Hurricane Reality vs. Right-Wing Ideology

Hurricane Katrina blew away not only roofs, levees and lives, but also some of the right's most cherished -- and well-funded -- beliefs. The depth of the disconnect between the right's narrative of what American society should look like and the facts on the ground was almost unspinnable. Reality was hard to stave off in the aftermath of such a disaster.

Some tried. The Wall Street Journal's Daniel Henninger took the opportunity to argue that "poorly incentivized" public bureaucracies "are going to get us killed" and call for outsourcing emergency response functions.

The National Review's Kate O'Beirne wrote that the contrast between Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and Mississippi's Haley Barbour should leave Hillary Clinton supporters "dismayed at the latest example of why voters might be leery of women chief executives."

Further on the fringe, blogger Michael Calderon at David Horowitz's Frontpage Magazine saw in Katrina the potential for a civil war following a major terror attack in the U.S. and envisioned a Hobbesian war of all against all, predicting -- with just a bit too much enthusiasm -- this apocalyptic scenario:

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Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

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