Monday, August 13, 2018

Yes or no? Superman was the first superhero


"...like the pulps before them, comic books and comic strips contained all the elements of the superhero — the powers, the mission, the identity — but it took Siegel and Shuster to put them all together into Superman." —Peter Coogan

Yes

Superheroes owe so much to Superman that they use his name—if Superman had the name of his first imitator, Wonder Man, we would speak today of wonderheroes.

Coogan's attempt to list the defining elements is probably as good as any, so I'll expand on it:

1. The powers are an extraordinary ability. Even human superheroes like Batman are far, far better at what they do than almost anyone else.

2. The mission is a commitment to justice. The "hero" in "superhero" matters. Monsters like the Heap and the Hulk are sometimes called superheroes, but they usually do what they do out of necessity, not choice. Superheroes may wish someone else could do their jobs, but they follow the code that is Stan Lee's best line (though the idea is at least as old as the Bible): "With great power comes great responsibility."

3. The identity is a public persona that includes a distinctive name and appearance, which is separate from a private persona that lets the person pass in public without being easily recognized. Even the superheroes who don't have secret identities are best known in their superheroing roles—like other celebrities, they won't necessarily be recognized in common clothes.

No

The Oxford English Dictionary says the word was borrowed from the French and has examples of it being used as a noun before Superman's appearance in 1938:

1899   Daily Mail 29 Sept. 4/4   M. Clémenceau suddenly burst out with, ‘All the world knows that Colonel Picquart is a hero, but..if Colonel Picquart is a hero, Mathieu Dreyfus is a super-hero.’
1917   ‘Contact’ Airman's Outings 211   The super-heroes of the war.
1924   N.Y. Times 16 Dec. 28/1   It is all very well to have a super-hero in such narratives, but this man among men should occasionally show signs of being human.
1937   Thrilling Wonder Stories Aug. 120/2   The strip started off very well, but I must agree with others that it is rapidly degenerating into the juvenile antics of a musclebound superhero.

And as a compound:

1916   Harper's Weekly 11 Mar. 245/2   A super-hero bill... This was a bill to give more than their regular pensions to soldiers who had been more heroic than their duty called for.

Merriam-Webster's definition points out that the superness of a superhero only calls for superheroes to be extraordinarily good at what they do:
a fictional hero having extraordinary or superhuman powers; also an exceptionally skillful or successful person
If we use the three categories that Coogan and others cite to say Superman is the first superhero, we can eliminate many of the popular candidates.  The Scarlet Pimpernel and Robin Hood did not have costumes—most predecessors of the superhero wanted to be able to blend in rather than be recognized. Spring Heeled Jack was a villain. John Carter and Tarzan used the names they had grown up with and did not have private lives that were separate from their public ones. Mandrake was a magician—if you say he's the first superhero, you have to explain why Merlin or Circe is not.

But masked heroes like the Scarecrow (who appeared in 1915, several years before Zorro) meet the three requirements. The Lone Ranger and the Phantom both abandoned their private lives, but they still kept their identities a secret and sometimes mixed in society in street clothes.

My conclusion

It's fine to be inconsistent. If you're only talking about comic books, Superman is the first superhero. If you include newspaper comics, the Phantom is. If you include popular fiction, either the Scarecrow or Zorro is—Zorro appeared first, but in their original appearances, the Scarecrow is a less virtuous figure than Zorro. But if you're just speaking colloquially, the first superheroes are the oldest heroes of myth and legend. It's all good.

Related: Skintight costumes—why the Domino Lady may have been as important as the Phantom in the creation of Superman

ETA: While I was writing this, comments were being made on a Facebook post, Wrong on several counts, that are relevant, and since I wrote this, it's become part of the discussion there.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

On private censorship: social media sites are like printers, not publishers

A popular argument in support of social media censorship is that publishers aren’t obliged to publish anyone who submits to them. Which is true. It’s why you can run your social media site as you please and block anyone you please. “My site, my rules” applies to all publishers.

But social media sites are not publishers. They’re publishing platforms. We, the users, are the publishers. The social media sites are the presses that we use to publish our work and that of people we want to share with our followers.

Responding to someone who claimed that people who were banned from social media still had free speech because they could speak elsewhere, Frankie Gaffney said,
Social media sites are technologies, even in their particularities, since the monopolies are so absolute (eg twitter, facebook, YouTube). The comparison would be, when the printing press was invented, to tell someone they alone may not print their ideas, but they still had free speech.

Two points about private censorship by Sarah Wunsch of the ACLU

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

Monday, August 6, 2018

Skintight costumes—why the Domino Lady may have been as important as the Phantom in the creation of Superman

Historians of the superhero call the Phantom the first superhero for one reason: Early in 1936, two years before Superman's first appearance, the Phantom wore a skintight costume. He met other criteria for being a superhero, but they're much older than comics or cartoons: he used an alias and wore a mask.

A skintight costume makes sense in cartooning. The Phantom deserves to be called the first superhero. But he never wore his costume under street clothes, something that's part of the superhero tradition since Superman's debut in Action Comics #1:


But another costumed adventurer wore her skintight costume under her street clothes only a couple of months after the Phantom appeared.


From the Domino Lady's first story in the May 1936 issue of, I kid you not, Saucy Romantic Adventures:



Did Siegel or Shuster read any of the Domino Lady's stories? I don't know, but it's likely—they loved pulp adventure. Even if they didn't, the Domino Lady appears to be the first superhero who wore her costume under her street clothes.

She also may've been the first to refer to her adventuring outfit as a costume. Superman thought of his as a uniform.

Related: Yes or no? Superman was the first superhero

Possibly of interest: A discussion of early costumed heroes at Who Was First?? - Comic Book Plus Forum

Sunday, August 5, 2018

A reminder for Clinton fans: more Sanders supporters voted for Clinton in 2016 than Clinton supporters voted for Obama in 2008

I recommend reading Did enough Bernie Sanders supporters vote for Trump to cost Clinton the election?, but if you're too busy or too lazy, here are the essential bits:
Based on data from the 2008 Cooperative Campaign Analysis Project, a YouGov survey that also interviewed respondents multiple times during the campaign, 24 percent of people who supported Clinton in the primary as of March 2008 then reported voting for McCain in the general election.

An analysis of a different 2008 survey by the political scientists Michael Henderson, Sunshine Hillygus and Trevor Thompson produced a similar estimate: 25 percent. (Unsurprisingly, Clinton voters who supported McCain were more likely to have negative views of African Americans, relative to those who supported Obama.)

Thus, the 6 percent or 12 percent of Sanders supporters who may have supported Trump does not look especially large in comparison with these other examples.
And:
...it may be hard to know exactly how many Sanders-Trump voters there were, or whether they really cost Clinton the election. But it doesn’t appear that many of them were predisposed to support Clinton in the first place.
Which is why Sanders would've won.

Related: A short FAQ: Sanders would've easily beaten Trump

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Weaponizing the disabled for censorship and plastics

I've seen two examples, perhaps on the same day, of using the disabled to defend bad policies:

1. To promote language policing: The Nation Apologies for Publishing an 'Ableist' Poem - Hit & Run : Reason.com

2. To promote the plastics industry: Disability group wants pause on straw ban campaign - BBC News. Paper straws work. Yes, they can get soft if you take a long time with one. Then you get another.

If you want to comment on the second point, before you do, please read If you think banning plastic straws is a mistake.

If you think banning plastic straws is a mistake

I’m seeing three popular complaints with banning disposable plastic straws:

1. It’s not a complete solution.

Literally no one is saying that it is. Change has to start somewhere.

2. It inconveniences disabled people.

No one is talking about banning all disposable straws. Paper bendy straws are still available.

As for Starbucks offering paper straws wrapped in plastic, meh. Straw dispensers are ancient technology.

3. It’s a moralistic solution that blames the consumer instead of capitalism.

I’m a socialist, but this objection baffles me. We consume too much disposable plastic because of capitalism in general and the petrochemical industry in particular. Banning plastic straws is not a moralistic solution. It’s a systemic solution. What’s moralistic about telling capitalists they can’t have this market? By that logic, the automobile industry should not have been forced to provide seat belts.

Friday, July 27, 2018

You may use the contraction "y'all" if—

Nice people who are not Southerners sometimes want to use "y'all" and fear they can't because they're not Southerners. As someone who was born in South Carolina and raised in northern Florida, I hereby give you permission to use the contraction under these conditions:

1. You only use it as a second person plural.

2. You put the apostrophe where it belongs.

3. You don't use it to mock Southerners. Mocking Southerners for the way they speak is more than rude. It points out that you have awkward ways to say what Southerners can say simply. Isn't that so, you guys?

More:

Y'all - Wikipedia

you guys - Wiktionary

ETA: I don't remember anyone using "all y'all" in northern Florida, so I won't take a position on it, but if you're starting with y'all, probably best to leave "all y'all" to the masters. 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Nice people versus good people

Steve Brust shared this on Facebook and Twitter:
One of the least socially important things, but personally one of the saddest about the way the DNC has lurched to the right these last years, is that has dragged a lot of really good people with it.
In my responses, I suggested he was confusing good people with nice people and made a point I may expand on someday: Nice people go with the crowd. Good people don't.

I don't mean by my title to say it's impossible to be both nice and good. Most of us try to be both when we can. But when tested, many people choose niceness over goodness. You can see that in every online mobbing: nice people join the mob or give it their tacit support, while good people try to protect the mob's target, even if they disagree with what the target is supposed to have done.

ETA:

Friday, July 20, 2018

On the New Disney and the New McCarthyism

Most Disney fans will acknowledge that the old Disney was conservative and conformist and supportive of censorship, but they insist the new Disney is "progressive", a vague term that's used by the New Democrats and their heirs. There's some support for that notion in Disney to allow employees to grow beards: "They want to stay tradition-based, and they also want to be current," Koenig said. "They don't want it to become a museum of what entertainment used to be like."

Perhaps the strongest argument that the new Disney is "progressive" is its support for GLBTQ rights. However, its been decades since anyone could seriously argue that GLBTQ rights are a primarily leftish concern. That changed at least as early as 1977 with the founding of the Log Cabin Republicans. Since then, the right has done as much or more for gay rights than the left—Barry Goldwater supported having GLBTQ people serving openly in the military, and the Log Cabin Republicans ended Don't Ask, Don't Tell when Obama would not.

When people talk about the old McCarthyism, they focus on anti-communism and forget that was only one aspect of a broader agenda. McCarthyites were obsessed with middle-class values, niceness and conformity and patriotism. Censorship was their favorite tool. Though the Motion Picture Production Code already existed, it was deemed inadequate by people like Disney, who cofounded the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals in 1944. When the Red Scare bloomed, so did the moral panic: The Code of Practices for Television Broadcasters was created in 1951, followed by the Comics Code Authority in 1954.

Then the '60s and '70s shook everything up. We leftist boomers thought, as young people always do, that our changes would last. But the seeds of neoliberalism were planted in the late 1970s, and as it grew, so did a new McCarthyism, now spearheaded by Democrats like Tipper Gore who showed there was no contradiction in "progressive" values by supporting GLBTQ rights while working with the Parents Music Resource Center to censor popular entertainment.

Today, Disney is exactly what it has always been: a big business that seeks profit while promoting the contemporary form of conformity. When they became aware that James Gunn had indulged in black humor when he was younger, he had to go, no matter how strongly he repudiated his past. Black humor just isn't nice.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Why talking politics is useless and necessary, so I'll do less but won't stop

Mark Twain wrote one of my favorite explanations of people's beliefs, "Corn-pone Opinions". It probably influenced my realization that few people are swayed by reason—most of us only change our beliefs when our circumstances change and our old beliefs no longer comfort us. I say this from experience as well as observation. I didn't become a socialist until I fell into hard times, and, forced to look harder at the world around me, saw that the best form of capitalism is no different than the best form of feudalism: the poor still pay for the privileges of the rich.

So I don't expect to change anyone's mind when I talk about politics. What I hope to do is what social workers, cultists, and pimps do when they go to bus stations and look for runaways: I want to offer my solution to someone who desperately needs one. When capitalism is failing people, I want to help them find democratic socialism instead of fascism, cultism, or identitarianism.

Politics are becoming less civil every day as the contradictions of capitalism increase. It's wearing me down, so I'll try to engage less online. But I'll always remember there are people who need to know there are better ways to shape the world than many people insist, so I'll keep offering a vision of a world community that shares its wealth with everyone.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Why Russiagate looks like nothing but an attempt to deflect criticism of the DNC

For the first forty-five years of my life, I treated polls the way most people do: I cited them when they supported me and ignored them when they didn't. That changed in 2000 when the polls said Gore won in Florida and should've been President. I realized two things:

1. Almost no one lies to pollsters. Voters believe they're making the right choices and don't hesitate to say so.

2. The people who pay for polls want accurate data. If they weren't getting it, they'd stop paying pollsters.

The first problem with the Russiagate narrative is the polls and the election results were consistent. Anyone who was paying attention to sites like RealClearPolitics knew Hillary Clinton could beat Trump in the popular vote by about 2%, while Sanders could beat him more decisively.

The second problem is the polls said the main concerns of the voters were economic. Russiagate is all about whether leaking memos that exposed Podesta's and Wasserman Schultz's attempts to boost Trump and sabotage Sanders had a significant effect on the election.

There are reasons beyond the polls to question the Russiagate narrative. Ask "Who profits?", and the answer is the DNC. Focusing on Russia keeps people from asking why the DNC worked so hard to run a historically unpopular candidate.

As usual, the Democrats continue to support the actual institution that has shafted them repeatedly, the Electoral College. Nor do they offer any significant opposition to Republican efforts to make it harder for poor people to vote, perhaps because the Democratic establishment continues to put its emphasis on wealthy donors.

Yes, the Russians probably tried to influence the election. But the evidence that they succeeded is elusive. Occam's Razor says Trump is President because the DNC failed to realize that almost any other candidate, including an old Jewish socialist no one had heard of, would do better against him.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

My reasoning for "Awkward US Independence Day facts for Americans"

This morning, still a bit sleepy, I tweeted (and Facebooked):
Awkward US Independence Day facts for Americans

If we had not rebelled:

1. Slavery would've ended decades earlier without a war.

2. The average citizen's life would've been effectively the same.

3. Our median wealth would be much higher.

4. Everyone would have health care.
Cathy Young, whose writing on identity issues I admire, retweeted it. Now her most jingoistic followers are throwing hissy fits over two things:

1. I offered speculations and therefore should not have said "facts".

2. They believe that without the United States of America, the planet would be a hellhole in which the Confederacy would have seceded and perpetuated slavery. Depending on the person's beliefs, the hellhole would be controlled by the Germans or the French because the US would not have been around to save the world. Surprisingly, no one has suggested the Catholic Church as a world-controller yet, but I'm still expecting that one.

If I'd been more awake when I made the post, I probably wouldn't have said "facts", but I was thinking of these facts that support my scenario:

1. Britain abolished slavery in 1833; by 1843, slavery had ended throughout the Empire.

2. The average Canadian and American have always enjoyed comparable freedom and prosperity.

3. "In 2011, Canada had a median household wealth of $89,014 to $52,752 for the United States."

4. Canada has provided every citizen with health care for decades, and their approach is very popular with Canadians.

Here's why I think my conclusions are likely, though I grant that other scenarios are possible when playing the alternate history game:

1. The Enlightenment began very early in the 1700s. Had the American Revolution failed, there's no reason to assume that would be the end of those ideals. The USSR's collapse did not kill the dream of socialism. The pressures that burst out in revolution in other countries would not be changed—the only question there is whether a French monarchy that had not been weakened by the cost of supporting the American Revolution would be more likely to suppress a revolution at home.

2. When Britain was deciding the issue of slavery in the altered timeline, American colonies would add to both sides of the debate. There's no reason to assume the South would be more successful in that timeline than in ours.

3. If the South seceded in response to abolition, they would be even more likely to fail because they would not only face the armies of the northern colonies—they'd certainly face Canadian troops, and they might face additional forces sent by Britain.

4. But it is less likely that the South would secede, because in that timeline, they would not have any hope of being recognized as an independent nation by Britain or France.

5. Since Canada gained independence in 1867 in our history, it's likely Canada and the American colonies would have become part of the Commonwealth around then.

6. American troops would have entered World War 1 in 1914 when Canada did. With an earlier entry by more troops, World War 1 would have been shortened. Whether the Russian Revolution would have happened anyway in 1917, I leave to other historians. An earlier victory would probably end with fairer terms than the Treaty of Versailles, which strongly suggests Hitler would've never risen to power in that timeline, and so there would've been no Holocaust.

7. If you assume Hitler or another German leader went to war in the 1940s, American troops would have entered World War 2 in 1939 when Canada did. Whether that earlier entry would significantly change history depends on your other assumptions—if Russia's history stays much like it is in our world, the USSR would still deserve most of the credit for defeating Germany.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Why left-identitarians hate Martin Luther King

Just had an identitarian block me on Facebook after she insisted white men should not quote King. And I realized this, which I shared there and on Twitter:
I am often surprised by how much identitarians hate Martin Luther King. But then I remember that he opposed economic as well as social privilege, while they tend to oppose the second and hope to enjoy the first.
In a discussion about it on Twitter,  I clarified:
I get identitarian hate when I quote the King of '67. They really don't like that guy.
And after a mention of "Letter from a Birmingham Jail", I said:
It's good, but "Beyond Vietnam" is better. So is this very short piece, which begins with a rejection of identitarian logic: "Where Are We Going?"

What Harlan Ellison's haters won't tell you #2: A tiny bit about Ed Kramer

Ellison's haters accuse him of, to use one hater's phrase, "being supportive of child rape" because, like many writers, he had been friendly with Ed Kramer, a founder of Dragon Con who was exposed as a child molester. Among the insane stories told is that Ellison mortgaged his house to help pay for Kramer's defense. The truth is that Ellison did what good people do when their friends have been accused and guilt has not been established: he gave him some support:

"My assistance to Ed, on the basis of a long acquaintanceship, and in gratitude for many kindnesses shown by him, was to halp him obtain a good lawyer. Otherwise, I have had no contact with Ed Kramer, his defense, or this matter in a substantial number of years." —Harlan Ellison

Saying that makes him "supportive of child rape" is like saying people who oppose the death penalty are supportive of crimes that traditionally get the death penalty.

That these stories go around is both appalling and not surprising. F&SF fans, by definition, love a wild story even more than most people do.

What Harlan Ellison's haters won't tell you about the Connie Willis groping incident

Sunday, July 1, 2018

What Harlan Ellison's haters won't tell you about the Connie Willis groping incident

There are awful people in fandom who're taking full advantage of Harlan Ellison's death. The most obvious are going to the pages of his grieving friends and posting their take on why Ellison was a monster. The subtler ones are writing about him and saying without explanation that he groped Connie Willis.

On Facebook, Sheila Finch shared a fair account of their history:
I was at the 2005 Nebula Awards in Tempe, AZ, when Harlan was made a Grand Master. Connie Willis was (I think) Toastmaster. At some point, she made a speech about him -- and called him up to sit at her feet while she roasted him. It went over the edge, and many people felt quite uncomfortable (as did I) At the Awards ceremony itself, Harlan came up to the stage and returned the "friendly" insults. He got the better of her, I think, but both were out of line.Nobody seems to remember how this one started when they talk about Harlan's bad behaviour. I have a feeling that this back-and-forth had become something of an in-joke between them -- there's at least one clip on You Tube showing juvenile behaviour at a World Con.But it was inappropriate when celebrating Harlan's well-deserved GM.
I added this about what happened a year later, in 2006, at WorldCon:
The groping incident will probably be mischaracterized forever. They were doing a skit in which Harlan was supposed to be a baby. He tried to improv something to be funny that was a total failure. What Willis made of it, no one knows because she has not said. You would think people would honor her silence, but that’s not what humans do.

So far as I know, in a long and public life, that was the only thing he did that could be called groping. It’s odd that it’s so talked about when there are grandmasters who were infamous for groping.
To people who live in black and white worlds, context doesn't matter. Ellison was not a writer for them.

ETA: Despite her silence, I have no doubt that Willis thought Ellison had gone too far. He thought so too. That's why he apologized.

Related: A few words about Harlan Ellison

ETA 2: One of his haters insists that he denied groping her. That's based on an attempt Ellison made to clarify what happened. He said "there was the slightest touch. A shtick, a gag between friends, absolutely NO sexual content."

The video exists. You may decide for yourself whether, in going too far, he went as far as his haters insist:



Related: What Harlan Ellison's haters won't tell you #2: A tiny bit about Ed Kramer

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Zan the Jungle Boy, a forgotten public domain comic book hero of color

Zan the Jungle Boy is so obscure he doesn't have an entry yet in Public Domain Super Heroes, but based on the only story I've read, he deserves his footnote in history. He's a supporting character in "Dr. Drew the Zoo Man", a series about a detective who can talk to animals. Zan speaks in pidgin, but he's not played for laughs, and though he first shows up in a loin cloth, he wears a suit later on.

You can read a story at Public Domain HEROES: DR. DREW, THE ZOO MAN.

More info: Dr. Drew the Zoo Man

A guide to my posts on public domain superheroes of color

Friday, June 29, 2018

Niceness versus civility

The hardest thing to understand is an idea you accepted before you knew you could question it. Like most of us, I was taught to be nice while I was learning to speak. For decades, I had the vaguest idea of the differences between niceness and civility, but watching people rage at the idea we should be civil has helped me see how very different niceness and civility are, and why people who value niceness may hate civility, and why some, like me, may come to think that niceness is a refuge for hypocrites.

Niceness and civility are both forms of politeness, yet they're as different as grape juice and wine:

Nice people don't like disagreement.

Civil people enjoy civil disagreement.

Nice people think respect means being gently deferential to social superiors like parents and bosses and celebrities they admire.

Civil people think respect means treating others as equals, no matter how different their circumstances or views.

Nice people divide the world between nice people and mean people. They are nice to nice people, but since they believe mean people have rejected niceness, they feel free to treat mean people rudely.

Civil people divide the world between people who act civilly and people who act rudely. Civil people are nice to people who act nicely and civil to everyone else.

The nice person's impulse to defer can make them respond nicely to something mean. Then they regret it and say something like "I don't know why I stepped aside" or "why I didn't slap him", and their friends assure them "it's because you're too nice." "Too nice" is a gentle rebuke that nice people use to remind each other that sometimes nice people must be rude for two reasons: a nice person's rudeness tells a mean person that they are not being nice, and it tells other nice people that the nice person is defending niceness.

At its most extreme, the belief that niceness does not need to be shown to mean people results in something many nice people will deny: mobs often consist of nice people. The jurors in the Salem Witch Trials were thought nice by their neighbors, as were the people who blacklisted suspected socialists during the Red Scare, as are the people who join in mobbing online and off.

The civil person's impulse to treat everyone as an equal can inspire nice people to take offense when they think a mean person is being treated with insufficient contempt or a superior is being treated with insufficient deference. The Quakers are a famous example of the latter: their insistence on politely treating nobles as equals made nice people think Quakers were not nice—which was true. Quakers were not nice. They were civil. They may've seen the difference between civility and niceness in the Bible. Luke 6:32-33 points to it:
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.
Many of history's worst monsters were nice—Hitler's secretary, Traudl Junge, said he was "a pleasant boss and a fatherly friend". Niceness is called a virtue, but it shouldn't be—responding nicely to nice treatment is a trait we share with many species. The true virtue is civility, which calls for overcoming our tribal desires for vengeance and treating all others as full members of the human community.

PS. If you think you cannot protest injustice and be civil, look to the example of the civil rights heroes.

ETA:

Another difference: Nice people think nice people don't lie, so they believe nice people who accuse others. Civil people think accusations should be examined thoroughly before deciding guilt.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

A few words about Harlan Ellison

I shared this on Facebook and Twitter:
What we should learn from our heroes:

1. Anyone can be great who refuses to conform.

2. Anyone who refuses to conform will be hated and loved.

3. Our flaws only make our accomplishments greater.

RIP, Harlan Ellison.
But I'll add a bit more here:

Cory Doctorow has a nicely personal write-up that omits two things that should be included when weighing his flaws and virtues:

He was so committed to civil rights that he was part of the Selma March:



He was so committed to the Equal Rights Amendment that when Arizona refused to ratify it and he had already accepted the Guest of Honor spot at a World Con in Phoenix, he went to extraordinary lengths to prevent the state from making a penny off his presence: Fancyclopedia 3: Gary Farber's Iguanacon Reminiscence.

I can't say I knew Harlan, but I'll never forget that one of my childhood heroes drove Emma and me home from the airport once. He drove like he lived: fearlessly.

ETA: What Harlan Ellison's haters won't tell you about the Connie Willis groping incident

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Three reasons the left should learn from the civil rights movement and reclaim civility

Opponents of civility do not understand it. Civility is not niceness or etiquette or deference or loving your enemies. It is only the most formal form of politeness. It calls for treating others as your equals when you think they are not. It is loved by diplomats and hated by people who love war. Its purpose is not to prevent hard discussions—it’s to enable them.

Historically, the left and right embraced civility for one reason: it's effective. The civil rights workers of the '50s and '60s were always civil when they engaged in civil disobedience because they knew three things the modern left has forgotten:

1. Civility lets you speak with the people you need to convince. Martin Luther King said, "We will not obey unjust laws or submit to unjust practices. We will do this peacefully, openly, cheerfully because our aim is to persuade."

2. Civility makes your side look good and the other bad. The heroes of the civil rights movement did workshops before engaging in civil disobedience to help protesters stay civil under the worst provocation:
The key to the sit-in is non-violence, but it takes a tough inner fiber neither to flinch nor retaliate when, occasionally, hooligans pick on the sitters-in to discourage them or provoke them into some violent act. Fearing the stress on sensibilities and temper to which a sit-in could be subjected, the high school and college students of Petersburg, Va. studied at a unique but punishing extracurricular school before they attempted sitting-in.

In the course, which they ironically call "social drama," student are subjected to a full repertory of humiliation and minor abuse. These include smoke-blowing, hair-pulling, chair-jostling, coffee-spilling, hitting with wadded newspaper, along with such epithets as "dirty nigger" and "black bitch." Anyone who gets mad flunks.
3. Civility is popular. In the recent example of a business owner expelling a Republican, "72 percent say it is wrong to eject someone from a restaurant for their political views."

Defending incivility, angry leftists say, “But Trump's not civil!” That's true. It's part of the reason he was the most unpopular candidate ever run by a major party, and he only managed to squeak through the Electoral College because the Democrats chose to run the second most unpopular candidate. His incivility is an excellent reason not to emulate him.

Bernie Sanders is the country's most popular politician. This principle is one reason why:
"Let's treat each other civilly. Let's treat each other respectfully and let's not try to demonize people who may have disagreements with us." —Bernie Sanders
If you have to vent, vent in private with friends. In public, keep your eyes on the prize.


More:

Niceness versus civility

Afterthoughts:

Here's Malcolm X pointing out that you can respect people and oppose them too:

"Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery." —Malcolm X

The American Heritage Dictionary makes a useful distinction:
Civil often suggests the barest observance of accepted social usages, as in the avoidance of rudeness: "Mr. Bingley was unaffectedly civil in his answer, and forced his younger sister to be civil also, and say what the occasion required" (Jane Austen)
An example of feminists doing more damage to their cause than any antifeminist could: Feminist Cringe.

Considering Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'Beyond Vietnam' - The Institute for Civility in Goverment: "Beyond Vietnam: A time to Break the Silence" is not the speech by Martin Luther King Jr. we remember. But if we're interested in civility, we should."

Thursday, June 21, 2018

On comics panels within scenes—especially for 3d comics artists

Comic artists can learn a great deal by studying movie-making, but there are things that don't apply. In particular, a shot in a movie scene has different rules than a panel in a comics scene. The shot must convince us that we're still in the same scene, so some continuity is necessary—if nothing else, the lighting should stay consistent, and so should the color of the background.

But in comics, you can often get away with no background at all, or a background that consists of visual effects that aren't meant to be interpreted literally—effects like speed lines are symbolic representations of motion and have nothing to do with where the reader assumes a scene is set. Once a comic artist has established the location of a scene, the reader will assume anything that follows is happening in the same place until something indicates that the story has moved to a new location.

Remembering this is especially useful for 3d artists because the medium makes it too easy to have complex backgrounds in every panel. Study the old masters of comics storytelling, and you'll find they did their best to put no more than necessary in a panel. Additional detail may seem realistic, but it only complicates a panel and slows down the reader.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

On the Hidden Figures movie, and the inadequacy of the white savior/magical Negro distinction

Finally saw Hidden Figures, a movie I meant to see on opening day and just kept running into reasons to put off.

The quick take: Great movie. If you care about space flight or civil rights, see it. The casting is perfect, the directing is solid, the script is quietly competent.

But what I want to talk about is a moment that choked me up for a long minute after I asked Emma to pause the film, the "passing the chalk" shot when the white administrator gives the chalk to the main character so she can show everyone what she can do.

That shot is the moment that every civil rights struggle in the US results in: first rich white men gave the vote to poor white men, then white men gave the vote to black men, then men gave the vote to women, then straight people gave the right to marry to GLBTQ people. There has always come a time when the people who had full rights under the law were convinced to share those rights even though sharing weakened their power. This is the reason I continue to have hope for my species.

Some people say Costner's character is a white savior, but it makes as much sense to say he's a magical Negro: he's a supporting character whose purpose is to help the main characters. Supporting characters never have room to be fully realized: all we know about Costner's is that he claims to have a wife, but we never see him at home, so the wife could be imaginary or his name for a male lover, or anything the viewer cares to assume, because Costner's character's only purpose is to support the star. He does an excellent job, managing to be both gruff and understated simultaneously, but what's noticeable about his performance is no different than what's noticeable about traditional "magical Negro" performances: the actors take simple parts and make them memorable, even though they have less to do than the stars.

Hidden Figures is not a profound movie. It is better than that: it is an honest movie that deserves its success.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The medical form asked if I was being insulted or mocked

I filled out a questionnaire at the doctor's today—I went because I seem to be losing my hearing in one ear—and quickly realized the form was meant to find out if people needed help and were hesitant to ask for it. One of the questions was about whether you get insulted or mocked. There wasn't an option for "Yes, I talk about politics on the internet", so I checked no.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Monday, May 28, 2018

A little about Warpship Victoria

I'll be posting a web comic, Warpship Victoria, on this blog, starting tomorrow. It launches with the complete first scene in the hope that'll make you return for more. After that, I'll share a page or two a day for several weeks, and then I may commit to a less frequent schedule.

If this sounds familiar, it's because I started the story for my own amusement on another blog. Since it was only for fun, I didn't plan ahead. As usual when I don't plan ahead, I came to a point where I didn't know what happened next and quit.

But I like the characters and the concept, so I sat down recently and wrote the full script. If you saw the earlier version, you may notice that I've revised some things.

Welcome aboard the Warpship Victoria!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Triumphant Return of the Red Marvel, a short story by Will Shetterly

The Triumphant Return of the Red Marvel

by Will Shetterly


“I am sorry,” the woman said, as he expected and feared she would. “The shelter is full.”

He nodded to reassure her. She was a kind woman. She was as much a prisoner in this world as he. “There are other places,” he lied, and he turned, knowing he could not find any place to take him in tonight.

“Wait,” she said, and handed him a card. “Try here.”

“The cathedral?”

“They’ve got cots and blankets. On such a cold night—”

He chuckled, though he was not sure if he did that for her or himself. “You call this cold? In Minnesota, we would cut a hole in the ice and jump in just to cool off on such a pleasant evening.”

She smiled, making him feel young again. He wished he could tell her about the time he had fought the Skyscraper Men, constantly retreating northward until they froze within yards of the North Pole, but he knew she thought he was an addled old man, and he did not want her to worry even more about him.

She said, “I wish someone could drive you—”

“If—” he said, starting to ask if a bed was being held in reserve in case a woman or a child needed it, and whether he could sleep there if he promised to leave it the moment anyone showed.

“Yes?”

“No, it’s good.” He smiled despite his weariness and the old pain in his hip. If there was a way he could stay, she would have told him. He was so tired, and the night was so cold, but he would not beg for a place that someone weaker might need. Sometimes he wondered if his nemesis had a way to watch him here. If so, the Ticker Tape Man would know that he might trap him, but he could not crush his spirit.

Stepping back into the night, he thought, Chicago’s ice demons are as formidable as any the Mad Mogul sent against me. The cathedral was two miles away. In the universe where he belonged, he could have flown that far in the time it took a child to cry, “Help!”

The wind was behind him. That was a mercy. He did not know how cold it was. That was another mercy. What more could anyone want than two mercies? He squeezed his fists together in his mittens, plunged them into the pockets of his filthy coat, and began to march. He had once hiked halfway around the Burning Planet to reach a Transdimensional Taxi Stop. Walking a few blocks through a bitter Illinois night should be easy.

With each step, his hands and his feet grew more numb, and his hip hurt more. He could bear that. What hurt most was what his hip reminded him of, the night in the car with his wife and his dog beside him, and his pregnant daughter and her husband in the front seat. He knew what his enemy based the false memory on. When the Comrades of Justice—he and the Blue Amazon and Laika the CosmoDog and Universal Girl and Mr. Sandman—were returning from Jupiter in Mr. Sandman’s Dream Mobile, a comet sent by the Tyrannosaur Tycoon had crashed into them. But in the true world, he and Laika had flown the Dream Mobile home, and then he and the Comrades had defeated the Tycoon once again. In this false world of his foe’s making, the Corolla holding everyone he loved had been hit by a drunken driver, and he alone survived.

He did not count the blocks as he trudged down the cold, empty streets, so he did not know how far he had gone when he slipped and fell. He lay on the icy sidewalk for a long moment, assessing his pain and wondering if he should sleep there. When Queen Kapital froze him solid for a week, he had thawed as easily as waking from a nap.

But without his powers, frostbite was inevitable. Once the Purple Plutocrat had dropped a mountain on top of him, and even he had doubted that he could rise until the sound of a baby crying for aid had made him do what he must. Now he could hear nothing but the wind. Without another person’s need to inspire him, standing was harder, but still he stood and walked on.

He had never thought he was a hero. With great power, who wouldn’t have captured Hitler and destroyed his army on the day he invaded Poland? Who wouldn’t have defended the democracies in Iran and Guatemala in the ‘50s? Who wouldn’t have ended the blockade of Cuba and freed the people of Vietnam in the ‘60s? Who wouldn’t have stopped the massacres of the Timorese in the ‘70s? Who wouldn’t have helped the Afghans defeat religious terrorists or protected the Salvadorans from the Contras in the ‘80s? Who wouldn’t have made a world where wealth was shared and no one suffered?

He heard a siren’s approach and stopped. The RoboThugs of the Iron Imperialist had made that same shrill sound to terrify the people, but this was only a police car on a late-night call. He considered waving and asking if he could ride with them. Even a moment in the back of a warm car would revive him. If he was very lucky, they would let him sleep in a cell. But if he was very unlucky, they would insult him and beat him and laugh as they left him. The cold creeping through his body told him to take the risk.

He waved, but the car did not slow as it raced by. Perhaps they never saw him. He hoped their siren meant someone would get help tonight.

He made himself walk another block. Did the numbness in his legs make the pain in his hip worse? Passing an alley, he saw a dumpster and hesitated. Maybe there would be a tarp or a blanket inside, something he could wrap around himself as he walked.

But when he pushed the top open, he only saw garbage bags and flattened cardboard boxes. He sighed, looked again at the empty street, and knew he needed to rest. How many times had he fought the Martian Meritocrat and won after resting and returning to fight again? There was no shame in resting. Taking time to restore your strength was how you won.

His arms and legs were so weak that he feared they would fail him, but he pushed himself as hard as he had when the whole Earth depended on him, and he tumbled into the dumpster. It did not smell. That was another mercy, his third of the evening. He smiled as he burrowed under the cardboard. He was making a den, a tiny version of his Subsea Retreat, a quiet place surrounded by cold where he could prepare for the next battle to save the people of the planet he loved most.

Was the Ticker Tape Man watching him now? This was not the greatest indignity he had suffered on this cruel mirror Earth. “You will never win,” he whispered. “Never.”

He was close to sleep when he heard voices nearby. He could call for help, but he did not know if he wanted it. He had slept through many cold nights in worse places. He would sleep through another.

Then he heard one voice clearly.

“Red Marvel!” she called. “You are needed!”

His strength returned, filling his body with a warmth that was almost more painful than the cold. He flexed his limbs, and the dumpster exploded away from him, and his filthy clothes fell in tatters as he flew upward in his red and gold uniform, and the Dream Mobile was speeding down from the sky with Mr. Sandman at the wheel, and Universal Girl was beside him, and the Blue Amazon was smiling and crying as she reached out for him, and speeding ahead of the others, flying into his arms to lick his face, came Laika the CosmoDog.


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Two socialist implications of "Render unto Caesar" and the odd logic that God thinks you can keep your wealth if you don't want to share

Capitalist Christians say we should not make laws forcing them to share their wealth because God wants sharing to be voluntary. They seem to think being required to do what the Bible recommends means they don't have to do it. By their logic, we should not have laws about murder or theft—we should just wait until murderers and thieves feel like stopping.

The Bible's filled with inconvenient passages for capitalists, like "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's." It has two possible interpretations:

1. Pay your taxes—material things belong to the government.

2. Don't pay your taxes—everything belongs to God and the children of God.

Capitalists who think it's the first should pay their taxes without complaint, and then they should give half of what they have to the poor. Call that the Way of John the Baptist. It's what Zacchaeus practiced and Jesus praised.

Capitalists who think it's the second should follow Jesus's advice to sell all they have and give the money to the poor. Call that the Way of Jesus. If you have nothing that belongs to Caesar, you have no need to pay him.

There is a third option, of course. Call that the Way of the Hypocrite.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

On Dr. Strange's choice and the paradox at the end of the Avengers: Infinity War

Warning: spoilery AF.

I was annoyed with two things at the end of Infinity War, but I now think the Russo Brothers played fair, though they may have created a paradox they did not see.

1. Dr. Strange choosing to surrender his stone looks like he's choosing to surrender.

2. Killing off franchise characters who we know will return suggests the next movie will undo everything in this one, which is a writing trick that's just as cheap as learning something was a dream sequence, a hallucination, or anything else that creates a story without consequences.

But here's what I think is going on:

Using the Eye of Agamotto, aka the Time Stone, Dr. Strange saw only one way to defeat Thanos: By letting Thanos win. When that happens, Fury will summon Captain Marvel, and with her help, the Avengers will defeat Thanos and undo what he did.

But there's a problem with that: it suggests that no matter what the Avengers do, they will win, because no matter how they lose, Fury will summon Captain Marvel and they'll win.

I see two ways to undo this:

1. Establish that something the Avengers did inspired Fury to call Captain Marvel.

2. Convince us that even with Captain Marvel, the Avengers are sure to lose.

The problem with #2 is it follows Fury's decision to call Captain Marvel—the only way we can be completely convinced that the Avengers might lose will be if they do lose. So long as they win, winning seems to follow inevitably from Thanos's victory. Which is why, artistically, the first choice would be more satisfying.

Ah, well. It's a minor quibble. I'm sure I'll like the sequel, even if it does suffer from the sort of paradox that time travel stories often generate.

ETA: As for making this movie matter when the Avengers finally win, the solution is simple: someone has to die to undo what Thanos did. I think we know who that will be.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

On trolls, free speech, and private censorship

I blocked someone on Facebook today, something I almost never do. I said in the comments at Useful data, but it begs a question:
Like many trolls, he thinks he has a right to say anything he wants anywhere he wants. I'm always a little surprised when believers in property act that way--it at least makes sense when anarchists do, even though they're being bad anarchists who fail to respect their peers.
In this case, the troll was being disrespectful to everyone he disagreed with. When he continued after I shared Respect everyone: the wisdom of St. Peter and Malcolm X, I felt I'd given him fair warning and sent him into the ether.

Free speech gives us the right to speak in public spaces, and in our own spaces, and in spaces where we've been invited to speak. Censors will happily try to limit our right in all three, but it's the third that most often causes problems--censors think invitations can be rescinded at whim. They fail to understand the obligations of a host. Good people do not lightly withdraw invitations. So long as speakers stick to the subjects they've been invited to speak on and behave in the ways speakers in those places are expected to behave, they should be free to speak. People who don't want to listen are free to go elsewhere. If they prefer to protest speakers, they should remember that free speech gives them the right to protest in ways that do not infringe on the speakers' right to speak.

But if invited speakers depart from the subject they were invited to speak on or behave in ways speakers in those places are not expected to behave, they are breaking the terms of their invitations and may be ejected from private spaces if their hosts choose.

Which is why I feel sad but not hypocritical when I block trolls.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Class Trumps Race — Nine examples

Nine facts you will not hear from race reductionists:

9. Black and white women from the same economic background do equally well economically.


From The massive new study on race and economic mobility in America, explained:

...conditional on their parents’ income, black women actually outperform white women in terms of individual earnings. ...the fact that fewer black women grow up in affluent families accounts for the ongoing inequality between white and black women’s wages. Black and white women born into equivalently wealthy families enjoy basically the same economic outcomes.
8. Black and white men from the same economic background do equally well economically when they grow up in neighborhoods with low poverty rates.

From  Sons of Rich Black Families Fare No Better Than Sons of Working-Class Whites:

The authors, including the Stanford economist Raj Chetty and two census researchers, Maggie R. Jones and Sonya R. Porter, tried to identify neighborhoods where poor black boys do well, and as well as whites. 
“The problem,” Mr. Chetty said, “is that there are essentially no such neighborhoods in America.” 
The few neighborhoods that met this standard were in areas that showed less discrimination in surveys and tests of racial bias. They mostly had low poverty rates. And, intriguingly, these pockets — including parts of the Maryland suburbs of Washington, and corners of Queens and the Bronx — were the places where many lower-income black children had fathers at home. Poor black boys did well in such places, whether their own fathers were present or not.
I italicized the last point because race reductionists miss it: The fact that poor black boys do well in places with low poverty rates says the problem is poverty, not race.

7. Poor white and black Americans are equally likely to be killed by the police, and richer white and black Americans are equally unlikely to be killed by the police.


US police primarily kill poor people, and in the US the ratio of white and black people in poverty and killed by the police is the same: two to one. For more details, see my linkfest at Why #BlackLivesMatter should be #PoorLivesMatter—now with graphics.


If you only want to read two articles on police killings in the US:


Surprising New Evidence Shows Bias in Police Use of Force but Not in Shootings


To end police violence, we have to end poverty


6. Family income is a better predictor of children’s success in school than race.


From When Class Became More Important to a Child's Education Than Race:

According to a 2011 research study by Stanford sociologist Sean Reardon, the test-score gap between the children of the poor (in the 10th percentile of income) and the children of the wealthy (in the 90th percentile) has expanded by as much as 40 percent and is now more than 50 percent larger than the black-white achievement gap--a reversal of the trend 50 years ago.
Also recommended: No Rich Child Left Behind

5. In health, income has greater impact than race:

...even though Blacks have higher rates of disease than Whites, “these differences are dwarfed by the disparities identified between high- and low-income populations within each racial/ethnic group,” the report said.
Also:

Socioeconomic Factors Trump Race and Geography for Odds of Living to Old Age - Observations - Scientific American Blog Network:

By studying survival beyond 70 on a county-by-county basis, a team of researchers found that a combination of social factors, such as education, marital status and income, were much more predictive than race or geography alone.
The stunning — and expanding — gap in life expectancy between the rich and the poor

4. White prisoners share one thing with black and Hispanic prisoners: poverty.


From “The Crime of Being Poor”:

 Most prisoners report incomes of less than $8,000 a year in the year prior to coming to prison. A majority were unemployed at the time of their arrest.
From “The rich get richer and the poor get prison”:
Among those entering prison in 1991, about 70 percent earned less than $15,000 a year when they were arrested, and 45 percent didn’t have a full-time job. One in four prisoners is mentally ill, and 64 percent never graduated from high school.
From New Report Finds Class Is a More Potent Predictor of Incarceration Than Race. But Racism Drives It.:
His research found that “while class has a large and statistically significant effect on the first three outcomes, race — once one controls for class — does not.” In the fourth category, whether a man has spent more than a year in jail or prison, he found that race does have a significant impact.
3. In Climbing Income Ladder, Location Matters:
Regions with larger black populations had lower upward-mobility rates. But the researchers’ analysis suggested that this was not primarily because of their race. Both white and black residents of Atlanta have low upward mobility, for instance.
and Not here, surely?:
Virtually all of the 20 poorest counties in America, in terms of wages, are on the eastern flank of the Rockies or on the western Great Plains.... The area does include several pockets of wretched Native American poverty, but in most areas the poor are as white as a prairie snowstorm.
2. Class Trumps Race When It Comes To Internet Access

1. Class Now Trumps Race as the Great Divide in America:

The class gap over the last 20 years in unmarried births, controlling for race, has doubled, and the racial gap, controlling for class, has been cut in half. Twenty years ago the racial gap was the dominant gap in unmarried births -- and now the class gap is by far.

Race reductionists often say socialists are class reductionists. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor answers that in Race, class and Marxism:

To claim, as Marxists do, that racism is a product of capitalism is not to deny or diminish its importance or impact in American society. It is simply to explain its origins and the reasons for its perpetuation. Many on the left today talk about class as if it is one of many oppressions, often describing it as "classism." What people are really referring to as "classism" is elitism or snobbery, and not the fundamental organization of society under capitalism.
Related: Boots Riley explains why class trumps race, plus some "place not race" links

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The best thing Robert E. Lee ever said, and how he's like modern liberals

"So far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I have rejoiced that slavery is abolished. I believe it will be great for the interests of the south. So fully am I satisfied with this, as regards Virginia especially, that I would cheerfully have lost all I have lost by the war, and have suffered all I have suffered, to have this object attained." -Robert E. Lee (Statement to John Leyburn (1 May 1870), as quoted in R. E. Lee: A Biography (1934) by Douglas Southall Freeman)

Lee was a typical slaveowner of his day. He was not an extremist for or against slavery. As his famous letter of 1856 makes clear, he believed in gradual emancipation, much like today's liberals who defend capitalism—he wanted changes that would not affect the privileges that come with wealth. But based on this quote, when it was clear change had come, he accepted it.

His 1856 letter includes a sentiment that's shared by capitalists today: "Is it not strange that the descendants of those pilgrim fathers who crossed the Atlantic to preserve their own freedom of opinion, have always proved themselves intolerant of the spiritual liberty of others." Every exploiter believes freedom is the freedom to exploit.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Why "intersectionality" is identity reductionism

People who cite "intersectionality" claim socialists are class reductionists. In theory, that makes sense—the names say socialism is only about class, while intersectionality is about every form of social identity.

But if you think names tell the whole truth, you think Delicious Apples are delicious and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is democratic.

Kimberlé Crenshaw coined "intersectionality" to connect two reductionist theories that liberals loved, third wave feminism and the antiracism that comes from Derrick Bell, who rejected the anticapitalism of King and Malcolm X. People concerned primarily with other social identities—most notably, sexual orientation and disability—quickly adopted and expanded the intersectional model. The result was identity reductionism. The intersectionalist's goal is social equality, not economic justice. Intersectionalists want people of all identities to be respected. They believe that in a fair system, all levels of society are proportionate in terms of race, gender, and every other social identity.

When intersectionalists realized class could not be ignored, they forced it into their model by treating class as a social rather than an economic identity. But, as others have noted, the goal for the poor is not respect, and they do not dream of a poverty that is perfectly proportionate in terms of social identity. They dream of an end to their identity as poor people.

Two examples of identity reductionism that I've often written about, and then some recent examples from Facebook:

1. If you only consider gender, women make less money than men. If you also consider class, you notice that women do more low-paying work than men, but when men and women do the same work and have the same work experience, they are paid the same. When men and women are paid the same for the same work, the problem is not sexism.

2. If you only consider race, black people are more likely to be killed by the police than white people. If you also consider class, you notice that the racial statistics of poverty and police killing in the US are the same for white and black people because most police victims are poor. When black and white people of the same class are treated the same, the problem is not racism.

Of course neither of these facts means the problems of racism or sexism are over. They only show how identity reductionism hides the role of capitalism in the treatment of women and people of color. Real problems of sexism and racism remain: Though black people are not more likely to be killed than white people of the same class, they are more likely to be beaten by the police, and though women get equal pay for equal work, the US makes life harder for working mothers by doing little to help them with child care. While black and white women from the same economic background do equally well in life, black and white boys only do equally well in neighborhoods with low poverty rates. Racism and sexism are still with us, and socialists, as always, are still concerned with them—after all, feminism got its name from the socialist Charles Fourier, and the most famous opponent of racism was the democratic socialist Martin Luther King.

Intersectionalists love intersectionality because the term makes their simplistic understanding of power sound profound. Kimberlé Crenshaw was far from the first to notice that in a racist and sexist system, life is hardest for black women. Sojourner Truth knew it in 1851. Someone undoubtedly saw it in the 17th century when race was invented.

Because intersectionality is an ideology without a foundation, intersectionalists are especially susceptible to cognitive dissonance. Lashing out in anger keeps them from confronting the contradictions in their beliefs. Though I know that, I'm still surprised when it happens over things that seem trivial to me. The most recent example: I was accused of being a racist after I made a Facebook post linking to Did Black People Own Slaves? by Henry Louis Gates, a black writer who I respect enormously despite his neoliberal politics.

As I often do, I made the post without a note saying why I was sharing it. My identitarian followers found that troubling. I'll focus on two comments they left. Tyler Tork said,
...past experience with Will leads us to expect that he intends some racist point that he’s not actually stating, and people are tired of hearing it.
The idea that linking to a black man writing about historical facts has a "racist point" only makes sense to people who are offended by historical facts. The objection can only be made by people whose ideology requires them to deny facts. My "racist point" was the same as the author's: In the Old South, a few rich black people owned many slaves, just as rich white people did. For identitarians, that fact can only be rationalized as an exception to the rules they understand, as this interchange with Paul Anderson illustrates. He said:
Capitalism, and slavery, and racism, are systems. No insitution is likely to be without exceptions. So what?
I answered,
Institutions do not have exceptions if you understand them. Under Jim Crow, there were no exceptions for black people. Under capitalism, there are no exceptions for poor people. Under slavery, there were no exceptions for slaves.
Paul could not grasp that. The identitarians' reductionist rule is "black people were mostly slaves," and therefore rich black people must be exceptions. But if your understanding includes capitalism, the apparent exceptions disappear. The United States was not created to be a racist nation. It was created to be a capitalist nation that allowed slavery. For a free person of any race to own slaves was not an exception. It was simply how the system worked.

If "intersectionality" meant what its name claims, its believers would never have to talk of exceptions. They would see that when capitalism and racism intersect, the system will not have contradictions: Capitalism allowed for rich black slaveowners, and the racism that grew out of slavery meant freed black people had fewer resources and opportunities than most white people, so there were proportionally fewer rich black slaveowners than rich white ones.

I could say more about the simplistic vision of identity reductionists, but Adolph Reed covered them well when writing of race reductionists, so I'll end with a link to his Antiracism: vague politics about a nearly indescribable thing.

My apologies to identitarians like Tyler who think white people should not link to black writers who disgree with intersectionality.