Surfing The Web In China, Photos From A Year In Space, And Our Own Authoritarians

Surf China’s Censored Web At An Internet Café In New York:’

What’s it like?

‘It may have been a while since you’ve set foot in an internet cafe, but a pop-up one on the Lower East Side offering free tea on top of free wifi is well worth a visit for a lesson in online freedoms. Established by video and installation artist Joyce Yu-Jean Lee in collaboration with technologist Dan Phiffer, the exhibition FIREWALL Internet Cafe NYC enables visitors to navigate the internet as users in China do, filtered through the Great Firewall

I don’t know if that qualifies as ‘art installation’, exactly.  But, still…

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The Hermit Kingdom seems to have great internet access (even the Chinese don’t often know what the hell’s going on in Pyongyang).

You never go full Stalin:

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Photos from Scott Kelly’s Year In Space at the link.

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Conor Freidersdorf: ‘The Glaring Evidence That Free Speech Is Threatened On Campus:’

‘To sum up: free speech on campus is threatened from a dozen directions. It is threatened by police spies, overzealous administrators, and students who are intolerant of dissent. It is threatened by activists agitating for speech codes and sanctions for professors or classmates who disagree with them. It is threatened by people who push to disinvite speakers because of their viewpoints and those who shut down events to prevent people from speaking.’

Of course, the case can be continually made of the connection between radical and protest politics, and a good bit of the illiberalism beneath the modern spires of high liberal idealism.

People can judge for themselves the truth value of the moral claims being made by those in the public square, and act accordingly.  I’d like to think I’m free to observe critically the outcomes and consequences of such ideas in action; what people do, not just what they say, especially when they get the power and influence they seek.

Does it make our institutions function any better?

Still much better than I’ve ever uttered:

“First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.’

‘Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied. ‘

‘Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds. ‘

And not only this, but, fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience.”

Thanks, Malcolm!

-John Stuart Mill ‘On Liberty: Chapter II-Of The Liberty Of Thought And Discussion’

From another reader:  Tim Black at Spiked Online reflected a little:

‘But as the past couple of decades have demonstrated, there has been a twist to this tale of liberal progress. Censorship, far from disappearing, has changed form. What was once the prerogative of the state has become the prerogative of the individual. What was once grounded on morality, on what the state decreed to be right or wrong, moral or corrupting, is now grounded on emotions, on what the self decrees is hurtful or hateful. Speech no longer corrupts, or causes the will to deviate from the path of virtue; speech now upsets feelings, and causes people emotional harm. It is not the old-fashioned rational self that’s deemed at risk here; it’s the new-fangled emotivist self.’

It seems to me that the choice of ’empathy’ and walking a mile in another man’s shoes is relatively neutral, a choice that ought always to be ours to make.  Eventually, though, I expect ’empathy’ to be continually co-opted and deployed by movements demanding all manner of things for themselves, while not honoring the wishes of others to be free.

For all the genuine injustice out there, publicly rewarding victimhood and airing grievances can soon become an exercise in punitive redress.  Once folks start exploring themselves with certain ideological tools and ideas, it can be easy to start grafting genuine injustices along with their own failures and slights in life onto someone/something else without much thought at all.

And there, many can stay, in perpetual grievance, seeking constant social change, but often without much thought at all to what exactly that change would look like; the potential costs to all of our freedoms.

Personally, I’m hoping that all the self-help temples out there, the confessional couches a la the commercial populism of Oprah don’t decide to indulge too much in this direction…

As this blog sees it: A vague, shared emotion is no stamped passport to civilized society.

Much more is required of us all.

Christopher Hitchens had some interesting ideas (yes, generally a man of the Left no matter how contrarian):

 

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The late Ken Minogue had some thoughts which might shed a little light on our own natures, lest you get too pumped-up.

‘What most people seem to want, however, is to know exactly where they stand and to be secure in their understanding of their situation.’

From yet another reader (a record at this blog!): Robert Tracinski at The Federalist also offers reflection upon last year events, so reserve your right to be free from culture warriors of all stripes:

‘This is why I’ve written far more about the culture war this year than I ever expected (and the excerpts above are just a sampling). It has become an urgent necessity to push back against the resurgence of totalizing political correctness, to carve out room for the freedom to disagree—and to lay down the outlines of what a third alternative in the culture war looks like.’

If no one does it, the PC and anti-PC madness will likely continue.

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