September 7, 2018 in 2,444 words

The End Finally Comes for Alex Jones

Twitter’s permanent ban is an important symbolic gesture


On Thursday, Twitter permanently banned Alex Jones, after the prominent conspiracy theorist violated the platform’s policies on abusive behavior by tweeting out a video of himself heckling the CNN reporter Oliver Darcy.

“We took this action based on new reports of Tweets and videos posted yesterday that violate our abusive behavior policy, in addition to the accounts’ past violations,” the company announced via Twitter.

This is not the first time Jones has run afoul of the company’s community guidelines. In early August, Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, defended his company’s decision not to remove Jones from the platform—despite mounting pressure to ban him—by claiming Jones hadn’t violated any rules. After CNN’s Oliver Darcy noted several instances of what appeared to be clear policy violations, Twitter forced Jones to delete the tweets but allowed him to remain on the platform. Several weeks later, users reported Jones for encouraging Periscope viewers to get their “battle rifles” ready and finally suffered a week-long “time out” before his account was reinstated. But Thursday’s ban is comprehensive, and permanent—if Jones attempts to start any new accounts, the company will automatically shut them down.

“We will continue to evaluate reports we receive regarding other accounts potentially associated with @realalexjones or @infowars and will take action if content that violates our rules is reported or if other accounts are utilized in an attempt to circumvent their ban,” the company wrote.


Sarah Huckabee Sanders may be pushing up subscriptions to the New York Times

WOMP WOMP


Not exactly what she had in mind.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has urged Trump supporters to call the New York Times and tell them to release the name of the anonymous op-ed contributor who claimed to be leading a “quiet resistance” against the president from inside the administration.

The number she included was the general switchboard number, rather than a direct line for the opinion section. Now, Times staff completely unconnected to the essay are suddenly under a telephonic deluge.

Pia Peterson, the New York Times magazine photo assistant, tweeted about these unexpected calls:

Not every caller was quite so critical. Peterson reported one call from Fort Worth, Texas, that left her in tears: “It’s crazy what you all have to put up with, thank you for all that you do for our free speech.” Sopan Deb, on the paper’s culture desk, also received a simliarly supportive call.


Paranoia Is Now a Best Practice

Bust out the tinfoil—the data security crisis is worse than you ever imagined.

The 2010s will be remembered as the first decade in which we, the people, paid for the pleasure of welcoming Big Brother into our lives. When George Orwell depicted an inescapable surveillance state — telescreens in every room monitoring every move, recording every sound, and reporting it all to the authoritarian leader — in his classic novel 1984, he probably never imagined that in 2018, folks would pay $600 (plus a recurring monthly fee) for the privilege of carrying a telescreen in their pockets.

China’s surveillance apparatus includes facial recognition technology connected to an expansive network of CCTV cameras and to camera-sunglasses that police officers wear; soon it will be connected to a flock of drones disguised as birds. The Chinese government has also announced they will soon be requiring facial scans at train stations as part of their growing dragnet.

Some Chinese citizens are even being required to install special software on their phones that tracks what they download. Footage from surveillance cameras, tweets, Facebook posts, and attempts to visit banned or otherwise “bad” websites can all affect your “social credit score,” which has been used to prevent “risky” citizens from doing all kinds of things, from buying airline tickets to getting your kids into private school.

The recent expansion of the surveillance state is not limited to historically authoritarian regimes. The United States has had its own share of frightening tools at its disposal, including the NSA’s PRISM program, famously exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden. Under PRISM, the NSA has been collecting and storing massive amounts of data about internet traffic. Information found in the Snowden dumps and subsequent revelations have implicated the NSA in repeated (sometimes successful) attempts to break public encryption standards, such as the Diffie-Hellman key exchange. Doing so allows them to read huge swaths of information which was thought (and intended) to be private.


5 Crazy True 9/11 Stories You’ve Never Heard Before

The 9/11 attacks were a big, bad, crazy time in American history. It can be hard to wrap your head around all of the facets of that terrible day, which is probably why some people don’t bother and instead invent elaborate conspiracies wherein the Koch brothers staged the whole thing to get a discount on airfare or something. But some of the little details about 9/11 are crazier than others, and may require extra twisting of the mind. For example …

5. A Piece Of A Plane Was Found Hidden In An Alleyway (11 Years Later)


Debris from the Twin Towers was scattered over an area, well, the size of Lower Manhattan. It’s little wonder that the cleanup operation, which took a whole nine months, missed a few things. There were papers, staplers, wall calendars — you know, the type of stuff that you find in an office. That exploded. There was also one other thing, one which seemed like it could have been important to the investigation.

Remember this level of screw-up the next time some idiot tries to suggest anyone having their shit together enough to plan this as an inside job.

What you’re looking at is landing gear from one of the planes that struck the towers. It was found in April 2013, laying on the ground between two buildings located three blocks from Ground Zero. Though in hindsight, it makes sense that no one caught it. To describe the resting place as “tight” seems like an understatement (although that space is probably worth more than your house on Zillow). This situation is compounded by the fact that New Yorkers steadfastly refuse to make eye contact with anything on the off chance that it tries to force a demo CD into their hand.

With this exact cover.

After this discovery was made, the NYPD immediately sealed off the area until the medical examiner could verify that the there wasn’t any … human matter involved as well. Luckily, they were able to trace a visible ID number to make a positive identification, and concluded that the landing gear did in fact belong to one of the 9/11 planes. You know, in order to rule out any of the other planes that have exploded within that three-block area of Manhattan.


THE DENVER AIRPORT IS LEANING INTO THE CONSPIRACY THEORIES. WHAT IS IT HIDING?

WAKE UP, SHEEPLE


Exactly what the Illuminati would do.

The runways are in the shape of a swastika. The baggage claim murals show a dystopian future under a one-world government. And the entrance is guarded by Blucifer, a terrifying 32-foot blue horse with glowing red eyes. Denver International Airport may be the world’s 29th best airport, but it ranks right up at the top for conspiracy theories.

Now, the airport itself is embracing its lizard people and Illuminati lore in posters on its walls that encourage travelers to “learn the truth.” Run-of-the-mill renovations, or something more mysterious?

Despite the signs, the airport’s official line is surprisingly mundane. It’s all part of the brand, spokesperson Emily Williams told the Denver Post. “It’s a fun way that we can engage with our passengers,” she said. Definitely not a cover-up, then.

The stories themselves date back more than two decades, popularized through a combination of internet whisperings, blurry video footage, and a 2012 episode of truTV’s Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura. Depending on who you ask, the airport’s variously controlled by Freemasons, fascists, the Illuminati, aliens, lizard people, or some hellish combination of all of the above. Others will tell you that the tunnels below the airport lead to a kind of Noah’s Ark, capacity five million, for the forthcoming environmental apocalypse. (No word as yet on how to get on to that list.)


A ‘Simpsons’ Producer Noticed A Huge Continuity Error In 1 Episode

Executive producer Matt Selman pointed out a big mistake in “And Maggie Makes Three.”


It’s standard for fans of a TV show to document mistakes or continuity errors in said show. But it’s pretty special when it comes from one of the show’s own producers.

This is exactly what happened Tuesday night when “The Simpsons” executive producer Matt Selman tweeted out a screenshot from the season 6 episode “And Maggie Makes Three.”

“Maggie is in photo on wall behind Marge telling Homer she’s pregnant with Maggie,” Selman said.

My god, he’s right. That’s a pretty glaring continuity error. But, as others have pointed out, that’s not the only error in the episode. And the other mistakes are hilariously similar.

A flashback shows Homer reacting to Marge being pregnant first with Bart, then with Lisa, each time ripping his hair out and running off screaming. The thing is, in both instances, he passes a framed photo of what appears to be Lisa in a pink hat. Before she was even born?!


Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

On November 6, 2012, Colorado voters passed Amendment 64. Two years later, recreational marijuana was legal. “No other state had ever done [this] before,” said Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper in an interview at the 2018 Aspen Ideas Festival in June. In the video above, Hickenlooper details his experience implementing what he describes as “one of the great social experiments of the first half of this century.”


An unflinching look at one family’s chaotic experience being forcibly separated at the U.S.-Mexico border.


After the New York Times published an anonymous op-ed authored by a “senior official” in the Trump administration, the internet got started on one of the things it does best: straight-up speculation.

A primary contender for the mysterious author was Vice President Mike Pence, whose previous utterances of the term “lodestar,” which also appeared in the column, was seen by some as a giveaway. But then others pointed out that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had previously written the phrase “first principles,” another term which appears in the op-ed.

Both were solid arguments, given that we have almost nothing to go on.

But there are many, many, senior officials in the Trump administration, and people had many, many more theories as to who wrote the op-ed. So Michael Kalenderian took a look at some other favorite — and not so favorite — contenders.

THANKS to HBO and VICE News for making this program available on YouTube.


Trevor takes a look at Brett Kavanaugh, the extremely conservative judge who’s up for a Supreme Court seat.


Senator Kamala Harris goes in on Brett Kavanaugh during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing with questions about the Mueller investigation and reproductive rights.

THANKS to Comedy Central and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah for making this program available on YouTube.


The fallout from the anonymous NYT op-ed continues to wreak havoc in the White House. Well, more havoc than normal.


Today was also day three of confirmation hearings…

THANKS to CBS and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for making this program available on YouTube.


Seth takes a closer look at Republicans moving forward with Trump’s Supreme Court pick despite anonymous warnings about his fitness for office.

THANKS to NBC and Late Night with Seth Meyers for making this program available on YouTube.


CAUTION: Some language may not be appropriate for work or children.

The time has come for Ozzy Man Reviews to review Ozzy Man. This was actually a lot of fun to make. Cheers to you legends who have always thought it would be a funny idea.


お気に入りのタライで寝るまる。Maru sleeps in his favorite tub.



FINALLY . . .

Scientists Still Don’t Totally Understand What It Means to Be Conscious

Axel Cleeremans, a psychologist and researcher, has spent the last 30 years trying to figure it out.

THE MOST UNKNOWN is Motherboard’s love letter to the scientific process. For the next nine weeks, we’ll be profiling the people trying to answer science’s most difficult questions. Our feature-length documentary is now available on Netflix, and bonus episodes are available on YouTube.


Axel Cleeremans’s idea of a dream vacation is “when everybody thinks I’m on vacation, but I’m by myself working in my office.”

The man likes to work. But when your career is dedicated to unraveling one of life’s greatest mysteries, it can be hard to find anything else more fascinating than your day job. A PhD in cognitive psychology, Cleeremans is the director of the neuroscience institute at his alma mater, the Université Libre de Bruxelles, in Belgium, and runs a research group dedicated to answering one of humanity’s most elusive quandaries: why and how are we conscious?

It’s a question that requires equal expertise in neuroscience and philosophy—a marriage of disciplines that suits Cleeremans well. He tells me he’s often more interested in the questions that science elicits than by the answers it uncovers.

“It takes real skill to ask the correct questions, or to be able to say ‘that’s a good question’ or ‘that’s a bad question,’” Cleeremans told me during an interview via Skype.

How are we conscious, what is consciousness, and where does it live in the brain? These are some of the questions that Cleeremans has spent 30 years trying to answer.

To Find Out What It Is, Look at What It’s Not

I thought Cleeremans would laugh when I told him I wanted to start our interview with an “easy” question: what is consciousness? He gave me a polite chuckle, but then immediately slipped into a response. I guess I should have known that one of the world’s foremost consciousness researchers would have multiple definitions at the ready.


Ed. More tomorrow? Probably. Possibly. Maybe. Not?