Tag Archive | Facebook

Conversation Control

To a certain extent, we’re all reactionaries, because we react to news as it happens to provide–ideally–insights and perspectives that other people may not have considered. I think that definition, though, is a bit too limited, because many of us are using reactionism as a way of being proactive, contradictory though that seems, because there are underlying ideas that are being spread by the reactive writings. At the same time, many of these “reactionaries” I’m talking about are doing work on the ground that is certainly proactive, aimed at creating the circumstances instead of reacting to changing circumstances. I’m pretty sure this paragraph could be deleted without changing what I’m about to say much, but I’m going to leave it in anyway, because it’s still true: we’re all reactionaries.

That said, there’s one area where are reactionism is hindering us, especially libertarians and anarchists.

If we are to be free, we must stop allowing the government and other institutional authorities to set the agenda, to set the tone of the conversation, and to set the topic of the conversation. Last week–if you can believe it was only a week ago–it was Trump’s tweet about banning transgender and transsexual people* from military service. This week, it’s North Korea and the prospect of nuclear war. It should be interesting to note that both issues received similar levels of reactions: many Facebook posts, articles, and tweets, very little real activism. In fact, it’s just a lot of reactionism. We’re letting the government and other institutions decide what we’re talking about. Instead of advocating libertarian principles, we set aside what we want to discuss so that we can jump on the bandwagon and join the conversation that the government wants us to have. Scratch all the tweets, articles, and Facebook posts about Trump’s proposed ban on transgender/transsexual soldiers, and pencil in statements about North Korea. It seems pretty likely that you’ll find the same people have produced both sets of reactive tweets, with very few exceptions, and that, perhaps, the transgender ban received more attention than the North Korea one. However, the North Korea thing is still young.

How can we ever talk about freedom and the value of liberty if we’re jumping at the state’s beck and call to discuss whatever random issue they have landed on when they spun the Wheel of Reactionary Division? If the government can control what we’re talking about so effectively, there is no reason that it should ever stop doing so, because doing so gives us the breadth that we need to discuss liberty, sound money, non-aggression, rights, peace, and love–and the government doesn’t want that, because liberty, sound money, non-aggression, rights, peace, and love are ideas that can destroy governments.

Imagine that you own a multi-billion dollar company, and you treat your employees like crap, because they can’t work anywhere else–you have a monopoly in the area. Some of these employees are trying very, very hard, however, to form a union that would give them the leverage needed to fight for better standards, if not eliminate the people at the top altogether. How would you handle this? Ignoring morality (since not many of us would be so callous in the first place), would you just sit there and watch them unionize and take some of the power away from you?

Of course not. And one of the most effective weapons at your disposal is Conversation Control. Create scapegoats. Blame a small segment of the workers for the plight that everyone faces. “I know it’s bad,” you might say, “and it’s those migrant workers who are responsible. Being from poor countries, they don’t care if they can’t each afford to pay a car and house note with their wages. So they’re working for less, which drives down everyone’s wages. They’re the ones responsible.” Suddenly the workers are no longer talking about unionizing, because they’ve been divided into two camps: those who defend the migrant workers, and those who fell for the scapegoating. The conversation is no longer about unionizing. It’s about a manufactured enemy.

When that enemy expires, randomly pick another one–bonus points if the new enemy has never been encountered by any worker, and demonstrably poses the workers no threat at all, such as Isis or North Korea. They’ll stop talking about the harm being done to them because you’ve presented them with some imagined harm that is multitudes worse than what they’re already facing. To prevent that from coming to fruition, they’ll stop their talk of unionizing in order to prevent those evil, distant devils from making their situation worse. Once that problem is dealt with, of course–presuming it’s not an indefinite and eternal problem, like “terrorism”–their situation will certainly have gotten worse, and, as an added bonus, they’ll accept the worsened conditions as normal, as “the price we pay for protection from those external enemies.”

We are being manipulated en masse, and it is apparently pretty easily done. The masses are marionettes being made to dance and neglecting the dance that we want and need to perform. This has to stop. We have to begin ignoring the government’s attempts to change the conversation. We have to talk about the things that we want to talk about, not simply react to whatever they want us to discuss. Otherwise, they will always set the agenda, and Liberty will never be on that agenda.

* As a transsexual person, I don’t particularly care for how “transsexual” is being pushed out of the conversation by the same people who enjoy pointing out that gender and sex aren’t the same thing; therefore, “transgender” and “transsexual” aren’t the same thing. For months now, I’ve watched my allies push me and my type out of the conversation because they mistakenly have decided, as I once did, that “transgender” is a more palatable version of “transsexual.”  But that’s incorrect.

By the way, I would ask that you consider sharing and contributing to former libertarian vice presidential candidate Will Coley’s attempt to open an interfaith religious center in western New Hampshire, which you can find by clicking that link. New Hampshire, of course, is the home of the Free State Project, and contains, currently, the highest number of Libertarian state legislators.

Google, Facebook, and Twitter: Sued For Aiding the Enemy

According to various news sources, Internet giants Google, Facebook, and Twitter are being sued for providing material aid to the enemy (ISIS/ISIL/DAESH) by the father of one of the students killed in the Paris attack. And you know what?

That’s such a goddamn good point. I honestly can’t believe that I didn’t think about it before, but not only should they be sued–they should be brought up on charges of treason. Never mind hiring I.T. experts, as Trump suggests, to seal DAESH off the internet–it’s Google’s responsibility to close themselves off to DAESH.

Let’s look at this from the perspective of any other company.

DAESH calls me to request my help removing a virus from their computers. Yeah, exactly. It’s obviously, clearly, and blatantly providing aid to the enemy for me to help them. No one would dispute or challenge that. Not only should these companies be sued; they should be brought up on charges of treason. The only escape is that they might not have realized the tweets, searches, and posts came from DAESH, but it’s silly to think that these companies who make their money by monitoring users and studying their behavior couldn’t put two and two together. They obviously could have. They simply didn’t.

Considering that it’s been common knowledge for a while that all these places are being used (alongside Instagram and many others) by radical Muslims to convert and raise funds. While I’m sure these companies have attempted to curtail it, they certainly haven’t done enough to make their services unavailable to those who would utilize them to murder, and it’s indisputably their responsibility to do that, just as it would be my responsibility to tell them “No” if they called me about a virus.

In an age where ransomware writers code their programs to specifically avoid targeting given countries, it’s absurd to think that these enormous conglomerates that dominate the internet can’t do the same, but locking out DAESH instead. If their systems are too open, insecure, and homogenized for them to do that (which certainly isn’t true), then their systems need to be overhauled immediately.

There’s really no excuse that will hold water.

Except one technicality.

Congress has never declared war.

It is fucking ridiculous that what will allow these companies to continue serving people who are clearly our enemies… is a goddamn technicality. This is why it’s a lawsuit that’s been brought against them, and not criminal charges. Isn’t that amazing? Think about it for a moment. Our government has not recognized DAESH as the enemy, and they didn’t recognize Al Queda, either. Hell, we didn’t even declare war on Iraq.

What a joke. What an absolute disgrace.

Now the refusal to declare war makes sense. It’s not treason to trade with them if there’s no declaration of war. I guess they learned from that mistake during World War 2, when the Bush family lost a fair bit of gold they’d acquired from trading with the Nazis. “Problem solved!” they realized around the Vietnam era. “Just don’t ever declare war! Then we can fight perpetually AND lengthen the war by helping them! It’s win-win! And it only costs a few thousand lives every once in a while.”

There’s no excuse for this world we have created, and fixing this mess starts with personal responsibility. Whether you’re the CEO of Google or just an individual, you are responsible for you and the consequences of your actions. The standard defense against this will be something along the lines of “What do you want them to do? Monitor who is using their Search?”

Um… They already are.

Google is extraordinarily powerful, and they have only become more powerful in the past few years. Think about it. When you need to look something up, you google it. Fuck. That’s a level of power that is terrifying. If they wanted to influence search results, they could wield untold levels of power over the world. And there is some evidence to suggest that Google is doing exactly that. http://www.digitaltrends.com/web/google-autocomplete/

It’s hard to really explain how many trillions of dollars have gone into subtly manipulating human beings through advertising and calculated titles. This is a mistake I frequently make. Think about it. Which video would you watch?

The Most Important Message You’ll EVER Hear

or…

Transgender Mississippian to LGBT Community: Change the World.

Almost everyone would click on the first one, and almost no one would click on the second. However, I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to play the game that way. I absolutely could justify naming my video “The Most Important Thing I’ve Ever Said,” because I do believe that is true of the video in question:

But “The Most Important Message You’ll Ever Hear” comes dangerously close to clickbait territory, even if I think it could be true. Seriously, that video is important, and if liberals and LGBT people would listen to it and apply it, we just might be able to put Christian “homophobia” behind us forever. The opportunity is right there. Right in front of our faces. They’re trying to rally beside us.

It broke my heart to see this response to my message:

too-little-too-lateReally, you piece of shit? You’re going to knowingly continue antagonizing Christians, and preventing them from standing beside LGBT people, and therefore continue making life extremely difficult for LGBT people in Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Georgie, and Tennessee, because you want to hold a grudge? Jesus, fuck you, man. I replied to that with:

No… No, it’s not. The lIves and peace of mind of lgbt people in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia, and Tennessee are impacted by this in ways I can’t even begin to explain. If people who aren’t similarly affected would just get out of the way, learn to forgive instead of holding grudges, we might just be able to coexist.

No, I’m not being naive to suggest that our problems could vanish overnight. I’ve seen it before; we’ve all seen it before. The exact same thing happened after 9/11, when all of America came together. Religion, gender, and race were all pushed aside. None of it mattered. You were simply an American first, and we stood together, side by side. We have that opportunity right now to stand together with sexual orientation and sexual identity being the things that no longer matter. This is overwhelming. And it happened overnight.

Did the post-9/11 unity last? No. And I know that there’s no guarantee that this one would last. However, this one could start. And, to be totally honest, I’ll gladly take 2 or 3 years of unity and acceptance by the people who literally surround me everywhere I go. Having people in Oklahoma, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and other states standing in the way of this unity because they want to hold a grudge… it’s despicable. Fuck you people so much for this, and I will probably never forgive you if you don’t get out of the way, stop being divisive, and let us come together. Sure, there are Christians everywhere. But this is the Bible Belt. We have an entirely different kind of Christian here.

Evolution isn’t even taught in our schools. Did you know that? I never learned a word of evolution from elementary to the end of my high school career. We don’t have Sex Ed here. We have Abstinence Education here. The sex ed pamphlets that kids get are blatant fear-mongering bullshit about STDs and death. I’ve written about them before, but it was more than half a decade ago. They were disgusting in their Christianity, though. This is the place where all that shit is concentrated. We have more churches per square mile than we do gas stations, convenient stores, and restaurants. This place is called the Bible Belt for a reason. There are at least a dozen churches within a mile of where I live, and that’s no exaggeration. I remember driving to work years ago when I lived with my sister, and I counted all the churches that I passed directly. I didn’t count the ones on adjacent streets–only the ones on streets I was on. On a 22 mile trip, there were 39 churches.

Some of us have to live here and try to coexist with these people, you inconsiderate dickbags.

Respect that.

Can you even comprehend a concentration like that?

File:Church or synagogue attendance by state GFDL.svg

That is a map of church attendance by state. You see that dark green place there, in the middle of the set of three dark green places? That’s Mississippi. We’re second only to Utah (which has a much lower population that is largely Mormon) as far as people who attend church every week, at 47%. HALF of all Mississippians attend church every single week.

religion.png

This one’s kinda complex, so here’s the key:

key

More than 50% of our population is one single denomination of Christianity: Baptist. When you mix in the Methodists, we’re approaching at least 70%. And by the time you’ve added in the Presbyterians, Pentecostals, Church of God/Church of Christ, etc., we’re getting pretty close to 95%. And in case you hadn’t connected the dots, what we’re talking about, of course… are Southern Baptists. The only real misconception people have about southern Baptists is that they do, in fact, support religious liberty for everyone, but they do also believe that Christianity should be the default, instead of secularism being the default. Basically, they think that Protestant Christianity should be the state religion, but that people should be allowed to follow other religions. Yeah, they’re a mess of problems.

It sucks hairy goat balls here, dude.

The very least people in the U.S. who are not surrounded by southern Baptists is stop antagonizing the people who do surround us and who, for the first time in American history, want to stand beside us.

How did I get onto this subject again?

 

Death To Ads: Save the Internet

Ads are a problem on the Internet. And while I trust that all of my supporters have seen my frequent calls for them to use Ghostery, Adblock, and NoScript to restore their browsing experience to something that they control, ads aren’t going anywhere. Just because we aren’t seeing them doesn’t mean they aren’t there, so let’s clear the air now, in light of a mobile carrier working on a platform that will block ads from being delivered to mobile devices, something that this guy decided to spout ignorance about:

http://www.slashgear.com/threes-ad-blocking-initiative-could-kill-the-internet-27441972/

Don’t click that unless you’re using AdBlock. This guy makes it a point to make it known that he has the right to sell you as a commodity if you click his article, otherwise you’re stealing from him. I’ll provide you with the important bits so that you don’t have to be bought and sold by advertisers. I keep saying that. Let’s explain it.

Why Advertising Is Bullshit

There are these invisible things all over the Internet called “trackers.” When I say that they’re “all over the Internet,” that is precisely what I mean. Just about every website that you visit uses at least one tracker, and the average seems to be somewhere around a dozen. However, I’ve seen some go past one hundred:

Each one of those things in the purple box is a tracker.

Each one of those things in the purple box is a tracker.

What do these trackers do? Well… they track you. They pay attention to what you click on, what seems to interest you, and they store that information. You can see what an advantage this is. One such tracker is Google AdSense. Just think of the benefit this offers to advertisers! Every website that uses Google AdSense collects data on you. Did you click a football article there? Did you click a clothes shopping article there? Did you click an article asking how to remove stains from a football jersey? AdSense has logged all of that, and it is using that information to determine what kind of ads to serve you. So when you see that ad for a brand new football jersey (Stainproof!) you’ll know why.

These trackers are everywhere, and there are literally thousands of them. Some are more innocuous. Google Analytics is one such tracker. It’s used by webmasters such as myself to find out who is visiting their website. It’s all anonymous data, and it doesn’t buy or sell you. It just tells me that x% of people visiting my podcast are between 20 and 35, y% are female, z% are white, w% are from the United States. Analytics generally aren’t bad, and I’ll be the first to tell you that I use Analytics. Beyond that, I don’t have any control over WordPress Analytics, because it can’t be disabled on a WordPress blog hosted at WordPress.com.

Advertising trackers are a different thing, though. Google AdSense and the thousands of others are constantly looking over your shoulder and spying on you, keeping track of what you’re interested in. Why did you think Google was giving away Chrome for free? Chrome is probably their most profitable industry, and Google Search is damned useful. They want you logged into your Google account. They know everything you search, every website you go to, every interest you have, and they’re the ones running AdWords and AdSense.

AdWords is a Google Search feature, and I’ve used it in the past. It basically is one of the “paid ads” you see if you search for something on Google. It does not involve trackers. If you search for “anarchist blog,” for example, Google Adwords would have shown you the ad for my blog at the top. This is a very different thing from spying on you, storing that information, and selling it to advertisers.

The key thing to note is that the trackers and advertisers are not the same people, more often than not. Kelloggs wants to advertise, Spalding wants to advertise, Game of Thrones wants to advertise. These three products and manufacturers don’t run trackers. So what do they do? They turn to the trackers and say “We need to run ads.” The trackers reply, “Well, we’re in use on this percentage of websites, so we are able to refine the interests of the people we track very nicely.”

It’s all about how successfully the trackers can get the right ads to the right people. It doesn’t do Kelloggs any good at all to have their ads served to people who only eat organic, after all, and the trackers are there to prevent that from happening. It sounds great, but look more closely. What, exactly, are the trackers offering? What are they using as leverage? What are they selling?

You.

They are using you as leverage. They are buying and selling you. They are spying on you. It is as though Kelloggs has hired Private Investigators all over the country to go out and spy on everyone, that way they know exactly to whom to deliver their flyers. Does that sound like something you would approve of? Would you approve of having a P.I. staring in through your window with binoculars, jotting down in his notebook, “Oh, she likes Frosted Flakes, does she…? But not Cheerios…? Very interesting…”

But they’re invisible, and that’s what makes them a problem. The websites using these trackers–they’re not telling you about it, because they don’t have to. It’s completely invisible. They are server-side PHP scripts; they don’t use your bandwidth, and they don’t hog your system resources. They can be blocked, however, and no addon is better for that than Ghostery 5.4.x. Don’t get 6.0+; it sucks.

Stop these trackers from spying on you without your knowledge or consent. Did we ever consent to these trackers? No. We had no idea they were there. The average person still doesn’t. The average person has literally no idea that almost every webpage they visit is loaded with these things that are keeping track of their behavior and interests, storing that info in a server somewhere, and selling it.

And then use AdBlock Plus on top of it, so that you don’t have to see the ads, either. It’s a two-pronged attack. Ghostery stops the trackers. AdBlock Plus stops the ads themselves. I honestly don’t remember the last time that I saw an ad on the Internet. My browsing experience is phenomenal. No ads, no annoying popups. I also use NoScript, but it’s unrelated to this area of anonymity and privacy. There’s no need to get into every single addon and extension that I use.

Anyway, so the website decides to run ads to pay for its bandwidth and stuff, but why would an advertiser want to run ads there? Kelloggs doesn’t have time to visit every single website to check to see if it could serve its ads there and be fruitful. Ever wonder why you received a Chess.com ad on a tvtropes article? Now you know–the trackers determine what ad you see. Kellogs says “We want our ad to appear to interested people,” and the tracker uses its network of websites to make that happen.

So that’s why this entire system is bullshit. Let’s move on to the article, and look at some particularly wrong things.

Obviously, I write for a website that doesn’t charge people a fee to read each article.

I respectfully disagree. You charged them. You just did so invisibly. People absolutely paid to read your articles; they just didn’t pay you directly. They agreed (unknowingly) to allow you to sell them to advertisers. They absolutely paid.

They believe that it is the responsibility of the advertiser to shoulder the cost of transmitting the advertisement, and not the end-user that views it.

This is actually a fantastic point, and not something I’d ever considered before, because I use Sprint and have unlimited data, a plan that I will be grandfather’d with until the day I die, because there is no way they’re getting me to give it up. Honestly I typically use about 120 GB of mobile data each month. Anyway.

Considering that a great deal of ads are videos, they can use up quite a lot of bandwidth. Virtually all of them use some sort of scripting and images to catch people’s attention; if they didn’t, then “Allow non-intrusive advertising” would never have become a thing with Adblock Plus. Don’t pretend, dude. Ads are obnoxious. They’re somewhat less obnoxious today than they were a decade ago, but the reason for that is because the average bandwidth has increased, not because the ads are any less flashy.

Ads on Youtube default to 1080p and cannot be lowered. You have no choice but to watch the add in 1080p@60Hz. That takes up quite a lot of bandwidth. Of course, Adblock Plus blocks Youtube ads, as well, so it’s a non-issue for my readers (right? :D). While ads on other sites that take video form may not be so obnoxiously HD, they always Auto-Play, and they always download. Considering that mobile data is at a premium with most carriers, visiting 50 websites, all of which have a video ad, can easily consume 100+ megabytes of data.

Yet another way that the end-user is paying for the advertising and the website.

So Three states that the customer shouldn’t have to pay for the data used to download the ad, and this is one reason that they are blocking nearly all of them (the only exceptions are certain types of ads on social media). This makes absolutely no sense, when you understand how data is tracked and paid for by both ISPs and hosting providers, as explained above.

The author threw out his own explanation for how all this works, but trust me when I tell you that a) I have no vested interest in the matter and am impartial; b) I am correct; c) he is incorrect; and d) he somehow thinks that the data being downloaded to the end-user’s phone doesn’t constitute usage of the end-user’s mobile data, despite the fact that… you know… it obviously does. Everything that gets downloaded to a mobile phone uses up a portion of its mobile data, including the website itself, including all of the background stuff, and including the ads. The ad could not be served to the end-user if it did not download to their device. The very fact that the ad is served proves that it used the user’s data. And since users typically have mobile bandwidth caps and pay very high monthly charges for mobile data, these ads can be quite expensive for the end-user, especially those 1080@60 Youtube ads.

What really doesn’t make sense is that Three seems to think that ads and websites are two separate entities.

They are.

I suggest you look into how ads, trackers, and websites actually work.

If you choose to browse a website without the ads, you are quite literally taking money from the website’s owners. Site owners must pay for the bandwidth that you use to browse their sites, and if you’ve blocked their only source of income, they’re losing money every time you click on a page.

That’s the last of the things I’m going to quote, because it’s such utter bullshit that there’s no point in continuing. He’s blatantly wrong in several ways, and this is simply the most egregious. So let me explain to this dude how all of this came about.

In the early days of the Internet, websites were static webpages made by creative people who simply wanted to share their content. There were no ads. It was just a free exchange of ideas. Some portions of this early Internet remains: seanbaby.com is a terrific example. These were the days of Guestbooks, Geocities, and all that. It was literally just a place for people to go to share their stuff. No one was even thinking about getting paid for it. It was simply about sharing.

Youtube followed the same arc. When YouTube began, it was simply a place for creative people to go and share things that they made and wanted to share. No one was thinking about getting paid for it. It was solely about making and sharing content.

Then people realized that it could be monetized without end-users even noticing. This was done with advertising (and, later, trackers). Remember the early ads? It didn’t matter what your interests were. They were more like television ads–indiscriminate in who they appeared to. When I was 21 and watching Youtube, I was served ads for Bounty laundry detergent and shit. It was tremendously ineffective, and the monetization rate was very low–it simply wasn’t an effective way to advertise. Thus came in trackers.

However, some people who developed large followings because of their creativity and good videos suddenly had a lot of leverage–their subscribers–and quickly found that could be turned into revenue, especially with the new targeted advertising brought about by trackers. Again, this happened to the Internet as a whole, as well. Small channels and websites fell into obscurity as a few titans came forward. It didn’t matter that the large channels and websites didn’t intend to crush the small ones; it simply happened, because they couldn’t keep up. It’s the tendency of all things–growth was proportional. JonTron will never come close to PewDiePie, Angry Joe will never come close to the Angry Video Game Nerd. Just as Facebook, Yahoo, and Google dominated–

Speaking of Facebook and Google, you’ll notice they don’t run trackers. They don’t need to. First of all, most people willingly fill out their profile and tell Facebook’s hidden trackers everything about them that there is to know. Facebook’s trackers are built literally into the website itself, and the same is true for Google search.

Then something changed.

Suddenly the perspective had shifted.

It was no longer about making and sharing content and hopefully making enough money to thrive and prosper. It was about making money. Suddenly, we owed them this money. It was a classic bait and switch. “Here’s some free content,” they said. “Oh, but we’re going to do this so we can get paid,” they said a few years later. Then, a few years later, “You owe us this money! Or you’re stealing from us!”

Forgetting, it seems, that the entire reason all of this came about was that people simply wanted to make and share stuff. If SlashGear has a problem paying for their upkeep and bandwidth, then they should implement an optional Subscriber system, or turn to Patreon. Be upfront with your supporters, SlashGear. Don’t buy and sell them behind their back, saying, “But you’ve enjoyed all this free content! You didn’t realize it? When you read our article, you signed a contract in blood that you thereby owed us!

You don’t get to serve up free content and then accuse people of stealing it.

I want you to think about that, SlashGear. First, you said you give people free content. Then you accused people of stealing it. Now, I ask you, which is the case? Because they can’t both be true. It’s impossible to steal that which is free. You can’t have it both ways. You’re either providing free content, or you’re not; if it’s free, then it can’t be stolen.

But it was never free, not if it was supported by ads. The readers paid. They just weren’t aware of how much they were paying. In fact, you stole from them.

The death of ads will not be the death of the Internet. It wouldn’t be the death of Youtube, either, despite the content creators out there asking their subscribers to disable adblock and turn themselves into commodities. Quite the opposite: the Internet existed long before Internet users were bought and sold as commodities, and it will continue to exist long after they’ve taken back their right to privacy that you stole from them without so much as a warning.