Today, we will be exploring an issue that I’ve had on the backburner for a number of years, but of which a fairly recent Pitchfork article (written by Jazz Monroe) and a court finding brought back to the forefront of my mind.
Naked Nirvana Baby’s Nevermind Pornography Lawsuit Dismissed
Spencer Elden had claimed that the cover constituted child sexual exploitation
A judge has dismissed a lawsuit alleging that Nirvana’s naked-baby artwork for Nevermind constitutes child sexual exploitation, BBC News reports and documents viewed by Pitchfork confirm. The baby in question, Spencer Elden, who is now 30, claimed he suffered “lifelong damages,” including loss of wages, as a result of the album cover, and described the enterprise as a “sex trafficking venture.” Last month, a lawyer for the band filed to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that Elden’s claim “is, on its face, not serious.” The lawyer added that the statute of limitations on the claims had expired in 2011. Elden’s team had until December 30 to respond to the motion to dismiss, but missed the deadline.
The surviving members of Nirvana (Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic), the estate of Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love, photographer Kirk Weddle, the labels that released Nevermind, and other parties were all named as defendants in the lawsuit. In the motion to dismiss, their lawyer said that long before the statute of limitations expired, “Elden knew about the photograph, and knew that he (and not someone else) was the baby in the photograph.” They argued that, for years, Elden had participated in paid campaigns recreating the cover image, in addition to getting the album’s titled tattooed on his chest. If Elden’s claim were true, they said, everybody who owned the album cover would be “guilty of felony possession of child pornography.”
Elden has until January 13 to refile the case with appropriate changes. Pitchfork has reached out to representatives and attorneys for Nirvana, as well as an attorney for Elden, for comment.
As you can see, the January 13th deadline has long since passed. Though this article was published on January 4th (and came to my attention on January 5th), the past month has been a busy one, with me only coming back to this now (February 2ed). Nonetheless, the article presents us with a number of paths that we can pursue.
1.) Did Spencer Elden play along with the fame/infamy that came along with the photograph?
2.) Did Spencer file another appeal before the January 13th deadline?
To answer the first question, yes he did. Twice. For both the 15 and 25 year anniversaries of the release of Nirvana’s Nevermind.
Nirvana baby recreates iconic album cover 25 years later
The naked swimming baby from the cover of the groundbreaking Nirvana album “Nevermind” re-enacted the image for the record’s 25th anniversary — this time wearing clothes.
Spencer Elden, 25, wanted to go au naturel when he made a splash to honor the legendary grunge band, he told The Post.
“I said to the photographer, ‘Let’s do it naked.’ But he thought that would be weird, so I wore my swim shorts,” said Elden, an artist from LA.
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Elden did the same thing 10 years ago, in honor of the album’s 15th anniversary.
The article also notes that his parents were paid $200 back in 1991 for allowing the photograph of their son to be taken. Boy, did they get screwed over. Though the article also notes that Spencer accepted $200 from a photographer to again recreate the iconic photograph back in 2016.
Dude . . .
As for whether or not Spencer followed through with the appeal, it appears that he did in fact refile the suit.
The man who appeared as a naked baby on Nirvana’s “Nevermind” album has filed a new lawsuit alleging the image is child porn — just weeks after a judge tossed his original case.
Spencer Elden, 30, filed the new complaint against Kurt Cobain’s estate and Nirvana’s surviving members in California federal court on Thursday.
The new lawsuit includes a declaration from the album’s graphic designer that Elden’s lawyers argue proves the band and record label, Geffen Records, deliberately sought to display baby Elden’s penis and exploit the image for commercial gain.
Though this has yet to make its way through the court system, I have my doubts that he is going to get any further with his case. After all, there is evidence in the public record of him, in fact, embracing his unique (though arguably exploitative) history.
Do I doubt that the image has in fact closed some doors in terms of his pursuits? No.
Do I think that the image has bolstered far more than hindered his future prospects? Yes.
Though this lawsuit comes across as a sign of him running into hard times recently, it’s hard to believe that the iconic photo has not helped him in his modelling career at least a little. I mean, even though it isn’t mentioned, the guy plays up his very similar looks to Kurt Cobain by keeping his hair long! One would think that someone who is traumatized by their association to such a phenomenon would do everything they can to distance themselves from it. As opposed to leaning into it.
I may be missing things in my critique. Maybe there is context to be found that isn’t at all obvious. But even though this does in fact seem like a fruitless lawsuit (meritless? THAT is definitely debatable outside of the legal framework), I see Spencer doing well for himself with or without embracing his Nevermind infamy.
While it looks like Spencer sealed his legal fate decades ago, this article does in fact raise a very interesting legal situation regarding the use of social media. At the same time, we will explore a very drastic difference between how past generations stored precious memories, and how modern generations do so.
Being 33, I am old enough to have parents that had albums full of childhood photos and VHS tapes filled with various childhood events. When I think of these forms of storage, they are about as secure as you can get in terms of privacy. Aside from the people tasked with developing the photos or transferring the video to VHS, the photos never left your possession. The Robin Williams thriller One Hour Photo (2002) serves as a brilliant time capsule in terms of the unlikely circumstances in which your privacy may be breached when it comes to photo prints.
We all know where things went from here. First the transition to digital cameras, and seemingly a year later, to phones. And along with the transition from digital to phones also came a transition of where much of this material was/is stored. From various media kept in and around the home, to public-facing social media platforms or private-oriented cloud servers elsewhere (potentially not even in the same country). Since the amount of available space for storing this personal content has increased to essentially infinity in many cases, the amount of material many of us are uploading has also hugely increased. Once reserved for special moments like holidays or birthday parties, these days any time is a good time to share a moment. Anytime, anywhere.
Being responsible for their children until the age of 18, many parents now document nearly every waking moment of their children’s existence and share it on various social media entities. Though some apps only make this material available for a short time, it may sit up on other platforms essentially forever. Due to legally binding TOS agreements that are agreed to upon parents signing up for various services, the child may well have lost control of their right to privacy before they even reach the age at which they can talk. Parents consent on their behalf to social media terms of service which claim ownership over any content they upload, and thus they are on the way to losing any autonomy over their photographic likeness before they are even out of diapers.
Though the same can now be said of a good number of my childhood photos (most have been scanned and now are posted online), the big difference was that I (for the most part) knew about this and had a choice in the matter. Of course, even this isn’t foolproof (I’m sure we all have a family member with a tendency of oversharing). But at least I am aware of it, and (at least for the most part) had the chance to put a stop to this public display of my likeness if I so choose. It’s a privilege that isn’t going to be available to an entire generation that has (or IS) growing up within this increasingly digitally saturated paradigm.
Though this would include the Zoomers of gen Z (a generation that has for the most part embraced this technology, it just being a part of their everyday life as they grew up), I’m talking of the Alphas at this point. Raised in the social media paradigm, given the current status quo, they will never have a choice of whether or not they want to opt-in or out. Because the choice has already been made for them, long before they ever were conscious that they even had a choice.
This brings me to a realization of ourselves. In a sense, none of us have the choice to opt-out at this point either.
Many people make hay of doing things like closing Facebook accounts and leaving other social media sites. While I don’t doubt that it looks like you are making a difference (be it in the context of yourself, or in the wider world), one has to question the effectiveness of such actions. Both because of how monopolized many aspects of online life have become (how many people in your circle use Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp?), and because you don’t need to have an account in many of these platforms for them to track your activities online.
While I am venturing into territory that is somewhat off-topic to where I began (online tracking VS choosing to control your identity and likeness online), they both intersect in the sense that we have very little control of our data once we choose (or have the choice made for us by proxy) to make it available for whatever reason. Consider some time in the future in which you may want to completely erase your online identity for any reason. You can delete photos and social media profiles, but you don’t have much control of what lives on in the back-end servers of these companies. After all, consumer data is the gold in this evolving realm in which we live.
Or to step outside of the social media framework, what about a company that you dealt with in passing? A company that you no longer deal with?
For example, a foreign airline that you gave your credit card, passport and other information for a trip that you are fairly certain to never make again. A hotel chain that you may or may not visit again. Even a phone company that you may have previously dealt with, or never dealt with but still shared personal information with (rejected due to inadequate credit?).
While many companies quietly hoard consumer data for undetermined amounts of time, I can easily provide examples of data breaches exposing such practices within the industries listed above.
While the presence of likeness photographs living for eternity on social media platforms (anyone still have an active myspace account that was long since forgotten about?) and zombie consumer data hoarded by various companies may seem like 2 different things, they are in fact connected in the lack of control we have in reining in either. As long as companies are not held to high standards in terms of both data retention policies and cyber security, WE are the ones that will continue to pay the price. Given that the datasets that companies will be collecting are only going to diversify in the coming years (biometric data?), this aught be an issue on everyone’s radar.
There is a reason why I would never send a sample of my DNA to a private company for ancestry testing (and I would hope no one close to me would, either). Aside from the results being questionable to begin with, what happens to the DNA information afterward?
Today, we will explore an article outlining the coming supply shortages anticipated for this Christmas holiday shopping season. Following this will be an idea for an alternative to the shop till you drop nature of what the modern-day holiday season has become.
The supply chain meltdown will make holiday shopping messy this year. Here’s what you need to know.
Expect delays, limited inventory and higher prices but, most importantly, start early
The pandemic is haunting the global supply chain and, by extension, shoppers.
Two months out from the peak holiday shopping season, consumers are encountering empty storeshelves, rising prices and shipping delays that seem to stretch into oblivion. Container ships are clogging ports, awaiting cargo or unable to get past the gridlock to unload their goods. Some factories have gone dark, lacking raw materials and hands to run machines.
Shoppers are beginning to fret: A third of the more than 5,700 people recently surveyed by Oracle, which provides cloud services for such large retailers as Prada and Office Depot, worry they won’t get everything on their wish lists and will be paying more when they do. Here’s what you need to know to avoid a holiday shopping nightmare.
That is interesting wording, considering that I was under the impression that holiday shopping tended to be a nightmare for most people, supply chain restrictions or not. Hence the reason why stress and substance abuse tends to skyrocket during the lead-up and the peak of the holiday season.
But I digress . . .
Why are so many store shelves already empty?
The coronavirus pandemic has been wreaking havoc on global supply chains since it began nearly two years ago, with suppliers and retailers wading through a sea of challenges — keeping the virus out of offices and factories, navigating shutdowns and business restrictions. Then there’s the steady rise of raw materials prices and skyrocketing shipping costs. The nation also is short on truck drivers and warehouse workers.
The tangle of pressures has driven inflation to a 13-year high of 5.4 percent, forcing many companies to pass costs along to consumers.
Problems have been compounded by a labor shortage that has intensified in recent months, as more warehouse and retail workers become part of “The Great Resignation” — a phenomenon driven by pandemic burnout and an existential reassessment of life and work. A record 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in August, Labor Department data shows, and big box stores and local retailers alike are struggling to fill positions and store shelves.
All the while, demand is on the rise:Retail sales rose unexpectedly the past two months despite a resurgence in covid cases brought on by the delta variant, which had a dampening effect on business activity. Last month, U.S. retail sales hit $625.4billion as consumers flocked to shops, bars and restaurants, federal data show. Gasoline sales were up 38 percent compared with the same period in 2020.
This is certainly an interesting trifecta of factors.
A pandemic still wreaking havoc with production and shipping around the world. A revolting labour force fed up with putting their lives on the line for consumers and employers that don’t give a flying fuck about anyone but themselves or the bottom line. And an energetic newly released public that is anxious to live it up in a way they haven’t been able to since 2009.
Virus + Fatige + Excitment = Pandamonium.
Holiday retail sales are projected to climb 7 to 9 percent, according to Deloitte’s annual forecast, to as much as $1.3 trillion this year.
Marwan Forzley, chief executive of Veem, a payments platform that works with thousands of U.S. retailers, said the outlook is promising given that more people are comfortable shopping in stores and dining out amid rising vaccination rates.
“We can expect this to continue into the winter months,” Forzley said in commentary emailed to The Washington Post.
Do I really need to start shopping now?
If you have specific gifts — especially trendy ones — in mind, yes.
Mark Kapczynski, chief marketing officer of Gooten, a supply chain solutions company, said that consumers should plan to get their shopping done well ahead of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday window if they want gifts to arrive on time.
He pointed to the record backups at U.S. ports due to covid protocols and labor shortages, adding that the delay of raw materials will cascade through supply chains and create shortages across many product categories.
Good luck, folks. You are already too late!
President Biden recently called on the Port of Los Angeles, the nation’s largest port, to stay open round-the-clock to ease some kinks in the supply chain. The White House even weighed tapping the National Guard to fill in the gaps across the country’s sprawling network of ports, planes, ships and trucks, The Post has reported.
Recent changes at the U.S. Postal Service will lengthen delivery times. On Oct. 1, the agency implemented new “service standards,” or the amount of time it says it should take for a piece of mail to get delivered, and raised prices for a variety of services.
“All of the major carriers — USPS, UPS, FedEx — are not guaranteeing any specific delivery times this year, so absolutely shop ahead as much as possible,” Kapczynski told The Post in an email.
Though this is strictly speculation on my part, I have to wonder how much of the current situation with the USPS is rooted in the sabotage efforts of its Post Master General under the previous administration. Though I don’t doubt that Biden stopped the bleeding, did he reverse the changes (such as the removal of sorting equipment)?
Holiday shopping season has been starting earlier and earlier since 2014, when big box stores first opened their doors for Thanksgiving Day deals, according to Marshal Cohen, chief retail industry adviser for the NPD Group.
This year, more than half of shoppers surveyedplan to start their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving Day, according to NPD’s Holiday Retail Outlook.
Consumers are expected to spend $785, on average, in 2021, which is higher than either of the past two years, according to NPD. The uptick reflects how they have “settled into the current phase of pandemic life,” Cohen wrote in commentary Wednesday, “and are balancing a new sense of comfort alongside remaining concerns.”
Early shoppers plan to spend more money, and have already started picking up consumer electronics, clothes and gift cards, according to NPD’s research. Retailers have catered their events and deals to the early birds: Amazon started hawking its “Deals for Days” promotion in early October. Nordstrom is opening its in-store holiday shops on Oct. 18. Lowe’s is having its “Season of Savings” kickoff on Oct. 28 and wheeling out its Christmas trees and twinkly lights in November.
Anxiety about delays and scarce inventory will motivate many shoppers to “grab what they want when they see it,” Cohen wrote, “instead of waiting for better deals later in the season.”
I will end my quotation of the article here since you know all that you need to know already. That is, if you thought that holiday shopping was stressful in a normal year, this year will be WAY worse.
This brings me to the amount that the average consumer is predicted to spend during this round of holiday-related consumption . . . $785. And this is only the average. Early shoppers are spending even more as retailers push the start of the holiday season further and further back in the year. Given the state of the supply of many items, it would not surprise me to see scalpers buying up trendy items and scalping them on auction and marketplace sites for WAY more than their original MSRP in the coming weeks and months (this became a major issue for the tech industry recently). For the truly desperate, this can only drive the $785 figure even higher.
It makes me wonder how many people actually want to participate in the whole gift exchange thing, to begin with.
This is where I propose my alternative.
Consider the gifts you received throughout the Christmas holidays in the past few years (if not indefinitely). How many have you actually made use of? How many ended up being tucked away in a cupboard, drawer or basement? And after this stage in the process, how many of these items end up being thrown in the trash due to non-use? Sure, things can and do get donated. But given the glut of stuff that such organizations always have coming in, what is the chance that your likely outdated product is going to make the cut?
How many Christmas gifts have you used to the point wherein they actually get disposed of due to wearing out?
Then there is the alleged faux pas that is the re-gifting of undesirable items. How often have you simply passed on an item the next year (or at the next holiday function)? How many items end up in this endless loop before finally getting trashed?
Break the cycle of perpetually spending money we don’t have to buy crap that people around us don’t need. Instead, consider how that money could be better utilized.
For example, instead of loading up on consumer products, why not write a few cheques to charitable organizations that could use the cash?
If you like, you can tailor these donations to the interests and/or preferences of those for whom you would be buying gifts for.
If your family is one that actually enjoys one another’s presence more than once or twice a year, what about using that cash to purchase some activities that everyone can enjoy and that promote even more gathering opportunities?
For example, a pool or shuffleboard table or a videogame console. Such an investment can provide your immediate family entertainment at any time, and provide entertainment for family gatherings and party guests for years to come.
And of course, there is the option of not spending anything at all. Your reasons don’t matter since it’s a personal choice.
Not everyone will be on board with such a move. Once your new view of the holidays is known to your wider circle of friends and family, reactions may vary from “Whatever, Mr. Grinch!” to “We are no longer friends!”. Nonetheless, I can assure you that this new rocky social reality is still better for all involved than the old status quo.
Sure you will have your mindless critics that have likely never put a second thought into any of their collective traditions or practices. But I sense that this should be a short-lived problem. Give it a year or 2, and most should just accept your choice. After all, boiled right down, it’s just the mutual expectation of wanting nothing, and expecting nothing in return.
As for those that do still take issue . . . tell them where to go. I get that this can be much easier said than done (particularly in a familial context), but chances are if the person is selfish enough to take issue with this, then this is likely not the only area of your life that they are causing trouble in. Existence is too short to live with petty BS like that.
But overall, no matter how you choose to spend the holidays, try to enjoy yourself and have a good time. Whether that means meeting with the family, having a quiet day by yourself, or making it magical for the kids, try and stay positive.
I used to be one of those people that dreaded the period between around October 31st right through to the 24th (if not January 1st) because of all the Christmas overload. Since my career has primarily been within the service and retail industries, much of this animosity was on account of the nastiness of everyday people in the lead-up to the big day. Never have I met a more miserable human being than the fellow dawning a badge proclaiming Keep the CHRIST in CHRISTmas!! .
Whatever happened to Merry Christmas?! It’s the most wonderful time of the year!!
Then there are the “It’s not the same as when I was a kid!” crowd. People who decided that it’s all changed WAY too much, and therefore they will inflict their holiday misery on everyone else around them. There is no looking for silver linings or making the best of it, Christmas is RUINED! It may be only November 5th, but they have decided that the whole thing is a loss because they are not in the christmas spirit.
I get that. The holidays lost their magic way back when I was a teenager, in large part due to my then acceptance of my atheist stance. From grade 9 throughout the rest of high school, Christmas was a time of a lot of guilt for me. Though I was surrounded by and participating in the same religious rituals as the rest of the family, I felt some guilt in doing so. As though I was lying, and didn’t deserve to be part of the joy.
Of course, this all changed 2 years out from high school (of all times, a MONTH before Christmas!) when bad privacy settings on Facebook led to an image I commented on being shown to my entire friend’s list (this nsfw image). I ended up skipping out on that years gathering, and the one next year was a bit awkward (a few obviously still had an issue with the stance). But that has all evaporated now. If anyone cares, then they either have long forgotten or moved on.
Either way, as an adult, we will naturally assign magical details to our childhood experiences that will never live up. Not only has a lot changed since then, it’s also a function of our brains not being accurate. I can almost guarantee that even if a good effort was put in to accurately capture the atmosphere of the childhood celebrations, it still won’t feel the same. There will be details that you have long forgotten, and there will be negative details that you long ago scrubbed from mind.
There is no reliving the past, hard as one tries. There is only finding out what can make the experience positive in the modern era. Whether that means going to see the family, or staying home and cracking a bottle of booze (or partaking in some legal cannabis!), the choice is yours. You don’t need to involve family OR drugs, it’s whatever suits you.
I will probably spend my holiday under the relaxing intoxication of one or 2 cannabis-infused beverages while doing some housework (or writing) to pass the time. That is what works for me.
Today, we will be exploring an article titled Dead Celebrities are being digitally resurrected — and the ethics are murky, written by Jenna Benchetrit and published by CBC News. While it’s not the first time I have heard of this concept (nor seen it explored in pop culture, as in the case of Black Mirror), I have never really stopped to consider the implications. That is to say, how I would respond to coming across one of my cherished idols or artists digitally resurrected for my enjoyment.
Being the nature of the subject, the resulting conclusions can only be subjective. We will all naturally come to a different stance based on the many things that make us all . . . us. As such, this will be (for the most part) more an act of personal exploration than ethical vetting. Nonetheless, feel free to share your views in the comments if you wish.
Hologram performances, artificial voices and posthumous albums pose tough ethical questions, critics say
It’s a modern phenomenon that’s growing increasingly common with innovative technology and marketing appeal: the practice of digitally resurrecting deceased celebrities by using their image and unreleased works for new projects.
Michael Jackson moonwalked at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards years after his death; rapper Tupac Shakur performed at the 2012 Coachella music festival, though he died in 1996; and late singer Aaliyah’s estate spoke out recently after her record label announced that some of her albums would be released on streaming services.
A slew of recent controversies have renewed complicated questions about whether projects involving the use of a deceased celebrity’s likeness or creative output honours the artist’s legacy or exploits it for monetary gain.
Prince’s former colleague released a posthumous album comprised of songs the artist recorded in 2010 then scrapped; an artificially-engineered model of Anthony Bourdain’s voice was used in a new documentary about the chef and author’s life; and a hologram of Whitney Houston will perform a six-month Las Vegas residency beginning in October 2021.
Interestingly enough, this brings to mind a conversation (a debate of sorts) I had with a friend some years back at work. Him being a fan of old school grunge and the Seattle scene, he hated the reincarnation of Alice In Chains with the presence of a new lead singer. At the time, I recall viewing the sentiment towards the name as kind of silly (what difference does it make?). I happened to like the music of both configurations of the band, so the sentiment that they should have proceeded under a different name seemed . . . purist.
Then around 3 years later, Chester Bennington of Linkin Park fame died by suicide. Upon considering my previous viewpoint at some point later, I was struck by the realization that I had similar reservations about someone else fronting Linkin Park in place of Chester Bennington. I had no real rational reason for this. It just felt weird for someone else to step into the role that of someone that I had become familiar with since my teen years. Hybrid Theory and Meteora came out when I was in high school. I literally grew up with this band as part of the soundtrack of my life.
Even though I stopped paying as much attention to most of the releases after Minutes To Midnight, it still felt . . .weird.
But that was years ago. Having not thought about it since probably 2017, I’ve realized that most of the sentiment towards the name Linkin Park (likely a result of the death being so recent at the time) is gone. Which it seems is not a moment too soon since the rest of the group (mostly on hiatus since 2017) is starting to release remixed and new material starting in 2020. So far there has been 1 track re-released in August 2020 and a remixed released in January of 2021. We will see what goodies the rest of LP have for us in the coming post-pandemic years.
This isn’t even the first time I’ve had this inner dialogue, either. It also occurred back in 2016, when I heard (with horror at the time) that Axel Rose of Guns & Roses infamy was set to replace ACDC’s Brian Johnson, who was forced to retire due to hearing problems. This was not on account of sentiment either (remember that Brian Johnson replaced the deceased Bon Scott back in 1980). More, it was due to the volatile and infamous nature of Rose himself. Though his antics are well known and documented (up to and including inciting a riot in Montreal), even my aunt has a story of annoyance associated with working security at a G &R show (the band came on stage an hour late).
An interesting side note of the Montreal riot . . . lost to history is the fact that Axle was also suffering from a torn vocal cord at the time of the incident, which seems to have weighed into the decision. This, along with the fact that only around 2000 people (of the 10,000ish in attendance) were thought to have participated in the riots.
This is also something that I have not thought about for a long time. Probably because, as it turns out, the 23 show ACDC collaboration appears to have gone off without a hitch. And though the group was on hiatus since 2016, the 2014 lineup reunited in 2020 to release Power Up, an album that I enjoy. Not that ACDC has ever put out an album that I didn’t enjoy.
Sure, the music is simple in comparison to the various shades of metal that I’ve since moved on to. Yet, it also remains enjoyable since the group is delightfully unserious when it comes to songwriting, never fearing to tread into the low brow. As evidenced by the 2020 track Money Shot, a tune that made me laugh out loud. And one can’t complain much of the simplistic nature of the pub rock genre, because if you want something more, look no further than Airbourne (like ACDC. they also started in Australia). Though it is obvious who their influences are, they certainly take things to a whole other level.
Sticking to the topic still, we come to another band that I grew up with that changed frontman. Three Days Grace.
Growing up, I used to think of the first 2 3DG albums as another soundtrack to my teenage years. I also liked (and own) the subsequent 2 albums under the original lineup. But when lead singer Adam Gontier left the group and was replaced by Matt Walst of My Darkest Days, it took some (who am I kidding . . . MUCH!) persuasion to appreciate the new Three Days Grace.
Or, Nu 3DG as it were.
But as it turned out, the unexpected change of lineup was not the awful thing that times closer to the change made it out to be. Under the lead of Matt Walst, Three Days Grace has moved into a newer and more interesting sound. And Adam is heading an equally interesting project in St. Asonia. The best of both worlds.
Also worth noting is the Foo Fighters. While I am almost certain that Courtney Love would NOT have let Dave Grohl and the rest of the trio continue forward under the Nirvana brand, it would be interesting to see what the results of a different timeline would have been. For example, the ACDC timeline.
Would fans embrace the new frontman (as seems the case with ACDC)? Or would they detest the new configuration (as with AiC)?
Whatever the case does not matter, anyhow, since the Foo Fighters did perfectly fine even without the old brand behind them.
Looking back at this, it’s funny that I once looked at my friend’s distaste of NU-AiC as amusing and purist. As it turns out, I am just as human in my distaste of the alterations of the familiar. Hell . . . it’s one of my biggest critiques of many baby boomers that I know, and of the generation in general. The lack of interest in even trying to accept the new, let alone accepting that the old way is largely on the way out. Often for good reason.
So much have I pondered this that I now conclude that change is almost always actually a good thing for a band.
The first example of this that comes to mind is Seether. Their first 3 albums were also part of the soundtrack of my teenage years, with the 4th coming out just as I was coming of age as an adult. Though I still liked the fourth album despite its slight move away from what one was used to, I can’t stand anything released afterward. The same goes for Theory of a Deadman. I liked the first 2 albums, but what followed was Gawd awful. I don’t normally throw away music that I own, but I did toss The Truth Is because, for the life of me, I didn’t know why I spent $15 or $20 on it.
Remember buying CDs?
Yeah . . . I don’t miss it either. I do miss the days before people like me and streaming sucked much of the money out of the music industry, forcing artists old and new to resort to commercials and advertising as a steady income stream. But I suppose that is a different entry altogether.
Either way, rare is the musician from my childhood that has continuously put out new material, yet avoided the pitfall of toning it down for mainstream popularity. So rare is the case that only Billy Talent comes to mind as an artist that bucked the trend.
No matter the backlash, when artists decide to do the seemingly unthinkable and make a big change, the results are almost always alright. Another example that I just recently discovered was Aaron Lewis. Best known by me (and probably most people) as the lead singer behind Staind, imagine my surprise in discovering Country Boy in a country playlist. I can’t say that I like it, per se. But it’s certainly different, and Aaron is suited for the genre.
Considering that I used to hate country, the fact that I’m starting to get accustomed to some of it is shocking in itself. And I do in fact mean some of it. Though I like a couple Dierks Bentley songs and a Joe Nichols tune that most people likely know among some others, the pickings are slim. Aside from learning that a coon dog isn’t an incredibly racist lyric, I still find the formulaic nature of much of the country genre to be annoying.
To be fair, much of what I am describing is prescribed to a category within Country music that many call Bro-Country. Having said that, even the old-time stuff tends to lean in this direction. Hence why also can’t stand Alan Jackson or Toby Keith (he irked me long before the Red Solo Cup abomination).
I am very selective indeed . . . but it’s a hell of a change from a year ago. Not to mention that I figure it would be hard to find someone that has everything from Slipknot, to Weird Al, to Dierks Bentley on the same playlist.
But at long last, I come to the topic that the readers have come here for . . . holograms.
Michael Jackson moonwalked at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards years after his death; rapper Tupac Shakur performed at the 2012 Coachella music festival, though he died in 1996; and late singer Aaliyah’s estate spoke out recently after her record label announced that some of her albums would be released on streaming services.
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Prince’s former colleague released a posthumous album comprised of songs the artist recorded in 2010 then scrapped; an artificially-engineered model of Anthony Bourdain’s voice was used in a new documentary about the chef and author’s life; and a hologram of Whitney Houston will perform a six-month Las Vegas residency beginning in October 2021.
This is certainly an interesting thing to ponder. Though I CAN think of 1 reason why I would not want to see Micheal Jackson moonwalking in a show post-humously, the ethical reasoning has nothing to do with him being dead. Frankly, the same goes for anyone that would want to present a holographic Kobe Bryant. I find the continued praise and worship of both those people to be problematic, but again, that is a whole other post.
2.) Micheal Jackson was NOT proven innocent, contrary to how Twitter recently reacted. The court only dismissed the notion of the victims that 2 companies representing Jackson’s interests had any bearing of responsibility towards their safety and welfare. Nothing more.
Moving on from that red hot potato, I come to Tupac Shakur and Whitney Houston. When it comes to these 2, I am neutral. Assuming that neither said anything in life against the concept of post-humous holograms and assuming the concept isn’t going against either majority fan or estate wishes, I see little issue with it. It is but a new medium for the broadcast and display of recorded media, after all. In my opinion, no different than watching a Whitney Houston music video on YouTube. Or as I happen to be doing at this moment, listening to the long-deceased Johnny Cash in MP3 form.
I know . . . who still does that?!
Speaking of times changing, we come to the release of dead artist’s music on streaming platforms. Short of the artist taking issue with it in life (as seems would be the case with Prince), I have little issue with it. For all intents and purposes, the cat is already out of the bag. In fact, it has been since the debut of Napster in 1999, continued to be so in the early 2000s with the decentralized P2P platforms, and continued ever beyond in the realm of torrents and discographies. Today, people scrape YouTube videos for audio.
And even that isn’t really correct anymore, with most people using ad or subscription-based streaming services. My preferred choice is YouTube Music since it comes with fewer limitations than Spotify (though I use Spotify for podcasts).
Any artists refusing to join the streaming platforms at this point are just pissing into the wind. This is not to say that the modern monetary sharing scheme is optimal (cause it’s not. It’s even more shit than it was in the past!). Nonetheless, however, when even the Nirvana and Tool catalogues can now be streamed, you know we’re in a different era.
As for using machine learning algorithms to reanimate the voice of the now-deceased Anthony Bourdain, however . . . THAT IS WHERE I DRAW THE LINE!
Yeah . . . just kidding.
Personally, having seen Desperate Housewives back in the day (remember the homophobia of seasons 1 and 2? That didn’t age well ), the idea of a show narrated by a character deceased from the plot is interesting. As much as I’d love the Bourdain doc to open with a line like “Guess what, guys! I’m dead!” (I can see him doing something like that!), it probably wouldn’t go over well with the normies among us.
No one seems to take issue with a dead Paul Walker showing up in a run of the mill Holywood movie, but throw a dead guy joke into a Bourdain documentary . . .
Ethical and legal ramifications
It’s a matter of both ethics and law, but the ethical concerns are arguably more important, according to Iain MacKinnon, a Toronto-based media lawyer.
“It’s a tough one, because if the artist never addressed the issue while he or she was alive, anybody who’s granting these rights — which is typically an executor of an estate — is really just guessing what the artist would have wanted,” MacKinnon said.
“It always struck me as a bit of a cash grab for the estates and executors to try and milk … a singer’s celebrity and rights, I guess, for a longer time after their death.”
According to MacKinnon, the phrase “musical necrophilia” is commonly used to criticize the practice. Music journalist Simon Reynolds referred to the phenomenon of holographic performances as “ghost slavery,” and in The Guardian, Catherine Shoard called the CGI-insertion of a dead actor into a new film a “digital indignity.”
This is indeed an almost cut and dry case when it comes to copyright law. Though it sounds like one single area, what copyrights equate to are a great many single rights.
Say I am writing a book called “Crazy Cats of New Haven”. The moment the pen hits the paper (or the finger hits the keyboard), the resulting document in its entirety is covered under international copyright law. However, beyond just being your proof in a court of law, having this control over the main copyright also means you have control of any other rights whether currently available or future. For example:
theatrical (movie? play?)
The reason I am aware of this is on account of a short copyright course I took aimed at aspiring authors. Instructed by a seasoned and published author, the goal was to introduce us to a sample book contract and ensure we are aware that not all contracts are alike. Like every other area of the media and entertainment industry, not all publishers are equal.
This is where the future rights portion of this comes in. Though I have yet to come across my first contract at this point, most are said to automatically include every right that is available and future rights. Or in normie speak, if the project ever blows up and goes cross-platform (eg. Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter), the publisher is often in a much more powerful position than the author or writer.
And this isn’t uncommon either. The writers in the music industry often make peanuts even if they write hits.
Songwriters are guaranteed a royalty from every unit sold (CDs, vinyl, cassette, etc.).
These royalties are paid out differently in different countries, but in the U.S., they come out to $0.091 per reproduction of the song – nine cents every time a song is reproduced/sold.
In other countries, the royalty is paid out at 8 to 10% of the value of the recording.
What does this equate to?
Take the song “Pumped Up Kicks” – a huge hit for Foster The People. The track sold 3.8 million copies and the album itself sold 671,000 copies.
The frontman of the band Nate Foster has the sole writing credit on the song, so he collects every penny of the mechanical royalties, which would come out to around $406,861.
And that’s just the mechanicals. There are other ways that song was making money – it received a ton of radio play and was licensed on TV shows like Entourage, Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries, which added to Foster and the band’s earnings.
Digital Download Mechanical Royalties
Digital download mechanical royalties are generated in the same way physical mechanical royalties are generated, except they are paid whenever any song is downloaded.
iTunes, Amazon, Google Rhapsody, Xbox Music, all generate and pay these royalties to songwriters whenever a song is downloaded.
Again, these are paid out at a rate of $0.091 per song.
Streaming Mechanical Royalties
Streaming mechanical royalties are generated from the same Reproduction and Distribution copyrights, but are paid differently.
They are generated any time a song is streamed through a service that allows users to pause, play, skip, download, etc.
This means Spotify, Apple Music, TIDAL, Pandora, etc.
In the U.S. (and globally for the most part) the royalty rate is 10.5% of the company’s gross revenue minus the cost of public performance.
An easier way to say this, is that it generally comes out to around $0.005 per stream. Less than a cent!
Now that we have explored all the reasons why MB Man will never be writing any songs anytime soon, let’s move onto the movie industry. We will now explore the shady realms of Hollywood Accounting. How to turn a multi-billion dollar grossing blockbuster into cash bleeding loss.
On today’s Planet Money, Edward Jay Epstein, the author of a recent book called The Hollywood Economist, explains the business of movies.
As a case study, he walks us through the numbers for “Gone In 60 Seconds.” (It starred Angelina Jolie and Nicolas Cage. They stole cars. Don’t pretend like you don’t remember it.)
The movie grossed $240 million at the box office. And, after you take out all the costs and fees and everything associated with the movie, it lost $212 million.
This is the part of Hollywood accounting that is, essentially, fiction. Disney, which produced the movie, did not lose that money.
Each movie is set up as its own corporation. So what “lost money” on the picture is that corporation — Gone In 60 Seconds, Inc., or whatever it was called.
And Gone In 60 Seconds, Inc. pays all these fees to Disney and everyone else connected to the movie. And the fees, Epstein says, are really where the money’s at.
May I first note that the last name appears to be coincidental in this case. Unsurprising, given my doubts that Jeffrey Epstein would like having an investigative journalist around the island of rich pedos.
ANYWAY . . .
That is how you turn a billion-dollar grossing moneymaker of a film into a cash-losing flop. And as usual, I veered off-topic.
Well, sort of. We now know the stance of the entertainment industry in terms of ethics . . . there are none. Given the power afforded to the rights holder, I suspect that we will see a lot more deceased celebrities doing everything from performing in Vegas to selling coffee and toothpaste on TV commercials.
Just kidding . . . clearly the cash is now in YouTube and Spotify ads.
Richard Lachman, an associate professor at Ryerson University who researches the relationship between humans and technology, said that as artists age and develop a better sense of their legacies, they may take the time to protect their images and file appropriate contract clauses.
But not every artist will grow old. Indeed, a common thread between many of the artists whose works and likeness have been used in this capacity is an unexpected or accidental death.
Prince died in 2016 of an accidental opioid overdose, Anthony Bourdain died by suicide in 2018 and Whitney Houston drowned in her bathtub in 2012 as a result of heart disease and cocaine use. Tupac, Amy Winehouse and Aaliyah all died unexpectedly at young ages.
Lachman said if this is the case, then it’s possible that clauses accounting for image use didn’t get written into wills. He also noted that artists who die prematurely don’t grow old, giving an impression of perpetual youth that reminds audiences what an artist looked like in their prime.
And while fans might be protective of the artists they love, they’re also the primary consumers to whom these digital resurrections appeal.
“Yes, we know that [a hologram of] Whitney Houston is not the real Whitney Houston,” Lachman said. “But it’s a chance for us to engage in some of that fan behaviour, something that binds us to one another.”
I agree with the final sentence.
As explained earlier, I am not against the concept of posthumous holograms. Even taking the Whitney Houston hologram example and replacing her likeness with Chester Bennington or Warrel Dane (2 artists that mean much more to me than Whitney Houston), I still don’t really find myself against the concept. Assuming that the family and/or next of kin is on board with the process, this seems to be just an ultramodern example of what we have been taking for granted for decades. The ability to store information onto various mediums.
First came the song. Then the video. Now, potentially, the whole experience. Whether the experience is to be predetermined (akin to a pre-recording) or interactive (play out based on the audience, presumably) depends on the technology.
Though I can see why this kind of thing may be considered horrifying by some, consider the opportunity. Before now, if your favourite artist were to die, that is it in terms of opportunities for interaction. Though there may be shows if their surrounding act decides to continue, the opportunity of seeing the artist live will never happen again. Particularly notable when it comes to solo acts.
For people who have never seen that artist live, this may well be the opportunity of a lifetime. Indeed, it’s not the REAL thing. But it’s a very special opportunity nonetheless. An opportunity that my grandfather (who died in 1998) did not have in his lifetime.
For this reason, those in charge of these shows will have to be extra careful when it comes to smooth and flawless production performances. Not only will these performances serve as a typical live show, they will also serve as the farewell tribute that many of us wish we could have had with long-lost loved ones (beloved celebrities included). Auditoriums housing such performances may be wise to keep lots of tissues on hand.
For some, releasing archived material might not seem as harmful as resurrecting a person with virtual reality, MacKinnon said.
“I think there’s different degrees and a spectrum of uses that can be made of dead performers.”
There is no doubt no comparison between the 2. If it was not explicitly trashed by the artist, it may well have ended up released later in their career anyway.
The Prince example from earlier has to be mentioned, however. The posthumous release of an album of songs written by (and scrapped by!) Prince. Prince’s feelings towards the material were clear. Any person of ethics and integrity would know to leave the trash in the trash.
So naturally, they took the other path and cashed in on the fanbase for some cash.
There will always be unscrupulous actors in an industry devoid of ethical and moral virtues. Thus, it is important not to let their actions dictate our opinion of anything we are speaking of. Unscrupulous people will always be unscrupulous, after all.
Prince is an artist who’s been on both sides of that spectrum.
Last month, his posthumous album Welcome 2 America was released to fanfare. But there was another controversial incident in which it was rumoured that a hologram of Prince would perform alongside Justin Timberlake at the 2018 Super Bowl halftime show. The plans were eventually scrapped, with Prince’s ex-fiancée Sheila E. confirming that Timberlake wouldn’t go through with it.
The incident renewed interest in a 1998 interview with Guitar World, in which Prince said performing with an artist from the past is “the most demonic thing imaginable.”
I don’t know who had the bigger say in this decision, but if it was Justin Timberlake, good on him for seemingly honouring the wishes of Prince. Seemingly, because I can only imagine how much public pressure was driving the decision. This is the age of social media and Twitter, after all.
Sarah Niblock, a visiting professor of psychology at York St. John University in York, England, who has long studied Prince and co-wrote a book about the artist, says efforts to dig into his vault and use his image for profit are in contention with his publicly expressed wishes.
“He was fully in control of his output, sonically and visually, and the way everything was marketed, and of course, those who performed with him and all of his artists that he produced,” Niblock said.
The situation is further complicated because Prince didn’t leave a will when he died. Without one, “a person’s estate can exploit or license those rights if they want to,” MacKinnon said.
While the legal boundaries are relatively clear, the ethical question of whether an artist is being exploited or not is subjective.
For Niblock, digital resurrections that enrich the estate and its executors at the expense of an artist’s known wishes cross a line.
“Trying to somehow use that death to create a mythic quality that the artists themselves would have not necessarily intended, to then market that for money … I mean, it’s extremely cynical and disrespectful.”
There is no respect in capitalism. Only profits.
Legal considerations must be made before death
While promoting his new documentary Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain, director Morgan Neville said he had recreated Bourdain’s voice using machine learning, then used the voice model to speak words Bourdain had written.
The incident prompted a wave of public discussion, some of it criticism levelled at Neville.
A tweet from Bourdain’s ex-wife suggested that he wouldn’t have approved. A columnist for Varietyconsidered the ethical ramifications of the director’s choice. And Helen Rosner of The New Yorkerwrote that “a synthetic Bourdain voice-over seemed to me far less crass than, say … a holographic Tupac Shakur performing alongside Snoop Dogg at Coachella.”
Recent incidents like the Bourdain documentary or Whitney Houston’s hologram residency will likely prompt those in the entertainment industry to protect themselves accordingly, said MacKinnon.
Having considered things a bit (and watched the Tupac Coachella appearance), I would hardly consider it as crass. The audience in attendance certainly didn’t. Nor do most of the people in the YouTube comments. Nor do the 274k people that liked the video (verses around 6k dislikes). I’d say the only people that cared were exactly where they should be . . . NOT AT THE SHOW!
Feel free to check it out for yourself. It was linked in the CBC article, believe it or not.
“I think now, if they haven’t already, agents, managers, lawyers, performers are all going to be telling their clients that if they care about this, if they care about how their image is used after they die, they need to be addressing it right now in their wills.”
Robin Williams is a notable example of a public figure who foresaw these issues. The late actor, who died by suicide in 2014, restricted the use of his image and likeness for 25 years after his death.
It’s cool that Robin Williams had the foresight to consider this before his tragic demise. While I am not as averse to the thought of a post-humous Robin Williams comedy special as I would have been closer to 2014, the man has spoken.
We have indeed entered a new era.
A passing thought . . . though we will never know what opinion past comedians like George Carlin or Bill Hicks would have of this technology, I sense that both would have a lot of fun with it.
Hologram technology improving
According to both Lachman and MacKinnon, artists would do well to make similar arrangements, as the technology behind these recreations will only get more sophisticated.
Holograms of Tupac at 2012 Coachella and Michael Jackson at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards were produced using a visual trick from the Victorian-era called “Pepper’s Ghost,” named for John Henry Pepper, the British scientist who popularized it.
In the illusion, a person’s image is reflected onto an angled glass pane from an area hidden from the audience. The technique gave the impression that the rapper and the king of pop were performing on stage.
Nowadays, companies like Base Hologram in Los Angeles specialize in large-scale digital production of holograms. The recreation of Bourdain’s voice was made possible by feeding ten hours of audio into an artificial intelligence model.
Lachman said that it will become “almost impossible” for the average consumer to know the difference between a hologram creation and the real person.
He said that while the effects are still new and strange enough to warrant media attention, digital resurrections will continue to have an uncanny effect on their audience — but not for much longer, as audiences will likely grow accustomed to the phenomenon.
Though he said there may be purists who disagree, it seems like audiences have been generally accepting of the practice.
“It seems like the trend is we’re just going to get over it.”
I agree. This phenomenon, as somewhat creepy and new as it is, ain’t going anywhere. But as far as I’m concerned, that is a good thing.
There will no doubt be people that will take advantage of this technology so long as celebrities don’t take precautions. Such is the world we live in. Aside from that, I’d say we have a very unique opportunity.
Certainly for tasteful send-offs of beloved stars and musicians (imagine something like a Whitney Houston final Farewell tour). Beyond that, really, the sky is the limit.
Today, I will tackle an interesting question that has come up in the public discourse within Canada recently. Given the recent discovery of yet more mass graves containing hundreds of unidentified murdered indigenous children, is it a time to be celebrating a nation built on genocide?
Though I know full well what the reactionary response to this question will be (let the latest Cancel Culture hysteria begin!), there is an interesting case to be made when it comes to those of us unconcerned with blindly protecting mindless patriotic tradition and pageantry. Do proponents of cancellation of the holiday for this year have a point?
Though there are no doubt hundreds (if not more) of articles covering this subject available, I will focus on 1 from CTV Winnipeg for the sake of simplicity. This is an opinion piece, after all.
But, let us begin.
Movement calls for cancellation of Canada Day celebrations in Manitoba
WINNIPEG — A movement is calling for the cancellation of all Canada Day celebrations in the wake of the discoveries of unmarked graves at former residential school sites.
Gerry Shingoose, a residential school survivor, took to Twitter to call out the celebrations earlier in June.
“I’m asking that you wake up,” Shingoose, who was wearing a shirt reading ‘CancelCanadaDay,’ said in a video posted to social media.
“I’m going to be wearing it on Canada Day. It’s Cancel Canada (Day) and no pride in genocide.”
With the discovery of hundreds of unmarked children’s graves at former residential schools in B.C. and Saskatchewan, some communities are not celebrating Canada Day.
Cities in New Brunswick have cancelled plans and earlier this month Victoria did the same.
In Manitoba, the Shamattawa First Nation is going one step further.
“I don’t think this year is a year to celebrate,” said Shamattawa Chief Eric Redhead.
Redhead said his community will not celebrate Canada Day, as a way to honour the children who never made it home from the residential schools. All Canadian flags in the community have been taken down.
“Those flags that we’ve taken down will not go back up as long as I’m Chief—until the government recognizes the residential school system as an act of genocide.”
The first thing I will note from this is its nature as a request. No one is demanding that Canadians do anything. It is more of a “please consider this before. . . ” situation. This sentence being for the patriotic hysterics that will no doubt latch onto this for all the wrong reasons.
As for my own opinion on the matter, I am not in disagreement with the sentiment. I find the concept of patriotism and absolute pride in one’s nation as problematic, to begin with, so frankly I can go either way. While I am in favour of communities making their own decisions on this matter, I don’t feel negatively toward communities that go ahead with celebrations regardless. I feel this way because people have the right to boycott or protest such celebrations. And I feel this way because the Canadian Government is not the only responsible party in this genocide (though it was certainly the enabler).
Lacking in this CTV article is any mention of the role of the Catholic Church in these murders and cover-ups. Not only has the Catholic Church gotten away with its crimes nearly in their entirety (only having to issue a toothless apology), but they have not had to pay a penny towards victims of their abuse. Unlike the Canadian Government. Indeed, Canada has been WAY too slow in dealing with this dark legacy, but unlike the Catholic Church, they have at least started down the road.
I used to jokingly say that the Catholic Church was the biggest organized crime organization on the face of the earth. Back then, it was based on the ease in which the hierarchy made pedophiles in their ranks disappear like the cash in the collection plates (Sometimes right into sovereign diplomatic protection of Vatican City!). Though I once called the Catholic Church the biggest organized crime organization on earth, I missed the fact that they are also both the worst AND the most legally sanctioned. Say what you will about mafias, gangs, syndicates and triad’s spanning the globe. . . all of these eventually have setbacks and fall. Quite the contrast to the Catholic Church (an organization that I will now call Big Catholic), which has naved faced any pushback from any governing body.
Hence, I say Invade The Vatican (#InvadeTheVatican). If they won’t pay up and/or fess up, then let’s use the world’s military might for a good cause for once.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke about Canada Day Friday.
“I think all of us need to aspire and work hard to get to the point where everyone across this country will be able to celebrate fully,” said Trudeau.
Dare I say it . . . what the FUCK are you talking about?!
Granted, I suppose that answer was a lose-lose no matter how you slice it. I can only imagine how the PC’s and the Trudeau-haters would react to him denouncing Canada Day celebrations (even if just for this year). I don’t think I could handle the sheer volume of stupid.
Premier Brian Pallister said people should dedicate themselves to reconciliation, but not by stopping Canada Day festivities.
“I don’t think denying Canada Day celebrations is a respectful way for us to move forward,” Pallister said. “I think we should celebrate our country but celebrate it with its warts too.”
Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said he will celebrate Canada Day with his family, but not without reflection.
“I’ll also be taking a moment to pause and reflect on how we can strengthen our community and live up to those ideals that we all hold dear,” said Bowman.
Yet compared to those 2 replies, Trudeau’s seems not half bad.
1.) To Brian Pallister (Manitoba’s Premier):
I’m not sure that even I approve of viewing a cultural genocide as a wart to be celebrated. Oy vey.
Let’s acknowledge this dark past and push for solutions to help make things right for everyone affected. There is a time and a place for noting celebrations, but this isn’t it.
2.) To Brian Bowman (Winnipeg’s Mayor):
Frankly, what does that even mean? We will celebrate Canada day, but not without reflection?
I suppose I should extend the same consideration to these 2 that I gave Trudeau. Though I suspect Brian Bowman would likely be more apt to cancelling Canada Day festivities than our conservative Premier, I can also imagine the backlash that such a decision would cause. With everyone already being on edge about the province being in code red since last October . . . oh boy!
Nonetheless, the 3 takes still instill disappointment.
This concludes the CTV article, and my take on this really.
Having no interest in patriotism, to begin with, I am open to whatever decision my (and any) community comes to in regards to this matter. If celebrations (Covid regulations permitting of course) are to go forward, fine by me. If it is decided that the opposite should occur, also fine by me. After all, no one can stop individuals and families that want to celebrate from doing so. And no one can stop people from protesting the celebration of Canada Day at this time.
Today, we are going to take a journey back in time. Back to February of 2013, the month in which this blog was born. We are going to explore my very first post.
In the future, the moment we are living in will likely be seen as the era of Cancel Culture. People (particularly people with substantial followings) are being taken down a peg (or cancelled) due to indiscretions past or present. Whilst this trend has created a robust debate around the effectiveness of cancel culture in terms of both the end result (what does cancelled really mean?) and the reasoning (does the primarily mob mentality driven phenomenon allow a person to grow from past wrongs?), what interests me is the preemptive reactions that many content creators with vast back catalogues seem to be taking on account of the movement.
Since the Cancel mob has now scorned many creators for old (and i’m assuming long forgotten) videos and/or other content in which they display unwoke characteristics, some online figures are preemptively retracting a large chunk of (if not all of) their back catalogues from public view. If one has been creating content (particularly video content) for many years and has amassed hundreds or thousands of videos over that timeframe, I can see why they might want to take corrective action ahead of time. While I would like to think that taking the whack-a-mole approach would be superior to this going dark approach, as stated before, I can’t be sure that it is always effective when one is in the crosshairs of the mob. What Contrapoints dealt with seems to be a perfect example of this (damned if you do, damned if you don’t!).
I’ll end this introduction with some video materials.
This one is Contrapoints revealing the hellish experience that was associating with a cancelled individual for a voiceover. It is indeed lengthy. But like all of her other work, it’s worth the time spent in knowledge gained.
Much shorter in duration, this is Linus Sebastian and Luke Lafreniere discussing this very thing in terms of how it relates to Linus Media Group’s back catalogue of hundreds of videos spread across several channels.
Though I do not have a Youtube account (and thus no long-forgotten videos to speak of), it occurred to me that I have had this blog live for almost 8 years straight. With a little over 700 posts now currently published, I no longer remember what the vast majority of them contain. After being surprised (positively, fortunately) after a random old and post showed up in my stats (this one), it made me wonder what else I had hanging around my archive. Though the ongoing conversation of the current era initially made me ask myself “Do I have anything that could bite me?”, I later revised this to “How much have I changed over the past 7 and a half years?”. After all, self-reflection can lead to personal growth,
As it turned out, I didn’t need to go any further than my very first post to answer both questions. In a nutshell, “Yes!” and “quite a lot”. Back in December of 2012, Idle No More was founded by 3 women on account of Bill being promoted by then Stephan Harpers Conservative government.
With roots in the Indigenous community, Idle No More began in November 2012 as a protest against the introduction of Bill C-45 by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government. Formally known as the Jobs and Growth Act, this omnibus legislation affected over 60 acts, including the Indian Act, Navigable Waters Protection Act and Environmental Assessment Act. Idle No More activists argued that the Act’s changes diminished the rights and authority of Indigenous communities while making it easier for governments and businesses to push through projects without strict environmental assessment.
With this entry im going to take on an issue that started late last year, and has flared up to gain international attention (for awhile anyway. Now, not so much).
In any case, for me personally, I had been hearing about it for awhile since back in December, but never really gave it a whole lot of attention (life in the real and online universes kept me busy with other stuff). It wasn’t until January that I started paying more attention, actively researching the movement, and actually taking part in the way that I can best do it with my life expectations (online).
The original starters of the movement, in my opinion, had a good stance, in there hope to actively prevent environmental degredation caused by short sighted gov’t planning, as well as draw attention to social inequality of many first nations people. This is a stance that I can agree with.
While one could take issue with the aloof nature of this introduction, I am not overly bothered by it. For one, everyone has interests competing for their attention in daily life (even journalists have to pick and choose, to a degree). And second, I had yet to comprehend the then not so well understood (or at least, not so routinely discussed) effect that social media has on people’s personal awareness. With more and more people (often unknowingly) turning to social media sources for daily news, local and regional news can often go by the wayside over the far more sexy international (primarily US) headlines. Whilst American politics has always sucked up a lot of oxygen, social media brings that phenomenon to a whole new level.
But that is a subject that has been on my back burner for a while now. In a world where social media is both obsolescing legacy print and television news sources, how can local and regional news adapt to fit into this new paradigm?
However, that is a whole new post.
The problem is, not to long after this, it started moving toward the blockades. Blockading major highways, rail lines, streets, highways, US boarder crossings ect. And the worst part, many of these protesters, to the unbiased eye, took on an oddly racist tone. I take a story from my local news (Well, Winnipeg) as an example.
Reporters were reporting on a small group of natives that was blockading a rail line not far from Portage la Prairie. One older gentalman, im assuming an elder, was lieing across the tracks. When interviewed, he explained that he was there in the name of the environment, because its degradation affected all of us. His children, our children, and all Canadians in general. This man I had the utmost respect for.
The REST however, not so much. Loudmouths shouting stuff like “Oppressors! Get lost white man!”, and other stuff that struck me as veiled racism. And even when a spokesman for CN came with a court order to get off the tracks, they attacked him verbally. Questioned him about what proof he has that its HIS land (overlooking that its not “his” land, and that its not there’s either, really).
But the whole movement seemed to take an ugly turn like this. There were those who took the side of the originators, they had my respect then and still do. Then there’s the loud mouth, seemingly racist douche bags.
Yeah . . . this is where I start to look back on this with a critical eye. Even if I SAID that I still agreed with the founding tenants of Idle No More, the existence of this post (my need to write it) clearly dictates otherwise. To fast forward right to today, my stance is akin to being against the black lives matter protests strictly on account to some protesters breaking windows and otherwise doing property damage.
A pathetic argument since windows and other property are both replaceable and insured. Black lives lost to police brutality are irreplaceable. As are native lives, since racial bias in policing happens in Canada too.
I had it happen to me, both in the Idle facebook community at large, and in groups with people closer to home. Despite being “on there side”, you were pushed aside and judged (falsely!) for asking the questions (about equality!). It seemed that it was more important to protect ALL members of the movement (douchbags included), then to worry about the people that are part of the whole POINT of the protest, the people on the reserves, living in shacks.
First of all . . .uh. The way I manage to turn this movement around and make it all about me is cringeworthy.
Second, as stated earlier, I clearly missed the original point of the protests (even though the movement evolved over time to include other concerns). And third, I committed the same argumentative sin that I often lament in others. In short, only caring about a vulnerable cohort when it is convenient.
We now come to the part that REALLY makes me cringe. The part that no doubt made me feel like a REAL advocate of freedom of speech and destroyer of political correctness. Because I was a speaker of truth, and no one was going to stop me!
First of all, im personally Metis, so there whole racism thing was dead in the water. I just don’t flaunt my ancestry, nor do I use the perks that come along with it. I don’t care what the ancestors of the white man did to “my people” back in the day.
This is NOW. 2013. The oppressors are dead, as are the people that were oppressed. One should never forget, but you will NEVER move forward if you do not forgive.
And frankly, if you are justifying your using the “helping hand” offered by the gov’t by saying “Well YOUR ANCESTORS mistreated mine!”, you need to grow up. I was bullied to the point of almost taking a river dive. But I don’t expect reparations for the rest of my life.
1.) Again, I managed to turn this into a self-serving exercise. Aside from flaunting the Metis card, there is no way that my high school experience in any way matches that of the native populations of pretty much ANY colonized nation. This would be particularly insulting to anyone coming out of the Indian residential school system (the last school of which only ceased operation in 1996!).
Though “What was I thinking?!” springs to mind, it’s clear . . . I wasn’t thinking.
2.) The oppressors are dead! argument may seem to make this whole issue look obvious on the onset, but as tends to be the case, the reality is far more complex. Alike African Americans in the US, Native people in Canada have never started at the same starting line as the Caucasian settler descendants. Though many people are prone to finding notable exceptions in their personal life, those with white skin have always had an easier time moving up the economic ladder than Natives. You can outlaw overt racism by law and think the problem is solved. However, the law means nothing in a world filled with hidden or unconscious systemic racism.
Though I don’t know of a Canadian equivalent, consider this Harvard study which had several minority individuals whiten their resume to see if they got more callbacks.
In one study, the researchers created resumes for black and Asian applicants and sent them out for 1,600 entry-level jobs posted on job search websites in 16 metropolitan sections of the United States. Some of the resumes included information that clearly pointed out the applicants’ minority status, while others were whitened, or scrubbed of racial clues. The researchers then created email accounts and phone numbers for the applicants and observed how many were invited for interviews.
Employer callbacks for resumes that were whitened fared much better in the application pile than those that included ethnic information, even though the qualifications listed were identical. Twenty-five percent of black candidates received callbacks from their whitened resumes, while only 10 percent got calls when they left ethnic details intact. Among Asians, 21 percent got calls if they used whitened resumes, whereas only 11.5 percent heard back if they sent resumes with racial references.
While I can’t give exact details as to exactly how systemic racism looks to native Canadians, anecdotal evidence from working provides some clues to those willing to pay attention. For example, the fact that someone with a non-white skin tone MUST work twice as hard as the average white worker in order to garner the same respect. Because no matter what everyone else is doing, non-whites know who is getting much of the scrutiny.
Then there is the ordeal that is shopping while native in many parts of Canada. Short of walking into a supermarket wearing a 3 piece suit (or your birthday suit!), chances are great that you WILL be tailed around the store by staff. Wearing a hoody pretty much guarantees it, and wearing a backpack or carrying a large bag (even zipped shut!) ensures you will be followed.
Of course, anecdotes are not everything. Given my old piece, that is blatantly apparent. However, when considered carefully and alongside those of many, anecdotes can serve as a good measure of the overall culture of a society as a whole. Having considered this in the years following 2013, I can’t help but look back at my old conclusions as being hideously simplistic.
I now want to touch on a couple other things that are mentioned in the previous post.
1.) I don’t know how I feel about reparations.
I am beginning to soften my feelings in regard to reparations.
Before recently (this moment, really), I primarily viewed the subject from the Us = alive, oppressors = Dead prospective. But having considered the systemic racism aspect of aboriginal life in Canada, it’s hard not to consider that reparations could serve as a sort of equalizer. As may be the point.
2.) I still choose not to acknowledge my Metis heritage (and thus don’t use any of the reparations associated with such status). I have always viewed this from the perspective of fairness. It bothered me that everyone else I know had to find their own way through post-secondary education (among other things) just because they were born in the wrong family lineage (of which inherently connects to the Us = Alive, Oppressors + Dead viewpoint).
Even though I view reparations differently now, I simply don’t feel comfortable with celebrating what amounts to an accident of birth. So even if my lineage means that I am entitled to certain perks (the situation as seen through the lens of white family members), I don’t consider my heritage as being an important part of my identity.
I have considered whether or not my stance on heritage is, in fact, toxic to the overall Metis culture as a whole. With aboriginal cultures fighting to pass on and keep their identities intact in the face of European influenced assimilation, it strikes me that my stance might come across as insensitive. Maybe even a case of colonial culture causing an unconscious reaction towards my true identity.
My stance is not based around old influencers of the mind, I can assure. It has always been far more of a George Carlin influence than anything else.
As for whether or not this stance is harmful, I’m thinking that the answer is no.
I am not saying that Metis people (nor anyone else) should distance themselves from their origins. I’m just saying that I choose to do so because I have far more to offer than my bloodline. Though I can’t help but think that bloodline often serves as just another barrier in which for humans to fight about . . . to each your own.
As Carlin said, be happy.
In any case, I came very VERY close to saying, ya know what, FUCK the Idle movement. If those within don’t want to acknowledge that problems exist on BOTH sides, why should I care?
Again, all about me.
But I didn’t. I know that im not the only one that sees how damaging the most recent actions of the idle movement have been to the movement itself, in the eyes of Canadians. So I started a facebook group called “Idle No More – The Rest Of Us”, a place for those of us whom were spit out from the original movement to converse and discuses. So far its been fairly quiet, but thats not to surprising.
But in any case, thats my opinion on the matter, and this concludes this post.
If you are offended by what I wrote and want to have a word, the comment section is below. Don’t expect me to care though.
All I ask you to do is, THINK FOR YOURSELF!! Just because a “white man” is being critical of a chief, that does not make them racist!
And if your one of the silent ones being shouted down by the loudmouths, SPEAK UP! Don’t let the idiots ruin a good thing (even if it may already be to late).
Not much more to see here. The Facebook group is now long gone (I deleted it years ago). Maybe it’s a good thing it didn’t go anywhere since I would more than likely have had my ass handed to me on a silver platter.
I thought I was so SMRT . . . them right-leaning grievance narratives. There is a reason why they have the recruiting power that they do. Nothing beats the false empowerment of lashing out from the point of view of a persecuted underdog.
In conclusion, while I am not proud of the post as shared in 2013, I will be leaving it up. I will place a link to this post for anyone who may happen across it at some point in the future, however. And in the coming months, I plan on going through the rest of my archive and seeing what else I have kicking around.
I could delete (and thus, effectively bury) my history. However, I think that confronting old biases is far more healthy for my personal growth and overall discourse.
Today, we tackle yet another issue of the day. The scourge that has become known as cancel culture.
Like many seemingly macro issues of this era in which we are living (COVID? Trump? The end of the American Empire?), I have been peppered with this term for years. But I have never really taken the time to get a full grasp of the concept. I used to be all over this stuff in the early days of this blog. In fact, I recall being annoyed by weeks wherein 4 or 5 issues (all of which required a fair amount of research and preparation) would come up. Since working full time and chores left only time for maybe 1 or 2 explorations.
At this point in life, however, I am not nearly as inclined to comment on what I view as topics of the sheep. This blog gave me a platform to pursue explorations away from that realm, and thus my focus has shifted away from many of these mainstream type collective issues, Cancel Culture being one of them (on account to many of its detractors, shall we say, fitting a very narrow description).
I decided to take a delve into Cancel Culture after all when I happened upon this open letter on justice and open debate, which as trending high in one of my twitter feeds. It was admittedly less about the letter than it was about who signed it. A list ranging from Salman Rushdie and Noam Chomsky to J.K Rowling, Barie Weiss and Margret Attwood.
I will start by openly admitting that I come at this from a point of bias. Having very recently commented on the repeated antics of J.K Rowling’s seemingly pro-terf stances and knowing the controversial article that Barie Weiss wrote for the New York Times, my interpretation of their reason for signing this letter is apparent. Knowing some of the backgrounds of Noam Chomsky, Salmon Rushdie and Margret Attwood, I suspect they signed for much more noble reasons.
Reason’s which made me decide to comb through this letter with a fine-tooth comb. All in an effort to see if I can finally come to a conclusion to a question that has been in the back of my mind for a few years now . . . Is absolute freedom of speech worth the consequences?
In my online life, I more or less behave as an absolutist on the platforms I oversee. I never deleted a non-spam comment from any of my posts. I reserve the right to do what I want, but I don’t. I have heard the argument for absolute freedom of speech from many people and in many places. While you often run into confusion when freedom of speech runs into private servers and spaces, another angle I often see left out if the ramifications of truly free speech. For example, when divisive leaders are allowed to spout off all manner of dog whistles and flat out bigotry and bias, is the resulting uptick in things like hate crimes and emboldened bigots worth it?
Though the fascists of the 3ed Reich (and no doubt other examples, some even more recent) rode the liberal tenents of free speech into power, that didn’t stop them from revoking that right when their numbers were dominant enough. How does one deal with ideologies similar to this?
Should past examples of the worst of humanity (for example, the Weimar Republic) be taken into consideration in this analysis?
Our cultural institutions are facing a moment of trial. Powerful protests for racial and social justice are leading to overdue demands for police reform, along with wider calls for greater equality and inclusion across our society, not least in higher education, journalism, philanthropy, and the arts. But this needed reckoning has also intensified a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity. As we applaud the first development, we also raise our voices against the second. The forces of illiberalism are gaining strength throughout the world and have a powerful ally in Donald Trump, who represents a real threat to democracy. But resistance must not be allowed to harden into its own brand of dogma or coercion—which right-wing demagogues are already exploiting. The democratic inclusion we want can be achieved only if we speak out against the intolerant climate that has set in on all sides.
The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted. While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty. We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters. But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought. More troubling still, institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms. Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a researcher is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study; and the heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes. Whatever the arguments around each particular incident, the result has been to steadily narrow the boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal. We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement.
If I am honest, this is starting to come across as yet another piece written by a provocateur touting biased or debunked ideas. The type of person that would mistake a well-earned critique for censorship or otherwise. But, such is my bias.
For the sake of honest critique, I’ll put those feelings aside and continue.
This stifling atmosphere will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time. The restriction of debate, whether by a repressive government or an intolerant society, invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation. The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away. We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom, which cannot exist without each other. As writers we need a culture that leaves us room for experimentation, risk taking, and even mistakes. We need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences. If we won’t defend the very thing on which our work depends, we shouldn’t expect the public or the state to defend it for us.
I don’t know WHAT I was expecting . . . or what about this letter drove people into fits of controversy . . . but that was anti-climactic as hell. Despite the lengthy list of signatories, it’s apparent that few actually contributed to this letter (beyond their name, anyway).
To be fair, however, I should have known better. I came into this assuming I would find a reasoned argument of the merits of freedom of speech. In fact, I even expected a sort of discussion about the price of free speech (is it worth paying?). Since the whole point of this letter was defeating idiot bandwagon-jumping mobs, I should have known that all I would find was yet another pro-absolutist regurgitation with little else to offer to the conversation.
In all honesty, it is hard for me to focus on the topic of modern-day free speech since it has become so complex due to technological considerations. A big reason for this being that most of us have never paid attention to any of the backend functionality of most of the devices we use to interact with the internet (be it on a phone or a computer). One of these aspects being the transition of a good 95%+ of our internet traffic from open packets into encrypted packets (no matter what site we visit). This security measure (known as HTTPS) was implemented first to secure login credentials, and later to keep one’s entire interaction with a platform or website away from prying eyes.
Consider it this way. Back when I was in high school, it would likely have been entirely possible for any given ISP that you or I was utilizing to access the internet to log and store nearly every digital interaction we had (from MSN Chats to emails sent on Hotmail or Yahoo). With every one of these interactions happening through encrypted connections today, however, one’s home or mobile ISP no longer has any access to such data. They can see WHAT websites you use, but nothing further than that.
Which brings me to 2 modern-day fights for internet privacy and freedom that are woefully under-reported in the media, particularly in pro-freedom of speech spaces.
Having seen this coming (after the topic was brought to my attention by a tech podcast last October), I tackled the problem in its own post HERE. Taking the stance that the US (and potentially other) governments around the world would eventually render blind end to end encryption illegal and stop it at the ISP level, I explored how one might achieve the access these governmental entities desire. Such is antithetical to most interpretations of privacy and free speech, but frankly . . . Welcome to reality! The world will not always conform to your ideology! You can think ahead and do things the RIGHT way. Or you can fight until it’s too late, then settle for some sub-par solution.
Another aspect of the modern-day freedom of speech argument that isn’t often overlooked is how our rights can conflict with those of the privately owned and funded platforms that we utilize. Accusations of censorship have now made their way all the way to the White House.
Which reminds me of yet another threat for the list above:
I have a whole smattering of articles on the subject, but I remember these 2 vividly because they encapsulate a common annoyance I have with many people involved in this conversation. The notion that sovereign social media entities under the laws of the US and most other jurisdictions, have to honour the same free speech principals as the US government does. Otherwise known as exactly what POTUS attempted to implement with his executive order. As with the encryption problem described above, I decided to use my brain and consider what a solution to this problem might look like. To that end, I ended up envisioning social media platforms built and funded organically (via crowdfunding?), possibly based outside of the United States, England or otherwise the western world.
The only problem with this setup is that I was uncertain if the use of such a website (on account of being reliant on typical funding structures) could be free. Thus begs the question . . . how much is free speech worth to you?
To the limited audience of my argument, apparently nothing. People like to complain and make youtube videos demanding an end to censorship (particularly egregious when these people have the cash or the audience to make a difference if they choose to). But most seem content to do just that . . . keep complaining.
And thus, I said to hell with it.
I will now segway away from the often-overlooked technological aspects of the free speech discussion and into my critique of the absolutist speech position.
As stated before I got into the open letter, I am in my actions, a proponent of the absolutist free speech philosophy. Whilst I have the same control over my various platforms as anyone else (this blog included), I rarely exercise this control. Even on the entry that has generated the nastiest comments I’ve dealt with on this platform, I’ve never deleted a comment. If I am perfectly honest . . . for reasons akin to those outlined in the open letter above. Because having the comments of various segments of the same cohort (ranging from the deranged to the seemingly more level-headed) does far more to illustrate readers about that group than I ever could.
Which brings me to what I consider to be the uncritiqued side of the absolutist speech position. Does the risk outweigh the reward?
For a huge number of people (likely including many to all of the signatories to the open letter), I suspect that answer would be a simple “Yes!”, end of discussion.
As George Carlin once said:
“Here we fucking go again”
Alright. George Carlin was an absolutist free speech supporter. He also had what some (who am I kidding . .. many!) would view as unenlightened views on issues like eating disorders, street cyclists and many others (depending on who you ask). He was a human, nothing less and nothing more.
Maybe he got it right. Or, maybe you should consider what is the true definition of a free thinker.
Getting back to it, the first thing about the absolutist speech position that bugged me (when I started pondering it, anyway) was it’s place on the extreme end of that given dichotomy. Not that it matters I suppose, but I can think of only 1 other topic in which placing yourself on the extreme edge would be considered rational (vaccination). And even that is considered a hot potato in many circles both left and right. Come to think of it, it also plays into my argument.
Let’s start there.
The absolutist freedom of speech position towards anti-vaccination rhetoric is simple . . . let them speak, and let the light of reasoned argument disinfect the nonsense. Okay. Like all the other starry-eyed proposals of the absolutist speech position, it all sounds good in practice and looks great on paper. But in the micro-targeted realities of our modern-day online existence, the disclaimer actual results may vary is required at an absolute minimum. If allowing pro-science and anti-vaccination proponents equal access to microphones is the answer, why is measles starting to make a comeback from it’s once mostly eradicated state?
To be fair to my opponents, I can’t go on without addressing the microtargeting elephant in the room. The fact that we are STILL assessing the total damage inflicted by silicon valleys Move fast And Break Things philosophy of the last decade is hardly the fault of free speech advocates.
In fact, remember when social media was a bastion of free speech?
Well, until a huge segment of the population that was used to uncritically absorbing information from the boob tube jumped onto social media. To be fair to the boomers and Xers, they are not the only cohorts spreading misinformation. The fast pace of platform evolution and lack of a system to educate users of the often hidden aspects of these platforms (such as microtargeting!) renders many people vulnerable to unintended manipulation. A scary thought when you consider that state actors are now using these technologies to incite all manner of craziness within the borders of their enemies.
Having said all of that, however, I can’t help but think that anti-vaccination and all of the side effects attributed to it (most of which end up being suffered by the unvaccinated children of often vaccinated adults) wouldn’t be as big a thing if such dangerous medicine weren’t allowed to be platformed to begin with. You can’t do much about gullibility or lack of media awareness in adults, but child protection agencies WILL take action in the case of other instances of child abuse.
Yes, I consider the refusal to innoculate children from dangerous or painful diseases to be a form of child abuse.
Moving on from the subject of medicine, I come back to something mentioned earlier in the piece. White nationalism and supremacy, and other ideologies that rely on the freedom of a leftist paradigm in order to establish one for the fascist right.
People like Richard Spencer are at least open and honest about their intentions.
Earlier in this piece, I falsely asserted (because to be frank, I assumed) that part of the reason for the failure of the Weimar Republic that governed Germany in the years following WW1 was a lack of laws keeping bigoted speech in check. Since I put a line through that sentence, you are likely already aware of the false nature of that sentence.
“Contrary to what most people think, Weimar Germany did have hate-speech laws, and they were applied quite frequently. The assertion that Nazi propaganda played a significant role in mobilising anti-Jewish sentiment is, of course, irrefutable. But to claim that the Holocaust could have been prevented if only anti-Semitic speech and Nazi propaganda had been banned has lit-tle basis in reality. Leading Nazis such as Joseph Goebbels, Theodor Fritsch and Julius Streicher were all prosecuted for anti-Semitic speech.
“Pre-Hitler Germany had laws very much like the anti-hate laws of today, and they were enforced with some vigour.”
As I was shown, the growth of the nazi Party obviously had much more to do with the great recession than it did with the speech limitations of the time. Something to be wary of today, in our era of ill-preparation for a pandemic resulting in an increasingly decimated economy.
Taking this into consideration, am I still in favour of hate speech laws?
At this point, I can honestly say that I am unsure.
I guess it all depends on whether or not we regard all speech as equal, or we break things down into categories. Since we live in civilized nations filled with adults (at least in theory . . . I’ve been doubting that assessment in recent years, however), I don’t see an issue in creating at least 2 categories that one can apply. Category 1 being speech that is not at all harmful to human welfare or society in general. Then you have category 2, which would obviously contain ideas considered harmful to human welfare or society in general. Into the 2ed category, I would place such ideologies as anti-vaccine sentiment and the various forms of white fright (white supremacy, nationalism, etc). Rather than charging people for making and sharing a bigoted video online (or otherwise having bigoted views), I would go more for stopping the seed in its tracks approach. Allow people to share this stuff on social media, even publicly if they so desire. Just stipulate by law that such material will NEVER be algorithmically spread to others. This ensures more free speech and expression than is currently available on today’s platforms (just ask Alex Jones). And it also helps to address the issue that many readers may have by now figured that I had completely forgotten about . . . cancel culture.
I will admit that I am doing with my argument, something that annoyed me when others did it (making the assumption that social media platforms should bend to our whims). On one hand, noted. Writing, editing and implementing the code necessary for enabling such algorithms is likely not going to be cheap. Nor will the necessity of employing human moderators to sift through all of the notices generated by both the algorithm and platform users. Having said that, however, they DID sign up for this.
Social media came in like a bull and broke democracy. Now we have to pick up the pieces. Pony up, or shut up.
Moving on, I acknowledge that my proposed system of 2 or more classes of speech isn’t without logistical problems. For example, various instances of the American right rising up against societal demons in the music and video game industries present a perfectly cogent cautionary tale (how do we avoid the changing tides of political interference?). Not to mention that political or not, it all boils down to subjectivity. What individual or group in a society can be trusted with such an important task?
The supreme court?
There is no doubt that I will think of things later that I forgot to include in this piece. In fact, one that occurs to me right now is the lack of evidence whether or not platformed bigotry makes a difference in overall societal hate crime rates. And then there is my question of where the line ends between personal speech and incitement.
However, I will end this here.
People might notice that I didn’t take a stance either for or against absolutist free speech. This is deliberate, as I didn’t write this explicitly to change minds (like that is going to happen!). This was more my attempt to both shed some light in some areas of the Free Speech conversation that really need more press (encryption laws, mainly) and otherwise to kick start a conversation outside of the usual pablum.
Any idiot can defend the right of a nazi to call for your or my demise. However, does the potential of this future becoming reality REALLY need to be a tenant of freedom of speech?
I want to thank the Montreal Simon blog for the delightful out of context imagery. This is what you get when you search “Jason Kenny Donkey”
Now that the silliness is out of my system, I can turn back to the real purpose of this post.
As readers of the recent years content of this blog know, I am not a fan of Jason Kenny. I am not a fan of any of the people that the PPC has to offer, but among them, Jason Kenny is one of the most idiotic. Having said that, however, even I have to admit that his attitude is completely in line with what I have come to expect from Alberta. A province filled with citizens proclaiming an inflated sense of importance based on a single economic resource of decreasing value in the overall worldwide marketplace. A delusional house of cards that seemingly can only end badly once the reality of the situation becomes impossible for even the most blinded to recognize.
Like a banana republic in an age where the world has moved on from consuming bananas in massive quantities. The sales are still there . . . just not nearly what they were in 2006 (or even 2019). Thus, investing in such an industry becomes asinine.
But this post is not really about Alberta, Prairie or Canadian petrol politics. It’s not really even about Jason Kenny’s policies. It is more about Kenny’s speechwriter. Or for clarity, my personal quest to see if the man should face reprimands for his actions. It would be easy to make the decision on a partisan basis. But since I get annoyed when people on the right do this, I won’t become a hypocrite of my own creation.
At least not in this instance lol.
I will be basing my quest on this CBC News article on the subject, published and posted on June 26th, 2020.
Kenney speechwriter said homosexuality is ‘socially destructive’ and called First Nation an oppressive regime
Government spokesperson said Paul Bunner’s views have evolved over time
Further writings by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s speechwriter came to light Friday, columns stating that homosexuality was “individually and socially destructive” and characterizing an Alberta First Nation as an “oppressive, collectivist regime.”
Calls by the Opposition NDP for the firing of Paul Bunner were resisted by Kenney on Thursday after a column from 2013 resurfaced wherein Bunner dismissed the “bogus genocide story” of Canada’s residential school system and said Indigenous youth could be “ripe recruits” for violent insurgencies.
Multiple other columns and articles written by Bunner, shared with media by Alberta’s NDP, span a period starting in the late 1990s up until 2016.
Kenney hired Bunner in early 2019. Bunner worked as a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper from 2006 to 2009.
Harrison Fleming, a spokesperson with the premier’s office, said the overwhelming majority of the articles released by the NDP were decades-old.
“As I am sure you can appreciate, societal norms have changed greatly over time. For example, NDP ‘saint’ Tommy Douglas previously called homosexuality a ‘mental illness,'” Fleming said in an email to CBC News. “People’s views have evolved over decades — and that includes Mr. Bunner.”
Fleming said the matters addressed in the columns “have long since been settled law.”
During a news conference held Friday, NDP Children’s Services critic Rakhi Pancholi called for Kenney to fire Bunner and issue a public apology.
“Today, we know that Mr. Bunner has a long record of writing racist, sexist, Islamophobic and homophobic articles,” Pancholi said. “The sheer volume of prejudice he has published over the years is stunning.”
Oh wow, a reference to Tommy Douglas.
Don’t get me wrong . . . he does have some dabblings into eugenics that took me completely by surprise upon looking him up some time ago. However, this was in the 1930’s (and he later rejected the hypothesis). This was LONG before the late 1990s and 2016.
In a column posted in the conservative weekly newsmagazine Alberta Report in August 1997, Bunner wrote that “AIDS gets more ink than it deserves” and in a subsequent editor’s note attempts to pre-empt incoming criticism for a cover story.
“The story is an attempt to figure out why [Ralph Klein’s] government seems bent on delivering wards of the state to homosexual households, to summarize the arguments against gay parenting, and to search for some backbone in the ostensible social conservatives in the Tory cabinet and caucus,” Bunner wrote on Aug. 11, 1997.
That same year, Bunner wrote that a columnist was correct in his assessment that “100,000 abortions a year in Canada is a social tragedy, that homosexuality is individually and socially destructive.”
In 1998, Bunner wrote an editor’s note reflecting on criticism the Alberta Report received for a 1993 cover story with the headline “Can gays be cured?”
According to Bunner, that cover story provoked a flood of critical letters and phone calls, while others launched a campaign against Alberta Report’s advertisers to boycott the publication.
“The piece placed us about as far out on the ‘cutting edge’ of journalism as you can get,” Bunner writes.
Citing a Newsweek story published in 1998 titled “Can gays convert?”, Bunner appeared to celebrate the piece, writing, “If Newsweek is taking our angles, are we becoming mainstream?” and pondering whether then-premier Ralph Klein will notice a “golden opportunity for a thorough debate” on the future of homosexuality in the province.
“When [Klein] notices that the Republican party in the United States is standing firmer against the radical gay agenda than it has for years, and that an increasing number of bright, articulate homosexuals are either abandoning the lifestyle or urging their perpetually angry, dangerously hedonistic friends to tone down the political rhetoric and show a little sexual restraint,” Bunner writes, “perhaps Mr. Klein will let voters in on a discussion that for too long has been dominated by lobbyists, academics and journalists, human rights tribunals and the courts.”
Pam Rocker is the director of Affirming Connections in Calgary, a group that supports inclusive ministries and faith organizations.
Rocker said Bunner’s comments were unsettling given his position in the government.
“It’s extremely unsettling to know that somebody who is planning what our leader is saying and talking about, and how it’s being talked about, [is] somebody who has this history,” Rocker said.
And we’re just getting started.
On First Nations
In September of 1997, Bunner wrote about the Stoney Nakoda First Nation, writing about a provincial judge’s “bold call” for an investigation into the “scandalous political goings-on” at the reserve.
Citing what Bunner refers to as “unsolicited calls” from members of the First Nation and from information provided by “dissidents,” Bunner criticizes the First Nation and its leaders.
“A community of people who are willing to give up their personal freedom to an oppressive, collectivist regime is a pretty sorry excuse for a culture. Moreover, it is a perfect recipe for real genocide,” he writes.
Two years later, writing about the same First Nation, Bunner refers to its leaders as “corrupt despots” who “keep their subjects ignorant, sickly and poor in order to control them.”
Cora Voyageur, a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and professor specializing in Indigenous sociology at the University of Calgary, said Bunner’s articles revealed a mean-spirited and unhelpful point of view.
“I think that Paul Bunner should be let go. Because what I’ve read in the various articles that he’s authored, there’s a trend there,” Voyageur said. “And it doesn’t necessarily show Indigenous people in a good light.”
On gender roles and feminism
In 1998, writing about the Eaton’s department store chain in Alberta Report, Bunner laments recent changes to the store’s marketing and corporate image.
“Post-makeover, the new Eaton’s men are either light-in-their loafers aesthetes, pathetic cuckolds or stay-at-home choreboys,” Bunner writes.
“The women are executive ice queens or wanton nymphs, universally young, sexy, skinny, tough and liberated from the stifling roles of mother and wife. There is no doubt who’s on top in the new Eaton’s culture: estrogen rules.”
That same year, Bunner expressed his doubts about the efficacy of attempting to recall childhood memories in the field of psychology, partly attributing such methods to feminist ideology.
“The hysteria surrounding child sexual abuse was swamping reason. And feminist ideologues were flooding into the counselling field, their barren hearts bent on overthrowing the patriarchy, whatever the cost,” Bunner wrote.
One thing is for sure . . . there appears to be no group that is oppressed by white, male, patriarchal cultural norms that Bunner doesn’t have strong opinions about. Long before online phenomenons like the Intellectual Dark Web became a thang and brought these (and all other) opinions straight to our collective fingertips, Paul Bunner was saying it.
We will now switch with the article to how Jason Kenny and how the Alberta Conservatives have chosen to handle this situation.
Speaking Thursday and commenting specifically on Bunner’s writings on residential schools, Kenney said that column did not reflect or change the policy of the government of Alberta.
Kenney said his government had worked to solidify the relationship between the province and Indigenous communities, investing in projects like the Indigenous Opportunities Corporation.
Voyageur, a residential school survivor, said Bunner’s writings were extremely unhelpful.
“I know what went on there. I saw it, I experienced it,” Voyageur said.
“To have other people say this didn’t ever happen, is … I don’t even know what to think about it.”
Paul Bunner is on the same level as a holocaust denier, a flat earther, or a climate denier. As a citizen of Canada, he has the right to make all of these views publicly known without interference from the federal government. Just as I have the right to call Jason Kenny an arrogant and ignorant twit, along with the rest of the naive supporters of bitumen in Canada who refuse to listen to both reason and read the market tea leaves.
To quote Elizabeth May and the Green Party, in the most ballsy public showcase of this viewpoint yet:
Like a true partisan, I hath gone on a tangent again. Whoops lol.
Anyway, Jason Kenny is thus far refusing to fire Paul Bunner as his speechwriter, despite calls from Rachel Notley’s Alberta NDP (among others) to do so. An action that isn’t surprising, given that the man was once Stephan Harper’s speechwriter. There is nothing more boomer and conservative then banking on traditions (be they based on calendar days or biases).
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Thursday that he “fundamentally disagrees” with the contents of an article written in 2013 by his speechwriter that dismissed the “bogus genocide story” of Canada’s residential school system.
But Kenney did not commit to firing speechwriter Paul Bunner for the article, titled “The ‘Genocide’ That Failed,” written for the online magazine C2C Journal.
“Somebody who was a journalist for 40 years undoubtedly wrote things with which I disagree,” Kenney said. “That does not reflect or change the policy of the government of Alberta.”
He said his government had worked to solidify the relationship between the province and Indigenous communities, investing in projects like the Indigenous Opportunities Corporation.
Uh. The Canadian elected official equivalent of “I TOTALLY have a native American friend! I am NOT racist!”.
“Somebody who was a journalist for 40 years undoubtedly wrote things with which I disagree,” Kenney said.
Yes, I am sure that is the case for a great many of us in terms of journalists. However, with which we disagree doesn’t typically include flat out homophobia, racism, sexism and an otherwise refusal to see ones own privileged status.
As for my personal take . . .
Paul Bunner has the right to say whatever stupid, idiotic, biased and outdated shit that he chooses to publicly. Just like the rest of us. However, someone with his recent and constant history of standing by toxic vitriol should be FAR from ANY official capacity to influence the power structure.
Though the Alberta conservatives earlier argue that many of these articles are quote decades old, that is hardly the reality of the situation. Since he published most of his articles starting in the mid to late 90’s, that puts the oldest of them at 25 to 30 years old.
If I cite Tommy Douglas (as the Alberta Conservatives did earlier) . . . he wrote his thesis in 1933. 87 years ago . . . otherwise known as decades ago.
But even aside from the semantics generated by the timeframes involved, people can change. If people are always to be held to their old set standards and their changes in tune always diminished, how can we hope to gain any momentum towards the changes we seek? If the person started in the wrong place but is working towards bettering themselves, then that needs to be considered.
However, that is not the case. Though Paul Bunner started his controversial writing career 25 to 30 years ago, his most recent article of biased controversy was published in 2013. While that may seem like a century ago in both Trump and COVID years, it’s only 7 years ago.
7 years ago, this was his conclusion:
The dangers in this ought to be obvious and can hardly be overstated. Already, vast swathes of the public education system are uncritically regurgitating the genocide story as if it were fact, thereby adding to the legions of Canadian voters who will be suckers for future Phil Fontaines and Harold Cardinals and their never-ending demands for more tax dollars and greater political autonomy. It will slow any progress on integration, democratic reform and financial transparency on reserves and do nothing to reduce the terrible social pathologies afflicting Indians on and off the reserves. Worse, if future generations of young Aboriginal people are indoctrinated in the belief that Canada wilfully tried to annihilate their ancestors, some of them, at least, will be ripe recruits for radical segregationist movements, perhaps even violent insurgencies as imagined in Douglas Bland’s frighteningly plausible 2010 novel Uprising, about Aboriginal terrorism in near-future Canada.
The man should be nowhere near any levers of power. Certainly not if he is making his bread and butter off of the taxpayer’s dime.
The fact that the man has had such a lucrative career in Canadian Conservative politics says a lot about the Conservative party in itself. Really, a message between the lines that those aware of these things were already aware of. None the less, it’s never too late to be the bringer of positive change, Jason Kenny.
Don’t get me wrong . . . appeasing them Millenial (and now, Zoomer) snowflakes isn’t exactly high on the agenda of the Boomer dominated Conservative Party. None the less, we are the future. The current conservative base is . . . the future up to 2050.
These last few years have been quite the roller coaster, intellectually. Not something I haven’t said before. But it nicely applies here, since this intellectual growth has come to touch on pretty much every single thing that I have ever taken for granted, and then some. Calling it growth is not really correct either since it was less learning something new than it was a process of training myself to better analyze information in general. Both in terms of new information, AND what already resides in the mind (at least when prompted). Many are able to master the former, but the latter is often a challenge. Certainly so for me, but definitely so for about 99% of the naysayers on almost any topic that I touch on anywhere.
This post centers on the and then some category of the contents of my mind. A topic that has been kicking around the back of my brain undisturbed for many years, only to be yanked back to the forefront of my conscience by a tweet. Interestingly, a tweet that was unrelated to the topic itself.
Though my relationship to the Cobain saga goes back many years, my relationship to the life story of Kurt Cobain goes back even further. Being a tail end millennial, I wasn’t old enough to be paying much heed to anything back in 1994, let alone for the duration of his career. I came to his story and his music the way most (all?) millennials did . . . though popular culture as heavily influenced by the world wide web.
Likely due to a combination of living on through continued radio play and vast availability though now defunct P2P protocols, Nirvana had just as many fans in the following generation (possibly generations) as they did in their prime. I was very much one of them, loving me some mainstream hits much like many others. The band (or more accurately, Kurt Cobain himself) grew more and more interesting after I found out about his fate. Suicide.
It’s getting harder to describe, being this far out from that time of life. But what comes to mind are both morbid fascination, and a degree of jealousy. At this time of life, I didn’t really see any future for myself. But despite this, I was still too weak to actually follow through with bringing to reality what I viewed as my destiny. Given this sentiment, people like Cobain become very fascinating. Particularly pop cultures so-called 27 club (Amy Winehouse being the latest name).
I don’t look back at this time with pride, obviously. But I also don’t look back at it with contempt, either. I have allowed some people to claw me down a bit, comparing my seemingly trivial hardships to their very REAL hardships. But I don’t do that anymore, either. It’s not helpful.
Either way, this is a small window into my mid to late teenage years. A time of life when I needed a crutch to keep me going. Which is why I now don’t look back with much regret at this, nor at the suicidal mindset that cut through the majority of my high school years .
It was a coping mechanism. It robbed me of enjoying many events of the then present day. It somewhat handicapped my ability to prepare myself for the future. But, it got me beyond the rough and into . . . whatever the hell this is. Even if that equates to a patch of concrete of which is destined to be crushed by the steamroller that is the stupidity of the human species, a positive outcome it still is.
To round it back, I remember my first exposure to the Cobain conspiracy theory. I was browsing Cobain info on some website and ended up in a bit of a rabbit hole of sorts. I remember this because it didn’t sit well with me.
I mean . . .NO! The man killed himself! If this is all to be believed, then what of the last 2 years of my life?! I’ve been fascinated by a LIE!
So describes a fascinating manifestation of cognitive bias in my young brain.
This fascination with celebrities that committed suicide or overdosed eventually faded away, as did most of my interest in the Cobain conspiracy. Life happened, with all the often nonsensical bullshit of which that entailed.
Though the Cobain conspiracy was on the very back burner for the vast majority of the time between first discovering it and recently (within the last year), I periodically had bouts of pursuit into the details. I had researched the case VIA Google a few times, finding Tom Grant and CobainCase.com (along with many others). I watched Kurt & Courtney. I became aware of all the seeming problems surrounding Cortney Love. From the allegations of her taking out a $50,000 hit on Kurt (made by a guy who was killed by a train days after that interview), to peoples habit of dying upon telling Courtney that they want to leave her (and Seattle). The first is obvious, the other is former Hole bandmate, Kristen Pfaff.
Though I revisited this every year or 2, I couldn’t help feeling that there had to be something here. This made all the more amusing by the semi-yearly occurrence of some commentator or celebrity calling out Courtney Love publicly for her role in the murder.
I had even drafted a post exploring this topic (well, started to) a few months after starting this blog. A post that I kept around until a few months ago when I started to have serious doubts about the validity of the theory.
Part of this was rooted in the drastic shifts within my own mind of the past few years. I like to say that most people can recognize silly conspiracy theories on sight. That is, except for their own.
I began see this pattern in my own pro-murder leanings.
A big part of this came in my viewing of Soaked In Bleach, yet another film exploration into the theories. Unlike the others, however, this one annoyed me right off the bat, since it began by asking the viewer to decide for themselves whether it was murder or suicide. As do many books written about the Cobain case, and materials concerning other conspiracy theories as well.
The other thing I disliked about this so-called docu-drama, was the bias. Though I didn’t have all that positive a perception of Courtney Love before watching this, even I had to admit that the bias towards her (as portrayed) was over the top. To give Tom Grant a bit of credit, it could have been a genuine reenactment of the meetings as they played out in his memory. But even so, it came off as quite . . . pushy towards an intended conclusion. A tactic that makes me very suspicious of the agenda behind those apparently doing the pushing.
The straw that would come to break the camels back was dropped on my consequence 2 days ago, VIA an algorithmically generated email from twitter (of all places). Amongst a list of tweets picked out just for me (based on my patterns of behavior, no doubt) was one from Tom Grant. Not even a tweet that had any connection to Soaked in Bleach, conspiracy, OR the Cobain case in general. Rather, it was a tweet featuring a video that would seemingly “leave most evolutionists scratching their heads”.
For those who believe in evolution, I highly recommend this captivating video series. The study go butterfly metamorphosis is incredible. Defying the logic of random selection, it will leave most evolutionists scratching their heads…. https://t.co/U2uMta3Bew
My first critique is the one that most with a capable mind will pick up on. I don’t believe in evolution any more than I believe in gravity, or radio waves, or light radiation. For lack of a more scientifically cogent way to put it, I don’t HAVE to believe in any of these things. Unlike the conspiracy that has been Grant’s claim to fame. Or infamy.
Whichever is more applicable.
Evolution denialism does not have anything to do with forensics. Alright, I’m going to back that up a little. It certainly has nothing to do with the Cobain case. Even so, it is possible to draw a parallel.
My observation of human behaviors in my proximity tends to indicate that the methodology that people use to come to a conclusion in one context is typically the one that is used for other problems in similar contexts. Or to round it all the way up to the macro level, I don’t think it’s coincidental that the United States is both the most religious nation AND the most prone nation to producing and propagating conspiracy theory.
It’s all about asking questions. Or in the case of a good majority of conspiracy theories, absorbing a new narrative under the pretext of asking questions. Often times a narrative that presents itself as a quest for the truth, but materializes as a standard for which all evidence presented by opposing arguments has to stand up to. Which is often times impossible due to an informational vacuum. Because if there weren’t an informational vacuum, there would not be a conspiracy theory!
In this day and age, even THAT rule of thumb is getting unreliable. But none the less, complete transparency from all angles would wipe out 99.9 . . .9% of these zombie theories that live on forever.
So, how does this apply to this?
Unlike some other conspiracies that I have looked into just out of curiosity (mainly those surrounding the events of 9/11), I haven’t done a whole lot of independent research into the Cobain case. I know a thing or 2, but I also knew EXACTLY what I was looking for. Hardly proper or unbiased research.
I don’t know why Courtney may or may not have acted oddly around that time.
I don’t know whether or not the gun that killed Kurt was wiped of prints.
I don’t know if his credit card was really used after he was dead (presumably by the assailant).
I don’t know if said assailant did get paid a large sum of money, only to presumably overdose and take the secret to their grave as well.
I don’t know if the amount of heroin detected in Kurt’s body was truly incapacitating (even to a highly tolerant addict), rendering suicide an impossibility.
I don’t know if the suicide note in its entirety, is truly authentic.
I don’t know if someone at ANY level made the realization that Kurt Cobain was worth more dead than alive, in the state that he was in.
I just don’t know. And in some respects, I don’t care.
I will say this . . . if there is a unified stance amongst experts in the field of forensics that there is something wrong here and that the Seattle Police Department may have missed something, then by all means, they should reopen the case file. It wouldn’t be the first time that a department has botched even a high profile case.
As for outside of that context, I think that it’s time to give it a rest.
I don’t know if Courtney Love is openly hostile towards many of these investigations on account to not wanting certain skeletons unearthed. Alternatively to that assumption (which is not hard to come to when opening your mind to many of these theories), is it not also possible that this is a very human reaction to a wild goose chase that doesn’t allow one to ever truly move on from a tragedy? How about a motherly reaction in the name of shielding their child from having to deal with the same nonsense?
I may not have all the answers, but it’s time for me to lay this old ghost to rest. Once and for all.
A good followup to yesterdays piece exploring future tech seems to be present tech. How the innovations of today are being deployed against the once formidable structures of local political influence.
Part of my interest in this article comes from it resurrecting an old observation I had 3 or 4 years back but completely forgot about (until now). Following one of our local elections, a columnist for a local publication wrote an article showcasing the declining participation in local elections in the past decade or so. He outlined the participation numbers in decline as noted by the campaigns in 2006, 2010 and then 2014. Though he did not mention it, I realized that those years coincided with the rise of social media as an embedded part of the day to day life of most people.
Media consumption habits were (are) changing, the internet was (is) becoming ever more prominent in this area (compared to traditional mediums, such as television). People were becoming more intertwined with platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and less so with local papers and newscasts. So beaten down are the mediums here that we don’t have a local paper printed our cities boundaries. If not for our local cable operator being a regional co-operative, the city would have no local media presence (short of a local discussion forum). The two corporate-owned radio stations air prerecorded weather during the evening and night (the co-operative owned stations are staffed 24/7).
Imagine hearing “possibility for the development of thundershowers this evening” after a severe storm has wrecked havoc and flooded half the city. I don’t have to. I HAVE heard this.
Moving on, when it comes to smaller markets, I suspect that this is not all that uncommon these days. As we move online, local media is increasingly crippled or forced to play catch-up. Which is not always possible.
Replacing these local pillars, are the international tech platforms. Since money and attention is not garnered from niches, they tend to focus people more on the national and the international levels (as opposed to the local). If local news makes the algorithm, it tends to be for salacious reasons. Think of Rob Ford’s unfortunate rise to infamy (respectfully left out in this write-up), or my cities former mayor’s past gaffes.
I came to realize this problem because I saw it in my own life. As a millennial at the head of the group, I grew up in the internet age and was just exiting high school as social media was getting established. I have always been connected and politically active, never missing a single vote since reaching voting age. Despite this, the regional and local campaigns had a habit of sneaking up on me (“Holy crap, the election is this week!?”).
Call me ignorant, call me a typical millennial. My focus was elsewhere.
I am not a newspaper reader, my television is off around 70% of the time (I could easily live without cable television). My focus is just generally geared towards the national and the international. I have attempted to remedy this from time to time, but as The Stones once sang, old habits die hard (I hate that song).
Having read the slumping local participation numbers for our local election, it occurred to me that I was not the only one in this boat. Electoral participation is notoriously low to begin with, let alone when one is barely better off than flying blind.
At the time, I shared my observations with the author of that article VIA email, along with my plans to explore it in a future letter to the editor (it’s been awhile since I wrote one of those). But over time, I forgot about it and moved onto other things.
That is until the Times brought it back to the forefront of my mind (albeit in a different context).
I’m not saying America’s cities are turning into dystopian technocapitalist hellscapes in which corporations operate every essential service and pull every civic string.
But let’s take a tour of recent news from the metropolises.
■ You’ve heard of the app-powered electric scooters that descended like locusts on some American cities last spring. The start-ups that run them made a bold bet: Deploy now; worry about legal niceties later. The bet is paying off. Officials in San Francisco, Austin, Tex., and Santa Monica, Calif., have rushed plans for legalization. Bird, the most ambitious of the scooter start-ups, is now raising money at a $2 billion valuation, just weeks after raising money at a $1 billion valuation.
O.K., so maybe I am saying that America’s cities are turning into dystopian technocapitalist hellscapes.
When I look at all of this, a couple things come to mind.
The first is questioning how much Domino’s contributes to the tax pool, given that they have to make a national advertising campaign out of putting a band-aid on chronic infrastructure issues. And the second being, this is starting to look VERY similar to the economic landscape that did in Puerto Rico decades before Maria was a tropical storm. Just a new set of players.
How did tech companies become America’s most-powerful local power brokers?
This, along with the bit about techies being averse to politics, are both solved by the very same equation. Or more accurately, commodity.
Money. And lots of it.
Technology is the future, so this industry will increasingly become the new lynchpin of stability as time goes on. With monetary riches and reward comes an inherent need to play politics, because that is how you both carve out an edge for yourself AND keep as much of the take in your hands as is possible.
It’s the classic story of the growth of an industry, and of a handful of corporations cashing in on most of the riches. Same plot, a different cast of characters.
Only national issues matter now
One reason tech companies can command greater say in local issues is that many other local institutions, from small businesses to local newspapers, have lost much of their influence — thanks, in large part, to the internet.
In his new book, “The Increasingly United States,” Daniel Hopkins, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, points out that social networks and digital media created a media ecosystem that is increasingly obsessed with national issues, and a political-finance system that allows donations to flow nationally. As a result, local issues are sidelined.
“When the framers of the Constitution designed the American political system, they assumed that people would care a lot more about local issues that were tangible and concrete than they would care about the distant ways of Washington,“ Mr. Hopkins said. “Contemporary American politics is exactly the opposite — we are focused on the spectacle far away.”
This is the part that stuck out for me when skimming the article earlier today. My conclusions of a few years back, in an article within the New York Times. How’s THAT for being on to something?
In this increasing vaccum of information, many speculate that corruption will become much more common than it has in the past. A hypothesis that I can understand because it stands to reason . . . what is there to lose when no one is watching?
John Oliver touches on it in this clip:
No, the irony isn’t lost on me.
Mr. Hopkins argues that this has turned local politics sclerotic. For instance, in California, where I live, there’s a huge political disagreement between people who favor building more housing and those who argue that development is itself the problem (that is, Yimbys versus Nimbys). Yet among politically connected elites here, I noticed more interest in various faraway congressional special elections than the race we just had for San Francisco mayor.
The “key question for voters is always their national loyalties,” Mr. Hopkins said. There’s much less room for voting based on what’s happening nearby.
Interesting. And somewhat concerning. If this is the case in a big market like San Francisco, what hope does literally ANY OTHER MARKET have?
What does this have to do with tech companies? While the fall of local media undermined interest in local issues, tech companies began to notice that their platforms gave them direct access to new levers of local influence. And they began to deploy those levers to withering effect.
Uber wrote the script. Travis Kalanick, the ride-hailing company’s founder and now-ousted chief executive, pushed into dozens of cities without asking permission. In many cities, the pushback was intense — Uber was disrupting local taxi cartels that had spent decades building their own political power base.
But what Uber lacked in political support it made up for in local popularity. Through its app, the company had a direct connection to thousands of riders and drivers who were making a living from its service.
They became the basis for “Travis’s Law”: When regulators tried to shut Uber down, the company could “turn its riders into advocates and use grass-roots political pressure to ensure Uber’s continued existence,” as Bradley Tusk, the political operative whom Mr. Kalanick hired to fight local battles, writes in his coming book, “The Fixer: Saving Startups From Death by Politics.”
The plan worked beautifully. In New York in 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio floated a proposal to cap Uber’s growth. The mayor had the support of most of the City Council; Uber’s fight looked impossible.
But Mr. Tusk mobilized Uber’s constituency, framing the issue in stark racial terms — if Uber failed, black and Latino drivers would lose an economic opportunity, and riders would be stuck with taxis that had long discriminated against them. Uber won and, by following its example, so would the rest of the industry.
Very interesting and eye-opening. I only had half the picture. It wasn’t just circumstance, it was malice. Malice that no locality on this earth is immune from if even metro New York City can fall victim to these tactics.
I wouldn’t be being honest if I didn’t see the possible silver lining of new technology helping to bast up long-standing taxi monopolies in many markets. The fact that they call them cartels is telling. But having said that, not if the result is going to be just another version of the VERY SAME GAME, just with different players.
I’m starting to see a theme, here.
Is tech power so bad?
You might argue that this is all to the good: Cities are drowning in red tape, local leaders are naturally averse to change, and tech companies are doing exactly what innovative companies should do. Shouldn’t we be celebrating these innovators?
If this is you . . . go to the nearest mirror and give yourself a nice big slap in the face. After such an amount of slaps has elapsed that you feel that your head is completely and totally removed from the confines of your rectal cavity, come back and rejoin the conversation.
But tech power, at the local level, feels increasingly indomitable. With the mere threat of halting growth, Amazon can send shudders through cities across the country. Even Mr. De Blasio, once seen as a critic of tech, now swoons for Amazon; he lit up New York’s landmarks in “Amazon orange” to woo Jeff Bezos to open the company’s second headquarters there.
Or, consider the scooters. Some people love our new e-scooter overlords, and others hate them. But whatever your position, the real problem is that they just appeared out of nowhere one day, suddenly seizing the sidewalks, and many citizens felt they had no real agency in the decision. They were here to stay, whatever nonusers felt about them.
Which was all by design. The scooter companies were just following Travis’s Law. In Santa Monica, Bird’s scooters appeared on city streets in September. Lawmakers balked; in December, the city filed a nine-count criminal complaint against Bird.
Bird responded with a button in its app to flood local lawmakers with emails of support. The city yielded: Bird signed a $300,000 settlement with Santa Monica, a pittance of its funding haul, and lawmakers authorized its operations.
If you love the scooters, you see nothing wrong with this. But there was a time, in America, when the government paid for infrastructure and the public had a say in important local services. With Ubers ruling the roads, Birds ruling the sidewalks, Elon Musk running our subways and Domino’s paving our roads, that age is gone.
Ride-sharing has been proposed (and promptly, opposed) by many in my locality, of which keeps a fairly tight rein on the cities taxi industry (though not as tight as other nearby cities, as there is no cap on the number of registered taxies in service at any one time). Though there is fairly minimal push into this market at the moment, I will have to keep an eye on it.
It’s strange, the fact that I am referencing Hedley in this post, and on this blog. The days of this group having any relevance to my life have LONG since past. I liked some songs off of the first album because it was fairly heavy. But then I moved away from the radio (and intern, popular music), and thus this band just fell into the abyss of the long forgotten.
Well, until I happen to hear one of their newer god awful slow and sappy or otherwise overtly pop-oriented abortions.
It seems that the band is now alleged to have some, shall we say, questionable relationships with some of its fans. Enough of them to prompt their removal from performing at this years Canadian Juno Awards.
This piece is not meant to take a stance on the removal of the band from the lineup. I don’t care. The organizers can make whatever changes they please. I don’t watch awards shows, have never watched awards shows.
There is more to life than all of that distracting and empty glitz and glamor.
I am not even here to say much about the allegations themselves. Because they are just that, allegations. It’s early in the release of this story, so time will tell how this pans out.
What bothers me is the prevailing attitude in the comments section of the article above. Nothing that really surprises me at this point in my life, but none the less, proof that society has much work to do.
These girls are groupies. They allow themselves to be victims
Meanwhile these same teenagers keep the kardashians rich and on the air knowing the star Kim was pimped out by her own mother via video, it’s ridiculous
The War on Men continues.
Some of the comments in the thread, the vast majority of which followed more or less the same formula. Indeed, a small microcosm of the entirety of the social media world. But I would not expect to find much difference in opinion on any other platform simply because celebrity worship is ever present in contemporary society.
This is an interesting (and potentially nasty) new twist to this whole equation, however. In truth, the idea of grown adults writing and performing songs specifically tailored for child and teen demographics has always struck me as . . . odd. I suppose that almost all pop music could go into this category.
However, I think specifically of the boy band type stuff for this category. Hedley, Simple Plan and the like. Yeah, my examples are pretty dated. I can’t be bothered to find out who the new Bieber or One Direction is.
Even when I was young, Simple Plan singing “I’m just a kid, and my life is a nightmare!” struck me as odd. The purpose is obvious (depressed kids in cookie-cutter suburbs have plenty of disposable income, particularly in 2004/2005). But it was still . . . odd.
Fast forward almost 20 years, and I realize that it is far more than that. Not just odd, but a potential disaster under the wrong circumstances. For example, if you happen to be a sexual predator with a talent for song and dance.
It’s an unwritten rule that sex sells, and essentially the whole of the pop music industry is built upon this foundation. Any performer can blend into this environment with ease. And if they have a fanbase that mostly falls below the age of majority, you end up with the very real possibility of a vulnerable group being right at the fingertips of a sexual predator. A risky situation that many of the victims may not realize (or just refuse to accept) because of the circumstances.
No, I am not saying that this is what we are dealing with in terms of Hedley. However, whether it be Hedley or any other artist or group, allegations must be taken seriously.