Can I take this for granted with your eyes over me? … Is @JulianBurnside’s ‘social again’ social media dystopian?

Every so often, somebody feels the need to clean up social media.  Twitter is full of trolls and Something Must Be Done.

My answer, of course, is regulation.  If the State would hold Twitter accountable for its content, it will immediately clamp down on antisocial content like Nazis.  But that smells too much like ‘censorship’ for liberals, and so the option is drowned out by a chorus of Voltaire-quoters.  Letting the State regulate public discourse is, apparently, a bigger problem than actual Nazis.  In my view, this ignores the lesson of history: the reluctance of the State to regulate its extremes is what results in the worst of collective human action.

But that’s for another day.

Without formal regulation, we are left with informal regulation.  Into this issue stepped Julian Burnside, one of Australia’s most prominent liberals, with a modest proposal:


But is this wise?  Do we want public megaphones curating Twitter blocklists?

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The things that monsters do, well, yes, I do them a lot… There’s nothing subjective about offence

Let’s run through a common argument in the free speech wars: you can’t regulate against offence because two people might disagree about what is offensive.

It’s a nonsense argument.  It’s nonsense both in a legal sense and in a non-legal sense.  But let’s start with some general points: why does the argument exist at all?

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And he decides who to free and who to blame… How should a democracy appoint judges? Answer: not democratically

Recent media reports have noted the quasi-proposal of Peter Dutton, Minister for Home Affairs, for the public to be more involved in the selection of judges. As far as I can tell, Dutton hasn’t elaborated on precisely what he meant by his comments.  It is likely that his comments were part of his broader campaign to shame judges into deciding cases consistently with what he sees as ‘community values’.  As much as we might not like Dutton’s comments, it’s his role as a parliamentarian to scrutinise the courts.  The problem is that the current state of public engagement in political processes is poor, so this mechanism is prone to being hijacked.

Let’s strip this of identity in the first instance and turn this into a discussion about principles.  Should judges be elected?

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Fingers in paints, in paints we brought… It’s Human Rights Day! Let’s celebrate, Australia!

It’s been 69 years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Australia does not really celebrate its involvement in the creation of the Declaration.  William Hodgson is all but unknown to most Australians.  I’ve sometimes wondered why Australians aren’t taught about the role we’ve played on the global stage — some kind of cultural cringe, maybe.  Hodgson was on the drafting committee that was chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, and Doc Evatt was the President of the United Nations General Assembly at the time of its adoption.

Even detractors of the Declaration have to recognise its importance.  In the period immediately following the Second World War, there was a desperate need to recognise a universal humanity that would provide a moral basis to international law.  And the document reflects the aspirations of elites at the time.

But good intentions only get you so far.  International Human Rights Day is a good opportunity to be intellectually serious about human rights as a moral and a legal concept, and to defend Australia’s approach to the legal recognition of human rights.

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Got a big plan, this mindset maybe its right… the Politics of Mindfulness

Focus on your breath.  In and out.  Be genuinely curious about your breath.  Your mind is like a puppy.  It will wander and you will gently pick it up and place it back on the mat.  Focus on your breath.  Focus on your breath.  Return to the present moment.  Mindfulness might be able to cure AIDS.

Mindfulness is a meditative practice for white people who are disconnected from culture and meaning.  For a few minutes per day, you can indulge your current experiences by focusing your attention on yourself.  Be curious about yourself.  Notice yourself.  But do it uncritically.  Einstein maybe did the same thing.

It’s important to know that there are Studies.  You might not be able to understand the Studies, but they definitely exist.  And they’re definitely good Studies.  And there is definitely no evidence against spending money on mindfulness retreats.

The focus on the self as an atomic, self-formed object has clearly resulted in its adoption by two very different groups.  The New Age, anti-authoritarians on the one side, and executive management types on the other.  For all its claims to being scientific, mindfulness is an inherently political practice and it should be critiqued as such.

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A bunch of stereotypes all in my head… No votes and the Stolen Generation

‘Every child deserves a mum and a dad.’  ‘Every child has a right to their biological parents.’ ‘What about the children?’  ‘What about the rights of the child?’

I kept hearing this rhetoric repeated again and again by the No campaign.  Biological family was inalienable, a birthright with which the State should not interfere, an entitlement beyond the reach of social engineering.

Even as a conservative myself, I find this position a bit basic.  It’s certainly not historically how our society has operated.  For all the dodgy studies trying to convince us that there is something essential that a person gets through a relationship with a biological mother and biological father, there is the obvious preference that people have stability and certainty.  People will love each other and bring children into their family units; it would be preferable that this unit be as stable as possible regardless of the gendered accidents of the people involved.

Australia has not had the greatest history of protecting families.  Even recently, rules have changed on family visas making it harder to reunite families in Australia.

But perhaps the worst example of this attitude towards families was the genocidal attack on Australia’s Indigenous culture through what would become known as the Stolen Generations.  For all this rhetoric about the need to preserve family units, we should expect that the loudest voices behind the No campaign are also the most outspoken about the atrocity of forcibly destroying family units.

Lol no.

Continue reading “A bunch of stereotypes all in my head… No votes and the Stolen Generation”

Quick Post: A note on translation and procrastination

Procrastination, gentle reader, makes me productive in every way except the ways in which I ought to be.

I’m not joking.  I have three books that I need to read by tomorrow, an essay with a deadline that is rapidly approaching, a stack of audio that I should edit, I need to clean out my bedroom, and a shortlist of job applications I need to submit… but the weather is inviting, and there’s a nice cafe down the road, and I have three new books that I’d like to pour over, and there are some movies I’d like to watch at the cinema.  I want to write short stories and then delete them so that nobody can see how bad they are.  I bought some letter paper a few weeks ago, but it’s too large for writing letters, so I might draw on those instead.  And I love reading essays.  I want to be a better essayist, but I keep succumbing to the self-doubt that I’m dull and turgid.  Maybe I’m the only person left who still gets excited by essays.  I want to print out old literary essays on cheap pamphlet paper and slip them into friends’ letter boxes, leave them on colleagues’ desks, tuck them into books at the library for complete strangers to discover.

Of course, I’m not actually going to do this because I haven’t completely lost my biscuits yet.

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