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Chris Kozlowski
He's got a force field and a flexible plan.
He's got a force field and a flexible plan.

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Interesting read about a fascinating phenomena.

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30 years on. Can't quite believe it's been so long. No other CD have I scratched and punished so much as this one, and it was one of a handfull I never left the house without.

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..."Increasingly, however, voters perceive their democratic choices along a different axis, not from left to right but from a fill-in-the-blank centrist party to a populist, radical one, as a choice between parties that wish to tweak the prevailing order and those that seek to overthrow it."

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There's an old Soviet joke: "Don't think. If you think, don't speak. If you speak, don't write. If you write, don't sign. If you sign, don't be surprised." While it may encode some good advice for keeping out of Siberia, the realities of living in an autocracy are somewhat more subtle. The most important rules aren't about not attracting the notice of the secret police – they're about how to keep track of your sense of reality, when you are subject to a continuous and concerted effort to redefine it.

I was reminded of this just a few days ago by my Peruvian mother-in-law, who described how Fujimori would engage in elaborate public shuffles of his cabinet, making "who's in and who's out" the center of all media attention, whenever he was up to something particularly nefarious behind the scenes. The media is hungry; if you feed it, it will eat.

Behind here is an essay by Masha Gessen, who grew up in Russia under Brezhnev, about what you need in order to survive. She gives six slightly different rules: "1. Believe the autocrat; 2. Do not be taken in by small signs of normality; 3. Institutions will not save you; 4. Be outraged; 5. Don’t make compromises; 6. Remember the future."

There's a great deal of subtlety behind each of these, especially the first three. The art of surviving in an autocracy, whether it be the USSR or a tinpot banana republic, is the art of recognizing when you are being told the simple, unvarnished truth, and when you are being treated to a spectacular song-and-dance designed to distract you from what's really going on.

What's particularly important here, and why you should read Gessen's essay, is that the instincts you have developed for understanding democracies will lead you exactly astray when trying to understand autocracies – the instincts to search for a rationalization when you hear something extreme, or to treat "small signs of normality" like stock market stability or a "normal" news story like a cabinet reshuffle as a sign that things really are normal, for example. In a democracy, this habits are frequently correct; to an autocrat, this tendency of people to assume that everything is normal is a basic part of operations.

There are many good books on the theory of propaganda, but Gessen's essay is perhaps one of the most concise and useful introductions. You will likely find it very useful when understanding anything you see or hear from a dictatorship anywhere in the world.

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I shouldn't like a NYPost article, but this is hilarious. Maybe it's just a terrible schadenfreude I feel, or arrogance, or just a sense of "what an effin' waste" I get when I read about startup culture, but I roll my eyes at a lot of these.

I know some startups have been widely beneficial and successful, and I'm happy to say I've used a good many of them. Some would say that its impossible to say what's a good idea and what's not, and no one can say without hindsight what was stupid and what wasn't. But I can't feel like when I read about what's coming, that I can consider something like AirBnB ("disrupt the hotel industry") and, I dunno, one that promises to disrupt home juicing (not kidding: )

It all just amuses the hell out of me for some reason.

About a week ago I started the process of deleting my Facebook account. Aside from yesterday in which I reactivated it so I could snatch my Spotify playlists off my FB-tied account, I’ve remained off of it.

I’d really wanted to avoid making it a “screw you, I’m going home.” Moment, so I posted a simple message saying I was leaving, posted my email address, and invited those who wanted to follow along on Google+.

The responses were fairly varied (I didn’t leave the post up long; I deactivated after 24 hours.), from a bunch of meme pictures saying I’d be back, to some posting a sort of agreement with my post that FB had become a “cesspool”, to one heartfelt plea that I stay.
In the end, I stayed with it, removed the apps, and so far I feel fine about it.

I’d noticed over the past year that I had been unhappy with the site, and in some ways, unhappy with myself. The urge to check the feed was enormous, even though my thought each time I went there was, “this is nonsense.” (My language may have been a bit more unforgiving.) No matter how much I tried to tune my feed, it seemed like the things I cared about; getting life updates from friends, were fewer and further in between. I missed events from people I cared about, but I got no shortage of political posts and click-bait articles. And to the latter point, I felt like I was really in an echo chamber. The same articles, the same sites, would spread across my friends who I identified with the most. I have a wide variety of people I talk to, and yet, I felt spammed by this silly, narrow line of “news”.

It didn’t matter to me whether it was things that were somewhat in line with my interests, but rather than I felt my point of view narrowing. And that hasn’t been a good thing. I understand that’s precisely what Facebook intends, and other social networking sites aren’t any different. But the combination of that along with such insight into my associations was deeply unsettling. It grew to the point that I was hating this daily urge to “check my feed”, like an addict needing their fix and not understanding why they were doing it.

When I first started floating the idea past some people, the reactions I got were mostly “you can’t leave! What about your connections/friends/events, etc?” It was like by saying I was going to, I was somehow disconnecting from society.

I’ve traditionally taken such things as a challenge, and I have to say, for me, it sealed the deal. The idea that I need to participate in one vendor’s site in order to participate in society seems to me like it would, in that case, need to die.

I’m happy to say I feel good about this change. I attribute a lot of fault to Facebook, but it’s equally as possible that it’s just as much about me and how I was using it. In either case, I feel like it was the right move. I feel a bit cleaner. I’m ready to go find new things, and not just the same tired memes seen by everyone else, or the same click-bait in my target demographic.

See ya around.

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They're like, the widdlest beers ever.
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