Freezepeach warriors discover the terrible truth

Recently, as social media have begun a belated crackdown on the odious rantings of the far right, the trolls have begun emigrating to more open media, places where the promise is made to never, ever censor Free Speech, no matter how vile. The first thing they ought to realize, though, is if you knock out the bottom of the barrel, discourse is going to plunge to new lows. The second thing is that removing any limitations is mainly going to appeal to people with no respect for others, and you’re going to be wallowing in bad actors. The third thing is…you can’t run an active forum without moderation. It’s a law of nature.

So Parler, the latest free speech fad, is throwing away any pretense and cracking down on views it doesn’t like.

Well, that did not take long at all. On Friday we predicted that just like every other social media platform out there, the new favorite among people who falsely say that Twitter is censoring conservatives, would start taking down content and shutting down accounts just like everyone else. Because, if you run any sort of platform that allows 3rd party speech, sooner or later you discover you have to do that. In Friday’s post, we highlighted Parler’s terms of service, which certainly allows for it to take down any content for any reason (we also mocked their “quick read on Wikipedia” style understanding of the 1st Amendment).

Exactly. Everyone who has maintained even a little blog with a comments section knows this is true — if you don’t have a moderation policy, there will be swarms of abusers who who will take advantage of the laxity. Even if you do have a moderation policy, there will be people who try to work around it, just because they can. You will always have to block people; there is no such thing as a viable policy of absolutely unfettered free speech.

The only question is who will be blocked, and for what reasons, and that will always be a reflection of the values on your site. Not censoring Nazis is not a neutral stance, it is actively pro-Nazi.

I could get used to this style of conference

I’m enjoying this method of attending a conference. I can just sit back in a comfy office chair, the slides are projected crisply right in my face, and if a talk doesn’t interest me, it’s easy to tune out and do something else for a while. We just had a break, and I could go fix my own coffee and didn’t have to talk to anyone but my cat (which is kind of a diminished experience, but I have a serious flareup of imposter syndrome when I talk to real arachnologists anyway), so I’ve got nothing to complain about.

If/when this COVID-19 isolation ends, I’m going to have been spoiled and will want every conference to run this way, or at least have a set of concurrent online sessions.

P.S. I have decided definitively that solifuges are far more terrifying than spiders. If you don’t believe me, look below the fold.

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The archaeologists are getting alarmed

I think they’ve been alarmed for a long time, but now Science is reporting on it.

He and others are alarmed by the rising popularity of pseudoarchaeological ideas. According to the annual Survey of American Fears by Chapman University in Orange, California, which catalogs paranormal beliefs, in 2018, 41% of Americans believed that aliens visited Earth in the ancient past, and 57% believed that Atlantis or other advanced ancient civilizations existed. Those numbers are up from 2016, when the survey found that 27% of Americans believed in ancient aliens and 40% believed in Atlantis.

“I look at these numbers and say … something has gone massively wrong,” Anderson says. He can’t say exactly what is driving the rise in such ideas, but cable TV shows like Ancient Aliens (which has run for 13 seasons) propagate them, as does the internet.

Oh, hi, History Channel. What a betrayal of their initial promise they’ve been.

We can also blame the synergy with the popularity of modern racism.

These beliefs may seem harmless or even amusing, says Jason Colavito, an author in Albany who covers pseudoarchaeology in books and on his blog. But they have “a dark side,” he says. Almost all such claims assume that ancient non-European societies weren’t capable of inventing sophisticated architecture, calendars, math, and sciences like astronomy on their own. “It’s racist at its core,” says Kenneth Feder, an archaeologist at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, who is slated to present at the SAA session and began to write about the dangers of these ideas long before most other scholars paid attention to them.

Another twist: dare to criticize this nonsense in public, and guess what happens?

This isn’t easy work, especially online. All the women interviewed for this article have been harassed online after tackling pseudoarchaeological interpretations. Mulder recently fielded replies that included a knife emoji after she tweeted about research showing that people of diverse ancestries, rather than only Western Europeans, lived in Roman Britain. Colavito reports receiving death threats after a host of Ancient Aliens urged his fans to send Colavito hate mail.

No one is surprised anymore that bad racist ideas are accompanied by threats of violence against people who challenge their cherished myths. That it’s driven in part by misogyny also isn’t novel.

Do academia next, Jim

Well, maybe not Jim Sterling, since he doesn’t have the connections, but he certainly does a bang-up job of exposing the structural decay in so many entertainment industries. Video games, comic books, pro wrestling, movies all reek of rot and corruption right now.

The problem, as always, is money and capitalism. There’s always a selfish grifter happily exploiting any successful industry, clawing more and more wealth and power to themselves at the expense of others, preferring to maximize wealth inequity at the expense of distributing the art and science to others.

Uh-oh. I’m going to be glued to my chair all day #arachnids20

The American Arachnology Society Virtual Summer Symposium has been delivered in digestible lumps all through the weekend — two hours here, two hours there — but the marathon begins today, with 15 minute talks beginning at 9am and continuing throughout the day until 7pm. Now there’s the traditional conference structure! Maybe only 10-20% of the talks are relevant to my interests, but I’m just going to put them all up on my second monitor and keep the information trickling my way, perking up when the right magic words are uttered.

It’s not as if I’m going to be going out and about today anyway. A thunderstorm rolled right over my house early this morning, and more are forecast continuing through the early afternoon. Also, hot. Too hot.

I regret to inform you that Jordan Peterson is writing again

I guess he’s recovering. Good for him. Unfortunately, he’s now inflicting more bad takes on us, in this case, the story of Tomas Hudlicky, who wrote such a bad paper in Angewandte Chemie that many of the board members of the journal quit in protest. To the minds of Peterson and other conservatives, this means Hudlicky was burnt at the stake.

I’m not kidding.

So I felt like pointing out that the charred corpse of Dr Hudlicky is still ambulatin’ around, and it’s the board members who have suffered the consequences. Also that Hudlicky sounds like a nightmare of a PI.

Start your weekend with some happy news

Graham Linehan, the ‘noxious transphobe and serial harasser of trans folk, has finally been banned from Twitter.

This is a remarkable turn of events because all of the big social media companies have been remarkably resistant to actually doing anything about the trolls and haters and racists and misogynists that dwell happily within their services. They just spewing and spewing, their targets report them, and the companies come back with some feeble comment that Nazis and bigots don’t “violate their terms of service.”

So what’s going on? It would be nice to believe that corporate executives were hit by a lightning bolt, reflected on their misspent lives, and decided to put up a facade of human decency. This is not the case, however. They’re just looking at their spreadsheets and seeing that their blinkered neglect of civilized behavior is projected to cause them to lose lots of money. They won’t be “cool” anymore.

Facebook leads the way.

Zuck’s social network continues to hemorrhage users, new research suggests.

Facebook has an estimated 15 million fewer U.S. users today than it did in 2017, according to a study released Wednesday by Edison Research and Triton Digital. The share of people 12 and over using Facebook was 67% in 2017, but declined to 62% in 2018 and 61% this year.

Zuckerberg probably has nightmares about his cash cow becoming the MySpace of the 2020s. It could happen.

Facebook on Thursday posted the largest one-day loss in market value by any company in U.S. stock market history after releasing a disastrous quarterly report.

The social media giant’s market capitalization plummeted by $119 billion to $510 billion as its stock price plummeted by 19 percent. At Wednesday’s close, Facebook’s market cap had totaled nearly $630 billion, according to FactSet.

Don’t cry for them, they’re still worth $500 billion. They’re not the future, though, and Twitter is probably glancing nervously at Facebook, wondering if they’re next, hence the sudden interest in cleaning up the shambolic mess of their service. They’re probably also looking to differentiate themselves from their new “competitor”, Parler, where all the right-wingers are flocking.

Parler sounds lovely, if you like wallowing in anti-semitism while pretending to be a bold independent spirit standing up for liberty, like most right-wingers.

The Parler website even has a “Declaration Of Internet Independence” slamming the “Technofascism” of Silicon Valley and Twitter and claiming that “millions”—yes, millions—have been banned for their political ideology. “We The People have had enough!” they cry, demanding “Free Speech” and “Liberties” and other good things with Randomly Capitalized Letters.

Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful company?

In reality, the largest group of accounts targeted for suspension from Twitter have been bots and terrorists, like the tens of millions of fake accounts removed after the scale of Russian interference in the 2016 election became clear, or the roughly 250,000 accounts associated with ISIS/ISIL removed after the 2015 terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.

Graham Linehan is just the latest victim of an effort to clean up the rubbish. Maybe he should set up a Parler account?