“Don’t use social media for serious issues” and the rise of self-censorship


I suppose there are different ways to react when it comes to the newly leaked (though unsurprising) world wide surveillance programs by the NSA. One can, for instance, protest it by asserting fundamental rights to privacy and free speech, or reject the red herring pretexts of “security”, or remind people that indiscriminate, unchecked governmental surveillance is destined for abuse and corruption, etc. Or, as Anne-Marie Eklund Löwinder proposes in the DN article “Don’t use social media for serious issues”, we should simply submit to the realities of this Brave New World and limit our online social outings to lightweight subjects like “choice of breakfast” and “pictures of cats” [translated]:

According to Anne-Marie Eklund Löwinder one should be self-critical about what stories to share. To say what you’ve had for breakfast, that you’ve taken a walk, or to post pictures of your cat is fairly innocent.
– That’s about the level you should limit yourself to. Social media is not to be used for more serious issues, she says.

And even though what you post might be legal now, who knows what will happen later:

– Today we live in a democratic society, but that can change and what you do might become illegal. […] The point is that everythings that is used can also be abused. The lesser information there is stored about you and what you do, the lesser the risk for abuse.

The logic behind Löwinder’s advice seems to be that in order to avoid repercussions for one’s opinions – or even future hypothetical criminality – we should render ourselves irrelevant by sticking to trivialities. If this self-capitulating mentality doesn’t froth the mouths of the totalitarian surveillance state architects then nothing will. Who needs big, noisy dictatorships when the citizenry is already self-monitoring and self-censoring?

This also illustrates the process by which surveillance becomes self-perpetuating. The NSA could possess all the resources in the world; surveilling everyone all the time still wouldn’t be plausible. The trick instead is to instill in people a fear of being monitored, since this will cause the individual to monitor herself. Hereby surveillance transforms from a technical to an organic modus operandi, from being imposed to being incepted.

Hollywood actor Jason Beghe used the phrase “It’s a put yourself in jail type of thing” in his lengthy 2008 interview about his time in Scientology. In it, he lays out in great detail what lured him to the cult-like organization, the mental breakdown he faced while staying and the hardships of leaving. One of recurrent themes in his testimony is how he made himself stay, despite getting worse and worse by the practices. He ponders:

If I’m trying to enslave somebody, the last thing I want to do is have to worry about fucking keeping the key in the lock, and you know, the best trap is the kind that will keep himself in jail.

In the case of Scientology, part of the reason people stay is its culture where parishioners are constantly indoctrination to believe that they are to blame for any setback, failure or lack of personal or organizational gain. It’s never Scientology’s fault, it’s your own fault. You need to sort your own issues out. You need to change because the technology is perfect. It is an oppressive and subjugating structure by design.

This game of blameshifting ties in to the notion that it’s somehow the surveillance victim who is expected to take measures and impose self-censorship. Though doing so may still be a rational decision, advocating it under any other premise than extreme measures to draconian circumstances is irresponsible and subjugates the victim under the surveillance apparatus.

I do think Löwinder in general makes a correct observation, but is then diametrically wrong in her solution. We as citizens should indeed stay well aware about the implications and dangers of data collection and surveillance, whether by government or by private companies. But the solution certainly isn’t to restrain expression – but to defend our liberties, demand checks and balances and stay vigilant of abuses of power. And, most importantly, to keep mixing up the everyday postings about cats or coffee foam with the hard, important issues.

The Guardian: SA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily
Atlantic: 71% of Facebook Users Engage in ‘Self-Censorship’


Absurdities of misguided Swedish multiculturalism


A story broke last week about a male intern on a Trollhättan company that refused to shake hands with his female supervisor since his religion prohibited him from doing so without promptly washing his hands. The man was told that his duties at the company required him shake hands with everyone, both men and women, but that they would facilitate for him to be able to wash his hands whenever he needed. The man still refused.

A discrimination case was filed to the city council. They ruled – get this – in favor of the intern, granting him a sizable amount in damages for religious discrimination. The supervisor, on her part, was handed a written reprimand for having the gall not to tolerate his refusal to shake her hand.

This is the destructive, Alice in Wonderland-crazy outcomes of misdirected multiculturalism: political figures so anxious about the damning label of political incorrectness that they rather surrender fundamental societal values in conciliation as soon as anyone waves the flag of intolerance. It is not about the presence of multiple cultures in society (descriptive multiculturalism) – which can be very positive – but about multiple sets of norms (normative multiculturalism), such as religious norms or laws that act upon certain groups within society.

In this case, the religious norms of the intern collided with the gender equality norms of the workplace. Gender equality which, of course, is a norm fought for and expanded on over generations in Swedish and Western society. By ruling in favor of the intern, this misogynistic norm of refusing to shake hands with women is not only validated, but validated at the expense of gender equality itself, and the rights e.g. of the supervisor not to be discriminated against (as she clearly was).

What kind of society sells out its own values like that?

I don’t have a clear answer. It’s in there somewhere with such Swedish mentalities as avoidance of conflict, fear to lose face, introversion etc. However, there’s also a deeper paradox at play here: this obsessive walking-on-eggshells not to offend anyone, that’s supposedly about tolerance, good intentions etc: well, is it really? Excusing or rewarding dumb behavior is something emotionally absent parents do to their children. They spoil and indulge them, instead of caring for them the hard way. Such treatment is lazy rather than loving and certainly don’t help in the long run:

We wouldn’t admit it, but I think there’s an element of cold, absent parenting, disguised as tolerance, in some of our societal responses to the voices of ethnic and religious minorities. We feel that we should like and care more about those new people that aren’t quite like us, but we really don’t, and this makes us feel guilty. So we overcompensate and act overly tolerant, over-protecting, spoiling and indulging. Seemingly loving, but emotionally absent, even passive-aggressive.

If this intern-guy is so backwards that he can’t even shake hands with a woman, it’s not indulgence and tolerance that he needs – but a firm but loving message that there’s no such thing as “rights” when it comes to dumb religious dogma. Snap out of it buddy.

Joakim Lamotte

Who’s racist in Sweden? Everyone!


Johanna Langhorst had an article over at SVT Debatt the other day in which she goes all in to reinforce the new favorite pet in left-leaning commentary – collective guilt and, specifically, collective Racism.

Because you see [irony ahead], deep down, we’re all Racists. Racism is the new original sin, to which the only salvation is unconditional confession. Langhorst, in her good graces, doesn’t limit her confession to herself in the article, but declares us all sinners of Racism – presumably assuring her own salvation and forgiveness in the process. Who’s her savior? Perhaps a manifestation of that missing paternal presence from childhood that seems to lurk in the background whenever there’s Messianic preachings of guilt going on.

Anyway. It’s obvious that personal scrutiny and introspection is everyone’s obligation, but there still has to be an incentive for it. I suppose different ideologies (or theologies) go about this in different ways, but I’m pretty sure most behaviorists would agree that positive motivation, driven by reward and a sense of being part of the solution, is stronger than motivation driven by fear or guilt.

Nevertheless, Langhorst evidently believes there’s good reason to smear this smelly epithet of Racism on society as a whole. After all, there’s been a couple of reports of incidents with racial undertones in the media recently. And Langhorst have “dark-skinned friends“ who’ve been subject to racial slurs. I guess with a little accumulation and extrapolation one could reach any conclusions about society.

I’m not belittling hers or her friends experiences, or defending any media report. I just think her way to generalize and ascribe attributes collectively is reckless, counterproductive and, well, somewhat racist in itself.

But the twist of the story has to do with another of Langhorst’s bold claims – the notion that an unwillingness of “white majority-Swedes” to relocate to the troubled, failed suburbs is yet another signature of “the deep roots of Swedish racism” and “racist structures”:

The same Swedes who would never consider living in Tensta or Rosengård. The same Swedes who put their children in all-white schools and hire cheap, likely illegal foreign housemaids.

That is, a mere hesitation to put yourself and your family in one of those troubled areas is racist. Then what to make of this fact: Langhorst herself left Tensta in 2011 after her son had been robbed twice in a month and didn’t dare walking home alone anymore. Yes, the very same suburb she mentions in the article. That’s pretty amazing. She actually accuses society of racism – for something she did herself just two years ago.

One would think that such a terrible personal experience would make her a bit more humble and empathic for the choices of others when it comes to the future and safety of their families. Or, at least, that some kind of cognitive dissonance would prevent her from putting it so bluntly as to essentially label herself racist.

Then again, maybe that’s how she really feels. And maybe that’s why she’s so eager to blame someone else. It’s not she who’s racist – it’s everyone else. Everyone!

Internet-hate debate: Exposure the most effective antidote

There’s an exciting debate going on in Sweden about näthat (hate on the internet). It started – or rather, flared up – after the airing of SVT’s investigative program Uppdrag Granskning, which methodically revealed some of the frightening verbal abuse that takes place on or through the internet. Several individuals subjected to näthat were portrayed – all women – ranging from public commentators and bloggers to private individuals. One young girl happened to say the wrong things on H&M’s Facebook page and soon faced a raging mob of commenters. The show was titled, seemingly provocatively, Män som Näthatar Kvinnor (Men Who Hates Women on the Internet) – which is likely more accurate than many are willing to admit. A fair share of näthat – the sort depicted in the program – is highly gender-centric, sexualized and directed towards women by men.

There’s much to say on this issue, but I’ll pick this one, perhaps most important item; that all of this so called hate is first and foremost this: vapid and vacuous. Huffing and puffing. That’s because the source of the affect is not grand ideas or personal convictions of the perpetrator – but plain frustration. Hot air venting from his own perceived inferiority; from an ego being hurt by the display of strength and intelligence by others (narcissistic injury). Cheap attacks on vulnerable targets is the only weapon he has got.

It’s not about hate or even real anger – it’s about relieving oneself from self-contempt by projecting it onto others through rage and intimidation. In that sense, the attacks are hollow, transient and not personal (in contrary to how the subject surely experiences it); de-personating the subject is indeed desired by the aggressor since it lessens the invocation of guilt.

In a later segment of the Uppdrag Granskning-program, the reporters searched out and confronted the authors behind some of the hateful comments with their own words. Rhetorically quite effective, needless to say. As expected, once forced to stand up to their words, without the perceived protection of anonymity and implicit validation from other commenters, the majority reversed their earlier, seemingly staunch positions and harsh words and turned to excuses and explanations. Many apologized or expressed regret. The monster died at the very first glimmer of daylight.

Herein, perhaps, lies some hope. The typical “hater” carries a lot of frustration and preys compulsively on others for relief. There is, of course, some risk that threats may actually be carried out; under influence from group pressure etc. But the beast is really a sheep. He’s fearful. He has no voice and no words. It is much more likely that he is a normal person with normal capacity for empathy than him being a sociopath or sufferer of any other type of emotional impairment. The idealist would probably say that all he needs is a hug now and then. That may be, but until then, we should adopt more vigilant moderation of the Internet space to keep the light shine in.

Template for Facebook status updates

What most people really are saying:

I am attractive. I am intelligent. I am sophisticated. I am successful in what I do. I have many friends. I have fun. I have a beautiful family. I have a big house. I am humble. I realize that what I do here is really just a form of public bragging and therefore make sure to veil it by inserting a petty mishap or pseudo-failure now and then.

Or, in my case:

I get bitter and annoyed by people’s self-promotion and make sarcastic blog posts about it.

Prime time sociopathy

Please tell me how the onslaught of graphic, acronym-titled TV-crime dramas about horrific deaths with mutilated, burnt, dismembered, disjointed human corpses in close-ups on crime scenes and autopsy tables do not eventually have a desensitizing effect. I mean, it’s one thing for a coroner or an experienced forensic officer to develop ways to distance themselves emotionally from grisly realities of their profession, but to normal people – supposedly the majority of the TV audience – the sane reaction to most of that would be repulsion. Yet here we are watching the TV-characters speak casually over maimed bodies or joke while drilling through the scull of a murder victim. Too much of that can’t be good.

Today in cognitive dissonance: Swedish law and the Quran

Swedish Mosques claims adherence to Swedish law while simultaneously asserting that the laws of the Quran – permitting e.g. polygamy and mild physical violence against “disobedient” wifes – are immutable and ever valid.

Glad we sorted that out.

This is, to be fair, a solid improvement from an earlier investigation, conducted with hidden cameras, which revealed that nine out of ten Imams actively defended illegal activities, including polygamy and physical violence, and dissuaded women from reporting such crimes to the authorities. The latest investigation indicates that those revelations did initiate debate in the Muslim community, which is positive. The prospect of a centralized or at least regulated Swedish Imam education, to counter those in extremist countries like Saudi Arabia, is yet another positive sign.