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Dateline January 2021: despite the expansion to seven teams per conference in the NFL playoffs, a 10-win team didn’t make it. On the NFC side, a team with a losing record secured a home-playoff game. Chris Collinsworth has been complaining about this since the end of the Green Bay game.

Acquaintances have argued that this is healthy, an expression of consistent AFC dominance. I am skeptical. The exception that proves the rule are the hapless Jets edging out a win over the Browns, who for reasons of pandemic, did not bring their receiving corps. What does consistency mean when it takes not bringing a position group for a lower tier team to win? What is dominance as we Tank for Trevor? I needed to know, was my intuition right? …


Annually, I build a social network of college football results. You might enjoy hiking or watching football, I enjoy translating sports results into edge-lists and matrices. Over the years, it has become clear that a network based model is optimal as it encodes the teams records and their transitive records (who they beat). The key innovation was that football is not associative, it isn’t that the teams merely met but that one lost, it is a directed graph. This model is tabula rosa, meaning that the slate is blank, it requires no other meta-data about games, teams, or plays. …


This brief note is in response to comments by representatives for the Trump campaign that maintaining the structure of the law is somehow a dodge. In Federalist 78, Hamilton makes a comprehensive account of the system of courts that we could come to enjoy, even if some of those innovations were decades away. Federalist 80 describes the case for original jurisdiction, which is also fundamentally limited to things like territorial disputes or cases involving foreigners. Federalist 83 makes it explicit that the common law system is what is envisioned by the framers. If you really want to have a good time, papers 78–83 are extensive (Hamilton wrote them) and discuss these concepts at length. …


When I was an undergraduate I took a course called “Coaching and Officiating Basketball.” It was really rigorous. The professor, a former D3 national championship coach, taught everything from the meta-analysis of league-level rules through player drills. This was his chance to tell future gym teachers everything he knew. Flex-based offenses were the main theoretical approach, especially symmetrical and mirror patterns that would repeat forever, as some of the leagues these future teachers would coach in had no shot-clocks. …


This is the post-Four Seasons landscaping media ecology. Ugly, fact-free press conferences held under absurd conditions are ostensibly to be taken as something other than what they are. Reductio ad absurdum is an important mathematical idea — if one reduces an equation to say 2+2=5 or that 2+2 does not equal 4, you know it is wrong. Without a mooring in the not-absurd journalism goes entirely off the rails, becoming bad drama or a full-scale farce.

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Finally, I have a real apple computer, not one of those macintoshes.

Of course not all news folks are pretending that the material circulated under such conditions is real or even particularly interesting. What is clear is that organizations that have lest invested in reportage are more vulnerable to devolving into absurd speculation, organizations dependent on opinion journalism have it harder. …


In The Wolf of Wall Street, Scorsesse tells the story of a firm named Straton Oakmont a predatory stock brokerage. Shortly before they fell apart, they successfully sued America Online for defamation, as a user of that service was blowing the whistle on them. What a ridiculous outcome. Congress thought so too so they created blanket immunity for Internet service providers for material flowing through their systems. After all, AOL said nothing, a user did.

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Of course the fish had three eyes…

There is a strong literature base both on Section 230 and content moderation in general, so I will keep this brief:

Section 230 is key to free speech online, ending it chills free expression.


There is a video circulating making the claim that the cure for the Corona virus has always been known. The video clearly violates the terms of major content platforms regarding public health information, this is squarely within their first amendment purview. More communication is not always better communication. This is not to say that the state should be arresting people for what they say, but that if you give everyone an equally loud megaphone you live in a soup of painful noise. The cure claim revolves around the drug Hydroxychloroquine, known as HCQ. A malaria drug. The claim dates to roughly the Ides of March as the second phase of Trump’s magical thinking about the virus, just after disappearance. …


This was prepared by a team including Mariah Samano, Haley Daarstad, Angel Le, Quinn Downey, Simon Hutton, and me, Dan.

A few months ago, we started on the journey of predicting the results to March Madness. Suddenly, the apocalypse came and everything was cancelled. It turns out the end of the world is boring so we continued on this journey by creating what the brackets would have been if these current events had not occurred.

So for those of you playing along at home, we project Michigan to defeat Wisconsin in the national final. With those teams defeating Gonzaga and Villanova in the final four respectively. This is bracket 4/the Orange Bracket. …


In the past seventy-two hours a new story has circulated, a flashy conspiracy theory based on some poorly evidenced youtube videos. If you are here for a debunking of such videos that really isn’t my job, also I won’t mention what this is about. You can figure that out pretty easily. Signal-boosting is always a mistake in debunking. The story has since been delisted by Twitter in the trending section either because it is misinformation or as I will argue in this short essay, is a coordinated attack against an individual. My point is not the story, but the attack profile that made the story possible. …


Corona virus news is everywhere. Yet, it is less of a problem than influenza. In many ways the reaction to the virus is more problematic than the virus itself, linking the hypertrophied sense of skepticism of the hoax with ostensibly scientific rationality. Racist ideas appear rational during the time of the outbreak. Ed Yong has framed this in compelling terms in The Atlantic. The end game is that protectionist measures that would ban travel or racialize the response to a medical situation destroy the bonds that make effective responses possible:

Bans can also break the fragile bonds of international trust that are necessary for controlling diseases, which is why the WHO advised against them when it declared a PHEIC. If countries know that they’ll be cut off during an epidemic, with all the economic repercussions that entails, they may be less likely to report future outbreaks, leading to costly delays. …

About

Dan Faltesek

Associate Professor of Social Media. Oregon State University. Read my book: Selling Social Media (Bloomsbury Academic), 2018.

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