Jun 152018
 

Here’s a popular but shitty entry in the culture wars. It’s a defense of bigotry, dressed up as humor.

 


First, let’s cover why some people like it. All the following was said by friends or friends-of-friends. I cannot take credit for the words, which is why they are well spoken. They are slightly snipped and paraphrased here and there for brevity.

[Critics of the comic] appear to believe that the girl in the comic, and those she represents, is a bigot who speaks in “all X are awful” generalizations for any group, from white people to men to heterosexuals. This is missing the point. [“Not all X”] statements are meant to derail. I see them ALL the TIME in response to people NOT saying “all.” You want her to defend herself from an unfair accusation instead of explaining her rationale by insisting that her not adopting the language of the accuser is proof of guilt. I’m pretty sure the artist didn’t have her specifically say those words because it’s so obvious to them that the accused don’t say all in most of these cases that pointing it out is redundant to the actual message being conveyed.

To get nitpicky for a moment, the word “all” itself isn’t even what really matters. “All police departments need to crack down on prejudice among their officers” still doesn’t justify “not all cops are racist.” The argument is still being shifted away from a system of cover-ups of abuse of power, and toward a new topic of the prevalence of racism among individual police themselves… Which the original speaker now has to address, or else be accused of being prejudiced against all cops.

One of the major problems is that liberals so often speak of institutions and systems, and those who aren’t on the same page take it personally. This is why the “it’s just a few bad apples” defense is so frustrating. The quote is “a few bad apples spoil the batch” NOT because some racist cops make all cops racists, but because the institutions that allow that rot to continue ruins even the non-rotten apples. Entire populations in this country don’t trust police anymore because the bad actors have been protected too often and for too long. Hell, it’s often not even about racism really, or even sexism or prejudice, it’s about power imbalances and lack of accountability. But the most vulnerable in society are always going to be the first to speak out.

The same goes for other institutions or establishments that don’t enforce equality. It’s not that men are never raped or harmed by sexism, but institutionally, men run the military, men run the government, men run the majority of major corporations, men run the police departments, etc. The harm of “patriarchy” is systemic, and insofar as it harms men too, the sentiment that it is men who need to help solve the problem should not be taken as an accusation that they are inherently part of it.

The gal in the comic here doesn’t actually represent someone who is saying “All men are <bad thing>” or even “X proportion of men are <bad thing>.” She’s supposed to represent the view that “long-running institutional norms in our society empower or permit men to do <bad thing>.”

This isn’t about men. It’s about our society. That’s why “not all men” is a bad response. It’s not that the statement is wrong, it’s that it’s a diversion from something crucial.

The problem with #NotAllMen is that it pulls the conversation away from one about culture and social awareness to one about being personally offended at being accused of something you were never really accused of.

 


And here’s why I disagree.

I used to call myself a feminist, and I basically still am, though I don’t identify with the group anymore. [This comic] is one of the reasons why. I know people who are genuinely good people. Who want justice and happiness for all. Love a number of men. Only hate those who are awful and deserve it. They would regularly post about gross violations of personhood or other awful injustices, and head it with something like “Men are trash!” Not because they are man-hating nazis. But because that’s just the culture. It’s not seen as a bad thing to do, and gets you lots of cheers. Everyone knows they only mean the bad ones, right? Call them out. End the brutality and patriarchy and oppression. Fight back!

I did it too

And eventually when I realized I basically hate my gender and wish I wasn’t a part of it, and stopped participating, and started asking these kind and caring people to not use that sort of language anymore, I got backlash. Because of course we don’t mean ALL men, just the trash ones. Stop being such a Meninist. Stop distracting and giving cover for your peers (my peers????) who really are doing awful stuff.

And seriously, I just want to stop feeling like I’m trash because of what other people who look like me have done.

So yeah. I assume the percent who hate men is 0%, or close enough to it that it’s a rounding error. The problem is pervasive and systematic and has nothing to do with actually hating men. It has to do with creating a culture/environment that casually destroys a class of people and holds their only acceptable moral condition is one of self-loathing. It’s the daily denigration that wears away at one’s psyche. And it doesn’t have to be “serious”–the people I know who routinely say this are kind people who have male friends, relatives, and sometimes lovers, all of whom they really like. For comparison, how many times can one joke about “black men can’t hold down jobs” before “I’m obv not serious, I’m married to a black guy myself” stops mattering?

 

(in reply to) “the sentiment that it is men who need to help solve the problem should not be taken as an accusation that they are inherently part of it.”

Thing is, lots of men are working to solve the problem. We’re not omnipotent, despite being born with a penis, so there’s not a whole lot most of us can do. But goddammit, we are trying. And we *still* get subjected to the “all men are trash” rhetoric. In fact, we get it far more than anyone else, because we’re the ones that are friends with the people saying it, and see it come up often. The assholes who perpetuate oppression almost never see this sort of thing. So as good as it may feel to say that men are trash, it’s hurting the people who are trying to help, and not doing anything to fix the actual problem. And pointing that out? That gets you lumped in with the misogynistic assholes.

Also, there’s far better ways of expressing the sentiment that men need to help solve the problem than repeatedly stating how awful all men are.

The problem is that the gal in the comic sometimes says just what you’re saying, and in those cases she’s in the right, and the comic is entirely correct. But other times she’s just saying “all men are trash” and everyone’s cheering about it, and in those cases she’s doing harm and the comic is supporting bigotry. The problem with the weaponization of “Lol, another #notallmen meninist” is that it is used to conflate the second situation with the first situation, and is used by bad people to harm others and make everything toxic.

 


And of course none of the above really matters. Because here’s the thing.

Most people, and certainly the ones who share this comic approvingly, are still in “there are only two sides” thinking. It’s the message the overwhelming majority of their social environment is pushing onto them, so I don’t entirely blame them. What they’re doing is posting a thing which in their mind is the equivalent of waving the “Heeeeey, I’m on the Left side! wooooo!” flag. It feels good. It fights oppression. It shows support and caring for their hurting friends.

And so anyone saying “Hey, that’s not cool, and here’s why” is, in the poster’s mind, an attack on their side from the other side. Because they’ve been told no one on their side would say such a thing, and there’s only two sides, so obviously the person being harmed by the comic are from the Right side and are here to start shit.

I hope my words, and the words of others like me that are trying to speak up gently, with understanding, but with the message that “You are hurting us because it feels good to you and maybe that’s not so great” will help to carve out a third side. A side that has spent the entirety of their lives learning and fighting for those who are oppressed and ground down by the system, and who hate that system themselves. But who also don’t want to be ripped apart in the process. Who are not content to have to choose between that or becoming the perpetrators of further mass harm. A side that believes there’s actual mutual forward progress possible, rather than just two sides and a war over which side gets to rule.

We can do better.

May 162018
 

Lately I’ve been hearing about Sealioning again. I finally saw an actual stated definition, rather than just someone dropping an accusation to signal applause lights from their side.

Sealioning: A subtle form of trolling involving “bad-faith” questions. You disingenuously frame your conversation as a sincere request to be enlightened, placing the burden of educating you entirely on the other party. If your bait is successful, the other party may engage, painstakingly laying out their logic and evidence in the false hope of helping someone learn. In fact you are attempting to harass or waste the time of the other party, and have no intention of truly entertaining their point of view. Instead, you react to each piece of information by misinterpreting it or requesting further clarification, ad nauseum. The name “sea-lioning” comes from a Wondermark comic strip.

 

First off, that’s just plain old arguing in bad faith. But here’s the comic that inspired this term, from Wondermark:

The Sea Lion is demanding that a racist person put up (evidence) or shut up. But the sea lion is being an ass. The message of the comic seems pretty clear—even people who say racist things deserve some privacy. Don’t harass them nonstop, or you are the one being the ass. That’s a good message, TBH.

You’ll notice there’s no actual arguing in the comic though, which makes “arguing in bad faith” impossible. It seems like the term “sea lioning” is being used to by people to say “If you disagree with my assertion and ask for supporting evidence, that in itself is doing something bad.” I’ve seen it be used that way before, and a lack of reading comprehension applied to the comic in question could easily support that interpretation. This is rock-bottom in the Hierarchy of Disagreements. It’s entirely  social shaming (“a demand for listeners to place someone outside the boundary of people who deserve to be heard”). Going forward, seeing the term “Sealioning” being used is going to be a big red flag for me that the other person isn’t worth talking to.

I also think it’s weird that the racist is the good guy in this, but hey, it’s the internet.

Feb 162018
 

I graduated high school the year before the Columbine shooting. Columbine was a neighboring high school, only a few miles from mine. That day was a bad day for me. I kept thinking “that could have been me.” In retrospect, I don’t think it could have. I don’t think I could’ve ever brought myself to do such a thing. But I understood the urge. The despair and the rage.

The initial post that started this semi-diary blog was an emotion dump after a mass shooting. I guess here’s another one.

I feel lucky to have survived high school. Many of my peers feel the same way. High school is torturous on many levels, and it’s commonly accepted that analogies to prison aren’t far off, though not to the same scale. Sleep deprivation, social gangs, enforced idleness, and helplessness rule the day. I’ve never heard anyone in high school say it was anything but various levels of awful. I have heard someone say “I wrote myself a letter about high school when I graduated, because I knew it was likely that in the future I would look back on that time with rose-colored glasses. I’m glad I did, it helps me to remember how bad that place is.”

Yes, “depression,” granted. But depression isn’t one-way. It’s not only causal, it’s also caused, and the high school experience certainly kindled my years of depression just as much as the depression made high school worse. High school shouldn’t have to be a thing that young people must survive. Even if nearly all of them do manage it.

I have a friend a couple years younger than me with a complicated relationship with Columbine. After the shooting, life in school got significantly better for [them]. Because now other social gangs were far more reluctant to engage in abuse of [their] social group. It feels disgusting to say anything that can be mistaken as an implication that Columbine was justified. Murder is monstrous. How fucked up is the situation in our high schools if an act of terrorism can make life better for a significant percentage of students?

Among all the calls for gun control and mental health services, no one is saying anything about what it is that breaks a lot of people. No one mentions this environment, which many people have to spend untold dollars and many years of therapy recovering from once they escape. No one talks about what could drive someone to pick up that gun and lash out in rage at the place and the people they view as responsible for their pain.

I know, this isn’t the only cause of school shootings, nor the only type of shooter. And even for those who may fit this template, there are many inputs that lead to this, from our American history of violence, to social contagion, to personal psychological pathology, among dozens more. Yet high school remains horrible and torturous for many young people. And it should not be this way.

I don’t have much faith in my society to fix this. We’ve known for at least a decade that simply pushing back the start time of high schools leads to improved mental and physical health for teenagers, as well as improved education outcomes. And yet we can’t even manage to take that first, simple, step. Instead, our schools become more and more like prisons every year, with stricter security and greater authoritarian control. Things are trending the wrong way.

But for the first time in my life, I think I am at a point where I can actually say this sort of thing out loud, rather than just emotion-dumping on a blog. Our schools must stop being places that damage those people we force into them.

Feb 082018
 

From GinnyDi:

“Okay, here’s the problem with the idea that oppressed groups can “alienate allies” by not being nice enough:

You shouldn’t be an ally because oppressed groups are nice to you. You should be an ally because you believe they deserve basic human rights. Hearing “I hate men” shouldn’t make men stop being feminist. Hearing “fuck white people” shouldn’t make white people stop opposing racism.

Your opposition to oppression should be moral, and immovable. Your belief that all humans should be treated with equal respect shouldn’t be conditional based on whether or not individual people are nice to you.

(emphasis in original)

 

That last line is extremely important, and I wish the world was more like it. Principles fucking matter!

That being said, I think Ginny is conflating adherence to principles with support for a group, a little bit. I’m very pro-Free Speech, to the point that I support Fred Phelps’s right to say that gays are causing hurricanes, and neo-nazi’s rights to have peaceful protests, and communist’s right to say that our society should be burned to the ground. But I abhor all these groups, and would never consider myself an ally of any of them.

Likewise, if some person or group said “I hate men,” then I’m not an ally of theirs. Nor do I need to be to promote gender equality. My commitment to the principle of equality does not depend on my being bestowed with an “ally” token by every/any group who also supports that thing. So yeah, my “allyship” to any particular group is totally dependent on whether that group also treats me with some modicum of respect. For someone to claim that just because I’m not an ally of their particular circle, that means I’m a racist or sexist or pro-censorship or whatever, is manipulative and unethical.

Jan 202018
 

“Let he who HASN’T raw dogged a porn star just after the birth of his fifth child with his third wife cast the first stone.”

Everyone is pro-feminism until they can score some cheap political points by throwing women under a bus.

In this week’s Trump scandal, it turns out he had an affair a decade ago. Not a big deal, except that the Other Woman was… <music ascends into a sharp pause> a porn star!! <DUN DUN DUN>

And I am seriously grossed out at this reporting. Every popular media source out there cannot stop trumpeting that the woman he was sleeping with was a porn star. It’s the most important thing you need to know about her, and it has to be the first thing you know about her! It makes the affair so much worse than any normal affair with a normal woman.

I expect it coming from the right, but it bothers me that even the left is leading with this sort of thing. That meme at the top? It was shared by a dedicated leftist colleague. I particularly love the lurid description of the sex itself, the same way gay people used to constantly have all references to their relationships reduced to descriptions of anal sex. The leftist colleague explained it away as not attacking sex workers–rather just pointing out the hypocrisy of the GOP and their railing that sex work is bad, porn is a sign of moral decay, and multiple marriages are because of a lack of godliness.

I consider this bullshit. All these headlines and memes are feeding off the derision of sex workers. Feeding off it, legitimizing it, popularizing it, and spreading it. You don’t get to call yourself pro-women while helping to degrade sex workers. You don’t get to use “but this is an attack on Trump, and anything we do to hurt him is good!” as an excuse. This sort of thing marks a group as an underclass who don’t deserve the same consideration and protections of everyone else. You can’t reform the social narrative about sex work while reblogging things that reinforce that narrative.

I spoke with a friend about this, and they gave me permission to post the following (paraphrased, and with some alterations for anonymity’s sake)

I was married to a sex worker. I was pro-sex-worker long before that… but there’s a difference between being theoretically for rights/respect, and living the reality yourself. I felt the impact of society’s casual disregard of sex-worker’s humanity much more viscerally when it was directed at a person I loved and shared a life with. I realized some things were a bigger deal than I had thought. And the casual contempt is part of that. It’s what makes it OK to mistreat “those people”

There’s groups you expect it from. The religious fuckheads, the GOP, and all the scum on the right. It still sucks, and it’s awful. But it was when it came from the left that it really hurt. Because I guess I bought into the whole “we’re on the side of women’s rights” thing. And then one’s supposed allies treat one as just as dirty as anyone else. A supposedly liberal comedy show like Archer uses “When they’re dead they’re just hookers” as a laugh line, and it makes you want to throw up.

My spouse learned this long before I did. She didn’t trust anyone, didn’t count any group as an ally. She was completely alone in a hostile world. I want the world to be better for her, and others like her.

I dislike the refrain of “Listen to [group]!” because it always comes with an implicit “…and shut up.” I don’t want anyone to shut up. Say what you want, but realize it comes at a cost that some of your allies will feel. I stopped considering the generic-left an ally a couple years back, and this was one of the reasons why (although, of course, not the only one).

For reference:

Yeah. Fuck that shit.

Dec 072017
 

The Daily Dot posted an article titled “We fact-checked FCC Chair Ajit Pai’s net neutrality ‘facts’—and they’re almost all bulls**t

The fact that they censored two letters of “bullshit” should tell you right off the bat that they may not quite have a grasp on what bullshit entails.

I read this article while doing some research on Net Neutrality, and I actually really appreciate it. They, perhaps unusually for a media outlet, didn’t seem to want to tell direct, bold-faced lies. As such it’s very easy to see that the media (or at least, the media I’m used to reading) doesn’t actually care about what they facts say or imply. The battle for Net Neutrality is now an idealogical battle.

To save everyone’s time, I’m going to boil down Ajit Pai’s point Daily Dot’s counterpoint to what bare assertions with all the Fnords removed. I have not looked into any claims directly, I simply take them at face value, because that’s all you need with this article. Direct quotes in italics, occasional commentary by me in italics. Anyone who put a few points into Reading Comprehension can play this game. Let’s rate the bullshit together!

1A – The Internet was fine before the 2015 Regulations. 1B – That’ll remain the case after they’re repealed.

Contra 1A – “It’s true.” Contra 1B – ISPs didn’t want those regulations, therefore they must be good regulations.

“It’s true” doesn’t sound like “this is bullshit” to me. Sounds like two different groups arguing over which regulations to impose, with ISPs on one side and content-delivery-networks like Netflix and Amazon (CDNs) on the other. Verdict: this is not what bullshit means.

2A – Entrepreneurs and start-ups did very well in the pre-2015 enviroment. 2B – That’ll remain the case after the 2015 Regulations are repealed.

Contra 2A – “Yes.” Contra 2B – We believe ISPs will stifle them in the future, though.

Verdict: Agreement on half the point, contrary speculation on the other half. Not bullshit.

3A – ISPs didn’t block websites before 2015. 3B – They probably won’t after, and will be required by transparency laws to state when they do.

Contra 3A – “This is technically true” 3B – Users will have to police the Internet instead of the police, and you can’t count on them to do that.

Verdict: This is technically not bullshit

4A – Broadband investment as fallen two years in a row since the 2015 Regulations were adopted.

Contra 4A – This is “entirely false.” Investment has increased, speeds have increased, here’s links.

Verdict: Hey, now we’r getting somewhere! Actual bullshit!

5A – ISPs didn’t charge a premium to reach certain content online before the 2015 Regulations. 5B – They won’t after repeal, either.

Contra 5A – This is true, but it’s inconvenient that you want to base you predictions about the future on how things worked a couple years ago. Contra 5B – They EXTRA won’t if we keep these regulations, though!

Verdict: It’s starting to sound like the Daily Dot is the one peddling the bullshit here. I can’t judge based on the merits, as I haven’t looked into any of these claims yet, but boy, you guys really should work on sounding less weasley.

6 – The 2015 Regulations burden small ISPs and new entrants who can best introduce competition into broadband market.s

Contra 6 – Totes. “This one likely has the most validity to it.” But we can just selectively not apply these regulations to small/new ISPs!

Verdict: Holy shit guys, I’m actually on Pai’s side now. Is this a black-flag operation?

7 – Yes, there will be Internet Fast Lanes. This isn’t bad.

Contra 7A – We are in agreement, except we think this is bad.

Verdict: No bullshit, just differing values.

8 – The 2015 Regulations already permit bundling services. Portual has “Net Neutrality” regulations, and also has bundling, because that’s allowed under these kinds of regulations.

Contra 8 – “This one is totally true.”

Verdit: Anti-bullshit

9 – The 2015 Regulations stifle innovation. Here’s an example.

Contra 9A – That example is true. But it’s just one example, and on net it’s hard to say what will or won’t stifle innovation. Also, NOT having the 2015 Regulations can also stifle innovation. “for now at least, we’ll have to rack this one up as a big ol’ ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.”

Verdict: ಠ_ಠ

10 – The 2015 Regulations stripped the FTC’s ability to protect user’s privacy. Repealing those regulations will return that power to the FTC.

Contra 10 – “This one is true.” BUT Net Neutrality would have stronger privacy regulations, if Congress hadn’t removed those privacy rules from the regulations.

So the 2015 Regulations would protect privacy, if they protected privacy? I suppose I cannot argue with that on logical grounds. Verdict: both?

11 – Repealing the 2015 Regulations will lead to better, faster, cheaper internet for rural folks, city folks, space folks… basically ALL the folks!

Contra 11A – “This is entirely speculative,” “it’s possible,” “this is a great unknown.”

Verdict: OK, so sorta bullshity.

12 – The FTC is better at protecting the internet and consumer interests than the FCC is. Here’s some examples of things they did pre-2015 to protect consumers.

Contra 12 – We prefer the FCC.

Verdict: Another legit difference of opinion. Not bullshit. Although the contra point by The Daily Dot did include the bizarre line “the FTC creates a reactive approach to regulation—ISPs have to break the law first, then fix what their wrongdoing later, after the FTC cracks down.” Does the FCC have a Pre-Crime branch? How the hell do they stop wrongdoing before it happens?

13A – Most of the comments supporting the 2015 Regulations were faked, coming from botnets. 13B – Also, it doesn’t matter, internet comments don’t decide policy.

Contra 13A & 13B – “It’s true”

Verdict: Anti-bullshit, again. Tempted to score a negative-1 for this, but they were nice enough to include it rather than just omit the embarrassing points, and I don’t want to be churlish.

14 – The courts say it’s OK to repeal the 2015 Regulations and return to pre-2015 rules.

Contra 14 – Oh you poor, naive, child. We’ll be taking this to the courts for years.

Verdict: :(

 

My final tally:

2 items were actual or sorta bullshit
4.5 items were differences in values or conflicting goals. This is not bullshit, it’s what’s under debate.
7.5 items were not bullshit, and in many cases the Daily Dot literally said so themselves.

Ahem. “We fact-checked FCC Chair Ajit Pai’s net neutrality ‘facts’—and they’re almost all bulls**t.” 2 out of 14 is NOT almost all. Maybe those ** were standing in for “tamentsAboutOurDifferentPreferencesInRegulatoryStructures,ManyBackedUpByFac”

Dec 072017
 


I am sad for Al Franken. Translation of relevant part at front of this video:

“The allegations are false, and/or wildly exaggerated. I am cooperating with the investigation, and the investigation will prove this to be the case. However, I see the political lynch mob forming, I have plenty of money, and I don’t need this shit. As a well-off white male, I will personally suffer much more from attacks from my side over the coming months than I would suffer over the rest of my life from nopeing-out and letting the Trumpers run wild. Peace out.”

The allegations against Franken as of this writing

The photos currently available  (Arianna’s comments)

A Survivor’s Defense of Al Franken

Nov 132017
 

There’s an odd line in Weird Al’s “White and Nerdy” where he sings “The only questions I ever thought was hard–is do I like Kirk or do I like Picard?” It’s weird because there is no Trekkie I’ve ever met who thinks that’s a hard question. Everyone has a strong and clear opinion on exactly who is the better captain, and why. Sure, the half who say it’s Kirk are wrong, but there’s no waffling on the position.

I was recently in a discussion with an older geek and a younger geek, both of liberal persuasion. And the younger, more zealous geek stated that Captain Kirk is morally disgusting due to his regressive attitudes, and everyone should distance themselves from that abomination. To which the older geek got royally upset, and for good reason.

The young geek, watching TOS nowadays, sees only that a hero of SF nerdom is a womanizer, and feels disappointed that this is what people look up to. They either don’t know or don’t care that Star Trek was incredibly progressive for its time. It had perhaps the most diverse cast on television. It portrayed a socialist utopia in the thick of the cold war. It snuck in pro-feminist and anti-segregation lines. It showed the first interracial kiss on television during a time when that got them nearly kicked off the air in almost half the country.

And yeah, Kirk was a womanizer. This was also the decade of free love, where that wasn’t necessarily seen as a bad thing. Regardless, it is not acceptable behavior nowadays, and therefore Kirk must be disavowed and publicly excoriated.

In the progress of ethics, much like in the progress of science, we are where we are today only because we stand on the shoulders of giants. If we see farther, and know better what is good, than those below us, it is in large part because we stand on their progress. So while we don’t have to hold them up as moral exemplars in the current light, because they aren’t, neither should we call them moral monsters for being ahead of their time and pushing progress forward! Society progresses fast enough nowadays that the people who fought for the rights and morals we have now are still alive, and turning on them seems particularly cruel when their around to see it.

This sort of thing has impacts on the real world. It was brought to a head for me last weekend, when a con I was attending had a panel on a culture war topic. It got heated, as they tend to. A young liberal defended the SJW position in what I’ve heard was a particularly courageous manner. While I spoke to them later that day, an older white gentleman came up to praise them for their good work. This is a guy who is very obviously strongly on the side of the liberals, but the instant he came over, the circle of people I was in froze up. Tension weighed down the air. He was instantly unwelcome because he was old, and The Olds are always vile monsters from the barbaric past. He took a moment to praise the young liberal, complementing them on how well spoken they were. There was a murmur of anger, and my heart sank. This poor guy was just trying to praise her, but he didn’t know that you can’t tell a minority they are well spoken, because that’s something only a racist would say. He moved away after another minute, probably not knowing why he was getting so much hostility. He didn’t realize he never had a chance, he was judged an enemy before he’d opened his mouth.

I know it’s a cliché now, but this is just another example of how the Left eats its own. How does *anyone* feel safe in a movement that is THIS cannibalistic?

As for how things can be done better – I recently was linked to the concept of “Value Over Replacement.” If a person hadn’t existed, would the people who would have taken their place been better or worse than them? I don’t know much about the original Battlestar Galactica (the only real comparison I can think of on American TV, though I realize it was years later), but I haven’t heard anything about their progressive philosophical agenda.

This whole “destroying those who helped get us where we are” thing? Yeah, guys, let’s not do that.

Oct 262017
 

Apparently there was a Golden Age of New Atheism, wherein New Atheists were a respected ally of the Left, in good standing with the wider community. And then they managed to fail miserably, isolate all their natural allies, and now they’re hated by the Blue Tribe almost as much as the Red Tribe.

I don’t want to be a douchebag or anything, I love Scott Alexander’s work, but apparently I missed this Golden Age.

I first came out as an atheist in 1995, a good 6+ years before New Atheism became a thing. At the time there were no US Senators or Representatives that were openly atheists. The religious controlled all three branches of government, and it was understood that acknowledging one’s atheism would be a career death-sentence. Atheists were the most-despised minority in America, based on a wide variety of social metrics including “Would you consider voting for…” and “Would you allow your daughter to date…” and “Would you accept an X school teacher…” and “Would you have dinner with…”–scoring worse than every other demographic group in every region in the country. The media portrayed atheists primarily as soulless nihilists. Those on the right disliked atheist’s refusal to respect religion. Those on the left disliked atheists drawing attention to the impolite fact that God doesn’t exist, and rolled their eyes at how crass and boorish we were for not realizing we were basically farting in public.

Now there are still no open atheists in any position of power in the Federal government (one has the temerity to be “unaffiliated.” We briefly had an atheist Senator, who came out when he announced he was retiring.) Atheists only last year dropped to second-most-hated demographic, scoring above Muslims! The media portrays atheists primarily as asshole dude-bros. Those on the right dislike atheist’s refusal to respect religion. Those on the left disliked atheists drawing attention to the impolite fact that God doesn’t exist, and roll their eyes at how crass and boorish we were for not realizing we are basically farting in public, and tut about islamophobia.

Even die-hard atheists like Neil deGrass Tyson refuse to use the word “atheist” due to its long history of cultural baggage. The term “agnostic” is, for basically every practical purpose, simply an atheist who doesn’t wish to draw attention to or speak about their atheism. It is the fig-leaf that the Left has extended to non-believers that allows them to exist in polite company.

Things on the ground are better, of course. Young men have an easier time declaring their atheism nowadays–rather than working through whisper networks there is a decently thriving meme culture online where one can take solace, read about atheist thinking, and generally have a peer group. But outside of that enclave, nothing has really changed. As far as I can see, society never accepted atheists in any way. There was a bit of a fad which consisted of the learned and cultured opining on this intellectual scandal. That certainly doesn’t make the New Atheists a group that was ever in the wider Left’s good graces.

There may be other ways in which New Atheism has failed. But by the metric of Scott’s post “alienating a society that agreed with them about everything” it’s a non-question. The New Atheists were never accept. Atheists have never been welcomed, or even tolerated, by the Blue Tribe. There was no society to isolate, nothing to fumble.

The New Atheists did create a space for others to be able to say “Yeah, this is all BS, WTF?” and not feel like they are the only person in the world who sees this. I think there’s more to do, but at least they got that first step down.

Oct 192017
 

[cw: culture war crap]

Straight White Male was the default Awful Group for most of my adult life. It was the typical term of derision to describe the thoughtless bro-type we all can’t stand, and before I woke up I used it a lot too. Over the past year (maybe two?) I’ve seen it morph to Cis White Male.

I hypothesize there are three reasons for this.

I.

The first is that being Gay no longer is enough to firmly place one on the “oppressed” side of the Oppressor/Oppressed scale. It’s no longer the 50s. Everyone knows someone who’s gay. Dick Cheney supports gay rights, Donald Trump has held up the rainbow flag. The Log Cabin Republicans have been around for a long time. But, most dramatically, Milo Yiannopoulos exists.

Don’t get me wrong, Yiannopoulos is a complete douchebag. He picks on vulnerable people for audiences that love to cheer on a bully. More importantly though, he’s totally gay. He is the archetypal Straight White Male that all other Straight White Males are stereotypes of, and dammit, he isn’t straight. This decoupling of “Social Justice Virtue” from “Gay” has been building for a long time, but Yiannopoulus was the nail gun that sealed that coffin up tight.

II.

It turned out as more and more people came out that there’s a lot of ways to be gay. So many ways, in fact, that you can’t reliably tell if someone is gay or not just by observing them. Sure, there’s some stereotypical looks and behaviors. But you can’t really ever be SURE that someone is gay unless you ask them. It got to be that you couldn’t call ANYONE a Straight White Male if you didn’t know them personally (and fairly well), because that all-American quarter back or that manly oil rig worker could be completely gay. The darn genderqueer and non-binary people didn’t make things any easier–they might have high heels and nail polish and be totally straight! If you can’t quickly determine if someone is a Straight White Male or not, the term loses a lot of it’s attack power.

III.

Finally, homosexuality is no longer a good signal. A good signal is hard to fake, normally by being costly.

Homosexuality is super easy to fake. You don’t have to have sex with anyone, because it ain’t no one’s damn business who you sleep with. All those gay kids who are still in the closet and have never had sex with, or even kissed someone of the same gender–are you saying they aren’t gay? Very unwoke of you. All that one has to do to BE gay is to IDENTIFY as gay.

And identifying as gay is sooooo easy. Almost no one is on the extreme ends of the Kinsey scale. Have you (as a guy, since all Straight White Males must be Male) ever fantasized about a guy? Thought “man… I would totally sleep with Johnny Depp if given the opportunity” (or insert pretty celebrity of your choice, I’m obviously dating myself with the Depp reference)? That’s good enough to be slightly gay. Have you kissed a guy, just to try it, and didn’t retch in disgust? That’s enough to claim freedom from the yoke of “Straight White Male.” You are at least a little bit gay.

Heck, the person you’re attracted to doesn’t even have to be a male-presenting guy. There’s tons of really hot feminine guys. My first guy-crush was on Kenshin, I didn’t realize he was a guy until 5 episodes in (missed the first one where it was spelled out), and then realized I didn’t really care, cuz he’s feminine and it’s femininity I’m attracted to. So if you’re a guy, attracted to feminine people, but aren’t freaked the hell out by your feminine partner having a penis, well shit, you can claim the label of “gay” or “gayish” if you want to, and those who say otherwise are the real bigots.

People didn’t used to do this, because being openly gay was costly. It’s not anymore. Gayness is no longer a good signal because it’s broad enough of a term to encompass almost anyone who wants to claim it, and there’s no penalty for claiming it.

III.

So a replacement was needed for the “Straight” in “Straight White Male.” Fortunately, trans-visibility has become really big nowadays.

Which, first of all, thank goodness. I say this in complete seriousness. Trans rights are important, and they’ve been neglected for a long time.

But in terms of signaling and tribalism, replacing Straight with Cis was also the logical step. Being trans is much more definitive than being gay, and is pretty costly. It’s also hard to be “slightly” trans so that one can claim non-Cis status. Even being genderqueer or non-binary is fairly costly in many situations.

Also, Cis is easy to say and follows the asthetically-pleasing sound scheme of “Straight White Male.” “Cis White Male” has a similar mouth feel, possibly a better one, and can be said derogatorily very easily.

So, success. The group that is most deserving of hate is once again easily singled out, and any individual you meet can quickly and easily be placed into it (or out), with very little chance of escaping. I may not be a Straight White Male, but I’m definitely a Cis White Male, and good luck getting out of that pigeonhole. I guess it was nice to think I was out of Most Hated status for a while, even if it was illusory.

 

Yeah, yeah, I know. Change my circle of peers. I have, for the most part, but it’s still frustrating how many otherwise-good people I like that I have to keep at the margins because of this. /sigh