April 1st, 2015

Google Maps Pac Man

It wouldn't let me play where I live now (not enough streets?!?), but it would let me play near where I used to live on Cap Hill. Briefly fun, but I suck at Pac Man and always have, so, briefly.

Catering and Civil Rights/Public Accommodation ... and Shaming

I got to thinking about this Indiana thing. As near as I can tell, the underlying claim is that business services associated with a wedding are somehow ... different, in a way that would make it somehow ... acceptable to discriminate in that context that would _not_ be acceptable to discriminate at a more obvious public accommodation such as a movie theatre showing movies to the public or a restaurant that serves meals.

Link Fu about catering and civil rights ... stuff. I'm NOT including stuff about hostile work environment, who qualifies as a supervisor, sexual harassment, etc. I'm looking for what happens when religion and catering run up against each other.


Rastafarian delivery driver asked by employee (caterer) to remove his head covering. He says he can't. They fire him. Employee found to be in violation.

Summary of the law:


This is interesting, because it points out the interstate commerce element.

"The Act designates two criteria for determining which establishments are involved. First, the Title invokes the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution to cover any business which either serves interstate travelers or sells a "subtantial" amount of produce which has previously crossed state lines."

I get that LGBT are not included in the protected classes list on Title 2. I get that.

In any event, the interstate commerce element, in conjunction with the developing national pressure for a boycott suggests a point of weakness here in the argument that catering a wedding differs in an important way from serving at a restaurant or selling tickets to a movie theatre.

Cake baker in Colorado wound up with a judgment saying basically can't refuse to make wedding cakes for gay couples if you make them.


Supporters of the cake baker who didn't want to make those cakes bought enough cookies that he took a break from making any wedding cakes at all.

A more complex California situation involving catering a wedding.


A discussion of California specific law and how it might apply; at the point this was written, the couple had not decided to pursue legal action. Service vs. business was thought to apply (which would suggest that caterers MIGHT be meaningfully different) and size of business also mattered.

Michigan summary of relevant law more generally about discrimination, with a focus on negative economic effects associated with allowing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression (including recognition of loss of younger generation independent of orientation because of the lack of protection for these categories).


It is interesting watching this national discussion while reading Jon Ronson's _So You've Been Publicly Shamed_. By passing a law explicitly permitting religious people to shame (through refusal to serve) based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity and expression, Indiana's legislature and governor have opened themselves up to a national shaming of them for doing so (companies changing locations for conferences, making changes in where to place/expand HQs, etc.). In a shame war, commitment really matters, but so do numbers. I'm pretty sure I know how this is going to turn out, and I think that a lot of other people have figured that out, too, which is why Arkansas has abruptly slowed down the process of passing their version of the law.

Fixing someone's online life and further about Ronson's _So You've ..._

Amazing paragraph about the service that Jon Ronson arranges to try to fix the online reputation of a young woman who had an extreme shame experience, from _So You've Been Publicly Shamed_.

"Michael's strategists had been researching Lindsey's online life and had discovered literally nothing about her besides that "silence and respect" incident."

"That five seconds of her life is her entire Internet presence?" I said.

"Farukh nodded. "And it's not just this Lindsey Stone. Anyone who has that name has the same problem. There are sixty Lindsey Stones in the U.S. There's a designer in Austin, Texas, a photographer, there's even a gymnast, and they're all being defined by that one photograph. ... we're excited ... It's a challenging scenario but a great scenario. We're going to introduce the Internet to the real Lindsey Stone."

The great thing about the service involved is that they don't make shit up the way (apparently) some similar services do. They change rankings by creating a larger, but fundamentally honest online presence.

Which sort of raises all kinds of fascinating questions about taking the advice to put all social media on lockdown so as to avoid any possible future trouble associated with drunken photos with one's friends and similar. Maybe we all _need_ to have the fairly normal drunken photos with one's friends and similar to help people recognize that if we on one occasion or another completely insert our foot into our mouth and shove, it's just us being idiots and not us being monsters.

Ronson is (to me anyway) surprisingly unhappy about this. "We were creating a world where the smartest way to survive is to be bland."


Ronson quoting a journalist friend, "who told me he had so many jokes, little observations, potentially risque thoughts, that he wouldn't dare to post online anymore."

""I suddenly feel with social media like I'm tiptoeing around an unpredictable, angry, unbalanced parent who might strike out at any moment," he said. "It's horrible.""

I am _somewhat_ sympathetic to this perspective. On those occasions where I have taken an unusual position on a controversial topic, I have sometimes had to make modifications to my blog's settings (IP tracking is now turned on, and anonymous comments have to be reviewed by me before they go live, for example, were the result of an exercise in shaming I engaged in a couple years ago. FWIW, I did a ton of research, with some assistance from a friend who is really good at this kind of thing, on the person I shamed that I _did not_ deploy, on the off chance the people giving me trouble did not decide to find something better to do. They found something better to do). It may seem difficult to believe, but I self censor a ton, and before undertaking a whole new layer of self-revelation, I often get a reality check from my husband, sister, High Priestess, etc. But at the same time, I feel like I've known a _lot_ of people over the years (many of them related to me) who would have described themselves as the anonymous journalist did: as having a lot of jokes and observations. Without the internet ever getting into it, a lot of those people figured out over a period of 20 years or so -- going from 13 to 33, for the most part -- and the loss of friendships and in some cases jobs that they really shouldn't be sharing their jokes and little observations with anyone who didn't know them really well and love their sense of humor.

Humor is a fucking dangerous enterprise. When it was mostly undersocialized nerds like me online, there was a kind of humor you could engage in that there is no way you'd get away with now (and honestly, rightly so in many cases).

I think where I am with the anti-shaming crusade is, YES, let's get rid of shaming online. And before we do that, let's institute some Best In Class terms of service and moderation technology and staff it appropriately. If you write a terms of service that basically says, don't go pissing everyone off by being an insensitive clod AND don't go pissing everyone off by laying into the insensitive clod just report it and move on, you'll wind up with a much more reasonable environment. After that, it's all about due process and judgments that make sure the innocent are not penalized, justice is served through the creation of deterring consequences that are proportionate to the harm inflicted, and acknowledge unsatisfied victims will keep coming back for more. Best In Class terms of service and moderation policies ALSO do their best to make it clear up front what constitutes a violation, so people who _want_ to comply _can_.

That will probably look a lot less like Twitter and a lot more like Facebook. Effective enforcement in some of the swampier areas of the internet should also help. I was really struck by what Mercedes Haefer had to say about the end of her law enforcement experience, an earlier portion of which is mentioned in Ronson's book:


"Over the span of 3 years we’ve gone from facing two felony counts, 15 years in prison, and $250,000 in fines to a misdemeanor, with no worse than one year of probation, and $5600 in restitution ($86,000 collectively). ... There have been setbacks and breakthroughs. It's been a long 3 years, I’ll never forget though how far one conversation can go if it speaks to enough people."

I'm sure someone out there will be annoyed that she/others was/were punished at all, and someone will be angry that the punishment was not more severe. What I noticed was that an articulate young person with a background in social sciences and a moral framework for her activism seemed happy to come out of this with a conviction, restitution and some amount of probation. If you can convince a smart hardcase that their punishment is acceptable, you've really made the system work.

If we could substitute this for shaming, the world would be a _much better place_.

ETA: "We are defining the boundaries of normality by tearing apart the people outside it." As good a definition of culture/enforcement of community norms as you are ever gonna find. Fighting this battle is Sisyphean.

Jon Ronson, _So You've Been Publicly Shamed_ (the actual review)

I suffer from huge bias. I absolutely love reading Ronson's books. He is nothing like me, as near as I can tell, but he can describe what he is feeling, and he can describe what other people are feeling, in ways that I can understand. And I am _terrible_ at understanding how other people are feeling. Ronson is Magickal. And this book is a fantastic example of him at his very best.

When I think about online shaming (or offline shaming, for that matter), I think about it as a spectrum of techniques for enforcement of group norms. That is something a group _has to do_ but obvs the details matter (in terms of what is enforced and how). But it's not at all clear that Ronson understands the world in this way.

What Ronson does is point out a continuum of shaming and responses to shaming across time (altho his historical perspective is, honestly, weak at best, and he makes generalizations at times that just make me cringe -- fortunately, that's not where his focus is) and context (online, courtrooms, tabloids, etc.). He shows that shaming does more damage than many people realize when they are Dishing It Out, and he explores whether there is any possibility for redemption from social media shaming (Euro style Right to be forgotten isn't working out so well, but reputation scrubbing operations are also covered).

Ronson looks at whether specific targets of shaming campaigns actually did what they were accused of doing (appropriateness of targeting). He spends a _ton_ of time on proportionality, mostly hammering away on the idea that there isn't any proportionality anywhere in evidence. To the extent that he covers deterrence, he seems to present the deterrent effect of shaming campaigns as Not Good, which I think is unfortunate. He also looks at whether or not the people who were nominally harmed by the person ultimately shamed are satisfied with the results. He also gets into the sheer wastefulness of shaming, particularly in tabloid sex scandals of the past which led to suicides. I should point out that this is _my_ organizational scheme, not his. These are the categories I think about, when I am thinking about schemes for enforcing group norms. His presentation, which moves from one shamed person to another, with excellent attention to his own emotional responses to discussions and hilarious self-shaming (constantly looking at his phone in the Radical Honesty session -- that made me laugh), makes an excellent and compelling emotional case that shaming is not a great way to get people to behave better online. To some extent, his argument is basically, they aren't behaving that badly in the first place. And that's probably true, because when people behave really badly (like the people who perpetrated all those rape gifs in Jez comments and other Denton blogs) shaming doesn't even dent those people. Like at all. He also does not at all get into the ways in which insult culture In Real Life and online prepares people to behave badly even in the presence of significant efforts to shame them.

I spent a few years reading books about corporal approaches to discipline. My parents (who are evil -- if you pray for Jehovah God to genocide all the non JWs at least once a day for decades at a time and raise your children to do the same and ostracize them when they decide to stop, I'm prepared to call you evil) were big believers in beatings. I definitely understand the connections between anger, violence, physical punishment, shame, substance abuse, various other forms of mental illness, etc. Whenever I run into someone who had an upbringing that involved beatings and who _hasn't_ gone through some sort of cognitive process to understand what that did to them, I'm basically sitting around waiting for them to say, "But I deserved it." Ronson isn't writing that book, but he does talk about the role of shame in the criminal justice system, how it feeds into the cycle of abuse, and how treating people with respect reduces violence in general, and can help even murderers (and help the corrections system be a lot safer for everyone). Thinking about social media shaming in the context of generational abuse and more serious criminality is important, because it helps us recognize that while it _seems_ trivial, it isn't, and if we are dismissive of feelings in one context where it appears safe to do so, that is representative of how we will treat those same feelings in other contexts where it absolutely is not safe to do so. This book is another opportunity for people who have bought into a theory of human interaction that is all about You Deserve It and I'm Gonna Give It To You (and not in a good way) to start to think about human interaction in a very different way (Nobody Deserves That And It Will Hurt Me If I Dish It Out).

Because Ronson was focusing on shaming as something that the group does to an individual, and an individual experiences, I think Ronson missed out on two important components to this. One is the idea that there are alternative enforcement mechanisms. And social media _do this_ to a limited extent and will do more of it over time. You can take the shame/counter shame experience way down (and take the nuclear option away from the swamp dwellers who have inured themselves to all shame-based attacks) if you institute better Terms of Service policies and supply technology options that suppress attackers. You can do this by letting people hide themselves, hide other people from them, by creating a report-abuse mechanism with adjudication and an appeals process and other flexible moderation tools that combine technology and human judgment to help people get along together even when they don't agree, and provide conflict resolution mechanisms that don't instantly resort to character attacks and personal degradation. Ronson also downplayed or failed to observe clearly how self- or kin-network defined identity interacted with the larger social-media defined identity. Max Mosely, for example, thrived in part because he was inappropriately targeted (it wasn't Nazi themed, it was German military, and anyone who makes this mistake and then justified it as an unimportant distinction has essentially destroyed their own credibility and ability to effectively shame) and he was able to make that clear to judging observers, in part because he was extremely clear on who he was and why he did what he did, and the people who were close to him understood this as well. Mosely didn't _enjoy_ being targeted, but he definitely understood that he was engaged in conflict. It is not clear to me that Lehrer or several of the others understood that when you are being shamed, you are in conflict with others. If you aren't just going to utterly cave to rejoin the other side, you're going to have to figure out your strategy and tactics and goal and then go out there and win, whether that means smearing the other side or working towards a negotiated settlement.

It's a wonderful book, even more wonderful if when you were a child you were the victim of abuse by other children, other adults, your parents, etc. Triggery, obvs, but wonderful. It's great to read an emotionally brilliant writer articulate all that horrible stuff that is mostly felt in absence and silence, if it is felt at all.

And now for something completely different: Estate Map?


Kinda cool. Anyone know anything about this or competing products?

I was actually doing some research that had nothing to do with this, but which shared some of the same words. This service (not what I was looking for, and it is in Beta) seems to replace the 3 ring binder you keep your will and/or trust documents, health care power of attorney, etc. in., complete with credentials for your online accounts, and set up so that if two people you designate say that you, er, died or met the criteria to trigger the health care whatever, then everyone on a list you designate is informed they now have access to whatever they have access to.

Seems kind of awesome, actually?