Encoded Tyranny: Was Reagan’s “Shining City on a Hill” Intolerance for Dissent?

A while ago I wrote about Reagan’s use of racism to win elections. He was undeniably more racist than even Nixon, which is a remarkable achievement for a “popular” American President.

Also I have written about Reagan’s attachment to dictatorships, such as his mass human rights violations in Guatemala (creating a massive refugee flow toward the United States, inhumanely turned away by him).

Lately I see people citing a “Shining City on a Hill” speech as evidence of positive vision for America (i.e. Remarks at the Annual Convention of the National League of Cities in Los Angeles, California, November 29, 1982):

“Standing on the tiny deck of the Arabella in 1630 off the Massachusetts coast, John Winthrop said, “We will be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us, so that if we deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world.” Well, we have not dealt falsely with our God, even if He is temporarily suspended from the classroom. … We are indeed, and we are today, the last best hope of man on earth.”

Like his racism, however, this phrase somehow has evaded real scrutiny.

To be fair, a lot of Americans fall into a lazy camp of citing Winthrop’s “A Model of Christian Charity” in their political trajectory to emphasize being on board (pun not intended) with “chosen” exceptionalism.

Fun historical fact: archivists tell us Winthrop probably didn’t say what people think he did.

…biblical reference from Matthew 5:14 “that wee shall be as a citty upon a hill.” Closely associated with this ascent into the canon of foundational American texts is the ongoing misuse of that quote as an embryonic statement of American exceptionalism. In contrast, Winthrop was merely admonishing his fellow Puritans that failure would be apparent to all…

Yet, for purposes of this blog post, I think it fair to say nobody has gone so far in their usage, nor used Winthrop’s alleged words with such impact, as Reagan.

Reagan lifted the phrase intact from his readings of a Winthrop sermon several times including use for both his bid for a second term and his farewell address.

With that in mind, here are some important problems with use of the phrase (aside from it not meaning what people think).

First, John Winthrop hated democracy with religious fervor. He literally said it was the worst:

A democracy is, amongst civil nations, accounted the meanest and worst of all forms of government…and histories record that it hath always been of least continuance and fullest of troubles.

Second, from that perspective Winthrop took the Gospel of Matthew (Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:14-16 “A city set on a hill cannot be hid…”) and derived an intolerance that he framed with the extremist narrative of being exposed/vulnerable thus having low tolerance for dissent

…for we must Consider that we shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us; so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword through the world, we shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God and all professors for Gods sake…

Honestly this reminds me of a “Kansas God and Country Rally with U.S. Congressman Mike Pompeo” where he says things about being a “Christian warrior” like “we shot abortionists and called it justifiable” and refers to multiculturalism or diversity of views as an intolerable “worshipping other gods”.

In early America such a politician as Pompeo probably would have written laws like we see in actual early texts (e.g. Capitol Laws of Massachusetts where Winthrop opposed democracy):

Deut. 13. 6, 10., Deut. 17. 2, 6., Ex. 22. 20: If any man after legal conviction shall have or worship any other god, but the lord god, he shall be put to death.

We’re a City on a Hill that shoots to death anyone who dissents from our righteous view so we don’t look bad is probably the better long form for Winthrop’s actual meaning.

Do you see the problem yet with calling these intolerance screeds some sort of great future vision of America instead of a troubled and awful past that needs to be stopped?

It’s a subtle step from the idea of illumination being helpful, which kind of makes sense, into calling darkness something villainous and evil that must be stamped out by a religious elite.

Third, Winthrop’s formulation of intolerance meant he referred to women as an “agent of the devil” when they dared to have a dissenting voice. The life of Anne Hutchinson is a crucial insight for anyone talking about City on a Hill as presented by Winthrop.

Page 959 of Great Lives from History probably says it best:

Winthrop believed that the disunity in the colony was the result of evil, and evil was associated with women. Therefore, he concluded, Hutchinson must be an agent of the devil.

Is Hutchinson an unknown figure in American history? No, quite the opposite.

US embassies around the world hand out “Women of Influence” pamphlets that detail the life of a person Winthrop in 1630s called an agent of the devil.

America literally presents her to the world as a hero of democracy because she fought an exceptional battle to establish democracy against Reagan’s beloved City on the Hill inspiration.

…“Courageous Exponent of Civil Liberty and Religious Toleration” says the inscription at the bottom of a statue raised in her honor in Boston. But the most fitting tribute to Anne Hutchinson’s influence — proof that her ideals ultimately prevailed over her opponents’ — is the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Hopefully you see how if we carry on saying that Hutchinson is a founding member of democratic thinking in American history, then Winthrop (and Reagan) come across as the exact opposite. Why do you suppose Reagan was so attached to Winthrop (intolerant, hateful of democracy) and overlooked or omitted the significance of Hutchinson?

The counter to all these points I’m bringing up, of course, has been that Reagan was crafting his own unique meaning when he used the phrase and just cited Winthrop as a sort of starting point.

Reagan gave us his best attempt at re-framing meaning and asserting his own interpretation in a Farewell Address:

I’ve spoken of the Shining City all my political life. … In my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still.’

Sounds nice but it doesn’t get rid of the problems I pointed out already.

Saying “all kinds living in harmony and peace” doesn’t in any way remove Winthrop-themed intolerance campaign to destroy dissent.

Reagan indeed emphasizes “free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity” and doesn’t get to Hutchinson-level of freedom from oppression or liberty from tyranny.

What I mean by this slight of hand is Reagan in reality willfully created humanitarian disasters around the world like in Guatemala and Chad while promoting it as good for unity and commerce.

As a country committed to the respect for human rights and the pursuit of justice, this is also an opportunity for the United States to reflect on, and learn from, our own connection with past events in Chad,” [Secretary of State Kerry] said, apparently referring to [Reagan] support for Habre in the 1980s…

“Don’t worry about transport my tyrannical friend Habre, we’re flying Toyotas in tonight on our C-130”

Reagan in 1981 pushed a tyrant into control of Chad with a one party regime despite evidence of widespread atrocities including targeting ethnic groups. The awful results of this were easily predictable.

To be precise June 19, 1987 Reagan was giving speeches that emphasized Habre had “laudatory goals” for Chad and could count on Reagan’s support.

Chad now knows it can count on its friends. For our part, the United States is committed to maintaining an appropriate level of security assistance to Chad. In our meetings, President Habre and I also looked to his country’s future economic and development needs.

1987 was six years after Reagan had covertly installed Habre to rule Chad despite widespread objections from experts that he was genocidal.

In early 1981, President Reagan issued a still-secret presidential finding authorizing covert operations to bring Hissène Habré to power. Members of the Intelligence Committee of the US House of Representatives opposed the decision.

Habre was deposed two years after Reagan’s “laudatory goals…count on friends” speech (as Reagan left office in 1989) and eventually was tried for crimes against humanity, convicted for having a direct role in torture, rape and deaths in tens of thousands.

…a former senior U.S. official said. “[Habre] was also a bloodthirsty tyrant and torturer. It is fair to say we knew who and what he was and chose to turn a blind eye.” …a veritable genocide…

What should jump out here is how Reagan gave speeches with freedom-sounding words (e.g. a city with open doors, free ports that hummed with commerce), yet in reality he went out of his way to impose despotic intolerance and purposefully slam (previously open) doors shut on people who were legitimately seeking asylum from the hell he was creating in their countries.

Like President Trump, Reagan systematically denied asylum to people from El Salvador and Guatemala by refusing to consider those fleeing violence and arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border as refugees.

So Reagan turned a blind eye to violent human rights violations by men he put into power yet he blocked refugees they created… he talked about a city of open doors while denying entry to those he forced to flee their own cities.

Where’s that light coming from again and who is watching?

For another great perspective on Reagan’s failed use of metaphor, consider the new “Hill We Climb” poem from the 2021 Presidential inauguration.

We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation, rather than share it.

Did Reagan want to share his Shining City on the Hill? Everything I’ve found says no, he only would share it with a small cadre of people like himself.

The Hill We Climb admits we’re not there yet as a country, very much the opposite of Reagan saying he’s hanging out on top holding a door “open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here” as if arrogantly watching from above and judging others’ attempts to get in as not good enough for him.

Indeed, the City on a Hill reference to Winthrop may in fact signal that if you happen to disturb the harmony and peace (or come with “wrong” attributes, such as seeking refugee status, being “too liberal”, having dark skin, floating like a duck or a carrot for a nose…) then like Hutchinson you will be classified agent of the devil and treated as such.

To Deepfake the Dead Can Be Very Right

Hamilton is a famous American musical. I would think it encourages people to innovate around how to deepfake the dead because it not only is not wrong, it can be very right.

Visit Grant’s Tomb, meet actors in real life who play him and bring his amazing story to light to get rid of decades of disinformation.

To deepfake the dead can be very right.

The big question is who owns a content control/consent role for someone in our past. If you can’t decide that, there’s a much bigger problem at hand than the presentation layer.

I write this in response to a long blog post by You the Data asking “is it ever ok”, which wanders around this topic yet doesn’t get to the heart of the matter.

…for others to warp, manipulate, and supplement it with inauthentic sentiment or action does seem to wreak damage. This damage — a dilution of the truth — is what critics are responding to. Now, as we begin to figure out what is right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable in this strange new world, we should undoubtedly be considering whether we’re content to be reimagined as a scripted bot, avatar, or deepfake after our death.

Begin to figure out what is right and wrong? What?

Don’t dilute the truth, sure. And don’t blame that on deepfakes.

The presentation layer isn’t as significant here as the need for measuring integrity of any message (e.g. ask any historian if the Hamilton musical is damaging).

The only case to be made here is that people believe in novel platforms more (overlooking obvious errors) because of novelty, but that itself is an ages old problem not unique to deepfakes.

Google’s driverless car for example failed it’s driving test three times (revealed via FOIA) yet was given a license by the state of Nevada anyway because someone stupidly said “let’s give robots a chance”. That’s base human corruption, not really to do with risk from the technology itself.

To deepfake the dead can be very right.

Do I need to say it again?

Now go visit Grant’s Tomb and meet the actors who deepfake Grant and help end the rampant problem of disinformation about him. In fact, finding human actors to deepfake Grant is so costly, using technology to do it inexpensively may be an imperative.

When is it Safe to Publish Evidence of an Insurrection?

I’ve been in far too many sticky situations with digital cameras in places where trust and safety are unclear, even having to navigate my way out of angry crowds and guns being pointed. Some of them have been mentioned on this blog before.

It is from this personal experience I was excited to read a new article that begs questions of safety, trust and journalistic integrity, related to images taken during US insurrection January 6th.

Journalists argue that if they are forced to reveal confidential sources or turn over any news information they have gathered but not yet published, it will erode the trust of sources and the public, who will doubt the independence that journalists often claim.

“Not yet published” is a weird battle to fight.

If a journalist asked for explicit consent to embed and then publish the images (to public), then there’s no reason to not publish the images (consent already granted and police are members of the public).

And if a journalist didn’t ask permission to take images, then they aren’t violating anything since they never sought consent in the first place.

Either way if they refuse to share images with the public (e.g. as compelled for a social good like public safety, usually by the police) it doesn’t seem tied to any formal trust relationship with those the journalists were recording.

The article goes on to say the issue is the journalists now are being targeted and physically threatened with harm by the violent groups they photographed.

I have been studying the law regarding journalists and their sources for nearly 24 years. To my knowledge, U.S. journalists have rarely made the argument that they could face physical danger if they are forced to turn over information they have gathered. The closest parallel is a Washington Post reporter who successfully fought a subpoena from a war crimes tribunal 20 years ago because of fears of retribution in foreign conflict zones.

One possible solution would be for news outlets to publish all images that have not already been published on their websites.

Reasonable solution. Again the “not yet” is weird to me. If the authorization level is public than why not just go forward with making them pubic? The real reason doesn’t seem to be violation of trust or integrity — there would be more trust and integrity if they were published as originally intended.

No Surrender: Some Whites Still Believe US Civil War Wasn’t Lost

From the history of a Japanese soldier, comes insight into Americans today

In the Spring of 1974, 2nd Lt. Hiroo Onoda of the Japanese army made world headlines when he emerged from the Philippine jungle after a thirty-year ordeal. Hunted in turn by American troops, the Philippine army and police, hostile islanders, and eventually successive Japanese search parties, Onoda had skillfully outmaneuvered all his pursuers, convinced that World War II was still being fought and waiting for the day when his fellow soldiers would return victorious.

Related: two countries in Europe took a very long time to rid themselves of fascism.

Quick chart I made to illustrate where and when in Europe fascism took hold.

In other words, some Americans may still believe that… their country is meant only to be ruled by a small group of elite white men as the 1868 presidential candidate ticket still proclaimed after Civil War.

You can see here the campaign language used did not try to tone anything down or hide meaning:

Again I have to reiterate this campaign in 1868 was AFTER CIVIL WAR ENDED.

I hate pie charts, so have a good look at these numbers and see why some Americans seem to be acting like an Onoda:

  • 38-40% of Congress are millionaires
  • 77% of Congress are white (62% white men)
  • 24% of Congress are women (House 24%, Senate 25%)
  • 80% of Congress are over 50

Speaking in round numbers that’s 80% whites over 50 and half are millionaires. Some Americans are very concerned about these rich whites not being in control of the country (feelings of fear about loss and guilt when anti-racists run for office).

In 1868 the KKK even issued threats of violent lynching as intimidation to any white men caught voting for an anti-racist presidential candidate (women couldn’t vote and blacks would be lynched no matter who they voted for…).

Source: Encyclopedia of Alabama, 1 Sept 1868 Tuscaloosa Independent Monitor. The KKK threatened that March 4, 1869 — first day of rule by avowed racist Horatio Seymour — would bring lynchings of white Americans (“scalawags” and “carpetbaggers”). Instead the Presidency was won in a landslide by Civil War hero and civil rights pioneer Ulysses S. Grant)

Although the “let only white men rule” insurrectionists lost that election in 1868 (after losing their war in 1865) did they really surrender?

In 1916 the KKK won the presidential election using an “America First” campaign (marked by “wholesale murder” of black Americans, as well as a pandemic) and they did it again in 2016.

Update January 21: “The White Caps are the true American patriots and begged Trump to be President”

Just so we’re clear on what this video tells us, like it’s the 1800s again, I have taken a still from “The White Caps” KKK film of 1905, predating the 1915 film adaptation of The Clansman (Birth of a Nation):

1905 “The White Caps” movie depicts a vigilante group who post a warning sign on a man’s home then return armed with rifles to kidnap him and lynch (under pretense of protecting white women, a dominant theme in KKK platforms).

There’s an interesting side-note to use of the “white caps” in 1905. It perhaps was an appropriation of a 1889-1891 “Las Gorras Blancas” (the white caps) name used by a group in New Mexico.

The leader of Las Gorras Blancas (Herrera) is believed to have taken his costume inspiration from the mid 1800s hooded Ku Klux Klan, yet they operated mainly as fence cutters and barn burners — organized Latino resistance to injustices from illegal Anglo American land-grabber encroachments (“with barbed wire came hunger”)

It would be very ironic for a MAGA woman to claim that Latino vigilantes seeking removal of whites begged Trump to occupy the White House… so we have to assume she means the KKK.

The Doritos Conspiracy

As I am sure many of you know, a racist white male executive at Disneyland “created” Doritos to crush the Hispanic local tortilla chip inventor (Rebecca Carranza) and drive her family business under.

The headline in Popular Mechanics magazine saluted a manufacturing triumph in Los Angeles: “Tortillas Meet the Machine Age.” It was 1950, and the El Zarape Tortilla Factory, among the first to automate the production of tortillas, had used a tortilla-making machine for three years.

Corn and flour disks poured off the conveyor belt more than 12 times faster than they could be made by hand. At first many came out “bent” or misshapen, as company President Rebecca Webb Carranza recalled decades later, and were thrown away.

For a family party in the late 1940s, Carranza cut some of the discarded tortillas into triangles and fried them. A hit with the relatives, the chips soon sold for a dime a bag at her Mexican delicatessen and factory at the corner of Jefferson Boulevard and Arlington Avenue in southwest Los Angeles.

El Zarape 1950s Tortilla Factory in Los Angeles

Ok, let’s be honest. Nobody talks about her or how Disneyland crushed her with intention.

Here’s the Disneyland side of the story just so we’re clear here about racism and appropriation of others’ ideas:

1968 Doritos bag

When Disneyland opened [in 1955], it featured a Mexican(ish) restaurant called Casa de Fritos run by the Frito company. It was on New Orleans Street, near another product-placement eatery: Aunt Jemima’s Pancake House. It at the Casa de Fritos that the beloved Dorito was invented. Yes, really. Arch West, the Frito (later Frito-Lay) marketing executive credited with the product’s creation, died in 2011 and was buried with a layer of his tasty legacy sprinkled over his ashes. The Dorito legend varies: one version has it that West discovered tasty tortilla chips at a roadside stand…

The Frito Company “Mexican(ish)” restaurant was NEXT TO AUNT JEMIMA?!

Need I say more about Disneyland executives?

So in 1964 West was running Frito’s “Mexican(ish)” amusement park feature in “Frontierland” and he “discovered” tortilla chips at someone else’s stand that had been popular in Los Angeles since the late 1940s.

He was on a family vacation in Southern California in 1964 when he first bought a grease-smeared bag of toasted tortillas at a roadside shack.

That’s a quote from the Washington Post obituary for Arch West, which apparently didn’t think twice about writing “grease-smeared” to describe Hispanic-Americans (historically a very derogatory term used by racist lynch mobs as well as California legislators who in a 1855 “Greaser Law” criminalized “Spanish and Indian blood”).

West shamelessly copied the Carranza product and gave no money or credit to the inventor, let alone the stand.

Shameless appropriation.

But wait, let’s go back a step into Frito Company history where West was an executive.

Frito was a company started by a white man who “discovered” corn chips made and sold by someone else.

In 1932, C.E. Doolin entered a small San Antonio cafe and purchased a bag of corn chips. After learning the manufacturer was eager to sell his business, he bought the recipe and started making Fritos corn chips in his mother’s kitchen.

Do you believe Doolin “bought the recipe”?

I mean did Doolin while living with his mother and selling depression-era ice cream really fork out $100 in the middle of the great depression ($1500 today) for the recipe from his former boss (contrary to the story he just happened upon a newspaper ad, or just walked into a cafe one day)?

…purchased from Gustavo Olguin, a Mexican-American restaurant owner in San Antonio, where Doolin had worked as a fry cook. Olguin’s “fritos” (the name came from the Spanish word frit, meaning fried) were small fried corn chips made from masa dough. Doolin bought the recipe, Olguin’s hand-operated potato ricer, and nineteen customer accounts for the snack, all for $100.

And what made Gustavo Olguin rush to sell his “corn chips” business, hand over all his paying customers and flee to Mexico just as chips and snack foods were becoming widely popularized?

This sounds to me almost as bad as taking some 1812 European fairy tale and putting a copyright on it, or taking some 1843 European amusement park and building a copy of it… but I digress.

Fast forward to today, the genius of Carranza’s tortilla automation machines and her invention of mass-produced tortilla chips are obscure at best for Americans, yet everyone can recognize Doritos.

Now a member of the insurrection against the US has raised a stir by supposedly wearing Doritos on his lapel.

A fabricated image was used to incorrectly accuse him of wearing a “Q hate symbol“… or is that correct, even tangentially?

The “I love Doritos” response by the accused, instead of letting a correction of a correction stand on its own, perhaps clarifies everything.

26 Capitol Police Officers Were Injured by Militants… in 1969

People keep saying Washington DC violence from militias is a new thing to prepare for, yet who remembers 1960s and early 1970s saw repeated attacks on US capitol by violent domestic groups?

The FBI records have details of the groups involved, including one that used bombs on Capitol Hill, and how they were defeated (presumably then fading from memory).

…credit for 25 bombings—including the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, the California Attorney General’s office, and a New York City police station.

Hearings by United States Congress, House Committee on Post Office and Civil Service in 1971 give a pretty succinct description:

Amanda Gorman: “The Hill We Climb” to be Biden’s Inaugural Poem

On the approach to Mont Blanc, France. Photo by me, 2001.

The esteemed and prolific poet Amanda Gorman has been chosen to read at the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden

She is calling her inaugural poem “The Hill We Climb” while otherwise declining to preview any lines. Gorman says she was not given specific instructions on what to write, but was encouraged to emphasize unity and hope over “denigrating anyone” or declaring “ding, dong, the witch is dead” over the departure of President Donald Trump.

Sad to hear “ding, dong” has been discouraged, as I kind of like the sound of it.

Update January 20th:

Interesting back story:

Like Angelou, who was mute as a child–and Joe Biden, who grew up with a stutter–she’s overcome a childhood speech impediment to find her voice.

Interview with her afterwards.

…”shatter our nation rather than share it” came from reading Tweets by people who don’t want to share the country with the rest of us…

Video of her reading:

When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?

The loss we carry. A sea we must wade.

We braved the belly of the beast.

We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.

And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.

Somehow we do it.

Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.

We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.

And, yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.

We are striving to forge our union with purpose.

To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.

And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.

We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.

We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.

We seek harm to none and harmony for all.

Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true.

That even as we grieved, we grew.

That even as we hurt, we hoped.

That even as we tired, we tried.

That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.

Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.

Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.

If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.

That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.

It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.

It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.

We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation, rather than share it.

Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.

And this effort very nearly succeeded.

But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.

In this truth, in this faith we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.

This is the era of just redemption.

We feared at its inception.

We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour.

But within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.

So, while once we asked, how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?

We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.

We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation, become the future.

Our blunders become their burdens.

But one thing is certain.

If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.

So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.

Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.

We will rise from the golden hills of the West.

We will rise from the windswept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution.

We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states.

We will rise from the sun-baked South.

We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.

And every known nook of our nation and every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful.

When day comes, we step out of the shade of flame and unafraid.

The new dawn balloons as we free it.

For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.

If only we’re brave enough to be it.

What Isn’t a Swastika?

I’ve been asked, perhaps in jest by those reading my SS blog post, whether the Columbia logo is a swastika because it also has four quadrants (it’s not).

…founded in 1938 [a year after largest shirt factory owners Paul and Marie Lamfrom were forced to escape Nazi Germany], used a simple wordmark until the introduction of the geometric emblem in 1978 [by Gertrude Boyle, daughter of Lamfrom and wife of Columbia President who died suddenly]. It was a rhombus, composed of eight equal rectangles, which aimed to represent the woven textile.

It should be noted here that 1978 was a year after a company named Pinwheel was founded to create children’s television. Two years later Pinwheel was renamed Nickelodeon (as you probably would recognize it today), but Columbia kept their pinwheel logo.

I mean what if Gertrude, like a lot of people in the 1970s including a children’s network, thought that pinwheels meant fun and pretty things? And she wanted to convey woven threads so she gave hers a textile look? Here are some other similar examples:

In that case what we see may be little more than accidental framing, which reminds me of the many examples of unfortunate errors like this one by Target.

Arguments against mine are that from certain angles the Columbia pinwheel can in fact resemble the swastika when poorly knitted.

Here’s someone clearly shocked to realize just how bad Columbia manufacturing (or doctored images) can get — and hopefully nobody really wants to argue here low quality and sloppy knits are carefully planned:

Source: random Reddit user

It’s a terrible outcome, yet I maintain this is far too apocryphal for people who fled Nazi Germany to restart the same business in America, their daughter to next use the symbol of her parents’ persecutors as their logo, which shows when product quality declines.

She may have been unintentionally influenced by the pain of swastikas, or intentionally influenced through the pleasure of pinwheels; in either case I see nothing yet to justify the case she wanted to spread Nazism through cheap socks.

Dare I say… it’s a stretch.

I mean that’s a bit like asking me if every single pinwheel or rotational quadrant we see (common design in history) is a swastika. For example, here’s the Stanford-born Sun Microsystems logo in 1982, arguably designed while he was staring at the Columbia logo on his jacket.

Sun’s “rotational symmetric ambigram” credited to Stanford professor Vaughan Pratt.

And here’s another Stanford-born technology company logo (Google).

I’ve roundly criticized Stanford, yet I do not see in any way how these pinwheel logos of theirs symbolize that school’s genocidal heritage.

In that context, some symbols are just so obviously obvious (and meant as such) we shouldn’t even have to discuss them.

Clint Watts today tweeted a report to Telegram worth mentioning:

.@telegram – there’s an issue on your platform, a channel posing as the President (presumably a fake or hacked account) is inciting violence and advocating that Biden should be killed. The channel has >350K members. Might want to take a look. (trump_33)

33 means the KKK, as documented in federal trial for 33 year old Alexander DeFelice.

“The eleventh letter of the alphabet is K,” Nill told the jury explaining that “three times 11 is 33.”

It’s not a swastika, it’s as bad or worse because of context.

That 33 alone should have been the red flag loooooong before inciting violence and advocating death started to flow, and even before it had followers.

This isn’t rocket science.

In a similar vein, hate groups in America are waving flags and using symbols that very clearly show intent to do harm.

It’s illegal. So why aren’t they being arrested?

Armed ‘militias’ are illegal. Will authorities finally crack down…? 29 states have criminal statutes outlawing private militias…. These laws have been tested in the Supreme Court dating back to 1886…

It’s not that hard to see where this line is drawn and when speech is not protected in America. Don’t believe anyone who says speech is unrestricted. That is false and the courts have said so many times in conviction of criminals trying to hide behind speech laws.

We’re way past the time to reject the platitudes of seemingly incompetent big tech security officers who’ve argued that telling them to block imminent harms makes their product Orwellian.

Not having power sure can suck. We should aim to keep power flowing unless we’re talking about being killed by power. Then shut it down BEFORE the killings.

…his company had been able to limit ISIS’ use of their network, technical and legal reasons meant they couldn’t apply the very same measures to far-right extremists. But after several more social media-linked mass killings — Christchurch, El Paso, etc. — what he’d said was “impossible” suddenly became possible.

It’s why we have ground fault circuit interrupts (GFCI), amiright?

…trip quickly enough to prevent an electrical incident.

When a trump_33 comes down that pipe… interrupt. Again, this stuff is not rocket science.

Fewer Airline Flights Surely Leaving Meteorologists Blind

When you look at all the Doppler radar-filled nose cones that used to be crossing the planet and reporting detailed weather, and then the empty skies today… you might be inclined to think forecasting will suffer.

I laid awake one night thinking about this but I haven’t seen it discussed widely yet.

If weather predictions are less accurate now with flights reduced, I suspect nobody anticipated losing a huge number of live airborne sensors.

Update: I should have waited to post this. A quick bit of searching found at least two studies in mid-to-late 2020 saying forecasts have been seriously affected.

Here’s one from the UK.

COVID19 pandemic imperils weather forecasting of surface temperature, RH, pressure, and wind speed due to the lack of aircraft observations during the global lockdown.

And here’s another from The International Air Transport Association (IATA) and World Meteorological Organization.

“One of the many unfortunate aspects of the COVID-19 crisis has been the severe loss – of up to 90% – of aircraft-derived meteorological data as a result of the steep decline in airline operations and passenger flights since March 2020,” said WMO Secretary-General Professor Petteri Taalas. “Meteorological services and other data providers have tried to offset this loss, but there has been a measurable negative impact on the accuracy of weather forecasts as a result of AMDAR data reductions,” said Professor Taalas.

The TL;DR on Parler

Dave Troy provides a long thread on Twitter explaining the roots and objectives of Parler, a technology platform. He also boils it all down to this single Tweet:

Non-descript tech bro randomly meets ostensible Russian honeypot, travels to Russia, marries her, then returns to US to start a whacko social network with explicit political aims, in partnership with Russia aligned ops…

This should have been the description in the app store, along with a note that it’s funded by:

…conservative hedge-fund investor Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah.

This data also should be presented to anyone claiming they both care about censorship yet also demand their views be posted by others, as these are quite contradictory; sentiments the Russian military intelligence plays upon.

Baseless demands to have one’s own views posted on someone else’s site tends to bring to mind the openly pro-Nazi organization in 1933 called Friends of New Germany. Led by a man named Spanknoebel, he was tasked by Nazi Germany with merging older organizations of Gau-USA and Free Society of Teutonia. They then engaged in violent anti-freedom activities such as physically attacking a German language New Yorker Staats-Zeitung with… demands that pro-Nazi views and pro-Hitler propaganda must be published.

“We must succeed, for heaven is with us,” Spanknoebel declared in his address. “We have honest men for leaders. There are no pogroms in Germany, but the Hitler regime is showing us an entirely new way of dealing with the Jewish question.” […] Spanknoebel assailed the proposed Dickstein investigation bitterly and placed Hitler on a parallel with President Roosevelt for leadership. Dr. I. T. Griebel, president of the local branch of the Friends of the New Germany, attacked Bernard Ridder, publisher of the New Yorker Staats Zeitung….

Trouble at the meeting had been freely predicted for several days.

Hopefully everyone can see freedom of speech does not in any way mean the right to violently attack a publisher and demand they publish pro-Nazi propaganda, which has been tried before in America and fortunately failed.

And going to Parler does not in any way mean supporting freedom of speech. That just sounds to me like a repeat of when radio broadcaster in the late 1930s Paul Ferdonnet exiled himself to Nazi Germany.

After WWII ended he was tried, convicted and executed by France as a war criminal. His allegiance was with personal power and hate, not his own country, population or its democratic institutions.

the poetry of information security