Your double whammy for the day: Eric Boehlert on how the press inexplicably continues its whitewashing of Trump’s speeches pairs nicely with John Stoehr on how critics of so-called “cancel culture” are koshering Trump for white people who don’t want to appear racist.

Boehlert:

There comes a point — and we’re way past it — when reporters covering Trump should be honest with what they’re witnessing. It shouldn’t be left to “opinion” writers to note that Trump speeches aren’t merely “divisive” as the New York Times reported on Friday. The speech was undemocratic as Trump demonized civil protesters, and dangerous as he portrayed them as lurking enemies of the state.

This kind of chronic whitewashing has come to define political journalism in the Trump era. As he becomes increasingly desperate while his polling numbers fall, Trump’s loud cries for armed confrontation may become more acute, and it’s the job of journalists to describe exactly what’s happening, and not hide behind polite euphemisms.

Stoehr:

I’m not going to say much about “cancel culture” except that it’s almost entirely make-believe. Critics do not generally take into account actual arguments made by social reformers but instead fabricate arguments in order to undercut them. The point that I want to make is that Stephens and other dishonest intellectuals comprising maybe half the pundit corps are in effect, to borrow from the late Philip Roth, koshering Trump. In the novelist’s The Plot Against America, Charles Lindbergh, renown for antisemitism as much as aviation, defeats Franklin Roosevelt in 1940 with the help of a rabbi who “koshers” him—that is, makes clear to non-Jews who do not want to vote for an antisemite that Lindbergh’s antisemitism is fine. It’s OK to vote for him. (Many thanks to Seth Cotlar for bringing this aspect of Roth’s novel to my attention.)

One confusion I’ve just sort of tried to shake off is that it’s tough to know how to reconcile voices that are imploring you as a white person to learn when sometimes those voices differ on whose lessons to heed. Kimberly Hirsh’s write-up of having just finished White Fragility reminds me that there’s been a noticeable criticism of that book lately coming from Black women, and yet it was a Black woman writer (whose book I also read) that led me to read it. Like any group of people, of course, “Black women” is not a monolith, so it hardly should be surprising that there’d be no unanimity. The trail just sometimes feels fraught with anxiety, as if following a pointer from one quarter might yield disparagement from another. I don’t think there’s anything to be done about this, per se. Navigating the rapids of educating oneself certainly isn’t exactly on any top-ten list of the world’s problems. It’s also less complaint than observation: when told to listen to Black people, it’s never entirely clear what to do when Black people themselves disagree. Maybe it’s less an observation than a question: what’s good allyship when the Black voices you hear are imploring you to go in different directions?

Somewhere in Gretchen McCulloch’s recent posts or newsletters was this Wired piece from last year I’d never seen about how at Archive of Our Own they’ve found a middle-ground between free-form and top-down tagging that’s actually much more functional and much more usable.

On AO3, users can put in whatever tags they want. (Autocomplete is there to help, but they don’t have to use it.) Then behind the scenes, human volunteers look up any new tags that no one else has used before and match them with any applicable existing tags, a process known as tag wrangling. Wrangling means that you don’t need to know whether the most popular tag for your new fanfic featuring Sherlock Holmes and John Watson is Johnlock or Sherwatson or John/Sherlock or Sherlock/John or Holmes/Watson or anything else. And you definitely don’t need to tag your fic with all of them just in case. Instead, you pick whichever one you like, the tag wranglers do their work behind the scenes, and readers looking for any of these synonyms will still be able to find you.

AO3’s trick is that it involves humans by design—around 350 volunteer tag wranglers in 2019, up from 160 people in 2012—who each spend a few hours a week deciding whether new tags should be treated as synonyms or subsets of existing tags, or simply left alone. AO3’s Tag Wrangling Chairs estimate that the group is on track to wrangle about 2.7 million never-before-used tags in 2019, up from 2.4 million in 2018.

Although this isn’t about content moderation as you’d think about it in the context, say, of social media, I do think there’s a lesson to be carried over and it’s the same damned lesson community managers teach over and over: programmatic rigidity from above doesn’t work, and free-for-all anarchy doesn’t work. You need actual people in the middle, wrangling.

This piece by Johan Pries, Erik Jönsson, and Don Mitchell for Places Journal about “people’s houses” and “people’s parks” in pre-war Sweden I found interesting in part because of the ascribed tension between people’s movements and “urban planners and policy technocrats”, and how post-war “the era of grassroots energy and improvisational, movement-led placemaking was giving way to the age of expert-led ‘rational’ planning”. That tension made me think of that Jacob Anbinder piece that confused me, and also a little bit about a conversation about urbanist dreams of freeing streets from cars versus questions of representation and bias in planning.

That fear when you see you have mail from the Department of Human Services but it turns out to be notice that your SNAP benefits for the second half of the year remain the same as for the first half of the year.

Remember how I’d wondered if aphantasia and autobiographical memory deficits could be limiting not just retrospective visualization but prospective visualization as well? Your Brain Is a Time Machine doesn’t directly address that question, but it does directly suggest an answer for amnesiacs.

People with so-called anterograde amnesia generally lose the ability to store new semantic and episodic memories—although they can still learn motor tasks such as learning to ride a bike, and other types of so-called procedural or implicit memories. Previously stored semantic memories (for example, the names of their family members or the capital of France) are largely intact, but some amnesiac patients also have an impoverished ability to recall old episodes of their lives (those that happened before the onset of amnesia).

It is not surprising that someone with amnesia will struggle to describe what he did yesterday—that’s pretty much the definition of amnesia. But do people with amnesia struggle to plan ahead or to describe what they may be doing tomorrow? The answer to this question seems to be yes. Research over the last two decades has progressively emphasized that some amnesiac patients struggle to project themselves into both the past and the future. Once such patient, who was known by the initials K.C., suffered extensive hippocampal damage as a consequence of a motorcycle accident. In addition to losing most of his episodic memories, he had a pronounced deficit in his ability to think about his own future.

Anyone know if it’s possible to get an RSS feed of a WordPress author’s comments? Not the site-wide comments feed; just one for a given author’s comments. Plugins would be fine, if there is one.

When I started in on Space and Place, it turns out that the very first quote I noted was one I’d already heard from how I even learned of Yi-Fu Tuan in the first place. More interestingly to me is the fact that I’d then said that the quote (echoing Richard Sennett) “seem[ed] roughly consistent with ‘dwelling’ versus ‘moving'” and sure enough the second quote I noted this week was about movement. The third, noted yesterday? About dwelling and movement. Go figure.

Shannon Mattern’s longform look (or would it be listen?) at urban auscultation passes along a comparison between doctors learning to listen to the body that I know I’ve read somewhere before, but I’ll be damned if I can remember where. Anyway, as I brace for tonight’s likely followup to last night’s cosplay mortar fire, I just wanted to include here one part.

This context quickly revealed the limits of efforts to instrumentalize and objectify hearing. The meters couldn’t replicate the way human ears perceived loudness, and they had trouble tracking fluctuating sounds. Bell Labs’ Rogers Galt, who reviewed urban sound surveys for the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America in 1930, emphasized the subjective, situational nature of aural perception. Whether a sound was perceived as noise, he wrote, depended on how long it lasted and how often it occurred, whether it was steady or intermittent, who made the sound, who was disturbed, and whether the sound was understood as necessary. 23 “Noise” was a product of acoustics and psychology.

Whether or not cities actually were too loud, measurable “noise levels,” with their positivist certainty, “became the sign of how bad the situation was.” Public health concerns were taken seriously only after noise exposure could be quantified. Leonardo Cardoso, in his study of sound politics in São Paolo, argues that the seemingly objective measurements produced by sound-level meters came to “replac[e] our ears as the authoritative hearing actor” and ultimately conditioned our hearing to a world that the instrument could validate. “Through the minuscule repetition of a series of exposures to sound that are allowed to exist thanks to the [meter’s] validation, this technological being” has reshaped our own organic perceptual instruments. 25 We became attuned to what the machine is capable of sensing.