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First POST: Paranoid Liberalism

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, January 21 2014

Paranoid LIberalism

  • Princeton historian Sean Wilentz has penned a lengthy attack on Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald and Julian Assange--"the leakers"--claiming to uncover "their deepest beliefs and motives" in past writings, which his witheringly sums up as "paranoid libertarianism." But a close reading suggests that it's Wilentz, the liberal, who is being paranoid about critics of the national surveillance state.

  • Henry Farrell, who is steadily emerging as one of the most thoughtful writers we have on the politics of the Networked Age, savages Wilentz in response, calling his essay "perhaps the purest exercise in even~the~liberal~New Republic~ism that the magazine has published since its change in ownership." (For you younger First POST readers, that a reference to TNR's success at getting attention by counter-intuitively endorsing Reagan's bloody contra war in Central America, or its publication--under Andrew Sullivan's editorship--of an article that argued that IQ was connected to race.) But contrarianism isn't automatically a bad thing.

  • Farrell's main point is that Wilentz--writing in a liberal magazine for liberal readers--never proves that the "leakers" (notably leaving out Chelsea Manning, not to mention other reporters like Barton Gellman) actually want to destroy the liberal state. Instead Wilentz bizarrely conflates the national security state--which the leakers certain want to diminish if not destroy--with the good, liberal service-providing state. Which, Farrell writes, is an argument "made out of straw and horseshit." Read the whole thing.

In other news around the web:

  • Facebook has become "a real-time measuring stick that allows campaigns, pundits and analysts to gauge how well campaigns organize and connect with supporters," write Matthew MacWilliams, Edward Erikson and Nicole Berns, in Politico. The academics says their Facebook data model, which looks at the growth of a candidate's fan base, how much people comment/like/share posts about a candidate, and the ratio of those two measure, produces a meaningful prediction about that candidate's chances of winning.

  • Obama 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina is now working for Charlie Crist's gubernatorial campaign in Florida, joining other Obama vets like Teddy Goff.

  • The Internet Archive is looking for help extracting political ads from its giant TV archive. (h/t BoingBoing)

  • The Open Contracting Partnership has announced the creation of the first-ever "Open Contracting Data Standard" which is designed to help citizens better track their governments' spending.

  • Data-mining gone really, really awry: A grieving father received a piece of junk mail from OfficeMax addressed to him by name: "Mike Seay, Daughter Killed in Car Crash."

  • If you are running guest blog posts on your site, stop, says Matt Cutts of Google.

  • Google's Transportation Team sent its San Francisco employees talking points for next week's public hearing on shuttle regulations. Naturally, they leaked.

  • MIT's Technology Review note that net neutrality is already being violated by companies like Facebook and Google around the world.

News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

Civic Hackers Call on de Blasio to Fill Technology Vacancies

New York City technology advocates on Wednesday called on the de Blasio administration to fill vacancies in top technology policy positions, expressing some frustration at the lack of a leadership team to implement a cohesive technology strategy for the city. GO

China's Porn Purge Has Only Just Begun, And Already Sina Is Stripped of Publication License

It seems that China is taking spring cleaning pretty seriously. On April 13 they launched their most recent online purge, “Cleaning the Web 2014,” which will run until November. The goal is to rid China's Internet of pornographic text, pictures, video, and ads in order to “create a healthy cyberspace.” More than 100 websites and thousands of social media accounts have already been closed, after less than a month. Today the official Xinhua news agency reported that the authorities have stripped the Internet giant Sina (of Sina Weibo, the popular microblogging site) of its online publication license. This crackdown on porn comes on the heels of a crackdown on “rumors.” Clearly, this spring cleaning isn't about pornography, it's about censorship and control.


wednesday >

Another Co-Opted Hashtag: #MustSeeIran

The Twitter hashtag #MustSeeIran was created to showcase Iran's architecture, landscapes, and would-be tourist destinations. It was then co-opted by activists to bring attention to human rights abuses and infringements. Now Twitter is home to two starkly different portraits of a country. GO

What Has the EU Ever Done For Us?: Countering Euroskepticism with Viral Videos and Monty Python

Ahead of the May 25 European Elections, the most intense campaigning may not be by the candidates or the political parties. Instead, some of the most passionate campaigns are more grassroots efforts focused on for a start stirring up the interest of the European electorate. GO

At NETmundial Brazil: Is "Multistakeholderism" Good for the Internet?

Today and tomorrow Brazil is hosting NETmundial, a global multi-stakeholder meeting on the future of Internet governance. GO

Brazilian President Signs Internet Bill of Rights Into Law at NetMundial

Earlier today Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff sanctioned Marco Civil, also called the Internet bill of rights, during the global Internet governance event, NetMundial, in Brazil.


tuesday > Reboots As a Candidate Digital Toolkit That's a Bit Too Like launched with big ambitions and star appeal, hoping to crack the code on how to get millions of people to pool their political passions through their platform. When that ambition stalled, its founder Nathan Daschle--son of the former Senator--decided to pivot to offering political candidates an easy-to-use free web platform for organizing and fundraising. Now the new is out from stealth mode, entering a field already being served by competitors like NationBuilder, Salsa Labs and And strangely enough, seems to want its early users to ask for help. GO

Armenian Legislators: You Can Be As Anonymous on the 'Net As You Like—Until You Can't

A proposed bill in Armenia would make it illegal for media outlets to include defamatory remarks by anonymous or fake sources, and require sites to remove libelous comments within 12 hours unless they identify the author.


monday >

The Good Wife Looks for the Next Snowden and Outwits the NSA

Even as the real Edward Snowden faces questions over his motives in Russia, another side of his legacy played out for the over nine million viewers of last night's The Good Wife, which concluded its season long storyline exploring NSA surveillance. In the episode titled All Tapped Out, one young NSA worker's legal concerns lead him to becoming a whistle-blower, setting off a chain of events that allows the main character, lawyer Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), and her husband, Illinois Governor Peter Florrick (Chris Noth), to turn the tables on the NSA using its own methods. GO

The Expanding Reach of China's Crowdsourced Environmental Monitoring Site, Danger Maps

Last week billionaire businessman Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce company Alibaba, appealed to his “500 million-strong army” of consumers to help monitor water quality in China. Inexpensive testing kits sold through his company can be used to measure pH, phosphates, ammonia, and heavy metal levels, and then the data can be uploaded via smartphone to the environmental monitoring site Danger Maps. Although the initiative will push the Chinese authorities' tolerance for civic engagement and activism, Ethan Zuckerman has high hopes for “monitorial citizenship” in China.


The 13 Worst Bits of Russia's Current and Maybe Future Internet Legislation

It appears that Russia is on the brink of passing still more repressive Internet regulations. A new telecommunications bill that would require popular blogs—those with 3,000 or more visits a day—to join a government registry and conform to government-mandated standards is expected to pass this week. What follows is a list of the worst bits of both proposed and existing Russian Internet law. Let us know in the comments or on Twitter if we missed anything.