The Great Hack: Chaos for Profit

Arlene Goldbard writes about a new Netflix documentary that exposes the distorting impact of data mining and exploitation of political processes in the U.S. and abroad. Perhaps all that analysis of our polarization just comes down to an artifact of late capitalism, capturing and exploiting data as the road to riches.

War of Words

The maxim “the map is not the territory” was coined by philosopher Alfred Korzybski, who also said, “the word is not the thing,” perhaps inspiring Zen teacher Alan Watts’ dictum, “the menu is not the meal.” Experience is deeply affected by (and often confused with) the way we label it. One of Korzybski’s proofs was to give students cookies in two unmarked bags; all munched happily until the plain label was torn from one bag, revealing that the cookies it contained were dog treats. Reading the words—rather than eating the cookies—was what sent students running to the toilet, clutching their mouths. Right now, a war of words is being waged over Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s use of the term “concentration camps” to describe U.S. incarceration of immigrant children at the border in circumstances Physicians for Human Rights characterized as “dangerously inadequate conditions of confinement.”

Our Democracy—and Theirs

The terrible conundrum of contemporary politics is that everyone is responding to more or less the same forces, but in ways too radically different to be reconciled. Take immigration. Around the globe, people are on the move, many having been forced from their homes by conflicts in their regions or economic and humanitarian crises (e.g., four million Venezuelans have fled their homeland). Approximately three million refugees have settled in the U.S. since 1980—about 22,500 in fiscal 2018. Globally, a record 70.8 million people—one out of every 108 on the planet—were displaced in 2018, according to a new report from the UN.

Lying for A Living

Arlene Goldbard is disturbed that to see that former CIA covert operative and antisemitic tweeter Valerie Plame is running for Congress in her New Mexico district. She would no more want to put such a person in a position to protect our civil liberties and democracy than she would appoint a fox to watch the hen-house. Would you?