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Basically McCarthyism

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The other day me and my friend Steffi, who is here on an internship for the Reykjavik Grapevine, went to a showing of the documentary Silenced organized by IMMI (International Modern Media Institute ). My friend is writing a series of articles about IMMI, which is why we were there. IMMIs goal is to make Iceland into a " journalistic safe haven, protecting both freedom of expression as well as freedom of information".

The documentary was long. I do not like documentaries much. I find them emotionally manipulating, even when agreeing with the subject matter. Fortunately the director (who hilariously is called "Spione" the German word for "spies") did not pretend otherwise, but said:

I'm not a journalist, I'm a documentary filmmaker.

I found two things noticeable in this film.
First, I was surprised by how surprised long standing government officials were by the actions of the institutions they worked for. First hysterical prosecution of any critics has been seen before. Basically it is McCarthyism all over again. You need to give us full unconditional support or are "aiding the enemy".
It is not astonishing that the main motivation of any institution is not efficiently performing the task it was perceived for, but growth and survival.
The hysterics of today, just as in McCarthyism earlier, serves the institutions well. It gives them an excuse to quiet critics and instead of being forced to operate competently they can force the public to give them more and more power.
Just as we have to go through expensive and invasive "security" measures, which do not actually improve security. Or how a lot of terrorist attacks could have been prevented, not by more surveillance, but by the institutions in the "intelligence community" not being incompetent.

Secondly, the documentary was a good reminder why IMMI is needed for an open discussion and evaluation of institutions by the public. during the panel afterwards the whistleblowers praised Iceland for IMMI and its stand for press freedom and whistleblower protection in general. Birgitta (chairman of IMMI) just smiled and nodded, which surprised me.

The development in the last years in Iceland can not be described as positive for press freedom or whistleblower protection.
A lot of the reforms needed for IMMI to become reality had been in the proposed constitution, which had not only been killed, but a new bizarre law had been pushed through that any changes to the constitution has to be agreed upon by 2/3rd of parliament and 40% of the population (not voters, anyone not voting is considered to have voted no).
Now the laws and reforms needed are bit by bit proposed and fought through parliament. It is a bit like pulling teeth. At the same time politicians started using every trick available to threaten news outlets. Threatening suing for libel, cutting funding or just making ex-party members editors in chief (see link below).
Iceland dropped from 8th to place 21 on the World Press Freedom Index. Earlier Reporters without Borders had voiced concern about the press freedom in Iceland,47248.html.

Unethical games

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Today is game night in Bío Paradís, a cinema specialising in showing alternative movies and a really nice lobby where we play board games every Wednesday (and eat lots of popcorn).

We all bring different games we like. I finally managed to play Tikal, which I had since I was a kid, but for some reason the rules were in Dutch. Thanks to the internet this problem was solved. My flatmate really likes Pandemic and thankfully I do too, otherwise there might be some conflict in our house. Her boyfriend also got a new game for his birthday, called Colonial, which made some of us cringe and others shrug and say: "it is just a game".

In the game one is a "mighty" European power from (roughly) 15th to 19th century, trying to colonialise countries, exploit them for resources (one of which are slaves) and be the most "prestigious" of them all. The subject matter made me think:

When do games about past atrocities become socially acceptable?

If it were some sort of formula it would probably be:

Acceptance = time x current standing of victims

The colonisation period is apparently ok now, there are several "historical" games in the top 200 on board game geek set in this time where one gets to acquire slaves and use them to ones advantage. We also play a card game at game nights called "Guillotine" set in the French revolution where one competes to get to chop the head off the most unpopular noble. Mass execution is a joke if it has happened long enough ago.

Who is the victim?
When the first game about the war of annihilation in the second world war will appear in our western-centric society one will play Japan trying to annihilate China, not Germany - Poland. Another reason why games about the colonisation period and slavery are considered "ok".

My secondary question was : When will it be socially acceptable to make a game about the holocaust?

I googled a bit and found this. A German board game from 1936, where "the objective was to collect as many Jews as you could, and get them off the board".

Racist, but somehow cute

The game was heavily criticized at the time from Jewish societies for obvious reasons, but also in an SS paper because

The game trivialized the anti-Semitic Nazi policies and that the international press would use the game’s existence to make the policies look completely ridiculous.

The game failed, not because of politics though, but because it was really boring. Which is the third variable in the formula:

Acceptance = (time x current standing of victims)^playability

Because if we are having fun, we can justify a lot.


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Today there was no beer drinking
But I got to wash my clothes (fresh underwear, yay!) and Barnaby showed me how to add microformats to this blog. So now my blog is machine readable and at some point I could add webmentions.
I haven't added them to the pe_pplog yet, when I get to the bugs I have to fix, I will do this, for now I'm happy to learn a little bit about how to use microformats and other indieweb tools
Posted on - Categories: Geekery


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Being annoyed with google

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This months my xmpp chat stopped showing or being able to contact my google contacts again. I don't know if this is a google or jappix problem. I suspect google. I tried to log into my old jabber account, and wierdly could not. Then one day at work I looked into my google chat contacts, thinking I might have had a different username than I remembered. I found my old username, unblocked it signed into a xmpp chat and could talk to myself. "Cool", I thought. "I can use this account then". When I got home I could not log into jabber with the same details I had used 2 hours ago.
I went back to my gmail chat and the jabber contact had vanished.

Can anyone tell me of a good xmpp chat service that is not google but can talk to google talk? And people, please please please, don't switch to hangout, this is just google building a walled garden.

Adittionally when I signed into github today I got a warning to change my password (because of the heartbleed bug), yet no such warning when I signed into gmail, even though they are appearantly affected (according to der Spiegel today)
Posted on - Categories: Geekery

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