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  #1  
Unread 07-30-2019, 05:48 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Default Knitting Wars!

Ha! My wife recently took up knitting. She googled something like 'knitting community – problems' hoping to find a forum discussing things like problems with 'casting on' and dropped stitches. Instead she got this: the 'culture wars' in a nutshell. Two very different takes on a controversy in the unlikely world of internet knitting forums. One from from left-leaning Vox website and one (including links to previous related stories) from conservative and 'libertarian' website Quillette (sorry Andrew: and yes, they do seem obsessed with this sort of thing)...

...as I am in danger of appearing. I do find this stuff gruesomely fascinating, as is probably clear. It makes me glad I'm not on social media, apart from my 40 odd FB friends. But I'm just going to leave this here, then I promise I'll get a different obsession. Maybe not knitting though!

https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2019/2...tagram-stories

https://quillette.com/2019/07/28/kni...at-yarningham/

The problem is the polarisation of how and where this stuff is reported, the tribalism, it seems to me. The second website, whose take on this I agree with, is clearly a conservative one, which really rankles with me. Because then the messenger, rather than the topic, becomes the focus, as with my argument with Andrew S about Julius Eastman. Is there nobody writing on the left who thinks that these social media witch hunts are no longer just laughable but bullying and damaging? Or are they in fact perceived as morally righteous and justified?
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Unread 07-30-2019, 11:45 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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I like vox.com, but I think they’ve repeatedly misused the term whitewashing in their article. To quote the Cambridge Urban Dictionary: “https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/...glish/practice
The article refers instead to viewers assuming an unseen actor is white, which is quite radically different.
I didn’t read the Quillette.

Cheers,
John
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  #3  
Unread 07-30-2019, 12:29 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is online now
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In a world in which attention is an increasingly precious commodity, people go too far because it works.

Peaceful protestors marching in a polite and orderly fashion with all the right permits rarely get the news coverage that a couple of jerks who break windows and throw water bottles at the police do.

Likewise, mutually respectful exchanges of opinions on knitting (or poetry) sites rarely go viral.

If you measure success in terms of how many people are paying attention to your very worthy message, then holding a public auto-da-fé that will cause thousands of bystanders to fear your wrath is a more successful strategy than attempting one-by-one conversions of misguided or oblivious individuals, about whose feelings and mental health you actually care.
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Unread 07-30-2019, 01:17 PM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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x
Large chunks of news media and social media have been blurred into one. Entertainment is valued more than information. Public opinion has been hijacked (in my private opinion) by rogue hackers and trollers more interested in attaining Warholian fame than espousing principled ideas.

I still believe that, in time, the brightest minds will rule the day. It's just going to take some time for it (the mindless muddle that pollute the cyberverse of social and news media) to be separated from the more potent effect of social/global crowd sourcing. The money will follow those who offer solutions to problems; not the ignorant self-absorbed hackers and trollers (or the deplorables. Let's not take our eye off the deplorables.)
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Unread 07-30-2019, 01:27 PM
Erik Olson Erik Olson is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Julie Steiner View Post
In a world in which attention is an increasingly precious commodity, people go too far because it works.

Peaceful protestors marching in a polite and orderly fashion with all the right permits rarely get the news coverage that a couple of jerks who break windows and throw water bottles at the police do.

Likewise, mutually respectful exchanges of opinions on knitting (or poetry) sites rarely go viral.

If you were to measure success in terms of how many people are paying attention to your very worthy message, then holding a public auto-da-fé that will cause thousands of bystanders to fear your wrath is a more successful strategy than attempting one-by-one conversions of misguided or oblivious individuals, about whose feelings and mental health you actually care.
True enough, if you measure success by attention alone, negative attention is easier gained than positive. On the other hand, if you measure it by actual persuasion of the individuals to be persuaded, the misguided and oblivious, then I reckon you will have better chances of success through one-by-one conversions. Similarly, though a couple of jerks who break windows and throw water bottles at police may indeed get more attention overall than a hundred peaceful protesters with permits, the danger is that the kind of attention gained by that violence may be counterproductive to the cause of their protest. I should know—this scenario plays out time and again in Portland. Seeing as attention can also be counterproductive, I think it should not be considered as the sole index of success.

For an extremer example, take a radical fringe in the world of animal rights activism, who, having grown unsatisfied by the level of publicity achieved by passive means, resorted instead to acts of violence to protest. In June 1990, they exploded a bomb in the car of one veterinary surgeon at a research defense establishment, and then another in that of a professor of physiology at Bristol University. Baskerville, the first-mentioned victim, escaped with her life but only after jumping through the window of her jeep as the bomb turned fireball next to her fuel tank. These acts of theirs secured headlines, more attention than ever. So were they successful by them? If attention were the sole measure of success, then they were remarkably so. But that definition would make all terrorists who claim legitimate causes of grievance successful. Nay, I think that where a cause is at stake, the measure of success should count the kind of attention that helps but discount the attention, however great, that hinders the cause.

In this case, my concern would be that a movement otherwise legitimate might by overzealousness give themselves a bad rap and arm those who would discredit them with easy ammunition. Methinks.

Last edited by Erik Olson; 07-30-2019 at 04:54 PM.
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Unread 07-30-2019, 02:47 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Just to add that misusing a term like whitewashing, if indeed that happened in this article, would be both inflammatory and ignorant. Not the best basis for dialogue.

Cheers,
John
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Unread 08-01-2019, 04:33 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Quote:
I didn’t read the Quillette.
I really urge you to hold your nose and do so, John, including the two previous reports the writer links to at the start of her article. Yes, the website has a conservative agenda, but unless they've wildly bent the truth about all this (which I doubt) then it's pretty appalling.

Julie, I take your point about extreme tactics being needed, rightly or wrongly, to gain attention for just causes. The thing is, I genuinely don't see that the people here – the gay knitwear designer who wrote the poem, the woman who blogged about her trip to India, the other woman who posted a video defending her – did anything even close to deserving of the approbation they received.

To be clear, I know all this stuff can seem petty, and pales when compared to the antics of Trump's administration and the genuine threat from actual racism. But this social justice hysteria, this auto de fe atmosphere as you put it, increasingly it seems to me, is the image that many people have of the left. If only conservative news sources call it out it will drive more people to the right. More voices in the liberal media should disown it rather than, as Vox do, laud it. In my opinion.

Mainly it raises my hackles because it just seems like simple bullying in the guise of something morally virtuous.
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Unread 08-01-2019, 09:23 AM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is online now
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I should clarify that I wasn't justifying extreme tactics. Just commenting on factors that encourage the phenomenon.

While my daughter and I were living in Westwood, waiting for the donor heart that she desperately needed, we had to cross picket lines in front of UCLA's Ronald Reagan Medical Center on a regular basis. Certain classifications of hospital workers were protesting staffing levels that they felt led to employee burnout and inadequate service to patients.

Generally I try to respect picket lines, but duh, my kid was dying. No matter how sympathetic we were to their cause, we really did not have the option of NOT crossing their picket lines (other than when we entered through the emergency department, which was not being picketed; but even scheduled hospital appointments are rarely optional for anyone).

I did feel that nurses' assistants, on whom much of my daughter's care depended during her frequent hospitalizations, were being shamefully overworked and underpaid.

Eventually, a small group of hospital workers got frustrated with the apparent lack of impact that their picket line was having, and they decided to do something more dramatic to get media coverage. They blocked a major local intersection (Wilshire and Westwood) during rush hour, and 25 of them were arrested, which they apparently regarded as martyrdom for their cause.

They did definitely achieve their goal of more visibility. The fact that the optics of their very visible act absolutely sucked, because they were penalizing thousands of innocent bystanders (some of them trapped in ambulances en route to the hospital) for the policies of the hospital administrators, didn't seem to have been a consideration.

As I mentioned before, I'd been sympathetic to their cause up until then; at that point, I began to resent the protesters--even the ones who hadn't gone off-script by blocking the intersection--and also to resent the fact that their strike was exacerbating the very situation (inadequate staffing levels that were causing the quality of patient care to suffer) that they were supposedly protesting.

For similar reasons, there are far more effective ways to explain to well-meaning people why their statements are culturally insensitive, other than publicly tar-and-feathering them as an example to others. But there are so many clueless people, and so little time, and it can be so exhausting to persuade them, one by one, of the fact that harm can be done even when no harm is intended, that I can understand why it's tempting to resort to the more visible approach of merciless public shaming and bullying--the individual effects of which are often disproportionate to the (real or perceived) infraction, and the wider optics of which are definitely counterproductive. I don't condone these tactics, but I do understand the frustration that motivates some people who employ them.

On the other hand, the flip side of unfairly tarring everyone with the same brush of racism is unfairly dismissing every claim of cultural insensitivity as mere "political correctness" and overreaction on the part of "the left," which is also not an ideal situation. I get the impression that the latter is Quillette's standard position. Which is why I take what I read there, however well-written and evidence-based and reasonable-seeming a particular article might be, with a large grain of salt. It was given that particular platform in order to serve a particular agenda.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 08-01-2019 at 09:51 AM.
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  #9  
Unread 08-01-2019, 09:52 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Well, I read the Quillette, and have some overlap with Julie’s argument. But I will add that the convenient thing is even easier to do when you can tell yourself you are fighting the good fight or whatever. Lots of self-righteous people in the world, and I am sure I am of that number.

Cheers,
John
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Unread 08-01-2019, 10:22 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Quote:
I take what I read there (Quillette), however well-written and evidence-based and reasonable-seeming a particular article might be, with a large grain of salt. It was given that particular platform in order to serve a particular agenda.
I totally agree, Julie. Which is why I was making the point that the liberal media shouldn't be so squeamish about criticising these social-media witch hunts, as that makes them the sole province of the conservative media's agenda. Bullying and self-righteous mob-rule, however ideologically progressive and justified the participants feel themselves to be, is not a good thing. The positive and earnest headline of the Vox piece ('The Knitting Community is Reckoning with Racism') is just as agenda based as the Quillette. It leads the reader to suspect a hotbed of white supremacy in the knitting world, when it turns out that the main evidence of 'racism' is some perfectly pleasant sounding woman looking forward to a trip to India and a gay man living with Aids being called a white supremacist for writing a jokey poem suggesting that people should calm down.
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