Friday Hodgepodge

Friday, March 15, 2019

Four Things

Signs of the Times

1. The hugely popular "woke" Twitter account of one Titania McGrath turns out to have been manned -- or is it crewed? -- by a forty-ish male with a doctorate in literature:

Usually, I show front covers of books I mention here...
The satirical account has become so popular that it landed Mr Doyle a book deal. Woke: A Guide to Social Justice is published tomorrow and has received so many pre-orders that it is already in the top 100 books on Amazon.

Named after Titania, the queen of the fairies, in William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Mr Doyle drew on his academic thesis when setting up the parody Twitter account.

"She is named after the queen of the fairies because I think all of this 'woke culture' is an utter fantasy world," he said. "The people who promote this hyper inclusive culture are fantasists.

"They believe that racial boundaries must be strictly policed, so any cultural appropriation is completely off bounds. But gender is totally 100 per cent fluid and you can pick and choose as you please. This stuff is completely incoherent and the stuff of fantasy. So I think it's quite appropriate that she is named after the queen of the fairies." [minor format edits, link added]
If, as I was until a day or so ago, you were ignorant of this brilliant spoof, you can go here to scroll and laugh.

2. I enjoyed this list of top pro-vaccination/anti-anti-vaxxer memes. Perhaps my favorite came from the honorable mentions. Its caption? "Ridicules creationists as 'anti-science'," is an anti-vaxxer.

3. A professor's homework assignment might require us to rethink where we hold private conversations, among other things:
Charlotte Lehman could hear the man reading his credit card number out loud from across the Starbucks.

He was speaking to a companion, but his voice carried over the music to where Lehman sat. Surrounded by a dozen or so people, the speaker also divulged his phone number a­­nd home address.

After that, all it took for Lehman to identify him was a quick Google search. She was able to find the man's full name, what he does for a living and his professional website. She even heard him sharing a password.

Lehman, a third year law student, wasn't Googling the stranger for fun. She was on a homework assignment from her professor -- to "de-anonymize" someone in a public place.

Kate Klonick, assistant professor of law at St. John's University, where Lehman studies, says she gave her students the task as an optional assignment for spring break. The goal: Try to identify a person based solely on what they reveal in public, including anything displayed on their clothing or bags, like a monogram or a school logo.
There are a couple of other unsettling examples in the story.

4. Rounding out this week's list is a foreign affairs story:
"My apologies to people of Venezuela," the Florida Republican said in a message on Twitter. "I must have pressed the wrong thing on the 'electronic attack' app I downloaded from Apple. My bad."
Marco Rubio's tweet,  humorous though it be, is about all he could say, given that (a) the U.S. gets blamed for everything down there, to the point that most Venezuelans don't buy it anymore; and (b) the power grid, run as it is by obsolete technology, is impervious to such an attack, anyway.

-- CAV


Dinwar said...

I'm not convinced #3 is scary. I mean, on the one hand yes, someone oblivious enough to share a credit card number and password in a crowded room quite obviously needs to learn more about basic security, and will likely do so the hard way. On the other hand, to be completely anonymous is an unreasonable expectation. I've met people who knew who I was, who my parents were, and where my siblings lived, and therefore could easily find my home address and business history, merely because I look a lot like my father. The reality is that if you have any sort of public life, someone can find your personal information if they're willing to put some effort into it. Reasonable precautions will prevent casual doxings, but, as my grandfather always says, locks only keep the honest people out.

A more disconcerting aspect of this story is that crime has been normalized. We accept, as a culture, that people will violate our privacy and take advantage of any information we let slip. A society with a proper respect for the rule of law wouldn't hold such a view. Sure, there would be criminals--humans have free will, so it's nearly inevitable that some will opt for evil--but criminal activity would be seen as an aberration to be dealt with, not simply a fact of life.

Gus Van Horn said...


Those are good points, but you do remind me: a big part of the problem is also that many of the government "safeguards" in place to protect personal information are actually a big part of the problem, from SSNs to regulation of the credit bureaus.