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Context matters. Trump called MS-13 gang members “animals,” but critics say he was talking about immigrants generally

There are many, many legitimate, evidence-supported critiques that people can make about Donald Trump. Taking a quote out of context  is not a legitimate, evidence-supported critique. I was furious at what I thought Trump said, too, until I looked into the context (C-SPAN). In a sound-bite world, a wise politician would be more careful, but thousands of social media users who shared their knee-jerk outrage could also benefit from a…

Twitter changes strategy in battle against internet ‘trolls’

Reducing the reach of abusive tweets is better than censorship on the one hand, and nothing on the other. Of course, this is another reminder that the social media titans can and do manipulate what we see. Reducing the impact of bullies benefits Twitter’s bottom line, which is the same reason for every change to the Twitter algorithm. Twitter Inc on Tuesday revised its strategy for fighting abusive internet “trolls,”…

Facebook shrinks fake news after warnings backfire

In its efforts to combat the spread of false news online (whether by malicious people who knew it was propaganda, or through the wishful thinking of overly-credible sheep who saw a post as confirmation of a value they already held), Facebook experimented with flagging stories as “disputed by third-party fact-checkers.” It turns out that a significant number of users were motivated by the “disputed” flag to share that item even…

Apology of Socrates, By Plato

Aristotle classified Plato’s work, representing Socrates’s defense against charges that he corrupted the youth of Athens, as a fiction. But what words! What a defense! (“Greatest mind of history / Solving life’s sweet mystery.” —Schwartz) For I do nothing but go about persuading you all, old and young alike, not to take thought for your persons and your properties, but first and chiefly to care about the greatest improvement of…

Certainty vs. uncertainty: “In which are we more likely to be deceived, and in which has rhetoric the greater power?”

I’ve taught Plato’s Phaedrus before, but in the past I have mostly focused on brief passages in which the characters discuss writing, which is really just a side issue. The purpose of today is mostly just to accustom my “History and Future of the Book” students to oral classical culture, in the hopes they’ll get more out of their exposure to Plato’s Apology of Socrates (which is on the syllabus…