"The impact of surveillance technologies on culture, politics, and even our values has been my jam for a long time. Of particular interest are the accelerating transitions from science-fictiony possibilities that horrify us to everyday realities that tame us. For instituting such breathless control, China provides the blueprint for what it's leaders cynically call “managed democracy.” As I’ve written before, whatever Orwellian tactic emerges in China does not stay in China. It propagates to other totalitarian regimes across the globe. We’ll even see a slow totalitarian creep in “open” societies like Great Britain (which doesn’t have strong free speech and personal privacy protections) before we see it here. Thanks to a virtually unregulated tech sector, the American version will be brought to us by major corporations that fatten 401Ks, and small, shrouded research firms that spin themselves as techno-utopians. The difference between China’s brute force authoritarian control and its American cousin is that the latter will be more subtle and opaque—a soft (or “inverted”) totalitarianism, as Sheldon Wolin called it—that produces capital as well as control by harvesting then leveraging even more of our data than it does now."
"Why don’t we ever see someone with real power and influence getting arrested on Cops? Reality shows are never about reality. They’re always about reality as someone else wants it presented. However, I’m equally convinced reality shows are about reality as we want it presented. How easily do we assume that because an episode of Cops has obviously been edited that police interactions never violate a citizen’s rights? And if we didn’t assume this, would we even know violations if we saw them? What we want from shows like Cops are age-old, deeply ingrained, and rarely challenged depictions of criminality that assure us that whatever the police do on this tv show is right, proper, and the closest thing to a wall between order and disorder we can imagine."
"Take American empire seriously. It's the most complex artifact civilizations have thus far developed. Its grim, awe-filled beauty is that the very idea has always been more powerful than our tanks, carriers, nukes, legions, and the almighty dollar combined. Still, the age-old story of how empires rise and fall has only one iteration. Empires rise because they’re ambitious, then fall because their reach exceeds their grasp. What were once assets become liabilities. Unfortunately, it takes a long time for reality to settle in. We’re still badass. And I’d rather live in a real empire than a former empire like Great Britain or a fake empire like Russia. But no one I take seriously believes America is still rising. Indeed, it’s a significant feat for an empire to simply stay afloat at such a late stage after two world wars."
"I was going to write that the dark side of white privilege is that whiteness so convinces you everything should be easy that when things aren’t going your way at all you give up like a spineless and hang around Twitter wearing a clown wig and a rubber nose. But that actually sounds like the white side of white privilege."
"Actually, Millennials haven’t really thought more or less favorably of socialism. Support for “socialistic” programs remained constant over eight years. What Gallup’s and YouGov’s polling really suggest is that young people have thought less of capitalism over time. Now, decades after “the end of history” and the triumph of market over planned economies, young people want more from an economic regime that has screwed them."
"Both selfie deaths and market crashes are exceptional and rare, but when they occur they are of such cultural and emotional impact that we ignore how utterly unlikely they are. However, because market crashes and other such events are difficult to see before they happen (don’t believe 80% of those who claim to have seen the 2008 FInancial Crisis before it happened) there’s a tendency among some to see doom and gloom outcomes where probability implies there shouldn’t be. “Economic Collapse!” videos on YouTube or anyone who thinks gold will skyrocket to $100,000 an ounce once the dollar is no longer the world’s reserve currency are prime and exasperating examples."
"I don’t normally do this kind of thing, but, given the arrest of Julian Assange last week, and the awkward and cowardly responses thereto, I felt it necessary to abandon my customary literary standards and spew out a spineless, hypocritical “hot take” professing my concern about the dangerous precedent the U.S. government may be setting by extraditing and prosecuting a publisher for exposing American war crimes and such, while at the same time making it abundantly clear how much I personally loathe Assange, and consider him an enemy of America, and freedom, and want the authorities to crush him like a cockroach."
"Two posts on the board criticizing Microsoft diversity initiatives as “discriminatory hiring” and suggesting that women are less suited for engineering roles have elicited more than 800 comments, both affirming and criticizing the viewpoints, multiple Microsoft employees have told Quartz. The posts were written by a female Microsoft program manager. Quartz reached out to her directly for comment, and isn’t making her name public at this point, pending her response."
"There is an analogy to be made between anti-vaxxers and climate-change deniers. Both groups place faith in a gut-level sense of their rightful position on an issue that has far-reaching existential implications. And both groups refuse to acknowledge the vast body of sound scientific literature proving them wrong."
"Some of William Shakespeare’s friends and associates left behind a description of his library. Nor is there a record of it being dispersed at the time of his death. His will refers neither to books nor manuscripts. In fact, it gives no sign of a literary career at all, or even a literate one. Contemporary dramatists such as Francis Beaumont, Thomas Dekker, John Fletcher, Robert Greene, Thomas Heywood, and Ben Jonson all left behind plays in manuscript. No Shakespeare playscript, though, has ever been found. (Part of the manuscript of a play about Sir Thomas More has been attributed to Shakespeare, but the part is small and the attribution contentious.)"