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Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side is aerinai responding to the notion that it should be no big deal for foreign students to go home and take their classes remotely:

If you are assuming that the person is from Canada, this will probably work… for a majority of the other countries out here they will need to deal with:

Latency – Trying to communicate over long distances; especially from far away countries (India, China, Australia, etc) is killer

Timezones — Hope you don’t mind them also having to get up at 2AM when they have a 2PM class

Bandwidth — Some places like island nations are bandwidth capped due to Satellite being their only options

Firewalls — Russia and China block access to lots of services — same with India. Good luck watching that You Tube when Russia arbitrarily bans it…

Content Restrictions — I can’t imagine taking an LGBTQ Studies class in Russia or China…

So, that is my short list off the top of my head why this plan isn’t tenable in a lot of cases…

In second place, it’s mvario with a comment about one of the surprising-to-many signatories of the infamous Harper’s letter:

I mostly have respected Chomsky, but that was tainted a bit with his support for Shiva Ayyadurai and his claim to have invented email. Now I question Chomsky’s support of anything.

Since that letter dominated the comments this week, for editor’s choice on the insightful side we’ve got a pair of additional responses to our post about it. First, it’s Stephen T. Stone with a good summary of the main issue:

None of the people who signed that letter have any real expectation of being “cancelled”, in the sense that they will be “silenced”. They have too much wealth and sociopolitical sway to face such a consequence. The people who signed that letter interpret criticism — of any kind — as censorship and attach it to the recent “cancel culture” catchphrase so they can take jabs at leftists.

But “cancel culture” isn’t about rich celebrities and powerful politicians. True “cancel culture” is about the marginalized voices who end up shut out of jobs, opportunities, and even online culture because of harassment. It’s not about J.K. Rowling; it’s about a trans person forced to quit Twitter because of harassment they received over the faintest criticism of Rowling and her transphobia. When the people who signed that letter worry more about the silencing of those voices and less about receiving criticism, I’ll care more about what they have to say vis-á-vis censorship and “cancel culture”.

Next, it’s Glenn Fleishman with a long comment adding plenty of good additional thoughts:

Harper’s fired its editor over speech among other issues

I agree almost entirely with what you wrote, Mike, and I’ve tweeted far too excessively about it.

But two points worth adding.

First, many of the people who have signed this letter (a letter to whom, by the way?) have engaged in actual chilling speech, punching down people less powerful, including trying to get freelancers fired from gigs, staff writers removed, and professors censured or fired or contracts not renewed. I am hoping someone creates a definitive list, because it’s rather long, and particularly among people who are centrist or right-of-center against liberal and progressive speakers, as well as in particular against anyone who speaks in favor of Palestinians or an independent Palestinian state.

Second, Harper’s fired James Marcus in 2018 for what he alleges (and, having known James years ago and heard stuff around the edges of this, I believe) is being fired when he objected to the assignment of a story effectively trying to cancel “cancel culture” to Katie Roiphe, which ultimately ran in the publication. It was assigned over his protests and then he was fired. There’s a lot more detail about the story, the author (long a contrarian/problematic one of the David Brooks/Bari Weiss school), and the fallout.

One other point on amplification. Mike notes:

Then comes the list of examples — none linked, none with details.

This is one of the key problems with the essay. Read quickly, it’s rather bland, not well written, and has an unclear audience. Who should take action? It’s a pretty anodyne poor expression of urging more free speech, but not really, as Mike analyzed. At least two signers have already said they regret signing or that they didn’t sign what was published (Boylan this morning).

However, if you analyze the short list provided, each corresponds to specific well-known incidents, or sometimes covers multiple ones. Buruma and Bennet, for instance, are both editors who were fired—because of their job performance, even though Buruma made it out to be a political hit job. (He ran a cover story that was a non-fact-checked essay by Jian Ghomeshi, who faced several credible accusations of sexual assault over decades, some of which were not upheld in court.) But the owners of the publication, the New York Review of Books, reportedly fired him because of how he managed assigning and running the story over staff objections, and he admitted to Isaac Chotiner later that he really didn’t know much about Ghomeshi at all, confirming the judgment. Bennet was fired because he didn’t do his job: he reportedly told the NYT publisher he hadn’t read (at least the final version) of the Tom Cotton Op-Ed, even as he publicly defended it as if he had.

The inclusion of transphobic writers who have faced public backlash, with the notable top of marquee billionaire JK Rowling, also muddies what precisely is the speech that they want no consequences for.

I’d argue if the letter included specific examples, a majority of signers wouldn’t have signed it. Malcolm Gladwell very glibly tweeted today that he signed because he disagreed with the opinions of many other signatories. Great reasoning, dude.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is Anomylous responding to the foreign student issue with some thoughts on necessary education:

A solution

Perhaps colleges and universities could offer a single free, attendance mandatory class on public health and safety, for all foreign and domestic students. It could cover topics like washing your hands, not touching your face, wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of disease when you are sick and need to go out, or when its flue season doing the same all the time, etc. Maybe they could even name it Furtherance of Universal Intensive Corona Evasion.

In second place, it’s That One Guy with a jab at the Harper’s letter:

They just wouldn’t stop barking…

It was the strangest thing, I was reading the article and every time I got to the quoted parts the dogs in the surrounding neighborhood started going nuts, like some loud noise that I couldn’t hear was just blasting in their ears.

For editor’s choice on the funny side, we start out with our final comment about the Harper’s letter (this week at least…) from Thad, who chimed in later with a new, relevant development:

Oh noes, more cancel culture: Tucker Carlson’s top writer resigns after secretly posting racist and sexist remarks in online forum

Actually, I’ll be honest, this one kind of baffles me. Getting fired from Tucker Carlson’s show for being racist seems kind of like getting fired from NASCAR for getting a speeding ticket.

Finally, to change the topic entirely, we’ve got Bobvious with an extremely, delightfully nerdy joke about Intel’s trademark-inspired move to ditch the numbered processors and call the 586 the Pentium:

You mean the Intel 585.9999047318529

That’s all for this week, folks!

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Author: Leigh Beadon

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