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April 17, 2014

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Yip.
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satadru
1 day ago
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Happy Easter.
New York, NY
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Fear Cuts Deeper Than Swords: Bergen Community College Freaks Out Over "Game of Thrones" T-Shirt

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Tragedy is inevitable. Our reaction to tragedy is not. We cannot govern every risk, but we must govern our reactions to risks. Here's the question we must ask ourselves: when awful things happen in the world, will we abandon reason and accept any measure urged by officials — petty and great — who invoke those awful things as justifications for action? Or will we think critically and demand that our leaders do so as well? Will we subject cries of "crime" and "drugs" and "terrorism" and "school shootings" to scrutiny? Will we be convinced to turn on each other in an irrational frenzy of suspicion, "for the children?"

If we don't maintain our critical thinking, we wind up with a nation run more and more like Bergen Community College in New Jersey, where we may be questioned and sent for reeducation for posting a picture of our daughter in a popular t-shirt on Google+.

Naturally the FIRE has the story, sourced from Inside Higher Education.

Francis Schmidt is a popular professor of design and animation at Bergen. Schmidt posted to Google+ a cute picture of his young daughter wearing a Game of Thrones t-shirt in a yoga pose next to a cat. The t-shirt was this one, bearing the phrase "I will take what is mine with fire and blood," a quote from Daenerys Targaryen, a fictional character in a series of fantasy novels (which has sold tens of millions of copies) turned into a hot TV series on HBO (with close to 15 million viewers per episode.) Googling the phrase will instantly provide a context to anyone unfamiliar with the series.

So: a professor posts a cute picture of his kid in a t-shirt with a saying from a much-talked-about tv show. In the America we'd like to believe in, nothing happens. But in the America we've allowed to creep up on us, this happens:

But one contact — a dean — who was notified automatically via Google that the picture had been posted apparently took it as a threat. In an email, Jim Miller, the college’s executive director for human resources, told Schmidt to meet with him and two other administrators immediately in light of the “threatening email.”

Although it was winter break, Schmidt said he met with the administrators, including a security official, in one of their offices and was questioned repeatedly about the picture’s meaning and the popularity of “Game of Thrones.”

Schmidt said Miller asked him to use Google to verify the phrase, which he did, showing approximately 4 million hits. The professor said he asked why the photo had set off such a reaction, and that the security official said that “fire” could be a kind of proxy for “AK-47s.”

Despite Schmidt’s explanation, he was notified via email later in the week that he was being placed on leave without pay, effectively immediately, and that he would have to be cleared by a psychiatrist before he returned to campus. Schmidt said he was diagnosed with depression in 2007 but was easily cleared for this review, although even the brief time away from campus set back his students, especially those on independent study.

So. That happened.

Pressed for an explanation of this lunacy, Bergen Community College Kaye Walter retreated into the first refuge of a modern authoritarianism, "think of the children":

Walter said she did not believe that the college had acted unfairly, especially considering that there were three school shootings nationwide in January, prior to Schmidt’s post. The suspects in all three shootings were minors targeting their local schools (although three additional shootings at colleges or universities happened later in the month).

This — this — is the core demand of the modern Fear State. Tell us what to fear, leaders, for the night is dark and full of terrors. Tell us what we have to do. Tell us what to think, and how to assess risks. Tell us "if you see something, say something" so we may feel duty-bound to vent our fears and insecurities about our fellow citizens rather than exercising judgment or compassion or proportion. Assure us that you must exercise your growing powers for our own safety, to ward off the terrible things we worry about.

Is Bergen some sort of unlikely citadel of irrationality? At first glance it may seem so. After all no well person would interpret the t-shirt as a threat and report it. That takes irrationality or dysfunction. No minimally competent or intelligent or honest school administrator would pursue such a report upon receiving it; rather, anyone exercising anything like rational discretion would Google the thing and immediately identify it as a mundane artifact of popular culture. No honest or near-normal intellect would say, as Jim Miller did, that the "fire" in the slogan might refer to an AK-47, a profoundly idiotic statement that resembles arguing that "May the Force Be With You" is a threat of force. Nobody with self-respect or minimal ability would claim that this professor's treatment was somehow justified by school shootings.

But Bergen isn't an anomaly. It's not a collection of dullards and subnormals — though Jim Miller and Kaye Walker could lead to think that it is. Bergen is the emerging norm. Bergen represents what we, the people, have been convinced to accept. Bergen is unremarkable in a world where we've accepted "if you see something, say something" as an excuse to emote like toddlers, and where we're lectured that we should be thankful that our neighbors are so eager to inform on us. Bergen is mundane in a world where we put kids in jail to be brutalized over obvious bad jokes on social media. Bergen exists in a world where officials use concepts like "cyberbullying" to police and retaliate against satire and criticism. Bergen exists in a world where we have allowed fears — fear of terrorism, fear of drugs, fear of crime, fear for our children — to become so powerful that merely invoking them is a key that unlocks any right. Bergen exists in a country where our leaders realize how powerful those fears are, and therefore relentlessly stretch them further and further, so we get things like the already-Orwellian Department of Homeland Security policing DVD piracy.

Certainly the Miller-Walter mindset is not unique in American academia. We've seen a professor's historical allusion cynically repackaged as a threat. We've seen a community college invoke 9/11 and Virginia Tech and Columbine to ban protest signs. In pop-culture debacle much like this one, we've seen a college tear down a "Firefly" poster as a threat. We've seen satire and criticism punished as "actionable harassment" or ""intimidation."

As a nation, we all need to decide whether we will surrender our critical thinking in response to buzzwords like "terrorism" and "drugs" and "crime" and "school shootings." On a local level, we must decide whether we will put up with such idiocy from our educational institutions. So tell me, students and teachers and alumni of Bergen Community College. Are you going to put up with that? Because institutions that act like this are not helping young people to be productive and independent adults. They are teaching fear, ignorance, and subservience.

If you feel strongly about it, you could tell Bergen Community College on its Twitter Account or Facebook page.

Update: Bergen made a statement doubling down:

"The referenced incident refers to a private personnel matter at Bergen Community College. Since January 1, 2014, 34 incidents of school shootings have occurred in the United States. In following its safety and security procedures, the college investigates all situations where a member of its community – students, faculty, staff or local residents – expresses a safety or security concern."

There are at least two maddening components to this. First, they didn't just "investigate" — they suspended the professor and made him see a psychiatrist because he posted a picture of his daughter in a wildly popular t-shirt from pop culture. Second, the statement is an implicit admission that the college refuses to exercise critical thinking about the complaints it receives. There is no minimally rational connection between school shootings — or any type of violence — and a picture of someone's kid in a pop-culture t-shirt. The college is saying, in effect, "complain to us about your angers or fears, however utterly irrational, and we will act precipitously on them, because OMG 9/11 COLUMBINE TEH CHILDREN." Shameful. Ask yourself: what kind of education do you think your children will get from people who think like this?

Fear Cuts Deeper Than Swords: Bergen Community College Freaks Out Over "Game of Thrones" T-Shirt © 2007-2013 by the authors of Popehat. This feed is for personal, non-commercial use only. Using this feed on any other site is a copyright violation. No scraping.

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4 public comments
pdj
3 hours ago
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Think of the children
/dev/random
mikejurney
4 hours ago
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There is no rational excuse for grown adults to do slavishly act on policy without considering context.

More importantly, I do no believe that any institutional administrator could be so valuable every other day of the year that this kind of event wouldn't merit firing.
New York, New York
pavlov02
4 hours ago
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The fear of fear has created this Orwellian nightmare.
acdha
11 hours ago
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Sigh…
Washington, DC

Popular Wedding Traditions Explained

4 Comments and 9 Shares

CEE_006Women scream when their friends get engaged to keep the demon trapped inside her diamond from getting out.

Brides traditionally wear veils over their heads during the ceremony in order to keep their faces from flying off.

It is considered bad luck for the groom to die before the wedding day.

After ceremonially “giving the bride away,” the father of the bride customarily selects a replacement daughter from among the wedding guests, raising her as his own until she is old enough to leave the nest.

The engagement ring is generally worn on the fourth finger of the left hand; only after the wedding is concluded will the groom begin to slowly encase the rest of the bride’s body in pure metal.

The flower girl strews petals along the floor of the wedding chapel as a sign of disrespect to the church’s custodial staff; general a girl is chosen for her bad temper and class snobbery.

Traditionally, the groom carries the bride over the threshold of their new home as her legs begin to wither and disappear almost immediately after the ceremony.

After the wedding, the bride takes her husband’s name. Her husband will be forced in turn to take the name of a stranger, who will then go nameless.

Typically the bride is the only person at a wedding to wear white because she is a ghost.

Read more Popular Wedding Traditions Explained at The Toast.

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satadru
1 day ago
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Finally it all makes sense.
New York, NY
Courtney
2 days ago
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"The flower girl strews petals along the floor of the wedding chapel as a sign of disrespect to the church’s custodial staff; general a girl is chosen for her bad temper and class snobbery."

100% what I thought being a flower girl was about, at age 5.
Boston, MA
srsly
2 days ago
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The bride and groom's families are kept separate to prevent any new romances blossoming fully formed on the spot and usurping the current wedding.
Atlanta, Georgia
ridingsloth
2 days ago
That should be saved for the afterparty.
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1 public comment
cinebot
2 days ago
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"After ceremonially “giving the bride away,” the father of the bride customarily selects a replacement daughter from among the wedding guests, raising her as his own until she is old enough to leave the nest."
toronto.

Heartbleed Explanation

28 Comments and 113 Shares
Are you still there, server? It's me, Margaret.
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srsly
7 days ago
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You know I'm only sharing this because I've never seen a story this shared before. 56 people! 57 now.

I should get back to work.
Atlanta, Georgia
grammargirl
7 days ago
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Clearest explanation I've seen by FAR.
Brooklyn, NY
smadin
7 days ago
yeah, I think this does a very good job of making clear JUST HOW BAD this is.
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25 public comments
tomazed
1 day ago
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crystal clear
josephwebster
4 days ago
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This is actually a very good explanation.
Denver, CO, USA
Tobiah
4 days ago
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XKCD explains heartbleed
San Jose, California
CJPoll
4 days ago
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The tech industry discovered a bug in security software last week that affects you. This explains in layman's terms what is happening.
Rexburg, Idaho
Lacrymosa
5 days ago
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good simple explanation of heartbleed
Boston, MA
jchristopherslice
5 days ago
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Computer Science 101
Clemson, SC
expatpaul
6 days ago
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The best explanation of Heartbleed I've seen.
Belgium
chrisminett
6 days ago
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xkcd does it again!
Milton Keynes, UK
katster
6 days ago
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Simple is good.
Sactown, CA
mitthrawnuruodo
7 days ago
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Best explanation, yet.
Wherever
mrnevets
7 days ago
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Heartbleed: a simple explanation. It affected a huge number of websites. Be safe and change your passwords!
macjustice
7 days ago
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Best explanation yet.
Seattle
jkevmoses
7 days ago
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Great explanation of Heartbleed that is causing internet security issues all over the place.
McKinney, Texas
glindsey1979
7 days ago
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If you aren't a techie, this will explain the Heartbleed bug to you super-simply.
Aurora, IL
chrispt
7 days ago
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Perfect explanation of how Heartbleed works.
37.259417,-79.935122
aaronwe
7 days ago
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Perfect.
Sioux City, Iowa
sfringer
7 days ago
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In a nutshell!
North Carolina USA
JayM
7 days ago
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.
Shenandoah Valley, VA
automatonic
7 days ago
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#xkcd visualizes the #heartbleed bug with stickfigures. Never trust your input.
Eastern WA, USA
bgschaid
7 days ago
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You can’t explain it simpler and more to the point
bogorad
7 days ago
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Умеет!
Moscow, Russia
gradualepiphany
7 days ago
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Such a good explanation.
Los Angeles, California, USA
Covarr
7 days ago
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Ah, now I understand.
rohitt
5 days ago
Yes. Clear as a day
revme
7 days ago
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This actually makes it really clear.
Seattle, WA
teh_g
7 days ago
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Alt text: Are you still there, server? It's me Margaret.
Folsom, CA

The Foodroom

5 Comments and 13 Shares

If Aaron Sorkin (Sports Night, The West Wing, The Newsroom) wrote a TV show featuring McDonald's as a workplace, it might go something like this:

Top notch parody right there...you've got the fast dialogue, the walk-and-talks, and the patented Sorkin sermonizing.

Tags: Aaron Sorkin   video
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srsly
2 days ago
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God dang I really need to start watching this show.
Atlanta, Georgia
rclatterbuck
2 days ago
This was helped quite a bit by starring Josh Charles.
satadru
2 days ago
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.
New York, NY
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3 public comments
jhamill
2 days ago
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I. I have no words for this. It's almost good or awesome or both?
Ontario, California
tedder
2 days ago
I skipped it until you re-recommended it. thx sir. (it's a little cheap but I love sorkin)
aaronwe
3 days ago
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OMG awesome.
Sioux City, Iowa
steingart
3 days ago
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spot on
Princeton, NJ

Leaked Report Says CIA Tortured Illegally; Feinstein's Mad Somebody Leaked It

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The McClatchy news service reported Friday that it had obtained a leaked copy of a Senate Intelligence Committee report that contradicts pretty much everything the CIA has said about its Detention and Interrogation Program. Here's the list of the report's conclusions (PDF), but let me just break it down for you:

  • The CIA tortured people;
  • Even under to the DOJ's definition of "torture," it tortured people;
  • It lied about how many people it tortured;
  • It lied about how brutal the torture was;
  • It "avoided or impeded" congressional oversight;
  • It lied about whether the torture worked; and
  • The torture didn't work.

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said she was absolutely outraged by this. And by "this," of course, she meant the leak. "If someone distributed any part of this classified report," she said, "they broke the law and should be prosecuted." (That goes double for the part about how none of the torturers have been prosecuted.)

Feinstein has also been outraged by recent revelations that the U.S. government has been spying on its own people. And by "people," of course, she meant "Dianne Feinstein."

The report is said to be over 6,000 pages long, with an "executive summary" of 480 pages. It's not very often that a 480-page summary would be third on my list of outrages for any given story, but here the first two are torture and world-class hypocrisy, so, third place it is.

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wreichard
3 days ago
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How this doesn't offend everyone, I do not understand.
Earth
gazuga
4 days ago
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Feinsteiiiiiiiiiiiin.
Edmonton
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jlvanderzwan
2 days ago
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Change "not to do it again" to "try harder next time", and I'm pretty sure you got an average day in the CIA/NSA/whatever: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SlA9hmrC8DU&t=146
pdj
2 days ago
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:(
/dev/random
acdha
3 days ago
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Key point for voters to remember: so far, setting up a torture regime has resulted in exactly one person going to jail – John Kiriakou, a whistleblower
Washington, DC
neilcar
3 days ago
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So...it's even worse than we thought it was, back when I was saying that folks from the CIA and folks from the Bush II gov't should be headed to prison for war crimes. Faboo.
Charlotte, North Carolina
gmuslera
4 days ago
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Interesting that they considered their reports classified while have no trouble using the NSA to get the rest of the world classified and not classified material
montevideo, uy
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