US Misinformation Translation Guide

To cut through the very successful and rhetorically effective branding by fascists, I’ve developed a handy guide (to be expanded):

(Alt-Fact) vs. (Brutal Reality)

“Alt-Right” = NeoNazi

“Snowflake” = Not interested in dehumanizing people; not completely numbed yet

“Climate Alarmist” =Scientist

“Climate Change” = Global Warming. It’s not changing, and it’s not just climate. Anthropogenic Biospheric Devastation would be a more true translation, except for the fact that it’s not all humans responsible, its those with the levers of power and money. Plutocratic-Induced Ecocide would be the most accurate descriptor.

“Big Government” = The type of sprawling government that actually helps people who don’t look exactly like you. The alternative is pretending that you don’t have extensive government, because instead of taxes, corporate spending bypasses the state and goes directly into the pockets of the politicians putatively regulating them.

“Small Government” = Robbing from the poor to give to the rich.

“Immanentize the eschaton” = Basic Human Equality; trying to make the world a better, not a worse, place. The alternative being, the extreme idea of creating hell on earth, and harming the majority of humanity and the earth so that Jesus will come back to earth and the apocalypse will happen (which is what the NeoNazis want and are using government and industry to attempt).


New paper published in Annals of Internal Medicine picked up by Reuters

Screen Shot 2017-07-17 at 16.05.10

Today, with co-authors Pamela M. Ling and Jesse Elias, our paper “The Pharmaceuticalization of the Tobacco Industry” appears in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Our interview with Reuters is available here.

This work contributes to the study of industrial epidemics, and how corporations, instead of dying a quiet death as the world wakes up to the inutility of their products for life, metastasize into other structures to clean up the messes they continue to create–and to charge taxpayers for it (in this case, by getting government health care like the NHS in the UK, to pay for their so-called reduced-harm nicotine products).

The Philosophical Salon

A recent article I wrote for The Philosophical Salon can be found here. Titled “Not an Era for Apologetics,” it looks at the systematic bullying of university students by alt-right pseudo-intellectuals, and the reinforcement of hegemonic discourse in the university setting.

taken at the sf women's march

As the recent hooligan rallies by fascist groups in Portland after the attack of a white supremacist on Muslim women was thwarted by three white men, two of which died defending them and the other severely injured, the pattern of bolstering up assaults with violent gatherings either in words or deeds seems by now to be a routine intimidation tactic against people of color, women, and the LGBTQ community.

The article focuses on the so-called, and much overwrought “Middlebury Affair” where the American Enterprise Institute’s Charles Murray was rejected from speaking on pseudoscientific racism at the campus. While liberals around the nation have rallied in favor of free speech, oddly enough, they deny free speech to those that wish not to have hate in their houses. Against the party line, I argue that the spread of hate via speech should not be conflated with freedom to speak, as free speech must be defined according to the commonweal. As long as ontological essentialism coupled with systematic discrimination reigns, such speech cannot be termed “free,” as it constricts others’ common good. I take a classic republican view on free speech to empower local communities to decide if interlopers aim to unite or divide their union.

Of course, in a humorous performative of my point, The Philosophical Salon post received its share of trolls, performing the very act I described.

Future thoughts: What is the difference between deserved critique versus trolling? My article takes an attempt at this question.


Monopolizing outdoor air

Dear Europe,

It’s been a lovely trip. We hiked in the Austrian Alps, swam in the Baltic sea, and enjoyed the joyful chaos of Fête de la Musique in Berlin.

Despite these beguiling adventures, I remain puzzled. You seem to have given a full monopoly of clear outdoor air to the smokers. Cigarettes still rule your world. For someone under the age of 60 to have fun outdoors, secondhand-smoke comes as the main course.

Even in Iceland’s lovely airport, there was an outdoor smoking quarters. Whither, I ask, is the nonsmoking section, where one can drink in the crisp Icelandic air sans smoke? While I’m stuck with a four-hour layover, I would love to enjoy the fresh air you have to offer, even if I don’t leave Keflavik International Airport. It would be so simple, so forward-thinking, to have a nonsmoking outdoor area, to just enjoy the air. Let’s get on that one.

I keep on hoping that with the 2014 EU Directive on Tobacco, that Europe will decide that incentivizing addiction just weakens the character of its peoples. But here, three years later, there’s no improvement, from my subjective experience. In Switzerland, the smoking epidemic seemed even worse.

While EuroMonitor 2015 says that smoking in Switzerland is decreasing, to 25% (1 out of 4 inhabitants), in transit zones such as train stations, aire libre cafés, and popular outdoor haunts, it feels higher. The Swiss government’s acceptance of smoking by providing smoking spots everywhere is indicative of not really understanding the nature of the beast. They might as well provide regular places to do other drugs too, as at least those other drugs may not harm others the way that smoke does.

Of course, the butt of the joke for an American is that Europeans often chide me for the US ethos of individual freedom and our deleterious trigger-happy gun rights, yet many Europeans regularly dismiss smoking as harmless to self and other. They simply are undereducated. The governments of Europe still allow billboards and advertising, and tobacco imagery is rampant. Prohibiting such bald entrees shoving their addictive cancer-causing products into everyday culture, combined with a strong denormalization campaign stigmatizing smoking could be a powerful countermeasure to produce major social and behavioral change.

Biosemiotic Ethics special issue of ZfS

I’m happy to announce that the Biosemiotic Ethics special issue in the Zeitschrift für Semiotik I co-edited with Morten Tønnessen and Jonathan Beever has come out. It’s got the great semiotician John Deeley‘s last article in it he wrote before passing, and we dedicated the issue to him.

On behalf of the editors, I’m very satisfied with how this special issue came together, with contributions on this relevant subject from John Deely, Jonathan Beever and Morten Tønnessen, Andreas Weber, myself, Hans Werner Ingensiep, Jessica Ullrich, Konrad Ott, and an interview with Wendy Wheeler.


The special issue is printed with half of the articles in English and half in German. My article appears in German (but with enough Latin and French words as to make it intercultural) as Interspezies-Ethik: Der modus vivendi inter-organismischer semiotischer Milieus.

N.B. The journal staff, because they are behind on issues, marked this as appearing for their 2015 issue, even though it was published in May 2017.