Arrogance American Style

Solipson says he admires much about America; we admire much about Europe. Lex, indeed, is constantly reinforcing the history and affection that lie between us and the wide-spread Anglosphere – which includes at least one European nation. And most of us, immigrants that we are, lovers of the western tradition that we are, do not want a huge wall between us and them. (And of course, of late, many of our posters are not American and are rightly proud of their own loyalties.)

Nonetheless, I come to our little blog & his comments having just read a Wall Street Journal piece by Pete du Pont, “Ceasefire in Tunisia”; here we see how wide the breach is in in both tone & content. A readiness to impugn our motives is not, well, attractive. But the real sadness comes from the fact that we revere a value that we often see as perhaps uniquely American but whose ancestors we recognize in that European tradition from which we were spawned.

As Lex has noted, even such an Anglophile as James noted again and again the “honesty” of his Americans, their direct method of speech. It is one we still cherish. But we have reasons other than the fresh charm we see in it (and Europeans may well not) nor does it come (at least solely) from the vulgarity and naiveté Europeans find. We believe it, well, right. My idea of hell would be life lived in code; our inner as well as our society’s health require an ability to speak honestly, directly, words coming up and out with no filter, no hedging, no reinterpreting in “appropriate” words, muted feelings. With such a distraction at such a level, we become less intent on (and less good at) capturing reality. It wastes time but more importantly energy. Perhaps Europeans can not understand how much we are struck by such experiences as the writer describes in his concluding paragraphs:

When the U.S. attends those IGF meetings, our representative will surely be reminded of the repeated advice Tony Mauro, the Supreme Court correspondent for The American Lawyer, recalls receiving from Europeans at a run-up meeting of the U.N. Internet group in Budapest three years ago. Do not invoke the First Amendment in Internet discussions, he was told, for it is viewed as a sign of U.S. arrogance.

If the U.N. establishment believes free speech is arrogance, we can be confident that U.N. control of the Internet would be calamitous.

Wikipedia: Caveat Lector

I received an anonymous email from someone who was concerned that the birthdate of author Howard Zinn was presented inaccurately in this anonymous comment that was left on this old thread on this blog.

The emailer explained that the birthdate misinformation from the anonymous comment had propagated via Google, and that someone had used it as a source of biographical information for the Wikipedia entry on Howard Zinn. The email quoted a purported transcript of a message from Zinn himself, attesting to his real birthdate, which was not the same as the one cited by our anonymous commenter or, apparently, Wikipedia. (I have no idea which of these birthdates, if any, is the real one, but that doesn’t matter for this discussion.)

The emailer was eager for any Zinn birthdate records on this blog to be accurate, and I reopened comments on the old post so that he could leave a note. Let no one think that this blog would deny Howard Zinn his rightful birth anniversary.

All of the above seemed kind of wacky to me, but the serious point is what it reveals (or confirms) about Wikipedia. Here was a biographical entry about someone whose life is no mystery, who is probably available by email and who probably has a publisher or agent who can provide accurate biographical data. Yet one of the Wikipedia authors relied on uncorroborated assertions from an anonymous comment in an obscure online discussion, apparently found via a casual Google search, as a source of factual information. And now someone is making the Internet rounds in an effort to clean up the sources of the misinformation that was being spread by Google, lest other Wikipedia authors repeat the first guy’s error.

Whatever else I learned from this curious experience, it is obvious that Wikipedia cannot be trusted at all, not even as a source of routine biographical information that has no political or ideological significance. Reader beware.

Quote of the Day

I think that building online communities will represent great opportunity in the next five years and the ones that catch on will have much more value in the form of the byproduct of smart filters than people realize today.

Thomas Hawk

New Orleans & Its Herd

A practical and helpful (and pack-like) approach comes from a surprising source: Move-on is matching homes with the homeless. (via Insta)

On the other hand, Free Will demonstrates what happens when herd mentality reaches the top:

Gov. Kathleen Blanco, standing beside the mayor at a news conference, said President Bush called and personally appealed for a mandatory evacuation for the low-lying city, which is prone to flooding.

This may explain why the evacuation notice came after the declaration of a disaster area. Nor was it only the Governor and the mayor who appear to have waited for someone else to make the decisions.

Read more