Month: January 2016


About a year ago, I was having coffee with a friend, discussing the ever-expanding definition of “harassment” on social media.  I raised a question that I still think is pretty interesting: what if someone created a program to track how many “harassing” or “hateful” accounts someone was following on Twitter? If an account follows too many such accounts, it could be labeled as a second-order hate account. Accounts that follow too many of those kind of accounts could be third-order offenders, and so on and so forth. It’s an Orwellian idea that seemed entirely possible, even probable.

A company called Little Bird, which specializes in social media data analysis, has done almost exactly that. From their website:

Inspired by a new Twitter account that tweets out the bios of anyone Donald Trump retweets (because they’re often remarkable), we went and looked up those people he’s introducing to his audience of 5 million+ Twitter followers.  In order to learn more about them, we analyzed the networks of people that those people he retweeted are following on Twitter, using Little Bird’s influencer discovery and social network analysis software. 

It turns out that Donald Trump mostly retweets white supremacists saying nice things about him.  At least so far this week’s that’s how it’s gone.  This isn’t one person, of the last 21 accounts retweeted by @RealDonaldTrump so far this week, our automated analysis of their accounts finds that:  

  • 28% of them follow at least one of the top 50 White Nationalist accounts on Twitter (6 of 21)
  • 62% of them follow at least 3 people who’ve used hashtag #WhiteGenocide lately (13 of 21)

In an attempt to call Trump even more racist than everyone else is calling him, Little Bird is painting people with an absurdly gigantic brush. You’re you follow one white nationalist account, you’re a white supremacist by the company’s standards. If you follow three people who have used the #WhiteGenocide hashtag, you’re a white supremacist.

How exactly this makes sense isn’t clear. The accounts that supposed white supremacists would have to follow are only themselves white nationalists. White nationalism is kind of a lower-intensity white supremacism.

A bigger problem with such overheated name-calling is the fact that ideology obviously doesn’t trickle down from followed to follower.  Remember how a retweet isn’t an endorsement? That pretty much goes without saying, and it should be equally obvious that following a Twitter account also isn’t an endorsement or a sign that you agree with everything or even anything that they say. Little Bird didn’t even have the statistical honesty to say what percentage of all accounts followed by these Trump supporters fit their criteria. I follow around 500 people, and I probably do more than most to keep my timeline uncluttered.

In addition to following a couple white nationalists, I follow social justice warriors, conservatives, progressives, libertarians, socialists, and even three Catholic communists.

I wonder how many Joseph Stalin apologists are followed by the SPLC types that make these kinds of accusations. I follow at least one.

Why not a Vox for the Grey tribe?

Scott Alexander, in one of the best essays I have ever read, differentiates the red and blue tribes, before acknowledging the rise of a Grey tribe.

There is a partly-formed attempt to spin off a Grey Tribe typified by libertarian political beliefs, Dawkins-style atheism, vague annoyance that the question of gay rights even comes up, eating paleo, drinking Soylent, calling in rides on Uber, reading lots of blogs, calling American football “sportsball”, getting conspicuously upset about the War on Drugs and the NSA, and listening to filk – but for our current purposes this is a distraction and they can safely be considered part of the Blue Tribe most of the time

Pax Dickinson further defines the Grey tribe.

Greys are a libertarian-minded tribe of live-and-let-livers. They tend to dwell online, often adopting shifting pseudonyms and communicating with each other on forums and anonymous imageboards. Amongst the Grey Tribe one would expect to see higher levels of internet savvy, fondness for tech gadgetry, and disillusionment with traditional politics. They support privacy and anonymity, and oppose the NSA surveillance regime. Edward Snowden is a Grey Tribe hero. They revere open source, strongly support an open internet, and it is by no means exaggeration to describe them as free speech fundamentalists.

Many of the Grey Tribe self-identify as Blue, agreeing with Blues on many social issues while feeling disagreement with the Blues in areas economic and opposing Blue efforts to enforce political correctness. A few self-identify as Red, strongly agreeing with small government and 2nd amendment rights, but usually feeling strong antipathy or at best ambivalence toward Red social issues like opposition to gay marriage and abortion. Other Greys adopt the libertarian mantle, and many Greys disavow politics entirely. Despite their own failure so far to self label as such, the Grey Tribe does exists as its own independent culture, overlapping in areas but remaining distinct from the Red and Blue cultures.

So, my question, why isn’t there a news source catering to the Grey tribe? The Red tribe has Fox, the Blue tribe has MSNBC.

Vox offers a useful model of how to build a modern, semi-reputable news source catering to a tribe. However, the Grey Vox would cover different topics than traditional news sources. Economic analysis would be non-ideological, data driven and trustworthy, think Scott Alexander. Grey Vox would be strongly critical of government surveillance, thinking of Snowden as a hero. Silicon Valley and the tech industry would be heavily covered. Social issues would be approached through a live and let live philosophy, a distrust of the Red tribe for wanting to ban gay marriage and the Blue tribe for wanting to punish the Red tribe for wanting to ban gay marriage. Foreign policy would be covered less than most other sources, but would be geared toward non-interventionist realism, think Chris Preble.

Other aspects of the Grey Vox would be self-awareness, interactivity and rationalism. Grey Vox would acknowledge their biases, and try to correct them. Grey Vox would cultivate quality comments and be open to revising articles if the comments show a factual error or misleading narrative. Grey Vox would identify not with the positions it took, but by the process used to reach them

If you think this is a good idea, comment or tweet at me (@marklutter) so I can gauge the reaction to see if creating a Grey Vox is something I want to dedicate time to.


Conservativism and Race


At the start of this election some think that the GOP would be re-branding itself. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio seem like the card to wing back the Latino electorate while Ben Carson was think could win a bigger portion of the black vote. However it was Donald Trump who made this election about race. First denouncing illegal immigration was seen by many liberals as code name for anti-Hispanic racism. Some neo-Nazis endorsing Trump haven’t help the Trump attempt to portray himself as a friend of minorities neither Trump retweeting them. The Muslim ban upset the Arab community and the use of the term “Anchor Baby” made Asian immigrants angry. The fact that most of his supporters are white is not necessary strange in Republican politics but his campaign has reached to unprecedented level of lack of political correctness. Michael Brendan Dougherty argue that paleoconservative writer Sam Francis predicted the rise of The Donald. Considering that Francis was an openly racialist, one has to wonder if the new kind of conservativism that Trump has to deal particularly with race or does that all the conservative tradition relation with explains the popularity of the billionaire.

Conservativism usually speaks about preserving a tradition, in most cases the western tradition. But is that western tradition has to deal with race? One could argue that at least in America conservativism had to do with a limited government. In the words of Daniel Hannan, limited government is a heritage of the Anglo-Saxon culture. However the campaign of Trump has made angry most libertarians by promising a big government that rivals in size with the socialist dreams of Bernie Sanders. Some describe these new form of conservativism as nationalism. Nationalism is still associated in America with the Nazis but nationalism is not inherently racist. During the 70s there in Latin America and Africa some governments that represent a left-wing forms of nationalism that promote the respect of the indigenous population. However after the Battle of Seattle the left had been preaching an alternative form of globalism and denouncing nationalism.

But not only Donald Trump is alienating minorities. Over The American Conservative, Musa Al-Garbhi reach to similar conclusions of my analysis about why there aren’t Black Republicans. Candidates are trying to preach to a white audience and dismiss black voters. Why this happen over and over? Republicans had forgot the legacy of the GOP on racial issues before Goldwater was in a lot of ways better than the Democrats. But that not only happen to African Americans. Arab Americans which are generally more socially conservative that other groups dismiss Republicans for their attacks that some of them consider Islamophobia. Hispanics come from Latin America where governments had proved to fail, however because preaching being against illegal immigration they had demonized an entire ethnicity. Even Asian Americans whose opposition to affirmative action and language of family values could had made them near to the GOP had prefer being part of Democrat Coalition over what they see as a narrow agenda in the Republican Party. Probably libertarians and maybe some reform conservative like Nikki Haley or Jon Hunstman had try honestly to reach out to minorities.

Pat Buchanan which a lot of people compare to Donald Trump for his insurgent campaign in the 90s had some advice for the real estate mogul. He says that Trump represents the future of the GOP and that his nationalism is his opposition to both globalism and interventionism. He believes Trump could win, I don’t. I think that despite that is probably that in 1992 or 1996, Buchanan as the Republican nominee would had beat the Democrats. Now the panorama is different. He spoke about Reagan Democrats and while they maybe still some of them, most working class Democrats are minorities who distrust the GOP and particularly Donald Trump. He may try to sound a little different but I don’t see much difference. The BlackLivesMatter movement had an important impact in the African American population equal to the movement against deportations in the Latino community. Trump against Hillary Clinton maybe a close election but against Bernie Sanders he could be defeated by landslide.

But nationalism has other problems, some of the neo-Nazis supporters of Trump are trying to infiltrate the GOP. How the party is going to deal with them when the Republican nominee says a lot of the same things. Libertarians also may feel that they are no longer part of the Republican coalition. But in the future if some libertarians stay they could try to bring a real civil war on the right of their limited government philosophy against the big government nationalism. The fact that besides the Paul family the most prominent libertarian is Justin Amash, son of immigrants from the Middle East show that maybe there is path for GOP of rejecting racialism and stood for a message of self-reliance among communities of the color. Maybe that is the only way.

Conservative against the conservative movement

Less than one week to go before the Iowa caucus, and the battle lines are drawn.

On one side is brash businessman Donald Trump. On the other side is the near-entirety of the professional conservative movement – the thinkers, marketers, editors, donor-schmoozers, lawyers, consultants, money-bundlers, tax cheats, business shills, and communication hacks who profess allegiance to St. Ronald Reagan.

As Michael Buffers says: Let’s get ready to rumble!

Ever since Donald Trump announced his presidential bid last June, he has been walloping the hucksters known as Conservatism, Inc. By channeling working class resentment and throwing out the playbook when it comes to raising money and hiring consultants, Trump is turning traditional politics on its head. He isn’t being spoon-fed soundbites; he isn’t begging for cash; he isn’t bending over backwards to appease huge corporations.

He’s doing something few candidates have done in a long time: Advocating on behalf of the entire national community, rather than a few eggheads and CEOs with bottomless wallets.

Meanwhile, the high-salaried Republican brain trust is losing its collective head. This was most pronounced in a recent symposium hosted by National Review eloquently titled “Against Trump.” Conservative luminaries such as Thomas Sowell, John Podhoretz, and Glenn Beck contributed, lambasting the GOP frontrunner and pontificating on the need for a principled leader in the White House. Their polemics were chock-full of the high-minded ideals and a mastery of vocabulary that would have made William F. Buckley proud.

But even for such a long, erudite (and possibly illegal) spread, the message is the same throughout: Trump is not a cerebral conservative, and thus isn’t fit for the office of the presidency.

Years ago, this kind of concentrated effort to derail a Republican presidential candidate would have been a resounding success. But that’s all changed with Trump. The bedwetting Hayek-lovers in “tassel-loafers and bow ties” no longer call the shots. A man with $10 billion and a twitter account now runs the show.


Trump and National Review

Culled from a private conversation last week

Hate-reading National Review’s attempt to keep the conservative movement flying from resounding success to resounding success by thwarting Trump. Has anyone else noticed the house style of larding editorials with hammy archaisms that stick out like sore thumbs — “show and strut,” “is not deserving of” (should be “does not deserve”), “tenderfeet” (has anyone ever used that word as a plural?), “excrescences,” a “brash manner” (nobody uses “manner” like that, “personality” or “style” would be better)?

Is there anything less attractive, or arguably less conservative, than appeals to a discrete “conservative philosophy”? Their editorial calls him “philosophically unmoored,” unlike, I guess, the conservative case for gay marriage that their managing editor wrote a few months ago. The piece is full of non-sequiturs — the idea that he’s “dismayingly conventional” when it comes to legal immigration, besides being a silly cheap shot, is just not true. The rest of the paragraph even admits that. It also misstates his bromance with Putin, which I’m pretty sure Trump started.

One of the big reasons why National Review is not nearly as interesting as it was in its glory days is because they portray conservatism as this settled thing — a “broad conservative ideological consensus,” when in fact no such thing exists, and never did. Consequently NR is completely unable to explain Trump aside from the Salon strategy of pointing and shrieking. What makes 1950s-60s NR enjoyable reading even today is that it was full of people who were ideological refugees.

E.J. Dionne serviceably described Frank Meyer’s fusionist conservatism as “libertarian means in a conservative society toward traditionalist ends,” which gets at the difference between American conservatism and European rightism — American conservatism’s job is to conserve the liberal revolution — against king, authority, mercantilism, etc — which means it has built-in contradictions and limited class appeal. What does American rightism, call it conservative or not, look like when the “silent majority” of attitudinally conservative people care more about nationalistic concerns, like globalization and immigration, than the libertarian economics that has cemented the Republican Party’s close relationship with business. This is the conversation I’d love to see us having right now, but of course nobody is interested in having it.
Let’s talk about the kicker for a minute, though:
Donald Trump is a menace to American conservatism who would take the work of generations and trample it underfoot in behalf of a populism as heedless and crude as the Donald himself.

Now we’re getting to the real issue (though it should be, “on behalf”). Let’s be charitable and say this isn’t just a complaint that Trump has avoided the usual patronage networks and movement box-checking, thereby marginalizing professional conservatives. What does this statement imply? If American conservatism was really so fragile that Trump is an existential threat to it, maybe that explains why American conservatism can’t even stop the sale of baby meat. Yet, it’s that very movement we’re supposed to care very much about being traduced? Seems like Rich Lowry needs to be working a little bit harder to make the case for the utility of the conservative movement to the sort of people that are attracted to Trump, no?

I was thinking about Bill Kauffman’s comparison of Trump to William Randolph Hearst, and it’s actually much more apropos than he even goes into here. Hearst really got into it with people who would later become conservative stalwarts, like James Burnham and Garet Garrett. One of Garrett’s embarrassing early-career missteps involved trying to bring Hearst up on charges for violating the Espionage Act for his anti-war stance in 1917 (Garrett would later have reservations about intervention in the Second World War). This is the proto-conservative example of a phenomenon that continues today. Recent converts to the right demarcate the bounds of conservatism they find acceptable. Hofstadter wrote Paranoid Style as he was shifting to the right. Buckley denouncing the Birchers is another example.

Also read Scott McConnell, James Poulos, MBD, and Chris Morgan

Will Trump save us from political correctness?

Reprinted from the Press and Journal

Is Donald Trump slaying the beast of political correctness?

That’s what the Washington Post contends. In a piece titled “Why Trump may be winning the war on ‘political correctness’”, reporters Karen Tumulty and Jenna Johnson get to the heart of why the real estate mogul has won the allegiance of frustrated, disaffected Americans.

The reason is understandable: Normal people living paycheck to paycheck have no time for feeling-friendly language. They’re tired of being told to mend their ways by haughty academics and journalists. So they turn to the most brash man on the national stage.

Cathy Cuthberson, a 63-year-old retiree interviewed by Tumulty and Johnson, says that Trump is acting as a voice to “what a lot of Americans are thinking but are afraid to say because they don’t think that it’s politically correct.”

It’s true that no man or woman in the current presidential field speaks their mind quite like Trump. From accusing illegal immigrants of being criminally-inclined (stats from the Government Accountability Office and Department of Justice bear this out) to calling for a blanket ban on Muslim migration to the United States, the billionaire reality TV star has dared to go where few, if any, politicians have gone before.