On the pill again

The intervals between my depressive periods grows ever shorter – maybe my brains is getting bored with me. Whatever the reason, I’m back on the SSRI train. When I was younger I could always count on my downs to be followed by a few manic days of productivity, and so the trade-off seemed worthwhile. Now it’s just a flat greyness interspersed with lethargy and despair, so I’m medicating.

I’m in good company though. According to Socialstyrelsen (National board of health and welfare) there were 603603 people 20 years or older who bought at least one treatment of SSRI during 2017 (all medication stats are searcheable) and given a total population of 10 million, let’s assume that one in every ten adults are on antidepressants (this doesn’t take into account ADHD medication, anti-psychotic or sleeping aids – which adds another 1.1 million users for all age groups). Sign of our times, over-diagnosis or something in the water?

It’s a good thing that depression and other psychological problems are becoming less of a taboo and social stigma – I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it concurs with #metoo and reflections on toxic masculinity – but the flipside is that we’re becoming used to explaining away personality with pathology. What can be said to be my “real self” if it’s not an amalgamation of my traumas, quirks and mood? I have no problem with using drugs to change myself – better life through chemistry – but in the end it becomes similar to hedonism: There is no center towards which you’re aligning your ambitions except the one you choose, and that is endlessly malleable. “Let there be pleasure on Earth; let it begin with me”

Having said that, SSRI offers me a respite, and I’m looking forwards to taking a long vacation both metaphorically, but also literally, from work. I’ll finish up some projects at KKV before summer, celebrate my 40th birthday somehow, and then I’m off from all responsibilities and will hopefully relax for a few weeks.

MateuszOn the pill again

Hey its Mayday!

I don’t know how many years I’ve been walking in the May day parade – and nothing else but that parade – but today it was time again. We braced the cold and rain and walked for an hour or so with the Gothenburg LS (Syndicalist) demo. All was uneventful except at the beginning, where four nazis heckled us and promptly got beaten up – one of them so badly that he ended up at the hospital.

Despite the quick dispatch, it’s a depressing state of affairs: Five years ago nazis wouldn’t have dared to show their faces at a leftist demo, let alone provoke the SAC May day, but these times are different and now they’re bold enough to show up even here. Bloody depressing.

As usual we ended up at a rally point downtown, and as usual there was a mixed group of speakers, more or less prepared and audible in the park. Tura got an icecream and we went for food afterward. Good demo, good turnout, shitty weather.

MateuszHey its Mayday!

Walking like a cowboy

Occasionally you remember a pivotal point from your past and it stops you for a second – what if I’d stayed with my wife? What if I’d moved to Copenhagen for that job? What if I had finished my degree? — and if you look over your shoulder you imagine the thread of life which has led to this point, and there’s most often no way to unspool it, to make undone done decisions. So perhaps you start to chew over what you’ve done, and perhaps you regret obviously poor decisions, but mostly there’s a nostalgia for all the things that could have been. I could have been a kosmonaut, as it were.

There’s no control group for a sample size of one so there’s nothing but speculation and nostalgia guiding these thoughts, but humans are quite good at that so we might end up looking in the mirror wondering how all these years just happened to us. Occasionally you make an active decision which severs even the possibility of winding the thread back. You burn a bridge, you chose one partner over another, you punch your boss in his stupid face. Or as in my case, you get a vasectomy.

Mind you, there’s no sense of nostalgia on my part for my ability to have kids. I’ve never wanted children of my own, and the few times a lover would comment on being late I would promise myself that if it turned out to be a false alarm I would never again I let it come to that. I can only remember one instance in my life when I entertained the thought that having a kid might be good – I imagined having a daughter, teaching her how to knee assholes in the balls (a teaching moment à la Face/Off) — but the notion dissolved within seconds; it’s just not for me.

So I’m not sentimental about a life as a father that now will never be fulfilled, but deciding to go under the knife was more of a reminder of past decisions and an examination of how I’ve ended up where I am. And like so many other people, there’s a realisation that most choices I’ve done didn’t feel like such at the time – I’ve been surfing on mood, circumstance and the happenstance of meeting some people and not others. If I hadn’t run into a friend outside the grocer I wouldn’t have known about the job I’ve now had for going on four years; Had I known that HFF was an art school rather than a straight photography-one I probably wouldn’t have applied and never moved to Gothenburg. And pertinent to the issue at hand: If the biological lottery would have thrown the dice differently, I might have become a father at any point during my slutty years – the unperceived decision here would be the one to have unprotected sex.

Turning away from examining the past, looking towards the post-40 years of my life, what stays with me is that life is full of decisions to be made and that perhaps I should become more aware of those choices and actively make them rather than go with the flow. What do I want to be when I grow up?

On a more practical note, for those of you considering the procedure, here’s my experience:

I had my coin purse cut at two places, the vas pulled out, cut, cauterized and tied into a knot at the ends. It was preceded by two local anaesthetic injections not unlike those you get at the dentist. It numbs the skin, but does nothing for whatever pain you feel on the inside of your body – as a result there was pain like what you’d get if my fictitious kid had kneed you. It’s unpleasant, but not unbearable.

During the procedure I had a distinct feeling of dissociation. I remember thinking “boy am I glad it’s not me lying on a gurney getting my balls sliced”. Last minute panic maybe?

I got antibiotics to mitigate the risk of infection, but no prescription painkillers. With the assistance of my lovely girlfriend I got a cab home and spent the day on the couch with some frozen peas to numb the area, and some gin to numb my mind. I had hoped to go to work the next day, but resigned myself to shuffling around the apartment when I wasn’t on my back.

It’s been five days and I’m almost back to walking like a normal person, albeit a bit slower. I’m wearing tight underwear to avoid any dangling mishaps, and my usually beautiful scrotum is bruised and swelled, but there’s only an occasional dull pain.

All in all, it was far easier and less painful than I’d thought. Granted, there can always be mishaps and Internet forums are full of people who’ve had complications, but so far everything seems on track. My doc did say that my balls were relatively easy to navigate, which I imagine could affect the healing time and post-op complications. I’ll be back in the gym next weekend, although I’ll refrain from heavy lifts to begin with.

If you’re a guy and don’t want kids (or have enough of them already) do yourself and your lady friends a favour and get snipped. Compared to a woman tying her tubes or carrying the stress of an abortion (or god forbid, an unwanted child) it’s not that big a deal.

MateuszWalking like a cowboy

Taking back the net, one grouch at a time

Let’s start with a bad metaphor and see how far we can stretch it:

I’m in Bali with the family right now, and a couple of days ago we all got food poisoning at a restaurant and spent the next couple of days like so many broken McFlurry dispensers. We haven’t been back there since, and limit our dinners to places we’ve come to trust by trial and error. Now imagine if we’d banked all our money with that one restaurant at the beginning of our stay, and only had vouchers to eat there. We could use the vouchers somewhere else, but they’d be worth half the amount if they were worth anything, and if we ate at any one restaurant more than once, that first restaurant would buy them up and either close shop or have them serve their food.

I’m going to try to convince you that Google/Alphabet is that restaurant, and that occasional catastrophic diarrhea is what you put up with in order to eat at their table.

Tim O’Reilly of computer book publishing fame recently published his book WTF? and interspersed between the name-dropping and a light-Randian critique of ineffectual systems, there’s a genuine interest in understanding how things work, what problems those things are trying to solve, and how better to solve them.

A paragraph in the closing chapter might serve as an example:

Even when a dark future seems to be staring us in the face, though, we lack the courage to do what must be done. Despite our best efforts, most of the time we fail to respond to potentially catastrophic consequences of changes that are already well under way. And despite the lessons of history, we haven’t yet made the hard choices to fundamentally restructure our economy.
Instead, we argue over which of the failed recipes of the past we will try again. Political leaders and policy makers could learn a lot from Jeff Bezos.
[owner of Amazon]

My recurring question while reading was “who are these ‘we’ that you’re referring to?” It might be that Tim has a genuine belief that all humans are aware of the same problems and frame them similarly, but are too distracted by old ideas to see clearly, even though I don’t get that feeling from reading the book. But many of the conclusions in the book refer to a nebulous ‘we’ and misses the point that there really isn’t a ‘we’ more than as a species. Snakes in suits seems relevant here; some people have a really odd sense of what constitutes “success” or “progress.”

Uber is mentioned copiously and much is done of the gig-economy (Airbnb, Mechanical Turk, et al) as the next big thing. Not necessarily a good thing, but a thing which is rising on its own merits. By all means, let’s not throw the clone out with the amniotic fluid and let’s learn why some of these services (or ‘platforms’ which is the word of the day) offer which ‘we’ can harness for our own means. But let’s not forget that you have to decide who ‘we’ are that are doing this. We’re a multitude, and progress is a struggle of competing ideas, not merely a linear progression of inventions only hampered by incumbent powers.

Fred Turner put my thoughts together better than I can in an interview over at Logic:

About ten years back, I spent a lot of time inside Google. What I saw there was an interesting loop. It started with, “Don’t be evil.” So then the question became, “Okay, what’s good?” Well, information is good. Information empowers people. So providing information is good. Okay, great. Who provides information? Oh, right: Google provides information. So you end up in this loop where what’s good for people is what’s good for Google, and vice versa. And that is a challenging space to live in.

He continues:

So I think that engineers, at Facebook and other firms, have been a bit baffled when they’ve been told that the systems they’ve built—systems that are clearly working very well and whose effectiveness is measured by the profits they generate, so everything looks ethical and “good” in the Google sense—are corrupting the public sphere.

And this is where we come back to the original shitty metaphor: As long as financial profitability – or the anticipation thereof – is the metric by which a service platform can continue to operate, by virtue of the market that platform will dominate that sphere and gobble up other services which might serve the purpose better but might not be as profitable. It’s not that other services are not profitable, it’s them not being the most profitable – which should tell you that the point of the service isn’t the service, but the bottom line. And in the case of Google (and Facebook, and Twitter, and Apple, and…) the more services they offer the bigger their market share and value, and the more difficult it is to offer an alternative: In addition to market dominance stemming from huge stacks of money, their ever increasing user base fuels an ever larget market share, and on it goes. It’s a natural monopoly, and it’s not a good thing when there’s no public oversight or accountable governance.

This doesn’t even touch on the resulting negative consequences of one company hoarding all our data; corporate data mining, private censorship, arbitrary non-democratic rules, commercialization of our attention, fake news and propaganda, echo chamber discourse, stifling innovation and price dumping against competing services. All the entreprebro assholes disrupting stuff because it’s their God given (and VC driven) right, those are just the garnish on the shit sandwich we’re eating so that we can sync our calendars across devices and not have to input the destination into our GPS. Not that those things aren’t convenient, but in my view they’re not worth the the indigestion.

Tim uses some astrophysical metaphors as well:

When making sense of the future, think in terms of gravitational cores, not hard boundaries. Just as the sun’s gravity well reaches out beyond the orbit of Pluto and encompasses not just the planets in the ecliptic but comets and planetoids with eccentric orbits, so too the forces shaping the future all have a gravitational core and a gradually attenuating influence. And just as the solar system has multiple gravitational subsystems, where the draw of the local giant keeps its own satellites in tow while all still partake in the larger dance, these interpenetrating trends influence each other and converge.

So I’ll add my own:

How about viewing Google as a black hole. You’re in a stable orbit around it, and through clever engineering you manage to siphon off enough energy to keep your orbit and have some extra energy to spare. You’ll never end up like those suckers who fall in. But all those suckers who fell in increased the mass of the black hole gradually, and you didn’t even notice the moment when you passed the event horizon yourself. You still feel like you’re in a stable orbit, but for the outside world you’ve disappeared beyond the event horizon – and should they ever want to get in touch with you again, they have to go there to.

So there you have Google in a nutshell: You’re accelerating down a gravity well, shitting brown water, asking Echo for movie recommendations.

Here’s how this might get sorted: In fifty years time, many of those alive today will be dead. New young people, seeing the stupid shit we’re doing today, will come up with other solutions. Hopefully they will realize that you can’t be unfucked, and refuse to give up their data in the first place.

Another solution might be to require interoperability between all systems with more than n number of users and subsidize migration tools for services. But it’s easier just to wait for people to die and the relevancy of their data with them.

MateuszTaking back the net, one grouch at a time

All these letters, one after another

As a kid I read a lot, and kept up the habit until ten years ago. Or maybe I just felt as if I wasn’t reading as much – I’m not sure. The standards we hold ourselves to might be forgotten over time, but the feeling of success or failure recedes slower, so perhaps I’m just remembering that I didn’t read as much as I thought I ought. For the sake of the peace of my forgetful mind, here are the books I’ve read/listened to during 2017.

Olivier Bourdeaut: Waiting for Bojangles
Tom Godwin: The Survivors / Space prison
Charlie Jane Anders: All the birds in the Sky
Dorothy H. Crawford: Viruses – a Very Short Introduction
Alessandro Delfanti: Biohackers
Robert Charles Wilson: Spin
China Mieville: Embassytown
Andrew Groen: Empires of Eve
Tobias barkman: Jakten på en mördare
Jack London: Lost face
Peter Watts: Blindsight
Åke Holmberg: Ture Sventon i Venedig
N. K. Jemisin: The Fifth Season
N. K. Jemisin: The Obelisk Gate
N. K. Jemisin: The Stone Sky
Tim O’Reilly: WTF?
Jeanette Winterson: Boating for Beginners
Ursula Le Guin: A Non-Euclidean View of California as a Cold Place to Be
Margaret Atwood: The Edible Woman
Rudy Rucker: The Ware Tetralogy
Karen Joy Fowler: Vi är alla helt utom oss

Terry Pratchett: The Colour of Magic
Terry Pratchett: The Light Fantastic
Terry Pratchett: Equal Rites
Terry Pratchett: Mort
Terry Pratchett: Sourcery
Terry Pratchett: Wyrd Sisters
Terry Pratchett: Pyramids
Terry Pratchett: Guards! Guards!
Terry Pratchett: Faust Eric
Terry Pratchett: Moving Pictures
Terry Pratchett: Reaper Man
Terry Pratchett: Witches Abroad
Terry Pratchett: Small Gods
Terry Pratchett: Lords and Ladies
Terry Pratchett: Men at Arms
Terry Pratchett: Soul Music

I’m not sure what the whole Pratchett bender is about, but it’s pleasant to revisit Ankh-Morpork. The later books in the Discworld series felt a bit too on-the-nose (Going Postal, for example) but the dialogue and characters are such a comfort that I’m eager to forgive it.

Of course, there are always more books I would like to read than what I get around to. Or, you know, “get around to” – it’s always a question of priorities. There’s a reason why I have seen all episodes of Game of Thrones but haven’t made a dent in the impressive collection of documentaries I’ve amassed over the years. “Conspicuous intellectual hoarding” is a thing. I have opened up an Austin book from one of those “must read 100 classics” lists, but not much more than that.

During 2017 I’ve subscribed to some magazines:
Guardian weekly
Make Magazine
ETC magazine
Fria tidningen
Göteborgs Fria tidning

The amount of paper I’ve browsed and tossed is bad for my conscience, but at least I’ve fulfilled some sort of “learning obligation.”

Books I’ve started and given up on for one reason or another:
Becky Chambers: A long way to a small, angry planet
Cixin Liu: The Three-body problem

Something I’ve noticed lately is that there’s a new category of poorly written books which I don’t recall stumbling upon just ten years ago; books which seem to have been written as if they’re movies. The characters are written with stage directions, their interactions might as well have emoticons in the margin for all the subtlety with which they’re written, and the story moves between scenes rather than settings. It’s dull reading; I’d rather wait until the movie gets made than spend reading a storyboard without pictures.

Some books fitting the description are “Ready Player One” (Ernest Cline) and “Seveneves” (Neal Stephenson) – Ernests book is his first, so I don’t have much to compare with, but I’ve read and reread a few Stephenson books and was extremely disappointed by this one. It read like a poorly strung together RSS-feed of tech blogs. If it hadn’t been a a Stephenson book I would have dropped it after fifty pages. I just couldn’t believe that he would publish a book so poorly written. I kept at it – groaning loudly every once in a while – with an expectation that the book was meta somehow. Like, in the last chapter there would be a reveal that the whole preceding text was “written as a school assignment by a teenager on the topic of ‘what happened before the moon blew up'”. It’s not surprising that both books have been optioned for movies, but I just don’t get why they’re books in the first place.

Perhaps a new years resolution worth pursuing next year would be to force myself to either read some of the books piling up on our shelves, or give them away for someone else to read. I’ve tried variations on this theme a couple of times: read a classic for every sci-fi pulp; write a summery of every book I read; only read female writers. But then I open up a website or a newspaper and come away with five new recommendations which I end up buying/borrowing/pirating and there goes the plan.

Oh well, never let failure stand in the way of making the same mistake twice: My new years resolution is to read five books I’ve owned longer than three years and publish a short summery/review on this here blog.

MateuszAll these letters, one after another

Body in as-in condition. Eye lenses 40 y/o, other parts exchanged

The photos in this post are from a new dinner-guest set I did recently. You can see them on the main homepage.

Next year I’m turning 40, and I’ve been gingerly anticipating the much talked about crisis which should precipitate right about this (arbitrary) time of life. Or maybe it’s not that arbitrary: we’re creatures of pattern-finding after all, and once we see a pattern we imbue it with meaning. So ten fingers, ten years, something meaningful has to happen every decade so why not a crisis.

The most obvious manifestation of male age-related chrisis would be an “oh no, what am I doing with my life, I ought to get a motorcycle or some other external manifestation of movement and direction”. A couple of years ago, while I was permanently unemployed freelancing and had little daily routine, I didn’t feel this as much – today, when I’ve had the same job on going on four years, been in a stable relationship for eight, and have set a new low in personal productivity, a motorcycle seems a fit.

Or at least a metaphorical motorcycle. In my case the motorcycle has manifested as a light body dysmorphia and a feeling that I ought to better myself and do something with my life. Be a positive force in society, engage politically, write a book. Create an app?

The body dysmorphia is an odd thing. It started out as a general “let’s get fitter” feeling, moved towards “ok, lets focus on powerlifting and get strong”, took a detour past “I look like flabby going on fat in the vacation pictures”, and I’m now entertaining ideas of labelling all food in the house with a calory count and amino-composition. Beginning as an offhand joke about looking better in holiday snaps, I’ve now internalised an unhealthly self-image and it’s a habit as difficult to give up as smoking.

As I recall, I wasn’t as preoccupied by my looks when I kept my mind occupied, so perhaps it’s just a symptom of not getting enough creative work done. If the sum of our quirks is constant, it’s only because we understand some quirks to be endearing or part of our personality and drive, that we distinguish between feeling fine and “not ourselves”.

(I shouldn’t exaggerate the body dysmorphia part – I’m not starving myself or call myself names in the mirror or somesuch. It’s a difference in degree though, not essense, so perhaps body dysmorphlight?)

In the spirit of seeing all problems as rationally solvable (even if the means might be irrational) I’m trying to come up with ways to occupy my obviously wandering mind. (I have computer games and Netflix, but that tends to exacerbate the malaise – especially in combination with my periodic depression.) There’s plenty of creative work to be done at work, but I don’t have the time to do it since administration takes up my days. The art projects I have going on have all become long to-do lists, and as much as I enjoy creating those it’s demoralising when you can’t cross stuff out every once in a while. The biohacking lab I’ve been trying to start hasn’t gathered traction and we’ve yet to do anything productive.

Maybe it’s not another project I need (“I ought to play the piano”, “I ought to read all the books”) but a a sounder approach to life in general? Oh dear, that sounds like another kind of midlife crisis symptom, doesn’t it? I have been looking at meditation retreats, so maybe it’s not a hobby I need to find but “myself”? Oh dear.

Or maybe reasserting control over my everyday life and tidying up is exactly what I need to get priorities straight? Perhaps I could just fix all this with a long weekend cleaning up, tossing books I’ll never read, arranging our bills in a spreadsheet and finally settling on how to sync my calendars between computers and phone? Too much in my life is just running along, so grabbing my LAN by the balls, fixing a proper NAS backup and deleting old files might be just the spring cleaning my mind needs?

Come to think of it, the time I feel most relaxed is when the apartment has just been vacuumed and tidied and I can make tea without having to navigate dirty dishes. So if I start there, and do some pullups in between, perhaps this spring can start out a bit more harmonious? Ok? Ok! Let’s start by creating a todo-list…

MateuszBody in as-in condition. Eye lenses 40 y/o, other parts exchanged

On starting and/or finishing

Try to minimize time to your first “failure” (rejecting a hypothesis), and don’t be afraid to push the eject button. A classic error is to spend months working on an engine, architecture, or something else that has nothing to do with proving out your core design idea. Prototypes don’t need “engines.” Prototypes are slipshod machines held together by bubble gum and leftover bits of wire that test and prove simple ideas as quickly as possible.

→ Levity Lab, Chaim Gingold: Catastrophic Prototyping and Other Stories

Mercurio said she suspected producers were using levamisole because it can cause a small high that adds to coke’s kick. The drug devastates blood vessels under the skin, causing patches to turn black and rot off, she said. “In one of the more interesting ones, the patient used cocaine again and developed the same skin reaction again,” Dr. Noah Craft, another co-author, told KTLA television. “He then switched drug dealers, and the problem cleared up.”

→ NY Daily News, Philip Caulfield: Cocaine cut with levamisole

Stephen talks about the traditional role of a photograph as recording something real that happend. Analog photography is about fixing something and creating an artifact but digital is the opposite of this. The photograph becomes more fluid and online it is never static, there are an infinite amount of changes that can be made to it. He goes on to say that while the photography business is in decline this is a moment for invention not dismay.

→ A Photo Editor, Rob Haggart: The Future Of Photography Is In The Photographer Not The Photograph

MateuszOn starting and/or finishing

Me write pretty one day

Thanks to Anna Ganslandt I was next in line for a “artists writing relay” which Kultur i Väst organized. The theme of the project was “honestly speaking” [ärligt talat] and I wrote about my latest project counting sand grains, and the impossibility of not creating meaning. If you’d care to read it (in Swedish) you can do so here: www.kulturivast.se/konst/arligt-talat. Apparently my text was so good that I killed the project, since my essay will be the last in the relay. More likely the project didn’t get the traction they were hoping for and they scrapped it, but still.

MateuszMe write pretty one day

Racist, Fascist, Nationalist, whatever

När jag i veckan skrev en krönika om de tafsande invandrarkillarna och klargjorde hur det stod till med invandrares brottslighet, så kröp rasister och smygrasister fram ur sina hålor. Uppenbarligen fick det inte vara så som jag skrev, att 99,9 procent av landets första- och andra generations invandrare inte sitter inlåsta i fängelser, häkten eller på ungdomshem på grund av brottslighet. Så låt mig redogöra för mina siffror, och några till.

→ Para§raf, Dick Sundevall: Rasisterna kröp fram ur sina hålor

– Är det något jag tänker på är det just det – att vi sverigedemokrater fortfarande betraktas som paria, som en sämre sorts människor man kan bete sig hursomhelst mot. Jag kommer aldrig glömma när min sons förskollärare kallade mig ”nazist”. Det och det faktum att min allra bästa vän sa upp kontakten med mig förra året, det är två händelser som har satt såriga spår.

→ Dagens Nyheter, Ulrika By: SD:s toppnamn: ”Bussa Stockholmselever för att motverka segregationen”

Sverigedemokraternas första partiledare ­Anders Klarström hade sin bakgrund i Nordiska rikspartiet. Klarström dömdes för att ha ringt upp tv-stjärnan Hagge Geigert och skrikit: ”Vi ska bränna dig ditt jävla judesvin. Fy fan, ditt äckliga lilla judesvin. Passa dig! Vi ska komma och döda dig!” Patrik Ehn gjorde samma resa som Klarström. Ehn gick med i SD 1988. När han pluggade till SO-lärare vid Uppsala universitet under 90-­talet bytte han parti till Centern men uteslöts och återkom till SD.

→ Fokus.dn.se, Björn af Kleen: Den nya högern – ett eko från 1930-talet

For all their bleating about freedom of speech, these people don’t seem to know what it actually means. It is not the glorious, consequence-free paradise they imagine in which they get to say whatever they like to whomever they like while enjoying the luxury of that person silently taking it with no pushback. For too long, speech on the internet has been consequence free. It has mainly served to support abusive trolls who, despite the frequency with which they appear to be pictured with families, seem to have nothing better to do than stalk women online to try and scare them into shutting up.

→ Daily Life – Clementine Ford – Why I reported hotel supervisor Michael Nolan’s abusive comment to his employer

MateuszRacist, Fascist, Nationalist, whatever

Let’s enjoy being lettered!

Some friends and relatives visited the city over the weekend and we got together for discussions and beers. We came to discuss the definition of the word “trustworthiness” as it applies to journalistic practice – especially since today people who are journalists one day might freelance as PR flacks or marketers the next. Ten years ago this was, if not unthinkable, discouraged and might brand you a hack. There were always exceptions, but it required a major talent or brand recognition for you to be able to switch roles without losing face.

I’m a bit torn here – maybe because I’m not a professional journalist who has to face the realities of that profession – but in our discussion I came down on the side of “let the work speak for itself and be judged on its merits”. Thus, I didn’t think that a journalist being an agitator, activist or marketer was a question of trustworthiness, but rather a branding issue for the publication. In practice, I’m not sure if I’m holding myself to such a high standard as a reader – if I read an article by a known right-wing sympathiser, I will cast more doubt over his/her reporting than I would otherwise, and I’m my knowledge of their alliegence taints my interpretation of what they’re presenting. I acknowledge that even a nazi can write a level-headed article on gardening, but don’t give as much benefit of a doubt when they’re writing on immigration.

If a publication wants to be respected for doing good journalism, there have to be objective standards to which it holds it’s writers and editors, and these standards and practices have to be applied uniformly and be transparent for all. Shouldn’t this be promoted as the “journalistic value” rather than a journalists background?

The general problem with journalists is still that they’re often a self-selected and self-reaffirming group of people, representing in their makeup a small part of Swedish society, and anyone too extreme is usually weeded out (Chomsky has written plenty on journalism which is worth reading). It’s similar to a bureaucracy in that regard, and as long as there are ways to publish outside of the mainstream it’s a manageable problem. But this still means that we ought to know what rules they are playing by. And here’s the crux of the whole “trustworthiness” thing for me: Considering how the Internet in general and social media in particular is used, and the fact that the net never forgets anything, anything you’ve ever done can be used to cast doubt on your credibility. If you’ve posted a photo of yourself eating strawberry cream cake, your credibility to write “balanced journalism” regarding the dairy industry or animal rights can be tarnished. I’m not saying that it should be, but allow fifty people to band together online, disparaging your eating habits, and suddenly the ombudsman at your paper might feel the need to defend your trustworthiness as a journalist covering these things.

Basically, although a desk editor might question your journalistic practices if you come from a tainted background, framing the scrutiny as a principled stand based on how your readership might perceive the conflict of interest is a race to the bottom – because there’s no end to what your readership will be offended by. There’s a quote from Cardinal Richelieu which goes “Give me six lines written by the most honorable of men, and I will find an excuse in them to hang him.” [the quote is contested according to Wikipedia] and social media allow us to not only find those six lines, but also conscript a mob delighted to fashion a noose. If those six lines were a bit embellished, well, at least someone got to hang as a warning example even though not for an actual crime.

I’m reading Jon Ronsons book “So you’ve been publicly shamed” at the moment, and even though it’s tangential to the issues of credibility we discussed over the weekend, the functions of online justice is well outlined. With the onslaught described in the book I understand why editors and publisher are concerned with credibility – even though an editor might not agree with my understanding of the issue at all – but on principle I don’t see that there’s a long term viability in stopping their journalists from jumping between roles. In practice this will further narrow the pool of people you are offering jobs since only those who can afford to be “untainted” will be considered, and those who have not been public members of a political party, union, association or NGO will be more palatable than their counterparts – which will narrow your recruiting pool even further. This doesn’t necessarily increase your trustworthiness as a publication, but it makes your job to manage your brand as “trustworthy” easier. I’m not sure that’s a good thing, and I don’t see an end to it.

In an attempt to counteract the effects of our echo chambers, The Guardian has a weekly feature called Burst your bubble which highlights five US conservative articles or publications. It’s on my reading list these days and I highly recommend it.

However inadvertently, the U.S. military lit the fire that burned down the old order. As it turned out, no matter the efforts of the globe’s greatest military, no easy foreign solution existed when it came to Iraq. It rarely does.
Unfortunately, few in Washington were willing to accept such realities. Think of that as the 21st century American Achilles’ heel, unwarranted optimism about the efficacy of U.S. power.

→ War is boring, Danny Sjursen: America Has Misused Its Military Power in the Middle East

Over at Metafilter, a post showed up about the virtual photography of Second Life. I have a personal interest in the subject since my BA essay from when I studied photography was concerned with virtual photography – link to work on homepage. There are some interesting links there, and this is one:

Photography is the art of seeing, selecting, framing, and timing an image occurring in things that (usually) the photographer has not helped make or design. Of course there can be exceptions, just as in Second Life a person can build things and then photograph them, but the thing that’s unique about photography as an art is that it is all about receiving.

→ The winged girl blog, Kate Amdahl: Is Second Life Photography Real Photography?

MateuszLet’s enjoy being lettered!