The most militarized universities in America; Prop F loses in SF & Airbnb rejoices; and more.
Airbnb’s Chris Lehane, who spearheaded the company’s massive lobbying effort against Prop F, lauded the vote on the company’s policy blog as “A victory for the middle class.” The longtime Democratic political operative’s language notably refers repeatedly to “middle class families’ right to share their home” and the “home sharing community,” though as best as I can tell very few hosts on Airbnb actually share their homes with anyone, according to the word’s old-fashioned dictionary definition. George Orwell would be proud of Lehane.
As Conor Dougherty and Mike Isaac report for the New York Times, companies like Airbnb and Uber are fighting local regulators “by turning their users into a vast political operation that can be mobilized at any sign of a threat.” With that in mind, they describe Lehane’s Prop F victory press conference in San Francisco “as a warning shot to other cities thinking about proposing new regulations.”
Indeed, it’s hard not to read Lehane’s blog post without thinking of Airbnb as a political campaign—one that is steeped in the data-driven field organizing techniques honed by the Obama campaigns. He writes: “This election was a victory for the middle class and it was made possible by the 138,000 members of the Airbnb community who had individual conversations with over 105,000 voters, knocked on 285,000 doors, including 55,000 today, and worked to generate support from more than 2,000 small, family-owned businesses in the city. This effort shows that home sharing is both a community and a movement.”
While we’re on the topic of Orwellian language (aka “Spinglish“), David Plouffe, President Obama’s former campaign manager and now the chief adviser and board member of Uber, recently shared this post on Uber’s “Under the Hood” policy blog, titled “Racing to rideshare.” It too makes no mention of anyone charging anyone else for anything and brags repeatedly about Uber as a “ridesharing” service.
Campaign tech: Matt Lira, the former deputy executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (and a friend of PDM), says the reason why Republicans are getting beat by Democrats in the small-donor fundraising game isn’t something technological, like the lack of “unifying one-click donation platform” like ActBlue: “This is a cultural challenge. The largest Republican campaigns and organizations simply are not synced up on this issue; greater cooperation in this area would have an outsized influence on the problem.”
User rights: Responding to Monday’s release of the Ranking Digital Rights report, Yahoo’s Business and Human Rights Program has blogged that it is “actively studying the results of the Index and will be discussing the findings with our teams. We are also looking forward to the important conversations that RDR’s Index will spark about company disclosures and policies affecting users’ free expression and privacy.”
It’s not an explicit response to the report, but yesterday Twitter announced a new policy hub where the company plans to centralize information about the company’s political efforts as well as policy issues affecting its users. We heart that.
Culture wars:The long-running reality TV show Mythbusters just announced that next year’s season will be its last, and on the New York Times oped page, James Meigs, the former editor of Popular Mechanics, pens a lovely piece praising it for having “taught a whole generation how science works and why it matters.”
Deep, deep lobbying: If you wonder where so much bad thinking about cyber-security policy comes from, set aside time to read William Arkin and Alexa O’Brien’s detailed report for Vice News on “The Most Militarized Universities in America.” The rankings are based on a dataset of more than 90,000 individuals who have worked in the intelligence community since 9/11, which is just six percent of all the people in the US with a Top Secret clearance, and they document a vast expansion in national security academic funding. They write:
The gloomy result is that the academy (and by extension the philanthropic world) has failed to establish a post-9/11 academic program to cultivate the next generation of scholars who can offer a genuinely civilian counter-narrative to the national security state similar to the civilian arms control community created during the Cold War. Even at the most elite schools that rank in the top 100, the many centers and research institutes focusing on warfare and terrorism are predominantly adjuncts of the national security state
Eric Raymond, the author of the influential open-source bible “The Cathedral and the Bazaar,” has turned to the bizarre world of “manospheric derangement,” Jesse Singal writes for New York magazine. How so? By elevating a totally unsourced allegation that women-in-tech feminists have been trying to entrap men using “honey pots” and then accusing them of attempted assault, and that their chief target is the founder of Linux, Linus Torvalds. Singal’s eloquent take-down is worth reading not just for its depressing content but also for its style: “The peristaltic movement of the misogynist web finally nudged the story to its inevitable destination…” Now that is writing, my friends.