Friday, January 23, 2015

How should people respond to anti-vaccination parents?

As many already know, California is suffering through the worst measles outbreak in 15 years, an epidemic that has spread to four other states and Mexico. It began when non-immunized measles-carrying Disneyland guests infected other visitors. Measles is ultra-contagious, so if someone has it, “90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.” Disney has responded by warning those who aren’t immunized to avoid the park and have instructed their ill employees to stay home.

I don’t have a lot of sympathy for those who got sick through their own bull-headed and anti-science beliefs. You play the game, you take your chances. But I do feel quite bad for their children, for those kids who are too young to be immunized, and for those who are too poor to have access to good medical care. My heart goes out to people who caught the illness because of others' ignorance.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Could Facebook handle Karl Marx? (Some thoughts on doing politics on social media.)

This is the monologue for the latest episode of Why? Radio. The topic was “Why not socialism?” To listen, click here.

Political activism in America has been usurped by Facebook. The website has made outrage into entertainment and political argument into branding. In a certain sense, this is not new. French existentialists once roamed Parisian cafes performing their political views, and American hippies used their picket signs to troll for sex, but Facebook has made these behaviors immeasurably worse. It is a platform fueled by emotional game playing, not political argument, and its endgame is well-known: when you link to that blog, photo, or pictogram that angers your friends—not your parents, not the establishment, not even “the man,” whoever that was—but your friends, when you find that link that inspires them to be publicly petty and respond with virulent diatribe, then, well, you win. Nothing happens next.