Snowflakes

Silicon Valley's missing empathy gene; "entitled, coddled, petulant snowflakes"; and more.


  • This is civic tech: Today is #GivingTuesday. Take a few minutes and dig deep. If you need some inspiration, go here.

  • Google Jigsaw is a bundle of cutting edge tech, good intentions, and unresolved contradictions about its mission, writes Lucy Wark in a thoughtful essay for Quartz Ideas.

  • NYC city councilman (and longtime friend of Civic Hall) Brad Lander explains in The Nation why he’s getting arrested today as part of the “Fight for $15” protests taking place all over the country.

  • FOIA Machine and MuckRock are joining forces, which should improve their ability to help reporters, researchers and the general public file, track and share public records requests. Kudos!

  • Trump watch: This morning at 6:30am, President-elect Donald Trump tweeted that “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jai!.”

  • The proximate cause of his outburst appears to be the decision of Hampshire College to remove all flags from its campus after a flag-burning at an anti-Trump protest on November 10th, followed by a march Sunday by about 1,000 flag-waving veterans at the college.

  • I have a different theory, which is that Trump’s Constitution-bashing tweet this morning came less than 24 hours after he met with Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, who he is considering as the head of the Department of Homeland Security. Following the election, Clarke took to Twitter to call for the quelling of protests against Trump’s victory and wrote in The Hill that a “separate, deadbeat culture” filled with “entitled, coddled, petulant snowflakes” were all rioters who had no First Amendment right to protest.

  • This 2014 letter from the Milwaukee County DA John Chisholm is the one thing you should read if you want to understand more about Sheriff Clarke’s authoritarian, punitive and ineffective approach to policing.

  • The thin-skinned narcissist President-elect also unloaded a flurry of tweets last night attacking CNN’s Jeff Zeleny minutes after his report on Trump’s “baseless” claim that voter fraud denied him millions of votes. Why did Trump single out Zeleny, when many news outlets have made similar reports? It was probably Zeleny’s saying that Trump’s initial charges of fraud were a “way to change the subject from something that Republicans close to Trump tell me is bothering him: that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton.”

  • Food for thought: Bruce Shapiro, the longtime director of Columbia University’s Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, has written an important short essay on how verbal and physical violence against journalists and targeted groups like immigrants and African-Americans impacted the election, along with echoes of the traumatic events of the 2003 Iraq War and the 2008 economic crash, shaped the deep currents at work in this year’s election. He also raises vital questions about how journalism missed the story:

    Psychologists have long understood that traumatic events corrode bonds of trust and lead people into a polarized psychic whipsaw that pits anger, fear, and scapegoating against avoidance, numbness, and isolation. Without overstretching the point, exit polls and post-election reporting made clear that something akin to that polarized dynamic played out on November 8: A crucial margin in one camp rode resentment to the polls; a crucial margin in the other stayed home in despair. Political reporters, like crime reporters or war correspondents, need to understand how catastrophic events resonate long after the breaking news is over. To get that side of the story right, you need to do political journalism as if people matter. This year’s campaign coverage was the most data-obsessed ever. But data can’t capture the arguments going on in a community, a family, a human heart.

     

  • Om Malik, longtime technology writer, zeroes in on Silicon Valley’s “empathy vacuum” in the wake of the election, writing in the New Yorker. “We talk about the filter bubbles on social networks—those algorithms that keep us connected to the people we feel comfortable with and the world we want to see—and their negative impacts, but real-world filter bubbles, like the one in Silicon Valley, are perhaps more problematic. People become numbers, algorithms become the rules, and reality becomes what the data says. Facebook as a company makes these bubble blunders again and again. Its response to the ruckus around fake news is a perfect illustration of the missing empathy gene in Silicon Valley.”

  • Speaking of Silicon Valley’s powers of empathy, do not read this next item while drinking a hot beverage.

  • While constitutional democracy in America slowly drains away, it’s nice to know that this morning the Obama White House is beginning a two-day invite-only “Summit on Poverty and Opportunity” at Stanford, in partnership with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, as Natasha Tiku reports for BuzzFeed. The event is focused on the ways that technology can “solve” issues like poverty, inequality, and economic immobility, she reports, and will include “an interactive demo by Palantir, the secretive Peter Thiel-backed analytics company, on how a real-time data platform can reduce incarceration, hospital use, and homelessness, as well as a lunchtime conversation on universal basic income with Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes and Y Combinator’s Sam Altman.” Elizabeth Mason, the founding director of the new Stanford Poverty & Technology Lab, which is one of the event hosts, told Tiku the Summit was “sort of a coming-out party for the Lab.” There is no mention of the event on the Labs’ website.

  • Trae Stephens, a principal at Peter Thiel’s VC firm and an early employee of Palantir, was appointed last week by President-elect Trump to help lead his transition effort at the Department of Defense, as Lee Fang reports for The Intercept. Palantir, a $20 billion data-mining behemoth, is currently lobbying hard to win a $3 billion Pentagon contract to develop battlefield intelligence systems. As Fang notes, “no amount of outside lobbying can compare to having a Palantir insider now shaping the entire future of the Defense Department.”