We should hold ourselves responsible for “fake news”

I have a new article at the Center for Digital Ethics & Policy on the ethics of fake news:

In our Orwellian mediaverse, where doublespeak masquerades as hashtags and trending topics, #FakeNews provides good content fodder and the occasional straw man, but the term also muddles the truth that it’s nothing more than propaganda with a Google AdWords account. Intentional or not, obfuscating the specter of propaganda through these doublespeak strategies distracts from the ethical implications of “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.” (That’s a dictionary definition of propaganda, by the way).

Read the full piece here.

Two-week trip to the Balkans? Count me in

(Not the actual lagoon, but close)

World Nomads is currently running a travel writing contest for a two-week trip to the Balkans. Comes with free flights, €1000 for a 10-day tour, apparel, a train pass and mentoring with travel writer Tim Neville of Outside Magazine.

I’ve entered in past WM competitions, with no success…but maybe this year will be different? Either way, go here to read my story on the contest them of “a place I’ll never forget” – in this case, the place I call the shaman’s lagoon, in Haiti.

Applications close on March 21 and winners are announced April 12.

Buzzfeed posted my Donald Trump tweet. Life goal accomplished.

Recently the New York Times wrote this great article about all of the problems in Donald Trump’s White House©, as evidenced by a continued torrent of leaks and gossip from disenchanted staffers. The article included this colorful line: “When Mr. Trump is not watching television in his bathrobe or on his phone reaching out to old campaign hands and advisers, he will sometimes set off to explore the unfamiliar surroundings of his new home [emphasis added.]”

Normally that’d be throwaway color, but Trump’s skin is thinner than Betsy DeVos’ resume, so of course, as the leader of the free world, he felt slighted by the bathrobe comment, and forced Sean Spicer to go on the record for him during the White House’s daily comedy hour: “I don’t think the president wears a bathrobe, and definitely doesn’t own one.”

Fortunately, I saved my favorite picture of Führer Trump for this very moment:


And then I tweeted about it, and then Buzzfeed included it in its wrap-up of sick Twitter burns. So, after all these years, I’ve finally made it to the big time.

Signs and wonders at Pine Valley Bible Church

Today I posted the third installment of my series on leaving Christianity, “Signs and wonders at Pine Valley Bible Church.” I started writing this well before last week’s national disaster of Donald Trump’s nomination, thanks in large part to the type of people I met at “Pine Valley,” a pseudonym for a rural Wisconsin church I went to as a teenager. There was a revival on at Pine Valley, with all the exorcisms, elations and infighting you’d expect.

Read the full essay @ Medium

The ethics of lifelogging

Black Mirror - The History of You

Head over to the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy to check out my new article on the ethics of “lifelogging,” the technology you voluntarily choose to record and archive everything you do.

Some people have the blessing of a photographic memory, and lifelogging technologies have the potential to bring average people up to at least that level. But when the process of remembering is mediated, along with the memories themselves, whose memories are we actually collecting and accessing? What about when these memories can be hacked, altered or simply deleted? These questions are central to lifelogging technology. And as this technology eventually reaches a Malcolm Gladwell-style tipping point: If you can envision intellectual property lawyers and philosophers answering the same questions, you know you’re running into unexplored ethical territory.

Read the rest here.

I was interviewed about my student debt


Like most in my generation and my caste, I went into my 20s loaded with student debt. Some of it was mine and most of it was my wife’s. As partners, we’ve spent our entire 6+ years of marriage working our asses off to get out of the hole. We’ve worked overtime, through many weekends, and prioritized self-improvement over vacations and nights on the town. Anything to better our chances of living free.

We’ve had no financial help from our families or friends. No relief from agencies or corporations. We live in a 650-square-foot apartment, don’t own a car, and have held off having kids or owning property until we’re debt-free. We’re always busy, always working, always offering our first fruits to Sallie Mae, a goddess as unforgiving as Drano in your chicken soup.

Last week, thanks to the recommendation of a friend, I spoke with writer John McDermott at MEL Magazine for his “Into the Black” series, which focuses on the experience of young debtors. The opportunity didn’t come with any accolades or awards, but was an experience to share my struggle – and potentially engage with others affected by the same.

Check it out.