Tolarance and bad faith

In terms of (dis)allowing certain types of opinions to be ventilated in public or not so public spaces, the removal of certain particularly poisonous opinions usually leads to the usual freedom of speech arguments. Especially online, on “social media” one may find such opinions, and first of all I would like to note that, although to some it does not seem that way, Facebook, Google, etc. are not public spaces! Unless you own your own domain and run your own webserver, free speech does not apply, not in any legal sense. That said, the real problem is the lack of nuance in the defence of freedom of speech, which it naturally deserves. Oppression must be fought anywhere and anytime, and free speech is an important ingredient for this fight.

That does not mean all opinions are created equal. A simply one is that proposing to abolish the freedom of speech is not covered by freedom of speech. There is a clear logical problem here. Of course, there are more subtle attack vectors enabled by modern communications tools (aka “social media):

  • Overloading readers with opinions, thereby tiring the mind and so discouraging independent thought (ugh, all those opinions, I’ll play a game now)
  • Producing superfluous (fake) opinions, thereby generating a fuller ‘landscape’, in which the most reasonable opinions are harder to locate, and where extreme opinions appear common and not at all that extreme because they’re on a continuous spectrum and setting limits on what’s extreme is always hard
  • “Fake news”, a kind of combination of the above, resulting in people giving up altogether on weighing the various opinions and just going with their gut, which is easily manipulated by:
  • Targeting through “social media”, where very specific news and opinions can be shared to very specific people. Various companies specialize in characterizing people based on their various “social media” presences, and determining their ‘swayability’ and selling that information to the highest bidder. Is sombeody probably sensitive to migration issues? With two clicks you show them bad migrant stories that (fake or not) enforce their gut feeling on such issues, and make them more likely to vote a certain way. It’s interesting to note groups like IS recruit western muslims in this way.
  • Abusing the benefit of doubt. Most people actually tend to give people the benefit of the doubt. A bad story about a beloved person? There must be a misunderstanding somewhere! Politician makes extremist statement? Perhaps there’s some sense to it.

Some of these techniques I’ve covered here earlier. I came across two interesting writings on the topic of not letting freedom of speech eat itself away, and both revolve around recognizing the limitations and pitfalls of free speech. Two quotes to illustrate:

Karl Popper:

Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. — In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.

Jean-Paul Sartre on anti-Semitism:

Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past. It is not that they are afraid of being convinced. They fear only to appear ridiculous or to prejudice by their embarrassment their hope of winning over some third person to their side.

In short, freedom of speech does not equal anything-goes and not all opinions are created equal: we have rational thinking to tease out the threats to freedom of speech, even when they use that freedom against itself. All it takes is not forgetting that freedom of speech includes rational thinking: the whole point of being allowed to speak is to have more ideas and facts to make up your own mind, where you can weigh the things you have read or heard.

Neatly summarized by komali2:

My point: Restricting hate speech is not a slippery slope for freedom of speech. I personally believe there is no universal morality, but if I had to pick, I’d argue that the best outcome for the human race would be a culture that purges all racist and other arbitrarily prejudiced mindsets that judge entire populations on untenable grounds (race, gender, etc).

It is actually not so difficult, but nobody can do your thinking for you.

Fake news interview

Although the interview was published in november 2016, it is still an interesting and enlightening account of how this person has been and still is riding the Fake News wave. What started out as an academic attempt to make right wing nutcases believe anything, has grown into a five figure side job for this democrat. Of particular interest is this quote:

We’ve tried to do similar things to liberals. It just has never worked, it never takes off. You’ll get debunked within the first two comments and then the whole thing just kind of fizzles out.

Source at NPR. Near the end C is asked about what can be done about it. He replies:

The consumers of content have to be better at identifying this stuff. We have a whole nation of media-illiterate people. Really, there needs to be something done.

DBC hacking

Alles is te hacken, toch? Computers, je eigen leven en ook DBCs (diagnosebehandelcombinatie): nummers waarmee een ziekenhuis behandelingen bij de zorgverzekeraars afrekent. Bij FTM een mooi artikel over wat de meest gebruikte taktieken zijn om dit DBC-systeem in te zetten voor winstoptimalisatie. “Anders ben je dief van je eigen portomonnee”, aldus een zorgadviseur, het (inmiddels ex-)beroep van de man van Minister van Volksgezondheid, Welzijn en Sport, Edith Schippers. Die man was immers expert in het uitbuiten van het systeem waar zijn vrouw voor verantwoordelijk voor is. Lubach maakte er vorig jaar zelfs een filmpje over. Dezelfde minister die drie jaar terug er (net?) niet in slaagde wetgeving die ziekenhuizen winst laten uitkeren door de Kamers te drukken.

Dat is nog eens tussennemerschap!


A while back read a discussion about what increase in pay is worth changing jobs. Whether or not you change jobs for an extra 100 $currency depends on how much you are making: we tend to make that decision on a percentage (thus, higher incomes requires higher increases to be appealing). In other words, we tend to want to multiply our income, not add a certain fixed amount with each successive job.

In another article which I can’t remember, it was stated that incomes (and rents) are distributed as a log-normal distribution, rather than, what apparently is intuitive to many, a normal distribution. It explains why looking at the mean income is misleading, the mean is really only for normal distributions a good measure of central tendency.

In my first article it took me a while, whilst studying uncertainties in scoring quantities per voxel, to realize that a mean uncertainty didn’t make sense. After a long time, I figured out that with a logarithmic x-axis, I suddenly got my bell curve back. Since then, I am weary when papers report their mean uncertainties, and leave out their medians.

Thanks to ol’ hn, now I know why. Although I had learned before that when you add independent quantities, you get the famous bell curve, the Gaussian. It has a nice name, the Central Limit Theorem. I never thought much of it, until I read this very succinct post: Why isn’t everything normally distributed?. Quote:

Incidentally, if effects are independent but multiplicative rather than additive, the result may be approximately log-normal rather than normal.

Aha! So by knowing the distribution, we know something about the nature of the observable. Interesting! I really missed a good statistics education, but slowly I am piecing together very useful knowledge!


Een interessant artikel over meewaaikinderen. Een meewaaikind ontstaat doordat het verteld wordt wat goed of fout is, zonder te (leren) begrijpen waarom. Al vind ik er geen directe bron voor, de schrijver impliceert dat uit onderzoek blijkt dat zulke mensen, niet getraind in het stellen van (ethische) waarom-vragen, makkelijk beinvloedbaar zijn: meewaaien. Meewaaimensen. Dat verklaart. In elk geval, het artikel beschrijft hoe een spel voor kinderen traint zelf na te denken over wat goed en fout is, doordat er overlegt moet worden. In het heel kort, en dat kan ik uit eigen ervaring beamen: pas als je zelf tot een conclusie komt, zit de les er pas goed in.

Alles mag, maar moet ook

Twee interessante artikelen bij Trouw, over hetzelfde thema: de ogenschijnlijke en eigenlijk wel noodzakelijke tegenstelling tussen (sexueel) hedonisme en liefde. Allereerst doet een Amerikaanse onderzoek naar hoe internet de omgaang met sex en liefde heeft veranderd. Mij valt, zoals wel vaker, de gelijkstelling tussen vrijheid en hedonisme op. De belangrijkste conclusie lijkt mij dat (vrije) sex redelijk orthogonaal op liefde lijkt te staan. Misschien dat dat op zich niet verassend is, maar wel dat ook de vrije hedonisten kennelijk niet weten hoe ze liefde moeten vinden, het internet maakt alleen de sex makkelijker (en dus vergenkelijker?). Polyamorie lijkt dus een eufemisme; het gaat meestal niet zozeer om de liefde.

In het tweede artikel blikt een hippie terug op de jaren 60 en vatte het wel mooi samen: “alles mag, maar moet ook”. Terwijl ze eigenlijk alleen maar liefde zocht. Ook toen vielen liefde en sex in praktijk niet altijd samen.

Original thinkers

The next time somebody accuses me of procrastitation, I’ll refer them to this video and explain that I am an original thinker:

And because I can’t impart a TED video upon you with impunity, please accept my humble offering of the next video as recompense:


Met het aantreden van een nieuw kabinet wordt een nieuwe beleidsagenda van kracht, die richtsnoer wil zijn voor bewindslieden en de basis vormt voor parlementaire stabiliteit, maar die vooral ook verwachtingen wekt bij burgers. Aan het verwezenlijken van die verwachtingen staat de overheid zelf vaak in de weg. Het vrij algemene politieke streven in de afgelopen 30 jaar naar een kleinere en goedkopere centrale overheid heeft bijvoorbeeld per saldo geresulteerd in een aanzienlijke groei van het aantal regels en formulieren (van overheid, semi-publieke diensten en private instellingen) waarmee burgers te maken krijgen en waarvan zij vaak het slachtoffer worden. Individuele burgers passen vaak niet in de standaardmodellen en hebben moeite gehoor te krijgen voor problemen die één loket overstijgen (I, Daniel Blake). De onvrede die daaruit voortkomt vertaalt zich inmiddels ook in politiek ongenoegen.

aldus Tjeenk Willink. Oftewel, Nederlandse politici die aan de afgelopen 20 regeringen hebben deelgenomen zijn bad and they should feel bad. Keihard #Getjeenkt.

Lees hier het hele verslag.