Facebook can’t manage the harm it causes

❝ Never before has one company’s failure had such a devastating impact on the world. Facebook’s presence is truly global, as are the consequences of its failure to anticipate how its platform could be misused and abused. And yet never before has a single company been asked to fix a global problem.

❝ Racists, autocrats, and purveyors of hate and disorder have found Facebook the perfect medium for spewing poison, normalizing it, and gaining adherents. Facebook is a broadcast platform for anyone, including those who would break the rules, fake the news, lie, and mislead the community. Societies around the world are reeling from the consequences. Politics and democracy are under duress. And thus far, Facebook does not have an effective way to fight back. It is only beginning to try…

❝ Facebook received repeated warnings for at least six years from informed observers around the world that things were going wrong. But it appears to have almost entirely disregarded them. Gaining more users in any and all geographies was the company’s overarching priority, and it succeeded. The service was growing at an incredible pace into just about every country on earth. It is now a dominant medium of communications, typically the most dominant, in about 190 countries.

It expanded at full tilt into innumerable geographies where it lacked local expertise. But how could it possibly ensure its rules were being followed when nobody at the company spoke the local language or understood the nuances of the local culture? It couldn’t.

RTFA! David Kirkpatrick continues to provide socially useful analysis and evaluation in the online world we all know and love – and criticize. I certainly take the time to pay him close attention when I catch his appearance online or on the tube (sic).

Neuroscience reveals brain differences between Republicans and Democrats

With the U.S. presidential election just days away, new research from the University of South Carolina provides fresh evidence that choosing a candidate may depend more on our biological make-up than a careful analysis of issues.

That’s because the brains of self-identified Democrats and Republicans are hard-wired differently and may be naturally inclined to hold varying, if not opposing, perceptions and values. The USC study, which analyzed MRI scans of 24 USC students, builds on existing research in the emerging field of political neuroscience…

The study focused on the mirror neuron system, a network of brain areas linked to a host of social and emotional abilities. After declaring their political affiliation, The subjects were given questionnaires designed to gauge their attitudes on a range of select political issues. Next, they were given “resting state” MRIs which made it possible to analyze the strength of connections within the mirror neuron system in both the left and right hemispheres of their brains…

The results found more neural activity in areas believed to be linked with broad social connectedness in Democrats (friends, the world at-large) and more activity in areas linked with tight social connectedness in the Republicans (family, country). In some ways the study confirms a stereotype about members of the two parties — Democrats tend to be more global and Republicans more America-centric — but it actually runs counter to other recent research indicating Democrats enjoyed a virtual lock on caring for others…

The research also suggests that maintaining an open mind about political issues may be easier said than done. In fact, bridging partisan divides and acting contrary to ideological preferences likely requires going against deeply ingrained biological tendencies. And while there is evidence that mirror neuron connections can change over time, it’s not something that happens overnight…

Here we go, again.

I’ve maintained for a long time – as have many sociologists – that you can keep on learning well beyond the typical 26-year-old threshold. Which means to me you can reevaluate, make decisions afresh from acquired knowledge.

I understand where the good doctor is going with the hard-wired portion of the dialectic. I just think the redirective capabilities of the human mind make it possible for someone to move beyond social reflexes.

But, then, I look at George W. Bush getting re-elected in 2004 and wonder, “what the hell do I know?”

Sheriff ties violence to populists, opportunist media


Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

The tenor of American political rhetoric became a centerpiece in the national debate over Saturday’s attack by a gunman in Tucson, Arizona, that killed six people and left local Democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords with a bullet wound to the brain…

While not stating a motive for the shootings, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik in Tucson used a nationally televised press conference to condemn the tone of political discourse in his state. He charged that public debate is now “vitriolic rhetoric,” which has rendered Arizona “the mecca for prejudice and bigotry…”

“We need to do some soul searching,” Dupnik told reporters. “It’s the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business.

“When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government, the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this county is getting to be outrageous. Unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become sort of the capital,” Dupnik continued.

We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry,” Dupnik said…

“People who are unbalanced may be especially susceptible to vitriol,” Dupnik said. “It’s not unusual for all public officials to get threatened constantly, myself included. That’s the sad thing that’s going on in America. Pretty soon we’re not going to be able to find reasonable people to subject themselves to serving the public…”

“People tend to pooh-pooh this business about the vitriol that inflames American public opinion by the people who make a living off of that. That may be free speech but it’s not without consequences,” Dupnik said.

The smarmy, opportunist politicians who climb aboard the rhetoric of violence from retrograde misfits like the KoolAid Party deserve all the credit they can get – for leading the nation to this violent state. Like conservatives who rode Joe McCarthy’s coattails – even though they personally espoused freedom of thought [they said], like Republicans who worked at assuming the cloak of racism with Nixon’s Southern Strategy – even though they voted for the Civil Rights Act, the political goon squad that owns the 2-party revolving backwardness account should stand up and take credit for the nutballs.

They lay the groundwork, they manage the job site. Just because some looney comes along and takes them at their word doesn’t erase responsibility.

This would be a good day to stand in front of Dick Armey’s house – or either Koch brothers mansion – with a poster of Gabrielle Giffords. No words needed. No explanation. These thugs know what they have wrought.

Shifting blame is a social disease

Nathanael J. Fast, an assistant professor of management and organization at the USC Marshall School of Business and Larissa Tiedens, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford, conducted four different experiments and found that publicly blaming others dramatically increases the likelihood that the practice will become viral. The reason: blame spreads quickly because it triggers the perception that one’s self-image is under assault and must be protected.

The study called “Blame Contagion: The Automatic Transmission of Self-Serving Attributions” is believed to be the first to examine whether shifting blame to others is socially contagious. The results will be published in the November issue of Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

“When we see others protecting their egos, we become defensive too,” says Fast, the study’s lead author. “We then try to protect our own self-image by blaming others for our mistakes, which may feel good in the moment.” He adds that in the long run, such behavior could hurt one’s reputation and be destructive to an organization and further to our society as a whole.

Tiedens said the study didn’t specifically look at the impact of hard economic times, but it undoubtedly makes the problem worse.

“Blaming becomes common when people are worried about their safety in an organization,” she said. “There is likely to be more blaming going on when people feel their jobs are threatened.”

Fast says that when public blaming becomes common practice — especially by leaders — its effects on an organization can be insidious and withering: Individuals who are fearful of being blamed for something become less willing to take risks, are less innovative or creative, and are less likely to learn from their mistakes.

Blame creates a culture of fear,” Fast said, “and this leads to a host of negative consequences for individuals and for groups.”

Har! I’ve worked for a few companies that sound just like this study.

I imagine it’s a global phenomenon. More representative of our species than individual cultures.

Oh crap! Quick, send back the money!

Would you take money from this man?

Scott Rothstein relished his flashy persona — the spiky hair, the Ferrari, the multi-million-dollar mansion. He was Bronx raised, Fort Lauderdale rich, and the politicians, charities and businesses that accepted his money rarely asked where it came from.

Until now.

On Tuesday, a Florida judge placed Mr. Rothstein’s law firm in receivership after his partner sued and federal authorities began investigating whether he defrauded investors of up to $400 million with a Ponzi scheme based on selling legal settlements.

Even without criminal charges, the accusations are already leading to panic from Tallahassee to Miami, and what appears to be the largest giveback of donations in the state’s political history.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Republican Party of Florida, which received more than $500,000 from Mr. Rothstein, his wife and his law firm since 2002, said it would place contributions from the most recent election cycle ($148,244) into a victim compensation fund.

Minutes later, the Democratic Party of Florida said it had just refunded a $200,000 donation received two months ago from Mr. Rothstein’s firm, followed by Gov. Charlie Crist’s Senate campaign, which said it would refund $9,600 in donations from Mr. Rothstein and his wife…

In all, election records show that in the last seven years, Mr. Rothstein has contributed to more than 20 Florida lawmakers from both parties; the Republican Party in six states; and a wide range of national leaders, including Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, and Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader and a Democrat, who received $4,800 in June.

Har!

$100 billion failure in Iraq


George W. Bush visits our money in the Middle East
Daylife/Reuters Pictures

An unpublished 513-page federal history of the American-led reconstruction of Iraq depicts an effort crippled before the invasion by Pentagon planners who were hostile to the idea of rebuilding a foreign country, and then molded into a $100 billion failure by bureaucratic turf wars, spiraling violence and ignorance of the basic elements of Iraqi society and infrastructure.

The history, the first official account of its kind, is circulating in draft form here and in Washington among a tight circle of technical reviewers, policy experts and senior officials. It also concludes that when the reconstruction began to lag — particularly in the critical area of rebuilding the Iraqi police and army — the Pentagon simply put out inflated measures of progress to cover up the failures.

Among the overarching conclusions of the history is that five years after embarking on its largest foreign reconstruction project since the Marshall Plan in Europe after World War II, the United States government has in place neither the policies and technical capacity nor the organizational structure that would be needed to undertake such a program on anything approaching this scale.

The bitterest message of all for the reconstruction program may be the way the history ends. The hard figures on basic services and industrial production compiled for the report reveal that for all the money spent and promises made, the rebuilding effort never did much more than restore what was destroyed during the invasion and the convulsive looting that followed.

At the end of his narrative, Mr. Bowen chooses a line from “Great Expectations” by Dickens as the epitaph of the American-led attempt to rebuild Iraq: “We spent as much money as we could, and got as little for it as people could make up their minds to give us.”

$117 spent on rebuilding what we destroyed. Sort of rebuilt – since basic amenities, water, electricity, aren’t back up to pre-invasion standards. You can add another set of zeros at the right for the whole cost of Bush’s War.

Arab television audiences grow – so does criticism from Islamists, conservatives


Bab al-Hara

Many Arabs were shocked and appalled this month when a prominent Saudi cleric declared that it was permissible to kill the owners of satellite TV stations that broadcast “immoral” material. But the comment, by Sheik Saleh al-Luhaidan, was only the most visible part of a continuing cultural controversy over Arab television.

This summer another Saudi cleric denounced the Arab world’s most popular TV show ever – the dubbed Turkish series “Noor” – calling it “replete with evil, wickedness, moral collapse and a war on the virtues.” He also urged Muslims not to watch the series, which portrays the lives of moderate Muslims who drink wine with dinner and have premarital sexual relations.

And last week, as if to provide comic relief, a third Saudi cleric said (in all seriousness) that children should not be allowed to watch Mickey Mouse, labeling that Disney cartoon character a “soldier of Satan” who should be killed.
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