The Null Device
The rumours of the Australian Labor government's mandatory national internet censorship firewall being dead may be premature: the government is still planning to put the legislation forward in parliament. Of course, the numbers seem to be against them: the independents who hold the balance of power in the lower house will oppose it, as will the Greens in the Senate.
The Coalition, which has among its number many social conservatives who would welcome such a scheme (not least of all its leader, an authoritarian paternalist of the first water), has opposed it, vowing to whip its MPs to vote against it as well. However, now that it no longer needs to woo Labor voters, there is the possibility of the party changing its mind, and either supporting the filter or leaving it to a conscience vote. In either case, a whipped Labor government plus a handful of Liberal/National social conservatives could be enough to get such a filter through both houses, regardless of what the Greens, those uppity independents and the majority of the Australian public have to say.
Of course, the question remains of whether Labor would keep its faith in censorship after it no longer had to deal with a religious fundamentalist in the Senate. One theory is that Labor's pro-censorship zeal is all an act to keep Fielding on-side and get its budgets through, though in this case, it's an act which is approaching its use-by date, if not past it already. (Fielding does not have a vote on any supply bills, which won't appear until the new Senate, with Greens holding the balance of power, is in place, and while he could be petulant and uphold other legislation, it would be a bit pathetic.) Others speculate that the Great Firewall of Australia has now got a purpose beyond placating a few cranky wowsers; one theory is that, while it's ostensibly going to block illegal pornography, suicide instructions and content banned in Australia, its real purpose is to block sites used for sharing copyrighted materials. Though given that the US Government, which is pushing for a War On Copying on the scale of Nixon/Reagan's War On Drugs, has criticised the filter might count against this theory. Any others?
While we're in Australia, News Limited (roughly one half of the oligopoly which controls the Australian media) has declared open war on the Greens, with the Australian vowing to destroy them at the ballot box; the culture war against the progressive elements in Australian society is on again, if Rupert Murdoch has his way. And, with a fragile minority government in power, some are predicting all sorts of hijinks, including possibly a Murdoch-sponsored Tea Party-style right-wing protest movement.
The latest instalment of OKCupid's data-mining blog looks at the thorny question of race again; this time, analysing the text of users' profiles, correlated by self-identified racial group.
One part of the article mines keywords unique to racial groups from profiles and presents them as tag clouds, resulting in unsubtle stereotypes. It appears that white people here are not White People; white males are straight-up bros/bogans, into Tom Clancy, sweaty guitar rock, and petrol consumption as recreation, and the females are into spectator sports and a mess of wild-nature clichés, such as thunderstorms, horses and bonfires. (An Irish-American cast looms over both genders, with "Ireland" and plastic-Paddy brocore band Dropkick Murphys rating a mention.) Meanwhile, black people are religiously demonstrative (they're more than twice as likely to mention religion as white or Asian profiles), and Asian and Indian users mention interests in hard-headed professions such as mathematics, engineering and computers, and literature such as Freakonomics, Malcolm Gladwell and Calvin & Hobbes. That and the usual stereotypes.
Among the take-aways from this post: if you want to know if white dudes will like something, put "fucking" in the middle and see if it sounds badass. Hence "Van fucking Halen" and "The Big fucking Lebowski", but not "Alicia fucking Keys". (Of course, it breaks down if irony comes into it; if you're dealing not with bros but with hipsters mining the battlefront of the pop-cultural goldmine, they can get away with a lot of stuff. Take, for example, Fleetwood fucking Mac, or Hall and fucking Oates. This does has its limits, though; chances are, there isn't a hipster with big enough post-ironic cojones to make "Celine fucking Dion" sound right.)
Further down, OKCupid also ran a reading-level analysis algorithm over users' profiles, and correlated it with race and religion. The results were fairly close, though self-identified Indians and Asians had the best-written profiles, with "Latino", "black" and "white" profiles being in the bottom half. More interestingly, the analysis by religion shows a distinct inverse correlation between religiosity and writing level.
Note that for each of the faith-based belief systems I've listed, the people who are the least serious about them write at the highest level. On the other hand, the people who are most serious about not having faith (i.e. the "very serious" agnostics and atheists) score higher than any religious groups.