Paul M. Jones

There are no solutions, only tradeoffs.

Are You Being Criticized -- Or Cancelled?

"How do we know if something is canceling vs. ordinary criticism?" I came out with a list of six things, kind of the warning signs of canceling. If you've got two or three of these, it's canceling and not criticism.

First: Is the intent of the campaign punitive? Are you trying to punish the person and take away their job, their livelihood, and their friends?

Second: Is the intent or predictable outcome of the campaign to deplatform someone and to get them out of the position that they hold where they can speak/be heard and out of any other such position?

Third: Is the tactic being used grandstanding? Is it not talking to the person about their point of view? Is it basically virtue signaling, posturing, denunciation, and sort of ritual in nature?

Fourth: Is it organized? Is it in fact a campaign? Is it a swarm? Do you have people out there saying, as is often the case, "We've got to get Nick Gillespie off the air" or "We've got to get this asshole fired"? If it's organized, then it's canceling. It's not criticism.

Fifth: A certain sign of canceling is secondary boycotts. Is the campaign targeting not only the individual but anyone who has anything to do with the individual? Are they not only saying, "We think what Nick Cannon is saying on the air is inappropriate"; are they going after the company by saying to boycott it? Are they going after his friends and professional acquaintances? If there's a secondary boycott to inspire fear so that no one wants to have anything to do with the guy for the fear that they'd be targeted, that's canceling.

Sixth: Is it indifferent to truth? Well-meaning criticism is often wrong, but if it's wrong, you're supposed to say, "Oh, gee. I'm sorry that was wrong." You're supposed to pay attention to facts. Cancelers don't. They'll pick through someone's record over a period of 20 years and find six items which they can use against them. This is what literally happened to [Harvard psychologist] Steve Pinker. Tear them out of context and distort them, and if they're corrected on them, they'll just find six other items. That's not criticism. That's canceling. These are weapons of propaganda.

From https://reason.com/2020/11/01/how-to-tell-if-youre-being-canceled/


The Proper Consequences for Speech

(Adapted from my talk Your Project Needs a Code of Conduct, OR ELSE.)

Leftists often say, regarding free speech, that "You might get freedom of speech, but you don't get freedom from consequences!" All right, then, let's go with that for a minute. What are the proper consequences for political speech that you disagree with?

Is it to burn down my house?

Is it to call in a SWAT team to shoot me?

Is it to drag me out of my car and beat me to death?

Is it to punch me in the face when you see me on the sidewalk?

Is it to cancel my financial accounts so that I cannot purchase goods and services?

Is is to threaten my employers into firing me, so that I cannot provide for myself and my family?

Is it to eject me from voluntary organizations?

No.

The proper consequences for political speech that you disagree with, are for you to offer opposing political speech; that is, not "incitements to action" but "arguments."


I Violated A Code of Conduct

Via Hacker News we have this from Jeremy Howard:

NumFOCUS found I violated their Code of Conduct (CoC) at JupyterCon because my talk was not “kind”, because I said Joel Grus was “wrong” regarding his opinion that Jupyter Notebook is not a good software development environment.

Joel (who I greatly respect, and consider an asset to the data science community) was not involved in NumFOCUS’s action, was not told about it, and did not support it.

NumFOCUS did not follow their own enforcement procedure and violated their own CoC, left me hanging for over a week not even knowing what I was accused of, and did not give me an opportunity to provide input before concluding their investigation.

I repeatedly told their committee that my emotional resilience was low at the moment due to medical issues, which they laughed about and ignored, as I tried (unsuccessfully) to hold back tears.

The process has left me shattered, and I won’t be able to accept any speaking requests for the foreseeable future.

I support the thoughtful enforcement of Code of Conducts to address sexist, racist, and harassing behavior, but that is not what happened in this case.

Jeremy exhibits Stockholm Syndrome in his article. He extols the virtues of Codes of Conduct, even though the actual application of this COC left him "shattered."

As with Communism, this is not a problem of the COC "not being applied properly" or "not being done right." Social Justice codes of conduct cannot be "applied properly" or "done right" according to their popularly-assumed intentions. They are always-and-only in place to allow the exercise of arbitrary power over others. The way the COC was enforced here is the norm, not the exception.


Argo: Keep Your Content Cancel-Resistant

I am proud to announce Argo, a flat-file static-site blog authoring and building system. It generates your site on your own computer, then syncs it to a remote host via Git or rsync.

Download Argo here, and watch a 4-minute video introduction here.

Argo

(This very blog uses Argo, and has done so for quite a while.)

I.

My blogging software for the longest time was WordPress, and it was good enough, though it was subject to intermittent denial-of-service and other attacks. Mitigating those was not a lot of trouble, but it was occasionally time-consuming, and never a welcome distraction.

Then I started hearing about, and witnessing, the Social Justice cancellation and de-platforming of some of my regular online readings, all built using WordPress. One day there, next day gone -- and on contacting the authors, I learned they did not keep their own local backups. All their content, all their hard work and creative product, had all disappeared because of the Social Justice indignation of the week.

Now, it is well-known that I am no fan of Social Justice. I am not a Leftist of any stripe: not a Democrat, Progressive, Socialist, Communist, or Marxist. I think that Marxism in its various forms is a great enemy of Western civilization.

That attitude makes me persona non grata in much of the technology and programming world. It makes me a target for censorship and cancellation under whatever cover is deniably plausible, by people who signal their tolerance for anything other than their outgroup.

I began to consider what might happen to my own blog, how it too might be disappeared one day. How might I defend it against the attacks of Marxist and Social Justice zealots?

Thus was born my motivation to create Argo.

II.

Argo's key features are centered around resilience:

  • You always keep all your content on your own computer. All your posts, images, and other files are stored locally.

  • The software itself runs on your own computer, not in the cloud, so you always keep the code behind the software.

  • Argo uses flat file storage, not a database; among other things, this makes it easy to use standard file tools, and to bundle assets with posts.

  • Argo generates static HTML and JSON for publishing, and does not use a server-side programming language; this keeps the hosting requirements minimal.

  • Publishing is a matter of syncing to a remote host, whether by Git or rsync. If a host cancels you, you can change your local configuration, and sync all your content to the new host.

These basic features make Argo-based blogs resistant to cancellation, censorship, and de-platforming. Yes, a host might still surprise you by pulling your account, but the consequences are far less drastic: none of your content has been lost.

III.

Some of the incidental and technical features are:

  • Content items are written in Markdown; HTML and WordPress pseudo-html are supported as well.

  • The content items do not use "YAML frontmatter"; instead, content metadata is stored in an argo.json file, and the body content is stored in argo.markdown (or argo.html, etc.).

  • The flat-file storage structure is exactly the same as the published URL structure, resulting in a easy-to-understand information architecture. When syncing, the remote file structure will be identical to the local file structure.

  • The build system generates not only HTML files, but also JSON files; this means that each content item is accessible through a read-only API. (Try out the JSON resource for this post.)

  • All configuration settings are stored as JSON files.

Developers may appreciate this: Argo is delivered as a desktop application via Electron, but the core of Argo is written in PHP and can be used independently of the desktop app.

IV.

It is still early days for Argo, and there is a lot left to do.

  • The administrative interface is spartan at best, and needs some UI/UX love.

  • Likewise, the WordPress import feature appears to work properly, but I'd like to have more test cases around it.

  • There is no built-in commenting system (nor do I think there could be, given that it runs locally and not on a server) but integrating an external commenting service ought to be achievable.

Those are just some of the highlights.

V.

Of course, Argo is not only for those who are interested in being cancel-resistant. Use Argo because you want to keep local control over your own content.


Reminder: The Nazis Were Socialists

To understand the Nazis accurately, you have to read their own quotes and propaganda. The story told by the Nazis themselves depicts a very different party than what modern journalists would like us to believe. The Nazi (National Socialist German Workers Party) or National Socialists as they called themselves, had the following five key characteristics:

  1. The Nazis were a self-proclaimed socialist movement that called for the end of capitalism, abolishment of non-labor income (interest and finance), and proposed an all-powerful central authority to regulate the market

  2. Racial identity politics was used to identify an oppressor class (Jews), that embodied both the evil nature of capitalism and the anti-German nature of communism

  3. Strong nationalistic pride was a core pitch to the people to justify a stronger central authority

  4. The party used militant radical socialist activists to harass businesses and political enemies with acts of violence

  5. Limitations on free speech and removing access to dissenting views

Via American Thinker.

Aside: the evils of National Socialism stemmed not from the nationalism, but from the socialism.

Also: the only way the Nazis are to your right, is if you are a Communist.


Rob Pike's Rules of Programming

  1. You can't tell where a program is going to spend its time. Bottlenecks occur in surprising places, so don't try to second guess and put in a speed hack until you've proven that's where the bottleneck is.

  2. Measure. Don't tune for speed until you've measured, and even then don't unless one part of the code overwhelms the rest.

  3. Fancy algorithms are slow when n is small, and n is usually small. Fancy algorithms have big constants. Until you know that n is frequently going to be big, don't get fancy. (Even if n does get big, use Rule 2 first.)

  4. Fancy algorithms are buggier than simple ones, and they're much harder to implement. Use simple algorithms as well as simple data structures.

  5. Data dominates. If you've chosen the right data structures and organized things well, the algorithms will almost always be self-evident. Data structures, not algorithms, are central to programming.

Pike's rules 1 and 2 restate Tony Hoare's famous maxim "Premature optimization is the root of all evil."

Ken Thompson rephrased Pike's rules 3 and 4 as "When in doubt, use brute force.".

Rules 3 and 4 are instances of the design philosophy KISS.

Rule 5 was previously stated by Fred Brooks in The Mythical Man-Month. Rule 5 is often shortened to "write stupid code that uses smart objects".

Copied from http://users.ece.utexas.edu/~adnan/pike.html.


Against XKCD 1357

Whenever I think about what did the most damage to internet culture over the past ten years, xkcd 1357 comes out on top. Not Twitter. Not Facebook. This simple comic.

...

Freedom of speech isn't just a legal assurance that congress shall make no law abridging it. It is also a set of cultural norms rooted deeply in a long lineage of hard won ideas.

via https://defmacro.substack.com/p/against-xkcd-1357


How To Read Pravda

Replace "Pravda" with any institutional media organ in the United States, and "the Party" with Leftists/Progressives/Democrats/Marxists/Socialists/Communists:

  1. The Front Page belongs to the Party. Everything you see on the front page is the Party's most important messaging. The more prominent the article, the more you can assume that it is pure propaganda. Front Page above-the-fold articles are nothing but propaganda.

  2. Most of the time there will be actual journalistic facts reported in the story. You know, the Who/What/Where/When stuff. This will in general be in articles buried inside the newspapers, and/or buried in paragraph 25 (under the assumption that most people will scan the front page and maybe the first 2 or 3 paragraphs). Our trainer essentially taught us to read Pravda backwards, starting from the end and working our way back towards the front.

  3. Things that really, really bother the Party will be prominently displayed. Things that really really bother the Party will be on the front page, above the fold. While this seems to contradict item #1 above, it really doesn't. Sure, the actual contents of the article are nothing but propaganda, the information to be gleaned is that the subject is something that the Party hates.

Via https://borepatch.blogspot.com/2020/09/how-to-read-pravda.html.


Woke, Progressive, Left: It's All Marxism

Anti-Marxist liberals have labored under numerous disadvantages in the recent struggles to maintain control of liberal organizations. One is that they are often not confident they can use the term “Marxist” in good faith to describe those seeking to overthrow them. This is because their tormentors do not follow the precedent of the Communist Party, the Nazis, and various other political movements that branded themselves using a particular party name and issued an explicit manifesto to define it. Instead, they disorient their opponents by referring to their beliefs with a shifting vocabulary of terms, including “the Left,” “Progressivism,” “Social Justice,” “Anti-Racism,” “Anti-Fascism,” “Black Lives Matter,” “Critical Race Theory,” “Identity Politics,” “Political Correctness,” “Wokeness,” and more. When liberals try to use these terms they often find themselves deplored for not using them correctly, and this itself becomes a weapon in the hands of those who wish to humiliate and ultimately destroy them.

The best way to escape this trap is to recognize the movement presently seeking to overthrow liberalism for what it is: an updated version of Marxism. I do not say this to disparage anyone. I say this because it is true. And because recognizing this truth will help us understand what we are facing.

The new Marxists do not use the technical jargon that was devised by 19th-century Communists. They don’t talk about the bourgeoisie, proletariat, class struggle, alienation of labor, commodity fetishism, and the rest, and in fact they have developed their own jargon tailored to present circumstances in America, Britain, and elsewhere. Nevertheless, their politics are based on Marx’s framework for critiquing liberalism (what Marx calls the “ideology of the bourgeoisie”) and overthrowing it.

Via https://quillette.com/2020/08/16/the-challenge-of-marxism/. Read the whole thing, especially for the "framework of Marxism."


What Is Good Code?

(Epistemic status: I am not entirely satisfied with the Merchant here, but it's the closest I've been able to get so far.)


When managing developers, and when watching conversations between developers online, I sometimes notice them arguing past each other about what constitutes "good code". One group will assert that good code must adhere to specific programming practices. The other will assert that good code is code that makes money for its author.

In the worst cases, each camp derides the other. The first camp will say the other is immature and inexperienced, begging for trouble; the second camp that the other are mindless slaves to old dogmatism, and want everyone else in their chains. The first will say the other is dangerously unprofessional; the second will reply "Don't care: shipping and billing!"

In the course of trying to work through the arguments on each side, so that I can explain them to myself and others, I have started using the names "Priest" and "Merchant" as categories to help give me a handle on the attitudes expressed.

While the following descriptions are necessarily caricatures, I think they capture some recognizable qualities of the Priest and Merchant: what they care about most, their goals and focus, their time preferences, and their blind spots. In each case we start with the question, "What is good code?"

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