Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Haters hate haters, and the intolerant are intolerant of intolerance

Sometimes when talking about free speech and tolerance, someone will proudly say they're intolerant of intolerance. Sometimes when talking about hate, someone will say they hate haters. I've been that person. I thought I was clever, which made it harder to see I was wrong.

I've found a quote for repressive anti-racists:

"The political core of any movement for freedom in the society has to have the political imperative to protect free speech." —bell hooks

For repressive Democrats, here's one from Clinton's Secretary of Health and Human Services:

"You can't have a university without having free speech, even though at times it makes us terribly uncomfortable. If students are not going to hear controversial ideas on college campuses, they're not going to hear them in America. I believe it's part of their education." —Donna Shalala

For repressive socialists, an anarchist poet:

"Freedom of speech is always under attack by Fascist mentality, which exists in all parts of the world, unfortunately. —Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Refraining from silencing the people you see as enemies falls under a truth shared by all major religions and many great thinkers: love your enemy. A few quotes:

“It is easy enough to be friendly to one's friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

"Hatreds never cease through hatred in this world; through love alone they cease. This is an eternal law." —Buddha

"He whose heart is in the smallest degree set upon Goodness will dislike no one." —Confucius

"I treat those who are good with goodness, And I also treat those who are not good with goodness. Thus goodness is attained." —Lao Tzu

"The good deed and the evil deed are not alike. Repel the evil deed with one which is better, then lo!, he between whom and you there was enmity shall become as though he were a bosom friend. But none is granted it save those who are steadfast, and none is granted it save a person of great good fortune." —Qur'an 41.34-35

“Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, "Love your enemies." It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies. (from "Loving Your Enemies")” ― Martin Luther King Jr., A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

My favorite gospel is Luke's, so here's his version of Jesus's advice, Luke 6:27-36:
27“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29“Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. 30“Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. 31“Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. 32“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33“If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34“If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the sameamount. 35“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. 36“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Gayatri Spivak on silenced white men

Gayatri Spivak (1990) The Postcolonial Critic: Interviews, Strategies, Dialogues. Routledge: London, pp. 62-63:
I will have in an undergraduate class, let’s say, a young, white, male student, politically-correct, who will say: “I am only a bourgeois white male, I can’t speak.” In that situation – it’s peculiar, because I am in the position of power and their teacher and, on the other hand, I am not a bourgeois white male – I say to them: “Why not develop a certain degree of rage against the history that has written such an abject script for you that you are silenced?” Then you begin to investigate what it is that silences you, rather than take this very deterministic position – since my skin colour is this, since my sex is this, I cannot speak. I call these things, as you know, somewhat derisively, chromatism: basing everything on skin colour – “I am white, I can’t speak” – and genitalism: depending on what genitals you have, you can or cannot speak in certain situations.

From this position, then, I say you will of course not speak in the same way about the Third World material, but if you make it your task not only to learn what is going on there through language, through specific programmes of study, but also at the same time through a historical critique of your position as the investigating person, then you will see that you have earned the right to criticize, and you will be heard. When you take the position of not doing your homework – “I will not criticize because of my accident of birth, the historical accident” – that is a much more pernicious position.

In one way you take a risk to criticize, of criticizing something which is Other – something which you used to dominate. I say that you have to take a certain risk: to say “I won’t criticize” is salving your conscience, and allowing you not to do any homework. On the other hand, if you criticize having earned the right to do so, then you are indeed taking a risk and you will probably be made welcome, and can hope to be judged with respect.
via Doug Henwood

Monday, April 21, 2014

on equalism, egalitarianism, and feminism—and who's appropriating who. ETA: masculinism, too!

Someone on Reddit claimed egalitarians were "appropriating" from feminism, so I just went word nerd at the Oxford English Dictionary and found their first usages: In English, egalitarian appears in 1885 and feminism in 1895. Both words come from the French, but egalité was first there, too; Charles Fourier didn't coin feminism until 1837. So if anyone's appropriating, it's feminism.

I also checked my favorite: equalist is from 1661. The OED notes it's rare, but still, it's a fine old word, and best of all, it's short.

Dora Montefiore objected to the word feminism in 1901, but she was too late. I love her objection, so I'll quote her again, italicizing my favorite line:
"I cannot help regretting that the word “feminism” has crept into the debate. It is a word of which we have no need in England, and which we might very well have left in its native land, France, where it was coined by men to express the contemptuous lack of understanding of the Boulevard for a phase of strenuous belief on the part of some French men and women, that woman possessed other functions and aspirations outside those of sex; in a word, was a human being as well as a female. It is a lop-sided expression, and leads to lop-sided thinking, just as the term “masculinism” might do, if used in a similar connection. Where education, professions, political rights and public duties are concerned, there is no necessity to emphasise sex; we all meet on the common ground of human beings, having common human interests. In 1897, when speaking at the Women’s Congress in Brussels, I made a similar protest against the word “feminism,” suggesting that we should substitute for it “humanism,” as the advancement of humanity, and not of one sex over another, was the aim and object of the women at that time assembled in conference. The late Madame Potonié Pierre, one of the most large-minded among the French workers in the cause of equal rights for women, felt the justice of my plea, and wrote several articles in the same spirit; but the word “feminism” proved too attractive to the esprit gaulois, and it still reigns supreme in French bourgeois circles, and threatens to invade England." -Dora Montefiore, A Bundle of Fallacies
ETA: Masculinism ("Advocacy of the rights of men; adherence to or promotion of opinions, values, etc., regarded as typical of men; (more generally) anti-feminism, machismo" is from 1911. The first two citations are interesting because things didn't go the way the writers hoped:
1911 Freewoman 30 Nov. 24 "Masculinism and feminism are relative terms, and when one is strong enough to equate the other both will become merged in a common doctrine of humanism."
1916 H. Ellis Essays in War-time viii. 88 "The advocates of Woman's Rights have seldom been met by the charge that they were unjustly encroaching on the Rights of Man. Feminism has never encountered an aggressive and self-conscious Masculinism."

Saturday, April 19, 2014

pragmatists vs ideologues: on rape culture theorists and Jim C. Hines

I reject rape culture theory for the same reason RAINN does: I'm a pragmatist. I want rape to be addressed in the most effective way possible. When I'm wrong, I'm glad to be corrected because I'm not committed to an ideology that I feel obliged to defend.

When I think of people committed to a belief, I think of the Seventh Day Adventists, who were certain Jesus would return on October 22, 1844. When that didn't happen, they tweaked their beliefs and kept going. The Adventists I've met have been good people. I went to an Adventist summer school one summer when I was a boy because Dad thought it would provide a cheap vacation, and my memory is that it was fun, but the vegetarian food of the early 1960s was awful. Disagreeing with the Adventists' understanding of the world does not stop me from admiring the good things they do.

I suspect all successful ideologues retcon their faith when reality becomes too inconvenient. Rape culture theorists who are now trying to incorporate Lisak's approach are following an ancient tradition. Since rape culturists come out of identitarianism, I'll note that retconning is part of their tradition: radical feminists no longer claim all men are rapists, and few Critical Race Theorists still argue that all white people are racist.

I probably shouldn't have commented on Jim C. Hines' RAINN on Rape Culture, but he mischaracterized my beliefs and I suffer from Siwoti. A few last thoughts:

1. Perhaps the most interesting statement there is HelenS's "I’m still pissed at RAINN. What the hell problem were they trying to solve there?" The answer should be obvious. RAINN is trying to solve the problem they have always tried to solve: rape. But when effectiveness conflicts with ideology, ideologues prefer their ideology.

2. Hines spoke of my "dismissal of people’s lived experiences" without citing any examples. I think he meant I wasn't converted to believing in the validity or utility of rape culture theory. To people of faith, the damage done to them—their "lived experiences"—is tied to their faith. In 1890, some American Indians who had suffered horrible things promoted the Ghost Dance. A few decades later, some black Americans who had suffered horrible things promoted the notion that white people are devils created 6,600 years ago. Today, some anti-semites have suffered at the hands of Jews, and some white racists have suffered at the hands of black people, and they cite their "lived experiences" as proof of their beliefs. But this stays a hard truth: experience does not validate belief. When people talk to me about rape and say they have been raped, I want to cry in response. If they're in pain, I can't tell them that the belief which makes them think they understand the world is wrong. But since they want to discuss the issue, out of respect for them, all I can do is discuss it citing what I've found which seems to be true.

3. Deborah Blake said, "One woman raped is too many. One man, one child, one anyone. ONE. And until that is the number we are dealing with, I hope you will continue to raise awareness and take the side of those of us who were that one." I'm not sure who she's addressing. Earlier in the discussion, I had said (italics added), "If RAINN is right, there were 188,380 reported rapes out of a likely 470,950. So while that is 470, 950 too many, it’s far short of your 9 million." But it is very common for people of faith to assume that a rejection of their solution is a rejection of the problem. Supporters of the death penalty sometimes claim its opponents are supporting the crimes that are currently punishable by death.

Related: David Lisak on rape and rape culture

David Lisak on rape and rape culture

Jim C. Hines wrote RAINN on Rape Culture in response to my Has Jim C. Hines addressed RAINN's refutation of "rape culture"? If you haven't followed this issue at all, read  The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)'s recommendations to the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault (pdf) or, at the very least, my excerpt from it at Debunking rape culture theory, a linkfest.

The crucial figure in the discussion is David Lisak, a survivor of childhood abuse who has studied rape for decades. He seems to be the person who convinced RAINN that rape culture theory was counter-productive if you want to make people safer from rape. Until I read about his research, I had been inclined to believe RAINN's "60% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police," but now I accept Lisak's "Approximately 85% of rape victims do not report their victimization to criminal justice authorities." That's from his Rape Fact Sheet (PDF), which I highly recommend.

I had earlier accepted the theory that only about 2% of rape charges are false because while I can't accept any theory that says accusers are always right, I had assumed rape accusations were almost nearly always right. But after reading Lisak, I have to go with 8% (pdf)%.

If you want to know more about Lisak and his work, here are links from his Resources page:

Web Sites


PDF Download

SAR-Understanding the Predatory Nature of Sexual Violence.pdf | Download
SAR-False Allegations of Rape-A Critique of Kanin.pdf | Download
Why Rapists Run Free.pdf | Download
Predators-Uncomfortable Truths.pdf | Download
Repeat Rape in Undetected Rapists.pdf | Download
Interviews with Male Survivors.pdf | Download
Life Histories of Death Row Inmates.pdf | Download

Related: pragmatists vs ideologues: on rape culture theorists and Jim C. Hines

Friday, April 18, 2014

XKCD doesn't understand free speech—or the difference between legal and moral rights

The cartoon

Its mouseover text: "I can't remember where I heard this, but someone once said that defending a position by citing free speech is sort of the ultimate concession; you're saying that the most compelling thing you can say for your position is that it's not literally illegal to express."

My analysis

Panel One: This only refers to the legal right of free speech, and it's objectively wrong. Every country can arrest you for what you say. Julian Assange and Edward Snowden will happily assure you that the US government has that power, and the Pirate Party will add that you can be arrested for sharing things corporations claim through copyright, trademark, or patent law. The list of limitations to legal free speech in the US is long—see Wikipedia's United States free speech exceptions.

But the difference between the law and morality matters. I have a legal right to try to silence everyone I want to, but I have a moral right to ensure that no one is silenced, no matter how much I disagree with them.

ETA: An example of free speech that's legal, but generally considered immoral: "outing" people by sharing information they would prefer to keep private.

Panel Two: If anyone can link to anyone who says everyone should have to listen to everyone or host everyone, I'd be grateful. Otherwise, the stickman is arguing with a strawman.

Update: I got email from someone who offered this as a possible example: 
It's hard to tell too much from a tweet, but Jindal's a Republican, so I think we can safely assume that Jindal believes the marketplace should decide who gets to be on commercial TV. Since Duck Dynasty wasn't canceled, things worked out as Jindal thought they should.

Panel Three: More strawman.

Panel Four: When you've been invited to speak and then are prevented from speaking, the principle of free speech has been violated, even when it's legal. When Clark University invited Norman Finkelstein to speak, then canceled the speech in response to protesters, Sarah Wunsch of the ACLU wrote:
...the cancellation of his speech violates the basic principles of freedom of speech and academic freedom which are so fundamental to an institute of higher learning. The existence of an opportunity to speak at another time or in another location does not remedy the wrong of censorship.
...Nor may complaints from those disturbed by Finkelstein’s writings about the post-Holocaust “industry” justify a decision to prevent the lecture from taking place. Indeed, even if demonstrators came to protest against Finkelstein’s views, the obligation of a university is to protect the speaker’s right to be heard and prevent disruption of the speech by others. By censoring speech because of complaints about offensiveness or the controversial nature of the speaker, the university has essentially allowed what the courts call a “heckler’s veto” over what speech can be heard.
Panel Five: Every censor makes that argument.

Panel Six: And that's every censor's goal.

Mouseover: When you cite free speech, you are only asserting a right to speak. By definition, you cannot convince ideologues you are right, but when they have the power to silence you, you can hope they have enough respect for free speech to let you speak despite their belief you're wrong.

Note: Many fans of censorship think only governments can censor. Not true. From the ACLU’s “What is censorship?”:
Censorship, the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are “offensive,” happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others. Censorship can be carried out by the government as well as private pressure groups. Censorship by the government is unconstitutional. 
In contrast, when private individuals or groups organize boycotts against stores that sell magazines of which they disapprove, their actions are protected by the First Amendment, although they can become dangerous in the extreme. Private pressure groups, not the government, promulgated and enforced the infamous Hollywood blacklists during the McCarthy period. But these private censorship campaigns are best countered by groups and individuals speaking out and organizing in defense of the threatened expression.
ETA: Turning off comments. I completely agree that no one has an obligation to host discussion they do not want to hear. On free speech, I will always be on Voltaire's side, and I hope I'll always be on the ACLU's side.

ETA 2: It bugged me to turn off the comments, so I turned them back on.

ETA 3: Wikipedia has a nice short article on the Marketplace of ideas.

ETA 4: There are many fine comments on this post, so please skim them before adding another. In particular, I recommend Kasper Brohus Allerslev's long comment, which makes these points, among others:

"Freedom of speech is, at least to me, more an ideal than an actual right."

"Taking away a person's right to speak is not the same as not listening."

"We do not want to live in a society where opposition is quelled. We want to live in a society founded on reason. "

"When people go out of their way to punish you for your beliefs, that's an affront to the freedom of speech."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What 92% of Americans consider ideal is only possible under socialism

This is a few years old, but I happened on it again today, and was struck by this: The distribution of wealth that 92% of Americans want is impossible under capitalism, but very possible under socialism.

Here's the reality:

In case you missed it:

Monday, April 14, 2014

I just figured out how to do racial reparations!

I'm a great fan of Matt Bruenig's work, but I was disappointed with Glaring limits of the Civil Rights Act: We need to redistribute wealth. He says, "Ideally, we could work towards reparations in the form of redistributing wealth along racial lines."

In the comments, I said,
How do you redistribute along racial lines? Do you exclude the descendants of black slaveowners? And when you do the redistribution, what do you do about the white poor? Should one racial group suffering from generational poverty be helped and another ignored? In 1967, Martin Luther King said something that's still true today: "In the treatment of poverty nationally, one fact stands out: there are twice as many white poor as Negro poor in the United States. Therefore I will not dwell on the experiences of poverty that derive from racial discrimination, but will discuss the poverty that affects white and Negro alike."

I like King's solution, Universal Basic Income, for a lot of reasons. One reason is that it doesn't try to examine the many reasons different groups are poor. It cuts to the chase and eliminates poverty.
But thinking about it a bit more, I tweeted Bruenig:
So how do you implement reparations for black folks? Give money to everyone who checks "black" on the census?
He replied:
Yeah I think that would work.
I tweeted back:
Cool! End of US white majority overnight! (And I like the idea that white racists would pay for their commitment to whiteness.)
And then:
Okay, if you said people had to stick with what they put on the last census, I guess that'd work.
But there would still be the biggest problem with racial reparations: How do you justify giving nothing to the white poor? Very, very few of them are descended from people who owned slaves, and the argument that the white poor benefitted from slavery is hard to make if you know history: the US's free poor of all races competed with slave labor, and the ones who benefitted were the rich of all races.

As for the notion the free white poor got to feel superior to someone, that worked both ways. From White trash:
In 1833 Fanny Kemble, an English actress visiting Georgia, noted in her journal: "The slaves themselves entertain the very highest contempt for white servants, whom they designate as 'poor white trash'".
So I guess the title of this post is a lie. But I came closer to figuring out the "how" of racial reparations than anyone else I've noticed discussing the idea.

ETA: In the discussion, someone wanted to keep the focus on black injustice, so I asked this:
Let's say you're only interested in African American unfairness and not interested in Hispanic American, American Indian, or Poor White American unfairness. How do you set up a reparations system that only benefits black Americans? How do you justify giving money to Herman Cain instead of a homeless white veteran?

An essential point about averages

At Are Americans really jingoistic yahoos? A cautionary statistical tale, Gibby the Fifth commented, "My boss taught me another lesson about averages – always look at the range as well as the mean. To illustrate, he pointed out that the average American has one tit and one ball."

Sunday, April 13, 2014

a bad day for feminism and social work, and a fine example of fooling a mob

via Sociopath woman pushes a man off a ledge, then gets cheered by a crowd for the deed:

MTSU student jailed in assault of preacher: "A female Middle Tennessee State University student was booked for simple assault at the Rutherford County jail Tuesday after a confrontation with a visiting preacher a few hours earlier at the university. Michaela Morales, a junior social work major, according to Sidelines newspaper, faces charges after visiting preacher John McGlone fell in an altercation with Morales at MTSU. McGlone was being treated at MTMC emergency room where he was in stable condition, a hospital spokeswoman said."

MTSU Student Accused Of Assaulting Preacher includes the most important detail:
"From what we saw, we felt that she crossed the line," said Lt. Jim Fanguy, MTSU police department. "She was making comments that she was being inappropriately touched. However, the video showed otherwise."