The Editorial Board of The Boston Globe says that politicians at all levels of government need to stop feeding the monetary beast that is Facebook.
The many sins of Facebook have been an open secret for a long time now — from revelations about Russian election interference to the scandal over Cambridge Analytica’s data mining of Facebook profiles, to algorithms that steer users to inflammatory and often false content. But at the core of its being — and so often overlooked by those enamored of its warm fuzzy ads touting its ability to bring people together — Facebook is about making money off the data it uses to target ads, something that officials unwittingly help them do every time they stream an event on Facebook Live and oblige citizens to expose themselves to the company’s data dragnet and divisive clickbait.
The pandemic has provided something of a boom for Facebook, not simply from those using the platform to keep in touch remotely with friends during lockdowns but also from its continuing use by public entities and officials who use it as a substitute for in-person public meetings, like those required under Massachusetts’ public meeting laws.
This Tuesday, for example — even as Haugen was detailing Facebook’s “moral bankruptcy” — the chair of at least one Massachusetts legislative committee was using his Facebook page to livestream a public hearing.
Linda Greenhouse writes for The New York Times that the Supreme Court ignores public opinion at its own peril.
The Supreme Court got off easy in the aftermath of Bush v. Gore. Opinion polling during the ensuing months revealed, to the surprise of the decision’s many critics, that the court had not suffered much in the public’s estimation. One reason may have been that during the period surrounding the decision, the court did not appear to the public to be as polarized along partisan lines. Two of the liberal justices, John Paul Stevens and David Souter, had been appointed by Republican presidents. Two other Republican-appointed justices, Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy, departed from conservative orthodoxy with some regularity. [...]
The composition and public perception of the court now is very different. All six of the court’s conservatives are Republican appointees, and the three remaining liberals were all appointed by Democratic presidents. A Gallup Poll conducted shortly after the Sept. 1 order in the Texas abortion case showed that public approval of the court had plunged from 58 percent a year ago to 40 percent today, the lowest in the 21-year history of this particular survey.
A poll conducted during the same period by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania and released on Monday found that 34 percent of Americans agreed with the statement: “If the Supreme Court started making a lot of rulings that most Americans disagreed with, it might be better to do away with the court altogether.” Two years ago, when Annenberg last asked that question, only 20 percent agreed.
Ronald Brownstein of The Atlantic reports on a newly released electoral analysis warning Democrats that the party needs to focus more on the Sun Belt region and voters of color in that region.
Follow the sun. That’s the advice to Democrats from a leading party fundraising organization in an exhaustive analysis of the electoral landscape released today.
The study, from the group Way to Win, provided exclusively to The Atlantic, argues that to solidify their position in Congress and the Electoral College, Democrats must increase their investment and focus on Sun Belt states that have become more politically competitive over recent years as they have grown more urbanized and racially diverse. “The majority of new, likely Democratic voters live in the South and Southwest, places the Democratic establishment have long ignored or are just waking up to now,” the group argues in the report.
The study, focusing on 11 battleground states, is as much a warning as an exhortation. It contends that although the key to contesting Sun Belt states such as North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, and Arizona is to sustain engagement among the largely nonwhite infrequent voters who turned out in huge numbers in 2018 and 2020, it also warns that Republicans could consolidate Donald Trump’s gains last year among some minority voters, particularly Latino men. “These trends across our multiracial coalition demonstrate the urgent need for campaigns and independent groups to stop assuming voters of color will vote Democrat,” the report asserts.
Tara D. Sonenshine writes for The Hill that Facebook and other social media has helped to foster a loss in human interactions.
For many, Facebook and Instagram have always been about documenting their lives, not covering news. When it suffered an outage yesterday, Facebook left billions of anxious social media users in the dark.
But in the dark about what exactly? About what we had for lunch, which new tricks our dogs performed or which positions someone took in a Yoga class? What has become a ubiquitous method of communications left us all isolated with no way to show off. But did it really cut us off from news about the world at large.
It did, because many of the nearly three billion Facebook users rely on it to get to other websites, connecting with friends and family and even ordering a meal. According to one study, the average person spends 59 hours a week online. Facebook has become the equivalent of “critical infrastructure” for many people, and we truly don’t want to be without power or information.
But the wider crisis about Facebook has to do with the fate of human interaction. The pandemic has forced many of us indoors, masked and socially distanced. We have not had to exercise communications skills. The ability to “power down” and “power off” is a lifelong skill that is probably not taught early or often enough. Maybe this is a time to teach it.
Susan Hata and Thalia Krakower of STATnews report that America is in the midst of a “national mental health emergency.”
It’s time for the American Medical Association to take decisive action and declare a national mental health emergency.
More than 40% of Americans report symptoms of anxiety or depression, and emergency rooms are flooded with patients in psychiatric crises. Untreated, these issues can have devastating consequences. In 2020, an estimated 44,800 Americans lost their lives to suicide; among children ages 10 to 14, suicide is the second leading cause of death. [...]
Our patients’ experiences mirror a nationwide survey by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. It found that 55% of participants contacted a psychiatrist only to learn the doctor was not accepting new patients, and 33% could not find a single mental health provider who accepted their insurance. Low reimbursement rates prevent in-network therapists from earning an adequate living, leading many mental health providers to choose private practices, where high fees put services out of reach for many.
Tulane University professor Ilana Horowitz writes for The Conversation that the pandemic has probably affected the activation of social capital even in religious organizations.
While isolating at home in spring 2020, I started to wonder: Does the need to social distance affect how social capital gets activated during a pandemic?
From August to October 2020, I interviewed 36 middle- and low-income Jewish parents in the greater Philadelphia area who had school-aged children. There was a range among parents in how involved they were in Jewish communities and organizations. Some were regular synagogue-goers. Others rarely went to services but actively volunteered for Jewish organizations. And some rarely participated in any religious or social dimensions of Jewish life.
How does a study of Jews help us understand the flow of social capital during a pandemic?
Both Jews and non-Jews can develop social capital by participating in religious organizations. It’s not religious rituals that cultivate social capital – it’s all those social interactions that occur outside of religious rituals.
I think that Dr. Horowitz’s thesis is basically correct but I also think that we need a lot more data to prove it conclusively.
Charles Blow of The New York Times thinks that America cannot reform policing and fight crime at the same time and … yeah, the historical record backs him up.
Black people are suffering disproportionately from both state violence and community violence during this pandemic, not to mention that they are nearly three times as likely to be hospitalized and twice as likely to die from Covid than white people.
But America doesn’t have a great track record of responding to the plight of Black people in times of crisis. We have seen too often how the lust to punish Black criminality — to inflate and pathologize it — wins out over all else. Often, the crusaders use Black victims of crimes themselves as justification.
It seems impossible that elected officials would see the nuances within Black communities and respond in ways that are nuanced. Considering the long history of Black oppression, it seems impossible that they would display empathy for the Black community.
Finally today, Christian Shepherd and Lyric Li report for The Washington Post that talks between Washington and Beijing seem to be successfully cooling tensions a little bit.
But only a little bit.
On Wednesday, a six-hour meeting in Zurich between Yang and White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan ended with an announcement that President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping would hold a virtual summit before the end of the year. China’s state broadcaster described the outcome as an agreement to get relations back on track.
Deng Yuwen, a former editor of the Study Times, a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) journal, said the meeting was significant because it reflected a consensus that the two sides needed to find a way to improve ties. “It shows recognition that the relationship was stuck at the bottom of a ravine, any deeper and it would become truly dangerous,” he said.
In Beijing, the perceived continuity from President Trump to Biden in confronting China had originally created a sense of fatalism among Chinese scholars, who had taken to warning that U.S. politicians from both parties are intent on thwarting China’s rise.
Chu Shulong, a scholar at Tsinghua University in Beijing, said that the improvement in relations began with the U.S. climate envoy John F. Kerry’s talks with his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua. “The public statements at the time were strongly worded, but I know that the talks were positive for both sides,” he said.
Everyone have a great day!