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Tell HN: Aaron Swartz's website is offline
433 points by 0xferruccio on Dec 10, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 202 comments
Growing up Aaron Swartz's blog post series Raw Nerve was one of the most influential readings for me, the website that hosted them is now down: http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/rawnerve

Here is the archived version of it: http://archive.is/8uu5x or http://archive.fo/8uu5x

Knowing that this would happen eventually, I created an archival copy on GitHub soon after his death: https://github.com/jdjkelly/www.aaronsw.com

I can hardly believe this was six years ago.

Cool. Nevertheless I feel like this should be upgraded to the 100%-offline-readable level (i.e. at least qblog.aaronsw.com should be mirrored too, so should be Twitter and Pinboard accounts preferably), converted to the epub format and distributed among commercial (for free or for charity), free and pirate ebook libraries. I'm actually surprised nobody has done this yet.

I made an epub out of his blog 2 years ago.

It is not sorted or edited in any way though.


Thanks for this!

Thanks very much

Why don’t you do it?

I've already put this to my to-do list so I probably will if somebody won't do this faster.

His post "I hate the news"(0) was(is) very influential for me personally.

It was seminal in what become a rather significant change in my habits and view of the world. I am now very conscious that news are entertainment, purely and simply. With the goods and bads of any other entertainment form.

From time to time, while explaining my position to others (often seen as kind of radical), I refer this post. I hope it continues to be available.


While I like and respect who Aaron was and what he did for us all, I cringed when reading "I Hate the News" because it came across as very naive. It's the same logic young people use to justify not voting, also the same logic my fellow parents use as reason for not attending town meeting.

Find new sources, find your news. While today's news doesn't effect you directly, it might tomorrow, or it might effect your friend, loved one or neighbor. What Aaron is ranting about is the "business" of news which is fair. If the nightly news on your TV news network of choice offers nothing for you, find your local news, follow a reporter, a journalist and get involved. Actual journalism is what informs, enriches and protects American democracy. See also the "fourth estate".

We frequently need to update our mental model of the world (e.g., how are things in country X? what can I do there? is it reasonably safe to visit? what happened yesterday at place Y?). However, mainstream news usually gives me little information and whatever it gives is skewed by that channel/journalist political affiliation. I do not know of a general solution. Sometimes it is talking to neighbors; sometimes doing your own research; sometimes reading three sources at war with each other. But to be useful I have to start with specific questions, not open my brain to random sources peddling outrage.

This "updating the world model" can still include reading news, but for me those should be level headed overviews and not emotional appeals. And they do not need to be real-time: reading news 2 weeks later works just as well and cuts down on "you would not BELIEVE what just happened" type of coverage.

> I cringed when reading "I Hate the News" because it came across as very naive.

To me, this is simple, might be a bit simplistic, rather than naive. Which is good -- erring on the side of simplicity is better than giving such a "nuanced" approach that one cannot get any actionable advice from reading something. I may agree or disagree, but I prefer opinion posts to have clear advice (maybe this is just my preference).

> It's the same logic young people use to justify not voting

I see no problem there. When voting offers two choices, both of which unattractive, it is OK in my book to abstain. I grew up in a place practicing one-candidate votes (i.e., you choose between "in favor" that in the end will show 95+% and "against" with no alternatives) so acquired immunity to "citizen votes solve all problems" mentality.

> Find new sources, find your news. While today's news doesn't effect you directly, it might tomorrow, or it might effect your friend, loved one or neighbor.

The news should not affect my family or friends. Change in the real world could; but I think "news" is not a great source of information to detecting such changes. Just my 2c.

>I grew up in a place practicing one-candidate votes (i.e., you choose between "in favor" that in the end will show 95+% and "against" with no alternatives) so acquired immunity to "citizen votes solve all problems" mentality.

I grew up in a place with effectively single party rule, and it was imbued into our culture that it's pointless to vote because you'll never unseat that party anyway. A big recent change was when, in a semi-recent election, an opposition party won an electoral constituency, worth a mere 5% of parliamentary votes, by the thinest of margins. I couldn't tell you what the opposition platform was today. But regardless of the fact that the opposition still wielded absolutely no legislative power, this led to an era of what many would consider a very electorate friendly legislative push.

This "don't vote for the lesser of two evils" business is nonsense. Use your right to vote relentlessly: to punish arrogant politicians, to press on single issues, to fight for the lesser of two evils because it is the LESSER of two evils. Finding and balancing the lesser of two evils is your job as a voter.

Even if your desired choice has no chance of winning, grinding down the margin, year after year, makes the other side nervous and more willing to compromise. Even if your desired choice has no chance of losing, expanding the margin gives them more room to take less "centrist" stances and push for the things you want. If there's a lesser of two evils, keep voting until the more of two evils has no choice but to compromise and become less evil. Lather, rinse, repeat.

> This "don't vote for the lesser of two evils" business is nonsense.

I was talking literally, not figuratively: two options would be "yes" or "no" for a single candidate. There would not be an option for a second candidate, however unlikely to win. Thus, sorry, I am not buying "use your right to vote relentlessly" whatever the options. If the ballot box is rigged, the other three boxes of liberty (soap, jury or ammo) should be considered instead. My 2c.

The US is structured as a representative democracy, specifically because following politics and making reasoned decisions on all this stuff is a full time job. We elect people who we think will do a good job researching, reasoning and governing.

I started my academic career in political science, I thought I wanted to be a journalist. Ultimately found that computer science had problems that I was better at working through.

Different people have different strengths, there's nothing wrong with outsourcing your news consumption and analysis to someone who represents your interests.

I don't disagree...but then we need to follow politics and make reasoned decisions as to who to elect to do a good job representing our interests. When we get too comfortable that things will remain the same level of corruption and effectiveness (whether we think that is a good or bad level) and stop being educated and selective, that is when things STOP remaining the same.

Good news sources create accountability that isn't managed by PR. Poor news sources instead empower PR.

The founders didn't like too much democracy for ALL SORTS of reasons, some valid and some not. They built a system that mostly empowered people like themselves. I'm not demonizing them, historical context matters and they did all sorts of stuff that was good and important -- my point is simply that we should feel more willing to question their assumptions than most people have been willing to do.

> The US is structured as a representative democracy, specifically because following politics and making reasoned decisions on all this stuff is a full time job.

I don’t think the original intent was that government would be involved in “all this stuff”, but I agree that representative democracy works for the system we’ve built since then.

For someone who claims to like and respect Aaron, you are rather dismissive of him and his "rant".

Your recommendation to find your news, local or otherwise, might have been valid 50 years ago, but it isn't today as most news ( local, national and international ) is owned by a handful of conglomerates who more or less share the same value. Your recommendation is like telling people who don't like facebook to use instagram instead. Ignoring the fact that facebook owns instagram.

I do agree that actual journalism protects democracy. I'd be interested in what you consider actual journalism.

> For someone who claims to like and respect Aaron, you are rather dismissive of him and his "rant".

People you like and respect can have very naive ideas.

>but it isn't today as most news ( local, national and international ) is owned by a handful of conglomerates who more or less share the same value.

You might be thinking of broadcast news? It's definitely not true of all local news sources.

All journalism is full of biases (of the institution, of the individual reporter, etc). You can (and should) still get the news out of them. Learning that your local council is holding a big vote in a week is still important news whether or not its coming from a source on the payroll of a company owned by clearchannel.

I'm curious as to which kind of non-broadcast local news you're talking about. Aside from a motley mix of small town newspapers, this kind of source doesn't exist anymore.

> It's the same logic young people use to justify not voting

He provides some pretty good reasoning that ignoring the news and doing candidate research might be make you a more informed voter.

Could you give an example of something you learned or read in the news that had a practical effect on your life?

Could you give an example of something you learned or read in the news that had a practical effect on your life?

Today the news told me that a particular road I use to get to work is closed.

Yesterday the news told me that a charity I usually contribute to, but forgot to this year, is falling short of its annual fundraising goal.

Last week the news told me that a product I use has been recalled for safety reasons.

The only people who say that the news is irrelevant to their lives are people who don't actually consume the news, and choose to imagine that the reality is identical to the parody in their minds.

There are more news sources today than ever. If you don't like the one in front of you, there are others.

I'm pretty sure none of those particular "news" would have been of any relevance to me, for example. I'm also pretty sure that when people talk about "news" they mean TV news bulletins or large press outlets — which wouldn't cover those things either.

However, a newsletter or a status update on social media seem like they would cover that type of information.

But they're not "news" in the common usage made of that word by any stretch of the imagination.

Moving the goalposts doesn't help your argument. Local news is very much "news." Like politics, all news is local. It may not be local to you, but you're not the only person in the world.

The reason it's called "journalism" is because newspapers started as daily journals of what ships were coming into port, and what cargo was expected.

Boring, mundane, everyday, very local news.

You can keep calling it "news" until you're blue in the face.

The point was that people more and more disassociate these things with "news", and when they say they're not reading the news, that's not what they mean — regardless of the origin of the word "journalism".

The fact they don't refer to that as news might however have to do with the fact that information comes to them through apps that are not news apps. (Weather app, social media apps, etc.).

I'm also puzzled as to the statement that "all news is local." No, when you watch the news, most news is definitely remote and irrelevant to the life of the people who watch it. That's why they stop watching/reading it, usually.

There are many forms of "news" out there (we're on a site called Hacker News after all :) ), which is probably what my complaint about that article would be.

To me, more specialized news sources sometimes definitely can be relevant to your career (think trade journals and similar), or perhaps helps you learn new things (techniques, tools, etc.) about your hobby. Definitely I've learned some things from these type of sources.

If you have a good local media source, you will also see stories with relevance to your life, perhaps affecting some of the things you do, at the least involving the town you live in. Unfortunately good local media can be tough to find in some places.

It usually does not involve me directly (though it indirectly involve me if said investigation is about things I pay for via taxes), but I do appreciate good investigative journalism sometimes for unearthing various wrongs and putting public pressure on organizations to do the right things. Good investigative journalism unfortunately is also in decline, however.

I think Aaron's point is absolutely correct when it comes to the current trend of "news" to be talking heads shouting at each other, and yellow journalism designed to titillate, not inform. Even more sober journalism can over-focus on national issues, and that can be problematic without a balance of the local, as Aaron IMHO correctly implies. Unfortunately increasingly national and increasingly overemotional is the most visible trend of "news" today.

Maybe Aaron doesn't get it. Maybe you don't get it.

The question boils down to this. If information doesn't promote action, what good was the information?

> It's the same logic young people use to justify not voting

And why should they? Has the outcome of an election ever come down to one vote?

The pattern is simple. The news let's us focus on what we can't control so we can ignore what we can control.

How many fat voters want free health care? How many of them sit down to watch the news instead of exercising?

How many voters want more money but won't invest time learning a skill?

How many voters want better education but won't log on to (MOOC-du-jour)

How many voters want world peace but won't change their consumption habits?

How many voters want cleaner energy but won't buy an electric car?

I'm with Aaron on this one. Keeping up with the news doesn't make you more "woke". It means you've wasted time that could have been invested in direct action of the outcome you want.

The majority party of the Virginia House of Delegates was decided not by one vote but by a coin flip because the vote was tied.

This happened last year. It was all over the news: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/court...

“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed; everything else is public relations.” - popularly attributed to Orwell

(As you may already know), Swartz was heavily influenced by Chomsky, and Aaron definitely had that pessimistic view of the "news machine." But imo, it seems justified in hindsight considering the backlash that he personally experienced after (arguably, single-handedly) stopping SOPA in it's tracks. His legal persecution was practically guaranteed after that; he was going to be found guilty of something, eventually. Unfortunately, the Secret Service got him by the legal balls for using MIT's facilities to bulk download JSTOR docs.

I think the point he was making is that the news is broken. I want to invent a better a news app.

effect (noun) -> affect (verb, in this intended usage)

not nit-picking, rather trying to help correct a common error that distracts from an otherwise excellent comment

These types of corrections don't really add to the conversation. I used to have similar editor instincts, but most people who read HN make substitutions like that without being told.

Yeah; same probably goes for this conversation. FWIW it wasn't just a typo, it was a repeated use of the wrong word. I'm no "grammar nazi", but there are (thankfully) a large number of HN readers for whom English is a foreign language. I'm happy to absorb the occasional downvote in the process of helping teach and improve the quality of others' communication. As measured by upvotes and grateful replies, the community here agrees.

Yeah this post is literally the same argument as “my vote has never changed the outcome of an election so why vote?”

No, not what he says at all. He implies that everything you need to know to vote can fit on one side of an index card.

The point is you don't need to follow the news to make informed voting decisions.

He also suggests reading books instead of daily news! He says weekly or monthly reviews would be fine too. This whole thread is full of people thinking he’s suggesting you stay ignorant, when really he’s saying the culture of everyone must read the news is wrong, and we can get our information from better sources than the news.

>and we can get our information from better sources than the news.

I'm not convinced. Reading books just subjects you to different biases from those authors. How are they supposed to be immune to problems periodicals have?

I mean the title doesn’t help. You might even call it click bait.

I think the “everyone should read the news” culture that Aaron describes is a straw man. Most people I know who read the news regularly know that it’s partially entertainment for them and that you can get your info from places other than the daily news. Only people like Donald Trump think that being informed means watching cable news all day.

Maybe I just haven’t met any of these people who think that books are bad but daily news headlines are good.

If all you do is read voter guides then you have delegated your critical thinking to the organization that produces the guide. I would not call you a informed voter if all you do is read a voter guide every election.

I would not call you an informed voter if all you do is spend 23 hours a day consuming the 0.0001% of the news that time affords you

I don’t know anyone who does that. they might be well informed, I would have to see what they were reading but yes I would agree that 23 hours a day of news is not helpful. This is absurd.

And what's wrong with that argument? Democracy and voting aren't unquestionable goods. Just look at what became of most of the non-democratic countries that the US decided to "liberate" via forcing them to adopt democracy over the years.

> What’s wrong with that argument?

At an individual, probably nothing. But at a macro level, apathy is equivalent to a lack of legitimacy, which is a big problem. If the cancer of apathy spreads too far, the entire system comes crashing down.

It’s like a party where your job is to bring one of the mixers. You don’t bring yours, nothing that terrible happens. No one brings any, and the party becomes a disaster.

>a lack of legitimacy

Well... yes. And I view this as a good thing. The current US voting system is broken and I am not sure it is fixable simply by voting more - that simply entrenches the current system.

I prefer to use illegitimacy and disenfranchisement to spur useful change to the systems themselves. I want to see somethink like ranked choice with an instant runoff, the abolition of the electoral college and a simple one person, one vote choice for president, without dividing people into small groups first.

Reforming the senate is likely also a good idea.

Apathy and illegitimacy are the kindling needed to foster real change.

I don't think he's arguing for apathy, can't think of a less apathetic individual if I tried. I think he's rightly pointing out that batch processing can be more efficient, and optimizing the schedule for such a process is something many people don't consider.

Well, after years without electricity, you may start thinking that people not bringing mixers is a symptom rather than a problem.

With apologies to Pascal[1]

You assume your vote doesn't matter. Then

If you are correct and you vote, nothing happens.

If you are correct and you don't vote, nothing happens.

If you are wrong but you vote, you help make change.

If you are wrong and you don't vote, you enable bad things to come about.

Game theory says to vote.


The better framework for decision-making is the trusty cost-benefit analysis. For starters, it always reminds you that decisions have costs:

> If you are correct and you vote, nothing happens.

Not true. If you vote, something does happen — you take time out of your day to vote. You're also likely to spend a lot of time researching candidates and issues, following along with the results, telling everyone else that you voted, etc. That investment of time, emotion, and energy comes at a cost. Most importantly, there's the opportunity cost: you could direct those resources to other things, e.g. reading a book, volunteering at a shelter, improving your career, getting extra sleep, etc.

Voting is only worthwhile (at an individual level) if the benefits end up being worth the costs, just like any other decision or course of action.

If you're going to use cost-benefit, then you have to look at the margins. The delta cost is time out of your day. Learning issues, caring about outcomes etc., is just going to be done at the level that people do it going about their normal days (perhaps unfortunately). You read the news, you see outcomes, you have an opinion- then voting is a small additional effort.

which if you want to go down that route I think it's important to note that many of the policies meant to protect against the specter of voter fraud in the US drastically increase the cost of voting on a segment of population that the propagating party (Republicans in this case) does not consider to be a part of their base. Sure, this could be accidental, but with the number of times it has happened in separate places with separate policies by the same party, I don't consider it particularly likely to be an accident.

The reason I bring this up is because in the current US system, I would posit that the harder it is for a person to vote, the more likely it that your vote is important given the political capital and effort expended to make sure it is hard for that person to vote. (again, this is predicated on the belief that I do not consider this phenomenon to be accidental in any way)

>the more likely it that your vote is important given the political capital and effort expended to make sure it is hard for that person to vote

It would make no sense for voter suppression to be aimed at an individual. It would only make sense for it to be aimed at large groups of people. No one is going to spend political capital and effort to stop you from voting personally. They may spend political capital and effort to stop some large group you are a part of from voting.

and if you are a member of that group, and they paid X dollars to target that group with an attempt at disenfranchising them then we arrive at an estimated cost of $(X/population of group) to target you (among the others in the group as well). The emphasis on individual vs group only serves to distract, groups don't target individuals with disenfranchisement because it's just easier to target entire groups. They still don't want you to vote, they just use a single piece of your identity to decide that you fall into the group of people they don't want to vote. If someone is willing to pay to make sure you (among other people) don't vote, then clearly your vote is worth both the concern and the price of the group targeting you (among other people).

Vote, and preferably against the group of people that uses voter suppression as a tactic for winning an election in a democracy.

>and if you are a member of that group, and they paid X dollars to target that group with an attempt at disenfranchising them then we arrive at an estimated cost of $(X/population of group) to target you (among the others in the group as well).

Sure, but that doesn't imply they would have spent $(X/population of group) to stop you personally from voting, if it was not a part of a package deal.

>The emphasis on individual vs group only serves to distract, groups don't target individuals with disenfranchisement because it's just easier to target entire groups.

That's true, because our laws are set up that way. The important distinctio between group and individual is that you choose to vote or not vote as an individual. You don't choose to vote as a group. Voters are not suppressed as individuals. They're suppressed as a group.

>They still don't want you to vote

They don't care if you personally vote or don't vote. They care about how many people like you vote.

>then clearly your vote is worth both the concern and the price of the group targeting you (among other people).

No, it's not. What's worth something to that group is reducing the number of people in your category that vote.

>Vote, and preferably against the group of people that uses voter suppression as a tactic for winning an election in a democracy.

Out of spite? What if the policies of the people using voter suppression align better with your interests than do the policies of the people whose votes are being suppressed?

I don't disagree, but probably the best way to value the importance of your vote is some equation where the biggest variables are the % chance of your side winning and the importance the issue at hand. The amount of voter suppression going on is, I think, an indirect way of estimating both of these things.

yeah, you're right about that, but given how difficult these things can be to actually measure in reality, I think an indirect measure is better than no measure at all (or a gut feeling). A lot of these races with heavy suppression were extremely close races, which obviously begs the question of how effective the voter suppression was and if it turned the tide (my money is on "almost certainly).

It turned out my vote was not particularly instrumental in the election I was participating in, but if just assumed that from the start I definitely wouldn't have gone out canvassing and trying to convince other people that their votes matter. If other people like me made similar decisions and didn't vote and didn't try to mobilize, would the election I participated in still have gone favorably? Maybe, but I know I sure felt a hell of a lot better doing everything I could than sitting on the couch worrying and fretting about things instead of actively trying to influence them.

>but if just assumed that from the start I definitely wouldn't have gone out canvassing and trying to convince other people that their votes matter.

Why not? If you can sway the decisions of large numbers of people, that sounds like something that could have an impact on the outcome of the election. Would you feel badly that you were lying to them by telling them their vote mattered?

>If other people like me made similar decisions and didn't vote and didn't try to mobilize

Unless you make the decision to canvas/vote or not canvas/vote collectively, your own thought processes don't determine what those other people do, and wondering about what would happen if they did seems to me like some weird form of solipsism.

Not to mention with all of the recent events in the US related to voter suppression, my question to people who espouse the opinion of "my vote doesn't matter", my question is this. Then why are those in power actively seeking to undermine this ability that is "useless". If it truly was useless I doubt they'd be scared enough to act against it.

One of those things deals with your own personal vote, which is not likely to change the outcome of the election, while the other deals with large numbers of votes, which could easily change the outcome of the election. No person trying to suppress votes cares if a single individual is barred from voting. They care that many people are barred from voting.

well what better way to make sure a large number of people don't vote than to let them convince themselves that voting doesn't matter.

My point is that the net effect is the same for both things, one you don't vote because your vote was suppressed and the other is you not voting because you don't think it will matter. Obviously if it's worth paying money to try to make sure than many people can't vote then it's even better if some people don't vote for some personal reason because they don't even have to pay for that or potentially get caught doing shady shit. Disenfranchising yourself serves the same coalition that seeks to dismantle the system in return for more personal power.

>well what better way to make sure a large number of people don't vote than to let them convince themselves that voting doesn't matter.

Sure, if you can convince large numbers of people of the validity of that argument, you could potentially affect the election. That doesn't mean the argument is actually wrong though.

>My point is that the net effect is the same for both things, one you don't vote because your vote was suppressed and the other is you not voting because you don't think it will matter.

It's not the same net effect. If you decide not to vote personally, because you evaluate the argument and find it to be correct, that changes the tally by 1. If someone suppresses the vote (whether by convincing large numbers of people that their vote doesn't matter, or by making it more difficult or impossible for them to vote), that changes the tally by a lot more than 1 (or else they failed badly in what they were trying to accomplish).

>Disenfranchising yourself serves the same coalition that seeks to dismantle the system in return for more personal power.

That coalition might like that the argument is out there, but it still doesn't make the argument incorrect. It still isn't likely to change the outcome of the election if you personally choose to vote or not to vote.

Honestly I'm not super invested in whether the argument is "correct" or not, I'm invested in the actual situation that affects actual people's lives. I personally don't make my decisions on what opinions to espouse and who to try to convince of anything based on a rigid structure of "validity" of an argument. It helps and it's a decent indicator of the right way to go sometimes, but if I know something is going to have a negative effect on people's lives based on whether or not I spread the idea or opinion, I don't care if it is "valid"/"correct" or whatever, I care about the effect. It is also important to note that even if the argument is not correct, that does not mean that the conclusion is not. A fool with no notion of "proper" argumentation can make an argument espousing any conclusion (right or wrong) that comes to him, but that has no bearing on whether any of those conclusions were right or wrong (also known as the fallacy fallacy)

I have this concept I use internally a lot where I consider what I believe to be true and what I consider to be "useful", and sometimes I will choose to believe things that I am sure are false because it is more useful to me personally to believe it is true. One example of this is the concept of karma. I am don't believe there's some mystical force in the universe that will balance everything out and ensure "what goes around comes around", but it sure is useful to believe in some mystical balancing force so that I don't feel compelled to avenge every instance of me being wronged. Instead I just let it go and assume that the universe will right itself. The previous paragraph is taking this type of analysis to an external level when I decide what I will propagate with my time and energy and what I will simply read and move on.

I don't particularly care whether or not the idea is structurally sound for some framework of debate and a system of rules for determining if it is valid or not, I'm more concerned with the real implications of believing and propagating belief in the idea. You mention that it's not the same net effect because personally deciding not to vote would change the tally by 1, but the voter suppression targets a group of more than 1. Yet here you are trying to spread the idea to other people to convince them that they also should join you in evaluating this idea as correct and thus not vote. This increases that count to more than 1, and the better you are at it, it increases further. It is exactly the same net effect because humans are social creatures and ideas spread through socialization and group acceptance. People who read your post and agree with it will feel that your reasoning justifies their belief in not voting as well. In a way, whether intentional or not, you are commenting on this topic in a way that serves to disenfranchise voters through self-disenfranchisement. If that is not your intent, I would ask that you examine what the effects of your efforts are and how they align with your goals in life and reality and perhaps focus less on systems of logic that are meant to help simplify and parse arguments, not determine your every action.

It's a well-known scam. You make something difficult to get in order to make it look more important than it is.

"If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal." Emma Goldman

>If you are correct and you vote, nothing happens.

Or you get into a car accident, or just waste some time and energy getting to the polling station, or waste a stamp if voting by mail.

>If you are wrong but you vote, you help make change.

Not necessarily a good change. You could be the one that enables bad things to come about.

Pascal's wager was always a bad argument because it assumes there's no cost to living as though there is a God. You made it worse by assuming that your vote will necessarily make things better in the situation where it does anything at all.

Even if you buy into the premises, the logic only works if voting is costless. But there are arguments that voting is not merely useless, it is counterproductive.

Interestingly, I put your phrase into my favorite search engine and the top result is a counterargument to your argument. :)


Actually this might be the best argument I've read against this line of reasoning. Thank you.

> And what's wrong with that argument?

It is like saying "I can lift at most 100 pounds; Bob can lift at most 50 pounds: therefore, there's nothing we can do to lift that 104-pound rock".

Are you talking about Iraq? I’m pretty sure the problem there was war, not democracy.

The big pink elephant; In a lot of cases this is a rational, factual argument with the current system (In the US.)

Feel free to refute the argument's validity with empirical data. I would genuinely love to see it. I've seen apologetic researchers offer reasons for why their data isn't as damning as it seems, but never seen anything remotely close to proof of validity.

This last presidential election was decided by several thousand votes in a few states. There were even closer local elections this year. One persons vote doesn’t ever decide things, but if you can’t see the absurdity of everyone taking that position, I don’t know what to say.

Isn't it more absurd to say that "everyone" would take that position?

Plus consider that if you increased the number of voters by the margin of victory, what are the odds that 100% of those new voters would vote alike and swing the election?

1) That's not how the burden of proof works. 2) This is not a factual or rational thought in the current system. every time the Libertarian or third party does well in an election(like in the last election of 2016), it shows those in power the ideals that are looked at when choosing a candidate. The problem does not inherently lie in the system, it lies in the people telling each other that voting third party is a waste. That train of thought is what is ruining this country(USA), because it's a slippery slope to complete apathy of the system.

Thanks for your generic dismissal of our reasons for not voting. I vote in local government matters, but I'm not really sure what the point of my federal vote is supposed to be right now while I'm a blue voter in a permanently very blue state.

If we had pure direct democracy that'd be one thing, but in the age of the electoral college, your dismissal of youthful naivety comes across to me as empty arrogance from someone who's convinced his own beliefs are the only ones worth adhering to.

>for not voting. I vote in local government matters

"I vote in local government matters" doesn't really put you in the "not voting" camp.

>while I'm a blue voter in a permanently very blue state.

It provides signals. Vote for other blue candidates to show support.

>your dismissal of youthful naivety

The dismissal is of people who don't vote. Those people are the issue because voting is the only way to get changes into your local governments, etc.

>> It's the same logic young people use to justify not voting

What's wrong with not voting? If you're a regular person, it takes a lot of time and energy and you get nothing out of it. One vote never made a difference.

I don't buy the argument that "If everyone thought like that, then it would make a terrible difference"... This statement is bullshit because the premise is false to begin with; most people will not think like that because most people are sheep and will vote for whoever the media tells them to vote for.

The people who buy the rhetoric that their vote makes a difference are the same people who buy all the bullshit propagated by the political media.

If someone is suggestible enough to accept the premise that one vote out of hundreds of million makes a difference, then surely these people are also easily influenced by other kind of media. It's very far fetched.

If you're a thinker, then your vote can never compete against the masses who just follow the media.

One vote never made a difference.

...is the sort of thing said by people who don't watch the news and because of that are unaware of the number of manual re-counts that are done each election.

Getting an accurate count is not the issue; that's part of the show. The issue is that you only have one single vote out of hundreds of millions and the pool of candidates is ridiculously, ridiculously limited.

In a fair system with over 300 million potential candidates, how likely would it be that a father and his son would both be elected as president (as was the case for George Bush junior/senior)? What about the Clintons? When we factor in the empirical evidence, how can we still think that one vote out of hundreds of millions make any difference at all?

Are you familiar with the personal history of Bill Clinton? Needless to say, his dad was not president.

I once looked up the personal histories of U.S. presidents. It was about 50% candidates who came from well-connected families (like both Bushes or FDR), and about 50% candidates who rose from seemingly humble beginnings (like Clinton, Truman, Eisenhower). It crosses party lines; both Carter and Reagan had humble beginnings.

Have you run for office yourself? You might feel differently about votes if you did. The field of candidates is only limited at the end. At the beginning, as you point out, it could be anyone.

And logically, a high volume of votes can't disprove the value of a single vote. If a single vote did not have any value, neither would a high volume of such votes!

But if a million votes are worth something, then each vote must be worth something too.

how likely would it be that a father and his son would both be elected as president

If all 300 million people lived identical lives and had identical histories, then the chances are about one in 300 million.

In the real world, people who take specific life paths, get specific degrees, and acquire specific skills are more likely than others to end up in a particular place. Especially when the other 299,999,999 people get to weigh in on the decision.

Just as not every one of those 300 million people has an equal chance of becoming a database administrator at Google, and not every one of those 300 million people has an equal chance of becoming a barista.

> If you're a regular person, it takes a lot of time and energy and you get nothing out of it. One vote never made a difference.

Except when you start preaching that idea, then you are part of the masses that think that way, and hence the minority of people who do vote, and who do not represent the majority opinion, are the ones that influence the outcome.

I'd rather be part of the masses who think rationally. If it were up to me, the system would look very different but it's not. I have 0 influence. The best I can do for myself is leave the country if it gets bad.

If everyone thought like me, then society would churn through governments like toilet paper and life would be better for people like me who only stand to benefit from change.

If you don't think it can change for the worse, I'd like to point you towards some properly failed states.

Neil Postman has a lot to say on this topic, which he terms the "news of the day" throughout Amusing Ourselves to Death. For example:

"This idea — that there is a content called “the news of the day” — was entirely created by the telegraph (and since amplified by newer media), which made it possible to move decontextualized information over vast spaces at incredible speed. The news of the day is a figment of our technological imagination. It is quite, precisely, a media event. We attend to fragments of events from all over the world because we have multiple media whose forms are well suited to fragmented conversation."

“How often does it occur that information provided you on morning radio or television, or in the morning newspaper, causes you to alter your plans for the day, or to take some action you would not otherwise have taken, or provides insight into some problem you are required to solve? For most of us, news of the weather will sometimes have consequences; for investors, news of the stock market; perhaps an occasional story about crime will do it, if by chance it occurred near where you live or involved someone you know. But most of our daily news is inert, consisting of information that gives us something to talk about but cannot lead to any meaningful action."

"You may get a sense of what this means by asking yourself another series of questions: What steps do you plan to take to reduce the conflict in the Middle East? Or the rates of inflation, crime and unemployment? What are your plans for preserving the environment or reducing the risk of nuclear war? What do you plan to do about NATO, OPEC, the CIA, affirmative action, and the monstrous treatment of the Baha’is in Iran? I shall take the liberty of answering for you: You plan to do nothing about them. You may, of course, cast a ballot for someone who claims to have some plans, as well as the power to act. But this you can do only once every two or four years by giving one hour of your time, hardly a satisfying means of expressing the broad range of opinions you hold. Voting, we might even say, is the next to last refuge of the politically impotent. The last refuge is, of course, giving your opinion to a pollster, who will get a version of it through a desiccated question, and then will submerge it in a Niagara of similar opinions, and convert them into—what else?—another piece of news. Thus, we have here a great loop of impotence: The news elicits from you a variety of opinions about which you can do nothing except to offer them as more news, about which you can do nothing.”

What is a good source of information? By that I mean:

- not about daily information (which are usually as fast as possible and don’t take the time to really understand the situation)

- not biased

- not about juicy news, but world topics that are ~objectively important

I feel like there should be a subreddit for that.

Here's my secret stash:

- https://www.quantamagazine.org - science-y

- https://thebrowser.com - sometimes too intellectual or focused on literature

- https://waitbutwhy.com - sometimes too simple

- https://www.project-syndicate.org - sometimes written by people that are "talkers/politicians" not "doers"

- https://www.gwern.net - The monthly newsletter is great

- https://chinai.substack.com - Chinese Papers and AI news translated

- https://www.ribbonfarm.com - great long form essays

I also got asked a couple of times about starting my own monthly mailing list with the most interesting things I find.

If you'd be interested in receiving it email me at hi[at]ferrucc[dot]io

https://www.quantamagazine.org looks good. Thanks!

you're welcome :)

I can tell you what I do:

1. I don't consume any news from televised sources,

2. I read Foreign Policy, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, The Economist and Foreign Affairs,

3. I'm generally skeptical of everything I read and I try to assume every article's author has many unknown unknowns in their reporting (to counter Gelman Amnesia),

4. Every so often (once a week or so), I read something from a news source I actively distrust just to see what else a nontrivial portion of the population believes about the world.

This isn't perfect, but if you have the free time to do that much reading I think it gets you pretty close to well-rounded. I think the only major way to improve upon this would be to add another major news source from another country for additional foreign perspective (this is why I like The Economist and Financial Times).

Every source of information will be biased, and you have to take that into account by being critical.

I found that the best source for me is The Economist: once per week, written by smart people, with good summaries of anything that is important. Delivered digitally (with an excellent audio version, too).

It is "biased" in the sense that the editors hold a set of opinions and you have to be aware of it. I do not agree with all of their opinions, but I am aware of them. The news useful even if you disagree with their interpretation or recommendations.

Surprisingly, it is the only intelligent and non-sensational news source that I have found.

> "Every source of information will be biased, and you have to take that into account by being critical."

A thousand times this. Bias is everywhere. I think people who say they're looking for an 'unbiased' source of information are really looking for a source of information they can just blindly consume without doing any pesky thinking. And if you're blindly consuming information without thinking, you're allowing someone else to think for you.

I really like their Audio edition: it's a full version of the paper voiced by pro actors.

I don't understand why this isn't more common. I'm already spending 8-hours a day at work, reading stuff or parsing information in some ways. I have found that I have no mental capacity left to read a full newspaper on top of that.

Listening to a podcast while commuting is way less exhausting (to me at least).

I went from The Economist to Foreign Affairs few years ago when Eco became unbearably filled with an agenda. You might want to check FA out.

Can you describe their agenda, or point to a description of it?

It's conspicuously centrist and pro-global-capitalism (see: articles essentially saying "human lives on earth has definitely gotten better under capitalism" (and not explicitly saying "world-average QoL is the correct metric by which to measure progress", nor addressing counterfactual hypotheses), + anti-trump + pretty skeptical of brexit. These are sort of acceptable, manageable biases to my eye: is there more I'm missing?

Everyone has a different level of "acceptable, manageable biases"

The Economist is somehow accused to have a bias in every direction. Some would call it "Ecommunist"pushing a far-left agenda, others decrying a right capitalist ideology.

One of the papers I like reading is the monthly "Le Monde diplomatique".


It has in-depth analysis of current events and world topics, and is a nice mix of recent news and long-term stories. I often find myself looking for more information after reading one of their articles, as they often include a lot of references to other topics or events I am not familiar with : it feeds my curiosity this way, and I get to read various news source about one topic.

I think one of the takeaway's from Aaron's piece is that there IS no universally good source of information. That's okay, because the news you need to hear or that actually impacts you will make it's way to you through hearsay. The people you talk to in real life are a good filter. If you like podcasts, there's a nice discussion here http://www.hellointernet.fm/podcast/11

Hard to go wrong with these two:

- NPR: https://www.npr.org

- Reuters: https://www.reuters.com

They can be a little bit dry sometimes but that's what professional neutral news has to be.

I like also:

- Bloomberg: https://www.bloomberg.com

- And Politico: https://www.politico.com

And finally a financial blog I love, Matt Levine Money Stuff (it's free from his newsletter): http://link.mail.bloombergbusiness.com/join/4wm/moneystuff-s...


To be fair, they were replying to a request for news sources..

I'm not entirely sure non-biased publications exist. In a perfect world they would be a thing but in the world of humans quite impossible.

As for my criteria:

- I usually look at who owns the publication to get a sense of its positions in terms of important global affairs.

- Are they reporting all the facts or simply "lying by omission" (which tends to be a very popular tactic these days, especially when it comes to geopolitical topics).

- Balance, or what I like to call gray journalism. Because nothing is totally black or white in life.

I'm of the opinion that the Internet simply killed traditional journalism, because now anybody (given the time) can go and check the facts for any given story published by the media.

If you're into radio, PRI's The World (https://www.pri.org/programs/the-world) and the BBC World Service (https://www.bbc.co.uk/worldserviceradio) both do a great job covering world news, as well as the Associated Press, Reuters, Al Jazeera, and the Christian Science Monitor.

You should check out allsides[0]. It's a new aggregator that presents news from the left, right, and center. They're constantly reevaluating what side of the spectrum news sources land on. They post about their findings and explain why they consider a new source left, center, or right.

[0]: https://www.allsides.com/unbiased-balanced-news

You could possibly automate an aggregator that takes the various sources, see what at least all of them agree on and then spit that out as 'just the facts'.

That algorithm empowers any source to suppress an inconvenient fact by making a baseless assertion of the contrary.

Since 1998: https://aldaily.com/

I like business news in general. You make money in finance by being right and people in the industry will gravitate towards accurate sources by definition. In general, business news tends to have the best qualified hosts as well, who can actually understand macroeconomic concepts.

There is no source that ticks all boxes, you have to resign yourself to being well informed about a small number of things and become active in that community, for all other things simply take it on trust and be wary.

I have not found something like this on the internet, but if it exists I'd love to know about it. Otherwise, books are the only place that fill out those qualifications.

A few suggestions: academic papers, books, documentaries (including indie produced ones on Youtube), radio shows/podcasts.

There is no such thing as unbiased... fact-based is often as close as you will get, which is increasingly rare.

> What is a good source of information?

Pamphlets. Road signs. Safety labels.

As a general criteria, I would add "promotes action". What good is information if it doesn't bring any change?

Perhaps this will be of interest: https://thecorrespondent.com/

I donated to them on the weekend, after watching The Daily Show interview with a founder.

I have been on the waiting list since they announced the international edition a while back. I'm looking forward to seeing how it works out.

It's still a biased source, of course, but at least it's outside the advertising-driven bubble.

@soneca thank you for that link, I hadn't read this particular post. rolf dobelli's 'the art of thinking clearly' has a similar essay which greatly affected me to avoid 'news'. Ironically he also wrote a piece in the UK Guardian newspaper https://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/apr/12/news-is-bad-ro... recommending people stop consuming news...

I agree. Many organizations want to have their cake and eat it too. They are basically ad-driven and looking for eyeballs. "If it bleeds it leads"

I don't know that I ever really have much faith in the whole "church and state" divide between advertising and editorial but to the extent that was ever true, it doesn't reflect the current direction of many papers. They are leaning in to "native advertising".

I apologize for getting political, but my pet theory is that "the news" is largely to blame for our current political situation because reporting on boring candidates with boring opinions generates less page views than reporting on our current president.

At the same time I'm supposed to put these people on a pedestal and donate to them so that they can save democracy on my behalf.

So is there a function they could be doing that would be important for our democracy? I think so. Are they doing it? I think the jury is still out.

Sorry, I know this seems cynical or "edgy". I just don't believe that a non-cynical view the journalism industry reflects reality.

I love the ideas centered around summaries:

1. Weekly 2. Monthly 3. At the end of significant events

Is there anything out there that provides this sort of service?

For Hacker News, there's https://www.hackernewsletter.com/

The idea is that instead of reading HN every day, you get an e-mail once a week.

People apparently use it, because one article I wrote was selected for it, and I saw that it drove significant traffic.

I'd like something for the nytimes and similar outlets too.

Aside: the UK there are a couple of satirical news quizzes (The News Quiz, Mock The Week, Have I Got News For You). At times I've got most/all my World news through those; it works quite well as a means to get hot-takes on major events.

Thank you for sharing this! Excellently argued article, and has aged surprisingly well.

An extension to this principle would be to focus all of that energy into consuming news that, for you, ISN'T a closed circuit, and that potential could have a direct impact in your life.

I'm not in any position now or in the near future to do a darn thing about the soldiers in Iraq, but topics covered by my trade association publication, or news items about work that is going on around me, etc., might. Likelihood of that reading having an impact on my life (and equally of my life impacting the thing reported) is far, far higher, so it would seem the returns to that reading heavily outweigh the returns to reading the NYT.

I used to think the same a few years ago.

But nowadays, with the state of politics, the spread of fake news and false narrative on social media... this is what we have.

"they could have read an entire book about most subjects covered and thereby learned about it with far more detail and far more impact than the daily doses they get dribbled out by the paper"

This is not what people do. This is applicable to 1% of the population.

Trump got elected and keeps supporters with dozens of 140-character messages everyday. There is no details, no analysis, lots of lies and inflammatory comments. But this is what works.

Whether you agree with him or not, this is the winning method to gain influence. This is also because escaping news on social media and TV is harder and harder, and the more susceptible to get trapped are not the one that would make the better choices for everyone.

So you need to use the same tactics to fight him or support him or support something in general. Or you virtually don't exist.

And the opinion and vote of the people is more important than we realized just ten years ago when he wrote that. Would Swarz stay silent and disconnected in the Trump era?

You are talking about some different. Aaron was talking about reading news to learn about the world. You are talking about political activism. For your activism goals, reading Twitter might help (although your time is likely better spent with algorithmic summarization than with reading garbage tweets one at a time)

Swarz was an activist himself. You might say, not a "political" activist, but today even acknowledging science is political...

I think reading Twitter is generally a terrible idea, unless you carefully select who you follow, but you risk staying in your bubble, and adventuring yourself outside of it is even worse.

Just because WaPo and NYT are more verbose doesn't mean what they are feeding you isn't lies you know.

Which of Trump's tweets do you take issue with? That the Mueller investigation is a witch hunt (it is)? That FBI agents were used to infiltrate Trump's campaign in an attempt to submarine it (they were)? That all of this behavior was highly illegal (it is). That foreign spy apparatus (5 Eyes) was engaged to spy in the Trump campaign (it was)? That anyone who colluded with 5 Eyes committed treason in doing so? This is what is really at stake, this is really what took place.

And oh, by the way, I would really like to know who murdered Seth Rich and how his attempted leaks about the shenanigans by the DNC got him killed, because you know, that guy was a hero to bringing to light that corruption. Which, by the way, NOTHING has been done about.

What is most disturbing about everything going on right now is how muddied the waters are and it is the MSM doing the muddying. Journalism has failed us. If you can't see that, you are part of the problem. The media needs to follow the story wherever it goes, even if it implicates their friends and colleagues. If they don't, our next step is an uprising to right this ship.

At least lately, it's become pretty obvious that WaPo and NYT are feeding us crap on a regular basis. If you go look at the source materials, you'll realize that their "neutral" summaries aren't close to neutral, or aren't factual at all. Many times you don't even have to go to the source--the articles/headlines themselves aren't even internally consistent. ("Two men say they're Jesus, one of them must be wrong...")

Maybe it was always this way, and I never noticed.

But 'purley and simple' doesn't fit.

News/consume gives you the zeitgeist. No popculture/news no zeitgeist.

Also news doesn't work when no one reads them. So for him it works and for you also but it would probably remove an important organ if noone would spend any money on it. Yes we are far from it and yes there is too much news but his viewpoint is too simple.

Hacker News are [almost] enough.

Thanks for the link, I find it interesting that he links his twitter at the bottom which is mostly news/headline links near the end:


Wonder if it was a head change over those 7 years or something unintended, a way that it drags us all in.

Having been introduced to this idea by CGPgrey on the Hello Internet podcast, I didn't know there was such a concise version of this idea written so well. I've tried to spread this message to my friends irl, and Aaron puts it better than I ever could.

I prefer to regard journalists as "pageview collectors"

Generally I agree and aspire to this.

I do wonder, though, how I would keep track of the list of phrases I'm no longer allowed to say without being fired, shunned, or worse.

I’ll try to figure this out today

It seems to be back up, but I didn't do anything. I'm still going to find out what happened and make sure it doesn't happen again.

Thanks for posting this. I probably wouldn't have noticed until January.

Edit: it turned out to be a problem with the server. Thanks again for the heads up and for everyone’s kind words.

When Aaron died, I cried. First and only time I’ve cried for anyone’s passing.

The world lost a great one that day. Thanks for helping us remember him.

Thank you!

I’m currently reading ”The Power Broker” by Robert Caro, which also makes me think about Aaron, since he wrote about the book. Glad to know that the site is up again.

you’re welcome, happy all is back to normal now!

Thank you.

I'm happy to make a contribution towards the preservation of his site. If there is a Venmo to which I may contribute, please let me know.

Also, I'm not sure how it is presently configured, but if the site is presently a dynamic CMS, it might be worthwhile to export the static assets and host the site on S3/GCS/IPFS. And to publish a tar.gz copy along with a signature checksum.

I have archived Aaron's site into a WARC file if someone wants to host it. Also in cold storage in the event there are any gaps in what the Internet Archive has.

I'm happy to host a copy, as I was just about to crawl his site for my own personal archive.

I’d actually love to do this. I just finished reading his book again.

Thanks a lot! You might also want to set up certbot ( https://certbot.eff.org ) to have https too, as I remember visiting it last time and having it flagged as unsafe because of the http.

It only takes 60 seconds to do it :)

Thank you!

Here you go, an IPFS copy:


Now it's permanent (please pin the hash to help).

Thanks for posting this, I have passed a message to a friend of Aaron's dad.

Awesome :) Hope this gets solved soon as I think it's important to keep Aaron's thoughts alive

Np, he would have noticed this thread sooner or later anyway, maybe this makes it happen a bit sooner.

I let Aaron's Dad know, and it seems he contacted Ben.

Correction: His weblog is (back) online.

And I think his friends and family take great care in making sure his legacy stays online and make sure everyone still alive can keep reading some of the most provocative posts from one of the brightest minds of our generation published on the internet.

Thanks for the update, I was about to post this myself. Glad to see it's back online!

I’m interested to know how others are preserving websites. Due to incomplete snapshots, broken links and spam companies taking over expired domains, it’s often difficult to browse or get a complete image of a website using the Wayback machine. So lately I’ve been using tools like Wayback Machine Downloader to grab as much as I can, then fix up the archive (using relative links, removing unnecessary Javascript, etc.) and finally republish everything as a Github repo using gh-pages. There must be a better way?

Making a better archiving tool would be a great open source project.

Wayback machine's archiver appears to be open source: https://github.com/internetarchive/wayback

aaronsw.com ought to be declared a heritage site.

He is one of a kind.

As of 11:18AM EST I can access everything just fine. Seems to either be back or it's an isolated problem.

I noticed a Bitcoin address was added to his website, it looks like in 2016 [1]. It would be nice to know who controls it and what it's for.

1. https://www.blockchain.com/btc/address/1AaronhQN1sfV24364mne...

Are those custom? Or is it a total coincidence it starts with 1Aaron?

I new Aaron well but didn't interact with him as much as I would like. I think it's one of those things where you expect that there's always going to be time ...

I think I'm going to go back and read some of his blog posts since I haven't read most of them.

Should bring back some good memories.

I have several of his pages and posts saved in my personal Bookmark Archiver archive as well:


Including his list of saved articles on Pinboard:


"Origin DNS Error" on the archive link.

Let me guess, you're using Cloudflare DNS (

Archive.is blocks Cloudflare DNS. You should switch to another DNS server if you want to use it.


> [...] Nameservers responsible for archive.is (ben.archive.is, anna.archive.is) are returning answers tailored to the IP address of the requestor [...]

From this thread https://community.cloudflare.com/t/archive-is-error-1001/182...

That's "how" not "why". Most major services tailor queries based on the source IP, for some reason when archive.is does it to cloudflare queries it's either broken or purposefully broken. At first I thought it might be something to do with in the archive.is network but then I noticed cloudflare queries on behalf of clients don't even source from that IP.

See here: https://twitter.com/search?q=from%3Aarchiveis%20cloudflare&s...

Archive.is intentionally returns bad results to Cloudflare DNS, because Cloudflare don't send them the EDNS Client Subnet Header. Archive.is haven't said much about why, but what they have said appears to accord with this blog post: https://www.sajalkayan.com/post/cloudflare-1dot1dot1dot1.htm...

Apparently he discards requests from DNS servers that don't send EDNS in their requests: https://twitter.com/archiveis/status/1018691421182791680

Try this one: http://archive.fo/8uu5x

archive.fo gives me a SSL_ERROR_NO_CYPHER_OVERLAP error, consistently from that latest Firefox release. Might be a good idea to enable TLS1.0 on that site?

jottit.com (aaronsw project) is also down, because of an expired certificate

It looks like his domain name expired and was squatted. Someone should try to buy it back and rehost the original site. If someone trustworthy undertook that project I'd contribute like $50

It seems to be back online now. Thanks for letting us know.

It's up again

I was able to see all pages except for "3. Look at yourself objectively"

You can read that post if you navigate to the main blog page and then scroll down to that particular post.

Found it, thanks!

can someone find a key Aaron's family member and pay for 10 years of hosting and domain renewals? That's nothing to thousands of his fans

His brother is literally in this thread.

Seems to be back online.

a young man was killed for web scraping a passworded site. Only in murica

He wasn't killed, they were ("only") going to imprison him.


If you keep posting uncivil and/or unsubstantive comments we'll ban the account.


I doubt his kind of "dangerous" thinking will be allowed to be spread for much longer in our corporate dystopian internet. It's just a matter of time before speech daring to criticize the corporations will be considered a security threat or whatever and immediately deleted.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18648555.

Based on which precedent did you arrive at this conclusion?

Right now there is an addition to the next budget bill in the US senate that is about to outlaw the ability for federal or local government agencies doing business with any company or individual involved in the BDS movement.

If you are going to penalize my freedom to NOT buy products the originate from a specific location, it is a slippery slope to see what other forms of protest might be curtailed in order to alter markets.

Edit: Downvote me all you want, doesn't make it less true.

[0] https://www.politico.com/story/2018/11/30/rand-paul-israel-m...

>Edit: Downvote me all you want, doesn't make it less true.

I suspect you're being downvoted because you're off topic and not contributing to the discussion in a constructive way. On the other hand, HN and reddit users have a habit of downvoting comments they disagree with.

"BDS" stands for "Boycott, Divest, Sanction" according to a quick search.



This comment also breaks the site guidelines and only makes the thread worse.

Please read https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and follow the rules when commenting here.

They're not banning "right wing thinkers". They're banning people who are violating Twitter's longstanding policy forbidding hate speech on account of "race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease". Every forum I've ever participated in has had rules against this kind of behavior.

If you're not promoting hate speech, you're fine. If you think someone can't be a "right wing thinker" without posting hate speech, then that's the kind of attitude that's poisoning the right and destabilizing the country. Bill Kristol is in no danger of being banned.

Hate speech is subjective though. For example saying “men aren’t women” is hate speech and will get you banned from Twitter. https://www.google.com/amp/s/thehill.com/hilltv/rising/42003...

Many harms are very subjective, the application of the law depends on many subjective factors, for instance, as does almost any account of justice. To say something is subjective (and imply therefore be discarded, or it is invalid) is rubbish thinking. Just as with many other phrases, "men aren't women" isn't simply a clear expression of fact, it has an ideological message or meaning behind it, just as 4chan's famous "it's OK to be white" wasn't merely an affirmation of a fact very few (if anyone) doubted, it was designed to provoke a response: if challenged, the proponent could reply with "so you're saying it's not OK?".

To frame it as "look how silly these rules are!" without taking into account possible context(s) and intentions seems disingenuous - I have a very hard time believing that someone (even on HN) could make such a statement in good faith.

I don’t think the rules are silly. I think they’re subjective.

For what it’s worth, I think interventions to make Twitter feel safer for trans people are important. I’m sorry I said something that made you feel otherwise.

I would prefer to do it in a way that women’s rights advocates can still do their work, but that’s probably impossible in the current climate.

Safe spaces require a formal hierarchy of identities so you can resolve these issues. Either trans rights come first or uterus havers’s rights do.

My preference would be that Twitter allows you to choose your mode of governance, so you can browse on “safe for trans people” mode or “safe for women” or “safe for conservatives” or whatever mode you prefer. We probably need multiple versions of each since there’s variation even within these categories.

I don’t think there’s any way to do this within liberalism. It has to be an anarchist solution. It’s a mistake to think there’s a good universal answer.

I've never understood the need to "ban" on twitter. The entire system is set up so that you see speech from people that you want to see.

Put up a disclaimer "This account is known to promote speech that is antithetical to the values of Twitter, and the values espoused here solely belong to the individual(s) posting these messages." Put a checkbox for the user if they want to see these results in search or not. Let people decide for themselves who they want to follow.

The fact that those tweets exist and are given a platform on which they can spread the influence is what's harmful.

The words themselves can be hurtful, of course, but they're not as harmful as the power they have when they are tweeted out for the whole world to see. They are given value by being allowed on twitter. They are viewed as valid opinions that new people can adopt and spread. This is why I think twitter is doing the right thing by actually banning such accounts, and why simply giving an easier way to blanket "block" those accounts from your personal view might not be enough.

> Based on all the twitter banning of right wing thinkers.

I did some Googling to see what "right wing thinkers" Twitter has banned lately, and you appear to be talking about Alex Jones and a bunch of literal Nazis.

> When it was allowed for twitter to silence people from their platform

"Free speech" does not and has never meant "guaranteed access to private businesses and websites."

And I'd bet money that you wouldn't say a word if Twitter started banning far-left progressives.

It must be refreshing to be on the right side of history with the likes of Louis Farrakhan, who is anti-white and anti-Semitic. See his tweet about being anti-termite. In your last sentence, are you admitting that Twitter doesn't yet ban far-left groups for cause? If so, shouldn't it be you explaining why you aren't saying a word about a double standard?

Twitter claims to be a neutral platform, and eventually it may be equated to a town square, so legal questions will arise even if it is a private business. Also, once it starts editorializing its content, it may become responsible for the groups it seemingly endorses / condones.

Twitter is not only censoring extreme groups, so it isn't sufficient to say that a handful of people deserve to get banned. We know that people now generally, even on free-thinking college campuses, self-censor because saying anything controversial can get your life destroyed. We have set a dangerous precedent with "acceptable social commentary" because anyone can be vilified for their ideas even if they are polite and well-reasoned.

If you think I support Louis Farrakhan, or Twitter in general for that matter, you are confused. Twitter's current stance is wildly inconsistent, and there are plenty of people that they should have banned long ago but haven't, Farrakhan included. They've probably banned some people they shouldn't have, as well. I don't trust them much. But the gaggle of racists and Nazis they've already banned is a good start.

> In your last sentence, are you admitting that Twitter doesn't yet ban far-left groups for cause?

Nope! I'm saying that I think you don't actually care about free speech for all.

You and I aren't connecting on each other's points. FYI, this is only my second comment to you. There's not much to discuss if you don't recognize my previous post to you as a simple warning against the treacherous path that is being taken by Twitter. I didn't want to misstate where your support lied, but you spoke tersely and maybe glibly. Yet, it sounded like the usual talking points of the left so I was compelled to respond more generally.

I needed to put the political grandstanding into perspective because, even if there were a method to their madness, Twitter needs to stop, reassess and, hopefully, rethink its mandate. I already stated that Twitter is not banning extremist groups alone, so it's important not to get stuck on reaffirming who deserves to be banned the most. You should see that the _righteous_ banning of (purported) racists, Nazis, Russian bots, and whatever groups they highlight next is convenient cover for their inconsistent, biased actions. Simply put, you can only be sure you are on the right side of history if you are in league with propagandists. If I explicitly declare that they have every justification and are full of good intentions in some such action, it would still be a moot point when trying to address my previous statements.

Granted, you don't wholeheartedly approve of Twitter nor the far-left figure I mentioned, but I only name them for the following two reasons. The disgust of indefensible (historical) groups can be used to shift the moral high ground deceptively to the left. No double standard you might point to could possibly draw the main focus away from Twitter's political bias. Moreover, we proponents of free speech can't be said to not care about the inalienable rights of the far-left because we aren't the ones doing the banning nor calling for any bans. In our criticism, we can fairly ask for consistent action, and Twitter obviously fails the request when one of its policies isn't evenly enforced across the political spectrum.

> Based on which precedent did you arrive at this conclusion?

we are already being classified, grouped and given tiered services according to whatever bucket we fit into today.

insurances are on top of that already with banks a close second. as their ability to mine large datasets increase and cost decrease, they will keep going deeper into profiling.

if you want a concrete precedent, there's this https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/nov/02/admiral-t...

and this is what comes next: https://friendlyscore.com/about

in a more general way, the china social score is a preview of what's to come, even if it'll be less blatant in the western world.

this might not be yet a political issue, but it will have deep impact on self censorship, and that in turn will: http://www.schneier.com/essay-114.html

Lol, downvotes with actual primary sources. Hivemind News is becoming more and more an echo chamber instead of a place for actual discussion.

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