L. Rhodes


Obscure and Mistaken Identities

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Writing in the New York Times, Woodrow Hartzog and Evan Selinger make the argument that a distinction between public and private won't be enough to protect us in an era of digital exposure. What's needed is a legally binding conception of obscurity:

It is a combination of the privacy you have in public and the privacy you have in groups. Obscurity is a barrier that can shield you from government, corporate and social snoops. And until lawmakers, corporate leaders and citizens embrace obscurity and move to protect it, your freedom and opportunities to flourish will be in jeopardy.

What that would mean in practice is suggested, they say, by the "right to be forgotten" enshrined several years ago by the European Court of Justice.

If you're anything like me, you've probably been casually citing the tragedy of the commons for years (if not decades) without realizing that its author, Garrett Hardin, was a white supremacist who posited the idea in order to argue for eugenics and the systemic deprivation of other communities. Writing at Scientific American, Matto Mildenberger of UCSB's political science department argues that the real tragedy of climate change is structural, guided by the corporations and interest groups that, in pursuit of profits, have successfully "structured the choices available" to the rest of us. Given Hardin's background, and the extent to which more volatile weather patterns are beginning to affect previously environmentalism-adverse communities in America, I wouldn't be surprised to see white nationalists begin to make a concerted effort to redeploy the tragedy of the commons as a way of infiltrating environmentalist circles.

In a piece for Aeon, philosopher Miriam Thalos outlines an account of freedom that answers the apparent paradox that proliferating options and alternatives doesn't necessarily make an agent more free. Thalos' thesis is that the standard for assessing whether an option makes a person more free is whether or not it allows them to more fully embody their own self-conception. That seems like a potentially fruitful direction to pursue, but insofar as the range of conceivable self-conceptions are socially determined, freedom may not amount to much in that formulation.

In an interview for Citylab, photographer Brian Rose discusses his new book, and how it presents the impact of Trump's 1980s ventures in Atlantic City as a model for what to expect with respect to national prosperity.

Trump was the biggest player in Atlantic City for years, whether he owned casinos or licensed his name; his presence was dominant. The remarkable thing is that [his companies] went bankrupt several times. None of his properties ever made money in the conventional sense, yet he managed to keep things afloat for years.

That's a vivid reminder that, with Trump, the appearance of success is usually an illusion. For now, carried in part by momentum from the post-recession recovery, the national economy seems to be speeding right along…