Archive

Archive for the ‘Civil Rights’ Category

Religion(s) Of Peace

January 11th, 2015 Comments off

As France deals with the suspects of the Charlie Hebdo attack I found myself reminded of a piece I wrote immediately after the bombing of The Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013 .

I considered just reposting that link and then I read Ted Landau’s two great pieces in response to that attack and some of the underlying issues.

Ted is somebody whose writing I’ve read and sporadically corresponded with since the early nineteen nineties and have enjoyed spending time with at Macworld Expo over the years. I’d like to call him a friend but that might be too presumptuous.

You should read them:

Paris shooting and “extremist groups”

Giving religion the respect it deserves

He wrote his posts with far less overt rage than the one I wrote immediately after the attack on The Boston Marathon and he did it with the skills of the professional writer that he is and I’m not.

That said, his measured and artfully expressed words got me thinking even more and actually got me angrier. Mostly angry at myself for my lack of courage.

Even in the original post, I censored myself. Not just with splat-characters in lieu of curse words but by being oblique and never using the word ‘religion’.

It’s wrong that I should be cowed into timidity about that word when I speak publicly. It’s wrong that I’m afraid my comments, angry, surely, but in no way directed or even meant as an attack on any single group would jeopardize my ability to earn a living or worse.

So, I’ll not mince words now.

If your lunatic fringe commits crime in the name of your faith, your first job is not to try to tell me “we’re not all like that.” That claim deserves no air time while the murder continues. Your first job is prove it not claim it and in the claiming make the rage about their behavior seem an injustice to your innocent belief system. Your belief system is only above reproach when you can unambiguously show your entire community has effectively condemned the actions of those who do violence in professed support of your ideals.

There is no way any of these extremist groups could get the traction (money, weapons, training etc.) they are without at least the tacit approval of the more moderate majority within their own communities.  This is true whether it’s Catholics not forcing the Vatican to bring abusive priests to justice, American Jews and Christian Fundamentalists supporting Israeli military aggression, Mormons not trying to ‘save the souls’ of others with baptism by proxy and in so doing, co-opting their memory, Muslims not organizing to present their Al-Qaeda or ISIL fringe to justice.

Every single major religion, yes, even Buddhists, have had a violent fringe claiming they’re acting on behalf of the religious cause. If you are a practitioner of a particular faith, your first job is to stop your lunatic fringe. Manage that first then we can talk about how ‘you’re religion is about peace’.

Clean your own house first.

With all that said, those quick to fly the ‘Je suis Charlie’ flag should perhaps look into the legacy of that publication as well. It’s not so simple as ‘they published satirical cartoons depicting Muhammad and suffered violence for it’. There has been a history of anti-Semitic (a term which the reader should note actually includes, among others, both Arabs and Jews), anti-Catholic and, damned near anti-every-other-damned-thing editorial cartoons from Charlie Hebdo for quite some time. None of this is to say the violence was remotely justified. None of this is to say Charlie Hebdo shouldn’t have every right to offend anyone they chose to with satire. The point goes right to the core of this update and the original post. Don’t be so quick to align yourself with a cause or a group without knowing what your flying their flag may say about you.

I’ll share a quote that does a pretty good job of summing up my feelings on the matter by way of apology for my prior lack of courage:

“Religion, a mediaeval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today. I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity. ‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.” – Salman Rushdie

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook

Categories: Bad behavior, Civil Rights, Personal Tags:

A first and premature reaction to the Boston Marathon Bombing

April 15th, 2013 No comments

Let me say first that, mere hours after the fact, we still have no idea who was responsible for the bombings of the Boston Marathon today. It would be not only stupid but destructive to make any assumptions about motive or responsible parties. That said, I’m utterly enraged and history suggests, that whether group or individual, this was an act intended to make some political point.

There is no political point that justifies a deliberate attack intended specifically to injure and terrorize civilians.

So, knowing nothing of the agenda of the perpetuator, I’m going to express the following politically incorrect opinion in public and be held accountable for it if you disagree.

Here’s the deal. If you number yourself a member of a group, political or religious or whatever shared banner you wave , you no longer are allowed to say to me “That’s just the crazy fringe.” until you have demonstrated loud and committed effort to fix the lunatic fringe who claim your banner first.

If you’re a ‘Flamboozian’ don’t you #$%^&ing dare tell me after somebody claiming to be a Flamboozian shoots up a school, flies a plane into a building, burns a cross on somebody’s lawn, sets off bombs blowing up a Federal building, disrupts a family’s funeral or sets explosives to maim and kill civilians during a public gathering that you’re the ‘real’ Flamboozian not them.

Don’t you dare talk about your fellow Flamboozian’s years of oppression. Don’t you dare try to say that “the book we follow doesn’t say to do that” . Don’t you dare look to me for sympathy for how your reputation is tarnished until you can point to a track record of calling out the fringe among your own first.

Until you can show courageous opposition, first and foremost, to your own fellow Flamboozian’s extremism you are hereby invited to shut the %^&* up about how you’re not like them.

Until you do that, take responsibility for dealing with your own lunatic fringe, you may consider yourself part of the problem.

The moment we begin to take responsibility for the behavior of people who nominally agree with us and hold them to a higher standard because they profess to represent us, then we’ve begun to take power back from the edge and begin to be able to negotiate compromise.

 

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook

Categories: Bad behavior, Civil Rights, Personal Tags:

Facebook just bought Instagram and now 0wns you

April 9th, 2012 No comments

**** UPDATES: See Bottom of Post *******

Facebook just bought Instagram for one billion dollars. What did they buy? An iOS/Android app that lets you apply ‘very quickly get tacky’ photo filters to your cell phone snaps?

Nah…ugly, hopelessly hipster photo-effects does not a billion dollar business make.

Did they buy a tool that lets users upload images to a free service and share those pics on Facebook and Twitter from their cell phones?

Nah… it’s not that hard to do.  Facebook and Twitter phone apps already support this functionality and that’s not worth one beeeeelyon dollars.

Well if they didn’t buy these two defining features of Instragram what did they pay a billion dollars for? Facebook paid a billion dollars to own more of you. Well, dear readers, I hope not literally you because I hope you, like me, were smart enough not to sign up for Instagram in the first place but a lot of other people did. A lot of people I sincerely respect as technologists did. Even a lot of real photographers I know did and, from day one, it baffled me.

Well, now the bill for the ‘free’ they enjoyed comes due.

Now, Facebook, who many ‘digerati‘  have managed to completely avoid (or, who, like me, regret joining and now try to manage more closely) owns all the information you uploaded to and shared on Instagram. No, they don’t own the copyright to your photos. They don’t even really own the metadata but they own you in the  l337 sense of the word ‘own’ or should I say p0wn you.

They’ve now dominated, defeated, fragged you and made you their… Well you get the idea.

Cameras, your phone cameras included, store  time, technical and often (usually on a phone) location metadata. Metadata is data about data. In this case, data about your pictures. Not just data that could be extrapolated with facial recognition or some other high tech fun, it’s simple and highly revealing data attached to the digital photo. It’s metadata uploaded right alongside the retro-sepia-lomo-shot of  your latest achievement in home canning. The metadata can often be extracted, aggregated and analyzed and, if it included GPS data (and again, on a cell phone camera, it usually does), you’re ‘checking in’ every time time you upload a picture.

All the metadata from GPS data you may have allowed to have stored and uploaded with your photos to whatever contexts you’ve shared them in, to the kinds of content you’re keen to photograph, to when you tend to take pictures to share. All of it. Owned.

The metadata Instagram have uploaded from your phone with your photos. The choices you’ve made about content. The pictures you took of every craft-brewed beer you’ve drunk. All of that is now in Facebook’s hands.

If you use Facebook, if you’ve shared your Instragram pics on Twitter, that’s all correlatable into one more-disturbing-than-you-can-likely-imagine profile of who you are, who you interact with, where you go, when you go there and, given the proclivities people have for the content of cell phone photos, what you eat, drink, smoke or otherwise ingest.

Now all that information is right there in the same mine-able cache of data along with everything you told Facebook about yourself, your friends and your family. And, worse yet, right in the mix along with everything your less than cautious friends might have decided they thought was ok to share about you.

“Big deal Jon you paranoid recluse, get a life!”

Oh yeah? Read this: This Creepy App Isn’t Just Stalking Women Without Their Knowledge, It’s A Wake-Up Call About Facebook Privacy and when you’re done and you say “But Jon, I don’t check in with Foursquare and besides, they took down that nasty stalker app.”. Bzzt… wrong answer. No Winnebago for you.  No autographed picture of Randy Mantooth either. They know more, not less than you think.

A decision or an accident by Facebook that shows this data to anyone able to access your page and a web scrape will make a “Girls Around Me” level of resolution and tracking  easy work for for any serious but average developer. By serious but average I mean the guys who work in your employer’s IT department. The PI your soon to be ex-husband’s lawyer hires. The PI his lawyer uses to build his case in effort to use custody of the kids as a cudgel. The kid who gets mad at you, teacher, for failing his plagiarized term paper. The stalker with resources. Your political opponent. Anyone with, frankly not especially hard to come by, resources who wants to do you harm or who wants to look in a general geographical area for somebody to do harm.

Never forget dear readers, we’d all be much better off if we started thinking of our personal information as currency and our opinions as monetizable content. Even if you’re not worried about any of the above, and the truth is, really most of shouldn’t. All of this makes you more the target for advertisers including charities and political campaigns. It’s more information about you that search engines can use to skew what results you get to help support your preferemces, or preconceptions.

The real lesson here is, a free service to help you share your content isn’t free. It’s costing you every time you use it. Start choosing more carefully. Start taking more control of your data.

 

***UPDATES 4.11.12***

Check out Andy Ihnatko’s piece in the Chicago Sun Times

I’m told by a reliable source that Instagram defaults location data to “off”. I didn’t remember. While I do actually think that’s good behavior, I’d guess many users turn it on because they like the ability to define place as part of what they post. I know there’s a lot of EXIF and other photo metadata to be mined all over the web.  It’s also not an Instagram-only issue. The point above is that you should know what you reveal where.  See this post on Aperture’s lookups though that post isn’t about what you post but rather how Apple looks up location info from GPS coordinates.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook