…seems like there might be a lot of people praying that their slice of the internet doesn’t get caught by this
“The internet’s on fire right now,” said Adam Meyers, senior vice-president of intelligence at the cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike. “People are scrambling to patch”, he said, “and all kinds of people scrambling to exploit it.” He said on Friday morning that in the 12 hours since the bug’s existence was disclosed, it had been “fully weaponized”, meaning malefactors had developed and distributed tools to exploit it.
The flaw, dubbed “Log4Shell”, may be the worst computer vulnerability discovered in years. It was uncovered in an open-source logging tool that is ubiquitous in cloud servers and enterprise software used across the industry and the government. Unless it is fixed, it grants criminals, spies and programming novices alike, easy access to internal networks where they can loot valuable data, plant malware, erase crucial information and much more.
“I’d be hard-pressed to think of a company that’s not at risk,” said Joe Sullivan, chief security officer for Cloudflare, whose online infrastructure protects websites from malicious actors. Untold millions of servers have it installed and experts said the fallout would not be known for several days.
Amit Yoran, CEO of the cybersecurity firm Tenable, called it “the single biggest, most critical vulnerability of the last decade” – and possibly the biggest in the history of modern computing.https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/dec/10/software-flaw-most-critical-vulnerability-log-4-shell
Experts said the extreme ease with which the vulnerability lets an attacker access a web server – no password required – is what makes it so dangerous.
But patching systems around the world could be a complicated task. While most organizations and cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services should be able to update their web servers easily, the same Apache software is also often embedded in third-party programs, which can only be updated by their owners.
Researchers reported finding evidence the vulnerability could be exploited in servers run by companies such as Apple, Amazon, Twitter and Cloudflare.
…it’s been a long time since sundays involved me attending any kind of a church…but I seem to remember reading a different “good book” than the one that seems to be going around in some circles
Whenever women get upset about their rights being taken away by misogynistic extremists, you can always rely on a Reasonable Man™ to swoop in and explain how everyone’s overreacting. This incident was no exception: Grayson Quay argued in the Week that the women getting angry on the internet had misunderstood the biblical passages to which Cawthorn was alluding. “[I]t seems Cawthorn, a vocal evangelical Christian, was using ‘earthen vessels’ to refer not to the mother’s body, but to the body of the unborn baby,” Quay wrote. Even if that is what Cawthorn was referring to, it’s not much better is it? The separation of church and state is supposed to be a pillar of US democracy: we should all be alarmed by politicians who seem to think they are actually preachers.
I could go on and on: there are endless examples of influential leaders in the US calling for the creation of a “Christ-centered republic” and for the bible to influence policy. But while that rhetoric is alarming, it’s not as alarming as what’s been happening behind the scenes. In 2018 the researcher Frederick Clarkson exposed the existence of a Christian supremacist initiative called Project Blitz, that aimed to flood state legislatures with bills undermining the separation of Church and State. A 116-page strategy manual laid out the plan. 1) They’d smuggle Christianity into policy with covert strategies that gave the appearance they respected religious pluralism. “The playbooks advise legislators to cloak their religious mission in the guise of more secular intentions and they’ve renamed several bills to make them sound more appealing,” Clarkson reported. 2) They’d overwhelm state legislatures with so many bills that trying to fight them would be like a game of “whack-a-mole”. 3) They’d start with less controversial bills, such as those requiring or allowing the display of “In God We Trust” in public schools, and establish small victories first. Then they’d escalate.
Clarkson’s reporting on Project Blitz, and the various exposes that followed, forced the project’s organizers into stealth mode, but they haven’t disappeared. Far from it: radicalized Christian nationalism is a growing threat to American democracy, as a relatively small but incredibly organized faction working to turn the country into something resembling a theocracy. Indeed, if the insurrection on 6 January had gone ever so slightly differently, people like Flynn might be turning their dreams of “one nation under God” into a reality at this very moment.https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/dec/11/radicalized-christian-nationalism-growing-threat-american-democracy
…I can’t say as I’m persuaded by what some call “the prosperity gospel” either…something about money lenders & a temple upsetting a certain someone…but of the various flavors of christianity floating about the one that seems to permeate politics is…well…particularly unchristian…& although it was a while ago that I watched this thing on netflix it’s come to mind a few times lately
…it has to do with the family who essentially are behind the national prayer breakfast
But the Fellowship’s vast, complicated web extends far beyond the National Prayer Breakfast. As the docuseries notes, a townhouse not far from Capitol Hill dubbed C Street houses a handful of representatives and subsidizes much of their living expenses. It is owned by a foundation connected to the Fellowship and, the series implies, helps foster the idea that these leaders have not merely been elected, but were chosen to do God’s work.https://www.vulture.com/2019/08/the-family-netflix-review.html
Even after watching all five episodes, I was left feeling like I still couldn’t fully wrap my arms around the implications of what I’d just consumed. It wasn’t that there’s no “there” there — there’s more than enough “there” — but Moss leaves out some crucial pieces of the puzzle that would make it complete. For example, the series doesn’t make clear that, historically, Democrats have been involved in the Fellowship, too, nor does it explain what role, if any, Democrats currently play in the organization. (That latter issue may have been difficult to uncover given the group’s notorious secrecy.)
…one thing I do remember, though…they have their own version of the bible…literally…they have a selective edit that’s a much shorter book…& I’ve begun to wonder if it might be educational to be able to get hold of a copy & see which bits they picked & which they ditched…because it might explain a lot
A lot of people with a lot of power don’t see why women should have jurisdiction over their own bodies. That’s the anti-abortion argument in a nutshell, in that they claim a foetus, or even an embryo, or in some cases even a fertilised egg too small for the human eye to see, has rights that supersede those of the person inside whose body that egg, embryo or foetus might be.
On Friday morning, the supreme court issued a mixed ruling on another state law restricting abortion access: Texas’s law, designed to evade federal oversight. Eight of the justices upheld a lower court finding that abortion providers should have the right to sue; Justice Thomas did not join them. The four more liberal judges voted for broader rights to sue; the four other conservatives ruled that they can only sue the licensing officials. Judge Sotomayor, in a passionate dissent, wrote: “This is a brazen challenge to our federal structure. It echoes the philosophy of John C Calhoun, a virulent defender of the slaveholding South who insisted that States had the right to “veto” or “nullif[y]” any federal law with which they disagreed.” She added: “The Nation fought a Civil War over that proposition.” Before the civil war, the US was split between free and slave states; the contemporary nation is increasingly divided between reproductive-rights-access states and anti-abortion states.
Those who claim to protect the unborn are largely conservatives who routinely reject universal access to healthcare, let alone meeting the basic material needs of babies and children with food, clothing, shelter and daycare. They also usually oppose reproductive education, including by defunding and demonising Planned Parenthood (which is where, as a teen, I got the reproductive care that protected me from an unwanted pregnancy).
Wanted pregnancies are often the occasion for impregnators to preen themselves and be congratulated, but unwanted pregnancies are treated as something wicked that women do all on their own. No man is punished under the law for unwanted pregnancy, though a significant percentage of such pregnancies are the result of sexual coercion and refusing to cooperate with birth control. Then there is the risk of homicide – one study showed that 8.4% of reported maternal mortality deaths were murders – with African American women seven times more likely to die this way than white women. The largest proportion of these cases occur at the hands of a partner.
To argue that pregnancy doesn’t really disrupt a life is ridiculous, but the supreme court’s Amy Coney Barrett did so when, during the hearing, she asked why the fact that babies could be given up at birth didn’t relieve women of the burden, arguing that if “forced parenting, forced motherhood, would hinder women’s access to the workplace and to equal opportunities … why don’t the safe haven laws take care of that problem?” Imagine telling a woman working as a janitor or a dancer or a farmer or trying to make law partner or compete in her sport that she’s unimpaired by her visibly changing body – and the physical and psychological impacts of it – because she can give away the baby at birth without being criminalised for it? It was also stunning that Barrett recognised that the subject was “forced motherhood”.
The lawyer arguing the case before the supreme court for women’s reproductive rights answered Barrett’s blithe nonsense thus: “Pregnancy itself is unique. It imposes unique physical demands and risks on women and, in fact, has impact on all of their lives, on their ability to care for other children, other family members, on their ability to work. And, in particular, in Mississippi, those risks are alarmingly high. It’s 75 times more dangerous to give birth in Mississippi … than it is to have a pre-viability abortion, and those risks are disproportionately threatening the lives of women of colour.”
Or as the supreme court justice Sonia Sotomayor put it, “So when does the life of a woman and putting her at risk enter the calculus?” She knew, we know, that for those who are committed to the punitive violence of forced birth the answer is: never.https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/dec/10/arguments-abortion-us-controlling-women-anti-abortionists-women-rights-over-bodies
The law, known as S.B. 4, narrows the window in which providers can give abortion-inducing medication to seven weeks into a pregnancy — bucking U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines that allow the pills to be taken up until 70 days, or 10 weeks.
The law, which went into effect on Dec. 2, also bans prescribing abortion pills online or mailing them to recipients in the state. Providers who violate the law could face a penalty of jail time and fines up to $10,000.https://www.thelily.com/in-texas-anyone-who-mails-abortion-pills-can-now-be-sent-to-jail/
Although supreme court opinions are notoriously difficult to predict, a majority of justices on the conservative-leaning court appeared inclined to severely curtail or overturn Roe v Wade, which protects abortion rights in states hostile to the procedure.
Legal scholars warned that the impacts of such a move would likely be widespread, because abortion rights are rooted in the same implied constitutional right to privacy that is the foundation for other intimate personal decisions Americans now take for granted.
In arguments, justices pointed to several ways they may reinterpret the Roe v Wade decision. Some, such as Justice Clarence Thomas, were skeptical there is a right to privacy and were swayed by the lack of an explicit reference to the right in the constitution, a concept known as “textualism”.
The theory underlying that right to privacy is called “substantive due process”, or the doctrine that the constitution protects both the procedures of due process, such as how criminal law is applied, and “substantive” guarantees of life, liberty and property.
“If you ask where rights come from in the US constitution there’s basically two general answers,” said Mary Ziegler, a law professor at Florida State University and a historian who has studied abortion rights since Roe v Wade. “There’s the rights spelled out in the text of the constitution,” such as rights to bear arms or against unreasonable search and seizure, “and there’s other rights, like the right to marry and the right to parent that are not in the text of the constitution”.
“If I were to ask you what constitutional right protects the right to abortion, is it privacy? Is it autonomy? What would it be?” asked Thomas.
“It’s liberty, Your Honor,” said Julie Rikelman, litigation director for the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represented the abortion clinic.https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/dec/11/supreme-court-roe-v-wade-gay-rights-contraceptives-fertility-treatments
Don’t be fooled by the supreme court’s nominal hedging on its endorsement of SB8, the Texas abortion ban that deputizes private citizens to sue anyone who assists in an abortion after six weeks’ gestation. In a ruling on Friday, the court held that a lawsuit by Texas abortion providers could go forward – but only on narrow grounds. Only those state officials responsible for licensing medical providers may be sued, the court ordered – no one else involved in the state’s practical maintenance of SB8 is liable. The ruling said, for instance, that the providers could not sue court clerks, those bureaucrats tasked with actually docketing the lawsuits that would enforce SB8.
In the meantime, SB8 will remain law. Women in Texas are effectively banned from securing a legal abortion in the state, even though the still-standing Roe v Wade decision says that they have a right to one. It’s likely that SB8 will remain in effect at least for the duration of Roe’s lifetime – meaning that Texas women will not be able to obtain legal abortions after six weeks for the foreseeable future. Many of the initial media responses to the court’s opinion emphasized that since the suit was allowed to go forward, on technical grounds, the ruling was a narrow win for the abortion providers. But in reality Friday was a massive win for the rightwing Texas government, and for anti-choice forces nationwide.
That SB8 has been allowed to take effect – now for the second time – by the supreme court reflects the justices’ eagerness to gut abortion rights. The fact of the matter is that the court is already set to overturn Roe and allow states to ban abortion outright. That much was clear to anyone who listened to last week’s oral arguments in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health, a case surrounding the constitutionality of a 15-week ban in Mississippi, which devolved into grim misogynist spectacle as the Republican appointees held court on the supposed ease of giving infants up for adoption and their own robust comfort with overturning long-settled precedent.https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/dec/11/supreme-court-abortion-ruling-unsettling
SB8, then, and the supreme court’s embrace of it, can be understood not only as a harbinger of the justices’ deep contempt for the abortion right, but also of their childish impatience to exert this contempt upon American women. They can’t even wait six months. They want to ban abortion right now. In pursuit of this goal, the supreme court has proven itself willing to undermine its own capacity to oversee state laws, to enforce federal supremacy, and to protect constitutional rights.
In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor compared SB8 to the views of John C Calhoun – a nineteenth-century pro-slavery campaigner who argued that states have the right to nullify federal laws that they do not like. America fought its civil war in no small part over this question. By first allowing the SB8 to go into effect, in September, and then by gutting the lawsuit against it this Friday, the supreme court has, shockingly, endorsed a scheme to undermine its own power, and granted a state the ability to evade federal precedent. Nullification, it seems, is back in style.
…that “a narrow legal interpretation” is the eye of a needle that frequently fails to admit some camel-sized shit when it comes to eyeing up what exactly “is before the court” is nothing new…but the reading of these cases such that the supreme court…which in many respects does give the strong impression of being the final word on both how well things do or don’t line up with the constitution & the merits (or otherwise) of a legal case…can somehow determine that in these cases it need not rule on the merits…which is convenient since they give every appearance of lacking those entirely…nor on the constitutionality of the suits…despite the fact that they seem to involve denying some fundamental rights…is the sort of thing that ought to be confined to the realm of parody…which at this point it could be argued that the supreme court has in fact condemned itself (& by extension everybody else) to…not that it’s alone in that
A retired U.S. Army colonel who circulated a proposal to challenge the 2020 election, including by declaring a national security emergency and seizing paper ballots, said that he visited the White House on multiple occasions after the election, spoke with President Donald Trump’s chief of staff “maybe eight to 10 times” and briefed several members of Congress on the eve of the Jan. 6 riot.
Phil Waldron, the retired colonel, was working with Trump’s outside lawyers and was part of a team that briefed the lawmakers on a PowerPoint presentation detailing “Options for 6 JAN,” Waldron told The Washington Post. He said his contribution to the presentation focused on his claims of foreign interference in the vote, as did his discussions with the White House.
The PowerPoint circulated by Waldron included proposals for Vice President Mike Pence on Jan. 6 to reject electors from “states where fraud occurred” or replace them with Republican electors. It included a third proposal in which the certification of Joe Biden’s victory was to be delayed, and U.S. marshals and National Guard troops were to help “secure” and count paper ballots in key states.https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/phil-waldron-mark-meadows-powerpoint/2021/12/11/story.html
Still, Waldron’s account of his interactions with the White House, together with a 36-page version of the presentation that surfaced online this week and was reviewed by The Post, shed new light on the wild theories and proposals that circulated among the people advising Trump as they worked to overturn his election defeat, causing a crisis at the heart of government. They suggest that Meadows, who also pressed senior Justice Department leaders to investigate baseless conspiracy theories about election fraud, was more directly in contact with proponents of such theories than was previously known.
…although…when it comes to what was “previously known” I’m hard pressed not to draw some conclusions of my own…not that I’m alone in that
…all the same some are keen to remind people not to jump to conclusions
There was such a PowerPoint, as The Washington Post has reported. So I checked with a source who would know. Was the one that was floating around also the one Meadows turned over? The response was not qualified. While it’s possible that some parts of what is being shared are included in what Meadows provided — the source couldn’t say — the document that the committee received was not the exact one that was circulating. For one reason, the one online was 36 pages and the one received by the committee 38. There are still questions to be answered and still people asking those questions.
Social media users, though, had already decided not only that the document was authentic but that it therefore necessarily had attracted Meadows’s attention (if not his endorsement) and had been embraced by Donald Trump himself. It wasn’t just that the document was presumed to be legitimate, it was that it was presumed to be important, making it far more potent.
The answer will be as insufficient to stemming those criticisms as it is brief: We don’t yet know what the importance of the circulating document is, if any. Because it is the role of media organizations like ours not to simply assume that something is what various people say it is but to verify that. To figure out what Meadows gave the committee and whether it was important. There’s always an urgency to those investigations; the great fear of reporters is that they’ll be scooped and that someone will get that answer faster. But credibility depends on presenting things as they are and not as they might be. It depends, too, on acknowledging when they weren’t as we thought.
The frustration over the PowerPoint is formed of a number of things. One is that many people who haven’t been tracking the post-election machinations of Trump’s team are for the first time discovering bizarre claims that have been floating around for a while. Another is that the context of the document being shared has been folded into Trump’s efforts without evidence; that it’s being treated as part of the push to seize a second term without that having been established.
A third is that there is heightened attention to the role of the media in the moment, in part because of a column from The Post’s Dana Milbank.https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/12/10/important-gap-between-social-media-screenshots-front-page/
The analysis cited by Milbank depends on something called “sentiment analysis” to make its determinations, a process that is itself not without controversy. But it also considers coverage only in the aggregate, not in the specifics. So “the media” earns condemnation even as individual reports and new information about the post-election period continue to emerge.
…although even in the all-too-familiar territory of “what’s wrong with the media?” it’s almost remarkable how the same observations are routinely spun into whole cloth in a remarkable spectrum of hues
I’m often asked how I keep up with the news. Obviously, I avoid the unhinged rightwing outlets pushing misinformation, disinformation and poisonous lies.
But I’ve also grown wary of the mainstream media – not because it peddles “fake news” but because of three more subtle biases.
First, it often favors the status quo. Mainstream journalists wanting to appear serious about public policy rip into progressives for the costs of their proposals, but never ask self-styled “moderates” how they plan to cope with the costs of doing nothing or doing too little about the same problems.
Second, it fails to report critical public choices. Any day now, the Senate will approve giving $778bn to the military for this fiscal year. That’s billions more than the Pentagon sought. It’s four times the size of Biden’s Build Back Better bill, which comes to around $175bn a year. But where’s the reporting on the effects of this spending on the national debt, or on inflation, or whether it’s even necessary?
Third, it indulges in false equivalence, claiming that certain Republican and Democratic lawmakers are emerging as “troublemakers” within their parties or that extremists “on both sides” are “radicalizing each other”.
These reports equate Republican lawmakers who are actively promoting Donald Trump’s big lie that the 2020 election was stolen with Democratic lawmakers who are fighting to protect voting rights. These are not equivalent. Trump’s big lie is a direct challenge to American democracy.https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/dec/09/whats-really-wrong-mainstream-media
The old labels “left” versus “right” are fast becoming outdated. Today, it’s democracy versus authoritarianism. Equating them is misleading and dangerous.
Top editors and reporters, usually based in New York and Washington, want to be accepted into the circles of the powerful – not only for sources of news but also because such acceptance is psychologically seductive. It confers a degree of success. But once accepted, they can’t help but begin to see the world through the eyes of the powerful.
…whatever your conclusions it seems clear that we need to preserve “independent journalism”…perhaps more than ever
Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov, the first journalists to receive the Nobel peace prize since 1935, share a belief that the world is engaged in an existential battle for truth and against lies. Speaking at Friday’s Nobel prize ceremony, Muratov noted simply, “the world has fallen out of love with democracy”.https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/dec/11/truth-lies-journalists-nobel-prize-prison
…now the truth is I’ve rather fallen behind with the podcast that began life under the name of “mueller she wrote”…but the thing is…whatever Philip Bump has to say about not jumping to conclusions…or the degree to which it’s hard to keep a grip on the fine detail without one of those classic “wall-of-crazy” displays of spaghetti-like threads connecting one thing to another all over the place…quite honestly the only possible justification I can imagine at this point for not having done more to move this from conjecture to convictions is that the prosecution is (hopefully) dragging its feet in order to be certain of its footing
The House select committee investigating the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob issued subpoenas Friday to six people involved in the planning of the rally on the Ellipse that preceded the insurrection.
In a statement, the committee said it is seeking information from people involved with the rally’s planning or who witnessed the coordination of these plans.
“Some of the witnesses we subpoenaed today apparently worked to stage the rallies on January 5th and 6th, and some appeared to have had direct communication with the former president regarding the rally at the Ellipse directly preceding the attack on the U.S. Capitol,” Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the committee, said in the statement. “The Select Committee expects these witnesses to join the hundreds of individuals who have already cooperated with our investigation as we work to provide the American people with answers about what happened on January 6th and ensure nothing like that day ever happens again.”https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/12/10/house-committee-subpoenas-six-individuals-linked-jan-6-rally-including-trump-backed-ohio-congressional-candidate/
Roger Stone, a long-time adviser to former President Donald Trump, just became the latest Trump ally to refuse to cooperate with [the] House’s Jan. 6 investigation by invoking his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. The growing list includes John Eastman — a former law professor and legal adviser to Trump, and Jeffrey Clark, who served as an assistant attorney general from 2018 until 2021. Alex Jones, a radio show host and a staunch supporter of Trump’s re-election campaign, has also threatened to plead the Fifth in response to his own House subpoena.
On Dec. 2, committee Vice Chair Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., noted that, “People sort of talk about the Fifth Amendment without stopping to think about what he is saying if he invokes the Fifth — that he won’t answer a question because he’s worried about criminal prosecution.” Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., struck a similar note, saying those who plead their Fifth Amendment rights in front of his committee “in some cases are part and parcel guilty to what occurred.” Trump himself famously said, “The mob takes the Fifth Amendment. If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?”
Cheney was correct. It is important that the public — as well as the members of the select committee — understand exactly what it means that these witnesses are pleading the Fifth Amendment.https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/trump-election-lie-allies-stone-eastman-clark-plead-fifth
In a criminal proceeding, a defendant’s silence cannot be used against him. In fact, the jury can be instructed not to draw any inferences from the defendant’s silence. But in a noncriminal proceeding, the invocation of the privilege is limited to those circumstances in which the person invoking the privilege reasonably believes that his disclosures could be used in a criminal prosecution or could lead to other evidence that could be so used. But if invoked, an adverse inference can be drawn when “independent evidence exists of the fact to which the party refuses to answer.”
…not least when extrapolating from much less seems to be enough to warrant some pretty meaningful real world repercussions when the ideological direction of travel is reversed
It took only a few minutes for Montezuma-Cortez school board member Lance McDaniel to type, “I’m Antifa,” select a background with orange flames and post to Facebook from his iPhone in early June 2020. It was about a week after George Floyd’s murder, and he was upset.
“I was basically just saying I was anti-fascist,” the 65-year-old McDaniel told me the following summer at a Mexican restaurant in Cortez, Colo., the city with a population of about 8,700 where we both grew up. He was not, in fact, a member of a decentralized collection of activists who oppose fascism and have engaged in property destruction and confrontational protest tactics. To him, “antifa” was a philosophy. “But I used ‘antifa’ to make a point … that fascism has no place in the United States and, in the context of what was going on in that time, that a police officer doesn’t have the right to stand on a person’s neck for nine minutes and keep them from breathing.”
McDaniel’s liberal views ran counter to his predominantly conservative community, where most of the economic base is generated from retirement incomes, construction, tourism and agriculture. In the 2020 presidential election, 60 percent of the county voted for Donald Trump. McDaniel told me that as a White, straight, cisgender man, he felt he was in a better position than others to make openly progressive comments online.
Not long after McDaniel’s “I’m Antifa” post, resident David Spiegel took to Facebook with a post of his own. “Attention Montezuma County residents we have a member of antifa in our local government,” he began, calling McDaniel a “scumbag” and saying the community should “disrupt his ability to work in government.” Spiegel later told me he found McDaniel’s views contradictory to “good governance and freedom” and did not believe there was room for such philosophies among elected officials.
Another resident, Mindy Nelsen, shared Spiegel’s post on her timeline, which also included public posts sharing videos of Montezuma County Patriots rallies, as well as criticism of Black Lives Matter and pandemic-related restrictions. The following month, Nelsen and another community member, Debbie McHenry, organized a petition for a recall election to remove McDaniel — who had been set to face reelection in November 2021 — from the school board. And so began a political saga that would show what happens when Facebook serves as a primary public forum for local political debate.
But McDaniel’s critics focused on his online speech, specifically on Facebook. The recall petition’s statement of grounds for removal drew a connection between his “I’m Antifa” post and the “mob protests and horrific destruction following the tragic death of George Floyd.” The statement claimed that many of the schoolchildren in the community followed McDaniel on social media (an assertion later disputed by his supporters) and that the community needed “school board members that understand leadership and the power of mentoring, and know not to voice their personal, political, or social opinions that could influence children.”
McDaniel said he found the petition filers’ scrutiny of his Facebook posts absurd. “If I saw something that somebody posted that I didn’t agree with or didn’t care about, I just wouldn’t pay any attention to it,” he told me. “I certainly wouldn’t try to recall somebody.”
I contacted both petition organizers via Facebook to request in-person interviews. Debbie McHenry, a retired 911 dispatcher, sent several brief messages that included her support for law enforcement and her identity as a conservative Christian, but soon blocked me. Mindy Nelsen phoned to accuse me of going behind her back to find information. A few hours later, she called me from a different number to encourage me to write about a pro-police picnic instead but would not engage further when I asked her about our previous conversation. My subsequent voice mails requesting another interview with her weren’t returned.https://www.washingtonpost.com/magazine/2021/11/30/montezuma-cortez-school-board-lance-mcdaniel-facebook/
The recall campaign started in July 2020. By the October deadline, more than 1,600 district voters had signed the petition (1,296 signatures were accepted), exceeding the required threshold of at least 40 percent of those who had voted in that seat’s previous election. Later that month, several attendees interrupted a school board Zoom meeting and threatened to “rape [McDaniel’s] daughters.” (McDaniel has one daughter.) A police review of the district’s recording of the meeting and list of names was unable to determine who made the threat. Cortez Police Chief Vernon Knuckles, who signed the recall petition, did not respond to my requests for further comment.
When the results of the recall arrived in February 2021, voters had chosen to remove McDaniel by a 2-1 margin, though less than half of the 10,193 ballots were returned. Overall, the recall election cost $21,256 from the school district’s general fund of approximately $17 million. According to the district finance office, the funds were taken from $33,250 allocated annually for district election fees.
The recall also fits into broader social patterns, explained Sokhey. “In this case, I think it speaks to how both the right and left in our current environment have sought to move against public figures that violate norms or hold positions (etc.) with which they disagree.” The outcome in Cortez didn’t surprise Sokhey. “School board politics/elections have always been really heated,” he wrote. He pointed to data showing that by one count, 60 percent of U.S. recall elections from 2011 to 2020 were successful. But McDaniel’s recall was the first of any type in the county in over a decade to result in removal — and the first related to online speech.
McDaniel said he has thought about the “I’m Antifa” post several times since his removal from the board. He sometimes wonders what might have happened had he called himself “anti-fascist” or explained his views more clearly. But he doesn’t regret posting it. “I knew it would cause controversy,” he said. “I didn’t think it would be as big as it was, but maybe it makes people think. And that’s another reason I do things, to make people think.” He paused. “Or try to get people to think.”
…the sad truth is…you kind of have to consider your audience…because you might think you’re saying one thing…but certain people will always choose to hear what suits them
Earlier this year, as Twitter raced to roll out Spaces, its new live audio chat feature, some employees asked how the company planned to make sure the service didn’t become a platform for hate speech, bullying and calls to violence.
In fact, there was no plan. In a presentation to colleagues shortly before its public launch in May, a top Twitter executive, Kayvon Beykpour, acknowledged that people were likely to break Twitter’s rules in the audio chats, according to an attendee who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal matters. But he and other Twitter executives — convinced that Spaces would help revive the sluggish company — refused to slow down.
Fast forward six months and those problems have become reality. Taliban supporters, white nationalists, and anti-vaccine activists sowing coronavirus misinformation have hosted live audio broadcasts on Spaces that hundreds of people have tuned in to, according to researchers, users and screenshots viewed by The Washington Post. Other Spaces conversations have disparaged transgender people and Black Americans. These chats are neither policed nor moderated by Twitter, the company acknowledges, because it does not have human moderators or technology that can scan audio in real-time.https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/12/10/twitter-turmoil-spaces/
The botched launch of Spaces is a sign of how ongoing turmoil at Twitter is causing it to overlook hate, polarization, and extremism — and to repeat the mistakes that have long plagued Silicon Valley companies. Twitter in particular has struggled under absentee leadership in recent years. Last week, CEO Jack Dorsey unexpectedly resigned amid a campaign by investors to innovate more rapidly.
Now, as social media companies charge into new arenas — from audio to virtual reality to cryptocurrency — they are at risk of not implementing the lessons of the past. Even before Spaces was launched to Twitter’s more than 200 million daily users, employees began raising alarms about the potential for live audio broadcasts to be used to sow hate and extremism. But those who called for Twitter to slow down have been sidelined by managers, according to four current and former employees who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.
“Dumpster fire does not even describe” the way Spaces was managed, said a former member of that team. They added that chaotic and arrogant leadership led to the problems. “When you work on something for months and no one is gathering any findings about how bad people might use this, well then it’s not shocking that months later you have Taliban or racists using the platform.”
As tech giants foray into new territories, experts and lawmakers say that they have not resolved their current problems and could further amplify them with newer, less-moderated technologies.
…which reminds me…in the interests of not entirely ruining the day of rest for anyone who might have scrolled through this…here’s something I came across that might make you feel something entirely more pleasant than the rest of what’s above this
…so…onwards & upwards, as they say…which in my case more literally means getting up to go find a predictably necessary refresh of this coffee mug…after which I’ll try to find a tune or two to sit down here at the end of this