Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A handy list of white victims of police abuse

The updated list is included here: I’m white and I got “the talk” about cops — every kid needs it

This is the original introduction to the list:

When Dylann Roof was arrested alive after murdering nine black church-goers in Charleston, SC, Traci Blackmon wrote:
Good thing he wasn't suspected of stealing a cigarillo...
Or picking up a toy gun in Walmart.
Or playing on a swing with his toy gun.
Or playing his music too loud.
Or running away from cops.
Or selling cigarettes on a corner.
Or driving in the wrong neighborhood.
Good thing his crime was killing 9 people in a prayer meeting.
...otherwise, he might be in a morgue instead of custody.
Blackmon alludes mostly to black people killed by the police (Michael Brown, John Crawford, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Eric Garner). Why she includes Jordan Davis, I'm not sure—Davis's killer was not a cop—and who she's referring to with "driving in the wrong neighborhood" I don't know either—Google tells of many people killed after driving into the "wrong neighborhood", and those examples include white people who drove into black neighborhoods. But Blackmon's general point is clear: she thinks that if Roof had been black, he would not have been taken alive.
She overlooks the obvious analogy, the duo known as the Beltway Sniper. Like Dylann Roof, John Allen Muhammad and  Lee Malvo targeted people of another race because they had been taught to understand power primarily in racial terms—Muhammad was a member of the US cult, the Nation of Islam. When they were captured, Muhammad and Malvo, like Roof, were taken into custody.
Blackmon may not mention them because they don't fit the #BlackLivesMatter narrative that police killings are primarily a matter of race. But The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded that US police killed 1,130 black people and 2,151 white people between 1999 and 2011. If that data is accurate, the police kill twice as many white people.

And this is the original conclusion:

To race reductionists, statistics matter more than lives, so white victims are irrelevant. They focus on the fact everyone knows: if police killings were racially proportionate in a country where 77.7% of the population is white and 13.2 % is black, there would be six times as many white victims. But race is only the public face of police abuse. Candace McCoy, a criminologist at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said, "Felony crime is highly correlated with poverty, and race continues to be highly correlated with poverty in the USA." In “The Crime of Being Poor”, Paul Wright wrote, “White prisoners tend to share one thing with their black and Hispanic compatriots: poverty. Most prisoners report incomes of less than $8,000 a year in the year prior to coming to prison. A majority were unemployed at the time of their arrest.”
Here are the hard numbers on poverty in the US, from Poverty Rate by Race/Ethnicity:
United States19,027,40010,312,40012,853,1003,555,50045,748,400
While correlation is not causation, the fact that twice as many police victims are white and that fact that twice as many white people live in poverty suggests that police killings may actually be racially proportionate—not to the racial mix of the entire US, but to the racial mix of America’s poor.

ETA: The two-to-one ratio continues today, according to The Counted: people killed by police in the United States in 2015:


ETA: See comments for additions by readers.

ETA: The 2-1 ration is also at Investigation: Police shootings - Washington Post:

ETA: Why #BlackLivesMatter should be #PoorLivesMatter

Monday, June 29, 2015

A few thoughts about The Phantasmagorical Cross-Cultural Sexual Cogitation Panel

I spent the weekend at Fourth Street Fantasy, which was up to its usual high standards.  All of the panels consisted of smart and amusing people, and The Phantasmagorical Cross-Cultural Sexual Cogitation Panel was no exception, so when I quibble, please note that I'm not quibbling with individuals. Some panels simply don't cohere, which may mean they need to be held again, or may mean they're not quite Fourth Street Panels, or may just mean I wanted more than I should've.

Before I say anything about sex and storytelling, here's what underlies my thinking:

1. I like explicit sex in stories when the scene shows a significant change in the relationship between the characters.

2. I like writing to educate people about sex. There's a reason there's a condom when Wolfboy loses his virginity.

3. I completely sympathize with gay folks who want more gay characters. There's a reason I've done my best to include some in every novel I've written since the first, and if I ever do a sequel to Cats Have No Lord, I'll be revealing that not all of the characters are as straight as they may've seemed. (But I'm not making a retroactive announcement, 'cause what's not in the text doesn't count.)

That said, when I listen to panels like The Phantasmagorical Cross-Cultural Sexual Cogitation Panel, I feel like people doing alt-sex panels want more frequent, more varied, and more accurate sex in the same way NRA members want more frequent, more varied, and more accurate guns. They're not quite getting the point of stories.

At the beginning of the panel, someone shared the fact that 3.8% of the adult population identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. This isn't significantly different than eighty years ago, when the accepted percentage was about 2%. People were surprised that the number was so small, which is common: the media has gone from making minority genders invisible to making them seem more common than they are, and fandom has lots of folks of different genders because we've always prided ourselves on being accepting.

But I'm a little sorry I didn't raise my hand to stress the change that matters most: The US has gone from a few folks supporting gay marriage to the majority of folks supporting it, and the majority of Americans would not be upset if a child was gay or lesbian. There are people who say the future is queer, and they may be right, but the data we have suggests the future may still be more straight than queer, yet no one will judge anyone on the basis of their preferences for consensual sex.

ETA: Shorter version: In the future, no one will give a fuck who you fuck, so long as the fucking's consensual.

ETA: Related in my head: Your Sex Is Not Radical | Yasmin Nair

Friday, June 26, 2015

My favorite cartoon about the Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling, and a comment

ETA: The legal issue should be simple. When segregation was legal, forbidding interracial marriage made legal sense; when black folks got equal rights, that had to include the legal right to marry. The situation is no different with gay folks.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Two examples of the unexpected consequences of banning (pornography and swastika)

History Lesson: what happened when Canada enacted a feminist anti-porn law? | A Glasgow Sex Worker:
Within the first two and a half years after the Butler decision, well over half of all Canadian feminist bookstores had had materials confiscated or detained by customs.
Swastika (banned in Germany):
A controversy was stirred by the decision of several police departments to begin inquiries against anti-fascists. In late 2005 police raided the offices of the punk rock label and mail order store "Nix Gut Records" and confiscated merchandise depicting crossed-out swastikas and fists smashing swastikas. In 2006 the Stade police department started an inquiry against anti-fascist youths using a placard depicting a person dumping a swastika into a trashcan. The placard was displayed in opposition to the campaign of right-wing nationalist parties for local elections.

ETA: For anyone who doesn't know the history of the swastika before the Nazis appropriated it: Swastika - Wikipedia

Two favorite versions of The Internationale. What are yours?

Tony Babino - L'Internationale:

Soul Flower Mononoke - The Internationale:

For those who don't know the song, here's a more traditional take in Russian from the movie Reds:

Monday, June 22, 2015

Falcon by Emma Bull — now available as an ebook!

Currently available for $3.99 at

His life is a race against time. And time is winning.

He was a prince, until his world was plunged into civil war. He was a son, until he discovered his mother’s secret. He was an exile, until he became Niki Falcon, piloting a ship linked to his nervous system, crossing light-years in a breath, addicted to the drug that makes it all possible.

Now he needs to free a planet. But to save Lamia and defeat its enemy, Niki Falcon needs to cheat both physics and death...

A Locus Recommended Novel for 1989

New York Public Library list of best books for young adults, 1989

“Ms. Bull has an unabashed enthusiasm for the mythic dimensions of adventure fiction.” —The New York Times Book Review

“I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see how the story was going to end... Bull knows how to fit bombshells in unobtrusively, then explode them at exactly the right moment.” —Locus magazine

"Absorbing...Entrancing." —Lois McMaster Bujold

“Emma Bull is one of the best writers working today. She combines an elegant style with high adventure and thoughtful speculation. Falcon is one of my favorite novels. Read it.” — Steven Brust

“Falcon soars! Exciting, evocative, and entertaining. I couldn’t put it down!” —Chris Claremont

“A taut and chilling SF adventure. Bull is outstanding among the new generation of writers.” —Julian May

"Stark and strong: Strict science fiction, purely myth. A perfect novel!" —R. A. MacAvoy

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Why the two translations of Blaise Pascal's quote about brevity make me smile

Blaise Pascal offered one of the great writing quotes: Je n'ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n'ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.

It's usually translated as "I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time." The more literal translation is "I made this [letter] very long, because I did not have the leisure to make it shorter."

I smile because the less literal translation shows he could've made the sentence shorter if he'd had more time.

This observation was prompted by a bit in Amazon's New Plan to Pay Authors Every Time Someone Turns a Page - The Atlantic:
If I work hard to be pithy and crisp in order to keep the reader’s skittish attention, there will be fewer pages to read, and less money to be earned. Writing concisely is an art that takes a lot of time and careful editing. As Blaise Pascal said...
Payment by the word has always bothered me because it rewards sloppy writing. Payment by the page isn't better. In the world I want, writers will be able to write without having to pit artistic needs against commercial ones.

ETA: "The secret of being a bore is to tell everything." —Voltaire

Friday, June 19, 2015

Dance video: Seemingly Displaced

Hotel California-Dance Precisions 2-15

I don't think the dance serves the song, but the effect's oddly like watching a kaleidoscope.

Why identitarians are offended by discussing the whiteness of Jews

The reactions to yesterday's post, For anyone who thinks Jews were not always white in the US, surprised me. A Jewish friend said I was showing "an unfortunate bias" for suspecting that Chesnutt was right about Jewish wealth in the South in the 19th century, and someone linked to the post through http://www.donotlink.com/framed?727825 so it would not get any Google juice and their readers could rate it as offensive. That raised two interesting questions: why is the idea that Jews are white offensive, and in a time when people love to talk about the privileges of different groups, why shouldn't we discuss why Jews as a group in America are wealthier than the general white population?

Lest you doubt the latter, a few reminders via Tani Goldstein's How did American Jews get so rich?, an article which doesn't answer its question, but does offer useful data:
1. Though only 2% of the US population is Jewish, 25% of Forbes' list of 400 wealthiest Americans are Jewish.
2. 46% of American Jews "earn more than $100,000 a year, compared to 19% among all Americans."
Should you think disproportionate Jewish wealth is a new phenomenon, there's this information that I found yesterday:
3. In the South before the Civil War, the 1860 census showed the total number of US slaveholders was 393,964, which was "3.2 percent of the total Southern population" according to Keven C. Julius in The Abolitionist Decade, 1829-1838. The South's Jewish population was only 20,000, but "about 5,000 Jews owned one or more slaves" according to Junius Rodrigues in The Historical Encyclopedia of World Slavery.
Goldstein's article points out the first problem with discussing the history of Jewish privilege in the US: there are two distinct waves of immigration:
In the mid 19th century, some 200,000 Jews immigrated to the US, mostly from Germany and central Europe. Most of them were Reform Jews, well-established, who saw themselves as Germans and Americans more than as Jews. They scattered across the continent and set up businesses, from small stores and factories to financial giants like Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs.

The great wave of immigration began in 1882. Czarist Russia, which was home to about half of the world's Jews, went through a failed industrial revolution and was on the verge of collapse, while the Jews living in small towns became impoverished and suffered from cruel pogroms.

Within 42 years, some two million Jews immigrated to the US from Ukraine, western Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Belarus and Romania. They made up 25% of the Jewish population in those countries, about 15% of the world's Jews, and 10 times the number of Jews who immigrated to the Land of Israel during that period.

The US became the world's biggest Jewish concentration. The mass immigration to Israel began in 1924, when the US enacted tough laws which halted the immigration.

The immigrants arrived in the US on crowded boats, and most of them were as poor as church mice. Dr. Robert Rockaway, who studied that period, wrote that 80% of US Jews were employed in manual work before World War I, most of them in textile factories.
Sadly, Goldstein fails to discuss the situation of the remaining 20% of US Jews then, and does not compare the second wave of Jewish immigrants with groups like the Irish, who came with relatively less wealth and therefore statistically fewer of them had the resources to start their own businesses.

As a student and an opponent of racism, I understand why discussing Jewish privilege makes people uncomfortable—the history of Jewish persecution, from pogroms to the Holocaust, should make anyone uncomfortable—but as a socialist, I'm fascinated by every sort of privilege, and a simple fact of privilege in the US is that it's disproportionately enjoyed by Jewish Americans. (Also by Asian Americans and Hindu Americans. John Scalzi has a popular post arguing that being a white male in America is like getting the easiest player setting in a game, but the easiest settings are actually Jewish, Asian, and Hindu.)

When a Facebook friend shared Ashkenazi Jews are not white – Response to Haaretz article | Hila Hershkoviz, I began to see why the subject of Jewish whiteness offends some people so much. I responded there with this:
When the US's South was segregated, Jews went to white schools, used white rest rooms, drank from white water fountains, and sat at the front of the bus. At no time in US history have Jews ever been considered anything other than white. The Secretary of State of the Confederacy was Judah P. Benjamin, a Jew. If Confederates think you're white, you're probably white.
Then I added this afterthought to her claim that a 1987 Supreme Court case established that Jews were legally not white:
Ms. Hershkoviz's first link refutes her. From Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb: "the defendants are also part of what today is considered the Caucasian race." The "also" means both groups were white.
This morning, I got an email about articles at academia.edu that might interest me. One was White privilege: Jewish women’s writing and the instability of categories | Cynthia Levine-Rasky.

And I finally got it: Like Rachel Dolezal, Jewish identitarians are desperate to escape their whiteness. A common trait of privileged people is the desire to feel they deserve their privileges. Now that privilege theory has made all white people into oppressors, white privilege theorists are clutching at any opportunity to be anything other than white.

It'll be interesting to see if they're more successful than Ms. Dolezal.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

For anyone who thinks Jews were not always white in the US

I periodically meet people who think Jews weren't always white in the US. Until today, my stock answer was something like this comment I left at Amazon.com: How Jews Became White Folks and What That Says About Race in America:
Jefferson Davis's Secretary of State was Judah P. Benjamin. If the Confederate States of America thought Jews were white, everyone thought Jews were white.
Nathan C made another essential point at Amazon:
The 1790 naturalization act restricted naturalization to White people, and yet no one in the 150 years of racially restricted nationalization law tried to argue that Jews should be excluded from citizenship because they weren't White.
Today, I came across another reference to Jews being white in the US in the 19th century. In 1889, Charles W. Chesnutt began "What is a white man?" this way:
The fiat having gone forth from the wise men of the South that the "all-pervading, all-conquering Anglo-Saxon race" must continue forever to exercise exclusive control and direction of the government of this so-called Republic, it becomes important to every citizen who values his birthright to know who are included in this grandiloquent term. It is of course perfectly obvious that the writer or speaker who used this expression--perhaps Mr. Grady of Georgia--did not say what he meant. It is not probable that he meant to exclude from full citizenship the Celts and Teutons and Gauls and Slavs who make up so large a proportion of our population; he hardly meant to exclude the Jews, for even the most ardent fireeater would hardly venture to advocate the disfranchisement of the thrifty race whose mortgages cover so large a portion of Southern soil. What the eloquent gentleman really meant by this high-sounding phrase was simply the white race; and the substance of the argument of that school of Southern writers to which he belongs, is simply that for the good of the country the Negro should have no voice in directing the government or public policy of the Southern States or of the nation.
Now, you may quibble with Chesnutt's clichéd comment about Jews*, but it's clear he had no doubt white Southerners would agree that Jews were white.

I'm now adding Chesnutt to the long list of writers that I should read someday.

* I have no idea how much of the South was owned by Jews at the end of the 19th century, though since Jews as a group in the US have always been disproportionately wealthy, he's probably right that they held a large share.

ETA: Slavery and the Jews - The Atlantic: "...slave ownership was much more common in southern urban areas than in the southern countryside. The relatively high proportion of Jewish slaveholding was a function of the concentration of Jews in cities and towns..."

Project MUSE - The Jewish Confederates (review): "Jews served the Confederacy enthusiastically, Rosen tells us, because the antebellum South was relatively free of antisemitism. Not only were the first U.S. senators of Jewish descent southerners, but many southern Jews held other political offices at the state and local levels, and Louisiana produced the first elected Jewish lieutenant governor in American history. Allowed to prosper under Dixie's sun, Jews accumulated wealth (often in mercantile affairs in cities such as New Orleans, Charleston, and Richmond), acquired and occasionally traded in slaves, sometimes became planters, defended the peculiar institution, and prioritized their identities as southerners over their Jewish affiliations. Jews from Sephardic families naturally volunteered for Confederate service in order to defend what they had come to regard as their land and country."

Look Away, Already--A review of The Jewish Confederates by Robert N. Rosen

Passover in the Confederacy - NYTimes.com

The Jewish Press » » Southern Jews and the Confederacy

ETA 2: I found a discussion about some of David Duke's wilder claims at Jewish Slave Owners in the United States. One commenter, Semaphore, did a good job of putting them in context, and quoted this:
"A few Jews even became prominent slaveowning planters in the Old South ... as successful as these Jewish Southerners were by Southern standards, they represent a very tiny percentage of the 20,000 Jews residing in the antebellum South who could, or would, ever aspire to own a slave. About 5,000 Jews owned one or more slaves - about 1.25 percent of all the slaveowners in the antebellum South." - Rodriguez, Junius. The Historical Encyclopedia of World Slavery, Volume 1, ABC-CLIO, 1997
And this:
"...the official United States census did not include "slaveholder" as a data category until 1860 ...The census showed 12,240,293 of the country's total 1860 population of 31,183,582 lived in slaveholding states. The total number of actual slaveholders was only 393,967. This represents just 3.2 percent of the total Southern population and just 1.26 percent of the nation's population." - Julius, Kevin C. The Abolitionist Decade, 1829-1838: A Year-by-year History of Early Events in the Antislavery
So a much higher percentage of Southern Jews owned slaves than the general Southern population (25% vs 3.2%), but they tended to own them in urban settings rather than on plantations.

ETA 3: Why identitarians are offended by discussing the whiteness of Jews

Are Jewish converts transracial? More implications of the Rachel Dolezal case

European Jews were white in the US

Answering Zionists: the mini-FAQ - Bonus: Yes, Jews have always been white

ETA 4: The Alt-Right Reopens Questions of Jewish Whiteness - The Atlantic:
From the earliest days of the American republic, Jews were technically considered white, at least in a legal sense. Under the Naturalization Act of 1790, they were considered among the “free white persons” who could become citizens. Later laws limited the number of immigrants from certain countries, restrictions which were in part targeted at Jews. But unlike Asian and African immigrants in the late 19th century, Jews retained a claim to being “Caucasian,” meaning they could win full citizenship status based on their putative race.
The argument that Jews were not white is based on an inability to understand religious bigotry. In the US, white Jews have always had all the privileges of whiteness, but, like Catholics, they have not had all the privileges of Protestantism.

Why this is not a racial difference in the US? You can convert to Protestantism, but you cannot convert to whiteness.

ETA 5: Who got the right to vote when?:
Religion no issue
Maryland becomes the last state to remove religious restrictions when it passes legislation enfranchising Jews. White men can no longer be denied the right to vote on the basis of their religion.
ETA 6: I just shared this on social media:

The difference between racial and ethnic prejudice in the US is most easily seen in the US’s south, where

(1) white Jews and Catholics used white facilties and

(2) served in the military like other white people

yet both were hated by the Ku Klux Klan for not being Protestant.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A database of hoax hate crimes: fakehatecrimes.org

I haven't investigated it, but the casual glance suggests it may be useful for anyone interested in the phenomenon. fakehatecrimes.org

Friday, June 12, 2015

Did Spokane's NAACP head commit hoax hate crimes?

Rachel Dolezal is accused of lying about her race, but since race is a social construct, that only interests me as a student of the history of race--I figure people can identify as any race they choose. What interests me is what other writers don't mention in their headlines: did she lie about hate crimes? From Questions raised about race of Spokane NAACP head | The Seattle Times:
Spokane police files on Dolezal’s report that she received a hate mail package and other mailings in late February and March were released. Police records say the initial package Dolezal reported receiving did not bear a date stamp or bar code, which Dolezal herself told police when she reported it. Investigators interviewed postal workers, who said it was either very unlikely or impossible that the package could have been processed through the post office, and that the only other alternative was that it had been put there by someone with a key.

However, several other pieces of mail sent in the same handwriting and style, and with the writer identifying himself in the same way as “War Pig (Ret.),” have been received by Dolezal, the Spokane Valley Police Department and The Spokesman-Review. Those other letters were date-stamped and postmarked from Oakland, California.

It was not clear from the reports, released through a public records request Wednesday, if the police investigation into the letter has concluded or was ongoing. Dolezal said Wednesday she believes it has reached an end, at least for the time being.

“They’re not going any further. … I didn’t hear the word closed, but I did hear there’s nothing more they can do at this time,” she said.

Dolezal said she received a key to the post office box when she became president of the NAACP earlier this year. Asked about the possibility that she had put the package there herself, she asked, “What mother would terrorize her own children?”

She said she was not questioned about that possibility by police, and was bothered by initial media reports about the package. “Nobody’s ever come out and said (they suspect me) directly, but I am bothered by the subtle implication,” she said.

Neumaier said he was suspicious of several incidents Dolezal reported in Coeur d’Alene, including her discovery of a swastika on the door of the Human Rights Education Institute when the organization’s security camera was “mysteriously turned off.”

“None of them passed the smell test,” he said.

He said that after Dolezal left the institute and he saw her gaining prominence in Spokane – becoming head of the NAACP, chairman of the police ombudsman oversight commission, teaching at Eastern Washington University, and speaking frequently in public on racism and justice issues – that he became worried that there might be “blowback” for the institute for not doing a better job of vetting her.

Part of Neumaier’s job on the board is to look at complaints of human rights violations and help victims take action and seek justice.

“In all of these incidents (she reported in Coeur d’Alene), she was the sole witness to events that, when put under scrutiny, don’t hold up,” he said.

Dolezal has made many reports of harassment and other crimes to police. None have resulted in arrests or charges – but neither have any included direct claims that she fabricated them. In some cases, such as a report that a noose was left on her porch in Spokane, there were other witnesses.
Just to be clear, there are witnesses to the presence of a noose, but that doesn't mean Dolezal didn't put it there. See Lesbian couple pleads guilty to faking hate crime | FOX31 Denver.


How "Black" NAACP Leader Rachel Dolezal Was Outted As A White Woman - BuzzFeed News: "In documents reviewed by BuzzFeed News, police describe incidents in 2009 in which Dolezal’s house was reportedly broken into and in which she found a noose on her porch. However, police documents note that Dolezal’s landlord told investigators he may have left the rope on the property a year earlier when he hung up a deer."

Rachel Dolezal Once Told A Student She Did Not Look Hispanic Enough For A Class Activity - BuzzFeed News

ETA 2: Did Rachel Dolezal plagiarize art work?

From Jenner to Dolezal: One Trans Good, the Other Not So Much by Adolph Reed Jr.

ETA 3: Rachel Dolezal's Father Talks About Her Evangelical Christian Upbringing: "Ruthanne and Larry Dolezal, both residents of Troy, Montana, have been advocates for social justice in their own way. They practice Young Earth Creationism, a fundamentalist branch of Christianity that takes the Bible’s stories about the beginning of the world quite literally. Young Earth Creationists believe that God created the world in six consecutive 24-hour days, that humans and dinosaurs once walked together and that the Earth is only about 6,000 years old. To Young Earth Creationists, the great flood described in the Bible isn’t just poetry -- it's historical fact."

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Shakespeare understood the internet's outrage culture

"The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones." —William Shakespeare

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

How free speech is like the Geneva conventions

Just as the Geneva conventions are about the conduct that's wrong in war no matter whether it's done by you, your allies, or your enemies, free speech is about the conduct that's wrong in intellectual disagreement no matter whether it's done by you, your allies, or your enemies. Because free speech is more often opposed than supported, I used to think it was a goal, but now I see it's just a tactic for achieving your goals. Like using poison gas and torture, or slaughtering prisoners and non-combatants, trying to force your opponent to be silent is a tactic that's used by people who only care about winning.

They fail to see that harsh tactics do more than encourage their enemy to use the same tactics against them. Harsh tactics make their allies wonder if they chose the right side. The Jacobins launched the Reign of Terror to support the very best causes—as a result, democracy failed and feudalism returned to France.

To go full Godwin, free speech supports your opponent no more than the Geneva conventions supported Hitler.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The question to ask about torture and rape in art

A few days ago, I wrote a post that, unusually for me, I didn't post immediately. It was missing something.

This morning, I read Someone Has Done A Statistical Analysis Of Rape In Game Of Thrones. Where, unusually for me, I didn't leave a comment, but I thought this:

The first question to ask about rape or torture in a story is not whether it's included, how often it's included, or how explicitly it's included. The first question is how it's included: is it shown as justifiable or as one of the worst things a person can do?

Note that I don't say "good". People who justify horrible things usually acknowledge they're horrible, then claim they're necessary.

That thought wasn't enough to get me to post. Then I read Why do high-profile campus rape stories keep falling apart? And that got me thinking about the tension between reality and art.

Which gave me this introduction to what follows.

What I wrote a few days ago

I've been watching Daredevil and Longmire. I like both, but they have me thinking about torture. Daredevil sometimes gets answers by hurting people. The writers may think it's realistic to do a noir superhero story, but noir stories are not realistic; they're only differently unrealistic. In two episodes (out of the 28 I've seen), Longmire gets confessions by making people think they'll die if they don't confess—it's psychological torture, but it's still torture. Having him bend his moral code that far seems wrong for the character as he's otherwise written and just plain bad plotting for anyone who knows anything about the law. Every viewer should scream at those points, "That's inadmissible in court because it's unreliable, idiot!"

I shared this comment on Twitter, Facebook, and G+ a couple of days ago:
When discussing torture, stick to real examples. Hypothetical situations just mean you don't have facts so you're making up stuff.
But I'm still thinking about it, so:

In reality, there are at least two questions to answer about torture:

1. Is it effective and reliable?

If you only want a confession, use torture. If you want the truth, there are better ways. Some people can endure enormous pain, and most of us will say anything, true or false, to get torture to stop.

2. Is it acceptable to torture the innocent to get answers from the guilty?

So long as humans are fallible, innocent people will be thought guilty. If you don't believe in torturing the innocent, don't torture people you think are guilty. Yes, any criminal justice system makes mistakes. That's why a good justice system treats the guilty in a way that will still seem fair if the verdict of guilt is found to be wrong.

In art, there are at least three questions to answer when sympathetic characters use torture and get what they want:

1. Is it realistic?

No. See above.

2. Is it dramatic?

Yes. But unrealistic drama about torture used for good ends is accidental or intentional propaganda for torture.

3. Is it creative?

No. Having characters get information through research or trickery requires creativity.

I know defenders of torture in reality or art won't be swayed by what I've said, but if you're among them, you might be interested in Secret WWII camp interrogators say torture wasn't needed.

What I'll add today

I didn't post that because the conclusion felt incomplete. Now I know it's because I left out the fourth question, which should probably be first:

4. Is it moral?

Many artists hate that question, but here's another simple truth: stories that we remember have moral implications, no matter what the artists may have intended—or are willing to admit to the public or to themselves.