Don’t mix up censorship with civility

A version of this essay was published as part of my twice-monthly newsletter several weeks ago. Find other archives and join here to get updates like this first.

Censorship is about content (you can’t say this or that). Civility is about tone (you can’t say this like that).

Attribution bias virtually guarantees that we are sure our tone is appropriate for all circumstances. If we use vulgar language or overly fatalistic language, it’s because we are on the right and just side of a cause. If someone with whom we disagree does this, they are proving just why they something short of civil.

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I donated to a political campaign for the first time in my life

Let’s start with scale: I attended a political fundraiser and wrote a check for $250.

Next, consider context: it was for someone I’ve known for longer than I can remember, among the closest of my family friends, who lived a few houses down from me when I was just a few months old.

Even still, I actually agonized a bit about the decision. Journalism is a thicket of rules and expectations and among the loudest is to stay objective in politics and distant from the money that feeds it. I was worried my donating would cloud the work I do as editorial director at niche publisher Technically Media. Here’s why I decided it was the right decision.

Continue reading I donated to a political campaign for the first time in my life

Would the coup d’etat of the future originate with an IT leader rather than a military one?

Governing is messy, so there has been no shortage of attempts by one party to overthrow the other through history. Among the most recent, high-profile coups came in Egypt where, as is almost always the case, the military led the overthrow — at some level.

This summer, as the Egyptian revolution has taken place, government leaders from China and the United States held their first talks on cybersecurity, spurred by reports that the second largest economy was snooping on the first.

It got me thinking: when will be the first coup led by a technology leader? There’s no doubt that military force will become increasingly controlled by technology. I wonder if that work will ever grow outside of a military or, if not, will there come a time when a military-based technology leader leverages control over systems, security and other digital processes using that power to take over control. It can’t be too far removed.

Why must I pick a side in the trial of George Zimmerman?

zimmerman

I’ve been struggling to explain to people why I haven’t much followed the much publicized trial of George Zimmerman, who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in either self-defense or because of vengeful stereotyping, depending on where you land politically.

Then I read something that helped me understand better. I strongly endorse this post about the polarization of our country:

Why the hell must I pick a side in the George Zimmerman trial? A 17 year old boy is dead and a man who may or may not be guilty of murder is on trial but, even if not guilty, will never again be safe because so much outrage and so much politicization has been poured into the trial. A 17 year old is dead. Why am I forced, as a conservative, to cheer for the guy who took his life? And you people who support Trayvon, how are you given a pass on seeing things from George Zimmerman’s perspective? Why must I decide on the guilt or innocence of George Zimmerman based on the outrage of people whose politics differ from mine? Why must a death and trial comport to a political world view?!

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Campaign opposition research is a type of investigative journalism

TheOppositionBook

What we have lost in investigative reporting units at news organization in the last two decades will be at least partially replaced by mission-orientated groups that can find other value for doing such work.

Foundations, think tanks and mission-minded nonprofits may be the more ethically normalized groups, but in elections and government, the idea of campaign opposition research will almost surely come to wider prominence. The idea that a campaign would hire investigators, lawyers or others to dig up shortcomings on political rivals is not new at all, but we’ll hear more about this.

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There are no good U.S. presidents, just good times to be president

When one looks at the depths of U.S. presidential politics, there is a balance between who is perceived as having succeeded and who has failed.

We write thick biographies and create college courses on the considerable accomplishments of our favorites. In pragmatic contrast, there is an old saw that means to convey how much federal structure has been built up over time.

The only two decisions a president gets to make are when to drop the bomb and where to put the library.

It’s with that logic that I’ve found myself feeling a certain sense of predetermined indifference. I’ve long loved following local politics more than federal, on the whole, because it’s my belief that those actors impact my life in a far more tangible way than those federally.

There are no good U.S. presidents, just good times to be president.

Good times

  • When a new gamechanging technology is invented, like the Internet
  • When there is an enemy of state, like after 9/11
  • Right after a global recession, like perhaps next term

Bad times

  • When there is a global recession, like now
  • When there is a hostage situation, late in your second term.

Why politicians cheat: five reasons that should leave us unsurprised by campaign affairs

When the inevitable annual news story comes out about the latest politician having cheated on his wife, people question why leaders cheat.

There are some obvious reasons to me:

  1. Long campaign hours — Same as workaholics, being away from home offers a lot of opportunity for philandering.
  2. Lots of people interaction — When campaigning and legislating, you deal with a lot of people.
  3. Charismatic, passionate leaders — Elections attract people who often have the attractive qualities.
  4. Sense of entitlement — Those who do good, big work (like legislators) can easily convince themselves that they’re owed a little wrong.
  5. You’re the boss — In interviews and campaigning and voting and such, legislators are taught to make and stand by their decisions. Not all of them are the right ones.

Five things I learned about Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter watching his NBC 10 ‘Ask the Mayor’ program [VIDEO]

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter gave an hour of his time this week to answer resident questions that came to host NBC 10 by way of email, Twitter and Facebook, as we reported on Technically Philly in sharing video of the event.

Nutter has already been praised for use of Twitter — a move we had asked him about during a Q&A in July 2010 , a few months before the city imported communications director Desiree Peterkin-Bell, who had helped transform Newark Mayor Cory Booker into an urban political social media star.

The Ask the Mayor event — prompted by NBC 10 social media hire Lou Dubois and Bell — was unique, interesting and compelling. NBC 10 deserves credit for only sharing a single softball question — about cheesesteaks, of course — and Nutter and his team deserve praise too for participating in something new and relatively open. It was clear and admirable that Nutter hadn’t been prepared for the questions.

Granted, none of those questions amounted to public affairs journalism, but many did seem to represent the perspective of Philadelphians. Watch the five video segments of the event here or watch the first below and see what I learned about Nutter watching them.

Continue reading Five things I learned about Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter watching his NBC 10 ‘Ask the Mayor’ program [VIDEO]

Philadelphia Republican Party: a new home for my senior thesis

Back in July 2008, I finally got around to updating a WordPress.com I had been using to track the work I was doing on my undergraduate honors thesis researching the future of the beleaguered Philadelphia Republican Party.

Two and a half years later, in looking to get a jump start on a 2011 resolution of ordering my online presence, I have abandoned the WordPress.com and brought that blog, its research and my final research paper to a subdomain here.

THESIS.christopherwink.com

I won’t be updating it. Rather, I just wanted a more stable, professional and suitable location to some dated work of which I am still proud and, believe it or not, I still get emails from people closer to what I covered than I certainly am.

Give it a look (perhaps most specifically the research paper from May 2008) and let me know what you think.