Public Speech is Opt-In

In the years before the Internet, engaging in public debate and discussion required time and effort. One might print books or pamphlets, post flyers, speak into a bullhorn, or speak at some public forum. Each of these decisions, barring specific measures to preserve anonymity, carried certain risks of consequence–including, in many cases, prosecution, imprisonment, or execution. “We must all hang together,” Ben Franklin famously quipped at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, “or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

The advent of the Internet, and particularly social networks, has made public speech exponentially faster and more accessible. To enter public debate today requires only a web browser and a few taps at a keyboard or smartphone screen. Perhaps because of the speed and ease with which we can now communicate, many who choose to enter the public dialog fail to consider the potential consequences for their actions–but those consequences remain, and they can be severe.

When Justine Sacco, a PR exec with less than 200 followers, tweeted a racist HIV joke before a flight to Africa, she probably didn’t consider that she would rise to top the Trending Topics and ultimately lose her job. Online activist Suey Park seemed unprepared for the backlash against her #CancelColbert tweet, and the originator of the #YesAllWomen hashtag was so traumatized by the abuse she received that she now chooses anonymity.

I have argued before, in the wake of the “Twitter Block Scandal,” that choosing to use social media, and Twitter in particular, is a choice to be a public figure. In a post this week on Medium, Anil Dash presents a different view, arguing that modern concepts of “public” and “private” are antiquated and unsuited for the digital age, that social network users are exploited by the media and technology industries for profit, and that legislators and policy-makers are complicit in this exploitation. [Read more...]

…A Little Rain Must Fall

This is what it looks like in my apartment building when it rains.

20140715_083507It isn’t safe to use the stairs, you see, because the skylight above the stairwell is broken and massive quantities of rainwater make the stairs slippery. This has been the solution, mind you, for well over six months now. Once or twice when I have used the stairs in the rain, I’ve had to carry an umbrella. [Read more...]

Americans’ Political Views Make No Sense [and That's Not Funny]

Derek Thompson at the Atlantic yesterday posted “Millenials’ Political Views Don’t Make Any Sense,” a brief reflection on a number of research studies into the political orientation of Americans born between 1985 and 1996 (or so). It’s something to which I’m dying to write a long rebuttal, but unfortunately I have actual work to do. So for now all you’re getting is my thesis and a couple of points.

I’ve previously expressed my exasperation with any piece predicated on sorting Americans into “generations.” In general it strikes me as lazy, sloppy, and arbitrary. It’s also a favorite pastime of every ‘generation’ to complain about the lazy, narcissistic kids who’ve had everything handed to them, and it’s tiresome. That said, Thompson’s piece is at least based on actual research, and doesn’t once use the term “selfie culture,” so I’m only half-annoyed by the premise.

What I’m more annoyed by is how the piece ascribes political views to Millenials that seem shared by nearly all Americans.

Young people support big government, unless it costs any more money. They’re for smaller government, unless budget cuts scratch a program they’ve heard of. They’d like Washington to fix everything, just so long as it doesn’t run anything.

[Read more...]

Bellevue’s Secret Garden

On Friday Liz and I took a walk, winding our way from Bellevue Hospital to Williamsburg. We found a beautiful little secret garden behind the hospital with some amazing handmade treasures. It was particularly striking with the enormous car rack as a backdrop.

I snapped a lot of photos. Here are a few of my favorites. You can view the whole set in this Flickr album.

Video: Did “Save the Cat” REALLY Ruin Hollywood?

More than one person took issue with my previous video on Save the Cat and story structure. I wanted to revisit the subject in a little more detail and respond to some of the criticism, while making some other points about Hollywood, creativity, and art vs. commerce.