When the fascists betray democracy

States attorneys general participate in their meeting with President Donald J. Trump on protecting consumers from social media abuse Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, in the Cabinet Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

There's a plausible argument in wide circulation that says that daily newspaper editorials no longer matter. I say "plausible," because most daily newspaper of size and significance endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016. You know how that went. But while the newspaper business continues to founder, I think its unsigned editorials remain important, because they reflect the views of respectable white people, the views of white people invested in their reputations as respectable among other white people.

The opinions of respectable white people are important to keep tabs on, as we move out of the age of Trumpism, which is to say (as Michael Gerson did), out of the age of American fascism. Respectable white people did not suffer under Donald Trump. They probably did fine or better than fine. The temptation among respectable white people, in the face of a politics that punches down, not up, is to be indifferent, which is bad, or complicit, which is worse, or cooperative, which is the end of freedom. Fox, Newsmax and others are pushing Republican voters deeper into fascism, but respectable white people, as represented by editorials and the Republican publishers who write or sign off on them, continue to be receptive to arguments that are moral, decent and patriotic.

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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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