Thursday, November 30, 2017

What Samantha Geimer says about Roman Polanski and why his haters ignore her

My curse is to see a third side in polarizing issues. The result is getting hated or ignored by people on both sides. I'm saddened to see the same thing happens to Samantha Geimer: the people who claim to be her champions have no interest in what she says, and the worst defenders of Polanski say that because she was sexually active, she must have consented.

She's told her story many times, and the basic story stays the same:

1. She was sexually active.

2. She did not consent.

3. She thinks Polanski's original sentence and time served was sufficient. (For more about that, see The prurient hounding of Roman Polanski is over at last | Agnes Poirier | Opinion | The Guardian)

Here are three tellings of the situation by Geimer; I recommend reading them all.

Roman Polanski sexual abuse case - Wikipedia:
According to Geimer's testimony to the grand jury, Polanski had asked Geimer's mother (a television actress and model) if he could photograph the girl as part of his work for the French edition of Vogue,[13] which Polanski had been invited to guest-edit. Her mother allowed a private photo shoot. Geimer testified that she felt uncomfortable during the first session, in which she posed topless at Polanski's request, and initially did not wish to take part in a second but nevertheless agreed to another shoot. This took place on March 10, 1977, at the home of actor Jack Nicholson in the Mulholland area of Los Angeles. At the time the crime was committed, Nicholson was on a skitrip in Colorado, and his live-in girlfriend Anjelica Huston who was there left, but later returned while Polanski and Geimer were there. Geimer was quoted in a later article as saying that Huston became suspicious of what was going on behind the closed bedroom door and began banging on it, but left when Polanski insisted they were finishing up the photo shoot.[14] "We did photos with me drinking champagne," Geimer says. "Toward the end it got a little scary, and I realized he had other intentions and I knew I was not where I should be. I just didn't quite know how to get myself out of there."[15] In a 2003 interview, she recalled that she began to feel uncomfortable after he asked her to lie down on a bed, and described how she attempted to resist. "I said, 'No, no. I don't want to go in there. No, I don't want to do this. No!', and then I didn't know what else to do," she stated, adding: "We were alone and I didn’t know what else would happen if I made a scene. So I was just scared, and after giving some resistance, I figured well, I guess I’ll get to come home after this".[16]
Roman Polanski’s Rape Victim Urges Court to Drop 40-Year-Old Case – Variety:
“He got arrested. I knew he was sorry the next day,” she said after the hearing. “I was sure he instantly regretted what he had done and wished it hadn’t happened. It just wasn’t as traumatic for me as everyone would like to believe it was. I was a young sexually active teenager and it was a scary thing, but it was not an uncommon thing. I understood much worse things happened to people. So, I was just not as traumatized as everybody thinks I should have been.”
Geimer also resisted the idea that Polanski was a pedophile.
“I was almost 14,” she said. “I wasn’t 10.”
Samantha Geimer, Victim In Roman Polanski Sex Case, Defends Him In Court | Deadline:
Reporters severely questioned whether her defense of Polanski let him off too easily, and might encourage other predators. But she insisted that Polanski had done his time and had since suffered the sort of shaming that was once loaded on her. “I was a drug-doing Lolita who had cornered him,” she said, describing the sort of insults that were thrown at her in the 1970s. “Now, he endures it because everyone is calling him a pedophile, the insults have switched.”
And yet his haters continue to ignore Geimer's wishes and insist he must be punished. How that will help anyone, they do not say. The reason is they're not interested in helping anyone. They want to see someone suffer. And if that means prolonging Geimer's suffering, they're happy to do it.

UPDATE: When I first posted this, I said there were no other accusers. I was wrong. There are: Roman Polanski is now facing a 5th accusation of sexual assault - Vox. I wouldn't have written this as I did if I'd known that—I was remembering research I'd done before anyone else came forward.

I still think Geimer's wishes should be respected, especially in light of the original judge's conduct, but I also believe Polanski's other accusers deserve the right to charge him now.

On Douglas Williams, The Guardian, and the DSA, or Why identitarians hate context

If I wrote like Douglas Williams and so many people online, I would first tell you what to think, then share screen caps or links so you would read them with my interpretation in mind. It's an ancient trick that should have a name and probably does. It's a way of pretending to be objective while promoting your bias.

And I suppose I've already done that by associating Williams with people who do what he does. We're all human. He and I both should be forgiven some missteps when we're trying to make our point and be fair to the other.

He made this public post at Facebook:

Williams' screen cap is from the comments on R. L. Stephens' public post (which I wrote about yesterday in A black man and a white woman fight, or Will identitarianism destroy the DSA?):

From the comments there, some of the context that Williams omits (the reference to "our man" is to Stephens):

Williams entered the discussion much later in the comments:

He ignored that. In his version of Oppression Olympics, women should only be afraid of white men.

I keep being amazed by the selective way identitarians read. But then I remember Adolph Reed Jr.'s observation near the end of The limits of anti-racism:
Yes, racism exists, as a conceptual condensation of practices and ideas that reproduce, or seek to reproduce, hierarchy along lines defined by race. Apostles of antiracism frequently can’t hear this sort of statement, because in their exceedingly simplistic version of the nexus of race and injustice there can be only the Manichean dichotomy of those who admit racism’s existence and those who deny it. There can be only Todd Gitlin (the sociologist and former SDS leader who has become, both fairly and as caricature, the symbol of a “class-first” line) and their own heroic, truth-telling selves, and whoever is not the latter must be the former. Thus the logic of straining to assign guilt by association substitutes for argument.
Short version: Cults gotta cult.

Ah, well. I continue to think third parties don't have a chance in the US's two-party system, so I hope the DSA can succeed. But if I was a capitalist who wanted to guarantee their failure, I'd do all I could to promote their identitarian wing.

This post is long enough, so I'll stop. But if you're curious about left-identitarianism's long history of failure, you might start with Antiracism campaigns: Twenty years of making racism worse.

P.S. I forgot to say anything about the Guardian. I mentioned it because Williams has written for them. Like all major liberal news sources, its writers are far more comfortable writing about identity than class.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A black man and a white woman fight, or Will identitarianism destroy the DSA?

Two people I've admired from a distance are fighting. One's Amber A'Lee Frost who writes for The Baffler; the other's R. L. Stephens, who wrote The Birthmark of Damnation: Ta-Nehisi Coates and the Black Body. In a public post on Facebook yesterday, Stephens wrote:
Someone named Kate Hudson just threatened to punch me when she sees me. This is how some people in DSA get down, and please believe these dynamics are incredibly racialized. 
This organization must not tolerate this type of lynch mob environment. I won’t stand for it and I know I’m not alone in that regard.
And he shared this screen cap:

Now, anyone who can read critically should've seen what Amber A'Lee saw: Hudson is venting. Her words are not meant to be taken seriously. It makes as much sense to insist that she's threatened to punch Stephens as it does to insist that she's threatened to make him eat her ass.

And there's a question anyone reading the screen cap should ask: Why did at least two women think Stephens was "so fucking rude" and in the habit of treating "people he doesn't think are important" with "utter disdain"? In a time when identitarians are insisting we should listen to women, why are these women's complaints being ignored by Stephens and his fans?

Part of the problem is the rules of Oppression Olympics have never been clarified. When a black man and a white woman fight, is the problem racism or sexism? Does the person who first calls dibs on their ism automatically win? Or do you simply do what every identitarian I've ever seen do and declare the person with your politics is right and the other one's the appropriate ist?

I don't know whether Frost or Hudson or their followers are talking about sexism, but Stephens' followers are sure talking about racism. On Twitter, he's continuing to insist there's racism without citing any examples. All that's relevant to him is Hudson's race, which makes me wonder if he's never known an exasperated black woman to make a rhetorical threat of violence.

I hope he takes a few days off-line to reflect. His quick assumption of racism surprised me because of the insightful things he said about Coates. In angry disputes, we often fall back on simplistic reasons for our conflict—it's easier to say our critics are prejudiced against us than it is to apologize for treating them in ways that made them feel denigrated. It's completely possible that Stephens didn't mean to be rude or disdainful, but if so, he should ask for the chance to clarify this. And if he did mean to be rude and disdainful, he should own it and explain why he thought these women deserved to be treated badly.

This conflict makes me worry about the future of the DSA. It tripled in size thanks to Sanders' run, but Sanders' base is an uneasy coalition of universalists and far-left identitarians. Stephens seems to be simultaneously aware of the dangers of left-identitarianism while willing to default to it in anger.

It will be interesting to see how this ends. I'm hoping for a group hug, but I'm not putting money on that.

PS: If you want to see the original post: R.L. Stephens - Someone named Kate Hudson just threatened to punch...:

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Actresses put their tongues in my mouth, a memory inspired by the charge against Al Franken

I was an actor in New York City for a year or so. I was awful, but I was young and, though I didn't really believe it at the time, fairly handsome, so I got a few jobs: a supporting role in an off-off-Broadway play, a bit part in a dreadful horror movie, and a few modeling gigs for romance magazines.

The first time I was directed to kiss an actress--I am deliberately using the more sexist form of the word to stress that I'm speaking of a female actor--I wasn't quite sure what we would do. Obviously, we were actors, so we would act out kissing. But what did that mean? I assumed it would be a mime show in which our mouths made contact but nothing happened between our lips, much like what very young children do when they pretend they are kissing romantically.

The actress's tongue gave me a different answer.

I don't remember if every actress who kissed me used her tongue, because it didn't seem like a big deal after the first time. It was a pleasant part of the job. I know more than one did. I was shy and insecure and strongly believed men should not force themselves upon women, so I never went further than putting my lips to an actress's. What happened next was always up to her.

Now, it may be that these actresses assumed they would use their tongues because the part called for passion, or maybe they thought I was cute and decided to add a bit more realism than they might provide for every actor they kissed. I will not claim that there was an expectation that romantic kisses would involve tongues. I will only say I stopped being surprised when actresses used theirs.

I don't know if Franken's accuser is accurately telling what happened. Maybe he was an opportunistic lech. I can say fairly objectively that I was handsomer than he, and my shy friendliness probably made me seem about as safe to kiss as any male actor could be. An actress who used her tongue with me might very well have chosen not to use her tongue with him.

But I do not doubt there were actresses who initiated tongue contact with him. He was funny and influential, and no one who didn't already dislike him would call him repulsive. That he remembers the kiss with his accuser differently than she does would not surprise me, even if he initiated the use of the tongue.

I'm not fond of the "times were different then" excuse for bad behavior because men forcing themselves on women has been considered bad behavior for thousands of years. But I'm now curious about whether the kisses I got were the exception or the rule for actors in the 1970s, and what's expected in a staged kiss today.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Two reasons critics of "social justice warriors" should not refer to "cultural Marxism"

1. To people who have studied the origins of the identitarian left, you'll sound ignorant.

2. To people who have studied the origins of "cultural Marxism", you'll sound like a Nazi.

Most left-identitarians are liberals, not socialists, because identitarianism does not fit in Marx's universalist framework. The primary founders of left identitarianism, Derrick Bell of Critical Race Theory fame and Kimberle Crenshaw, coiner of "intersectionality", have no links to Marxism or socialism. They were products of the Ivy League who never criticized the class system that benefited them. Their concerns were limited to racism and sexism. Unlike socialists like King and Malcolm X, Bell and Crenshaw wanted to tweak capitalism, not overthrow it.

"Cultural Marxism" is a translation of the Nazi term, Kulturbolschewismus, which literally means "cultural Bolshevism". After the fall of the USSR, fascists began speaking of "cultural Marxism" because the Bolsheviks no longer existed and "Marxism" was shorter to say and write.

So, if you're a Nazi, keep speaking of "cultural Marxism". Your fellow Nazis will recognize you.

But if you're not a Nazi, look more critically at the people who taught you the phrase. They may be right about the problems with left-identitarians and wrong about everything else.


The Man Who Changed Middle-Class Feminism, or Derrick Bell and Critical Race Theory, Where Racism and Anti-Racism Intersect

On black racism, and Adolph Reed Jr.'s comment about Derrick Bell, father of Critical Race Theory

The Socialism of Fools, Part 1: Antisemitism and Malcolm X, Derrick Bell, and Louis Farrakhan

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Three reasons "white supremacy" does not explain Trump's appeal

1. Approximately eight million Obama voters voted for Trump. Did they suddenly become racist?

2. 13 percent of African American men voted for Donald Trump. Did they suddenly become self-hating?

3. Noted at You Are Still Crying Wolf | Slate Star Codex:
Trump made gains among blacks. He made gains among Latinos. He made gains among Asians. The only major racial group where he didn’t get a gain of greater than 5% was white people. I want to repeat that: the group where Trump’s message resonated least over what we would predict from a generic Republican was the white population.
Did the idea of white supremacy suddenly appeal to those black Trump voters?

If the answers to those questions are no, what else explains his appeal?

For some black working-class men, like Melendez, Trump’s economic rhetoric resonated more than his racial rhetoric. In short, like their white working-class counterparts, they saw in Trump the man who would bring back their jobs and their dignity.
Just 29 percent of white, no-college Obama-Trump voters approved of Mr. Obama’s performance, and 69 percent disapproved. Similarly, 75 percent said they would repeal the Affordable Care Act. Only 15 percent believed the economy had improved over the last year, and just 23 percent said their income had increased over the last four years.
Bill Clinton's political advice always applies in capitalist countries: "It's the economy, stupid."

ETA: It’s time to bust the myth: Most Trump voters were not working class. - The Washington Post:
...when we looked at the NBC polling data, we noticed something the pundits left out: during the primaries, about 70 percent of all Republicans didn’t have college degrees, close to the national average (71 percent according to the 2013 Census). Far from being a magnet for the less educated, Trump seemed to have about as many people without college degrees in his camp as we would expect any successful Republican candidate to have.
ETA: How Despair Helped Drive Trump to Victory:
Economic, social and health decline in the industrial Midwest may have been a major factor in the 2016 US presidential election, Monnat and Brown’s INET research finds, with people living in distressed areas swinging behind Trump in greater numbers. Trump performed well within these landscapes of despair – places that have borne the brunt of declines in manufacturing, mining, and related industries since the 1970s and are now struggling with opioids, disability, poor health, and family problems.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

If people should earn their money, why do we let the rich give their children money?

This question is especially nagging at me today because it's official: The Richest 1% Now Own More Than 50% of the World’s Wealth | Fortune.

On Facebook, when I asked a similar question, someone said it's not about the children; it's about the right of people to do what they please with their money.

But that doesn't answer the question. Either we all deserve to inherit or none of us do. The wishes of the people who own the wealth are no more relevant than the wishes of the people who owned slaves.

The palmed card in the "right of the owners of wealth" argument is most of us are trapped in the economic circumstances we're born into. Remember the chart I shared in my previous post:
So if you make that argument, why did the people who have the wealth deserve to be given money?

I'm with Jesus and the Jewish prophets: the poor should inherit the earth.
...the poor will inherit the earth,
will delight in great prosperity.
—Psalm 37:11 (New American Bible, Revised Edition)

Sunday, November 12, 2017

This chart shows the flaw in John Scalzi's "lowest difficulty setting" in the US's game of life

Scalzi said something identitarians still cite, that in the game of life, "straight white male" is the "lowest difficulty setting". That's something you can only believe if you ignore class. Serious capitalists have to know the facts, which is why This chart shows that your parents’ income determines your future - MarketWatch is from a business site:

The apparent privilege of women is they are more likely to "marry up" while men "marry down".

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Why I'm an agnostic

In second grade, I understood why God approved of Samson burning the fields of the Philistines, but I couldn't understand why he approved of Samson doing that by setting fire to the tails of foxes. That was just mean.

Florida's schools were segregated in the early '60s, and Bible-reading was mandatory at the start of the day. I spoke up against both—think of me as the chibi version of the Klansman's favorite opponent, a godless commie niggerlover. By the end of the decade, the movements for civil rights and the First Amendment had been won in public schools: the Bible was out, black people were in. As I came into my teens, my side of my generation was famously focusing on sex, drugs, and rock and roll. People like lists of three, so the fourth usually gets left out: we were also trying alternatives to conventional Christianity and Judaism. I studied Theravada Buddhism and tried meditation and was fascinated by gnosticism and desperately wanted to know the answer to the great question, what's it all about?

Sometime in my teens, I learned about agnosticism. While I knew then that both theists and atheists included people who had doubts, agnosticism seemed the best description of what I was: I didn't know the truth, I was open to learning more, and since religion was no longer imposed by the government and public schools, I was concerned with other struggles.

I began seeing something that atheists mention while missing its full implication: if religious beliefs have little to do with whether we're good or bad, that applies to theists too. Their belief does not make them behave badly; their mistaken beliefs about goodness do. If that was not so, there would be no good people in any major religion, yet there are good people in all of them.

Lately, I've been thinking about something else: Only 3% of the US identifies as atheists and 4% identifies as agnostics. No one will make a better world without the help of the other 93%.

And I've been wondering about this: Why is the economic class I oppose the class that is most receptive to atheism?

It comes to this:

1. I don't feel obliged to take a side on something that can't be known.

2. I don't feel obliged to convert people to what I believe. If your understanding of the universe pleases you and you don't force it on others, I'm happy you found something that comforts you.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

How whiteness studies are made meaningless

"The study of whiteness has its origins in a rich scholarly tradition that includes the work of W.E.B. Du Bois, Theodore Allen, Noel Ignatiev, and David Roediger. These writers all explore, in great detail, the intricately imbricated relationship between whiteness and labor in the U.S. But by the time it reaches most of our classrooms and almost all anti-racist training, it has been cleansed of its politics, history and class consciousness and devolved into a privilege walk or a list in Peggy McIntosh’s knapsack. ... Pointing in the abstract toward White privilege shorn from its origins in labor history tends to lead White listeners from the privileged economic classes to unproductive guilt and smug lectures directed toward other, less enlightened White people." —Bill Lyne

from The Ways of White Folks: A Love Letter to the National Education Association

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Occam's Razor vs. the Believer's Hammer

Perhaps because there isn't a single definition of Occam's Razor—a term Occam never used for an idea that may be older than Aristotle—the term gets misused. The principle doesn't imply that the simplest solution is right. It says the simplest solution should be chosen first and tested, and if it proves to be wrong, choose the next simplest and test that. The Razor lets you sort through ideas quickly until you find the one that's right—or that's too complicated for you to see why it's wrong. Either way, the Razor is the fastest way to eliminate false possibilities.

Several principles have been proposed for the opposite of Occam's Razor, but they don't describe what I'm interested in, so here's mine:

The Believer's Hammer takes a simple solution and smashes anything that doesn't fit.

The easiest example comes from religion: Literalist Christians add up the Bible's years between Jesus and Adam and conclude God made the universe about six thousand years ago. Dinosaurs and carbon dating don't support their timeline, so the Hammer comes down: Dinosaurs died in Noah's flood, or God put dinosaur fossils in the Earth to fool nonbelievers, and carbon dating is a lie.

Secular beliefs rely on the Hammer too. Racists, sexists, and flat-earthers hammer away objections to their beliefs about race and sex and the shape of the earth. The Hammer simultaneously prevents testing of a belief while making its users think they're being critical as they swing their favorite tool.

We all start as hammer users; the luckiest of us learn to shave. My favorite examples are W.E.B. DuBois and Malcolm X, two men who looked at racism in America and saw skin privilege, then took up the Razor and saw capitalism underlying it. Had they been content with the Hammer, they never would've said things like these:

"...back of the problem of race and color, lies a greater problem which both obscures and implements it: and that is the fact that so many civilized persons are willing to live in comfort even if the price of this is poverty, ignorance, and disease of the majority of their fellowmen; that to maintain this privilege men have waged war until today war tends to become universal and continuous..." —W.E.B. DuBois, preface to The Souls of Black Folk, Jubilee Edition (1953, 50th Anniversary)

"I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation. I believe that there will be that kind of clash, but I don’t think that it will be based upon the color of the skin." —Malcolm X

P.S. Another opposite principle for Occam's Razor: Procrustes' Bed. If it doesn't fit, rack it or hack it until it does.