Tag Archives: twitter

Sean Hannity fans are destroying Keurig machines for all the wrong reasons.

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Sean Hannity fans are destroying Keurig machines for all the wrong reasons.

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Need a break from political news? Hey, look, the ocean!

We’ve seen big declines in wild bee populations. That’s not just bad for the fuzzy little bees; it could drive up prices for almonds, blueberries, and other pollinator-dependent treats.

The challenge is knowing what would help them. Do we focus on preserving habitat and flowers? Or should we focus on certain pesticides? Is climate change behind this, too? It’s hard to say because bees are hard to study. It’s relatively easy to count long-legged pronghorns or wide-winged condors compared to counting the gnat-sized Perdita minima, the world’s tiniest bee.

That’s why a research team at the University of Missouri has been putting little microphones in alpine meadows. When those mics record buzzing, the team’s software analyzes the noise to tell scientists the number and species of bees visiting. They just published a paper, showing that their methods work.

This breakthrough could allow regular folks to collect solid scientific data from the safety of their porch. Farmers could “monitor pollination of their orchards and vegetable crops and head off pollination deficits,” said Candace Galen, a biological science professor who led the university’s research team, in a news release.

Interested? The group is working on an app that would let you collect bee data with your smartphone.

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Need a break from political news? Hey, look, the ocean!

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Darrell Issa Appears to Flee to Building Roof to Avoid Protesters

Mother Jones

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) was seen taking refuge on the roof of his office building in Vista, California, Tuesday, taking photos of angry constituents who had gathered below to protest the congressman’s voting record. The incident comes before a much-anticipated town hall meeting this Saturday at San Juan Hills High School, where the nine-term congressman is expected to face a hostile crowd because of his support for various Trump administration policies, including the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Democrat Mike Levin, an environmental lawyer who recently announced his bid to challenge Issa in 2018, shared an image of the congressman appearing to avoid demonstrators on social media, where it was roundly mocked.

Others saw his retreating to a rooftop as reminiscent of Michael Scott, Steve Carrell’s character in The Office who memorably took to the roof in the episode titled “Safety Training.”

Issa, on the other hand, described his trip to the roof a bit differently. Shortly after the criticism, he took to Twitter to offer this narrative. We recommend zooming in to take a closer look at the signs:

For more on Levin and the fight to defeat Issa, the richest man in Congress, head to our profile here.

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Darrell Issa Appears to Flee to Building Roof to Avoid Protesters

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Trump Confirms His Intel Blabbing Originated With Israel

Mother Jones

Remember the top secret intel that President Trump shared with the Russians in the Oval Office? We all pretty much know that it came from Israel, but for some reason Trump decided to confirm this today:

As many people have pointed out, this was just a photo op. Trump didn’t have to say anything. But he’s Trump, so he had to have the last word. It continues to be remarkable how easy it is to bait the guy.

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Trump Confirms His Intel Blabbing Originated With Israel

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Donald Trump Is Getting Scared About Russia

Mother Jones

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Oh man, this cracks me up. This whole Russia thing is really getting inside President Trump’s OODA loop. After today’s congressional hearing, he was hellbent on making sure everyone knew that James Clapper had said there was “no evidence” of collusion between Trump and Russia. Clapper didn’t quite say that, actually, but Trump didn’t care. He ordered his staff to change his Twitter picture pronto. So they did. Now it looks like this:

You might be able to see the whole message on a different monitor, or if you fiddle around with the width of your browser window. But probably not. What a bunch of doofuses.


Donald Trump Is Getting Scared About Russia

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Health Care Premiums Have Gone Down Under Obamacare

Mother Jones

Someone asked me on Twitter if health care premiums had spiked after Obamacare went into effect. That turns out to be a surprisingly hard question to answer. There’s loads of data on premiums in the employer market, where premium growth has slowed down slightly post-Obamacare, but not much in the individual market, which is where Obamacare has its biggest impact. However, a pair of researchers at the Brookings Institution rounded up the best evidence for pre-Obamacare premiums and compared it to premiums in 2014-17, when Obamacare was in effect. Here it is:

Premiums dropped in 2014, and are still lower than the trendline from 2009-13. So no, premiums didn’t spike under Obamacare.

Now, there are lots of caveats here. The pre-Obamacare estimates are tricky to get a firm handle on. What’s more, the Obamacare premiums are for the baseline coverage (second-lowest silver plan), while average pre-Obamacare policies might have been more generous in some ways (for example, deductibles and copays).

However, most of the pre/post differences suggest that Obamacare policies are better than the old ones. The old plans had an actuarial value of only 60 percent, while Obamacare silver plans have an actuarial value of 70 percent. The old plans were also limited to very healthy individuals. Obamacare plans are open to everyone. Finally, Obamacare plans mandate a set of essential benefits and place limits on out-of-pocket costs. These and other things suggest that premiums should have gone up under Obamacare.

But even with all these improvements, premiums still went down, and they haven’t caught up yet. Bottom line: Average premiums in the individual market went down after Obamacare took effect, and they’re still lower than they would have been without Obamacare.

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Health Care Premiums Have Gone Down Under Obamacare

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If You’re Reading About "The Circle" on Facebook, It’s Already Too Late

Mother Jones

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Tomi Um

The Circle, published in 2013 by the prolific novelist (and McSweeney‘s founder) Dave Eggers, is a dire prophecy for our wireless world. Protagonist Mae, fresh from college, goes to work for the eponymous social network, a hyperdriven mashup of Facebook and Google that won’t stop until it knows everything about everything—and everyone. The story is an unsettling glimpse of a generation trained, like Pavlovian Instagrammers, to crave the rush of a post going viral, and it leaves you asking: How much privacy should we hand over to Silicon Valley? How much knowledge is too much? The movie adaptation, starring Emma Watson and Tom Hanks, was directed and co-written (with Eggers) by James Ponsoldt—a deft choice given The End of the Tour, his brilliant 2015 film about David Foster Wallace. As an author with a rosier view of technology, I jumped at the chance to chat with Eggers and Ponsoldt about their dystopian vision.

Mother Jones: How did the film project come together?

James Ponsoldt: I’ve been a fan of Dave’s writing since A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. I loved The Circle and I was terrified by it. My wife and I were on the verge of having our first child, and I recognized that we were both able to have childhoods that were undocumented, for the most part, and I didn’t know if my son would have that luxury. I felt really sad.

MJ: And what made James the right person for the job?

Dave Eggers: The book is about a young woman, and James has always done an amazing job with young actors and actresses. He’s not much older than Mae and has grown up swimming in the same waters she’s in, more so than me—so much of what I was doing was extrapolating what would come, as opposed to describing what is. That combination of expertise in technology and then a deeply humanistic point of view made him seem like a perfect fit.

MJ: Dave, when did you start thinking about the implications of how social media is altering our lives?

DE: For me, it didn’t have much to do with social media, actually.

MJ: Oh!

DE: You always write one book and people read a different one. Laughs. I’ve been in San Francisco since 1992. I saw the Bay Area tech world reinvent itself many times, but it wasn’t until maybe 2007, 2008, 2009 when the concentration of wealth and power started to concern me. Also the surveillance aspect—the inability, increasingly, for us to opt out of being watched. I feel pretty strongly that a citizen under surveillance is not free. We have passively acquiesced to this, to the point where it’s almost a foregone conclusion. I think that was the impetus.

MJ: I’m not even sure we acquiesced so much as happily participated. In Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman writes that we were worried about Orwell’s version of surveillance, but it was Aldous Huxley’s that won out because it’s our own desires that have enslaved us. James, tell me about your evolving relationship with technology.

JP: It’s complicated. I was raised by ex-hippies, but I grew up worshipping a television set. I am skeptical of a lot of things, but I was on Myspace and Friendster, and I have a fascination with the new. My wife and I met on Facebook! We were on opposite sides of America, and a mutual love of Vic Chesnutt, a musician from Athens, Georgia, began a conversation. So I certainly can see everything it has to offer—and what we give up in that exchange.

DE: I always say to the college kids I talk to that I have no objection to people posting pictures and sharing stories online. That’s the beauty of the internet. But I try to talk to them about who owns that data and what are they consenting to, and that’s a conversation people don’t want to get into. A funny thing happened on the way to utopia: We’ve turned into this surveillance society and become a race of spies, where we track our kids and we track our spouses and we track our friends. I think very soon there will be an obsolescence of trust, because it’s much easier to access a person’s location than it is to ask—or to trust. When I ask 50 college kids who is conflicted about their technology use, 49 hands go up.

MJ: One of the things that struck me reading The Circle was the nagging burden that the need to participate in the public sphere places on Mae.

DE: Yeah, for 12 years I had a high school class called the Best American Nonrequired Reading. Not all the kids had smartphones, but there was a sense of near-constant social obligation, with fairly high costs for being absent for an hour. In the absence of the “like” there is the implicit “don’t like,” and that becomes a source of angst and want. I saw it happen to friends in their 40s who would say those very sad words—”Like me on Facebook”—to me. I thought, “Something really radical has changed when these dignified, educated people are saying those four sad words.” There are so many phenomenal things about these platforms, and the unintended consequences are either very tragic or very funny. I was trying to balance those two. Twitter has been instrumental in getting the word out about human rights issues or protests, and then you also have it as this horrific platform—a would-be despot in Trump uses it to spout falsities to 26 million people. So you’re giving a very dangerous megaphone to a cretin.

MJ: I’m curious how Silicon Valley folks responded to your book.

DE: I’d say half the people I’ve known here over the last 25 years are in tech, or have been. They found it terrifying in all the right ways.

MJ: What were the challenges in turning this book into a movie?

DE: When you adapt a book, you really have to cut it to the essence. James did an amazing job of finding that essential through-story and then picking and choosing parts to buttress that—because books are just big, baggy monsters full of speculation and a thousand notions. A film is a much more poetic medium.

MJ: James?

JP: For me it was just trying to bottle the way Dave’s book made me feel. I found it insanely funny, darkly funny. I see myself deeply in the protagonist—her occasional pettiness and anxiety and her desire to not want to die anonymous. She’s really complicated and I wanted to do justice to that.

MJ: Will the ending be as bleak as the one in the book?

DE: Laughs. It does not turn the ending around and make it happy—but it’s different. Adaptations are a corollary, but without being dutiful.

MJ: So are we doomed to a future in which corporations increasingly manipulate our behavior and control how we express ourselves?

DE: Well, the bigger and stronger monopolies get, the harder they are to break. That said, none of these companies have been around for very long. James mentioned Friendster and Myspace—it always makes me laugh hearing those words—and then AOL, AltaVista, and on and on. If we look at the history…

JP: Dave’s right. And then, there’s really not a precedent for an industry whose value system is to help facilitate dialogue about how to think, how to find information and share it. Most of my friends in tech are progressive and idealistic, but they’re also making a lot of money. And it’s hard to stop making a lot of money. Companies don’t break themselves up voluntarily.

DE: You also have to look at companies like Facebook and LinkedIn. Their stock price only rises with increased usage and increased frequency of usage. So that creates a very unnatural and I think tyrannical pursuit of what I called in the book “completion.” Which is, these companies are infinitely more valuable the more they can study a complete group of users, without exception. I feel like that is going to be the next dangerous spot we find ourselves in—what companies will do to get all of this demographic, all of that region, all of this occupation, and you see them coming at you 19 different ways. At a certain point growth will stop, and that’s what’s curious. At 2 billion Facebook users, will it be allowed to stop? One of the themes in the movie is making voting mandatory through The Circle, which is very plausible under a privatization scenario. Politicians say, “Well, you have to vote, and you have to vote through The Circle, so you have to have a Circle account.” Not that Trump wants everyone to vote, but you get the idea.

MJ: James, for the past year or so you’ve used Twitter, somewhat presciently, as a platform to tell outrageous lies and crazy stories. Will you be tweeting about The Circle?

JP: Laughs. In some probably indirect way, sure. I’m living aspects of the movie, I guess.

MJ: What about you, Dave? Any chance we’ll ever see you on Twitter?

DE: Awkward silence, then laughter. I don’t think so. It’s really an old-dog-new-tricks kind of thing for me. McSweeney’s tweets. They can do it. I just don’t—no, no plans to.


If You’re Reading About "The Circle" on Facebook, It’s Already Too Late

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Sean Spicer: Hitler "Didn’t Even Sink to Using Chemical Weapons"

Mother Jones

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White House press secretary Sean Spicer attempted to compare Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad to Adolf Hitler on Tuesday, arguing—incorrectly—that unlike Assad, Hitler never used chemical weapons during World War II. When a reporter gave Spicer a chance to clarify his remarks, Spicer followed up with an explanation that was arguably even more problematic.

“You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” Spicer said in response to a question about Russia’s ongoing support for the Assad regime.

When a reporter asked Spicer what he meant by this comment, Spicer explained that Hitler “was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing.” Apparently referring to Nazi death camps, Spicer acknowledged that Hitler “brought them into the Holocaust Center, I understand that.”

Reporters and pundits on Twitter quickly pointed out that Hitler justified the Holocaust in part by claiming that German Jews were not really Germans.

Nearly 6 million Jews perished in the Holocaust from systemic murder that included the use of gas and shooting, as well as starvation and disease. This included between 160,000 to 180,000 German Jews. The Third Reich also targeted non-Jewish Germans it deemed “unworthy of life,” including people with mental and physical disabilities. These were among the first victim’s of Hitler’s use of poison gas beginning in 1939.

On MSNBC, the chyron fact-checking Spicer’s comments was particularly stunning.

After his briefing, Spicer sent out a second clarification, followed by a third:

And then a fourth:


Sean Spicer: Hitler "Didn’t Even Sink to Using Chemical Weapons"

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Martin Luther King Jr.’s Daughter Slams Pepsi Protest Ad in One Tweet

Mother Jones

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Bernice King, the daughter of legendary civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., has added her voice to the criticism sparked by Pepsi’s controversial protest ad.

The commercial, which was released Tuesday as a two-and-a-half minute video, depicted reality TV star and model Kendall Jenner walking through a demonstration. As police stare down the protesters, Jenner approaches one of the officers to hand him a Pepsi. The gesture appears to defuse tensions, which prompts cheers from the protesters.

The ad quickly became the target of derision, with many calling it “tone-deaf.” Critics also argued Pepsi was co-opting the imagery of recent minority-led protest movements for profit. On Twitter, people pointed out that the scene of Jenner handing a Pepsi to an officer closely resembled a widely-shared photo of a Black Lives Matter protester being arrested during a 2016 protest in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

On Wednesday, King took to Twitter to share her thoughts about the controversy, posting a photo of her father being pushed back by police officers during a protest. In a particularly cringeworthy bit of timing, the Pepsi ad’s Tuesday release came on the same day of the 49th anniversary of King’s assassination in Memphis, Tennessee:

In a statement Wednesday, Pepsi announced the ad would be pulled immediately.

“Pepsi was trying to project a global a message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark, and we apologize…We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.”

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Martin Luther King Jr.’s Daughter Slams Pepsi Protest Ad in One Tweet

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This Feminist Has a Lot of Opinions About Sex on Campus

Mother Jones

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In the winter of 2015, a group of university students armed with mattresses, pillows, and petitions staged a protest at Northwestern University. The props were meant to evoke the sexual assault protests occurring on other campuses. Yet the object of these students’ ire was not a lecherous male professor or a sexually aggressive frat bro, but a feminist cultural critic and professor of media studies, Laura Kipnis.

Kipnis had just published an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education arguing that the university’s newly minted code prohibiting professor-student dating infantilized students and teachers, and that university administrators should have no role in the private lives of consenting adults. She asserted that “bona fide harassers should be chemically castrated, stripped of their property, and hung up by their thumbs in the nearest public square.” But “the myths and fantasies about power perpetuated in these new codes are leaving our students disabled when it comes to the ordinary interpersonal tangles and erotic confusions that pretty much everyone has to deal with at some point in life.” Kipnis triggered a storm of criticism from students, and shortly afterward she was told that two graduate students had filed Title IX complaints against her, alleging her essay and subsequent statements had created a hostile environment.

Thus began a 72day investigation that inspired her book, Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus, published today, about sexual politics and academic freedom at universities. “If this is feminism,” Kipnis writes, “it’s feminism hijacked by melodrama.”

Kipnis, the author of seven books, appears to relish taking on hard-to-win arguments. In her 2015 book, Men: Notes from an Ongoing Investigation, she posited that Hustler magazine, which once featured a woman being put through a meat grinder on its cover, belongs in the “rabble rousing tradition of political pornography,” and that Anthony Weiner is “a humiliation artist.” She has even come out against love, which she says has become the “domestic Gulags” in our work-obsessed culture. “If sex seems like work,” she jokingly chides, “clearly you’re not working hard enough at it.”

With Unwanted Advances, Kipnis has placed herself at the nexus of two contentious battles playing out on university campuses: the debate over academic free speech and the approaches universities take in handling sexual-assault claims. “I can think of no better way to subjugate women than to convince us that assault is around every corner,” she writes, describing what she considers to be the paradoxically damaging effect of heightened consciousness about rape on college campuses. She compares closed-door, university-run sexual-assault hearings to McCarthyism and the Salem witch trials. “Zealous boundary-drawing and self-protective preciousness don’t auger well for the imaginative life,” she notes.

Kipnis knows her new book is controversial and suspects it is going to test the limits of what can and can’t be said about the sexual and intellectual situation on campus and beyond.” I talked to Kipnis about her Title IX investigation, unwanted bedfellows (of both the intellectual and sexual variety), feminism, and the challenges of tackling these subjects.

Mother Jones: This was a really hard interview to prepare for. I kept hearing all your critics’ arguments in my head.

Laura Kipnis: I have the exact same problem. It’s a hard subject to write on because you find yourself preemptively answering the critics and then getting bogged down in some of these statistics or having to qualify what you’re saying. “Campus assault is a serious issue, but…” The chorus of voices in your head is definitely an impediment to trying to push past what the current conversation is. There is such an electrified sense around even discussing some of those things. People will automatically get accused of the victim-blaming and slut-shaming. This is why so many people are reluctant to start the conversation to begin with. You encounter all of these credential checks. Are you really a feminist? I was accused by somebody of profiteering off rape.

MJ: You say that you want to push past what the current conversation is. Where do you wish the conversation would go?

LK: On the question of women’s sexual freedom or female independence, there are still issues that haven’t been worked out. There’s an aura of traditional gender roles that is not talked about that really permeates these conversations. There is this vacillation between a desire for independence and having the kinds of sexual freedom that men have and, on the other side, issues about female vulnerability and susceptibility to male aggression and violence. We need more honesty about the actual conditions in which sex is happening. I talk about the levels of binge drinking in the last chapter. That is a symptom of something. It’s not, “We’re all just having fun here.”

MJ: Do you ever get tired of making arguments that cause so much outrage?

LK: Something I’ve been thinking about—one of those middle of the night “how to live” sort of questions—is whether you want to be someone who allows yourself to be shut up by critics, or backs down out of fear of ruffling feathers. When I wrote the first Chronicle piece, and there was first the campus protest march, then the Title IX complaints, it started seeming like there was a joint effort to shut me up. Which made me determined to write more, and not pipe down—out of orneriness if nothing else. It was the attempts to shut me up that really convinced me I was onto something.

MJ: Do you worry about people relying on sound bites to represent your argument, which is pretty complex?

LK: Making the kind of argument I am making does make you less media friendly. I do despair about having a four-minute slot on some TV show and trying to condense the type of argument I’m making in the book into the four questions you get asked. So that’s a problem. One way of dealing with this is just to stay off Twitter. Nobody young is able to do that, and when you have a book out staying off Twitter is harder. But it’s important to try to stay out of the stupid conversations. But yeah, I do feel a bit despairing in advance of trying to get points across in the four-minute media slot or the adversarial kind of situation.

MJ:Power is a common theme in your book. You talk about how students actually have a lot of power because they can get professors fired. On the other hand, there’s a kind of power I don’t think you discuss: The power to revoke mentorship, which can be devastating, particularly in graduate school. Grad students are a dime a dozen, but a good mentor is really hard to find.

LK: That’s a really interesting way of putting it. It’s always the case regardless of whether sex is involved. Mentorship can always be retracted. A grad student I know had mentorship revoked because of a student unionization effort that his professors were against, and he ended up having less of a career than he might have had. I would probably say that I would be in favor of some kind of code of best practices about situations like this. If there is a sexual relationship between a professor and a student then gets reported to the chair or something like that. That the person refrains from writing letters or being on committees that make some kind of assessment. But I think that relations between professors and grad students can be messy and not entirely boundable. Part of the problem is that those boundaries become eroticized. I don’t think people are quite so managerial with their sexuality. By suggesting that sex can be successfully regulated, we’re imposing stupidity on the issue.

MJ: You mentioned earlier that people have accused you of being a rape apologist. What do you say to them?

LK: I would say that we’re abandoning due process and being overly sentimental about this claim of victim or survivor status. There are a lot of ambiguous situations that are getting transformed into sexual-assault complaints. It’s very easy to file a sexual-assault complaint on campus and there’s very little scrutiny of the claims when they’re adjudicated. One of the other issues is that we’re mistaking a small cadre of activists for what all students are thinking on campus. There are plenty of students on campus who are not on board with all of this. There are a lot of divisions.

MJ: So what’s the way forward? Administrators aren’t going to want to appear soft on sexual assault. How could this be handled more fairly both for people making the claims and for the accused?

LK: It may be the courts. A lot of these cases are coming through from male students who have been subject to campus overreach. These cases are getting turned back by the courts. But you have to have a lot of money to bring a lawsuit. Weirdly—and this is where the politics of this becomes very confusing—it’s the right, particularly on free-speech issues, that is pushing back.

For women’s sake, I think all of these cases should be made public. Somebody mentioned to me that at their school there was some kind of report with names redacted released every week so people could see what kinds of crimes are happening. I think sexual assault should be treated this way. I’m all for redacting names. But we need to know: What were the details? What were the circumstances? To some degree that’s educational. One of the arguments would be that rather than turning toward the punishment model, we want to turn back toward the education model and transparency about what is actually happening and what is necessary to educate women in particular. It can’t only be men who are the focus of assault prevention. Women should be too. To say that that puts the blame on victims to have to prevent their own assault is crap and has to be treated as crap.

MJ: You’re a leftist. Are you worried that groups you don’t want to be associated with might appropriate your arguments?

LK: I have some worry as a leftist that the book is going to get taken up on the right by people I would not be happy to be politically affiliated with. I’m not thrilled about that possibility. Though I’ve also been pretty viciously attacked on Twitter by men’s rights activist types after making a joking remark in the first Chronicle essay about chemically castrating harassers and seizing their property. One guy threatened to cut my breasts off, among other lovely remarks. I did a lot of signaling throughout the book about my leftist feminism and made arguments consistent with that, about resource reallocation and so on. But you can’t control what stupid arguments people are going to make about your work. It’s less the MRA types who concern me, since I think of them as threatened dweebs, honestly. It’s the knee-jerkism of people closer to my own side I really despair about. I think the left-right divisions are really unclear on this. I don’t think that the forms of feminism that are prevailing on campus are left wing. It’s a conservative form of feminism in gender politics and there isn’t anything particularly progressive about it. That’s what is baffling. You’ve got conservatives acting like liberals touting free speech and due process.

MJ: Your Title IX investigation was decided in your favor, and the investigators dropped the hostile environment complaints. Did you ever worry that it wouldn’t go your way?

LK: I didn’t worry really that I was going to get fired. I did think that I could be found culpable of creating a hostile environment and that would be thrown around in the media by the accusers. I suspected they would have to throw a bone to the accusers. I did think in the back of my mind that if that happened and if I went public, which I was pretty sure I was going to do, that would create a huge academic-freedom stink. But I also thought it would put Title IX in the spotlight in terms of if it preventing free speech, and then that would become a big national issue. In my private thoughts I speculated about whether my being found culpable would move the conversation along. At this moment, so many calculations are off on what’s going to happen nationally.

MJ: Do you worry that this book will spark a new investigation?

LK: You can never predict how something will land.

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This Feminist Has a Lot of Opinions About Sex on Campus

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