‘An idiocy of immeasurable power’

‘An idiocy of immeasurable power’ October 16, 2012

At Lawyers Guns & Money, SEK highlights one of the more atrocious moments from the vice presidential debate:

The one thing you don’t address — the one you know better than to pursue — the one that must be avoided at all costs — the one that must not even be mentioned in a debate with Joe Biden is a tragic car accident. The attempt to elicit sympathy for Romney by anecdotal proxy is a poor enough of a play. The decision to do so via an anecdote about a tragic car accident in a debate with Joe Biden means you’re either a sociopath or possessed of an idiocy of immeasurable power.

* * * * * * * * *

Farhad Manjoo has a righteous screed against website pagination: “Stop Pagination Now

Pagination is one of the worst design and usability sins on the Web, the kind of obvious no-no that should have gone out with blinky text, dancing cat animations, and autoplaying music. It shows constant, quiet contempt for people who should be any news site’s highest priority — folks who want to read articles all the way to the end.

Pagination persists because splitting a single-page article into two pages can, in theory, yield twice as many opportunities to display ads — though in practice it doesn’t because lots of readers never bother to click past the first page. …

When Gannett switch to a click-chasing template that split even the shortest articles into multiple pages, we called it the “F–k the Capricorns” rule. Even the daily horoscope was split into multiple pages on the paper’s site — with the first 11 horoscopes on the first page and the 12th, all by itself, on page 2.

* * * * * * * * *

Walmart, the world’s largest private employer, is facing what looks to be a growing wave of strikes. What’s most interesting here is that Walmart is — quite famously — not a unionized company. The current state of American labor law makes unionizing worksites at a company like Walmart extraordinarily difficult, and the political outlook for major revision to the relevant laws is extremely poor. So the question of whether it’s possible for workers to effectively organize themselves and engage in industrial action outside the context of the formal legal framework that governs collective bargaining in the United States is a very important one. Legislative change has often been seen as the key to a revival of labor activism in the United States, but obviously unions didn’t become influential in the first place because of a friendly political climate — like any new social movement they became powerful despite the hostile political climate and then thanks to their growing power were temporarily able to create a friendly climate.

— Matt Yglesias, “The spreading wave of Walmart strikes

* * * * * * * * *

• At some basic level, it’s puzzling: Others are happy; therefore we must be furious, indignant and un-happy. Why? It seems like some kind of instinctive attempt to preserve a constant level of misery in the world.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice” is a biblical commandment, remember. It’s also good advice, for your own sake.

Even if the pots are already clean and you’re just posing for a cynical photo-op, you should still take your watch off.

• The Public Religion Research Institute finds that: “A slim majority (53 percent) of Americans favor tougher laws and regulations to protect the environment even if it raises prices or costs jobs.”

Which is to say that a majority of Americans favors tougher environmental protections even if PRRI decides to frame the question using the most corporate-friendly, Frank Luntz-concocted jobs-vs.-environment hogwash phrasing.

• I’m pleased I finally got the chance to work with Amy Poehler. You can too.

• “Violentacrez,” the creepy old man of Reddit’s “Jailbait” forums, is outed on Gawker by Adrian Chen.

Once his identity became public, Chen reports in a follow-up, Michael Brutsch was fired by his employer: “Since 2004, Brutsch has worked as a programmer at the Arlington, Tex., company First Cash Financial Services, which offers payday loans and operates pawn shops.”

Yes, Brutsch is that sleazy — so skin-crawlingly awful that he got fired by a payday lender worried that being associated with him might damage its reputation.

• “Let’s meet at the same table, with the same host, to remember the same things.” Election Day Communion, Nov. 6, 2012.

Interesting. Seems cool, although the language at the link seems so eager to rise above the fray that it seems to look down on it. That’s troublesome, because the fray is pretty darned important.

• The Atlantic Wind Connection, “a massive transmission backbone along the Eastern seaboard connected to a series of offshore wind farms,” could create more than 70,000 jobs.

But it probably won’t get built, because American energy is still controlled by the worst minds of the early 20th century. “Drill, baby, drill” is why our supposedly “exceptional” nation still has the same number of offshore wind farms as landlocked and impoverished Malawi.

• “According to the Innocence Project, Damon Thibodeaux is the 300th person to be exonerated of a wrongful conviction by DNA evidence in the United States.”

This is both a triumphant milestone and an appalling one. That these 300 people have been exonerated is a Good Thing. That they were all wrongly convicted is a Very Bad Thing.

Damon Thibodeaux was on death row. He spent 15 years behind bars for something he did not do.

And that means, of course, that whoever did murder his cousin has been free — unpunished, unstopped, unpursued and unperturbed — for 15 yeears.

"Interesting. Pretty much all the Bernie supporters I've seen and/or talked with online are in ..."

LBCF, No. 237: ‘The Good King’
"Imagine that any word you'd see in an angry right-wing screed might set it off. ..."

LBCF, No. 237: ‘The Good King’
"Having trouble finding it. Not because of it being pending, just the usual disqus mischeif ..."

LBCF, No. 237: ‘The Good King’
"That would require them to do work."

LBCF, No. 237: ‘The Good King’

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • B

    Also I hadn’t heard that his employer was harassed into firing him.  All I’ve read just said he was fired.

    I imagine there are a lot of reasons an employer wouldn’t want an employee known to be connected with pictures of women taken without their consent being posted on the Internet as sexual material.  (Concern that he might be taking and posting pictures himself… possibly of fellow employees, for example.)

  • depizan

     Hell, even mistaken identity can lead to creepy, creepy real life shit.

    I once had a patron make a comment about some dating site (forgotten which one) and when I was puzzled tell me I was on it.  And insist that I was.  And continue insisting.

    That’s the only time I’ve ever felt unsafe at work.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    *It doesn’t help that neither Romney nor Ryan has Bill Clinton’s knack for storytelling.  They just sound rehearsed.

    Does anyone have Clinton’s knack for storytelling? If more people had the charisma of Clinton it would break some law of physics.

  • B

     Dunno.  I agree that things posted publicly are, well, public, and I do see a difference between linking to publicly posted photos and posting pictures that were taken covertly. 

    Nevertheless I think that a guy posting a picture of a 14-year-old in her swimsuit  that he found on Facebook, along with sexual comments about said picture, is still creepy and inappropriate despite the fact the picture was posted publicly.

    Also — having a subreddit devoted to links to news stories with pictures of dead teenage girls (apparently called Picsofdeadjailbait)?  Creepy and inappropriate, regardless of the fact that these were pictures published publicly by the media.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I am not arguing the creep factor here. I’m arguing that someone who posts pictures publicly has no right to claim invasion of privacy when someone gets creepy on the pictures, and someone who posts pictures to a limited circle has the right to claim invasion of privacy when someone outside that circle gets creepy on the pictures.

    Members of the first group probably have grounds for a copyright claim, though. Which would be one of the few things that current US copyright law is good for.

  • Joshua

    Fred, your blog pages comments and the main page is designed to increase clicks to read content. At least for those of us without an account, there is no option to change that.

    Because different pages of comments do not have different URLs, when I shut my browser down and restart it it is hard to find my place again, and it is hard to continue reading comments on another machine.

    I would love an option to change that.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Possible alternative: the ‘subscribe to this post’ link at the bottom of the comments section. Put in your email, unless you’re logged in to Disqus, and you get email notifs of new comments, and sending a reply to that email posts a reply to that comment. Formatting all goes bye-bye somewhere in the intertubes, and of course it doesn’t help with comments posted before you subscribe to the post, but.

  • B

     I agree that commenting about publicly posted pictures isn’t really an invasion of privacy — certainly not the way that posing private pictures is.  (At least, not when grown women are concerned.  When it comes to minors — yes, they should ALSO know that anything they post publicly is available for all the Internet to see, but teens aren’t necessarily widely known for always showing excellent judgment in all circumstances.)

    I think if all he’d done was moderate and participate in a forum for re-posting, making sexual comments about, and, well, wanking to publicly posted photos of adult women… well, I still think that would be rather creepy and I sure wouldn’t date the guy, but I don’t think he would have gotten anywhere near this kind of fallout.  I think it’s the fact that covertly taken pictures and pictures of minors are involved that’s provoking the outrage.

    (Also, the thing with having sex with his 19-year-old stepdaughter and — apparently — graphically describing it on the Internet.  Yes, it’s technically legal, but, ew.)

  • ohiolibrarian

     If the employer thought that some of the pics were of employees they would HAVE to fire him.  Or at least discipline him. They might get sued for sexual harassment if they were aware of his activities and did nothing.

    Also, y’all are aware that “freedom of speech” limits acts by government, right? Companies can fire you. People can express their hostility to your actions. As long as neither are acting otherwise illegally (attacking him physically or vandalizing his property), people are perfectly free to express their opinion–against him or Reddit.

  • Dan Audy

    Almost as egregious as Michael Brutsch’s sins have been the reactions of many Reddit mods: to ban the posting of links to Gawker sites.  
    They claim to be doing so because Brutsch’s outing was a breach of Reddit’s terms of service … despite the fact that Reddit’s TOS don’t extend to other Web sites.  
    So, Reddit—self-proclaimed champion of Internet freedom of speech (hence Brutsch’s ability to post photos of underage girls, without their consent, anonymously and with impunity)— is censoring its own members for something that was written by a non-member on another Web site.

    Honestly, I actually am completely ok with Reddit banning posting of links to Gawker even though it is pointless and childish.  Those link to content which violates their TOS* and they’ve got every right to control the type of speech they allow on their service even when it highlights their hypocrisy.  People always talk about how the right response to free speech you don’t like (doxxing Violentacrez) is more free speech (blocking all Gawker links from one of the major traffic drivers for Gawker and the internet as a whole).  Reddit is foolish to do so because it drives the Streissand effect and makes them hypocrites but they are responding the way we always say people ought to rather than trying to sue someone who says something they dislike or lobby for laws to restrict speech they don’t like.  

    *The Predditor Tumblr which actually doxxed Brutsch (and many others) did indeed violate Reddit’s TOS to do so but Adrian Chen was completely (in the legal) right basing his reporting on the issue despite that in the same way journalists rely on leakers violating company agreements and criminals providing sources.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I don’t think blocking Gawker links on Reddit is free speech. I think it’s ineffective censorship. ‘More speech’ here would be saying and encouraging people to say that Gawker sucks, that the fuckwads are perfectly within their rights, etc etc so forth.

  • It is a violation of privacy to take personal pictures from one person’s site or part of a site (like Facebook) and post them on your own site without permission. It’s even more egregious when you do that in order to make sexual comments about the person.

    Legal or not, it’s a despicable violation. 

    Also despicable violators: the paparazzi who took pictures of Kristen Stewart, Prince Harry, and Kate Middleton while they were performing sex acts and/or naked or partly so, the person who sold the sex tape of Hulk Hogan, the person who leaked Blake Lively’s pictures, and the British website publishing upskirt pictures of teenage girls (and not specifically because they’re teenage girls, they’d be just as despicable if they did the same thing to women), and on and on. These are all egregious sexual harassment, and it’s past time that they be treated as such. 

  • Joshua

    Well, sleazy, yes, violation of copyright, yeah, much of the time. In this case, it sounds like it would violate a bunch of other laws as well.

    I don’t agree that it’s a violation of privacy to copy images from one website to another. You should not have an expectation of privacy for stuff you put on the intertubes, unless you’ve encrypted it and use effective authorisation controls.
    You can’t be sure of anything on the internet going away.

  • Fred, your blog pages comments […] [are] designed to increase clicks to read content.

    Actually, no.  When Fred first moved here comments were all on one page by his choice.  It was switched to multiple pages at the request of the commenters.  It is designed to make the majority of the commenters content, the fact that it increases clicks is a side effect, not an intent, of the design.

    I’d like it if you could switch between the two and choose whichever you personally prefer, but apparently the system doesn’t allow the ordinary users to do that, only the person on whose blog disqus is placed is able to decide, and the decision is forced on everyone else.

    Fred chose to do what the majority of the commenters wanted him to do, which has the unfortunate side effect of sticking those who want all on one page comments clicking through multiple pages.

    As a side note that doesn’t really matter, as near as I can tell no matter how many pages of comments you click through, Fred only gets one extra pageview from those clicks.  The first click sends you to the main page at the disqus thread (reloading the page), and every time you change a comment page after that it just reloads the disqus section, the rest of the page isn’t reloaded meaning Fred gets no credit for you viewing another page of comments.  He doesn’t get extra ad views after that first click.

  • I don’t agree that it’s a violation of privacy to copy images from one website to another. You should not have an expectation of privacy for stuff you put on the intertubes, unless you’ve encrypted it and use effective authorisation controls.

    Completely aside from the main debate here, aren’t expectation and violation unrelated?

    If I expect to be violated, and then I am violated, that doesn’t, so far as I know, somehow discount the violation.  As far as I know violation is violation in and of itself, expectation or lack thereof has nothing to do it it.

    When I hear about some violation, any violation, I don’t think that having someone say, “Yeah, well, he/she/it/they was/were expecting it,” would make me go, “Oh, well then it wasn’t a violation.”

    In fact, I think in some cases expectation can make the situation surrounding the violation more traumatic.  In such cases the expectation doesn’t change the violation, but it makes the larger situation worse for the violated party.

  • banancat

    I don’t think posting pictures online, even on a very public website, means that the poster has no right to privacy. When I physically go to a very public place, I don’t expect pervs to get permanent spank material from me, and I shouldn’t have to expect differently on public websites just because it’s easier for creeps to creep. It might be unrealistic to expect to be treated decently, but that doesn’t mean I have no right to expect it.


    aren’t expectation and violation unrelated?

    IANAL, but as I understand it U.S. law has the notion of a “reasonable expectation of privacy.”  If I put something somewhere where no such expectation exists and you come along and broadcast it, my privacy has not been violated before the law.

    Granted, this conversation has mostly not been about U.S.law, but rather about something more amorphous. But I suspect a similar concept was being referenced.

  • IANAL, but as I understand it U.S. law has the notion of a “reasonable expectation of privacy.”  If I put something somewhere where no such expectation exists and you come along and broadcast it, my privacy has not been violated before the law.

    I did not know that.


    So if I were to move in next to Sarah Palin, someone known for taking pictures of neighbors on their property without their knowledge or consent and posting said pictures to the internet for all to see, it’s obvious that there could be no reasonable expectation of privacy for what I do on my own time on my own property, thus if she started posting pictures of me on the internet I’d have no legal recourse?  That is a silly law.

    Mind you I wouldn’t move in next to Sarah Palin, because, even if I really liked the house, there’s something to be said for considering the neighbors.

  • Lori

    That’s not how it works. “Reasonable expectation of privacy” is (generally) tied to place and activity, not to who else is there. Your privacy on your property isn’t tied to the behavior or reputation of your neighbors.

    The Palin issue is not that she’s known to take pictures and post them (don’t even get me started), it’s that your expectation of privacy is limited when you’re in a place that’s visible from off your property. IOW, you can’t do something on your front lawn, which is visible to anyone passing by on the street, and claim that you expected it to be private. Your fenced in backyard is another story.

  • So if I were to move in next to Sarah Palin … I’d have no legal recourse?

    No… there’s a lot of case law having to do with when a reasonable expectation of privacy exists, and it’s usually understood as generalizable across people. E.g., either I have a reasonable expectation of privacy before the law for stuff I toss in my trash, or I don’t, but not “I do if I don’t expect someone to root through it and not if I don’t.”

    OTOH, I might have  a reasonable expectation of privacy before the law for stuff I toss in my trash from a detached dwelling, but not from an apartment building. (I have no idea what the law is about that, I’m just saying it’s the kind of distinction the law makes.)

  • Lori

    It’s pretty settled case law that you have no expectation of privacy for your trash and what type of home you live in doesn’t effect that.  It’s still illegal for someone to use information from your trash to steal from you or blackmail you, but that’s because theft and blackmail are illegal, not because they went through your trash. The cops can and will go through your trash for evidence and they can use it in court without needing a warrant.

  • AnonaMiss, do you have a source for stating that Brutsch was fired because his employer was harassed into doing so?  From the link Fred posted, it looks as though Brutsch was the one who notified his employers that the story was going to break, the article was published on a Friday, and over the weekend he was fired.  It seems much more likely that the company found out that Brutsch used company time and materials to post questionable material and they wanted to avoid any legal liability. 

  •  Thanks!

  • Jenora Feuer

     Actually, for the ‘different pages of comments do not have different URLs’ part, using NoScript in Firefox to block disqus.com will fix that: Patheos falls back to a  non-disqus formatting with fifty comments per page, older/newer page links, and different pages for each set of fifty comments.

    Of course, if you do that, you lose the ability to track which post something was a response to, lose the timestamps on the posts, and other things happen such as the ‘Recent Comments’ links not working because they always end up referring to the oldest page of comments rather than the newest, while the general post link on the front page goes to the newest.

  • Madhabmatics

     If saying “fuck no you can’t post pictures of dead, prepubescent women and encourage people to masturbate to it anonymously” is censorship, then sign me the hell up for censorship.

  • Madhabmatics

    Also I am loving this because every time someone goes “b..but we should leave him alone to potentially make womens lives a living hell, all he is doing is posting pictures while hundreds of men go ‘omg who is this I have to find her’ for the crime of shopping for groceries in public” I know that their opinions are worth nothing and I should never listen to them again.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Where did I say anything about objecting to censoring the fuckwads?

  • Madhabmatics

    name + shame people who do things like that until they stop doing them imo

  • Madhabmatics

    Nowhere, I replied to your post out of an immediate sense of camaraderie and agreement, sorry.

  • Liralen

    Actually, the mind worms are the good guys.  It’s the Fundamentalist faction whining about my research (the damage was not so great as they say) or the Gaians complaining about my free market policies (while they constructed bore holes that greatly contributed to global warming) that got on my nerves.  Thank goodness for my Deathspheres.

    I love that game. ;)  It’s amazing how such an old game is still politically relevant.

  • Joshua

    Yeah, as usual with NoScript, the cure is worse than the disease. For better or worse, the modern web runs on JavaScript. I think it’s for the better, but then I’m a programmer who uses web technologies to earn a crust.

  • Joshua

    But I suspect a similar concept was being referenced.

    You are correct. My understanding of the law is similar. I don’t know whether that’s because NZ privacy laws are similar to the US’s, or whether my meagre and vague knowledge of it mostly comes from the US.

    What I was saying is that I think unencrypted internet traffic is analogous to walking down a public street, not sitting in your bedroom. (Even though you may actually be sitting in your bedroom.) You ever do a traceroute to another machine? Your post to Facebook may go through half a dozen to two dozen machines along the way. It may go through a number of other countries (OK, maybe not if you are in the US talking to a US site).

    Privacy law as I understand it gives you rights in your bedroom that you do not have walking down the street. Someone can legally take a photo of you in one case but not the other.

    My impression is that actual case law regarding internet traffic doesn’t really agree, which I think is a shame. It will give people false expectations about their privacy that can’t practically be implemented, the internet being open and co-operative as it is, and human nature being that some people always exploit that.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    If saying “fuck no you can’t post pictures of dead, prepubescent women and encourage people to masturbate to it anonymously” is censorship, then sign me the hell up for censorship.

    Another lawless opponent of freedom. Welcome!

  • I find I have to allow disqus.com to get certain aspects of the comment framework to work properly. That said, blocking it can reveal comments when disqus decides to be a recalcitrant bugger and show NO comments at ALL.

  • What I would like to know is by what logic can taking a picture up someone’s privates without their permission constitutes a “reasonable expectation of lack of privacy”?


  • AnonaMiss

    No, I don’t have a source. I made an assumption based on the difference between his boss’s pre-action and re-action, and based on common post-dox procedure. On further thought, though, you’re probably right. I had been assuming he had accurately reported on the nature of the scandal to his boss, and that the boss had taken it remarkably well; but that’s not really human nature.

    I can pretty much guarantee that his employer has received some harrassment, though, and that he would have received much more if he didn’t take such swift action. Anyone who draws enough attention for someone to care enough to dig into their net presence and out them, is going to be raided when their identity comes to light. First they order pizza to the house; then they spam employers and family members with accusations of deviant behavior, invented if necessary (though of course in this case there was plenty of real deviance to go round, and it sounds like the family members were already well aware). Depending on how widely-hated they are and their life circumstances, they may also receive threatening phone calls, have their utilities disconnected, have their mail re-routed, have fake reports of domestic violence/terrorism threats called on them, etc.

    The same hate machine that comes roaring out when feminists say something the internet doesn’t like, spends the rest of its time chewing on the lives of whoever it can get its hands on. It’s certainly more violent and vitriolic when it’s got its teeth on a woman; but suggesting that having his name outed is only damaging to Brutsch’s reputation because he engaged in bad behavior while anonymous is, in my opinion, incorrect.

    If Brutsch had kept quiet and moderated his creepy subreddits in peace, I suspect the article would never have been written, and if any internet troll had stumbled across his name he would have been the target of a week of harrassment, max – and more likely, a series of virtual high-fives from the same “edgy” trolls that conduct these kinds of raids. 

    No, the impetus for the article came from his larger-than-life figure in the reddit community, which he gained not from his misogyny, but by trolling the crap out of mostly-white-males. Ultimately, the harrassment he’ll endure over the next year or so, and his unemployability for the foreseeable future, isn’t payback for the damage he’s done to women: it’s payback for all the times he’s reduced a white male to sputtering anger through a computer monitor.

  • zzxjoanw

    The major reason that the horrible people at Reddit are so concerned about ‘doxing’ is because they are overwhelmingly privileged white males, and it’s the only thing that can possibly hurt them.

    Please don’t tar all of reddit. We aren’t all entitled jerks.

  • hf

     but it’s a violation that’s not going hang around her neck.

    How the frak do you know? Say each pic independently has a one in a thousand chance to cause lasting harm. A mere 3000 photos would give us a 95% chance that it happened to someone.

    Nobody should believe that you telepathically know the reasons for this particular exposure if you can’t handle basic math.

  • We need to be very careful about our opinions because sometimes we doesn’t know if we already offend the person and hurt their feelings.