word, Mr White said: 'The facts, fairly and honestly presented,' and I added, more in the nature of a question than a statement, the words: 'and truth will take care of itself?'
"White leaped at these words. 'That's it,' he said, 'that is our formula: "The facts fairly and honestly presented; truth will take care of itself."'

"I have thought of these words for more than forty years. I know of no better rule for all newspapers of the world."

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Ecology of Freedom

_The Ecology of Freedom_ by Murray Bookchin
Palo Alto, Ca:  Cheshire Books, 1982
ISBN 0-917352-09-2

(32)  Wholeness, in fact, is completeness.  The dynamic stability of the whole derives from a visible level of completeness in human communities as in climax ecosystems.  What unites these modes of wholeness and completeness, however different they are in their specificity and their qualitative distinctness, is the logic of development itself.  A climax forest is whole and complete as a result of the same unifying process - the same _dialectic_ - that a particular social form is whole and complete.

(44)  Dorothy Lee, _Freedom and Culture_ (Englewood Cliffs, NJ:  Prentice Hall, 1959)

(48)  Indeed, far from dealing with nature as an “it” or a “thou” (to use Martin Buber’s terms), the ceremonial validates nature as _kin_, a blooded, all-important estate that words like _citizen_ can never attain.  Nature is _named_ even before it is deified;  it is personified as part of the community before it is raised above it as “super nature.”  To the pygmies of the Ituri forest, it is “Ndura” and to the settled Bantu villagers the same word strictly designates the forest that the pygmies regard as a veritable entity in itself, active and formative in all its functions.

(56)  Paul Radin, summing up decades of anthropological experience, research, and fieldwork, once observed:
If I were asked to state briefly and succinctly what are the outstanding features of aboriginal civilizations, I, for one, would have no hesitation in answering that there are three:  the respect for the individual, irrespective of age or sex;  the amazing degree of social and political integration achieved by them;  and the existence of a concept of personal security which transcends all governmental forms and all tribal and group interests and conflicts.

These features can be summarized as:  complete parity or equality between individuals, age-groups and sexes;  usufruct and later reciprocity;  the avoidance of coercion in dealing with internal affairs;  and finally, what Radin calls the “irreducible minimum” - the “inalienable right” (in Radin’s words) of every individual in the community “to food, shelter and clothing”  irrespective of the amount of work contributed by the individual to the acquisition of the means of life.  “To deny anyone this irreducible minimum was equivalent to saying that a man no longer existed, that he was dead” - in short, to cut across the grain of the world conceived as a universe of life.

(131)  The practice of direct democracy was an affirmation of citizenship as a process of direct action.  Athens was institutionally organized to convert its potentially monadic citizenry from free-floating atoms into a cohesive body politic.  Its regular citizen assemblies (Ecclesia), its rotating Council of Five Hundred (Boule), and its court juries that replicated in the hundreds the polis in miniature, were the _conscious_ creations of a public realm that had largely been fostered intuitively in tribal societies and were rarely to rise to the level of rational practice in the centuries to follow.  The entire Athenian system was oranized to obstruct political professionalism, to prevent the emergence of bureaucracy, and to perpetuate an active citizenry _as a matter of design_.

(142)  Not until the Middle Ages did this Teutonic word (as we know it) [freedom] begin to include such metaphysical niceties as freedom from the realm of necessity or freedom from the fortunes of fate, the Ananke and Moira that the Greeks added to its elucidation.

(154)  Archilochus - 680 – c. 645 BC - was a Greek lyric poet from the island of Paros in the Archaic period. He is celebrated for his versatile and innovative use of poetic meters and as the earliest known Greek author to compose almost entirely on the theme of his own emotions and experiences.

(168)  The word “freedom” initially appears in a Sumerian cuneiform tablet that gives an account of a successful popular revolt against a highly oppressive regal tyranny, thousands of years ago.  In _The Sumerians_, Samuel Noah Kramer tells us that “in this document… we find the word ‘freedom’ used for the first time in man’s recorded history;  the word is _amargi_ which… means literally ‘return to the mother.’”  Alas, Kramer wonders, “we still do not know why this figure of speech came to be used for ‘freedom.’”  Thereafter, “freedom” retains its features as a longing to “return to the mother,” whether to organic society’s matricentric ambience or to nature perceived as a bountiful mother.

(204)  Gerrard Winstanley is best known as the leader and theorist of the Diggers, a minuscule group of agrarian communists who in 1649 tried to cultivate the “free” or waste land on St. George’s Hill near London….

As Rexroth accurately emphasizes, “All the tendencies of the radical Reformation” - and, we may add, the most important millenarian movements of earlier times - “seem to flow together in Winstanley, to be blended and secularized, and become an ideology rather a theology.”  Winstanley was not a military communist like the Taborites;  he was a committed pacifist, and so far as we know, he remained one throughout his life.

(244-245)  The real powers of the Asian village to resist technical invasions or to assimilate them to their social forms lay not in a fixed “systemic division of labor,” as Marx believed.  Its powers of resistance lay in the intensity of Indian family life, in the high degree of care, mutualism, courtesy, and human amenities that villagers shared as cultural norms, in the rituals that surrounded personal and social life, in the profound sense of rootedness in a communal group, and in the deep sense of meaning these cultural elaborations imparted to the community.

(250-251)  But a new technics had supplanted the old:  the technics of supervision, with its heartless intensification of the labor-process, its conscienceless introduction of fear and insecurity, and its debasing forms of supervisory behavior.  Where the “factors” had bought products, not people, the factory bought people, not products.   This reduction of labor from embodiment in products into a capacity of people was decisive;  it turned fairly autonomous individuals into totally administered products and gave products an autonomy that made them seem like people.  The animate quality that things acquired - qualities which Marx aptly called the “fetishism of commodities” - was purchased at the expense of the animate qualities of people.

(260)  For the present, however, I must emphasize again that terms like “small,” “soft,” “intermediate,” “convivial,” and “appropriate” remain utterly vacuous adjectives unless  they are radically integrated with emancipatory social structures and communitarian goals.  Technology and freedom do not “coexist” with each other as two separate “realms” of life.  Either technics is used to reinforce the larger social tendencies that render human consociation technocratic and authoritarian, or else a libertarian society must be created that can absorb technics into a constellation of emancipatory human and ecological relationships.

(261)  Post-scarcity, as I have emphasized in earlier works, does not mean mindless affluence;  rather, it means a sufficiency of technical development that leaves individuals free to select their needs autonomously and to obtain the means to satisfy them.

… Richard J Barnett, _The Lean Years_:  But his data reveal that we are faced not with an absolute shortage of materials but with an irrational society.

(263)  The Hellenic ideal of freedom - an ideal confined to the citizen - was different.  Freedom existed _for_ activity, not _from_ activity.  It was not a realm but a practice - the practice of being free by participating in free institutions, by daily recreating, elaborating, and _fostering_ the activity of being free.  One was not merely “free” in the passive sense of freedom from constraint, but in the active sense of “free_ing_,” both of oneself and one’s fellow citizens.  An authentic community is not merely a structural constellation of human beings but rather the practice of _communizing_.  Hence, freedom in the _polis_ was a constellation of relationships that was continual in the process of reproduction.

(265)  No less important than the ensemble is the technical imagination that assembles it.  To think ecologically for design purposes is to think of technics as an _ecosystem_, not merely as cost effective devices based on “renewable resources.”  Indeed, to think ecologically is to include “nature’s_ “amor” in the technical process, not only humanity’s.

(292)  Production, in effect, implied not only reproduction as Eliade has observed for metallurgy, but also animation - not as “raw material” bathed in the “fire of labor,” but as nature actively imbuing its own substance with a “vital spark.”  The spirited nature of technics is reflected in a highly suggestive body of possibilities that only recently have entered into our accounts of the history of technology.

(318)  I have chronicled the commitment of traditional societies to usufruct, complementarity, and the irreducible minimum against class society’s claims to property, the sanctity of contract, and its adherence to the rule of equivalence.  In short, I have tried to rescue the legacy of freedom that the legacy of domination has sought to extirpate from the memory of humanity.

(333)  The present does not disappear, it persists and acquires externality at the expense of the future.  Futurism, in effect, does not enlarge the future but annihilates it by absorbing it into the present.  What makes this trend so insidious is that it also annihilates the imagination itself by constraining it to the present, thereby reducing our vision - even our prophetic abilities - to mere extrapolation.

(339)  To exercise one’s powers of sovereignty - by sit-ins, strikes, nuclear-plant occupations - is not merely a “tactic” in bypassing authoritarian institutions.  It is a sensibility, a vision of citizenship and selfhood that assumes the free individual has the capacity to manage social affairs in a direct, ethical, and rational manner.  This dimension of the self in self-management is a persistent call to personal sovereignty, to roundedness of ego and intellectual perception, which such conjoined terms like “management” and “activity” often overshadow.  The continual exercise of this self - its very formation by one’s direct intervention in social issues - asserting its moral claim and right to empowerment stands on a higher level conceptually than Marx’s image of self-identity through labor.  For direct action is literally a form of ethical character-building in the most important social role that the individual can undertake:  active citizenship.

(346)  For social “paradigms” one can turn to such memorable events as the May-June upheaval in France during 1968, or to Portugal a decade later, and possibly to Spain a generation earlier.  What should always count in analyzing such events is not why they failed - for they were never expected to occur at all - but how they managed to erupt and persist against massive odds.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Technical Challenge of Hate Speech, Incitement and Extremism in Social Media

MIT - Boston IEEE/ACM Joint Seminar
Dr Andre Oboler, Online Hate Prevention Institute, Australia

Violent extremism is what used to be called terrorism

@samiwitness case in India, an engineer who was promoting Daesh to UK and US youth
@HaeunAbdurahman in Canada

Not just Daesh, also rightwing and others of various ideologies

We're defaulting to special laws for the Internet rather than treating them with settled law

Incitement to hate is different than incitement to violence.  Germany is leading the way on this issue.

France vs Yahoo case on Nazi memorabilia sales counter to French law: does the law of the state where post is seen have primacy?

False flag support page for Lindt hostage taker in Australia 2014 by right wing.

Germany investigated resident senior managers of Facebook for anti-asylum seekers hate speech and incitement and reached an agreement with Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, and Microsoft.  They would employ local teams to follow German law.  This was extended to the EU Commission in May 2016.

USA is only country that doesn't block the Net.

Jeremy Waldron argues hate speech undermines democracy and science shows that hateful words have real effects, physiological, social, economic.  Hate speech can be extremely localized and may require local knowledge.

OHPI's approach is prevention, removal, respond, and promotion of messages undermining hate.

Demos (UK) has automated text analysis for Twitter for racial slurs and network analysis can be used to identify trolls and dangerous individuals.

Identifying triggers for audio and video not yet available. - a crowdsourced way to identify hate speech.  Test users for trolls by asking for review of reported speech/video/audio.  Users get a score from the organization to determine their trust level within the system which the users don't get to see.

Crowdsourced intelligence cyber hate and threats - CSI-Chat now being developed

Friday, July 22, 2016

Notes on Rebecca Solnit's A Paradise Built in Hell

_A Paradise Built in Hell:  The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster_ by Rebecca Solnit
NY:  Viking, 2009
ISBN 978-0-670-02107-9

(17)  Just as her [Amelia Holshouser's Mizpah Café after SF 1906 quake] kitchen was one of many spontaneously launched community centers and relief projects, so her resilient resourcefulness represents the ordinary response in many disasters.  In them, strangers become friends and collaborators, goods are shared freely, people improvise new roles for themselves.  Imagine a society where money plays little or no role, where people rescue each other and then care for each other, where food is given away, where life is mostly out of doors in public, where the old divides between people seem to have fallen away, and the fate that faces them, no matter how grim, is far less so for being shared, where much once considered impossible, both good and bad, is now possible or present, and where the moment is so pressing that old complaints and worries fall away, where people feel important, purposeful, at the center of the world.  It is by its very nature unsustainable and evanescent, but like a lightning flash it illuminates ordinary life, and like lightning it sometimes shatters the old forms.  It is utopia itself for many people, though it is only a brief moment during terrible times.  And at the time they manage to hold both irreconcilable experiences, the joy and the grief.

(18)  The map of utopias is cluttered nowadays with experiments by other names, and the very idea is expanding.  It needs to open up a little more to contain disaster communities.  These remarkable societies suggest that, just as many machines reset themselves to their original settings after a power outage, so human beings reset themselves to something altruistic, communitarian, resourceful, and imaginative after a disaster, that we revert to something we already know how to do.  The possibility of paradise is already within us as a default setting.

The two most basic goals of social utopias are to eliminate deprivation - hunger, ignorance, homelessness - and to forge a society in which no one is an outsider, no one is alienated.  By this standard, Holshouser's free food and warm social atmosphere achieved both, on however tiny a scale, and versions of the Mizpah Café sprung up all over the ruined city.
NB:  Popular(ist) Compassion and Elite Panic:  Big Carnival of Disaster (Ace in the Hole) (Billy Wilder film)

(37)  Many would not consider property crimes significant when lives are at stake - and the term _looting_ conflates the emergency requisitioning of supplies in a crisis without a cash economy with opportunistic stealing.  Disaster scholars now call this fear-driven overreaction elite panic.

(56)  [William] James's investigation [after the SF earthquake] concluded that human beings respond with initiative, orderliness, and helpfulness;  they remain calm, and suffering and loss are transformed when they are shared experiences.
NB:  Just as post traumatic stress is lessened with more open family and community support.

(60)  "While the crisis lasted, people loved each other."  Dorothy Day, remembering the SF earthquake that happened when she was 8 years old, living in Oakland
NB:  use of crisis

(64-65)  It was moving to see this idealistic joy on so many thousands of faces [2003 anti-war marches] , disconcerting to realize how uncommon the experience seemed to be - this experience, which was essentially that of citizenship itself, of playing a role in public life, of being connected to strangers around you and thereby to that abstraction we call society.  An even more powerful and pervasive form of it came during the election of Barack Obama, when people around the nation and the world wept, suddenly able to feel the pain of centuries as it was in some way lifted and a hope that seemed out of reach before.  The global wave of emotion was about a deep and too often dormant passion for justice, for meaning, for the well-being of others, and the fate of nations.  We should feel like that regularly, routinely, in a democracy, but the experience is rare in too many societies and nations.
NB:  Marches, petitions, and electoral politics can't maintain that charge because both the need and the action are not immediate and direct enough.  Community gardening, food coops, and local food systems can supply some of it.  Weatherization and solar barnraisings can supply some more.

(86-87)  Mutual aid means that every participant is both giver and recipient in acts of care that bind them together, as distinct from the one-way street of charity.  In this sense it is reciprocity, a network of people cooperating to meet each others' wants and shared each others' wealth.  When the Mission District residents in earthquake-torn San Francisco refused to let institutional kitchens replace their community kitchens, they were refusing to let mutual aid give way to charity, which would define them as the needy with nothing to give rather than the community with everything to give each other.  When Dorothy Day established the Catholic Worker, she endeavored to make the aid mutual by making the people they served active participants in the work projects.  In flood-ravaged New Orleans, the radical group Common Ground Relief's slogan is "Solidarity, Not Charity."  In Halifax, [Samuel Henry] Prince noted, "the preference upon the part of the refugee for plural leadership and decision" and "the resentment which succeeds the intrusion of strangers in relief leadership."  People preferred to care for each other rather than to be cared for by strangers or governed by others.
NB:  Kropotkin's voluntary association

(90)  It is often the few in power rather than the many without who behave viciously in disaster, and those few do so oftern exactly because they subscribe to the fearful beliefs of Huxley, Le Bon, and others.
NB:  No mention of Canetti's _Crowds and Power_ nor _Extraordinary Delusions and the Madness of Crowds_

(91)  This is why what happens in disasters matters for political philosophy:  the hierarchies, administrations, and institutions - the social structure - tend to fall apart, but what results tends to be anarchy in Kropotkin's sense of people coming together in freely chosen cooperation rather than the media's sense of disorderly savagery.
NB:  Default state?

(92)  Three hundred and fifty years after Hobbes, the biobehavioral scientists Shelley E. Taylor and Laura Cousino Klein concluded that contrary tot he longtime assumption about how human beings respond to danger, women in particular often gather together to share concerns and abilities.  They concludes that "this 'tend-and-befriend' pattern is a sharp contrast to the 'fight-or-flight' behavior pattern that has long been considered the principal responses to stress by both men and women.  For women, that didn't quite make any sense from an evolutionary standpoint.  It's a rare female of any species that would leave her baby to fend for itself while she physically takes on an aggressor.  Females are more likely to protect their children and bond with other females who can help provide protection in the process."  In other words, crises and stresses often strengthen social bonds rather than breed competition and isolation...

Gerald Winstanley, Digger spokesperson
Gerald Winstanley et al, True Leveller's Standard Advanced:  or, The State of Community Opened, and Presented to the Sons of Men at    

(94)  The radical economists J. K. Gibson-Graham (two women writing under one name) portray our society as an iceberg, with competitive capitalist practices visible above the waterline and below all kinds of relations of aid and cooperation by families, friends, neighbors, churches, cooperatives, volunteers, and voluntary organizations from softball leagues to labor unions, along with activities outside the market, under the table, bartered labor and goods, and more, a bustling network of uncommercial enterprise.
NB:  Time Banking and Skills Exchanges, Maker culture, barnraising

(96-97)  [Viktor] Frankl concluded that it is "a dangerous misconception of mental hygiene to assume that what man needs in the first place is equilibrium or, as it is called in biology, 'homeostasis,' i. e., a tensionless state.  What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.  What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him...  If architects want to strengthen a decrepit arch, they increase the load which is laid upon it, for thereby the parts are joined more firmly together."

(100)  [Mark] Connelly says, "The people's role in their own defense and destiny was downplayed in order to stress an old-fashioned division of leaders and led." [London Blitz]  [Mark Connelly _We can Take It!:  Britain and the Memory of the Second World War_ (Harlow, England:  Pearson, Longman, 2004)

(107-108)  [Charles] Fritz's first radical premise is that everyday life is already a disaster of sorts, one from which actual disaster liberates us.  He points out that people suffer and die daily, though in ordinary times, they do so privately, separately.  And he writes, "The traditional contrast between 'normal' and 'disaster' almost always ignores or minimizes these recurrent stresses of everyday life and their personal and social effects.  It also ignores a historically consistent and continually growing body of political and social analyses that points to the failure of modern societies to fulfill an individual's basic human needs for community identity."  

Later he describes more specifically how this community identity is fed during disaster:  "The widespread sharing of danger, loss, and deprivation produces an intimate, primarily group solidarity among the survivors, which overcomes social isolation, provides a channel for intimate communication and expression, and provides a major source of physical and emotional support and reassurance...  The 'outsider' becomes an 'insider,' the 'marginal man' a 'central man.'  People are thus able to perceive, with a clarity never before possible, a set of underlying basic values to which all people subscribe.  They realize that collective action is necessary for these values to be maintained and that individual and group goals are inextricably merged.  This merging of individual and societal needs provides a feeling of belonging and a sense of unity rarely achieved under normal circumstances."

(108)  Disasters, unlike everyday troubles but quite a bit like wars, pose straightforward problems to which solutions can be taken in the form of straightforward actions:  "An essential failure of disaster is that the threats and dangers to the society come from outside the system and their causes can usually be clearly perceived and specified.  This contrasts with many other crises where the threats arise within the system and it is difficult to isolate and identify a widely agreed-upon cause."
NB:  Contradictions become obvious.

(116)  Forest fire around Tassjara Zen Center:  "What was most compelling during these hours, and which in reflection remains the most satisfying, is the constant vigilance and effort that the fire required.  It was... a demanding schedule of pure presence in which one utterly let go of a known outcome.  There were undeniable moments of fear and anxiety, especially when we understood the reality that the fire was descending into Tassajara fast and from all sides, rather than creeping down one slope at a time as had initially been suggested by several professional firefighters.  But there was little time to entertain fear, so fear quickly gave way to our effort to fully meet our belated guest and the tasks at hand."  Dave Zimmerman, the center's director, concluded a few days alter, "And finally, deep bows to the fire, whose undeniable dharma teaching of impermanence has earned our awed respect and attention."  The abbot, Stephen Stucky, later said in a lecture that this encounter with the fire gave force to the idea of "being prepared to meet whatever arises."  Tassajara survived as an island of green in an ocean of blackened mountainsides and burned forests.

(117)  The language of religion might best explain that sudden joy in disaster.  It's anarchic, a joy that the ordinary arrangements have fallen to pieces - but anarchic in that the ordinary arrangements structure and contain our lives and minds;  when they cease to do so we are free to improvise, discover, change, evolve.
NB:  Life and death concentrate the mind, with raised stakes come raised attention.

(123)  Charles Fritz's colleague Enrico Quarantelli recalls that in 1954, "I wrote a master's thesis on panic, expecting to find a lot of it, and after a while I said, 'My God, I'm trying to write a thesis about panic and I can't find any instances of it.'  That's an overstatement but... it took a little while to learn that, wait a second, the situation is much better here" than anyone had thought.  He defines panic as extreme and unreasonable fear and flight behavior.  Flight behavior, however, is not necessarily panic:  He points out that what can look chaotic from outside - people moving as fast as they can in all directions - is often the most reasonable response to an urgent threat.  The thesis was another landmark in the study of human reaction to disaster, another piece of the news that chipped away at the old myths.

(125)  [Enrico] Quarantelli remarks that the organizations rather than individuals are most prone to create problems during a natural disaster.  "Bureaucracy depends on routine and schedules and paperwork and etc.  If done right - in fact, the modern world could not exist without bureaucracy.  The only trouble with that is that the bureaucratic framework is one of the worst things to have at the time of disasters when you need innovations and doing things differently.  In fact the better they operate during nondisaster times, the less likely they are to operate well.  They can't maneuver, they can't integrate, etc.  On the other hand, human beings, and this cuts across all societies... rise to the occasion.  Again, not everyone does, just like not all organizations react badly.  But in terms of human beings they rise to the occasion whereas organizations, in a sense, fall down.
NB:  Resilience and flexibility [note the difference]

(127)  Kathleen Tierney:  "Elites fear disruption of the social order, challenges to their legitimacy."  She reversed the image of a panicking public and a heroic minority to describe what she called "elite panic."  She itemized its ingredients as "fear of social disorder, fear of poor, minorities and immigrants;  obsession with looting and property crime;  willingness to resort to deadly force;  and actions taken on the basis of rumor."  In other words, it is the few who behave badly and many who rise to the occasion.  And those few behave badly not because of facts but of beliefs:  they believe the rest of us are about to panic or become a mob or upend property relations, and in their fear they act out to prevent something that may have only existed in their imaginations.  Thus the myth of malevolent disaster behavior becomes something of a self-fulfilling prophesy.  Elsewhere she adds, "The media emphasis on lawlessness and the need for strict social control both reflects and reinforces political discourse calling for a greater role for the military in disaster management.  Such policy positions are indicators of the strength of militarism as an ideology in the United States."

(130)  Praising [Kathleen] Tierney's work, [Lee] Clarke wrote, "Disaster myths are not politically neutral, but rather work systematically to the advantage of elites.  Elites cling to the panic myth because to acknowledge the truth of the situation would lead to very different policy prescriptions than the ones currently in vogue.  The chief prescription is, she notes, that the best way to prepare for disasters is by following the command and control model, the embodiment of which is the federal Department of Homeland Security.  Thus do panic myths reinforce particular institutional interests.  But it is not bureaucrats who will be the first-responders when the next disaster, whether brought by terrorists or some other agent, comes.  It won't even be the police of firefighters.  It will be our neighbors, it will be the strangers in the next car, it will be our family members.  The effectiveness of disaster response is thus diminished to the degree that we overrely on command and control.  This is another case where political ideology trumps good scientific knowledge about how the world works."

(145-146)  Former playwright, political prisoner, and then president Václav Havel, who was instrumental in the 1989 liberation of Czechoslovakia by a carefully cultivated independent civil society, defines _civil society_ as "a society in which citizens participate - in many parallel, mutually complementary ways - in public life, in the administration of public goods, and in public decisions...  The functions of the state and of the structures in such a society are limited only to that which cannot be performed by anyone else, such as legislation, national defense and security, the enforcement of justice, etc."  You could say that civil society is what unimpaired mutual aid creates;  or that civil society is the condition and mutual aid the activity that produces it.  In Mexico City in 1985, mutual aid is what people first set out to provide as they rescued and aided each other;  as the tasks became less urgent and more politically engaged, civil society is what they built up.
NB:  "You could say that civil society is what unimpaired mutual aid creates;  or that civil society is the condition and mutual aid the activity that produces it."

(149-150) [Chicago heat wave]   ...The adjoining Latino neighborhood with low death rates had "busy streets, heavy commercial activity, residential concentration... and relatively low crime."

He [Eric Klinenberg] concluded that these factors "promote social contact, collective life, and public engagement in general and provide particular benefits for the elderly, who are more likely to leave home when they are drawn out by nearby amenities."  Those who left their overheated homes for open space or air-conditioned shops, diners, or fast food restaurants or who sought and received help from neighbors were more likely to survive.  That is, heat was only one factor in determining who died.  Fear and isolations were others, keeping people in their homes even when there homes were unbearable.  This too was far from a natural disaster.  People lived or died because of the level of social amenities and social space in their neighborhoods - by whether or not the neighborhood itself was also home.  "Residents of the most impoverished, abandoned, and dangerous places in Chicago died alone because they lived in social environments that discouraged departures from the safe houses where they had burrowed, and created obstacles to social protection that are absent from more tranquil and prosperous areas."
NB:  Pattern language of disaster survival is the pattern language of conviviality (Ivan Ilich)

(159)  In 2006, the man who had been head of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, reflected, "The nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl twenty years ago this month, even more than my launch of perestroika, was perhaps the real cause of the collapse fo the Soviet Union five years later.  Indeed, the Chernobyl catastrophe was a historic turning point:  there was the era before the disaster, and there is the very different era that has followed.

(161)  On December 19, 20, and 21 of 2001, Argentines launched an unprecedented uprising in response to that country's financial crisis and growing political disgust.  In the election that October of 2001, citizens were so disgusted that nearly half did not show up or cast blank or spoiled ballots - putting pictures of Osama bin Laden in the ballot envelopes was one popular response.
NB:  _Seeing_ by José Saramago

(163)  The 2001 meltdown created something akin to disaster's sense of community.  It was a revolution in spirit as well as in practical things  In fifty years of bad government, including a few murderous military regimes, Argentines had become deeply distrustful of politicians and state power, and most had abandoned public life.  This time, they sought to withdraw from and reduce government's sphere, turning not to left-wing movements but to each other, relaunching a vital civil society.  What they created was so new it required new worlds - _horizontalidad_, or horizontalism, to describe the nonhierarchical way many communities made decisions;  _protagonism_ to describe the new agency many found;  _politica afectiva_ to describe the politics of affection.  The examples of Argentina in the earthquake of 1944 and the financial crash of 2001 demonstrate again that disasters are ultimately enigmas:  it is not the disaster but the struggle to give it meaning and to take the opportunity to redirect the society that matters, and these are always struggles with competing interests.

These moments in which revolution resemble disaster utopias are strange.  On the one hand, the revolution seems to have already, instantly, fulfilled its promise:  all men are brothers, everything is possible, anyone can speak, hearts are full, solidarity is strong.  The formation of a new government historically reallocates much of this potency to the state rather than civil society.  On the other hand, much of this moment's glory is often regarded as a side effect, an incidental, and the revolution moves on to set up better education or economies but loses this fellowship and openness.  Something trickles away.

The real revolution may be the period between regimes, not the new regime (and Jonathan Schell points out that, contrary to what we usually believe, the French and Russian revolutions terminated the old regimes without significant bloodshed;  it was establishing the new one that was so violent.

(172)  Disaster's message that anything could happen is not so far away from revolution's exhortation that everything is possible.
NB:  Situationist slogan of 1968:  Be reasonable, demand the impossible.

(173)  The jubilee described in Leviticus is supposed to happen every fifty years and "proclaim liberty throughout all the land," free the slaves, cancel debts, return the land to the original owner (who might be God or no one), let the fields lie fallow, and bring about a long reprieve from work.  Slaves sang of jubilee;  early-nineteenth-century revolutionaries embraced it as a great redistribution of wealth, a starting over even;  and the British group Jubilee Research (formerly Jubilee 2000) seeks the cancellation of third-world debt as jubilee's contemporary equivalent.  The idea of jubilee is a revolution that recurs as a festival.

(175)  Mexico:  When politicians cut ribbons or staged other public events they hoped would reflect well on them, Super Barrio would show up and pressure them to do better by the poor.  He confronted landlords;  showed up at evictions, meetings, and demonstrations;  inspired the strugglers to feel more powerful and confident.  He became famous as a sort of latter-day Robin Hood of the urban poor, and he lives on more than two decades after he first appeared.  He is credited with stopping ten thousand evictions, and when he appeared on camera in a recent documentary he spoke about his politics in such phrases as, "We have asserted that the city belongs to everyone" and "The credit goes to the people.  Who is behind the mask matters least" and "Super Barrio is all of us."  Though the only one in costume, he placed everyone around him in carnival mode and opened up the possibilities.
NB:  the mask and Guy Fawkes

(177)  For the past twenty years, U. S. radicals have been speaking of "the politics of prefiguration":  of the idea that you can and must embody whatever liberty, justice, democracy you aspire to, and in doing so in your self, your community, or your movement you achieve a degree of victory, whatever you do beyond that.

(180)  If the Zapatistas arose from many long disasters, the society they created in their autonomous regions of Chiapas and that they propose in their globally circulated slogans and writings greatly resembles disaster communities.  There is an emphasis on improvisation.  "Caminando preguntamos," they say, or "We walk asking questions."  Rather than dogma, they have inquiry as a core principle.  There is an intense critique of hierarchy and mandar obediencia, or "govern by obeying," is also a recurrent theme, imperfectly realized.  At the entrance to one of their communities is a sign that could be at any of them:  "Here the people govern and the government obeys."  It is in many ways the society of mutual aid and self-government Kropotkin, among many others, dreamed of.  It attempts to render permanent what disaster fleetingly provides:  a realm in which people care for each other in the absence of entrenched and alienated authority and the presence of mutual aid, altruism, and love.
NB:  V for Vendetta:  The people shouldn't be afraid of the government, the government should be afraid of the people. (It is.  That's usually one of the uses of a police force.)

(188-189)  New Yorkers were well served by their everyday practices of walking the city, mingling with strangers, and feeling at home in public.  It is hard to imagine many of the more suburbanized and privatized American cities responding with such resilience, resourcefulness, and public-spiritedness, and so the everyday qualities of true urbanism may too be survival skills in crisis.  The denizens of many other cities may have even had difficulty imagining that a mass evacuation could be conducted on foot, that the human body that seemed so frail under attack could nevertheless cover several miles or more to safety and to home.

(189)  Adam Mayblum email:  "They failed in terrorizing us.  We were calm.  If you want to kill us, leave us alone because we will do it by ourselves.  If you want to make us stronger, attack and we unite.  This is the ultimate failure of terrorism against the United States.  The very moment the first plane was hijacked, democracy won."
NB:  Same reaction to bombing of civilians - in England, in Germany, in Vietnam...

(194)  Astra Taylor:  "There was camaraderie, no hysterics, no panic, you felt that people would come together.  That's obviously what happened in the towers, there was a lot of heroism that day.  But then suddenly you're back in your apartment and you're isolated and you're watching the news and it's this hysterical... they were so overwrought and they're just showing the image again and again of the plane hitting the tower and the tower collapsing.  The experience on television was so different than the experience on the street."

(195)  Charles Fritz had identified the phenomenon of convergence in 1957, writing, "Movement toward the disaster area usually is both quantitatively and qualitatively more significant than flight or evacuation from the scene of destruction.  Within minutes following most domestic disasters, thousands of people begin to converge on the disaster area and on first-aid stations, hospitals, relief, and communications centers in the disaster environs.  Shortly following, tons of unsolicited equipment and supplies of clothing, food, bedding, and other materials begin arriving in the disaster area."

(197)  In her book on altruism and democracy, _The Samaritan's Dilemma_, Deborah Stone writes, "From the voice of altruists, a more remarkable paradox emerges:  Most people don't experience altruism as self-sacrifice.  They experience it as a two-way street, as giving and receiving at the same time.  When they help others, they gain a sense of connection with other people.  Giving and helping make them feel a part of something larger than themselves.  Helping others makes them feel needed and valuable and that their time on earth is well spent.  Helping others gives them a sense of purpose."
NB:  research on buying happiness by giving money away

(207)  Tricia Wachtendorf, a disaster sociologist who spent considerable time in New York during the aftermath of September 11 comments that convergent volunteers often irk officials because "the appearance of these groups suggests the inadequacy of official response efforts."  She describes how goods managed by groups like Mueller's and Smith's were called "rebel food" and "renegade supplies."  The improvisational skills of volunteers and emergent groups often outstrips that of institutions, she notes, and so they almost always function well first and are then eclipsed by the official relief agencies and established volunteer groups. which have resources and continuity on their side.  The initially guerrilla effort became increasingly managed and professionalized as time went on, though a number of volunteers stayed on in their original roles or in salaried positions developed later.

(220)  A less well known psychological concept is "post-traumatic growth," a phenomenon that applies to personal as well as collective experience.  One of the major books on the subject explains, "Inherent in these traumatic experiences are losses such as the loss of loved ones, of cherished roles or capabilities, or of fundamental, accepted ways of understanding life.  In the face of these losses and the confusion they cause, some people rebuild a way of life that they experience as superior to their old one in important ways.  For them, the devastation of loss provides an opportunity to build a new, superior life structure almost from scratch.  They establish new psychological constructs that incorporate the possibility of such traumas, and better ways to to cope with them.  They appreciate their newly found strength and the strength of their neighbors and their community.  And because of their efforts, individuals may value both what they now have, and the process of creating it although the process involved loss and distress.  Groups and societies may go through a similar transformation, producing new norms for behavior and better ways to care for individuals within the group."  Trauma is real.  It isn't ubiquitous.  And what people do with trauma varies.  As Viktor Frankl remarked, "often it is just such an exceptionally difficult external situation which gives man the opportunity to grow spiritually beyond himself."
NB:  _Posttraumatic Growth:  Positive Changes in the Aftermath of Crisis_ by Richard Tedeschi, Crystal Park, and Lawrence Calhoun, eds (Mahwah, NJ:  Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1998)

(235)  When Tierney was speaking about elite panic - "fear of social disorder;  fear of poor, minorities, and immigrants;  obsession with looting and property crime;  willingness to resort to deadly force;  and actions taken on the basis of rumor" - she was talking shortly after Katrina, perhaps the worst case of elite panic in the history of the United States.  New Orleans had long been a high-crime city, but the mythic city of monsters the media and authorities invented in the wake of Katrina never existed, except in their imagination.  That belief ravaged the lives of tens of thousands of the most vulnerable.

(259)  LIke elites when they panic, racists imagine again and again that without them utter savagery would break out, so that their own homicidal violence is in defense of civilization and the preservation of order. 

(265)  A Jamaican writing about the devastating Caribbean hurricanes of 2008 commented:  "Cuba is organised as a mutual aid society in which every citizen has his repsonsibilities, his duties and his place.  When hurricanes threaten Cuba, people move out of the way guided by the neighbourhood Committees for the Defence of the Revolution - CDR.  They move the old and the young, the sick and the healthy and their cats, dogs, parrots, their goats, donkeys and cows, to safe places.  Here is a truly incredible fact.  Last week the Cubans moved 2,615,000 people - a number nearly equivalent to the entire population of Jamaica - to safety.  Four people died in the storm, the first fatalities for years.  It is a remarkable statistic.  Three years ago when Texas tried to evacuate a million or so ahead of hurricane Rita, more than 100 people died in the evacuation."

(279)  The most optimistic of all disaster scholars, Charles Fritz, had ascribed his positive disaster experiences only to those who are "permitted to interact freely and to make an unimpeded social adjustment."

(283)  I stopped by Camp Casey the day that Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf and found a big camp and an extraordinary community akin in many ways to disaster communities.

(285)  Every activist movement begins by uniting its participants in important ways, giving them a sense of purpose drawn from the wrongs they seek to right and the shared vision of a better world.  In 1957, King wrote that the ultimate aim of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a key player in the movement, was "to foster and create the 'beloved community' in American where brotherhood is a reality...  Our ultimate goal is genuine intergroup and interpersonal living - integration."  Integration was no longer merely a practical matter of buses, schools, lunch counters, and workplaces.  It was a metaphysic of solidarity and affinity, a condition of hearts rather than laws and facilities.  The same year he declared that the nonviolent activist in this movement "realizes that noncooperation and boycotts are not ends themselves...  The end is redemption and reconciliation.  The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community."

...What begins as opposition coalesces again and again into social invention, a revolution of everyday life rather than a revolt against the system.
NB:  Gandhian economics, commercial trusteeship and citizenship

(286)  The affinities with disaster communities are obvious:  activist communities come into being in response to what is perceived as a disaster - discrimination, destruction, deprivation - and sometimes generate a moment or fragment of a better world.  As Temma Kaplan, a New Yorker who had been part of that movement in the American South, said, "For a short time, during the first few days after 9/11 I felt that Beloved Community that we talked about in the Civil Rights Movement."

(291)  The year of its founding, 1966, the [Black Panther] Party had come up with a "ten-point program" whose last point was, "We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, peace, and people's community control of modern technology."

(293)  Common Ground of New Orleans' Malik Rahim:  "We work with solidarity.  That means that if you work here, you going to have to stay here.  You going to have to keep your presence in the community, and it breached those gaps.  We was the first organization to reach out to the Native American community in Houma, we was the first organization to reach out to the Vietnamese community here."  Common Ground's motto is Solidarity, Not Charity, an emphasis on working with rather than for that sets it apart from many national relief groups, however messy its realization of its goals.  Project begat projects.

(295)  Aislyn Colgan, New Orleans:  "I was a never a person who cried about happy things, but I find that I cry more often.  I feel like I have a much stronger sense of the harshness of life and also the beauty.  It's like they're one and the same."

[Tent cities after the 1906 SF earthquake]  It resembles the campouts that have become a major part of counterculture gathering since the 1960s, notably the biggest and longest-lived of them all, the Rainbow Gatherings held annually since the early 1970s.

(296)  Rainbow Gatherings, which now bring together about thirty thousand people to a different national forest location each year, build a functioning temporary society quite literally from the ground up.  Each site is chosen for access to potable water, and an often elaborate piping system brings waters from source to camp.  A group arrives early to set up, laying out the grounds and digging latrines, hugely important in  preventing disease from spreading and fulfilling the commitment to leave behind an undamaged landscape.  Another group stays behind to do cleanup.  There is no formal structure or hierarchy, but a great deal of informal organizing - all decisions are by consensus, anyone may participate, and volunteer groups perform all tasks.  (Those who have been around a long time and done a lot of the work accrue power, but it is hard to call this hierarchy.)  In addition to the national gathering in the United States each July (with a day of prayer and meditation on the Fourth), regional gatherings, a worldwide gathering, and gatherings in Canada, Europe, New Zealand, and Australia are now established.  I have been to a regional Rainbow Gathering, and my response was mixed - I'm not big on clouds of pot smoke, hugs from strangers, hybridized religious appropriations, and grubby personal style - but I saw the desire and partial realization of a goal of creating a mutual-aid gift-economy society and an impressive and moving atmosphere of sweetness, openness, and generosity.

A crucial aspect of Rainbow Gatherings that was not true of Woodstock in 1969 or Burning Man now is that it truly exists as far outside the monetary economy as possible.  Burning Man, the huge annual desert gathering charges a steep admission, patrols to keep the nonpaying out, hires a company to supply and maintain hundreds of chemical toilets, contracts a local hospital to set up a clinic on-site, and leaves all major decisions to the staff of the limited-liability corporation it has become.
NB:  This year's tickets, whose sale just closed in the first week of February 2012, was controversial.

(297)  When Katrina hit the Gulf region, the 2005 national gathering in West Virginia's Monongahela National Forest had been over for more than a month.  But many participants kept in touch and some converged on the disaster zone.  One named Jawker wrote on September 22 of that year, "As the magnitude of the disaster began to sink in I started receiving phone calls from around the country from my Rainbow friends suggesting we go down and feed folks.  What a great idea I thought,  If anyone knew about keeping people healthy in a primitive setting and dealing with creating refugee camps it was Rainbow.  Add to that that we knew each other already and we seemed like a natural."  His group settled in Waveland, Mississippi.

(300)  So in December of 2005, Weiner created a registered nonprofit called Emergency Communities.  The name "was our third choice, and the other two were taken by bands.  It has various meanings, it could be a noun in the sense that we are building an emergency community, each site is an emergency community.  Or it can be the creation of a community from an emergency.  But the idea is to blur the lines between those that are helping and those that need help into a single community."

(303)  But there was a more dramatic conflict between those who believe in civil society and the possibility of a beloved community and those who, along with Hobbes, Le Bon, and a lot of elites who panic, believed that their own selfishness was justified by a selfish world.

(305)  One reason that disasters are threatening to elites is that power devolves to the people on the ground in many ways:  it is the neighbors who are the first responders and who assemble the impromptu kitchens and networks to rebuild.  And it demonstrates the viability of a dispersed, decentralized system of decision making.  Citizens themselves in these moments constitute the government - the acting decision-making body - as democracy has always promise and rarely delivered.  Thus disasters often unfold as though a revolution has already taken place.

(306)  After 9/11, New Yorker Marshall Berman cited Nietszche:  "Man, the bravest animal and the one most inured to trouble, does not deny suffering per se:  he wants it, he even seeks it out, provided it can be given a meaning."  Frankl quotes another version of Nietzsche's pronouncement:  "He who has a _why_ to live for can bear almost any _how_."  When Dorothy Day gave up her lover, she gave up an intensely tangible private affection for another, broader love, of God, but also of purposefulness, meaning, involvement, and community, without which she had been miserable even in her ménage.  She gave up her _how_ for a _why_.  The joy in disaster comes, when it comes, from that purposefulness, the immersion in service and survival, and from an affection that is not private and personal but civic:  the love of strangers for each other, of a citizen for his or her city, of belonging to a greater whole, of doing the work that matters.

These loves remain largely dormant and unacknowledged in contemporary postindustrial society:  this is the way in which everyday life is a disaster.  For acted upon, given a role, this is a love that builds society, resilience, community, purpose, and meaning.
NB:  Charles Olson's polis

(309)  Surviving and maybe even turning back the tide of this pervasive ongoing disaster [climate change] will require more ability to improvise together, stronger societies, more confidence in each other. It will require a world in which we are each other's wealth and have each other's trust...

But not everyone behaves well.  Elite panic in disaster, as identified by contemporary disaster scholars, is shaped by belief, belief that since human beings at large are bestial and dangerous, the believer must himself or herself act with savagery to ensure individual safety or the safety of his or her interests.  The elites that panic are, in times of crisis, the minority, and understanding that could marginalize or even disarm them, literally and psychologically, as well as the media that magnify their message.  This would help open the way to create a world more like the brief utopias that flash up in disaster.

(310)  Lee Clarke, the coauthor of the definitive essay on elite panic, told me that after 9/11 he found himself at a lot of conferences sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA.  There he tried to tell the bureaucrats what actually works in disasters.  "In a chaotic situation command and control is bound to fail," he'd say of the top-down management system many organizations deploy in crisis.  He told the disaster administrators who wanted to know what message to give people in disaster that it is the people who might have some messages to give them on what's actually going on and what's actually needed.  Clarke concluded, "they don't have a way to fold civil society into their official conceptions."

(311)  SF:  In the aftermath, the Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) program was created to train volunteers to take care of their neighborhoods and city in disaster.  The fire department runs the program, which has trained more than seventeen thousand citizens.  The city used the centennial of the 1906 quake to urge, via bus placards, billboards, and more, disaster preparedness in every home - not only the stockpiling of supplies but also the creation of emergency plans....

The firefighters amazed me by saying, "In a disaster, property no longer matters.  Only people matter.  We had come a long way from San Francisco in 1906.

(323)  Gladys Hansen and Emmet Condon, _Denial of Disaster_ (SF:  Cameron and Co, 1989)

(325)  William James' "The Moral Equivalent of War at  

(328)  Samuel Henry Prince, _Catastrophe and Social Change:  Based Upon a Sociological Study of the Halifax Disaster_

(329)  Gerald Winstanley et al, True Leveller's Standard Advanced:  or, The State of Community Opened, and Presented to the Sons of Men at    

(333)  Lee Clarke, _Introduction to Terrorism and Disaster, Vol 11:  New Threats, New Ideas_ (JAI Press, 2003)  "Disaster myths are not politically neutral"

(334)  _Resilient Cities:  How Modern Cities Recover from Disaster_ by Lawrence Vale and Thomas Campanella (Oxford Univ Press, 2005)

(336)  _T. A. Z.:  The Temporary Autonomous Zone_ by Hakim Bey (Autonomedia, 2003)

(341)  Eaine Scarry, "Citizenship in Emergency:  Can Democracy Protect Us Against Terrorism?" at

Charles Fritz, _Disasters and Mental Health:  Therapeutic Principles Drawn from Disaster Studies_ (Univ of DE, 1996)

(344)  Oxfam America 2004 Report Cuba:  Weathering the Storm, Lessons in Risk Reduction from Cuba at