Investigative reporter Julia Angwin was curious what Google knew about her, so she asked the company for her search data. “It turns out I had been doing about 26,000 Google searches a month … and I was amazed at how revealing they were,” she tells Fresh Air’s Dave Davies.
From NSA sweeps to commercial services scraping our Web browsing habits, to all kinds of people tracking us through our smartphones, Angwin says we’ve become a society where indiscriminate data-gathering has become the norm. Angwin has covered online privacy issues for years, and in her new book she describes what she did to try to escape the clutches of data scrapers, even to the point of creating a fake identity.
“I want all the benefits of the information society; all I was trying to do is mitigate some of the risk,” she says.
Charges of anti-Muslim prejudice flew thick and fast following Fox News anchor Lauren Green’s interview with Reza Aslan, a religious scholar and the author of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth in which she repeatedly asked Aslan why, as a Muslim, he is interested in writing about Jesus’ life.
Aslan emphasized that he is a historian, answering, “Well, to be clear, I am a scholar of religions with four degrees, including one in the New Testament, and fluency in biblical Greek, who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades, who also just happens to be a Muslim.”
Green, host of the online show Spirited Debate, went on to suggest Aslan hadn’t disclosed his Muslim identity during previous media interviews. Aslan countered that he mentions his faith on the second page of the book.
A post at Buzzfeed asked “Is This The Most Embarrassing Interview Fox News Has Ever Done?” and The New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum called it “demented.” The Twitter hashtag #foxnewslitcrit was spawned, full of mock interview questions such as, “Ms. Rowling, what gives you, a muggle, the right to write a book about wizards?”
But as The Atlantic Wire’s Connor Simpson notes, all of this could be good for Aslan: Zealot rose to the top spot on Amazon following the interview. (You can also hear Aslan speak to Fresh Air’s Terry Gross and Weekend Edition’s Rachel Martin about Zealot.)
Here’s a new book I’m very much looking forward to reading, reviewed by Larry Rohter in the New York Times Books section: Mark Twain’s Unexpurgated Autobiography.
Twain’s autobiography has been previously published, but only after meddlesome editors removed some passages, ostensibly to protect Twain’s reputation.
Versions of the autobiography have been published before, in 1924, 1940 and 1959. But the original editor, Albert Bigelow Paine, was a stickler for propriety, cutting entire sections he thought offensive; his successors imposed a chronological cradle-to-grave narrative that Twain had specifically rejected, altered his distinctive punctuation, struck additional material they considered uninteresting and generally bowed to the desire of Twain’s daughter Clara, who died in 1962, to protect her father’s image.
“Paine was a Victorian editor,” said Robert Hirst, curator and general editor of the Mark Twain Papers and Project at the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, where Twain’s papers are housed. “He has an exaggerated sense of how dangerous some of Twain’s statements are going to be, which can extend to anything: politics, sexuality, the Bible, anything that’s just a little too radical. This goes on for a good long time, a protective attitude that is very harmful.”
Twain was especially harsh in his criticism of American involvement in Cuba and the Philippines.
Twain’s opposition to incipient imperialism and American military intervention in Cuba and the Philippines, for example, were well known even in his own time. But the uncensored autobiography makes it clear that those feelings ran very deep and includes remarks that, if made today in the context of Iraq or Afghanistan, would probably lead the right wing to question the patriotism of this most American of American writers.
In a passage removed by Paine, Twain excoriates “the iniquitous Cuban-Spanish War” and Gen. Leonard Wood’s “mephitic record” as governor general in Havana. In writing about an attack on a tribal group in the Philippines, Twain refers to American troops as “our uniformed assassins” and describes their killing of “six hundred helpless and weaponless savages” as “a long and happy picnic with nothing to do but sit in comfort and fire the Golden Rule into those people down there and imagine letters to write home to the admiring families, and pile glory upon glory.”
Oh, the right wing blogosphere would have a field day with Mark Twain today; imagine the rants from Jim Hoft and Ed Morrissey and Andrew Breitbart, and the death threats at Free Republic! I wish Pamela Geller would review the book, but right now she’s too busy writing mash notes to genocidal Serbian war criminals.
UPDATE at 7/11/10 1:48:36 pm:
Here’s a PBS News Hour segment on the new version of Twain’s autobiography.Youtube Video
(Hat tip: Slumbering Behemoth.)
John Avlon, senior political columnist for The Daily Beast and former speechwriter for Rudy Giuliani, has a new book out called Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America — a subject near to my heart, especially recently. (And somewhere in there you’ll even find a paragraph featuring a quote from your humble narrator, i.e., me.)
One of the central themes of the book:
I am not a Democrat. I am not a Republican. I’m an American. I believe the far left and far right are equally insane. But in the opening years of the Obama administration, the Wingnuts on the right have been screaming the loudest.
Amazon has announced that during this Christmas season, the Kindle e-book reader was the “most gifted item” in the company’s history — and on Christmas Day, the sales of Kindle e-books were actually higher than traditional books. This is quite a milestone, and signals that consumer acceptance of the Kindle and e-books in general is picking up speed.
I absolutely love my Kindle 2, as I’ve written several times, and highly recommend it to anyone who’s hooked on reading. Here’s my review of the Kindle 2, for more details.