Links and Best of Twiter, 11/4/22
Russian culture war, genius in post-revolutionary France, dysgenics, and more
It feels good to be back on Twitter. Don’t worry, the links aren’t going away. I’ve decided to use Twitter more for hot takes and not so much sharing articles, which I’ll still do here. I’ll also include my best tweets of the week at the bottom of the links from now on. Let me know if you would rather them just be links instead of embedded tweets. And here’s me talking to Michael Tracey last night.
If you’re in town, this is a reminder that Monday night I’ll be in Austin, talking about polling and the election.
1. Russia extends its gay propaganda law to representations targeting adults. I guess an upside of the Ukraine invasion from their perspective is it distracts the West away from complaining about LGBT. I’ve become obsessed with certain Twitter accounts that post clips from Russian TV. It’s like a Fox News that focuses on trying to interpret a different country’s Fox News, and to understand its role in the wider political culture. Here they argue about whether Russia has gay pride parades. Some of the panelists seem skeptical of the whole “traditionalist Russia” idea, with one pointing out that Americans are more likely to go to church. Here’s a TV host talking about “LGBT, transgender-Nazi values.” The same guy, Vladimir Solovyov, who is apparently Jewish, celebrates Kadyrov declaring jihad along with an atheist who calls himself an old Soviet guy. Margarita Simonyan talks about how death is preferable to living like Westerners, who apparently aren’t allowed to tell their sons that they’re actually boys and will all be chemically castrated in a few decades. None of this started out as a culture war, but these issues seem to be playing a large role in the Russian psyche. At the same time, the Russians are mourning the loss of an Afro-Columbian communist who died fighting with them in the Donbas. I guess it’s not that much different from the coalition of Western hawks, which includes everything from conservative Republicans to trans activists.
2. Many of the supposed UFOs in those government videos have non-alien explanations. I’ve argued that they all do for a while.
3. John Donovan was an MIT professor who made hundreds of millions of dollars and had five kids. Then one of his daughters accused him of molesting her, and somehow that meant the kids got a legal separation from him, where they tried to take all of the money and property belonging to the family. Then Donovan has himself shot in the stomach and tries to frame his son James for it. Oh yeah, and James is friends with Mitt Romney, was appointed to a position in Treasury by Trump, and dated Hope Hicks. I don’t get why they get to take all the money he earned based on an accusation there doesn’t seem to be evidence for, very strange.
4. One in five Canadians is now an immigrant, and the country seeks to add 1.45 million more by 2025. It seems to be causing remarkably little political controversy, with leaders openly setting goals for population growth.
5. Sad story of Aung San Suu Kyi’s lonely life in prison.
6. I read this ProPublica report on lab leak. Thought it sounded plausible, but was suspicious as to whether a Marco Rubio staffer could be trusted to read between the lines of CCP documents. Looks like I was right to be.
7. Scott Alexander reviews Malleus Maleficarum, a fifteenth century witch-hunting guide. Lot of great insights here into human psychology.
8. That Intercept story about DHS going to war against “misinformation” is as bad as everyone says. Interesting to note that this is a bureaucratic outgrowth of tools originally created to fight the war on terror.
DHS’s expansion into misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation represents an important strategic retooling for the agency, which was founded in 2002 in response to the 9/11 attacks as a bulwark to coordinate intelligence and security operations across the government…
The subsequent military defeat of ISIS forces in Syria and Iraq, along with the withdrawal from Afghanistan, left the homeland security apparatus without a target. Meanwhile, a new threat entered the discourse. The allegation that Russian agents had seeded disinformation on Facebook that tipped the 2016 election toward Donald Trump resulted in the FBI forming the Foreign Influence Task Force, a team devoted to preventing foreign meddling in American elections.
One good reason to be skeptical of new laws and federal agencies is that even if you think government is necessary to solve one problem, creating new bureaucratic interests will ensure that even after that problem goes away, new ones will be found.