RatS 11: Taibbi and The Miserableness of Documenting Censorship

We link a lot to Matt Taibbi. He is smart, he cares (mostly) about  the right things, and he is beholden to no one. Which means that, with the polarising idiocy of our times, Taibbi is hated by pretty much everyone. It’s always a good bet to judge a man by his enemies.

Taibbi has an on-going series, Meet the Censored, to which we link whenever he has a new post. Now, Taibbi has written about that series, and the difficulty bringing people on with what the series is really about. If for example, you were cheering when Trump was kicked off Twitter, you might want to think again. Having thought again, you’re probably still fine to cheer Trump being kicked off Twitter, and maybe that’s ok, but it is not a gimme.

Here is Taibbi’s post on the issue:

On the Miserable Necessity of Doing Censorship Stories in Pairs

 

 

RatS 10: Adam Curtis’s CGYOoMH

Well, to be more accurate, this is a WatS, since it’s a BBC series.

Adam Curtis is a unique, brilliant filmmaker, exploring the psychology and politics of modern society like no one else. Two previous series, The Power of Nightmares and The Century of the Self, are musts. Curtis now has a new series, Can’t Get You Out of My Head: an Emotional History of the Modern WorldIt is viewable on BBC iPlayer (with VPN trickery) and, at least for now, here. It is great.

RatS 9: The Campus as Factory

Jacob Howland is an emeritus professor of philosophy at the University of Tulsa. For the last couple of years Howland has been watching the demise of his university, and the perversion of other American universities from the same anti-academic forces. (Of course, Australian universities are entirely immune from such anti-academic perversions.) This has come together in Howland’s article,

The Campus as Factory: corporatist progressivism and the crisis of American education.

RatS 8: Donald McNeil Has His Say

Last month, science writer Donald McNeil got shoved out of the New York Times. McNeil has waited until he was formally out of the Times to have his say. Now, he has done so. The whole thing is insane.

Part One: Introduction

Part Two: What Happened January 28?

Part Three: What Happened in the 2019 Investigation?

Part Four: What Happened in Peru?

RatS 7: Taibbi on Dr. Seuss and eBay

It was big news that the estate of Theodor Geisel – aka Dr. Seuss – had decided to cease publication of six Seuss titles, because of their portrayal of people “in ways that are hurtful and wrong”. Seuss is huge, of course, but in the scheme of it the news shouldn’t have been that huge. Geisel-Seuss wrote plenty of mediocre stuff, and some grotesquely racist stuff. It’s complicated. Books – good and bad – go out of print for all sorts of reasons – good and bad. We were a bit surprised by the discontinuance of Circus and Mulberry Street, but they aren’t great, and it’s not like they’ll be hard to find.

But then, eBay decides it will no longer list the Bad Seusses. And, as Matt Taibbi points out, that is batshit insane. Read it and Scream.

 

RatS 6: Bipolar Opposites

We’ve never paid particular attention to Scott Alexander (pseudonym) and his blog, Slate Star Codex (now Astral Codex Ten). Long ago, we ran into a few SSC posts and our very vague memory is that we liked them. Then, while reading more on the New York Times‘s crucifying of Donald McNeil, we came across the Times‘s smelly article on SSC, including the gratuitous and sleazy outing of Alexander.* We explored a little, including reading this thoughtful critique of SSC. Still, we didn’t, and don’t, look to have an opinion on SSC, or on the “rationalism” in which it is supposedly immersed. (We did however, come to the opinion, that the New York Times has lost its collective fucking mind.)

A couple days ago, however, and completely by chance, we ran into an old, 2014 post on SSC. Alexander is a psychiatrist, and this post was on his long and futile attempt to conduct a study of a screening test for bipolar disorder, a test that Alexander suspected was of limited worth and knew was being widely misused. From the introduction to Alexander’s saga:

You ask patients a bunch of things like “Do you ever feel really happy, then really sad?”. If they say ‘yes’ to enough of these questions, you start to worry.

Some psychiatrists love this test. I hate it. Patients will say “Yes, that absolutely describes me!” and someone will diagnose them with bipolar disorder. Then if you ask what they meant, they’d say something like “Once my local football team made it to the Super Bowl and I was really happy, but then they lost and I was really sad.” I don’t even want to tell you how many people get diagnosed bipolar because of stuff like this.

Alexander’s post struck a particularly strong chord. Our father was a clinical psychologist, and he saw the worst. The whole Cuckoo’s Nest thing. More importantly, he didn’t think the not-worst was generally all that much better. In general, he regarded his psychologist and, especially, psychiatrist colleagues as arrogant, narrow-minded, drug-pushing quacks. Alexander’s story is from a different angle, but it fits right in.

Alexander’s post is alternately hilarious and horrifying. Read it. And then scream.

 

*) The kind of thing that a toady like James Massola would do.

RatS 3: The GameStopping of Wall Street

Matt Taibbi has written a great article on the GameStop game: Suck it, Wall Street.

(Subheading: In a blowout comedy for the ages, finance pirates take it up the clacker.)

It’s all really worth reading, but here’s Taibbi’s summary:

[E]verybody “understands” what happened with GameStop. Unlike some other Wall Street stories, this one isn’t complicated. The entire tale, in a nutshell, goes like this. One group of gamblers announced, “Fuck you!” Another group announced back: “No, fuck YOU!”

That’s it. Or, as one market analyst put it to me this morning, “A bunch of guys made a bet, got killed, then doubled and tripled down and got killed even more.”

UPDATE (07/02/21)

Taibbi interviews one of the GameStop gamers.

And, Taibbi responds to a critic.

RatS 2: Matt Taibbi Meets the Censored

We had intended to make RatS a regular thing but, like many plans of mice and Marty, it fell by the wayside. Maybe we’ll try again.

Matt Taibbi is the nerdish heir to Hunter S. Thompson. He is simultaneously unleashed and meticulous. He also has a habit of pissing off Democrats, and plenty on the left, by suggesting that there is much more wrong with America than Trump and Republicans. Taibbi had the temerity to argue, early and strongly, that Trump’s win over Hillary wasn’t because of Russian hackers, but because of the general ineptness and meaninglessness of the Democratic Party, and the specific awfulness of Clinton. Taibbi is also a careful and incisive critic of the news media; Hate Inc. is a must.

Recently, Taibbi has been pissing off his one-would-think allies, and pretty much everyone, by arguing that seeking to throw assholes off Twitter and Facebook and the like is dooming us to doom. Somehow he’s just not comfortable with Zuck and Jack and their fellow titans acting as our guardian angel censors. Taibbi is now reporting on the early stages of this corporatised censorship, interviewing some of people who have been whacked around. His interviews, and pretty much everything by Taibbi, are well worth reading.

Meet the Censored: The U.S. Right to Know (added 15/04/2021)

Meet the (Unsuccessfully) Censored: Jesse Singal And Katie Herzog (added 22/03/2021)

Meet the Censored: Myanmar writer, Zaw Moe Shinn (added 06/03/2021)

Meet the Censored: Live Streamers (added 03/02/2021)

Meet the Censored: Mark Crispin Miller (added 06/01/2021)

Meet the Censored: Olivia Katbi-Smith (added 02/01/2021)

Meet the Censored: Abigail Shrier (paywalled, and you should pay)

Meet the Censored: Ford Fischer

Meet the Censored: Andre Damon