Saturday, May 31, 2014

Dear middle-class liberals who cite King's letter from a Birmingham jail

This is inspired by Andy Duncan's Facebook post, Many friends, colleagues, and acquaintances in the..., but I'm writing here because King is often misused by middle-class anti-racists.

ETA: A day later, the discussion at Facebook is still going on.

Liberal anti-racists like to cite Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. It's a great letter, especially for its criticism of white moderates and middle-class blacks, but they miss many of its implications. King was criticizing people who were sympathetic to ending racism, but who offered no solutions other than talk and patience. King always had solutions. In 1963, when he wrote that letter, he supported legal changes to address racism. By '67, his vision had grown. In his last book, he wrote,
In the treatment of poverty nationally, one fact stands out: there are twice as many white poor as Negro poor in the United States. Therefore I will not dwell on the experiences of poverty that derive from racial discrimination, but will discuss the poverty that affects white and Negro alike.
His solution:
I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective — the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.
In the Birmingham letter, King mentions "middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security ... have become insensitive to the problems of the masses". That describes too many black anti-racists who happily talk about social privilege and fail to offer any ways to help the 11 million black Americans in poverty, let alone the 20 million non-Hispanic whites or the remaining 16 million who mostly identify as Hispanic white.

Ask self-styled anti-racists for practical solutions, and they'll only tell you they want to debate the problem. They prefer the King of '63 to the King of '67 because the King of '63 does not challenge the privilege they do not want to lose, their class privilege.

I'm especially surprised when young anti-racists quote King and Malcolm X to activists of my generation. That's like telling World War II veterans about Franklin D. Roosevelt. I'm among the hundreds of thousands who marched for civil rights in the '60s and was beaten by racists, and my story is not significantly different than that of many older science fiction writers, I suspect. Harlan Ellison, who has been mocked by fandom's anti-racists, was part of King's 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery. He talks about it here:



Perhaps the most important thing to remember when anti-racists quote King or Malcolm X is that they're not his followers. Their ideology comes from Derrick Bell, the father of Critical Race Theory, whose understanding of power never went further than skin-deep.

PS. Since I mentioned Malcolm and Ellison does, too, here's one of my favorite quotes that anti-racists ignore: "I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those that do the oppressing. I believe there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice, and equality for everyone, and those who want to continue the system of exploitation. I believe there will be that kind of clash, but I don't think that it will be based on the color of the skin." —Malcolm X / El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz

Friday, May 30, 2014

When I was attacked by a stranger who had gone off his meds—On misogynistic spree killers

Note: I am not using the latest spree killer's name in my title and only using his last name in my text because people like him want their moment of fame, and I will not be part of giving him his. See How to Stop Mass Shootings.

I recently told Emma I wished we lived in a world where she could walk outside anywhere at any time in safety. She answered, "You're the one who's been attacked on the street."

She was referring to one afternoon on Victory Boulevard in Los Angeles. Now, I'm a guy with decent street smarts—I've walked in poor neighborhoods at all hours for much of my life, and I'd never been mugged or beaten by strangers, probably because I tend to dress in cheap clothes and while I hope I'm not more intimidating than any guy of average height and weight, I like to think I don't look like an easy target. But maybe I was just lucky for decades.

My luck ran out when I left our apartment in North Hollywood and saw a young Hispanic man of about twenty who I'll call the kid pissing in the bushes in front of the next building. Thinking he was drunk or tripping, I gave him a look that was meant to say, "Really, dude. Don't piss where families live."

Which, I grant, was a failure of street smarts. To this day, I do not know why I acknowledged him. Street smarts call for being simultaneously aware and indifferent, so you look like you know what's going on around you and don't care so long as no one hassles you.

The kid started following me. I assumed I was unlucky enough to be going in the same direction as he was until he ran up and began pummeling me. He was tall and wiry and half my age or younger, so he had the advantages of reach and strength. He also had the adrenaline advantage of being bi-polar and off his meds. I now know what facing berserkers was like.

I blocked his blows as well as I could, which is to say, I was pretty bloody by the time a driver pulled over and jumped out of his car to help me. The kid ran off. When the cops found him, I learned he was bipolar and had gone off his meds. I could have pressed charges, but I didn't—I was told the kid was horrified by what he had done, and they doubted he would let it happen again. I suspect that's true.

What I took from that was not that people with mental health problems should be feared—like most of us, they're more likely to be victims than victimizers—but that mental health deserves more resources in the US. Statistically, people with mental issues are more likely to be a danger to themselves and others.

We know the recent spree killer was in that category. He had therapists, and he said in his manifesto that he had been prescribed Risperidone, "an antipsychotic drug mainly used to treat schizophrenia (including adolescent schizophrenia), schizoaffective disorder, the mixed and manic states of bipolar disorder, and irritability in people with autism", but had refused to take it.

Which is why I was surprised when Jessica Valenti argued that Attributing the rampage in Isla Vista to 'a madman' ignores a stark truth about our society. Like many feminists, she thinks it's not about whether misogynistic mass murderers are crazy; it's about their ideology. But defining the Isla Vista killer's ideology is trickier than you might think. As Ally Fogg noted in Madman or MRA? Looking beyond easy answers to the Santa Barbara massacre:
In Rodger's manifesto there is no sign of even a slight interest in gender politics. He does not use the vocabulary or logic of MRAs, there is no ranting at ‘feminazis’ or other tell-tale signs of MRA ideology. Indeed, it is striking that the manifesto, unlike that of Anders Breivik, reveals no kind of political consciousness at all. For Rodger, this all appears to have been entirely personal.
I hate saying anything in defense of pick-up artists, aka PUAs, but, like capitalists, they're exploiters who think what's legal is fair. Their code is reprehensible, but it does not call for going beyond the law. As for people who think PUAs are examples of traditional male values, traditional men despise men who use women—they were called cads and lotharios, and now they're called creeps and PUAs and men to watch out for. For actual traditional male values, see a little about America's idea of cowboys and traditional male values.

If Rodger's misogyny can be called an ideology, another question arises. What ideologies have not been used as an excuse by killers? Michael Carneal killed three members of a Christian prayer group and wounded five others—should atheists be blamed? Baruch Goldstein killed 29 Palestinians and wounded 125 others—should Judaism be blamed? John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo terrorized Washington, DC, with sniper killings, planning to kill six white people a day—should the Nation of Islam or black racists in general be blamed?

In The Disturbing Internet Footprint Of Santa Barbara Shooter Elliot Rodger, Kashmir Hill notes, "His mental disturbance seems as much about class as gender warfare." Based on his manifesto, Rodger's misogyny was a subset of his misanthropy—his first victims were his male roommates. A self-identified Eurasian, he was obsessed with the white blonde women that he thought he deserved because he was rich. What he wanted was shaped by his culture, but what he did was not, and he knew his culture would stop him if it could—he sent his manifesto to his therapist when he knew it would be too late.

Recommended/related:

'PUAhate' and 'ForeverAlone': inside Elliot Rodger's online life | World news | theguardian.com

Anthony Kubiak - Using Murder: The Social Construction of Serial Homicide: "Despite the fact that serial killers are proportionately African-American, sometimes female, do not disproportionately attack women and children, and are quite unlikely, if ever, to have a cult motivation, groups continued to treat the stereotype as real."

Slut-shaming has little to do with sex, study finds

Slut-shaming has little to do with sex, study finds | Al Jazeera America. Read the whole thing, but this might be the money quote:
"Surprisingly, women who engaged in less sexual activity were more likely to be publicly labeled a slut than women who engaged in more sexual activity," Armstrong said. "This finding made little sense until we realized that college women also used the term as a way to police class boundaries."

Thursday, May 29, 2014

I wrote someone's "favorite badass female character"!

This is the sort of thing that makes a writer's day. At There's No Such Thing As Luck: Roadtrip Wednesday, answering the question "Who's your favorite badass female character?", Jes lists three, and says this about the protagonist of Cats Have No Lord: "Lizelle is an independent woman who uses her sexuality and her wits to live the life she wants, a life that she puts aside in order to save the world (and herself)."

Now I want to write prequel called Lizelle the Liar. Maybe someday.

Some readers comment on How to make a Social Justice Warrior

#WorthReading "How to Make a Social Justice Warrior" by @WillShetterly. Great recap, good insights, and always readable. #CivilityMatters
— Wesley Morrison (@weswrit) May 28, 2014

@WillShetterly Your book about SJW's is both spot on and fascinating, I've always wondered where these people got their ideas from.
— EatSleepArooRepeat (@Worthog117) May 23, 2014

Nexus X Humectress: "The antidote to totalitarian humanism (a.k.a. political correctness, identity politics, anti-oppression, social justice, or cultural Marxism) is humanitarian humanism (i.e. consistency of means and ends). This ebook is the best 99 cents I've ever spent. The writer draws on historical struggles for equality to present a nuanced analysis of social inequalities that eschews orthodoxy while exalting critical thinking and kindness in the face of the self-righteous cult of bullying that passes for progress today."

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Rahul Kanakia responds to Hiromi Goto and N.K. Jemisin

Do writers of color avoid discussing existential problems? « Blotter Paper

The unsurprising privilege of Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jamelle Bouie

At Reparations should be paid to black Americans, Jamelle Bouie said, "And ultimately, as Coates writes, the money isn’t important. What’s critical is that we reckon with our national crimes against black Americans, to say nothing of Native Americans and other minority groups."

You could only write that if you cared more about "privilege" than poverty. About 47 million Americans are poor, and 11 million of those are black. To them, reparations would matter enormously. And if anyone was talking about reparations for capitalism, it would also matter to the three-fourths of the poor who are white.

Martin Luther King's solution still applies: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King -- Final Advice.



Monday, May 26, 2014

Was N. K. Jemisin the most ignorant f&sf fan ever?

Wiscon 38 Guest of Honor Speech | Epiphany 2.0: "I can’t tell you how many times I was told, with great vehemence and hostility, that there was no chance of me having a career in SFF — by other people of color. Yeine, the protagonist of THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS, was almost a white man because I listened to some of what these people were saying. (Imagine if I’d listened to all of it."

Were those people saying this because they'd never heard of Delany or Butler? Did Jemisin believe it because she hadn't heard of them? Or did she think she wasn't as good as Delany or Butler? I'd understand the latter, but that has nothing to do with race. And I'm surprised she or the people she mentions weren't aware of Charles Saunders, Walter Mosley, or Steven Barnes, who may have gotten less attention in the field than Delany and Butler, but who anyone with a casual awareness of the genre should've known.

ETA: I'm tempted to adopt "Mr. Civility", not because I've achieved it, but because I aspire to it.

ETA 2: Because identitarians are quick to see isms everywhere, Jemisin has been questioned about antisemitism in her speech. Her reply is here: A note on my Wiscon speech. What strikes me is that she and her commenters are functionally illiterate, because they've misread what Delany was saying: he's complementing the liberal Jewish tradition for acceptance, and saying that when the ethnic balance of writers changes, racism in the genre will probably reflect racism in society at large.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

a little about America's idea of cowboys and traditional male values

I've always been a fan of Gene Autry's Cowboy Code:
  • A cowboy never takes unfair advantage - even of an enemy.
  • A cowboy never betrays a trust. He never goes back on his word.
  • A cowboy always tells the truth.
  • A cowboy is kind and gentle to small children, old folks, and animals.
  • A cowboy is free from racial and religious intolerances.
  • A cowboy is always helpful when someone is in trouble.
  • A cowboy is always a good worker.
  • A cowboy respects womanhood, his parents and his nation's laws.
  • A cowboy is clean about his person in thought, word, and deed.
  • A cowboy is a Patriot.
It doesn't say explicitly that a cowboy should treat everyone with respect, but maybe he knew that had already been covered in Hopalong Cassidy's Creed for American Boys and Girls: "If you want to be respected, you must respect others. Show good manners in every way."

And in Wild Bill Hickock's Deputy Marshal's Code of Conduct: "I will be polite and courteous."

And in Roy Rogers' Riders Club Rules: "Be courteous and polite."

I also found a pleasantly socialist sentiment in The Lone Ranger Creed: "Men should live by the rule of what is best for the greatest number."

And some good Old Cowboy's Advice: "Words that soak into your ears are whispered, not yelled."

Those, and more, are at The Cowboy Code.

And I found Autry's "The Death of Mother Jones", which has nothing to do with this post, but is another reason I like the guy:



Since I'm rambling about Gene Autry, the Autry National Center is a great place to visit in Los Angeles.

Friday, May 23, 2014

LoneStarCon and Disney's "The Song of the South"

I'm surprised that I missed this kerfuffle last year, but they come so fast and furiously that it's easy to forgive myself. From LoneStarCon Cancels Song of the South Viewing:
LoneStarCon 3, the World Science Fiction Convention to be held in San Antonio, Texas, had planned to present Song of the South as one of several animated films and cartoons for its upcoming 71st annual convention. However, they have since canceled the presentation:

August 21 – Statement re. Song of the South

LoneStarCon 3 had previously announced a presentation of Disney’s Song of the South, to be shown in conjunction with a talk about the period when the film was made, the historical reality of the time, and the changing perspectives of the film in the light of the Civil Rights movement.


We accept that while we fully intended to show the film in context, this was not adequately explained in the text published on our website and in our Pocket Program. Moreover, to continue showing the film in the light of the public concern expressed over the last few hours would send entirely the wrong messages about our event’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. We will therefore no longer be presenting this film as part of our program.


We got this wrong, and we apologize unreservedly to anyone who has been offended, concerned, or in any way been given cause to doubt the welcome that LoneStarCon 3 will extend to all of our members next week.
 Patrick Nielsen Hayden wrote at Making Light: Song of the South at Worldcon:
Dear World Science Fiction Convention: It’s fine to show Walt Disney’s 1946 film Song of the South as part of your program of interesting anime and animation not easily found on DVD or Netflix. It’s an interesting piece of work! And we’re grown-ups (and bright young people). We can look at controversial, problematic works and have intelligent conversations about them.
But this is not the smartest way you could be describing it, on your web page and in the printed program set for distribution at the con:
Song of the South is a 1946 American live-action/animated musical film produced by Walt Disney. The film is based on the Uncle Remus stories by Joel Chandler Harris. The live actors provide a sentimental frame story, in which Uncle Remus relates the folk tales of the adventures of Br’er Rabbit and his friends. These anthropomorphic animal characters appear in animation. The hit song from the film was “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah”, which won the 1947 Academy Award for Best Song and is frequently used as part of Disney’s montage themes, has become widely used in popular culture. The film inspired the Disney theme park attraction Splash Mountain. The film has never been released in its entirety on home video in the United States because of the subject matter, which Disney executives thought might be viewed by some as politically incorrect and racist toward black people, and is therefore subject to much controversy.
Let’s be clear about something that this squib oddly fails to note. Song of the South’s racism isn’t some elusive, hard-to-pin-down subtext that Disney executives fret might be “viewed by some.” Song of the South is a blatantly, relentlessly, spectacularly racist piece of work.
It’s true, as Mike Glyer notes, that the film had some defenders among African-American journalists on its first release. It’s also true that it’s a movie replete with scenes full of (as Slate puts it) “embarrassingly racist” live-action portrayals of “smilin’, Massah-servin’ black folk.” Noting the film’s “offensively ‘idyllic’ master-slave relationship,” Time magazine said in 2009 that “there’s no denying the fact that by today’s standards, the film is rather racist.” And with typical bluntness, Cracked observes about the film’s singin’-and-dancin’ former slaves that “it’s as if someone made a children’s musical about Jews in post-WWII Germany that had a number titled ‘Hey! Nothing Bad Has Happened to Us, Ever.’”
This being the case, it would have been wise to plainly acknowledge it, instead of saying only that the film is out of circulation because “Disney executives thought might be viewed by some as politically incorrect.” (Bonus points for deploying our tired old friend “politically incorrect.” Yes, Disney executives are notoriously anxious about being dragged by Maoists into sessions of forced self-criticism. Why, you can barely get down the street in Hollywood for all the Red Guards trying to kidnap you.)
Bottom line: Given recent events in the SF world, for any Worldcon (much less one happening in a state that’s currently actively working to disenfranchise African-Americans) to screen this famously racist film while being disingenuous about its nature…is, to say the least, unwise. Showing it? Sure. Showing it while failing to plainly acknowledge its problems? Not your dumbest decision ever, dear Worldcon, but not exactly your smartest, either.
Next time we wonder why organized science-fiction fandom is so very, very white, even more so than adjacent precincts of the geek world like comics fandom or gaming, maybe we’ll recall this little piece of cluelessness. Which isn’t extraordinary. And that’s the problem.
UPDATE (Wednesday evening, 21 August): LoneStarCon 3 have announced that they won’t be showing the film. “We accept that while we fully intended to show the film in context, this was not adequately explained in the text published on our website and in our Pocket Program. Moreover, to continue showing the film in the light of the public concern expressed over the last few hours would send entirely the wrong messages about our event’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. We will therefore no longer be presenting this film as part of our program. […] We got this wrong, and we apologize unreservedly to anyone who has been offended, concerned, or in any way been given cause to doubt the welcome that LoneStarCon 3 will extend to all of our members next week.”
I think what happened suggests fandom's not "all grown-ups or bright young people". LoneStarCon's failure to put a trigger warning on the announcement made a surprising number of people believe LoneStarCon had been taken over by the Ku Klux Klan, and this showing would brainwash fandom into thinking slavery in the US had been a happy time when animals sang.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

George Orwell on liberal intellectuals

From a letter to Noel Willmett written in 1944:
...the intellectuals are more totalitarian in outlook than the common people. On the whole the English intelligentsia have opposed Hitler, but only at the price of accepting Stalin. Most of them are perfectly ready for dictatorial methods, secret police, systematic falsification of history etc. so long as they feel that it is on ‘our’ side.
From Wells, Hitler and the World State:
What has kept England on its feet during the past year? In part, no doubt, some vague idea about a better future, but chiefly the atavistic emotion of patriotism, the ingrained feeling of the English-speaking peoples that they are superior to foreigners. For the last twenty years the main object of English left-wing intellectuals has been to break this feeling down, and if they had succeeded, we might be watching the S.S. men patrolling the London streets at this moment. Similarly, why are the Russians fighting like tigers against the German invasion? In part, perhaps, for some half-remembered ideal of Utopian Socialism, but chiefly in defence of Holy Russia (the ‘sacred soil of the Fatherland’, etc. etc.), which Stalin has revived in an only slightly altered from. The energy that actually shapes the world springs from emotions — racial pride, leader-worship, religious belief, love of war — which liberal intellectuals mechanically write off as anachronisms, and which they have usually destroyed so completely in themselves as to have lost all power of action.
Orwell's use of "racial pride" may be confusing to modern readers. It's more like national pride, sort of the way most of us feel good about the best things about our community. It's not simple nationalism or racism: Orwell hated imperialism in any form. From the '44 letter:
I know enough of British imperialism not to like it, but I would support it against Nazism or Japanese imperialism, as the lesser evil. Similarly I would support the USSR against Germany because I think the USSR cannot altogether escape its past and retains enough of the original ideas of the Revolution to make it a more hopeful phenomenon than Nazi Germany.

creators, advice about haters via the brilliant Felicia Day

We watched episode 6 of the Guild last night. One storyline is about a game creator who can't create anything new because he knows he'll be attacked by haters. Felicia Day's character tells him that when he lets haters keep him from creating, they aren't just hurting him—they're hurting the people who love his work.

Which is so very true. We don't create for haters, we don't create despite haters, and we don't create to prove anything to haters. We create for lovers.

It's a good day to tell some artists you love their work.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

On humans believing things despite facts, and on de-friending friends online

I hope before I die to accept something I've known intellectually all my adult life: humans are crazy. But I'm human, so I'll probably keep thinking that reason matters.

The latest popular article on the subject, Why Do People Persist in Believing Things That Just Aren't True?, suggests scam artists are right: you simply can't reason with our species. If you want to change humans, you have to flatter or terrify us. But there is one bit of hope for a third way:
It’s only after ideology is put to the side that a message itself can change, so that it becomes decoupled from notions of self-perception.
That's why I keep hoping for Basic Income: there are conservatives, liberals, and socialists who support it.

Anyway, I'm tired of trying to reason with people online. On Facebook, I defriended two people who kept pushing their ideology in comments on my posts, then sent them this message:
Just wanted to say I hate that Facebook uses a friend metaphor for following people, because I'm not annoyed with you personally. I'm just tired of dogged disagreement based on ideology. I'll be perfectly happy to see you the next time we run into each other.
 In 1991, during the riots that followed the acquittals of the cops who beat him, Rodney King asked, "Can we all get along?" I'm not expecting an answer anytime soon.

Disinvitation season strikes again in fandom: Archon

"Disinvitation season" isn't my term, but I like it well enough. It's being used to describe passive-aggressive silencing at university campuses, but it's been a thang in fandom for years now. This year's example: Uncle Timmy and the Thought Police, from Jason Cordova's Website, where I left this comment:
I should’ve become suspicious of identitarian claims to value diversity back when ICFA disinvited a Cherokee author and editor, William Sanders, but it took me a couple of years to figure it out. They don’t want diversity that’s more than skin deep. Maoists and McCarthyites deserve each other, but I wish they would leave the rest of us alone.

An article for racists who take IQ out of context

Here's a nice and easy article so busy people with short attention spans will have no excuse: IQ isn't fixed at birth, can increase – USATODAY.com
In 1955, Norway began extending compulsory middle school education by two years. Galloway and her colleague Christian Brinch, from the department of economics at the University of Oslo, analyzed how this additional schooling might affect IQ. 
Using data on men born between 1950 and 1958, the researchers looked at the level of schooling by age 30. They also looked at IQ scores of the men when they were 19. 
"The size of the effect was quite large," she said. Comparing IQ scores before and after the education reform, the average increased by 0.6 points, which correlated with an increase in IQ of 3.7 points for an addition year of schooling, Galloway said. 
"We are only able to study men, because we use data on IQ from the Norwegian military's draft assessment, which basically all men undergo around the age of 19. Women are not included in the draft," she explained.
So when you speak of IQ and race, factor in wealth and education, or your conclusions are meaningless.

For a thorough debunking of Nicholas Wade: On the Origin of White Power | The Primate Diaries, Scientific American Blog Network

And: Nicholas Wade and race: building a scientific façade « Violent metaphors

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The silliest thing Audre Lorde ever said?

"The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House" is the title of an essay by Audre Lorde that some feminists love. I haven't read it, so I can't critique the content, but I can critique the title. Anyone who has worked with a hammer or a pick knows the master's tool are among the very best things for dismantling the master's house.

I'm reminded of this bit from Somerset Maugham's "The Philosopher", where a Chinese philosopher speaks to Maugham around 1920:
"But you, do you know what you are doing?" he exclaimed. "What is the reason for which you deem yourselves our betters? Have you excelled us in arts or letters? Have our thinkers been less profound than yours? Has our civilisation been less elaborate, less complicated, less refined than yours? Why, when you lived in caves and clothed yourselves with skins we were cultured people. Do you know that we tried an experiment which is unique in the history of the world? We sought to rule this great country not by force, but by wisdom. And for centuries we succeeded. Then why does the white man despise the yellow? Shall I tell you? Because he has invented the machine gun. That is your superiority. We are a defenceless horde and you can blow us into eternity. You have shattered the dream of our philosophers that the world could be governed by the power of law and order. And now you are teaching our young men your secret. You have thrust your hideous invention upon us. Do you not know that there are in this country four hundred millions of the most practical and industrious people in the world? Do you think it will take us long to learn? And what will become of your superiority when the yellow man can make as good guns as the white and fire them as straight? You have appealed to the machine gun and by the machine gun shall you be judged."
I checked Lorde's write-up on Wikipedia. I was amused to see that her legal name was Audrey; poets just have a streak of pretension. Apparently she did a little factory work, but she can't have done much, or she would know that if you want to change the world, you have to make the master's tools your own.

Ruth J. Simmons speaks at Smith College's 136th commencement

Ruth J. Simmons speaks at Smith College's 136th commencement: audio | masslive.com:
Simmons told of defending a speaker at Brown "whose every assertion was dangerous and deeply offensive to me on a personal level." The speaker believed blacks were better off as slaves, she said. 
Simmons drew applause when she opined that skipping the talk, as college president, would be "to choose personal comfort over a freedom whose value is so great, that the hearing of his unwelcome message could hardly be assessed at too great a cost." 
"Protecting free speech brilliantly insulates us from from being silenced for own unpopular views," she said. 
Simmons holds a Doctorate in Romance Literature from Harvard University. She is the first African-American woman to lead an Ivy League institution.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Why Do People Persist in Believing Things That Just Aren't True?

Why Do People Persist in Believing Things That Just Aren't True? : The New Yorker

dance video of the day: Kiesza - Hideaway - one take!

Kiesza - Hideaway (Official Video) - YouTube:

Writers, two tips for what to do when a scene isn't working

1. Delete it. Not everything has to be shown in a story. As good playwrights know, having things happen offstage can be the best choice.

2. Heighten the tension. That advice underlies Raymond Chandler's advice for murder mysteries: "When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand." But tension can also be psychological. In a strong scene, several kinds of tension will be at work, and the reader will want to know how they all will resolve.

Dear Class of 2014: Thanks for Not Disinviting Me

Dear Class of 2014: Thanks for Not Disinviting Me - Bloomberg View:
Were one to think seriously about the implications of the anti-IMF argument -- and, please, ladies and gentlemen, do nothing of the kind! -- one would also presumably have to bar from the stage Lagarde’s fellow conspirators, particularly leaders of the IMF’s biggest financial supporter, the United States of America. (The Tea Party, happily, opposes the IMF. Perhaps one of its leaders might be invited next year.)

Then there are your fellows at Rutgers University, who rose up to force the estimable Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state and national security adviser, to withdraw. The protest was worded with unusual care, citing the war in Iraq and the “torture” practiced by the Central Intelligence Agency. Cleverly omitted was the drone war.

Haverford College commencement speaker lambastes students

From Haverford College commencement speaker lambastes students - Philly.com:
Bowen, also the former president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, recounted several other instances in which speakers faced protest with a better outcome, including a commencement when he was Princeton's president. George Shultz, a member of President Nixon's cabinet during the Vietnam days in the 1970s, was due to receive an honorary degree. 
"The protestors were respectful (mostly), and chose to express their displeasure, by simply standing and turning their backs when the Secretary was recognized," he said. "Secretary Shultz, in turn, understood that the protestors had every right to express their opinion in a non-disruptive fashion, and he displayed the courage to come and accept his degree, knowing that many of the faculty and staff (a strong majority, I would guess, this person included) thought that the Nixon conduct of the Vietnam War was a tragic mistake.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

why socialist atheists in the US should be more tolerant of religion

At How Do You Know You Know? | The Dream Café, I left this comment:
I'm going to say a little about religion and then I'm going to drop it because Steve's an atheist and I don't like disagreeing with people's beliefs on their blogs without a better reason than "I disagree".

There are at least two approaches to religion, one that focuses on certainty and one that accepts mystery. These are not tidy divisions, but organized religions tend to be of the first sort—regardless of the goals of the individuals, most religious organizations end up serving the rich, which is why reds often rail against priests of all faiths.

But the second sort is a metaphorical approach to justice. Throw that out, and you throw out Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X. Throw it out, and there's no League of the Just to become the Communist League. Throw it out, and you lose most of humanity's history of fighting to end inequality.

There is a pragmatic reason for reds to be more tolerant of religion. In the US today, 77% of the population identifies as Christian; 36% view socialism favorably. Tactically, it makes more sense to work with religious people than fight them.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Euthanasia Rollercoaster: A Good Way to Die for Someone Else

The Euthanasia Rollercoaster is not a good way to die for me, because I hate rollercoasters. But it's still all the awesome. Here's the designer's description, from Projects - euthanasia-coaster - Julijonas Urbonas:
“Euthanasia Coaster” is a hypothetic euthanasia machine in the form of a roller coaster, engineered to humanely – with elegance and euphoria – take the life of a human being. Riding the coaster’s track, the rider is subjected to a series of intensive motion elements that induce various unique experiences: from euphoria to thrill, and from tunnel vision to loss of consciousness, and, eventually, death. Thanks to the marriage of the advanced cross-disciplinary research in mechanical engineering, space medicine, fairground psychology  and, of course, gravity, the fatal journey is made pleasant, elegant and ritualistic. Celebrating the limits of the human body but also the liberation from the horizontal life, this ‘kinetic sculpture’ is in fact the ultimate roller coaster: John Allen, former president of the famed Philadelphia Toboggan Company, once said that “the ultimate roller coaster is built when you send out twenty-four people and they all come back dead. This could be done, you know.”
Here's an animated 3d version:

Friday, May 16, 2014

rationalizing animal: on bias and memory

How Your Brain Justifies Torture | TIME.com: "a deep body of work showing that all people—very young children included—have a powerful bias toward remembering good things about in-group members and an equal tendency to remember bad things about out-groupers."

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Hypoxia, the best way to die?



I think the death penalty is wrong and, lest anyone worry, I would only consider suicide if I was in pain and a doctor said there was no hope I would get better. But I believe being able to end life mercifully goes hand-in-hand with being able to prolong it, so good ways to die fascinate me. Hypoxia (being deprived of oxygen) is now on the list.

Earlier: Apocarteresis, a natural way to die, and strangulation, a good, quick way.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

On Being Vulnerable | Elizabeth Stoker

On Being Vulnerable | Elizabeth Stoker: "The stunningly self-abnegating person who can check every single one of their privileges in order and then render problematic every single ideology or system of belief they have even the remotest affiliation to seems to really get it, to see beyond the artifices and constructs."

Monday, May 12, 2014

Eleanor Marx on socialist feminism and bourgeois feminism

I've italicized my favorite parts of the following bits from Eleanor Marx: Working Women vs. Bourgeois Feminism:
As women we certainly have a lively concern about winning for women the same rights as men, including working men, already possess today. But we believe that this ‘women’s question’ is an essential component in the general question of the emancipation of labour.

There is no doubt that there is a women’s question. But for us – who gain the right to be counted among the working class either by birth or by working for the workers’ cause – this issue belongs to the general working-class movement. We can understand, sympathise, and also help if need be, when women of the upper or middle class fight for rights that are well-founded and whose achievement will benefit working-women also. I say, we can even help: has not the Communist Manifesto taught us that it is our duty to support any progressive movement that benefits the workers’ cause, even if this movement is not our own?

If every demand raised by these women were granted today, we working-women would still be just where we were before. Women-workers would still work infamously long hours, for infamously low wages, under infamously unhealthful conditions; they would still have only the choice between prostitution and starvation. It would be still more true than ever that, in the class struggle, the working-women would find the good women among their bitter enemies; they would have to fight these women just as bitterly as their working-class brothers must fight the capitalists. The men and women of the middle class need a ‘free’ field in order to exploit labour. Has not the star of the women’s rights movement, Mrs. Fawcett, declared herself expressly in opposition to any legal reduction of working hours for femaIe workers? It is interesting and worth mentioning that, on this question, the orthodox women’s-rightser and my good friend Mr. Base, the weak epigone of Schopenhauer’s, both take absolutely the same position. For this women’s-rightser as for this misogynist, ‘woman’ is just woman. Neither of them sees that there is the exploiter woman of the middle class and the exploited woman of the working class. For us, however, the difference does exist. We see no more in common between a Mrs. Fawcett and a laundress than we see between Rothschild and one of his employees. In short, for us there is only the working-class movement.
And:
For us there is no more a ‘women’s question’ from the bourgeois standpoint than there is a men’s question. Where the bourgeois women demand rights that are of help to us too, we will fight together with them, just as the men of our class did not reject the right to vote because it came from the bourgeois class. We too will not reject any benefit, gained by the bourgeois women in their own interests, which they provide us willingly or unwillingly. We accept these benefits as weapons, weapons that enable us to fight better on the side of our working-class brothers. We are not women arrayed in struggle against men but workers who are in struggle against the exploiters.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Strange logic about race and cognition at New Scientist—and by Vox Day

How your ancestors' farms shaped your thinking - life - 08 May 2014 - New Scientist: "students from all-wheat areas were 56 per cent more likely to think analytically than students from all-rice areas. For example, when asked to match the two closest of sheep, dog and grass, they grouped sheep and dog, which appear most similar. Students from rice-growing areas grouped sheep and grass, as these have the closest relationship to each other in real life, and to them this relationship mattered more than physical resemblance."

Vox Day shared that to support his belief that "culture is genetic". But if a single test with variables that aren't mentioned in the article is significant, the students from the rice-growing areas are the ones who think more analytically. A slightly higher percentage of students from the wheat-growing areas made the superficial connection of sheep and dog based on their appearance, while a few more students from the rice-growing area saw the deeper relationship: A sheep is not a dog, but sheep eat grass and dogs do not.

Ah, well. Some people are just desperate for a reason to feel superior, no matter how silly the example. Confirmation bias can make fools of us all, and the stronger our belief, the more likely we are to accept the flimsiest support for it.

ETA: New book on race by Nicholas Wade: Professor Ceiling Cat says paws down « Why Evolution Is True

Friday, May 9, 2014

Marx believed in the free press

Brendan O'Neill has a short answer to people who think socialists in general and Marxists in particular want to censor: Marx hated press freedom? Er, I don't think so. He was its most passionate champion. As a young man, Marx said:
The free press is the ubiquitous vigilant eye of a people's soul, the embodiment of a people's faith in itself, the eloquent link that connects the individual with the state and the world, the embodied culture that transforms material struggles into intellectual struggles and idealises their crude material form. It is a people's frank confession to itself, and the redeeming power of confession is well known. It is the spiritual mirror in which a people can see itself, and self-examination is the first condition of wisdom. It is the spirit of the state, which can be delivered into every cottage, cheaper than coal gas. It is all-sided, ubiquitous, omniscient. It is the ideal world which always wells up out of the real world and flows back into it with ever greater spiritual riches and renews its soul.
I linked to the article at reddit, where a commenter suggested censorship was necessary sometimes and cited a demand from Section II of The Communist Manifesto as evidence that Marx had changed his mind on the free press: "Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State." I pointed out:
And how do you interpret that as restricting the press? To me, that means there will finally be the equivalent of a free press for everyone, because under capitalism, as A. J. Liebling noted, "Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one." Do you think centralizing transport means denying people the freedom to travel?
And:
Ignore the morality of silencing for a moment and just think about the tactics: when you censor the press, you alienate libertarian socialists, and you make anti-socialists fight you harder because they now have the evidence that your goal is to oppress people in the name of socialism.
And:
The moment you have the power to censor capitalists, they're no longer a major threat. And unfortunately, censorship bureaucracies can live forever. 
Two more nice things about letting your opponents speak: you know what they're saying because they're not forced to create secret networks, and you can counter their arguments for everyone to see.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

No one "deserves" mockery or ridicule—though bullies and thugs always say their victims deserve what they get

At This Needs to Be Said » Balloon Juice, I gave one of my stock replies to someone who claimed Freddie deBoer got “the ridicule he deserves”:
I’ll stick with Malcolm X’s advice: “Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery.” If deBoer hasn’t put a hand on you, he doesn’t deserve ridicule. Though I realize there are people who think ridicule is the reason for the web.
I just googled "deserves mockery" and "deserves ridicule". Both give over a million hits. Some people love the idea that their targets deserve to be abused, but when I think of who deserves ridicule, I remember this bit from Shakespeare:
POLONIUS
My lord, I will use them according to their desert.

HAMLET
God’s bodykins, man, much better. Use every man after his desert, and who should ’scape whipping? Use them after your own honor and dignity. The less they deserve, the more merit is in your bounty.
 A few more quotes:

"Ridicule is the tribute paid to the genius by the mediocrities." —Oscar Wilde

"I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence." —Frederick Douglass

"When you're mean and when you ridicule people it's a sign of your own insecurities." —Nicki Minaj

"Ridicule is the first and last argument of a fool." —Charles Simmons

"Mockery is a rust that corrodes all it touches." —Milan Kundera

Related: Respect everyone

This week's problems with rape culture theory

1. In Nigeria, hundreds of girls have been kidnapped. The US and Britain have sent help. If the US and Britain are rape cultures, why would they bother? If Nigeria is a rape culture, why are Nigerians offering rewards and accepting help? It makes sense to say Boko Haram is a rape culture because "rape culture" can be useful in its original sense, to describe places like US prisons of the 1970s where rape is condoned.

2. Monica Lewinsky has said her relationship with Bill Clinton was consensual, despite the power dynamic. I think that's likely. It's even possible she was the pursuer. But according to rape culture theory, Bill Clinton raped her because they were not equals. However, saying that would give Republicans political ammunition to use against Hillary Clinton, so identitarian feminists have been having to do a rather amusing dance lately, simultaneously defending the theory that consent requires perfect equality while maintaining that Lewinsky "had agency".

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Monday, May 5, 2014

Strange Fruit of Identity Politics

Strange Fruit of Identity Politics is another fine post from Elizabeth Stoker. I especially liked this: "When we say that data doesn’t count and only individual experiences should have any gravitas in a conversation, we say we do not want to know the overall nature of experiences, but rather the highly idiosyncratic and individual nature of a single experience. Coincidentally this has the exact same effect as a person without any experience of a situation forwarding their (un-grounded) sense of it: that is, it stamps out the reality of the many and general in favor of the singular and anecdotal. The idea of data (and of keeping the argument grounded in what can be known by all participants) is to build workable roads between the general tendency of an experience and all hearers, whether they’ve had it or not; the insistence upon a single idiosyncratic experience is the de-facto destruction of those roads, and the halting of all argument. So this is why arguing about anything remotely social justice related on the internet is often fruitless and weird and zeroes down in many cases to name-calling and demands to shut up."

Hoax hate crimes: cheaters, Munchausen syndrome, and social justice warriors

Some social justice warriors suffer from Münchausen syndrome, "a psychiatric factitious disorder wherein those affected feign disease, illness, or psychological trauma to draw attention, sympathy, or reassurance to themselves." A few examples:

Why Would A Gay Teenager Commit Hate Crimes Against Herself: "I started a whole fake hate-crime thing with the police so I didn’t have to do my homework.”

Professor Kerri Dunn vandalizes her car with "misogynistic, racist, and anti-Semitic graffiti", and 2000 students rally in her support before the truth comes out.

N.J. waitress in tip flap leaves restaurant: "Waitress initially said she was denied a tip because she was gay."

Hercules Transgender Teen Admits Making Up Story Of School Bathroom Assault

Something Wicked: The Five Worst Gays of 2013:
Lesbian Sarah Bray attracted national media attention in November when she claimed she was banned from visiting to her partner Jennifer Clemmer’s hospital room. Clemmer was checked into the St. Francis Hospital in Indianapolis after an alleged prescription drug overdose. 
“We are in a partnership,” a tearful Bray said at the time. “It’s heart-wrenching. If I were a man and this were my wife, there would be no issue.” 
Turns out, the whole thing was a charade. 
A week later, on November 20, Bray was arrested and charged with battery and criminal confinement. It was alleged that she had beaten Clemmer unconscious, then staged the whole prescription drug overdose in an attempt to cover up the abuse, which had been going on for years. Bray’s own children confirmed the allegations. The hospital staff was on to her, which is why they wouldn’t let her in the room.
NAACP calls Hallmark graduation card racist: "A graduation card sold at local stores has been pulled from shelves after a civil rights group raised concerns about the content. The group claims the card's micro-speaker plays a greeting that's racist."

Jersey City high school candidate for student gov't sent racist texts to himself, school official says

A recent history of hate-crime hoaxes | Conservative Intelligence Briefing: it's a conservative site, but they include a case of a conservative who pretended he was attacked for his political views.

Should Münchausen By Internet be considered a mental illness? | The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti | CBC Radio

Thursday, May 1, 2014

today's civility thought

If you can't make your point politely, you haven't thought about it enough.

A little about women writers who used men's names or initials

In the comments at Blindingly White: BookCon, John Green, and Knowing When It's Time to Speak, McLicious said, "there is such a history of women having to use men's names to publish that is complicated and blah."

I responded,
"Having to use"? It was suggested to Rowling and she decided to go with the advice, but women have been successfully publishing under female names at least since Sappho. Mary Shelley? Jane Austen? Maybe I'm biased because in my genre, there's Leigh Brackett, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Ursula K LeGuin, Octavia Butler, etc.
She countered,
Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell? You might know them as the Brontes. George Eliot? J.D. Robb? A.M. Barnard? Isak Dinesen? George Sand?
And I replied,
I always wondered when the Brontes were outed, because I never encountered them as the Bells. So I just googled it: it was in July, 1848, and it was their choice. Somehow, they managed to succeed under female names, just as Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell had before them. I haven't found much about this, but it would appear their books have been published under their own names since 1850. 
George Eliot's first publication was in 1856—after the Brontes were known as the Brontes. Of course, Eliot had a right to pass as a man in the belief it would be better for her literary career, and we can't know whether she was right to think she should use a man's name. In any case, she outed herself in 1859, when her first novel came out, and she doesn't seem to have suffered from having done that. 
What's tricky about the women who wrote using initials is men have done the same. C. S. Lewis, B. Traven, J. R. R. Tolkien, etc.
ETA: I seriously considered using my initials for my pen name because I was a pretentious git when I was young, and if you think I'm still one, I can't really argue with you.

The economics of political correctness

The economics of political correctness | Institute of Economic Affairs: "Moral superiority is a prime example of a positional good, because we cannot all be morally superior to each other. Once you have successfully exorcised a word or an opinion, how do you differentiate yourself from others now? You need new things to be outraged about, new ways of asserting your imagined moral superiority."

The comments reference people whose politics I generally don't like, but the article includes a link to Spiked, a magazine I like even when I disagree, so things seem to be working the way free speech is supposed to work: there's no echo chamber there.