This subcommittee, a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, has fourteen members: 8 Democrats and 6 Republicans. And in today’s meeting Congressman Nadler, who is an ex-officio member as the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, was also sitting in. At the point that Stewart decided to pitch his fit during his opening remarks about there being an “empty Congress”, seven of the subcommittee members were in the room. Though you could only see six of them in the video because of how the cameras were angled. The subcommittee meets in the same chambers as the full House Judiciary Committee, so even if everyone was there, the dais at the front of the room where the members of the subcommittee sit would look somewhere around 2/3 empty as there are 41 members of the full Judiciary Committee.
If Stewart did not know or did not understand that this was the case, then he’s a moron. More likely, he knew, understood the optics, and used them to gin up outrage. Stewart knew, was counting on, and was not disappointed that 1) it won’t be initially reported that this was a 14 member subcommittee and 2) most Americans will neither know, nor understand that this is why, despite at least half the subcommittee members actually being in attendance at the time he was ranting, most of the seats on the dais are empty.
The House is going to pass the extension without an issue. With an actual large numbers of votes from members of both parties. The vote to move it out of the Judiciary Committee is actually scheduled for tomorrow and it will pass there, and then the full House in short order, with significant bipartisan support. But once it does, it has to go across the Capitol to the Senate. Stewart knows, and if he doesn’t, then he should, that the problem isn’t the House or its Democratic majority. Rather it’s the McConnell controlled, GOP majority Senate. Should Senator McConnell deign to allow this to move forward, given he’s bottled up everything else the House has passed, he’s likely to demand ransom to do so. Why? Because he watched how Stewart manipulated the news media today to hammer the Democrats running the House of Representatives for failing to take care of 9-11 first responders who are ill because of their service on 9-11. Senator McConnell also knows that if he does nothing, because there isn’t going to be an equivalent hearing in the Senate to produce equally negative publicity, that he and his GOP majority in the Senate will take no blame. And because he knows that if it fails, Stewart will simply rebroadcast today’s video, the news media will follow like lemmings, and he’ll have made this a problem for Democrats going into a presidential election year where his Republican senators are defending more seats than the Senate Democrats are in 2020. Senator McConnell already had too much leverage and Stewart’s tantrum today simply gave him more.
Pinboard emerged in part as a response to other bookmarking services which emphasized social features at the expense of speed and privacy and which often turned out to be unreliable, or at least, subject more to the whims of corporate executives and handwavey business models than to user needs. Cegłowski neatly bypasses those problems by simply charging for his bookmarking service, and preventing it from scaling beyond his control by raising that price as the user base increases.
One of Pinboard’s best features is its archiving tool: for an additional fee, Pinboard will crawl all your bookmarks and cache the pages. Then, when those pages 404 (alas, like all things, most web pages die eventually), you still have the cache. It’s like having a personal Wayback Machine.
Which brings me back to Cegłowski’s directive to “preserve the web as the hypertext medium that it is”: is hypertext constrained to text?
Pinboard is great, as is the philosophy behind it. The rest of this post expands upon the ideas embedded in Pinboard and dives into what we mean when we talk about text, the web, and writing.
Cops is presented as a documentary on policing in America, a topic that could not be more complex and controversial, and has been broadcasting that work on TV for over 30 years now, with new episodes still airing weekly and usually drawing over a million viewers. It’s actually the longest-running reality show of all time, and since it’s in syndication, it’s sometimes on 70 times in one week. It’s been on so long that it’s become culturally ubiquitous, something a then-teenager like myself can turn on and zone out in front of.
“When you talk about things in the culture, you talk about things that are new and you talk about things that are good,” former television producer Dan Taberski told me recently over the phone. “And everything else just kind of lives on.”
Taberski’s resume includes The Daily Show and the Andrew W.K.-hosted Cartoon Network program Destroy Build Destroy, and he pivoted to podcasting a few years back. In each season of his audio documentary series, Headlong, he “explores the lives of overlooked people, moments, and events in our culture,” to quote from his website. His latest podcast, Running From Cops, is an investigation of Cops, a show Taberski has always watched “with two minds.”
I totally missed this podcast, but I have just downloaded all the episodes. It’s actually the third season of Taberski’s Headlong, the first season of which was Missing Richard Simmons.
I imagine that the first part of this project will focus on how it got to be this way, what got missed or ignored in some of the early warnings about what was happening online and how those warnings were swamped by the hype depicting the Internet as a space of radical democratization. But then I want to turn my attention to where we might go, whether there are possibilities for building an Internet that would be more genuinely social. Some argue that a more decentralized web — a web in which we manage the platforms through which we interact with others, or what Wired recently referred to as the soothing promise of the artisanal Internet — would allow us to control the ways that our data is used, as well as to control the terms of our engagements with the broader network. There is no small irony in the suggestion that what has been termed the IndieWeb could actually turn out to promote a deeper sociality, of course, and the vision of a distributed, self-hosted, self-controlled Internet would be a real challenge to achieve. But as I see it, the desire to pull our efforts at creative production and connection out of platforms like Facebook and Twitter and, commit to more distributed platforms like Mastodon or return to blogging and its micro-blogging relatives focus not on the goal, but instead on a means to an end. Because the problem is not that our platforms haven’t been sufficiently individualized; despite — or more truthfully because of — being under ravenous corporate control, they cater to our worst individualist instincts. Contravening that force is going to require something more than personal control, promoting something other than atomization.
That is to say: if the problem has not been the centralized, corporatized control of the individual voice, the individual’s data, but rather a deeper failure of sociality that precedes that control, then merely reclaiming ownership of our voices and our data isn’t enough. If the goal is creating more authentic, more productive forms of online sociality, we need to rethink our platforms, the ways they function, and our relationships to them from the ground up. It’s not just a matter of functionality, or privacy controls, or even of business models. It’s a matter of governance.