Scripting News for 3/20/2008

My name is Dave and I’m a racist 

Hello!๐Ÿ™‚

I wrote a comment on a post on Phil Windley’s blog earlier today which I ended saying perhaps we should all just disclaim up front that we’re racists, and then go ahead and say what we have to say about race.

It should save a lot of time, and get a lot of formerly private and hush-hush stuff out in the open.

Ironically, it’s possible because we got, through Rev Wright’s at-first shocking sermons out and in the discussion. So much for black people not being racists. He could attend our nation’s 12-step meeting and introduce himself as I did.

Hello, my name is Jeremiah Wright and I’m a racist.

Hello Jeremiah!

In his speech on Tuesday morning, Obama said the same thing.

It’s like what Jerry said about his life.

It’s even worse than it appears.๐Ÿ™‚

Fact, if you’ve lived in the United States as long as I have, 52 years, you have opinions about race, and to some that makes you a racist. The problem — only our closest friends and family know our opinions about race. There may be blacks who first heard that there is white resentment from Geraldine Ferraro, or from Barack Obama. But it’s no secret to me.

We may eventually get rid of racism, but it isn’t going to happen by keeping it hidden.

On Tuesday before Obama’s speech I saw a panel on race, on CNN, moderated by a black newsman, with two blacks as panelists. No whites. That’s the old style pre-Obama panel on race. The new modern way is to balance it, and let whites speak about race too. Let us make generalizations about blacks and whites the way blacks always have. For a change, let the blacks listen, and appreciate that we have opinions too, show us that you get that we’re not silly, naive, trivial.

In all my years, I’ve only heard two images of whites from blacks. 1. The man. We control everything. We’re privileged. The oppressor. We coordinate to keep blacks out, to keep blacks down. 2. The silly do-good liberal. We look for approval. We want to be hip. But we’re naive and shallow. There is no third view of whites in black folklore. And you wonder why we never connect.

Right now I’m not trying to be your friend. I never was your oppressor. I do believe in the fierce urgency of now, so what I want is to work together to get us some good government. I certainly don’t mind, if along the way, the lot of black people improves. In fact I like that. And it doesn’t make me silly or naive. I argue, and I think Obama agrees, that makes me an American, which I most certainly am.

Once we feel heard, then we might be better able to listen to what you have to say. Just a thought.

One more thing before I sit down. By disclaiming my racism, you can’t get me by calling me a racist. Just admitting that one simple and obvious fact makes it possible for the air to start to clear on this formerly taboo subject.

I’ll sit down now, having said my piece, for now.

Christmas comes early for President Obama 

NY Times: “During one of the most difficult periods in the presidency of Bill Clinton, he addressed a group of clerics at an annual prayer breakfast in September 1998 just as the Starr report outlining his dalliance with Monica Lewinsky was about to be published.”

What’s wrong with Wikipedia 

First, I point to Wikipedia pages often here on Scripting News and on Twitter. I also find it a useful personal resource. For example, I’m working my way through Battlestar Galactica and I find it helpful to read the summary of each episode after I’ve watched it. It’s great that they have a common format. And they fill in blanks you might not have noticed but don’t spoil the plot of upcoming episodes. I’ve been investing in ETFs lately, and Wikipedia has helped me learn how they work. So I don’t question its value. It has value.

Wikipedia is therefore a puzzle to me. Because while it’s helpful, it also hurts me, because my biography there is more of a vendetta, by anonymous people, who seem self-centered and immature, but it’s impossible to tell what axes they have to grind, because they’re largely anonymous.

Same is true for various activities I’ve participated in. You may argue that I didn’t invent this or that, but surely I had something to do with RSS, blogging and podcasting? Yet depending on when you look, I’m often not mentioned on these pages. This makes it hard for me to claim my work in professional dealings because people consider Wikipedia authoritative. What it says is considered by many to be the truth. So this has hurt my career, and my ability to do creative work that builds on past work.

This is where Andrew Keen could have and should have, imho, written his book. This is where the Cult of the Amateur really does do damage, by usurping authority, and replacing it with anonymity and giving power to those who who tear down creativity, to remove the incentive to share, unless you’re completely selfless and don’t mind if others take credit for your accomplishments. That’s not the nature of creativity, btw, creative people fiercely insist on credit, fight for it, imho, rightly.

Eventually, if it hasn’t already happened, there will be consultants you can pay to make sure your point of view dominates a Wikipedia page. It has already come out that a gift to the Wikipedia Foundation will assure that your point of view dominates your profile page. How much of this can Wikipedia stand before it is reformed? It seems time to have this discussion, and not in the confines of Wikipedia where it can be controlled and gamed by insiders, but outside where everyone’s opinion can be heard without being edited out and when it’s clear who’s saying what.

That said, here’s how I think Wikipedia should evolve to fix this problem.

Based on the principle that one has the right to confront his accusers, Wikipedia pages on living people, or covering active creative areas, should be limited to pages of pointers of attributed accounts. Editors work to validate that the people are who they say they are. If they can’t be validated, they either don’t get linked, or get linked to from an area specially marked as not being validated. (I prefer the former.)

Further, in areas important enough to be controversial, meaning that people disagree on what happened, we should try to get as many people who were involved in the event or activity to write first-person narratives. In areas where they all agree, that should eventually be considered fact and presented as such, but the first-person narratives must stay linked. This would prevent the kinds of disasters that happen when people (for example) edit their own profile pages, meanwhile giving people the formal right to tell their own story, which clearly, many people covered by Wikipedia want.

I hope an interesting discussion ensues. Of course I expect to hear from the people who edit my profile pages to keep my name in the dirt, and I don’t expect them to use their actual names. Can’t speak for everyone else, but I’m much more interested, always, in hearing opinions from people who have the conviction and courage to put their personal authority behind their words, as I do.

Perfect purple 

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