Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Two useful studies found most Americans of all races reject "Political Correctness"

Large Majorities Dislike Political Correctness - The Atlantic

In 'political correctness' debate, most Americans think too many people are easily offended | Pew Research Center

Some people say the studies are not meaningful because the term is not precisely defined, but the term has been around for decades. There is a consensus on its meaning. While people may disagree on a few examples, this is clear: Americans don't like word-policing.

And further, most Americans realize that politically correct does not refer to good manners or civility—those who think they're the word police rarely show good manners or behave civilly.

Did I gaslight an identitarian friend? or To Crusaders, God's deniers are Satan's liars

I'm fairly tolerant of political disagreement, so long as you're not hurting anyone and not in a position to change the law, but I've lost a few identitarian friends over the years because their beliefs require constant validation. Believers in secular religions, whether theistic or atheistic, need to stay in the company of fellow believers.

I don't mean to sound glib—I miss the people I thought they were. And I don't mean to suggest they're bad people for demanding conformity or silence.  Many people do. They think that if they occasionally have to burn a witch to save the group, it's only hard on the witch.

At the time, that may be true. But years after the Salem witch trials, a judge and several jurors apologized for being "under the power of a strong and general delusion, utterly unacquainted with and not experienced in matters of that nature". The jurors' apology gives me hope for my species, even though it saved no lives. But so far as I know, some jurors never realized they were wrong. Belief systems have powerful ways to protect themselves.* We are, after all, rationalizing animals.

Which is why my former friend accused me of gaslighting when I offered facts that didn't fit his preconceptions. His charge made me see that "gaslighting" needs two definitions. The first: someone is trying to make you doubt your sanity by lying to you. The second: you declare someone a liar to keep from doubting yourself. The mental health industry cares for a great many people who are sure they're sane and being gaslit.

* See “My-side bias” makes it difficult for us to see the logic in arguments we disagree with

Surprisingly relevant: Americans Strongly Dislike PC Culture

Monday, October 8, 2018

Orwell on virtue-signalling and toothpaste-sellers

John Halle shared this on Facebook:
Here's the beginning of Orwell's review of a forgotten book by a self-described supporter of Indian independence which both defines and describes virtue signaling in something like a pure form. Unfortunately, it's not available as text so can only post an image from google books. It's enough to give an idea-which is that even back then, the same tendencies being discussed above were apparent to Orwell and, evidently, prevalent, in his opinion at least.

more here:
and here:
key passage: "This is just the mistake a toothpaste advertiser would not make. But then the toothpaste advertiser is trying to sell toothpaste and not get his own back on that Blimp who turned him out of a first-class carriage fifteen years ago."  
Bottom line: much of what passes for politics is not in that politics, by definition involves convincing others in order to change their views and behavior. But it is clear from both the content and tone of the passages such as the above that that is *not* the intention. Thus, it must have a different objective-and that's where the term "virtue signaling" comes in and is useful. 
I had always thought that virtue-signaling was something one did for others, so the community would accept you and the mob would not make you its next victim. But as Orwell explains it, it's as much or more something you do for yourself, to tell yourself you are a good person though you know you have lost. All believers in a Lost Cause act this way, and their fellow believers appreciate it.

I recommend the discussion that follows this at John's post.

Friday, October 5, 2018

The heart of my universalism

"I am human, I consider nothing human alien to me." —Terence the Playwright, originally a slave from Roman Africa, but whose race no one knows because race didn't matter then.

When I shared that on Facebook, someone commented, “Really? Where does barbarian derive from?“ I replied:
Barbarian comes from a Greek word that meant “people who sound like they’re saying bar-bar”. It’s about culture, not race.

It’s why the story of the tower of Babel is about people being divided by language, not race.

It’s why the New Testament says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female” and does not mention race.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Was Mark Twain the first to speak of white privilege?

From Following the Equator:
January 30. What a spectacle the railway station was, at train-time! It was a very large station, yet when we arrived it seemed as if the whole world was present—half of it inside, the other half outside, and both halves, bearing mountainous head-loads of bedding and other freight, trying simultaneously to pass each other, in opposing floods, in one narrow door. These opposing floods were patient, gentle, long-suffering natives, with whites scattered among them at rare intervals; and wherever a white man’s native servant appeared, that native seemed to have put aside his natural gentleness for the time and invested himself with the white man’s privilege of making a way for himself by promptly shoving all intervening black things out of it. In these exhibitions of authority Satan was scandalous. He was probably a Thug in one of his former incarnations.
Lest anyone miss this, the "white man's privilege" that Twain refers to is the privilege of thinking you're better than everyone else. Twain is not validating the concept. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

A few people who killed themselves after false accusations of rape—including the mother of a man falsely accused

Yes, some guilty people may kill themselves while claiming to be innocent. But there is no doubt in these cases that the accusations were false:

Medical student cleared of raping woman whose earlier claim drove man to suicide - Telegraph:
Some jurors broke down in tears when they heard the 21 year old woman had wrongly accused another man of rape which led to him killing himself.
Forklift driver, 38, killed himself after being falsely accused of rape... despite texts 'proving sex was consensual':
A FORKLIFT truck driver took his own life after being falsely accused of rape – despite texts which “proved the sex was consensual”. Ross Bullock, 38, met his accuser in February … 
Mother of son who hanged himself after being accused of rape commits suicide a year later:
The family of Karin Cheshire, 55, said she “could not see a future” without her son, Jay, whose body was found in a park near their home after being accused of rape.  The rape complaint was withdrawn after two weeks...

Title IX cases that resulted in suicide, a suicide attempt at two colleges prompt fresh debate: Two lawsuits -- one involving accused student’s suicide and another about an attempt -- have added fire to the continued debate over how colleges handle complaints of sexual assault.

Police officer contemplated suicide after a woman falsely accused him of rape | Metro News

A handy list of "believe the victim" cases where "the victim" was wrong

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Tidings of doubt and joy

On Facebook, I was telling a friend we should always be aware that any and every part of a memory may be false. He replied,
You often bring doubt and discouragement to my days, Will, and yet I'm very glad I know you! 
I quote the second part because what he meant would sound much bleaker without it. But it made me realize I need to work harder to bring doubt and joy. The greatest human mistake may be certainty. Most evil deeds, from suicide to genocide, start with certainty. Progress starts with doubt—can I make something better? Finding the truth is a process of embracing doubt—Can I stop searching for the truth or do I continue, suspecting that more truths remain to be found?

Yes, there’s a dark side to doubt—Is there nothing good ahead? But giving into despair has nothing to do with doubt. That’s a failing of certainty.

My goal is to go through life in a state of joyful doubt. Doubting means I cannot know where a path will take me, but doubt does not keep me from enjoying the journey. Doubt only requires that I be watchful as I go, and being watchful only means I must try to see and hear all I can. To doubt is to live open to the possiblity of unimagined joy.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Nazis were not socialists—the updated FAQ

1. Capitalists supported Hitler's rise to power.

From Fritz Thyssen - Wikipedia:
In 1923, Thyssen met former General Erich Ludendorff, who advised him to attend a speech given by Adolf Hitler, leader of the Nazi Party. Thyssen was impressed by Hitler and his bitter opposition to the Treaty of Versailles, and began to make large donations to the party, including 100,000 gold marks ($25,000) in 1923 to Ludendorff.
From Adolf Hitler's wealth and income - Wikipedia:
While hyperinflation of the Weimar Republic had crippled the German economy and plunged millions of German workers into unemployment, Hitler and his party received lavish donations from wealthy benefactors at home and abroad. The iconic American car maker and anti-Semite Henry Ford was reported to be one of the foreign supporters. Helene Bechstein, part of a rich aristocratic family who sold pianos, supported Hitler financially and gave him a top hat and business suit. The Ruhr steel barons Fritz Thyssen and Gustav Krupp donated almost five million Reichsmarks to the Nazi Party over the course of the war. The Berghof, Hitler's private retreat, was renovated at a massive cost, all of it paid for with Nazi Party donations
Much of the party donations were used to pay off many of Hitler's private projects, such as the Berghof and Eagles Nest. He caused a minor controversy within leading elements of the party when he, in 1925, purchased a luxury Mercedes-Benz and a chauffeur to drive it for a total expenditure of 20,000 Reichsmarks. After examining Hitler's tax records from the Bavarian State Archives in Munich, economics journalist Wolfgang Zdral said, "He's driving a Mercedes, which cost incredible amounts of money at the time, can afford to go on travels and has enough money to finance his propaganda appearances. All of this is financed through a system of slush-funds, essentially the donation of larger and smaller benefactors."
From American Capitalism Funded Hitler & Nazi Germany:
I.G. Farben (controlled by Rockefeller’s Standard Oil) funded 45% of Hitler’s campaign in 1930

German radio (controlled by GE) was one of the primary distributors of Hitler’s propaganda

Focke-Wulf manufactured military aircraft during WWII (30% owned by J.P. Morgan & Co)

Opel and Volkswagen (controlled by General Motors and Ford, respectively) produced military vehicles. And Volkswagen used good ol’ concentration camp slave labor to make their vehicles.

Vereinigte Stahlwerke (Rockefeller bank) partially funded Hitler’s campaign during 1932 elections and became a major contributor to the Nazi war effort during WWII
From Ford 'used slave labour' in Nazi German plants - Telegraph:
Henry Ford is mentioned in Mein Kampf, and was hailed by Hitler, who kept a portrait of the industrialist above his desk, as "my inspiration". 
2. Socialists support nationalization. Nazis support privatization.

From Privatization - Wikipedia:
The first mass privatization of state property occurred in Nazi Germany between 1933-37: "It is a fact that the government of the National Socialist Party sold off public ownership in several state-owned firms in the middle of the 1930s. The firms belonged to a wide range of sectors: steel, mining, banking, local public utilities, shipyard, ship-lines, railways, etc. In addition to this, delivery of some public services produced by public administrations prior to the 1930s, especially social services and services related to work, was transferred to the private sector, mainly to several organizations within the Nazi Party."
3. The Nazis' first victims were communists.
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
— Martin Niemöller
4. The "socialism" in "National Socialism" is like the "democratic" in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, aka North Korea: it's meant to sound good.

Socialism was very popular in the Weimar Republic, so the Nazis added the word to their name, even though "national socialism" is a contradiction in terms. See FACT CHECK: Were Nazis Socialists?

5. The 25-point plan or National Socialist Program that the Nazis made in 1920, when they added "National Socialist" to the original name, is a jumble of xenophobia and racism.

Only a few points look vaguely like socialism to capitalists, and they were ignored when the Nazis came into power thirteen years later:

Point 11 calls for the end of unearned income and usury. If that's socialism, the Catholic Church's long opposition to usury made it socialist.

Point 13 calls for nationalizing major industries. If this was ever meant seriously, it did not last. Companies like I. G. Farben were major supporters of the Nazis. See IG Farben German Industry and the Holocaust.

Point 14 calls for sharing profit, not ownership. If that's socialism, Alaska has been socialist since 1976, when a Republican governor convinced the state to adopt the Alaska Permanent Fund and pay part of the oil industry's profits to every Alaskan.

Point 15 calls for Social Security. If that's socialism, the US has been socialist since 1935.

Point 16 calls for supporting small businesses by offering them cheap storage facilities and a degree of preference for government contracts. That's not socialism; that's government support for struggling capitalist enterprises.

Point 23 calls for national censorship. That is an explicit rejection of Karl Marx's love of the free press.

6. The very first definition of capitalism that you will find if you google makes it clear that the Nazis were capitalist:
capitalism: an economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.
Though Nazi Germany's trade and industry were regulated by the state just as capitalist businesses are in every capitalist country today, Nazi Germany's trade and industry were controlled by private owners for profit.

Monday, September 24, 2018

This old universalist admits he sometimes fears the identitarians are right

In a discussion with a socialist who has an identitarian streak, I left this comment:
You haven’t seen people say that white privilege includes a lower risk of being killed by cops? I don’t feel like googling, but I’d swear I’ve seen that often. Maybe I’m wrong.

Yes, if you ignore class, black people are statistically more likely to be killed by cops. The odds are only the same if you include class.

I think we win by emphasizing what we have in common. Perhaps I’m wrong. I do know I’m in the minority. I think we would be much further along on police reform if BLM had not insisted on focusing on 1/4 of the problem. But again, perhaps I’m wrong. I often wonder if Americans are so uncomfortable talking about class that the only way to reach them is to talk about race and gender.
The second paragraph refers to the fact that poor whites and blacks are equally likely to be killed by cops, and rich whites and blacks are equally unlikely, so the only privilege that matters in police killings is class privilege. See Why #BlackLivesMatter should be #PoorLivesMatter—now with graphics.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Addressing class reduces racism. Addressing race increases it.

Race reductionists say ending poverty won't cure racism. People who want to end poverty agree—some racists will be racists until they die. But there is evidence that ending economic inequality reduces racism.

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 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.
What else works? Living in multicultural environments. From Move to Hawaii, Become Less Racist - Pacific Standard:
New research does just that, taking advantage of the existence of a multicultural American environment: Hawaii. A group of young white adults demonstrated a decline in racist beliefs and enhanced cognitive flexibility after living in the state for nine months. These promising findings, reported by a team led by psychologist Kristin Pauker of the University of Hawaii–Manoa, are published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.
As for the fact that focusing on race increases racism, see Antiracism campaigns: Twenty years of making racism worse.

Bonus: An example of what white and black people have in common: A Third of Americans Now Say They Are in the Lower Classes | Pew Social & Demographic Trends: "a virtually identical share of blacks (33%) and whites (31%) now say they are in the lower class."

Private schools focus on race instead of class because it's cheaper

How Much Do You Pay for College? - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education
Addressing class inequality is more expensive than addressing racial and gender inequities because low-income students need financial aid, which may mean smaller budgets for libraries or faculty salaries.
The Liberals Against Affirmative Action -
The liberal critics of affirmative action believe that many of these approaches would be better than the current one. Racial discrimination obviously continues to exist. But the disadvantages of class, by most measures, are larger today. A class-based system would be more expensive, forcing colleges to devote some money now spent on buildings and other items to financial aid instead, but it would also arguably be more meritocratic.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Which groups are more privileged than you? A handy list.

All numbers are for US median household income in US dollars, rounded to the nearest dollar.

Note: Many people say education explains income. They fail to note that education is expensive, so it's easier for richer groups to get the education for jobs that pay well. The old observation applies: correlation is not always causation.

The takeaway: Asian Americans, Jewish Americans, and Hindu Americans are the most privileged groups in the US.


Asian Americans: $81,431
Caucasian White Americans (not Hispanic): $65,041
Median household income: $56,516
Hispanic Americans (of any race): $47,675
Native Americans: $39,719
Black Americans: $39,490

Sources: Median household income by race or ethnic group 2016 | Statistic2016 ACS shows stubbornly high Native American poverty and different degrees of economic well-being for Asian ethnic groups | Economic Policy Institute


Source: How income varies among U.S. religious groups | Pew Research Center

More: List of ethnic groups in the United States by household income - Wikipedia

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

An update on the gentrification of fandom

Neil Gaiman shared this, making it one of my most popular tweets:
In 1960, you could buy 10 comic books or three 35 cent paperback books for about $1, the minimum wage. Today, an hour's work at minimum wage, $7.25, will buy two comics or one paperback.
When a few people noted that it's hard to find a paperback under $7.95, I added:
To be precise, an hour's work at minimum wage will buy you a paperback for children, but not for adults or young adults: "School Library Journal: The list of average book prices for 2016 and 2017 to date."
I also recently shared Who Reads Science Fiction? - SFWA:
The Bowker Review says about sixty-five percent of book buyers make more than $50,000. My survey indicates science fiction readers are wealthier: seventy-two percent make more than $50,000. A majority of Sci Fi readers make more than $80,000.
That didn't generate much attention, probably because fans tend to be wealthy enough now that it doesn't surprise them. I suspect, like people who go to Disneyland, that they just take that for granted.

But fandom was more accessible to the working class back in the day, and not just because books were cheaper when compared to the minimum wage. I would love to know the cost of a Worldcon membership over the years—I do know it's usually been too expensive for me. My bet is that when compared to the minimum wage, it's far more expensive now.

That cost of admission affects everything about fandom. I've talked about gentrification of the genre before, so I googled to see if I'd said anything relevant now and found Simon Penner's Social Gentrification | Status 451, which begins:
Earlier this week a friend of mine was talking about nerd culture, and was surprised when I mentioned that I don’t like it. I avoid nerd culture and, despite being the exact target demographic, find it uncomfortable and unwelcoming. My friend found this puzzling and asked why. 
“It got gentrified,” was my reply.
I recommend reading the whole thing. Penner has smart observations about fandom and gentrification, both the good and the bad.

I also stumbled on a fair summary of my position at A response to George R. R. Martin from the author who started Sad Puppies | Monster Hunter Nation. Keranih commented:
People have said “I’m going to try to read more written by women.” They’ve said “I’m going to try to read more translated works” or “I’m going to try to read more by minorities.” (As Will Shetterly pointed out, they hardly never say “I’m going to read more by low income writers.”) 

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Did anyone ever say women are destroying science fiction? No.

 I shared this on Facebook and Twitter:
Has anyone in the last fifty years actually said women are ruining science fiction? When I was a boy in the early '60s, one of my first faves was the ubiquitous Andre Norton. By then, her readers knew she was female.

Because of her, I thought Andre was a girl's name.
A lot of discussion follows on both sites, but after several days of discussion and googling, the answer seems clear. No one ever said that. Based on the evidence, no one ever even thought it.

Some readers suggested one of the Sad Puppies might've said it, but two of the five most prominent Sad Puppies are women, Sarah Hoyt and Kate Paulk. Their Hugo Award lists include winners like Nnedi Okorafor, Hao Jingfang, and Naomi Kritzer. It couldn't have been said by a Sad Puppy.

Others have suggested Vox Day or one of the Rabid Puppies must've said it. But a glance at the Rabid Puppies' slates show VD also recommended women every year, including one winner, Hao Jingfang. So if anyone associated with the Rabids said women were destroying science fiction, it had to be someone who disagreed with VD's slate.

If no one said it, where did the idea that someone believed women are destroying science fiction come from? It's especially odd since most scholarly fans believe Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was the first modern science fiction novel. Who would say women were destroying a genre begun by a woman?

The phrase was bandied about in 2014 (see Women Destroy Science Fiction! - Lightspeed Magazine and Review: 'Women Destroy Science Fiction!' : NPR). It appears to have come from a speech by Pat Murphy in 1991:
What seemed significant about my friend’s confusion was that it related to a persistent rumbling that I have heard echoing through science fiction. That rumbling says, in essence, that women don’t write science fiction. Put a little more rudely, this rumbling says: “Those damn women are ruining science fiction.” They are doing it by writing stuff that isn’t “real” science fiction; they are writing “soft” science fiction and fantasy.
The people who cite Pat don't seem to notice that she said "put this a little more rudely"—she was commenting on her impressions, not on what anyone actually said. The end of her paragraph reveals the real source of the disagreement: fans of hard f&sf dislike soft f&sf, regardless of the gender of the writer.

For as long as the genre has existed, subsets of writers have loved their subgenre and thought the others ranged from foolish to destructive. But those writers didn't make their division on the basis of gender. Andre Norton was SFWA's sixth grand master, chosen before Clarke, Asimov, Bester, or Bradbury. For decades, everyone knew Leigh Brackett was female—she was the first woman to make the short list for the Hugo in 1956. Three years later, three women were finalists: Zenna Henderson, Katherine MacLean, and Pauline Ashwell. The idea that science fiction was for men could not be defended after the 1950s, and as more women entered the field, the Hugo Award reflected their presence—see the list of women who won Hugos at Hugo Awards | Geek Feminism Wiki.

Does this mean women didn't encounter sexism in the last fifty years? Of course not. The field still has sexists of all genders. It only means that "women are destroying science fiction" is a meme, and like all memes, it obscures at least as much as it reveals.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

There are no male or female brains

Scans prove there's no such thing as a 'male' or 'female' brain | New Scientist:
...there is no such thing as a female or male brain, according to the first search for sex differences across the entire human brain. It reveals that most people have a mix of male and female brain features. And it also supports the idea that gender is non-binary, and that gender classifications in many situations are meaningless.
Though the article is very good, it does have the common confusion about sex and gender:
Joel envisions a future in which individuals are not so routinely classified based on gender alone. “We separate girls and boys, men and women all the time,” she says. “It’s wrong, not just politically, but scientifically – everyone is different.”

But other scientists contacted by New Scientist don’t think that will ever be possible – as a sexually reproductive species, identifying a person’s biological sex will always be of paramount importance to us, they say.
Sex is not gender. Sex is what your genes say you are; gender is what society says you are. I believe we will have a future in which gender no longer matters and sex is seen as only sex, so instead of people imagining fundamental differences between men and women, there will be the soft differences we have between people who are tall or short, or right-handed or left-handed. Gender, like race, is a social construct that was of limited use and can be discarded now.

Though we only have proof now that there are no fundamental differences between men and women, we have known this for thousands of years. From the Christian Bible:

"There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female." —Galatians 3:28

Monday, August 13, 2018

Yes or no? Superman was the first superhero

" 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


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.


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—the Scarecrow appeared first, but in his 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: 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 :

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?


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.


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.


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.


Niceness versus civility


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