OK, I need to talk about my online presence and “anti-tribalism”

Voya, formerly ING-ReliaStar, where I worked in Minneapolis 1997-2001, 2018 picture by me

OK, I want to talk frankly, maybe lay down the law a bit, on what is happening as I restructure my sites, as I have been discussing recently. 

Until the end of 2021, I had 20 active blogs (16 of them dating back to early 2006) with one massive flat site “do ask do tell” containing the purchase links and texts for the books, with a great deal of supplementary material.   It is important to note that access to all of this material was free, without logons or paywalls.  I did not pester users with email lists or promotions or popups – I did use Google Adsense on many of the blogs and also Amazon associate ads of books, music and movies, the format of which Amazon changed radically early in 2022.

Now, there is one personal site in my legal name, this one, where I express views (and try to back them up with reputable references) mostly on matters that pertain to personal agency, my own and that of others.  Much of this material does consist of reviews of other books and many films, often from less known creators. 

There is also the doaskdotell site, which has been pared down to essentials, and an experimental doaskdotell.info site, on web.com, in a format that is more conventionally commercial, for selling the three DADT books.  Right now, there are some technical problems with completing the new doaskdotell site, which I’ll set aside now for this discussion.

Why did I do this?  Actually, I had concerns about the sustainability of my setup in early 2018, and I actually announced in late February 2019 that I would pare down the presence at the end of 2021 (about 32 months after the announcement).  This was almost a year before the pandemic was having serious consequences.   Some of the concerns are rather mundane and common.  I am getting older (79 now), it I would not be able to turn the operation over easily if something happens to me.  There was the expense, more than expected (especially in security products), to sustain every year.  In late 2018 the CASE Act was first introduced (admittedly after I had these concerns) raising the possibility of eventually attracting copyright trolls (remember “Righthaven” through about 2011?)  There was increasing talk of ditching Section 230 (which was seriously compromised by the FOSTA law passed in the spring of 2018).   More significantly, the crackdown on “hate speech”, while understandable, rapidly escalated after Charlottesville, even affecting hosting companies and domain registrars. In understandable backlash after the aggressiveness of the “alt right” (amplified by social media algorithms manipulated by foreign adversaries) which started to become apparent in the 2016 presidential race, the notion of what “hate speech” is enlarged and became unstable.  The general public seemed to become more tribal and more polarized, outside the intellectual areas of the Internet. 

But the problem that got my attention really seemed to be the idea of gratuitous “political” (or issue-oriented) speech like mine, when it did not pay for itself, did not require running a legitimate business, and seemed enabled only by wealth from other sources, whether earned from a career or from other investments with capitalism, or particularly if supported by inherited wealth in retirement, when the speaker did not  have any direct accountability to take care of others.  In a sense this is a variation of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s “Skin in the Game” problem (and 2018 book, legacy review).

I had originally published my first DADT book in 1997, and switched to POD in 2000 (after my printing ran out).  Although actual sales were reasonable during the first 18 months or so, they dropped off.  For years I went along with this low level “problem” (especially the years home with mother after my own “retirement” until she passed in 2010). In early 2012 I started getting calls from the POS publisher about slow sales, fifteen years after my first book appeared and nine years after the second.

Consider again the subject matter.  I got into writing the books and blogs first with the “gays in the military” issue, which led me into the free speech issues by being a co-litigant in the COPA (Child Online Protection Act of 1998) litigation through 2007.  The original issue is unusual in that it bears on the problem of forced intimacy (in the military) which sometimes, in the past at least, has been connected to conscription (male-only).  The issue tends to point to many other (civilian) policy problems that deal with individual “privacy” and autonomy or “agency”.  Over the years I followed that trail. 

In fact, I could point out that the books (especially #3) focus on the idea that the “unconventional” (or “creative”) individual bears the moral responsibility for performing well enough in society, by overcoming problems and having what amounts (personally) to good social credit (in today’s terminology, copying China!)  This goes against the grain of recent identarianism, where people in marginalized groups individually develop identities by solidarity with other persons in the (intersectionalized) groups.  Indeed, some on the Left might interpret my approach as strengthening oppression against those individually not competent to overcome their problems, hinting of future fascism, so they could interpret the approach as “hateful” in today’s woke world, but would not have seen things this way before Trumpism had taken over. 

The books, I can say with some irony, also address the issues of fundamental rights derived from “substantive due process” and, in the last chapter of the first book, proposes that it would be safer to enumerate the rights than depend on an expanded interpretation of the 14th Amendment (particularly).  These might be specified by constitutional amendment, as discussed on Chapter 3 of the second book, as a kind of “Bill of Rights II”, a slogan that had some traction in the late 1990s.

And consider also that in the early days of Web 1.0, merely being found by search engines was a productive way to become known, or at least have your ideas known – without actual aggressive marketing more commonly expected in conventional business.

Even without use of algorithms later prominent with social media (starting in the late 2000’s) it was possible for one person to influence political or social opinions and have effect with very little conventional business activity or participation in conventional activism.

So you can see where there could be objection to this developing, especially from the more tribal portions of the Left.  It would be seen as lowballing those making a living from writing (especially legitimate or mainstream media) and seriously undermining the ability of oppressed groups to achieve the mass they need through using protesting, even causing disruption or getting arrested, for issues that seem critical enough.

A good illustration of this is shown in a June 11, 2022 speech by David Hogg who personalizes what “I need you to do” in following his script for political activism.  The crowd responds like foot soldiers.  But the gravity of the gun violence problem seems to compel this collective action (and some personal sacrifice of what seems like a legitimate individual right, self-defense and “standing your ground”).  It’s important to note that this problem really is not one of identarianism within an oppressed group, as anyone can become a victim or target of random gun violence (although David’s main focus is “young people”). The same observation could be made about collective activism regarding climate change (which often is quite disruptive to the public and often involves protesters being willing to make the sacrifice of getting arrested and depending on crowd sourcing of bail money and the like).

David Hogg speech June 11, 2022 in DC

Along these lines, we have seen calls for “compulsory” activism from the Left in other areas, as with “silence is violence” mantras and the characterization of anti-racism as mandatory for good citizenship.

So it is not hard to imagine in the future that, if you want a place online, you could have to show support for collective efforts deemed critical enough, a kind of compelled speech problem.  Not everyone sees “writers” as allowed to assume the luxury of expressing only their own views or work, without being pliable enough to work for the needs of others.

I made a video as early as April 1, 2018 expressing this concern, called “A Dangerous Thought Experiment”.   As a counter argument, imagine a world where everybody has to try to sell things on Ebay.  It couldn’t work collectively (any more than multi-level marketing). 

“A Dangerous Thought Experiment”

You could also more reasonably expect to see evidence that the speaker has responsibility for others, or is willing to elevate others who are otherwise disabled in some public fashion, in order to discourage ideas that defend individual “freedom” in terms of “survival of the fittest”, a trend that if acceptable could encourage fascism.

So I have a problem with some of this.  I need to have a public area of my own speech that is entirely independent of “tribal” pressures so that is how I am still setting up my permanent, though “simplified” presence.  It is not OK to give money to Marxist publications that can speak for me if I were no longer allowed to speak publicly for myself (as with a workplace “conflict of interest’, an issue from the past). (The McCain-Feingold law in 2002 had the capability of causing these problems for speakers, as explained in this legacy 2014 post.)   Generally, since I do manage inherited resources, it is not OK for me to be the one asking for money for anything, for any cause, outside of very small fundraisers as on Facebook.  Likewise it is not OK for me to ask for donations for my own writing (as with Patreon).  It might be OK to charge actual subscription, but I am not in a position to do that yet, 

Of course, there is more I should try to do to be of direct service to others, starting with, for example, food banks. 

And there are organizations where there is encouragement of open discussions of issues outside of tribal loyalties, like Braver Angels, which might be good to support.  I have been to a few of their forums (including online). 

I do plan to work as an election judge for the fall election Nov. 8, 2022 (it is a 16 hour day). But even that would seem to imply to me that I should not make political contributions to any candidates or PACs or issue groups.  In fact, I don’t think I ever have.  I did do ballot access petitioning for Libertarian party candidates in Minnesota in 1998, my first full year there, after publishing the first book in the summer of 1997 and then moving to Minneapolis with a corporate transfer that avoided a possible “conflict of interest” at work.  I discuss this in DADT Book III, pages 86-87, Chapter 3.

Later, I will provide more details on the nuances of my web formats and activity, as some of it is quite instructive, when compared to the activities of more modern content creation like YouTube channels.  

But the implications of a person’s having set the self up to be unable to join in a necessary fight against a threatened tryannical enemy (even if domestic) and being unable to resist are potentially quite grave, if something really does “happen” (think Jan. 6, had the coup really “worked”). It’s a kind of ultimate death penalty.

In order to mention an applicable film, I’ll cite “The 100 Mile Rule” (around 2002) by Brent Huff, where traveling salesmen (from Detroit to Los Angeles) believe it is OK to cheat on their spouses if more than 100 miles from home.  But there was a lot of Amway-style rah-rah “Always Be Closing’. 

“100 Mile Rule” trailer

(Posted: Wednesday, August 3, 2022 at 7:30 PM EDT by John W. Boushka)

CNN airs report on Steve Bannon “Divided We Fall”; a note on Bruckner “imitation” (in music)

Sunset, northern VA

On Sunday, July 16, 2022, CNN aired a one-hour special report “Steve Bannon: Divided We Fall”, narrated by Drew Griffin.  CNNPressroom offers a preview writeup here. 

The film does summarize Bannon’s shenanigans before Trump’s election in 2016 up to the plotting before January 6.  He allegedly worked with Cambridge Analyitca starting around late 2014 and tested out Trumpian catch-phases like “drain the swamp”.  Bannon is also “credited” with trying to start a “movement” to place right-wing heads of state (more or less like the softly “fascist” Orban in Hungary) through out the EU.  It also covers his activities up to January 6, including stating that Bannon believes election officials should be willing to overturn elections and turn them back to state legislatures (so Trump wins).   Bannon wanted to start some kind of movement at a former monastery in Italy, and the Italian government shut him down.  Bannon seems to think the Catholicism demands a personalized social conservatism imposed on everyone, even as other religions disagree on many major doctrinal and personal points (and even as most Catholics, like Biden, disagree). 

A lot of this makes little sense.  There is a good question, what to the “Trumpist’s” want? 

I could understand that many people would fear the expropriationist behavior of the far Left, was with the riots in Portland, Seattle, and other places (especially after George Floyd’s death), the reported confrontational localize violence from Antifa, and the abandonment by local politicians of law and order.  It seems to my recollection that most of this started to fire up in 2017 after Trump took office.  Relatively much less of it had happened before Trump’s run, except for the Ferguson MO riots in late 2014 and the Baltimore riots in April 2015m all while Obama was in office. 

In fact, most of the concerns from “conservatives” during the late years of Obama seemed to focus on immigration and to a lesser degree the clumsiness of the Obamacare implementation.  To some extent, the “conservatives” were right:  unchecked immigration, especially through the southern borders, poses public health and other national security risks that sometimes endanger ordinary citizens. The other concerns seemed to focus particularly on radical Islam overseas (as with incidents in France in 2015), with justification. (There was an attack in San Bernadino in 2014).

The suddenness of the shift in emphasis from the danger of overseas threats (radical Islam and to some extend North Korean style communism) to domestic white supremacy (as with Charlottesville in August 2017 provided quite a surprise to me personally.  But the situation got much worse with the lockdowns and unequal suffering (by race and class) during the 2020 pandemic (which arguably had national security implications in how it started, as forbidden such a view was on social media for a long time). Conservatives and Trumpists rightfully opposed the lawlessness of the riots, and the extreme indoctrination with which some on the far Left tried to impose critical race theory and now “critical gender theory” on others, even in lower grades in schools. 

At the time of Obergefell (June 2015), and previously with the repeal of DADT (2011), the LGBTQ segment of society was more moderate and seemingly less controversial than it had ever been as a whole. 

Yet, suddenly we find even before 2016 right wing radicalism growing online, perhaps with foreign manipulation of social media, at first hidden, and seeming to be cultist and believing on conspiracy theories.  It is still very difficult to make complete sense of what has happened, as some of it was going on even when Trump started his candidacy in 2015.   Trump had not sounded that extreme on his “The Apprentice” series (although in an early episode one contestant, Troy McClain, had has legs waxed online to “take one for the team”, something Trump mentions in his book “How to Get Rich”).

  In the past I reviewed Steve Bannon’s 2010 film “Generation Zero” on the 2008 financial crisis where, as I recall, he believed individuals needed to accept more “moral hazard” from their own financial activity.

I also wanted to play catch up in recovering my coverage of some music items.  Was Rued Langgaard the “Danish Bruckner”.  Certainly his 5-movrment 67-minute Symphony #1 in B Minor (“Cliffside Pastorals“) sounds like it with its massive B Major conclusion with a hymn tune that will sound familiar but seems to be original.  The tune actually opens the first movement as a leitmotif.  The performance is by The Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra Conductor: Leif Segerstam, posted by KuhlauDilfeng2 in 2013

His “Music of the Spheres” (1916) is much more radical and seems to use a lot of tone clusters and odd effects with instruments (strings played directly).

(Posted: Monday, July 18, 2022 at 1 PM EDT)

Oregon case on “who can call themselves journalists”; more debate on using equal protection arguments to protect LGBTQ individual rights

NYC from MTA Manhattan Bridge 2022-4

Steve Lehto reports on a case in an Oregon state supreme court ruling against a defendant in a libel suit against an online reviewer of a piano store from a possible rival.

Lehto discusses Oregon case concerning libel in a consumer review, as “journalism”

At issue was a provision in state law that defamation claims against an established media entity must meet a higher standard than a claim against a private citizen, especially claiming to be an “journalist”.

This contradicts apparently with federal practice.  The case also invokes the idea of the “opinion rule” in defamation law. 

But the case could have implications if tech companies in the future did not want to allow individuals to express opinions with the same services allowed to established professional journalists.  That idea has also been relevant in the EU over their copyright directive.

Suits against individuals posting to review sites (like Yelp!) have been a recurring issue in the past, but this one had a different twist.  Right now Section 230 would protect the sites that host the reviews.

There is another story today of concern.  Vox runs a story June 21, 2022, “new Supreme Court decision has ominous implications for LGBTQ discrimination” by Ian Millhiser.  The case is Marietta Memorial Hospital v. DaVita.   The question is whether a private insurer can refuse to cover dialysis when it is a “conduct marker” for having end stage renal disease (a issue which arose in my own life indirectly in the 1970s, but that’s a long story).  By analogy, a private entity could discriminate against people who engage in anal intercourse (likely male homosexuals) when now sexual orientation is a protected class under federal law. 

animated reenactment of SCOTUS DaVita oral arguments

In fact, National Law Review, in an article June 16, 2020 “Supreme Court Holds that Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Are Protected by Title VII”, as it describes the SCOTUS case “Bostock, Zarda v. Altitude Express, and Stephens v. Harris Funeral Homes.”   Gorsuch, with his textualism, actually wrote a favorable opinion from the LGBTQ viewpoint. That is, “sex” is included in the definitions of sexual orientation and gender identity, even if those two categories are different from one another (they are) because they make use of the existence of “assigned biological sex at birth.” 

Bostok equal protection case explained, 2020

Now, it may well be my personal feeling that some school systems or educators have gone off the rails with an “anything goes” attitude toward gender identity in lower grades (you know, the “LibsofTikTok” stories on Twitter, and the scowl expressed in red state “don’t say gay” laws for lower grades), but the basic recognition that people may have separate gender identities and sexual orientations that are in a minority with respect to sex at birth and that these identities seem immutable (with hidden biology, like maternal epigenetics) is now recognized under federal law.  (Non-binary may be acceptable under this notion as a gender identity, I presume.)    

There is a problem, or danger, I think, if we depend on the idea of protected class to reign in on criminal law.  The recent SCOTUS opinion on abortion has been called into question in its criticism of the previous presumption of the “right to privacy” as a fundamental right when stopping sodomy laws (Lawrence v Texas) and laws against recognizing same-sex marriage (Obergefell), under substantive due process.  It is possible to use protected class theory instead.  But the DaVita opinion might block using that, too.

Personally, I don’t like depending on the idea of “protected class” to justify behavior (because it will have its obvious limits if public safety is sufficiently endangered – psychopathy might be immutable too – we get into what John Fish specialized in with undergrad studies at Harvard, which he says is “mind, brain and behavior”).  The speculative downstream public health complications lurk in the background if you try to involve public health concerns if sodomy comes up again.  Even more relevant is my distaste the idea of building personal identity (and demanding that others bond with you on the basis of such identity) on the notion of shared (intersectional group) oppression rather than something positive (the whole problem with Leftist identity politics these days).  But “there you have it”.

It’s noteworthy that, while “don’t ask don’t tell” was repealed in 2011, the UCMJ a “sodomy law”, article 125, remains on the books.  But it seems to apply only to “forcible” sodomy (without legal consent).  .

(Posted: Saturday, July 9, 2022 at 2:30 PM EDT by John W. Boushka)

“Endangered: Journalism in Jeopardy”, Ronan Farrow’s film on HBO

Miami, site of a book fair, 2017-11

Endangered: Journalism in Jeopardy” is a new (June 28, 2022) HBO Documentary (viewable on HBOMax) executive-produced in large part by journalist Ronan Farrow and his company.  It is directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady. 

Saturday, CNN interviewed Ronan in his NYC home (which appeared to be a brownstone, not a highrise) about the film. Farrow is 34 now, and would be over 35 on January 20, 2025.  (Tim Pool is such already.) Biden would be over 82.  Take a hint.

The film starts with a scene in Brazil in early 2020, where a man in a mob praises Bolsanaro as his “captain” and woe to anyone who smears the captain publicly.  He accuses journalists as scum who trade sex for information.

The film shirts scenery to other places, especially Mexico City, where a feminist movement is being put down, and Miami.  One of the late scenes in Mexico City shows the presidential palace, with protesters;  I visited the exterior of this place on Labor Day Sunday in 1974, just before I moved into NYC, a memorable day for me.

The film reports the work of CPJ, the Committee to Protect Journalists. The group maintains that “journalists are moderators of finding facts”.  The CPJ is on the automated donation list from my own trust (it is not a beneficiary).

The film does cover the closing of many medium-sized city local newspapers, and gives and example, Youngstown, Ohio (I passed through it in July 1999, a few months before the pandemic).  But one could add that competition with “amateurs” on the Internet contribute to the problem (yesterday’s post) – by the way, remember “Righthavem”? 

The film gathers steam dealing with COVID.  New graveyards are dug on camera in Brazil, while Bolsonaro, who caught the infection himself, dismisses it as a trivial infection for otherwise healthy people. “Stop whining and get back to work” (we’ve heard Carlos Maza report that in one of his videos.)  Later, one of the journalists (is it Joel Simon) interviewing someone near a Trump rally is rebuked, “I’ll only talk to you if you take your mask off.”

In Mexico City, threats to journalists who report on police are reported;  supposedly 3600 have been murdered in the country.

Late in the film, a protester states, “Revolution means standing and resisting”.

I also want to mention that today (July 3), CNN re-aired Fareed Zakaria’s 2019 0ne-hour documentary film “Saudi Arabia: Kingdom of Secrets“, CNN pressroom article. Of course the West’s dependence on the kingdom’s oil (indirectly an issue now because of the Ukraine conflict) has been an issue ever since the oil embargo of 1974 which led to gasoline supply disruptions in the US for about five months at a time in my own life when personal mobility was very important. In the 1980s, a coworker described his life in Saudi Arabia as an American computer contractor, dealing with the religious police. The film had been motivated by the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 in Istanbul (I believe this was mentioned in Ronan’s film, above). It also mentions the role of Saudi men in the 9/11 attacks (and gives Bin Laden’s history). Zakaria mentions the idea that under Wahhabism, individual religious practitioners can exact a kind of personal, vigilante justice on sinners, infidels or heretics. (In the US, we have our own version of that with Christianity and anti-abortion extremism, perhaps — I take up some of this in my own 2002 DADT2 book.) But slowly (in ups and downs with oil), Saudi is modernizing. It is even accepting some partnership with Israel now because of a common enemy, Iran.

Picture of downtown Riyadh at night (Wikipedia link). It reminds me of “Dune”.

(Posted: Sunday, July 3, 2022 at 10 AM EDT)