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Orwell, Fascism, &c – we need our own red lines, but where?

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — how far gone are we — from a sorta leftist-centrist-don’t-really-fit-labels POV? ]
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I’m not sure what exactly JM was responding to here, there have been too many pointers..

**

I for one don’t think Charlottesville stacks up against Kristallnacht, and am wary of the words Fascism and Nazi. I wholeheartedly agree with JM Berger in his piece today, Calling them Nazis:

There’s an increasingly common argument online against referring to the alt-right by its chosen name. “Call them Nazis” is the refrain. If you haven’t said it yourself, you’ve probably seen other people saying it.

While this approach may be understandable and may suit certain rhetorical purposes, it’s a grave mistake for journalists and experts who substantively study and cover the movement to embrace this approach.

JM continues:

The alt-right category is extremely important to understanding what’s happening in this movement. Nazis are only part of this movement, or more correctly neo-Nazis, since most of them aren’t German nationalists. If neo-Nazis were America’s only problem, it would be a much smaller problem.

**

My concern here is with a somewhat different angle, and not specifically with the Charlottesville clashes. I’m noting the widespread tendency to suggest we’re already in Brownshirt territory, if not deeper in than that, and I think it may be a bit premature.

IMO, we need to be cautious in where we draw the lines that say, beyond here is Fascism, or Nazism, it seems to me: exaggeration only serves to discredit those who indulge.

There are real problems, both with overt swastika-wavers and with those who support or merely tolerate them. Which way the wind will blow over the coming few years, however, is yet to be seen.

**

However, getting back to Orwell

— it does seem to me that scooping up more than a million IP addresses of epople who may have an interest in protesting Trump gies way beyond some kind of Orwell Limit.

Orwell kept his resistance movement cellular and basically unnowable: datamining the web blows an enormous hole in that strategy.

I’d have to say that with today’s news about DOJ vs DisruptJ20, one of my personal Orwell Red Lines has been crossed.

Sunday surprise — emoji as selfie, with hijab

Sunday, July 23rd, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — cute, controversial ]
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Rayouf Alhumedhi, 16, from Saudi Arabia, now living in Vienna, wanted an emoji to represent herself and other women in hijab, and it has now been approved. Here she is, below right, with the emoji version of herself:

Unsurprisingly, there are some who view the hijab as an example of “patriarchal constructs that oppress women” == but Rayouf herself clearly feels both liberated and delighted.

Mileages will no doubt vary.

**

Source:

  • CNN, Teen behind new hijab emoji: ‘I just wanted an emoji of me’
  • Daveed Gartenstein-Ross in Foreign Affairs #2, more directly to his point

    Sunday, March 5th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — following up on Daveed Gartenstein-Ross in Foreign Affairs, my oblique analysis and more pertinent to the point he’s making ]
    .

    Daveed is illustrating a pretty significant pattern with his latest article in Foreign Affairs, The Coming Islamic Culture War, subtitled What the Middle East’s Internet Boom Means for Gay Rights, and More:

    These paragraphs:

    Today, a new type of discursive space—one that will foster a very different set of ideas—is opening up in the Muslim world. In April 2011, Bahraini human rights activists created one such space when they launched the website Ahwaa, the first online forum for the LGBT community in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Esra’a al-Shafei, one of the website’s founders, was modest about the site’s ambitions, explaining that Ahwaa was intended “as a support network” for the “LGBTQ community” as well as a resource for those “who want to learn more by interacting with [LGBT] people.”

    Although little-noticed at the time, Ahwaa’s seemingly innocuous project was in fact revolutionary. Homosexuality in the MENA region is not only stigmatized but generally criminalized and banished from the public sphere. The creation of an online platform where LGBT people could candidly discuss the issues affecting their lives, such as romantic relationships or the tensions between Islam and gay rights, was thus a direct challenge to deeply inscribed cultural and religious norms. Indeed, Ahwaa heralds a wave of challenging ideas that, fueled by rapidly rising Internet penetration, will soon inundate Muslim-majority countries.

    Online communications, by their nature, give marginalized social and political groups a space to organize, mobilize, and ultimately challenge the status quo. In the MENA region, online spaces like Awhaa will give sexual minorities the ability to assert their identity, rights, and place in society. So too will the Internet amplify discourses critical of the Islamic faith, or of religion in general, and solidify the identities of secularists, atheists, and even apostates. The rise of these religion-critical discourses will in turn trigger a backlash from conservative forces who fear an uprooting of traditional beliefs and identities. The coming social tsunami should be visible to anyone who knows what signs to look for.

    Into the black swirl of geographical regimes that give no room for questioning — gay, political, religious, or whatever — a white circle of online discussion and possibility blossoms —

    Shielded by the relative anonymity of online communications, marginalized individuals of all stripes can discuss intimate and controversial issues. The Internet, furthermore, allows like-minded people from disparate corners of the world to find one another and create virtual communities. An atheist living in rural Egypt, for example, may not know anyone else who shares his views. But when he goes online, he will find millions of people who do.

    — and as it blossoms, the black swirl of repressive backlash again threatens it.

    **

    Likewise, though this does not happen to be Daveed’s point, into the white swirl of western democratic societies a black circle of illiberalism opens — the internet providing a networking space for anti-Semites and other far right groups they would previously lacked —

    Today, the Internet is a powerful and virulent platform for anti-Semitism — hate towards Jews that has a direct link to violence, terrorism and the deterioration of civil society. Hitler and the Nazis could never have dreamed of such an engine of hate. [ .. ]

    The Internet allows anti-Semites to communicate, collaborate and plot in ways simply not possible in the off-line world.

    — and this blossoming extends into the Trump camp, as JM Berger suggested

    New developments and new propaganda items are a constant part of the ISIS landscape, whereas content in white nationalist networks tends to be repetitive, with few meaningful changes to the movement’s message, landscape, or political prospects. A notable exception to this is Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy, which has energized white nationalists and provided new talking points and opportunities for engagement. Trump’s candidacy is likely driving some portion of movement’s recent gains on Twitter.

    And again likewise, this blossoming begins to be threatened by its own backlash — the blossoming of internet speech within contrary geographical cultural norms cuts both ways. It’s almost apocalyptic — that internet space blossoming can open up cracks in what David Brooks called “the post-World War II international order — the American-led alliances, norms and organizations that bind democracies and preserve global peace” — to which Steve Bannon is vehemently opposed.

    Apocalyptic? Whether we’re speaking of Daveed’s “coming Islamic culture wars” or Brooks’ “international order” there are signs of the times to be seen. As Daveed says —

    The coming social tsunami should be visible to anyone who knows what signs to look for.

    — and in closing —

    Regardless of their ultimate outcome, however, signs of the coming Islamic culture wars can already be discerned. Western observers have long overlooked or misinterpreted social trends that have swept through Muslim-majority countries. This is one trend that they cannot afford to miss.

    Big Ideas and MediaGlyphs

    Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — Mad Scientist asks, John Robb responds]
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    Today’s call and response comes to me via two blog posts that followed one another in my RSS feed — in the reverse order to the one I read them in. I’ve straightened that out so response now follows call for your convenience.

    From Max Brooks (World War Z) lecturing for the Army’s 2016 “Mad Scientist” initiative:

    One of the US government’s biggest challenges today, particularly in the context of military issues, is its inability to communicate big ideas to the American people .. This has caused a significant portion of the population to disengage from government, including and especially from the military .. It may take several decades to reverse the trend ..

    There’s more there in the report at the Atlantic Council‘s Art of the Future blog, as Brooks discusses particular big ideas that need communicating — but it’s the communication issue itself that caught my eye.

    **

    So how does communication happen most powerfully in todays media environment?

    Here are a few points from John Robb‘s thoughts on that very question, posted today at Global Guerrillas. First, a sample of what’s commonly known as an internet meme, but which John would prefer to call a MediaGlyph — his candidate for the punchiest mode of delivery:

    And now his comments under the header All Hail The MediaGlyph, The New King of Political Communications:

    Successful mediaglyphs blanket social networks, often going viral to reach tens of millions of viewers in days as they are rapidly with an ever expanding network of friends.

    Collectively, mediaglyphs generate tens of millions of impressions an hour. Several orders of magnitude (100x) more than any other form of political communication.

    Unlike TV, Print, and most forms of online communication, mediaglyphs are built for consumption on smartphones and visual modes of social networking. They are also built for speedy consumption, providing a quick emotional hit in comparison to a long winded article with an uncertain payoff.

    Nothing other form of political communications compare.

    Mediaglyphs are one of ways online conflict, in this case political conflict, is being fought. These online wars are occurring everywhere, all the time, at every level. They are deciding the future.

    That’s why I’m writing a new book called as a natural follow on to my previous book: Brave New War:

    The War Online: How Conflicts are Fought and Won on Social Networks

    I look forward to reviewing John’s book, which will no doubt get into some detail not easily stated in a single MediaGlyph — my guess, however, is that John’s text will itself be a terrific mine for glyphs, given his obvious delight in short, quotable one-sentence paragraphs.

    Net gains in Turkey and Iran?

    Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — when two data points contradict a trend, what’s up? ]
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    Gotta love the graphic of “Twitter being written into the ancient Persian Cyrus Cylinder in an animation film for Farsi Twitter, highlighting the platforms importance for communications in Iran” (upper panel, below):

    Tablet DQ internet saved

    — and there’s something faintly Escherian about the screengrab of Turkish President Erdogen in, what, a hall of screens? (lower panel, above).

    I’ve said before that single data-points mean little, but two of them — outliers from a general trend — may consitute an eddy in the stream, a knot in the wood, a disturbance in the force worth noting, worth looking into.

    Thus far, our interest in social media in the Middle East has largely focused on terrorist uses [eg Berger 1, 2] and counter-terrorism & CVE measures [eg Aistrope], with a sidelong glance at authorities blocking the net {eg Kerr]..

    **

    Here’s the video:

    Sources:

  • Zeynep Tufekci / NYT, How the Internet Saved Turkey’s Internet-Hating President
  • Global Voices, Iranian Hardliners Want to Stop Blocking Twitter — to Defeat Saudi Propaganda
  • Food for thought:

    Note that knots in wood are generally indicative of a third-dimensional force, oblique to the wood’s surface plane. In considering any situation analogous to a knt in wood or eddy in a river, it’s worth asking: is there an oblique force at work disturbing the current, and if so, what is it, why here, and what does it portend?


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