Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Why I'm an agnostic

Arguments between theists and atheists make me think they're both missing the point. People have belief systems. If yours doesn't make you hurt anyone, it's fine by me, and it's even better if yours helps you do good things. Some of my favorite people are theists, some are atheists, and some are agnostics. Two of my favorite bits of Christian wisdom are Jesus's "Ye shall know them by their fruits" and James's "Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works."

Agnosticism was coined by Thomas Huxley, so any discussion should keep in mind his definition:
Agnosticism, in fact, is not a creed, but a method, the essence of which lies in the rigorous application of a single principle … Positively the principle may be expressed: In matters of the intellect, follow your reason as far as it will take you, without regard to any other consideration. And negatively: In matters of the intellect do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable.
That works for me.

That said, Steve Brust makes some fine points in Steve vs St. Thomas, which he just characterized on Twitter as "New blog post: Why I'm not an agnostic."

ETA: Because I just love to quote Malcolm X: "Since I learned the truth in Mecca, my dearest friends have come to include all kinds — some Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, agnostics, and even atheists! I have friends who are called capitalists, Socialists, and Communists! Some of my friends are moderates, conservatives, extremists — some are even Uncle Toms! My friends today are black, brown, red, yellow, and white!"

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Two thoughts about free speech, plus afterthoughts

The only people who do not deserve free speech are the people who mock it—but they should have it anyway.

"I believe in free speech, but..." is the censor's equivalent of "I'm not racist, but..." The "but" reveals the truth.

ETA: A dictator is literally "the one who speaks". Only would-be dictators dream of silencing others.

ETA 2: "If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed."
—Benjamin Franklin

ETA 3: Mark Twain is often wrongly credited with a quote I like: "Censorship is telling a man he can't have a steak just because a baby can't chew it." Whoever actually said it might've been inspired by this:

"How anybody expects a man to stay in business with every two-bit wowser in the country claiming a veto over what we can say and can't say and what we can show and what we can't show — it's enough to make you throw up. The whole principle is wrong; it's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't eat steak." —Robert A. Heinlein, The Man Who Sold the Moon

ETA 4: "Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost." —Thomas Jefferson

ETA 5: On "speaking to truth to power":

"All censorships exist to prevent anyone from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorship." —George Bernard Shaw

ETA 6: I've shared this before, but it's always good:

"To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker." —Frederick Douglass, "A Plea for Free Speech in Boston"

ETA 7: In the comments at I BELIEVE IN FREE SPEECH, BUT… | Pandaemonium, I said:
I am always struck by how “but” works. People who say “I’m not a racist, but…” go on to expose their racism. People who say, “I believe in free speech, but…” go on to expose their opposition to free speech. Free speech is not the right to say what you want to say—the worst tyrants support their right to say what they want to say. Free speech is the right for others to say what you do not want to hear.
Jody Wheeler responded:
There’s a saying I taught others when I was a therapist, taught to me by another therapist, who in turn had it taught to him: “Everything before the ‘but’ is bullshit.”
Amazing how many buts you encounter in the world.
ETA 8: An older post of mine: The curious contradictions of censorial socialists, and a few comments about Charlie Hebdo

Friday, March 27, 2015

WisCon finally acts on the Lemberg v. Bergmann "harassment by poetry"

Subcommittee public statement on findings & recommendations | WisCon, WisCon, do you read?

In classic committee fashion, they've come up with a solution that should satisfy no one.

If you wonder about their take on the poem, read it and the writer's take: Meet and Marry a Gorgeous Russian Queen: A Poem by F.J. Bergmann.

The backstory:  No, this should be my last post about Wiscon: Harassment by poetry

ETA: Can something be "potentially sexist"? Does the phrase mean you suspect something isn't sexist, but you fear you might be attacked for thinking that, so you're covering your ass? Ah, committees.

ETA 2: Will WisCon investigate Alex Daily MacFarlane's harassment of Bergmann next? See Disorient Express - Statement regarding Alex Dally MacFarlane. Once you decide that anything which throws you into a tizzy is harassment, the fun never ends.

ETA 3: Bergmann's very right when she says at Disorient Express - Divide et Impera: "The tl;dr version seems to be that 1) I did nothing wrong with respect to the complaints being investigated; but 2) I should be punished anyway. To which my response is 3) this is both unethical and batshit crazy."

Three ways to see Cats Laughing at Minicon 50

1)      Live at Minicon 50
     FridayApril 3 ~ 8p
     Doubletree Inn – Bloomington
     $40 at the door one-day registration for the convention also gets you into the concert
2)      ConcertWindow – live streaming concerts on your computor
3)      Buy the DVD of the once-in-a-lifetime event.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

An internet meme about the female gaze and male objectification

Saw this going around:

(click to enlarge)

The cartoonist main character fails to grasp that her idea of a sexy Batman is not every woman's idea. It's not dishonest, of course, because it's her idea of sexy. But if you want to know what most women think a sexy guy looks like, romance covers are a useful place to start.

By the by, I agree with her that Batman should be built for dexterity. For me, this is the canonical Batman:

ETA: I hate it when memes lose the names of the artists. The cartoon is by David Willis.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Add "Jackie" to the list of hoax hate crimes

Police unable to verify 'Rolling Stone' rape story: "He said the woman identified as "Jackie" in the story declined to provide a statement to police. But he said the fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi, cooperated with the investigation. Fraternity records and other evidence indicated the party Jackie described taking place on the night of the attack did not take place, Longo said. Friends of Jackie also disputed her description of events that night, he said."

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Superman helped make me the person I am today.

A Captain Confederacy Custom Action Figure

Someone made a very nice Captain Confederacy Custom Action Figure. Makes me wish I could buy one. Along with his successor, of course.

The comics series is still online: Captain Confederacy.

Mad TV skit: Life Through the Eyes of SJWs

If you don't think Gamergate began because Zoe Quinn failed Ethics 101

Being neutral in the gamergate wars*, but fascinated by the SJW phenomenon, I keep trying to figure out where the greatest failures are when both sides have their doxxers and threateners. One thing is clear: on the ethics issue, Gamergate wins.

Here are the most basic rules of ethics in journalism and business:

!. Avoid conflicts of interest.

2. If you cannot avoid them, acknowledge them.

Here's a breakdown of how Quinn was helped by one of her lovers:

* I'm not a gamer, and unlike some prominent critics of gamers, I'm not willing to pretend I'm one.

Friday, March 20, 2015

the less-quoted Martin Luther King: bits from July 4, 1965, "The American Dream"

"...we traveled all over Jamaica. And over and over again I was impressed by one thing. Here you have people from many national backgrounds: Chinese, Indians, so-called Negroes, and you can just go down the line, Europeans, European and people from many, many nations. Do you know they all live there and they have a motto in Jamaica, "Out of many people, one people." And they say, "Here in Jamaica we are not Chinese, we are not Japanese, we are not Indians, we are not Negroes, we are not Englishmen, we are not Canadians. But we are all one big family of Jamaicans." One day, here in America, I hope that we will see this and we will become one big family of Americans. Not white Americans, not black Americans, not Jewish or Gentile Americans, not Irish or Italian Americans, not Mexican Americans, not Puerto Rican Americans, but just Americans. One big family of Americans."

"This is why we must join the war against poverty and believe in the dignity of all work. What makes a job menial? I’m tired of this stuff about menial labor. What makes it menial is that we don’t pay folk anything. Give somebody a job and pay them some money so they can live and educate their children and buy a home and have the basic necessities of life. And no matter what the job is it takes on dignity."

"I’ve seen my dream shattered because I’ve been through Appalachia, and I’ve seen my white brothers along with Negroes living in poverty. And I’m concerned about white poverty as much as I’m concerned about Negro poverty. So yes, the dream has been shattered, and I have had my nightmarish experiences, but I tell you this morning once more that I haven’t lost the faith. I still have a dream that one day all of God’s children will have food and clothing and material well-being for their bodies, culture and education for their minds, and freedom for their spirits."

Signal boost: The Hidden Face of Hypocrisy: Randi Harper

I find Stephanie Greene (@Sushilulutwitch) | Twitter interesting because I love her ability to laugh at the tactics of SJWs and because I also would have to identify as a Gamergate Neutral, as she defines it here:

She written about one of Social Justice Warriordom's would-be censors in three posts (so far):

The Hidden Face of Hypocrisy: Randi Harper - Ship 2 Block 20

The Hidden Face of Hypocrisy: Randi Harper (Part 2) - Ship 2 Block 20

The Hidden Face of Hypocrisy: Randi Harper Part 3 - Ship 2 Block 20

And just because it's a sensible take: Law and Order: SVU #GamerGate - Ship 2 Block 20

Encouraging dissent and discussion by banning dissent and discussion

Student Barred From Class For Disputing Rape Statistics | The Daily Caller:
“This is an excellent example of a professor taking initiative to take care of his students,” senior Rosie Dempsey told BuzzFeed. “Of course, we are an institution that encourages dissent and active discussion, but there is a difference between stimulating discussion through opposition and making other students feel unsafe.”
 Bonus point: The student appears to be black. If he hadn't been disagreeing with SJWs, SJWs would say trying to silence him was racist.

His letter to his teacher from Petition · Restore Jeremiah Josias Luther George True to His Humanities 110 Conference · Change.org:

First, allow me to say that I don't believe that I'm sexist, but even if I am, that doesn't mean I'm wrong about rape culture. Much as Aristotle made the mistake of believing that some people were born to be slaves yet crafted much of ancient philosophy, I think it is possible for a person to hold incorrect views and still have a valid argument. I don't care what I'm labeled as being as long as truth has its day. I was raised by a single mother and my two sisters and was always taught about how powerful and passionate women could be by their examples. I do not believe I am a sexist, but I do place reason above emotion.
I just wanted to point you towards my sources for my argument on Wednesday (and there are many sources beyond these). You say that all arguments must have textual evidence. This is my textual evidence. It is not based on opinions. It is based on data and hard facts. You said to me that it's impossible to be objective. I think when it comes to data and numbers, it must be possible to be objective. We do not serve actual rape victims by over inflating the numbers on rape.

https://www.rainn.org/about-rainn "RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization and was named one of "America's 100 Best Charities" by Worth magazine."

https://rainn.org/get-information/statistics/frequency-of-sexual-assault "Sexual assault has fallen by more than 50% in recent years."


https://rainn.org/news-room/rainn-urges-white-house-task-force-to-overhaul-colleges-treatment-of-rape “In the last few years, there has been an unfortunate trend towards blaming “rape culture” for the extensive problem of sexual violence on campuses. While it is helpful to point out the systemic barriers to addressing the problem, it is important to not lose sight of a simple fact: Rape is caused not by cultural factors but by the conscious decisions, of a small percentage of the community, to commit a violent crime,”

The argument that our culture propagates and permits rape is simply unfounded. The total population of the U.S. has grown consistently over the past century, yet as our population (and thus, our culture) has grown, rates of rape have fallen. We don't live in a rape culture which propagates the rape of women.


I am critical of the idea of a rape culture because it does not exist. We live in a society that hates rape, but also hasn't optimized the best way to handle rape. Changing the legal definition of rape is a slippery slope. If Sexual assault becomes qualified as rape, what happens next? What else can we legally redefine to become rape? Why would we want to inflate the numbers of rape in our society? Why would we define someone who was groped at an SU dance as a rape victim when just a couple of blocks away, there is an actual, forcible penetrative rape occurring that will actually mentally scar a person for life? Why are we treating someone as a rape victim when they haven't been raped? A groping is not rape, nor should it be redefined to become rape. Rape is traumatic. Sexual assaults (such as groping) can be traumatic, but they are not an invalidation of a person's identity. They do not force someone to open themselves up to violent intrusion and brutal, psychological damage. They are not crimes which women feel afraid to report because they fear backlash and victim blaming. We need to change the system, not change the definition of crime. We have limited resources available to rape victims, and hysteria is not the solution to dealing with the very real problem of rape in our society. I do not believe I am a sexist, but I also think that because I have had family members and dear friends that have been raped, I want accuracy, not hysteria and overblown statistics. I think it's important to treat rape seriously, and not to over inflate it and cause panic. I think it's important to listen to experts when we're talking about these things, and not college students.

See you in conference,

Jeremiah True

Thursday, March 19, 2015

When a black woman thinks Jay Smooth is co-opting a culture, or What almost everyone gets wrong about Nancy Giles' comment

The "anti-racist" internet thinks Nancy Giles, a black woman, thought Jay Smooth, who identifies as black, was white when this happened:

As usual, not nearly as much attention is given to Giles's tweet in an attempt to clarify things: "FYI I knew Jay was African-American. Was intrigued by the voice on the video vs the voice of the guy next to me"

At Awkward: CBS Host Assumed Jay Smooth Was Co-Opting Blackness Until He Said, ‘I’m Black’ - The Root, I left this comment:
I think she was trying to get at the fact that Jay Smooth comes from a privileged background, yet he uses the language of the street. He considers himself black, but nearly 40% of black people would say he's not. As Pew Reports noted in 2007, "African Americans see a widening gulf between the values of middle class and poor blacks, and nearly four-in-ten say that because of the diversity within their community, blacks can no longer be thought of as a single race.""
What Giles seems to be saying is that Jay Smooth is co-opting the language of working class black folks in order to seem more authentically black. It's an interesting notion. What privileged black folks call "code switching" is often just pretending to be one of the people rather than one of the elite. And there's nothing wrong with that, of course—to be human is to appropriate, and to use language is to use as many languages as we possibly can.

Recommended rant about Jay Smooth: L'Hôte: bullshit social climber faux-antiracism

ETA: A gratuitous question about people who identify as the race of one parent rather than "mixed": if you identify as being of your father's race, are you being sexist? The answer partly depends on whether you look more like your father, of course, but since race is only a social construct, that can't be the whole of the answer.

Sean Penn kindly defines SJWs

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The first actual "fake fangirl" I've ever seen has outed herself in the Batgirl cover outrage

I always thought the "fake fangirl" nonsense was, y'know, nonsense. But the latest fannish gender kerfuffle (Batgirlcovergate?) has made one fan's ignorance painfully obvious.

People who believe there are "fake fangirls" should note that this one was set straight by a not-fake fangirl. (Well, this being the internet, both of them could be dogs, of course.)

Two writers of color on the toxicity of call-out culture, with a reference to Racefail 09

From A Note on Call-Out Culture – Briarpatch Magazine:
What makes call-out culture so toxic is not necessarily its frequency so much as the nature and performance of the call-out itself. Especially in online venues like Twitter and Facebook, calling someone out isn’t just a private interaction between two individuals: it’s a public performance where people can demonstrate their wit or how pure their politics are. Indeed, sometimes it can feel like the performance itself is more significant than the content of the call-out. This is why “calling in” has been proposed as an alternative to calling out: calling in means speaking privately with an individual who has done some wrong, in order to address the behaviour without making a spectacle of the address itself.

In the context of call-out culture, it is easy to forget that the individual we are calling out is a human being....
From Strange Horizons Columns: Movements: Taking Stock: Encouragement and the Antidote to Toxicity, by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz:
Just recently, a young writer wrote me to apologize for making use of my culture without asking for permission.

I sat there looking at the email and my heart broke as I thought of the anxiety that must have preceded the writing of this letter.

I became aware of genre debates soon after RaceFail took place. The discussions at that time made me anxious about the way I approached the culture in which I grew up. Should I write about it? Was it right to write about it? If I wrote about it, would I be commodifying my culture? What if I got it wrong? What if people got angry? What would I do then?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Eksperimentas VERTIMAS: a beautiful short video about racism in Lithuania

I've never seen a flamewar, or any war, fought by people who were kind

A review that makes me want to see the new Cinderella movie: Domythic Bliss: Have Courage and Be Kind. It has a few comments on the importance of kindness, which made me think how wonderful the internet would be if we could all agree to be kind, especially when we disagreed, and that the heart of acceptance of other people's differences, the one requirement for making a world in which we all live together as one without trying to force each other to think alike, is kindness.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Offended by Words - Doug Stanhope

One quibble: I must feel a bit sorry for anyone who thinks vaginas are ugly. Well, except for gay guys like Dan Savage, who, if I remember correctly, thinks they're ugly—he has a right to that just as lesbians have a right to think dicks are ugly. But straight guys who don't like vaginas should not be allowed near them.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The privileged, fact-free world of Noah Berlatsky

Tweet text
And, of course, he blocked me. Facts are inconvenient to warriors.

ETA: Why Doesn’t the Atlantic Fire Noah Berlatsky? | Ted Rall's Rallblog

ETA 2: I'm also struck by the usual huffiness of privileged people who hate the idea of treating others with respect.