Friday, June 22, 2018

A note on responding to "calls for action" with your own social media accounts, and for demands to "join us, or else"


I feel I need to interrupt the news stream and remind readers of my own skin in the game, or lack of it (given the recent interest in Taleb’s book).


I get requests (phrased as demands, almost as threats) all the time to join protests, and to raise money for people or causes through action buttons on my own sites and especially social media pages.  I’ve also seen a lot of unwelcome female flirting, extending a problem I took up her with respect to Twitter at the end of 2015.

Indeed, this trend has increased recently as Facebook has taken steps to try to get users to interact more personally, and to de-emphasize amateur news propagation.  Just today, ProPublica weighed in on this with respect to distinguishing ads from articles, and Tim Lee from Ars Technica replied on Twitter.
  
I generally don’t run other people’s campaigns under my own name, or “join in”, unless I am really prepared to make a real (and immediate) commitment addressing the specific problem.  Otherwise, the activism gets pretty meaningless. 

There are constant protests over very narrow issues often interpreted in polarized way. I don’t waste my energy on taking extreme or uncompromising positions (either online or by shouting in demonstrations), most of all based on combativeness predicted on tribalism and intersectionality. I don't respond to overhyped emotional outbursts or manipulations online. (OK, if I wind up going to the gallows for being on the wrong side, so be it;  sometimes you do have to join the resistance and drop everything else, but not now.) 

Rather than reacting to narrow political (or "tribal" or "intersectional") "emergencies", I try to emphasize connecting the dots, and dealing with an issue like free speech from the view of many threats to it acting in combination, so you can't afford to waste all your political capital on just one of the sub-threats.  (Like Backpage-FOSTA may be more critical than network neutrality, for example.) 
    
I do have a lot of work to finish, to make my work pay for itself, which could become a critical issue itself soon.  I am making headway on the music, novel and screenplay (all interconnected behind the scenes).  But I have to keep up my own momentum. I am more interested in "connecting the dots" than in anal retentive focus on just one problem at a time. 

That’s why I’ve also stopped volunteer activities where I am just a “prole” and have no real commitment to the cause or connection to the people.

There are projects that I am aware of that could change this for me.  I have to be discrete about them right now.  But in time, there could be changes in my strategy.

I don’t feel obligated to answer flirts just because someone Friended me on Facebook.  But it seems that some people feel that Facebook is trying to get everyone to “play ball (with 'us')” and not just “watch” (like in the movie “Rebirth”) and that somehow they are entitled to unwelcome contact with me or others. I would add that, given the way I work, I have little need for Snapchat and the idea of sharing images that will disappear. 

I also want to remind everyone that the whole system of user-generated content that we count on for public participation is in trouble, from a lot of sources:  FOSTA, copyright developments in Europe, and (less so) the erosion of net neutrality, and most of all the desire to cut down on “surveillance capitalism” and information clutter.  So I have to remain even more focused on my own work.  And, yes, I see personal ability to assimilate and adapt to inevitable social change as itself a moral issue.

One aspect that I have noticed particularly in left-wing sites:  aggressive demands for donations on the theory that soon you will be silenced as an individual and that you must join “us” to protect you.  Well organized tribal activists would love to see user generated content shut down, to force independent speakers to join up,  because UGC tends to dilute group solidarity especially on intersectional issues. There is indeed some cultural Marxism being promulgated. 

We’ve seen things disappear before become of ecological impacts – look at how the gay community lost he baths in the 1980s.  The same sort of thing can happen with this.

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