Porn, unsurprisingly widely watched

It’s hard not to be sarcastic when these surveys come out – they’re often of the surprise! people watch porn variety. Or maybe, to be fair, that’s just they way they’re often presented. Anyway, this one by the UK’s BBFC which “combined a statistically representative survey of secondary school-age children with in-depth interviews and focus groups with parents” has some interesting results:

While 75% of parents did not believe their children would have watched pornography, the majority of these parents’ children told the researchers that they had viewed adult material.

The report also found that while parents thought that their sons would watch pornography for sexual pleasure, many erroneously believed that their daughters would primarily see pornography by accident. It said: “This is contrary to the qualitative research findings showing that many girls were also using pornography for sexual pleasure.”

The researchers also said that one side-effect of early exposure to online pornography is that gay, lesbian or bisexual respondents often understood their sexuality at a younger age. They said: “It was common for these respondents to start by watching heterosexual pornography, only to realise that they did not find this sexually gratifying and then gradually move to homosexual pornography.”

It seems that the old view of what porn is for, and who watches it and why is becoming a cliche.

Better or Worse?

Thought provoking:

While previously the public’s news consumption was shaped by powerful gatekeepers such as newspaper editors or the bosses of heavily regulated broadcast news channels, on their phones it is shaped more by the hands-off approach of companies such as Facebook. The social network has decided against taking a patrician approach of pushing straightforward reporting into newsfeeds alongside user-generated memes asking Was Enoch Powell Right?, or hyperpartisan posts spreading distorted information about Jeremy Corbyn.

With limited human involvement in choosing the news stories people are seeing, the researchers said the general public were being asked to take responsibility for their own news diet with the hope that they seek out accurate information without any intervention.

Revealing Reality’s analysis of the volunteers’ election news consumption concluded: “If everything that people are seeing is via social media – who is accountable? There is very little human intelligence or decision-making behind it, no attempt to give a balanced view. That seems to leave all responsibility on the reader.”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/dec/05/uncovered-reality-of-how-smartphones-turned-election-news-into-chaos

The end of Economic Man

Very interesting article by Paul Collier – Greed is dead. Humans aren’t the rational, selfish ‘Economic Man’ as economists like to assume we are and base their models on. We’re a collaborative, social, altruistic animal.

Thankfully, we now know that Economic Man is a travesty. Blueprint: The evolutionary origins of a good society by Nicholas Christakis is the latest study to affirm this. It shows why, through the forces of evolution, Homo sapiens emerged as a uniquely social species. Far from being evolutionarily inevitable, Economic Man was culled almost to extinction, surviving only as the highly deviant behaviour we call psychopathic. In hunter-gatherer societies, hunters do not “eat what they kill”: such behaviour would bring social ostracism, so the hunters share their catch. The theorems derived from Economic Man explain the conditions under which a society of psychopaths would be able to function. In most contexts, those conditions turn out to be fanciful: the efficient paradise depicted in economics textbooks has never existed, and never will. Instead, in well-functioning societies, humans construct and abide by a vast web of kindness and mutual obligations of which Economic Man would be incapable.

“We are in an abusive relationship with our phones”

This is an illuminating way of looking at what the relationship really is like between us and our smartphones, and more generally with the you-are-the-product companies that provide so many of the services we use on smartphones or other devices nowadays.

What our smartphones and relationship abusers share is that they both exert power over us in a world shaped to tip the balance in their favour, and they both work really, really hard to obscure this fact and keep us confused and blaming ourselves. Here are some of the ways our unequal relationship with our smartphones is like an abusive relationship:

– They isolate us from deeper, competing relationships in favour of superficial contact — ‘user engagement’ — that keeps their hold on us strong. Working with social media, they insidiously curate our social lives, manipulating us emotionally with dark patterns to keep us scrolling.

– They tell us the onus is on us to manage their behavior. It’s our job to tiptoe around them and limit their harms. Spending too much time on a literally-designed-to-be-behaviorally-addictive phone? They send company-approved messages about our online time, but ban from their stores the apps that would really cut our use. We just need to use willpower. We just need to be good enough to deserve them.

– They betray us, leaking data / spreading secrets. What we shared privately with them is suddenly public. Sometimes this destroys lives, but hey, we only have ourselves to blame. They fight nasty and under-handed, and are so, so sorry when they get caught that we’re meant to feel bad for them. But they never truly change, and each time we take them back, we grow weaker.

– They love-bomb us when we try to break away, piling on the free data or device upgrades, making us click through page after page of dark pattern, telling us no one understands us like they do, no one else sees everything we really are, no one else will want us.

– It’s impossible to just cut them off. They’ve wormed themselves into every part of our lives, making life without them unimaginable. And anyway, the relationship is complicated. There is love in it, or there once was. Surely we can get back to that if we just manage them the way they want us to?

Nope. Our devices are basically gaslighting us. They tell us they work for and care about us, and if we just treat them right then we can learn to trust them. But all the evidence shows the opposite is true.

Maria Farrell

You need to be able to see the box you’re in before you can start thinking outside it. It doesn’t have to be this way – “to get out of an abusive relationship you first have to see it for what it is”.

via Bruce Schneier & Memex

Catholic Adoption

In the news, more adoption issues in a case that further illustrates the attitudes and social mores of catholic Ireland as detailed in The God Squad. The fudged adoption papers, un-vetted placement, obfuscation and misdirection of the supposed Sisters of Charity is sadly unsurprising yet still awful to read:

His client became pregnant shortly before her 21st birthday. It was then arranged for her to travel to Ireland, for work experience and she ended up at a house in Clontarf in Dublin through the St Patrick’s Guild, which was run by the Sisters of Charity Nuns.

Counsel said she gave birth to a boy on 13 March 1961 at the Marie Clinic in Clontarf.

She was “sternly warned”, not to touch the newborn as it would be “bad for the child”, who was to be put up for adoption.

However she defied this warning, counsel said, and baptised him with holy water she had in the home in the hope that someday she would find him.

Shortly afterwards she was taken away and signed various forms consenting to the adoption. Counsel said the form was “false”.

Counsel said the documents she signed were legal nullities and had none of the normal safeguards required.

In addition, counsel said the contents of the form about the mother’s details were fudged and lacking in detail.

Counsel said that over the years his client, following her marriage and the birth of her other children, made visits to Ireland in attempts to get information about her son without much success.

She was brushed off by the nuns she dealt with at the Guild, it was said, and a person who worked at the place where she gave birth to her son suggested the boy was among those infants who went to the USA.

 

The Chain of Destruction

I’ve just finished the excellent documentary “The House I Live In” (thanks to D for recommending). It’s a fascinating look at the consequences of the so-called ‘War on Drugs’, which is really just a proxy war against an entire class of humanity with no end in sight. It’s created a criminal problem from a public health issue and applied policing solutions to it, the wrong answer to the wrong question.

Near the end of the documentary, this particular piece caught my attention. I think it summarises well just how something like this can happen and continue to happen in a society. It also speaks to a wider issue – the marginalisation of certain out groups and how that identification process can lead down a dark road.

“My father was a war crimes investigator in Europe after World War Two, and we often talked about his experiences. I was reading the work of Raul Hillerg who wrote about the destruction of European Jews in the Holocaust. I realised that there was a chain of destruction, that what he was talking about could be expressed as links in a chain.

Around the world in more than one society, people do the same things, again and again, decade after decade, century after century.

Now this chain of destruction begins with the phase we can call Identification, in which a group of people is identified as a cause for the problems in society. People start to perceive their fellow citizens as bad, they’re evil. they used to be worthwhile people, but now all of a sudden for some reason their lives are worthless.

The second link in the chain of destruction is ostracism, by which we learn to how hate these people, how to take their jobs away, how to make it harder for them to survive. People lose their place to live, often they are forced into ghettos where they are physically isolated, separate from the rest of society.

The third link is confiscation. People lose their rights, civil liberties. The laws themselves change so it’s made easier for people to be stopped on the street, padded down and searched, and for their property to be confiscated. Now, once you start taking peoples property away, you can start taking the people themselves away.

And the fourth link is concentration. Concentrate them into facilities such as prisons camps. People lose their rights, they can’t vote anymore, or have children anymore. Often their labour is exploited in a very systematic form.

And the final link in the chain is annihilation. Now this might be indirect, by say withholding medical care, withholding food, preventing further birth. Or it might be direct, where death is inflicted or people are deliberately killed.

These steps tend to happen of their own momentum, without anybody forcing them to happen.

I think a lot of people would be disturbed and outraged by the thought that any part of this process could be going on in America. But it wasn’t until I began studying the drug war that I realised some of these same steps were happening.

[..}

It’s important to remember or realise, it isn’t that the war on drug users is the same as what happened in other societies, but that both are a wars on ordinary people, people who are just like us.”

— Richard Miller

These five links – Identification, Ostracism, Confiscation, Concentration and Annihilation – are important to recognise. Look around you. Who has been identified as an other? Any marginalised group that can be identified by some apparent or manufactured identity is on the first link of that chain. Once fear has been generated, people on the edges begin to scramble away from the target group lest they too be lumped in with the new ‘enemy’. The power is with the identifiers, not the identified. People tend to want a quiet life, most people have enough to do day to day without getting involved in political action, so they either undertake a form of ‘working towards the Fuhrer‘ as Ian Kershaw termed it, or at best simply keep their heads down lest they become one of ‘those people’ by association.

Nothing ever starts with the last link in the chain, and the time to stop it is at the first link.

Surviving Autocracy

Marsha Gessen wrote a set of six rules for surviving an autocracy back in November 2016 ( http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2016/11/10/trump-election-autocracy-rules-for-survival/ ). Well worth a revisit in light of recent events, they’ve stood the test of the last few months anyway. Sample:

I have lived in autocracies most of my life, and have spent much of my career writing about Vladimir Putin’s Russia. I have learned a few rules for surviving in an autocracy and salvaging your sanity and self-respect. It might be worth considering them now:

Rule #1:
Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization. This will happen often: humans seem to have evolved to practice denial when confronted publicly with the unacceptable. Back in the 1930s, The New York Times assured its readers that Hitler’s anti-Semitism was all posture. More recently, the same newspaper made a telling choice between two statements made by Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov following a police crackdown on protesters in Moscow: “The police acted mildly—I would have liked them to act more harshly” rather than those protesters’ “liver should have been spread all over the pavement.” Perhaps the journalists could not believe their ears. But they should—both in the Russian case, and in the American one. For all the admiration Trump has expressed for Putin, the two men are very different; if anything, there is even more reason to listen to everything Trump has said. He has no political establishment into which to fold himself following the campaign, and therefore no reason to shed his campaign rhetoric. On the contrary: it is now the establishment that is rushing to accommodate him—from the president, who met with him at the White House on Thursday, to the leaders of the Republican Party, who are discarding their long-held scruples to embrace his radical positions.

Autocracy Or Kleptocracy – Trump’s America

David Frum expounds on the possible outcomes of Trump’s Presidency in the Atlantic. Fascinating and though-provoking, it’s a long but worhtwhile read. He covers something I’ve noted before:

In an 1888 lecture, James Russell Lowell, a founder of this magazine, challenged the happy assumption that the Constitution was a “machine that would go of itself.” Lowell was right. Checks and balances is a metaphor, not a mechanism.
Everything imagined above—and everything described below—is possible only if many people other than Donald Trump agree to permit it. It can all be stopped, if individual citizens and public officials make the right choices. The story told here, like that told by Charles Dickens’s Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, is a story not of things that will be, but of things that may be. Other paths remain open. It is up to Americans to decide which one the country will follow.
No society, not even one as rich and fortunate as the United States has been, is guaranteed a successful future. When early Americans wrote things like “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” they did not do so to provide bromides for future bumper stickers. They lived in a world in which authoritarian rule was the norm, in which rulers habitually claimed the powers and assets of the state as their own personal property.

While (obviously) focused on Trump’s America, this stuff applies to any nation anywhere. And Frum lists Hungary, Poland and others where it’s potentially happening (Hungary in particular, is worrying). At the end of the day, it’s down to the citizens to defend their democracy. It can’t defend itself.

Those citizens who fantasize about defying tyranny from within fortified compounds have never understood how liberty is actually threatened in a modern bureaucratic state: not by diktat and violence, but by the slow, demoralizing process of corruption and deceit. And the way that liberty must be defended is not with amateur firearms, but with an unwearying insistence upon the honesty, integrity, and professionalism of American institutions and those who lead them. We are living through the most dangerous challenge to the free government of the United States that anyone alive has encountered. What happens next is up to you and me. Don’t be afraid. This moment of danger can also be your finest hour as a citizen and an American.

Don’t ignore it

“I don’t understand people who believe that if you ignore something, it’ll go away. That’s completely wrong — if it’s ignored it gathers strength. Europe ignored Hitler for 20 years. As a result he slaughtered a quarter of the world!”

    Lemmy Kilmister