Irony in the Social Justice Warrior

“Social justice warrior” is a relatively new term (to me, at least) used in the last year by mostly-conservative culture warriors to describe a mostly-liberal person who–grossly simplified–pushes for diversity in the arts.

(A “culture warrior” in my mind is a term to describe a mostly-conservative person… I think it gained popularity with the publication of Bill O’Reilly’s book.)

I find it pretty ironic though because it seems to me that a person who fights for conservative cultural values is also a social justice warrior. “Social justice” as a basic concept is about equality and leveling the playing field. With regard to the recent Hugo nomination controversy, the conservatives (“Sad Puppies”) feel that they were disenfranchised from Worldcon (among other things). With regard to the less recent Gamergate culture battle, the conservatives (who don’t have a name other than “Gamergate supporters” so far as I know) feel that they are being pushed out of the games that they love (among many, many, many other things).

By a strict definition, I would say that anyone who feels culturally disenfranchised or threatened enough to fight back is implicitly a “social justice warrior,” and perhaps more generically, a “culture warrior.”

Obviously I know that conservatives would flip right the hell out to be compared in any way to an SJW (social justice warrior), which now to them is just a series of letters or mouth-sounds that means “a liberal extremist who needs to be stopped.” I just find words and their meaning to be really funny and ironic sometimes. The fact that a series of words with very specific meanings can be combined to make a phrase with a totally different meaning is interesting to me.

I guess in terms of common usage and political connotation we can think of a “culture warrior” as a conservative and a “social justice warrior” as a liberal.

P.S. Liberals seem to think that “social justice warrior” is a derogatory term (since it was coined or at least adopted by conservatives), but I have no idea what conservatives might think of “culture warrior”–I would guess they’d be okay with it since Bill O’Reilly popularized it.

Why I’m Not Watching The Interview

Hey, that’s an SEO-friendly title, right? But seriously, I’m not watching it because, using my cynic-powered senses, I can see through this ruse. Everyone thinks they’re watching it to strike a blow against North Korea and censorship, but really they’re watching it because they’re gullible and they fell for Sony’s PR stunt. They may have yanked the film initially out of fear, but they clearly brought it back to capitalize on the buzz. (I would not be even microscopically surprised to learn that Sony manufactured the hacking incident in the first place, because that’s the kind of PR-driven world we live in.)

Shock Top Commercial

Watching this commercial for Shock Top beer during the 49ers vs. Eagles game. “My dream is to share a beer with my friends at America’s highest point.” Is the top of a mountain really the best place to have a beer? Just sayin’. Seems like that should be in the mountain-climbing rule book somewhere.

Bradley Manning Sentenced

Bradley Manning Army Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Bradley Manning Army Photo from Wikimedia Commons

I mentioned Bradley Manning in a previous post, so to follow-up on that, and to let you know that I have not yet been murdered by the strange late-night knocker I mentioned in another previous post: Manning was sentenced to 35 years. The news report that I heard (from CBS News I think) said that he might only serve 7 of those years.

While I’m definitely not in the camp of people who think this guy is a hero, I’m also not sure that copying some files of dubious value deserves a 35-year sentence. It seems rather less treasonous than, say, a ring of German spies operating in the U.S. prior to World War II. Yet strangely, the Duquesne Spy Ring got considerably shorter sentences.

The moral of this story is: If you’re going to speak truth to power, make it a good speech.

Who Is This Edward Snowden Guy?

Edward Snowden, NSA whistle-blower. From Wikimedia Commons.
Edward Snowden, NSA whistle-blower. From Wikimedia Commons.

Today I decided to figure out why I keep hearing the name Edward Snowden so much. I had always assumed it was just another made-up media witch hunt, and I didn’t need to pay any attention. I changed my mind when I recently heard a story about President Obama (supposedly) cancelling a meeting with President Putin because of him.

The Obama-Putin story raised several questions. First of all, when did President Putin replace President Medvedev? I completely missed that. I mean, Putin was always pulling Medvedev’s puppet strings, so he’s effectively been the leader of Russia since 2000, but I guess he finally went and officially become president again. Wikipedia says this happened last May (2012). (Medvedev, incidentally, became the “Leader of United Russia,” whatever that means.)

I also found the story notable because it illustrates again the deteriorating relationship between the U.S. and Russia that has gone on over the last ten or fifteen years, which most people don’t even know about (being distracted by terrorists and economic misery). I can’t help but wonder just how far this relationship is deteriorating.

Back to Edward Snowden. This guy must be somewhat important if presidents are cancelling meetings because of him. So who is he? It all started with an article in The Guardian. Remember a while back when I wondered why everyone was freaking out over the NSA monitoring our phone records, when we’ve known they’ve been doing that since the Patriot Act was first signed in 2001? Well, I still wonder about that. Everyone was blissfully ignorant of their electronic activities being monitored until a June 2013 article appeared in The Guardian. I can only assume that article got the nation’s attention more than any others because it had the words “Apple” and “Google” in the headline, so technology media ran with it, too. The article basically said that the NSA had direct access to the Apple and Google servers (and many others).

I recall that I heard that story … and I immediately thought, “That’s typical government conspiracy rubbish … overblown, misinterpreted, mixed up facts.” I said something like that in that blog post, then I didn’t think any more about it.

But even as I ignored the story, it continued to grow. It turns out that the article was based on “a top secret document obtained by the Guardian.” That document was apparently supplied by one Edward Snowden, who was an NSA contractor. He came forward several days after the initial story. As we’ve seen time and again, our government is utterly incapable of even the most basic of computer security, so he was able to walk out with tons of sensitive information. Once the story stopped being about government surveillance, it turned into a story about this fugitive who stole files from the NSA, a story formula that has worked at least twice in the past. Snowden then rocketed to the top of the government’s most-wanted whistle-blower list, previously held by predecessors Bradley Manning and Julian Assange. (One of those two is now on trial for treason* and the other is still a fugitive.)

I think whistle-blowers in general are an important part of a balanced society. Someone occasionally needs to take one for the team and say, “Hey, you, powerful secret government organization, are you sure you should doing that?” So in that sense I have to admire Edward Snowden. Of course, every situation is different. Sometimes a government needs to keep secrets from its own people.

Mostly I feel sorry for Snowden. He basically ruined his life revealing these NSA programs – but I don’t think our government is technically competent enough to pull off anything that sinister. So he might have wrecked his life for nothing.

As for whether I think he should be arrested and tried … well, technically, he probably did break the law. If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime, yadda yadda. Do I think it’s worth potentially wrecking our relations with Russia over this guy? Not especially, no. They still have a lot of nukes over there, you know. And a scary Mafioso of a president.

* UPDATE: My mistake – Bradley Manning was actually found guilty of almost everything except aiding the enemy. He’s now awaiting sentencing. (A high cost for virtually no benefit.)

Throwing Out The Royal Baby

Can you media outlets please stop reporting about the Royal Baby now? Thank you. Even going back to reporting on the Zimmerman trial and the weather is preferable.

The Latest Trial of the Century

So I heard something about a Zimmerman verdict? I think it was a trial or something. Anyway it was supposed to have been a case that defined a generation, or seeped into the national consciousness, or something like that. I somehow got the sense that it was the most important case in the history of mankind, even though it sounded like just kind of a regular old murder case – you know, the kind that probably happens in your local neighborhood pretty often? But for some reason this case was not just newsworthy, but bold face headline-worthy.

ABC World News* has been talking about the "high drama" in this Zimmerman case for quite a while, and I still haven’t figured out why it’s so dramatic. Nobody involved is famous in any way, at least prior to the case. No movie stars or pro athletes. Let me check the Wikipedia page to see if I’m missing something. Nope, nothing that I can see. It just looks like a random murder that, for whatever reason, turned into a racially-charged media circus. I suppose it just happened to have all of those divisive issues that major media loves to highlight.

Personally, I don’t know anyone involved and couldn’t care less if he’s guilty or not guilty.

* A while back I switched from the NBC Nightly News podcast to the ABC World News podcast. Holy crap was that a mistake. Diane Sawyer has got to be the worst anchorwoman in the history of news. She puts such an overemphasis on adding question marks to the end of headlines. She sounds exactly like a comedy parody of a newsperson, like the late Diane Simmons from Family Guy.

Government Surveillance

I’m a bit baffled over why this story about government surveillance surprises anyone. Constant surveillance seems like a fairly logical side effect of instantaneous global communication. Not necessarily likable, but logical. It seems to be another situation where the questions that modern technology raises are far outpacing the judicial branch’s ability to answer them.

On these stories specifically, I thought we already knew that the government was looking at our phone records. I’m pretty sure they’ve been doing that since the Patriot Act was first passed back in 2001.

(Side note: Is that what constitutes "breaking news" these days? Things that happened years ago that we just forgot about?)

As for collecting data from Facebook and Google, why wouldn’t they? Every advertising agency does. There’s a ton of data just sitting right out there in public for anyone to see. But if you read past the headlines of these stories you find out the government isn’t mining huge swaths of data. It sounds to me like they only request specific data from specific people under suspicion. Which, again, is not a new story. Google has tracked this for some time.

I think this is only shocking and newsworthy because in this modern age, the amount of data the government can look at is enormous, and it takes seconds to get it. It’s not like they haven’t been requesting data on people before now. They probably did the same thing in 1835. It’s just that back then during an investigation, someone had to physically walk to a store and request that the shop owner look at his log books. In a way, our privacy is probably *more* secure today, because at least Google looks at the request to make sure it’s legit before handing over the data. That shop owner in 1835 probably spilled his customers’ information without even asking to see a court order.