Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Salon, Heal Thyself!


Salon is at it again.

In "Bye bye, Bernie: He’s not fit to captain the Democratic ship if he can’t stop chasing the great white male," Anna March writes:
Economic populism and what are commonly erroneously and dismissively referred to as “social issues” — such as reproductive rights, immigration reform and civil rights for people of color, those who have disabilities, people of all faiths, LGBT people and women — are indivisible.
How?  We are not told.
Sanders routinely divides matters of race and gender and class — which, again, cannot be untwined — by discussing the “pain” and needs of working-class voters and perpetuating the dangerous myth that the Democrats have ignored them. Sanders has insisted that Democrats have failed to reach these voters, while dismissing the fact that 75 percent of working-class voters of color voted for Clinton, not Trump, last year.
This paragraph makes clear exactly why Sanders is correct in saying the vote of the white male working class must be sought after.  You already have the vote of 75% of working class voters of color.  It's the white male ones they don't have, and that they should go after if they want to improve their performance over 2016.  Are we to surmise that Anna March would rather not have the votes of the white male working class because they are white male?

Based on the content of her article, that would be a wise assumption.
Despite all of this, cisgendered, heterosexual men are quick to explain why “identity politics” cost Clinton the election. So frequent is this occurrence, I have started using the term “Solnit’s Law” — in honor of Rebecca Solnit, author of the book “Men Explain Things to Me” — to shut down conversations that include men’s mansplaining to me how Clinton blew it and other “facts” about the 2016 election. 
Solnit’s Law — a version of Godwin’s law — is that the longer a debate thread goes on, the more likely it is that someone will mansplain. Once the effect of Solnit’s Law has been declared, the conversation ends and the mansplainer has “lost.” Try it and see how often the conversation will end once Solnit’s Law is called.
I doubt the conversation ends because the "mansplainer" has lost.  It ends because he assumes, quite rightly, that further discussion would be wasted on someone so egocentric and childish as Rebecca Solnit or Anna March.  The only suitable response at that point is to shake one's head at the narcissism, and from there make the decision to have no further interaction.  I mean, we can simply ignore the fact that many people who did abandon the Democrats in the last election supported Obama - a black man, or that many who abandoned the Clinton ship in 2016 opted for Jill Stein - a woman.  After all, when upper middle class feminist bloggers with audiences of thousands need to feel like the victim because of their vaginas, who needs facts?
Democrats should instead focus on translating how inclusion translates into economic advancement.
Well and good.  But then March grumbles about how Sanders actually thought that reaching out to the white male working class might have been a good idea. Hell, she even uses terms like mansplaining unironically. Some chick wants to lecture us on inclusiveness, then brushes off criticisms of her favorite candidate because they come from white cishet males. Okay.
It seems that men — including and especially Sanders — would rather blame inclusion for Clinton’s loss than take a look at themselves, at sexism, racism and bigotry. Apparently it is easier to blame “identity politics” than to seek to change hearts and minds, in order to dismantle bigotry."
Inclusion wasn't the problem. Intersectional feminism is not inclusive. That's precisely what's wrong with it. Intersectional feminism is all about competitive victimhood where whomever has the most marginalized identities is given carte-blanche to be as big of douchebag as they want and insulate themselves from being called on it through cries of "white male fragility!" Not exactly a means of dismantling bigotry.

March figures men should look at themselves.  Perhaps they should.  Many working class white males did vote for Trump, identity politics was a factor in that decision, and look what they got for it. Trickle down economics and deregulation.  What's the Matter with the white working class?  It's a fair question to ask.

Physician, heal thyself, however.  It was your candidate, Anna March, that lost, after all. That's usually where the self reflection is most needed. It seems that the Anna Marches of this world would rather blame "men explain things to me" for Clinton’s loss than take a look at themselves, at decades of neoliberal policy beneath a thin veneer of pandering to cultural smugness passing itself off as progressivism. Apparently it is easier to blame “mansplainers” than to seek to change hearts and minds, in order to dismantle bigotry.

And then there is the purity testing.

She questions Sander's progressive credentials because he brushes off "Identity Politics." Inclusiveness is precisely the reason you do brush off identity politics, and campaign instead on ideas that can benefit everybody: universal health care and so on.  Sanders attempted this, with some deviations that he doubtlessly judged, rightly or wrongly, as politically necessary, and did surprisingly well.  He may well have won, had the internal DNC deck not been stacked against him to begin with.  By moving away from identity and by speaking to issues more specifically, the dialogue becomes inclusive by its nature.  
We persist though we are blamed for her loss, while a historic voter gender gap showed that a majority of women, not men, as supporting Clinton over Trump.
White women favored Trump over Clinton, if I'm not mistaken, though not by a tremendous margin. A fact that intersectional feminists are all too eager to take hold of when they scold "white feminists."  Apparently, what we all need is more condescending lectures and scolding from people with more marginalized identities. All of us. White feminists need it from women of color. Cisgendered white gay men need it from transgender and nonwhite and nonstraight women of color. Black males, cishet ones especially, need it from black women, and especially nonstraight women. Kind of makes one wonder who's going to be left standing when next the music stops in this sick game of competitive victimhood musical chairs?

The media has not done nearly enough lecturing on how all of us need to hang our heads and check our privilege. Salon, the HuffPost, the Guardian, Mic, Upworthy, Being Liberal, Everyday Feminism, Occupy Democrats, not to mention tumblr and twitter, to say nothing of every college or university in the western world. They haven't done enough of that. Had there been more, Clinton would have won.

And more purity testing:
Further, we need to expect the Democratic Party to stand firm on its pro-choice platform and not lend national support to down-ballot candidates who are not pro-choice. We must refuse to debate choice again within the party. One hundred percent pro-choice is the only pro-choice position. One hundred percent pro-choice is the only pro-choice position.
Because purity testing always works. Not that I'm against the pro-choice position, mind you. But the last thing progressive thought needs now is more of a sacred cow mentality.
There is no tactical reason to abandon women’s rights and civil rights and every reason for Democrats to entrench more on these issues, now that our liberties are being revoked and under siege. It is upon all of us who care about the future of the Democratic Party, and indeed the nation, to say so.
I highly doubt Sanders, or anybody in the Democratic Party is suggesting that women's rights and civil right should be abandoned.  They are not going to abandon a core constituency.  But perhaps you should consider putting your money where your mouths are.  White and male does not always equal privileged, however ego stroking it may be to tell yourselves that.  However gratifying it might be to have someone to look down on, to blame your problems and your woes on.  Much like the white working class themselves scapegoating immigrants in minorities in much the same way.  You are no better than they.  You are as much a part of the problem as the reactionary working class is.
Don’t abandon us, Democratic Party. Don’t abandon we, the voters who by 3 million votes said, “I’m with her.” Let’s see you kiss Sanders goodbye and embrace the rest of us.  Let’s see Sanders give up the spear. Let’s see you say, “I’m with you, all of you” instead.
You will not be abandoned, Anna March.  Calls for the Democrats reach out to the white male working class are not calls for it abandon women and minorities.  They are calls that the Democrats become still more inclusive than they would be if they continued to exclude the underclasses that the Anna Marches as opposed to the Archie Bunkers of this world choose to scapegoat and look down on.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

More Empathy, Less Echo Chamber: A Genuinely Radical Proposal


The Press Ombudsman of South Africa brought the hammer down and brought it down hard on the Huffington Post South Africa for its recent blog post suggesting that disenfranchising white males might be a good idea.  I discuss the antecedent action in all its gory detail here.

The question is whether the blog contained "discriminatory and denigratory" references to white males.
Let me be short and sweet: If disenfranchisement of anybody (whether white males or black females, for that matter) is not discriminatory, the meaning of discrimination should be redefined. Moreover, the reasons given for such a malicious suggestion certainly were denigratory. I do not believe that this statement needs any further justification. 
I do not believe for one moment that such discriminatory and denigratory opinions can be described as being in the public interest – especially given this country's history of its struggle for liberation. To disenfranchise a section of the population once again would indeed represent a huge step backwards – one that may have some serious unforeseen consequences.
This was followed up by a rather stern order that the HuffPost South Africa publish an apology to the general public for publishing material that "was discriminatory and denigratory, amounted to hate speech, was malicious, was against the public interest, contained factual inaccuracies, impaired the dignity and reputation of many people and blaming its system instead of probing deeper into the racist and sexist nature of the blog."

I want to make clear right now that I have very grave reservations about the state having the power to adjudicate what is and is not appropriate for publication.  I have grave misgivings about "hate speech" laws, especially when they can be used to equate criticism of belief systems with hatred expressed towards particular groups of people.  Like when antifeminism is equated with misogyny or when criticism of Islamic theology is equated with "Islamophobia."  Perhaps this ruling is another such instance.  Many a feminist blogger will insist that her quarrel is with patriarchy and male privilege, not men on a more personal level, however caustic and self righteous her views may be.  As Noam Chomsky once so eloquently put it, if we do not favor free speech for our political opponents, we do not favor it at all.

That aside, one must also commend the South African authorities on their consistency here.  No "power plus prejudice" rationalization of double standards here.  They'll bring the boom down on you for blasting white males as fast and as surely as they will for going after any other demographic.  Good on them for at least enforcing their rules consistently.

Much of the complaint against the HuffPost SA piece, which as it turns out was the work of an especially clever troll, was subsequently defended by HuffPost SA senior editor Verashni Pillay on shamelessly ideological grounds.  In her words, the post by "Shelley Garland" consisted of analysis that was "pretty standard feminist theory."  Pillay's shameless apologetics for "Garland's" post was pretty standard feminist apologetics.  Meaning not exactly pulitzer prize material.  In it was:

  • A list of tweets, messages and comments that HuffPost SA received in response from "angry white dewds" who were "Upset that everything is not always about THEM" intended to show that the backlash against the article was motivated, as everything always is, by racism and misogyny.
  • This monstrous paragraph, making up for in slogans, buzzwords and cliches what it clearly lacks in depth, analysis and creative thought: "Garland's underlying analysis about the uneven distribution of wealth and power in the world is pretty standard for feminist theory. It has been espoused in many different ways by feminist writers and theorists for decades now. In that sense, there was nothing in the article that should have shocked or surprised anybody (or so we thought.) It would appear that perhaps much of the outcry derives from a very poor reading of the article -- or perhaps none at all. Dismantling the patriarchal systems that have brought us to where we are today, a world where power is wielded to dangerous and destructive ends by men, and in particular white men, necessarily means a loss of power to those who hold it. A loss of oppressive power. Those who have held undue power granted to them by patriarchy must lose it for us to be truly equal. This seems blindingly obvious to us."
Any notion that "uneven distribution of wealth and power in the world" boil down to race, gender and identity rather than class, relations of production or political economy reveal quite plainly how deeply flawed what passes for "pretty standard for feminist theory" no doubt is.  

But in terms of what's wrong with Ms. Pillay's defence, that's just the tip of the iceberg.

I have, in fact, tried to contact Ms. Pillay and asked her where she copy and pasted this drivel from.  I have yet to hear a response, though I suppose I do not need to.  I can copy and paste such tripe, almost verbatim, from any feminist blog or from the comments section beneath any pro or anti feminist article I can find anywhere on the web.

And that's the real problem here. 

What is "pretty standard for feminist theory" is dogmatism and self righteousness.  Is an inability to self reflect, and to entertain the prospect of its own fallibility.  What is "pretty standard" is that the only way to innovate in any closed system of belief is to carry the one single permissible vector of thought to ever increasing extremes.  That's why it was so plausible to so many readers that a feminist blogger would unironically suggest disenfranchising all white men.  Where to go from there I will not say, but I'm sure we can all guess.

As a result of the furor, Ms. Pillay has since submitted her resignation to HuffPost SA.  Notice that in Pillay's statement of resignation to the HuffPost, she says only, "I respect the office of the press ombudsman and have decided to tender my resignation. Thank you to Media24 for this opportunity and all the best to the team at HuffPost SA going forward."  And that is all.  No admission of either professional or moral wrongdoing.  

The "power plus prejudice" concept - the idea that racism and sexism are power plus prejudice and that it is therefore impossible for women of color such as Pillay to be racist or sexist, was the underlying rationale behind her blind acceptance of the "Garland" piece, and her decision to defend rather than reflect upon her choice to publish it, and defend it in purely ideological terms in the way that she did.  Power plus prejudice means that actually oppressing white males is impossible, since they are a "privileged" and "oppressor" class themselves, and that it is therefore impossible and nonsensical to suggest that the oppressor can themselves be oppressed.

Replace "white male" with "kulak" and one can easily see where this line of reasoning can lead.

In the manner of the true believer, Pillay confers all truth and all morality upon feminist theory, elevating it to the level of an infallible religion.  There will be no self reflection on Pillay's part, and she will doubtlessly regard herself as the victim, and express this sense of victimhood entirely in ideological terms.  Entirely through the use of slogans, buzzwords and witticisms that are the sole stock-in-trade of feminist theory: that she was victimized by "white male fragility" or something of the like.  The failure of the white male to see the eternal wisdom of feminist theory, even when it unironically advocates such rubbish as the disenfranchisement of white males, will doubtlessly be chalked up to white male racism and misogyny.

Keep drinking the Kool-Aid, Verashni.  It's what feminists do best.

As for the HuffPost SA itself, a somewhat more hopeful note is being sounded.  In a HuffPost SA piece entitled "A View On The Fake Blogpost: The Oversight Was That There Was No Oversight," author Gus Silber writes, "Slow down a little, HuffPost. Pause, ponder, reflect. Question fiercely everything you upload. Is it true? Is it good? Is it worth the rush? The world will still be here tomorrow, and there will still be time, in-between the page-views and the engagements, to be social and have fun."  Good advice.  Think I'll try and heed it myself, actually.

The title of another HuffPost piece by Sarah Britten expresses what can be our best hope, not merely for the Huffpost but all around: "More Empathy, Less Echo Chamber: A Genuinely Modest Proposal."

Pretty much says it all, doesn't it?

More empathy, less echo chamber.  Nothing modest about that proposal.  It may well be the most radical, and the most necessary proposal of our time.




Saturday, 22 April 2017

Ann Coulter to Speak at UC Berkely


Former Clinton secretary of Labor and current professor of public policy at UC Berkeley Robert Reich has spoken well of Berkeley's decision to reschedule rather than prevent entirely a speaking engagement by conservative commentator Ann Coulter.  Reich's words on his Facebook page were eloquent:
Free speech is the central idea of a university. If unpopular views can't be expressed at a university, university education is severely compromised, and the First Amendment is reduced to a popularity contest. 
Speech should not be blocked because it's offensive, provocative, or even hateful. The essence of education is provocation. Students should be able to directly hear and question someone who utters offensive or hateful things so they can understand why such statements are brainless and vacuous, and also gain a deeper appreciation for openness and tolerance. 
The only exception is when hateful speech is calculated to -- and is likely to -- incite violence by others toward groups or people against whom the hateful speech is directed. But even then, universities must make every effort to protect those individuals or groups rather than prevent such speech.   
Other luminaries in the US progressive establishment agree.  Quote Bernie Sanders:
Obviously Ann Coulter’s outrageous ― to my mind, off the wall. But you know, people have a right to give their two cents-worth, give a speech, without fear of violence and intimidation.
To me, it’s a sign of intellectual weakness.  If you can’t ask Ann Coulter in a polite way questions which expose the weakness of her arguments, if all you can do is boo, or shut her down, or prevent her from coming, what does that tell the world?” 
What are you afraid of ― her ideas? Ask her the hard questions.  Confront her intellectually. Booing people down, or intimidating people, or shutting down events, I don’t think that that works in any way.
 This after it was discovered that "groups responsible for recent clashes during demonstrations on campus and throughout the city planned to target Coulter’s event."

Representative  and deputy chair of the DNC, Keith Ellison (D-Minn) agrees:
Absolutely protest these people you don’t like, absolutely write against them, denounce them.  But the solution to bad speech is good speech, the solution to bad speech is more speech. Once you start saying, ‘You can’t talk,’ then whoever’s in power gets to impose that on whoever’s not in power and that’s not good.
The dissenting views turned up in the comments sections on Reich's Facebook page.  There are several stock responses on part of those who would advocate the no-platforming of Coulter, and they are worth considering.

Objection: "Free Speech means that the government cannot regulate your speech, and cannot punish you for it. It does not mean that you are entitled to a platform for that speech, or money for that speech, or an audience for that speech, or that people will not pelt you with tomatoes when issuing such speech."

Response: This is true, as far as it goes.  But the authority to deny a platform, and the authority to provide one, are ultimately the same.  If UC Berkeley has the right to deny Coulter a platform to speak, they also have the right to grant her one.  It looks like they offered to grant her one.  Now what?
 
This is a bogus response.  The right of UC Berkeley to choose who to allow to speak is not the issue here.  The kinds of progressives that raise this objection made perfectly clear their respect for UC Berkeley's right to make these kinds of decisions when they rioted and burned half the campus down in reaction to Milo Yiannopoulos's Feb 2 scheduled speech, among others. Entitled and self righteous regressives reserve for themselves and themselves only the right to decide who may or may not speak.  This is a consummately authoritarian mindset.  Recognize it as such.

Objection: "I think it is easy for people who have historically not been impacted by structural violence to say that people who spill vile from their mouths should speak. It would be a very different if Ann Coulter's rhetoric was her own and did not have any real impact on people however that is not the case. The White Nationalist anti-immigrant words that spill from her mouth have been widely supported and have translated to policies that target people based in their race and have over simplified a problem. The things that she is saying are dangerous and have real life very violent consequences for the Undocumented, Mixed Status people who they affect."

Response: I've seen multiple variations of this idea.  They all boil down to the idea that censoring hate speech is a necessary measure to take to protect the rights of the marginalized.  It is based on what is essentially a slippery slope argument. Which is itself a logical fallacy.  Violent and hateful speech leads to violent and hateful actions, especially on part of the privileged against the marginalized, or so we are told.

I would suggest that the real centers of power and privilege would be those with the authority to decide who may or may not speak.  A common error among those who suggest that oppression and hate are "structural" or "institutional" is that they then proceed to attach the label of "powerful" or "privileged" to identities rather than institutions.  The ears of one marginalized group are thus protected from "hate speech" only by marginalizing another group through censorship.  Censorship has always been the tool of the powerful, never of the marginalized.

Finally, stopping Ann Coulter speaking at UC Berkeley will not stop those who really harbor white nationalist views from having access to those views.  It is not at all hard to access those views online.  No-platforming Coulter only legitimizes the far right's own narratives of victimhood and marginalization.  It is bad strategy for Coulter's opponents to adopt.

Many other responses simply degenerate into "everybody who disagrees with me is evil Hitler."  With all of the vacuous signalling and faux cleverness that so often attend the expression of regressive views, some commenters suggested that "What could have stopped Hitler was 'moar freeze peach!'  Wow.  Just wow.  He mispelled "more" and "free speech."  What cleverness!  What wittiness!  I just can't get past how brilliant the online social justice crowd is!

Does anybody remember when, during the Bush administration, liberals used to say that if we curtail civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism, the terrorists win? If we give into fear, the terrorists win?

That's what Al Qaeda wanted. To make our hatred and fear of them be the cause of our remaking our society in their image: violent, repressive and fundamentalist. A lesson the alt-right would do well to learn.

Now apply that same logic to fascism.

We adopt fascist methods in order to defeat fascism, the fascists win. We censor them, they win. We violently disrupt their meetings, they win.

Do you want to truly defeat fascism and fundamentalism? Do it by openly challenging their ideas. Rather than no-platforming them, give them all the platform in the world and let them hang themselves on their own stupidity. Of course, that also requires good, smart liberals - of the Sam Harris and Bill Maher mold, to step in and rip their ideas to shreds. 

Not so long ago, the likes of Maher and Harris had the religious right on the run. They didn't do this by trying to censor the evangelicals. They did it by making damn good and sure everybody knew exactly what the evangelicals had to say and how utterly ridiculous it was. How hard could it be to do this with the alt-right? If you can't be bothered to prove that Hitler was a complete maniac who slaughtered tens of millions because of utter nonsense racial conspiracy theories, that's just inexcusable intellectual laziness.

But this seems to be too much to ask of a progressive establishment characterized by the twitter social justice mob, who regards unquestioned agreement with their views as being their birthright because "marginalization", rather than their responsibility to win due to sound argument.  Instead, let's contribute to the Hitler mystique by trying to hide and bury his ideas and turn complete poppycock racial pseudoscience into an alluring forbidden fruit. Good thinking!

You try to censor and no platform fascists, you're telling them you're afraid of them. That feeds them. That makes them stronger. You can't stop people from accessing fascist ideas. I can download Mein Kampf right now on PDF. How are you going to no platform that?

You recognize the fact that people turn to extremist politics when they've lost confidence in mainstream politics. That means cleaning up the corruption and getting money out of politics. Actual government of the people, by the people, for the people.

Fascism arose the first time in the 1930s - the height of the great depression. An empty stomach will vote for anyone who promises to change that.  A fearful populace, as the population of Weimar Germany were of the Soviet threat, and a humiliated and shamed populace, as the population of Weimar Germany were after the Versailles Treaty, are more receptive to the honeyed words of demagogues delivering scapegoats and easy answers.   


What you don't do is blame the rise of fascism on the presence of free speech and other civil liberties. That's like blaming the outbreak of war on the existence of peace. They became authoritarian because they weren't authoritarian in the first place? Sure.

As something of an aside, I do think there are are legitimate public safety concerns here.  It is becoming apparent that Berkeley mayor Jesse Arreguin has ties with radical left groups in the Berkeley area.  While he is within his rights to hold whatever views he wishes, it bears mentioning that he also owes a duty of care to the citizens of Berkeley and to the students attending UC Berkeley.  The lack of police presence at the Milo riots and more recent clashes with alt-right counter protesters has been noted.  

Arreguin should be subject to a federal investigation to determine whether he's had a hand in this.  So too should staff and faculty at UC Berkeley, and those found having a hand in inciting or participating in riots should lose their jobs in addition to being subject to prosecution.  Students who participate in or incite riots must face expulsion and charges.  These consequences need to be made clear ahead of time, so that wannabe revolutionaries can think long and hard about how much this ridiculous LARPing is really worth to them.  This in stark contrast with the right to peaceful, non-violent and non-disruptive protest, which must be protected for student, faculty and political representatives alike.

It's worth noting that the violence has been escalating, and that following recent violent clashes, Berkeley antifa has expressed an interest in acquiring guns and learning how to use them.   

This is no laughing matter.  Injuries may now become fatalities.  It is Arreguin's responsibility to deploy Berkeley law enforcement to actually do their jobs and arrest rioters guilty of offenses, on both sides.  If they cannot do this alone, State and Federal officials should be contacted and the National Guard deployed to restore order, if needed.  


Bamboozling the Huffington Post


So, the Huffington Post got bamboozled.
The Huffington Post has published a meandering attempt to shift the blame away from itself for posting a hoax blog by a fictional social justice warrior which called for white men to be stripped of the right to vote.

The article, headlined “Could It be Time to Deny White Men the Franchise?”, went viral last week for its claim that banning white men from voting for 20 years would be a good way to advance progressive politics.
The HuffPo deleted the piece and in its place issued a statement stating that they will "bolster and strengthen their blogging procedures" and that "bloggers will have to verify themselves."  The original piece is, however, archived here.  They also add that, "Huffington Post SA stands aligned to the Constitutional values of South Africa, particularly the Preamble of our Constitution which states that: "We the people of South Africa believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity."

A remarkable statement, especially in light of the fact that South Africa has recently seen a spike in violence against white farm workers, amid calls for violence against its white citizenry from both ruling ANC politicians and leftist opposition groups.  A concerning precedent, and one that should be studied by those who would claim that anti-white racism is impossible or would do no harm.  While Genocide Watch does not yet think that anti-white genocide is occurring there, they are concerned that "early warnings of genocide are still deep in South African society, though genocide has not begun."

Reasonable people should see the handwriting on the wall in South Africa.  It is set to become another Zimbabwe, and would get the hell out of dodge if they can.  So much for the idea that denying whites the franchise would be a good idea from any standpoint.

It is well and good that the Huffington Post intends on tightening its quality controls.  Funny this was not their original response, however.  The HuffPo had originally boasted about the traffic that the piece had generated, and were quite taken in by the feminist and progressive credentials of "Shelley Garland" who described herself as an "activist working on ways to smash the patriarchy."

Am I to guess that burglaries and torturings occurring on white owned farms in South Africa would qualify? First, they defended the Garland piece and the "logic" underlying it - "pretty standard feminist theory."  Following enormous reader backlash, which was doubtlessly dismissed with form letter responses of the "whiney white dudes mad that everything isn't about THEM" and "Bigotry! Fascism! Racism!" sort, they finally relented and took the piece down.

Their replacement was a denial of being able to confirm the existence of Garland.  Once Garland's true identity as Marius Roodt (another hero for the 4chan crowd, as if they needed more) was known, his employers then accepted his resignation (I let you draw your own conclusions) and the Huffington Post has since published his apology (I let you draw your own conclusions again).

It's hard to tell which apology is less sincere, Roodt's or the Huffington Post's itself.  Roodt was fairly upfront about his intentions:
A further indictment on the Huffington Post is the fact that its editor, Verashni Pillay, then took it upon herself to defend the total garbage that I had written. Although Ms Pillay claims that her website does not necessarily agree with what I said, it is unlikely that she would publish a piece with the same sentiments but aimed at a different race group written by someone ostensibly from the other side of the political spectrum.
It is highly doubtful that she would publish a piece saying perhaps apartheid wasn’t that bad, or defending Donald Trump’s ban on people of certain nationalities entering the United States, and rightly so. Pieces defending apartheid or the ‘Muslim ban’ would be hurtful claptrap. What we have seen is the South African equivalent of the Sokal Affair, where something will be published, even if it’s ‘liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions’. My article does not meet criteria a, but it certainly meets criteria b.
Succinctly put.

So with that in mind, I'm offering my assistance to the Huffington Post, in the form of a prepared statement and implied internal policy changes, that they may wish to adopt if they wish to get to the real root of the problem revealed by Roodt's deception and humiliation of the Post.  It would read something like this:
The Huffington Post would like to take the necessary time and space to apologize to its readers.  Especially, though not exclusively, its white male readers.  Shelley Garland's piece on White Men and the Vote was offensive and discriminatory.  In allowing it to be posted under the Huffington Post banner, we have enabled the expression of these vile and offensive views.  Made all the more vile and offensive by the fact that we would never permit such things to be said of non-whites and non-males in our publication, and rightly so.   
We simply cannot call ourselves a liberal publication while permitting to be expressed beneath our banner advocacy of the removal of the franchise, that most fundamental of all democratic rights, from any segment of the population on the basis of race or gender.  It is unacceptable.
In failing to analyse and fact check the piece, and in failing to analyse and conduct a proper background check on on the piece's contributor, who turned out to be an alias, we have failed in our duties of journalistic integrity.  Marius Roodt is entirely correct in stating that we allowed this to happen because the piece flattered the senior editor's ideological preconceptions.   
Placing adherence to ideology and political partisanship above journalistic integrity and basic human decency and morality is the very definition of propaganda, not news.  Senior editor Verashni Pillay received considerable negative feedback regarding this piece. We are disappointed, though not at all surprised by the nature of her response, which was to publish a piece laden with ideological sloganeering dismissing reader feedback.  Given how crucial independent and critical thinking is in the role of a senior editor, and how dogmatic adherence to ideology undermines these qualities, this is unacceptable.  Verashni Pillay will no longer be associated with the Huffington Post.
The Huffington Post would like to exonerate Marius Roodt of any allegation of wrongdoing.  His actions, motivated as they were by an honest desire to speak truth to what we must now honestly admit to being an ideologically ossified status quo in the journalistic profession, do not undermine or disrespect that profession but rather holds it in the utmost highest regard.   
It is our excessive devotion to ideology, partisanship and identity politics rather than Roodt's actions, that have undermined the Huffington Post's image in the public eye, and it is our responsibility as an organization to repair that image.
Don't hold your breath.

It also bears mentioning that the Huffington Post, despite its ostensibly progressive slant, is refusing to bargain with the union representing its staffers over salaries.  Besides celebrity feminism, the Huffington Post has garnered a reputation for "sh!ting on its writers."  Go figure.

Looks to me like its boycott time.  Archive.is for everything from the Huffington Post from here on out.


Thursday, 13 April 2017

Conservatives are Destroying our Future



University of Minnesota Twin City campuses are putting up posters on bulletin boards calling on all white male shitlords to stop and check their privilege.  The leftist Minnesota based Citypages rather snarkily observes that one liberal student isn't happy about it.  "I have been a liberal all my life," claims Evan Christenson, but claims to "get scared" seeing the bulletin board.  He then took his concerns to the right leaning Minnesota Republic.  "When you have taxpayer money going to a public university, I think every side should be represented," Christenson told the Republic.

Okay, fair enough.

It turns out that the group behind the spread of these boards is a group called CADOF, an acronym for Conservatives are Destroying our Future.

Perhaps they are.  But which conservatives?

The conservatives that would slash funding to universities such as U of M Twin City, or the conservatives making sure the students at said university see privilege in terms of seeing minorities widely represented in television and newspapers or not seeing arriving late for a meeting as a reflection of one's race?

The conservatives that own the banks and credit card companies that make exorbitant profits off the interest charged to low income people who rely on credit to top off their meager wages, or the conservatives who would define privilege as not being seen as fiscally irresponsible when doing so due to race?

The conservatives who are outsourcing jobs and rolling back worker's rights and telling the white male working class to blame blacks and immigrants for being unemployed, or the conservatives telling blacks and immigrants to blame their problems on white privilege?

Don't get me wrong: there's nothing wrong with fair representation across racial lines in media, or in the public eye more generally.  By the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, after all.

However, some of these points are frankly laughable.  I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented?  You'd be surprised at how easy it is to find the music of Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin or Public Enemy in any music shop.  The trick is actually finding a music shop these days.  Good luck with that.

I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race?  Hello?  Critical race theory, anyone?  Black studies, anyone?  Let's be perfectly honest here: is this a "privilege" that white people should want anyway?  Would we really want the kind of pseudo science that the likes of Jared Taylor or Richard Spencer try to pass off as white identity politics taught in the universities?

Well, expect that to start the day that white youth start questioning where the money for all of this is going to come from?  Or start questioning why, if they're so privileged, why can't they find a job with a living wage and health benefits?  And start coming up with answers that blame Wall Street instead of immigrants or the cozy relationship between finance lobbyists and congress instead of affirmative action.   Once enough white dudes start asking those kinds of questions, expect old Nazi textbooks on racial eugenics to start popping up in classrooms again.  After all, isn't that why they did the first time?

Kind of like how when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. started talking about economic injustice and organizing a poor people's march on Washington, it was then that a bullet found its way into him and critical race theory found its way into our colleges.  Who should you blame for your poverty, Mr. black man?  Why, the white man who doesn't get stopped by the cops, of course.  Just don't pay attention to what the banks and the arms contractors are really up to.

We'll give you a job writing columns for "liberal" newsblogs so long as you attack the underrepresentation of minorities in media and not the systemic lying and covering up of corporate and state abuses of power that the same media engages in.  Just make sure your "radicalism" is advertiser friendly and doesn't scare away sponsors.

The formula is a simple one.  Blame the white trash in the trailer parks for the problems that black people face.  It's really that easy.  After all, part of how we kept poor whites in the trailer parks was to get them to blame the problems they face on black people rather than us.  So it's only fair, really.

We'd do this for white guys too, but we haven't actually had to since the late 1970s, when we were able to use racial resentment to turn blue collar workers against the unions and social democratic politics and get them to support Reaganite and Thatcherite governments.  Farther back than that in the case of the US south.  But you minorities?  You've been so stubbornly left wing for most of the 20th century!  Damn it!  We really did think we were just going to have to go full iron heel with you.

But thankfully, it looks like groups like Black Lives Matter are finally starting to get with the program, and protest against such affronts as police involvement in Pride Parades and "environmental racism."   It actually looked like they were serious about challenging corporate and state power for a while there.  Good thing the tactics we were able to use to get Occupy Wall Street to start worrying more about the progressive stack or "indigenizing" their spaces than about actual finance sector reform are proving to be effective with BLM as well.  Clownish SJW antics make stories go viral, and advertisers like that.  Advertisers don't like having their actual business practises reported on.

As far as any half ways smart conservative should be concerned, universities like U of M Twin City are falling into line just nicely.  Are conservatives destroying our future?  Sure.  What matters, though, is that we all blame somebody with different colored skin for it.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Honest Advice on How to be a Male Feminist

So, for reasons that admittedly sane and rational people should not be able to fathom, you're a male who's decided to become feminist in the social media era.

You poor, stupid bastard.

Well, sort of.  Nobody put a gun to your head and made you do this, after all.  Not yet, anyway.  Look, just being honest here.  I'm going to present the honest guide to being a male feminist.  And I'll start by expressing by utter disbelief and lack of understanding of why you'd do this.  The white male of the postmodern age must have a masochistic streak that would make the Marquis de Sade blush.  Perhaps you got tired of the conservative brand of S&M: you finally got fed up with voting away your economic and political rights so now you've decided to march in the streets in favor of having your rights removed in more private contexts as well.  Like I said, completely perplexed.  But I'll leave that aside for now and just get into being honest about how to be a good male feminist.  Starting now, I'll be writing this entry from the point of view of an honest female feminist, speaking on behalf of the movement.

1. This article is the one and only time you'll get a straight answer out of us about anything.  Feminism is just about equality, and the way we achieve equality is by treating people unequally.  Guilt tripping, manipulation and self serving double standards are sure-fire ways to promote mutual respect and understanding, and are a solid basis for relationships too.  Dialogue that is mutual, reciprocal and between real human beings with their own stories and contexts is off the table.  What you can look forward to from us is an unending barrage of jargon and buzzword filled articles lacking in substance, riddled with contradictions and present no real cohesive vision of social justice that you will then be expected to share and promote yourself. And you thought you were safe because the calendar year is no longer 1984.

2. "Power Plus Privilege" Rationalizes Everything.  And I do mean everything.  In case you don't know, this is that old canard about how women can't be sexist, minorities can't be racist, and so on.  An endless, non-revocable get out of jail free card that enables us to be as big of douches as we want and not get called on it.  There's no double standard, no moral hypocrisy and no excess that we feminists can not use the paradigm of male privilege and female marginalization to justify.  This might itself constitute a form of privilege, a sane and rational male might think.  This sounds a lot like two wrongs making a right, a sane and rational male might think.  But women have some privileges and advantages - a slavishly devoted mass media, education system and justice system, as examples - a sane and rational male might think.

Fortunately for us feminists, sane and rational males are rare.  Especially where it is important that they be rare: the media, academia, the justice system and the government bureaucracies.  We've seen to that, over the years.  You've chosen to be a feminist ally, so I think that rules you out of the sane and rational category in any event.

So here's the deal: because male privilege and female marginalization, feminism is infallible.  That simple.  Anything a feminist says is to be considered gospel truth. It is oppressive for a male to disagree with a woman about anything, unless that woman is arguing against feminism.  Then and then alone are you well within your rights to tell her how she should think.  Otherwise, we pontificate, you believe without question.  End of story.

3. When it Comes to the Misdeeds of any Male Towards any Feminist Woman, Collective Responsibility and Guilt By Association Rule.  But only when the following criteria are met:

  • The act is violent, or at least insensitive.  And mark these words: we'll come up with a rationalization to make sure damn near anything a non-feminist male does is offensive and oppressive. 
  • Bonus points if the act is of a sexual nature.
  • The perpetrator is male.
  • The victim is a pro feminist woman.
When those criteria are met, we get to weaponize the act and hold it up as an example of patriarchy and male privilege.  What patriarchy and male privilege do is enable a line of rationalization which suggests that all males benefit from the misdeeds of some men towards women, since gender relations are totally defined by absolute, zero-sum adversarialism with no room whatsoever for mutual benefit.  And if all males benefit, then we get to hold all males accountable for the actions of the few, and we therefore get to act morally superior and claim advantages in both public and private relationships as a result. This goes as far as the court of law, where due process and presumption of innocence should not apply when the alleged crime is sexual in nature, the victim is female and the perpetrator is male.  And because reason 2 above, you don't get to argue about it.  

Acts of kindness and support by men towards women don't count because privilege.  Misdeeds of women towards men are okay, encouraged even, also because privilege.  Feminists can't be held responsible for their own actions because women are oppressed and men are not.  When feminists do things sane and rational people would consider bad, males should instead blame themselves because the pay gap and rape culture.  When bad things happen to men, it's because patriarchy hurts men too.  And that makes it okay to blame them for it!

I'm starting to wonder why us feminists would ever want to actually get rid of patriarchy and male dominance.  Best not to wonder that aloud, though.

4. This is all about competitive victimhood.  How do we feminists determine truth?  How do we decide who's side to take in a dispute?  

Simple.  Everybody has a number of identities based on gender, race, sexual orientation, sexual identity and so on.  Each of these identities can be plotted on a single dimensional axis, with a privileged identity on one end and a marginalized identity on the other.  So for gender, male is privileged and female is marginalized.  For race, white is privileged and people of color are marginalized, and so on.  You then simply count out who has more marginalized identities vs. privileged identities.  

Whoever has the most marginalized identities wins!  And everybody gets to be an asshole to the side with fewer marginalized identities, because rule 2 above.  If you have marginalized identities, weaponize the hell out of them and double down on the guilt-tripping and police absolutely everything that more "privileged" people do.  That's what marginalized identities are for.  This is why it's so important that women can't admit that men face some disadvantages, except where rationalized as "patriarchy hurts men too" as per rule 3 above.  This is all about scoring points and using those points for social advantages, and we really can't do that if we break down and start admitting everything might not be wine and roses for you guys.  Sorry.

Yes, it's really that easy.  So much simpler than having to analyze facts, contextual variables and make nuanced judgements in dicey situations where both, or all sides, might have a point.  Too much thought and not enough self righteousness in that.  When you just want to virtue signal and really can't be bothered trying to understand hard facts, this is so much better!

5. We've cleverly made this a closed belief system, for our convenience.  It should be fairly obvious by now that you can't question us on anything without leveraging your privilege and being an oppressive shitlord.  More importantly, if we actually legitimize any questions you might have, it might occur to you to start actually challenging the manner in which we're so shamelessly exploiting our "marginalized" status and making our lack of privilege itself a source of privilege so flagrant and obvious that it would make George Orwell blush.  From there, the whole house of cards pretty much collapses and we can't have that.  

So if we say you're a racist or a misogynist for any reason, you are.  Denial of guilt will be taken as evidence of guilt.  We learned a thing or two studying those witch hunts, besides the fact that like everything else, they were all about misogyny.  

6. You Will not Have an Opinion of Your Own Regarding What You Find Attractive About Women.  Even though we mock the churches for their prudish attitudes towards sexual matters, we get to have just as prudish of attitudes ourselves and not actually be considered prudes for it, because male privilege.  See rule 2 above.  You see, when you have your own opinions about what you consider attractive in women, that makes us feel insecure.  And because patriarchy, we don't have to be responsible for our own feelings and insecurities.  We get to blame society instead.  And by society, we mean patriarchy.  And by patriarchy, we mean you.  

Feminist women can, will and must get offended if you - a male - dare think her or any woman beautiful or attractive.  Loss of your career and a nice fat lawsuit are perfectly just recompenses for any male telling a feminist woman that she looks nice today.  Because it's just that awful. The only motive men could possibly have for feeling that way about women is that they think women are objects put on this earth only to please men, because men can't both be attracted to women and respect them as equals.  Because "social context."

7. You Will Renounce All Sexual Agency.  If you ask a woman out on a date, that's harassment.  If you attempt to initiate any kind of sexual intimacy, you clearly hate women and that's rape.  If you even look at a woman, that's "male gaze."  I mean, how dare you think anything sexual natural and good?  Because of the magic of power plus prejudice, it is somehow "entitlement" to expect nature to be allowed to take its course between men and women, while a ceaseless cultural pogrom against heterosexual relationships should be taken as a necessary measure to achieve equality.  We're back to that calendar that should be on 1984 again. 

You will never refuse a feminist woman's sexual interest in you, however.  Power plus privilege, remember?  Feminist women can be as lewd as they want - and if libido is the means whereby we measure our vitality and masculine virility against the male's for the purposes of one-upping them, you'd better believe we'll be lewd as hell, and any judgement of that on your part is "slut shaming" because power differentials.  On the other hand, when one-upmanship necessitates a "you want me but not only do I not want you, but find your want of me offensive" kind of posturing, we'll be so puritanical and judgemental that we'll make the Virgin Mary look like the Whore of Babylon.  And just in case you might have forgotten, no arguing or we'll get offended.  We're very practised at weaponizing being offended.

If feminist women do not find you attractive, or prefer other women or dildos to you - and when that happens, we'll make damn good and sure you know about it - that is because you are misogynistic, whether you think you are or mean to be or not, and you must check your privilege, because centuries of patriarchal oppression.  We'll judge you on sexual characteristics, even though if you do the same to us, that's oppression on par with genocide because centuries of being invisibilized by male entitlement. You will be expected to remain loyal in a marriage even if your partner refuses sexual intimacy with you entirely, and if you leave the marriage for that reason, misogyny, fear of commitment and refusal to honor your vows.  And prepare to pay up!  See rule 9 below.  Should you act the same way towards us, that's emotional and sexual abuse, because centuries of male fear of female sexual independence and marriage is slavery.

If you are gay, that means you are misogynistic because you reject women.  If you are straight, that means you are misogynistic because you objectify women.  If you decide to talk to a woman, that's stalking, harassment or mansplaining.  If you decide not to talk to a woman, that's exclusionary, typical male non-communication and you're probably an internet troll who lives in your mother's basement.  If you express your feelings, you're a whiner who does not consider his own privilege.  If you don't express your feelings, that's typical toxic masculinity.  If you have sex with women, you're a misogynistic "pick up artist" or a "fuckboi."   If you can't or don't have sex with women, you can't get laid, and we'll mock the hell out of you for that, because we're classy and mature that way, even though we'll also tell you that gauging your manhood on your sexual prowess is toxic masculinity.  We'll tell that to your face, at any rate.  All of the above are perfectly justified, of course, because six thousand million years of patriarchy.

8. Because all oppression is "intersectional", being a male also means that you are racist, homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, transmisogynistic, misogynoir, ableist, fat shaming and classist.  This is true even if you are gay, a person of color, able bodied or overweight.  This means that you are privileged and owe feminist women whatever they think you owe them.  Are you homeless?  Unemployed?  Drafted?  In prison?  Low income?  Privilege, privilege, privilege, privilege, privilege!  Because when you are privileged, equality feels like oppression.  So no matter your circumstances, be prepared to shut up and ... 

9. Pay Up!  Think equality means women are 50% responsible financially?  Think again!  We only want equality when we benefit from it.  Otherwise, because male privilege.  Is it date night?  Pay up!  Buying a house, car, home decor?  Pay up!  Remember, 50% of the housework and upkeep is your responsibility.  As are 100% of the bills, especially after separation.  When she leaves you or tosses you out of said house, which she can do at any time because it's your fault, get ready to pay up.  Whether you can afford to or not.  Denied access to your children?  Pay up!  Of course, we feminist women will say we're not in favor of such things, that we actually find all of this faux chivalry quite offensive.  But we'll also remind you that this is another example of patriarchy hurting men too (see rule 3 above).  And, to be completely honest here, it's all about cui bono.  Who benefits.  And as long as it's us feminist women, pay up!  Because we're passive aggressive like that.  But we're entitled to it, because heteronormativity.

10. Stop Thinking You're the Center of the Universe.  Because that's what feminism is.  If you don't know that by now, read a fucking book and just go die already.

11. Everything about everything is misogyny.  This might seem strange.  After all, we're all deluged on a daily basis with ceaseless social media shares, public service announcements and other media aimed at women and supportive of feminist ideology.  Feminist theory is heavily protected and privileged in academia, enjoys widespread favorable media bias across the political spectrum, and feminist lobby groups constitute a very real deep state in many polities, resulting in ongoing funding for a variety of women's programs.  The vast majority of people in the 1st world favor gender equality.  But still, power, privilege and patriarchy abound, and are everywhere.  

Well, maybe not really, but we ... well, we kind of need them to be.  Again, we just don't know what we'd do with ourselves if we honestly faced the fact that this whole intersectional social justice thing was just a big sham.  We need something to believe in and justify our lives with, after all, and religion is just so passe.  So we don't really have a choice except to turn just about everything that people do into misogyny.  Which is your fault.  And even if it isn't, don't argue when a feminist blames you anyway, because you'll never have to worry about rape or being paid less to do the same job.  

12. Conversion to Islam Exempts You From All of the Above.  Why?  Stop asking us to educate you already!  Feminism is alone among belief systems in that it is the non-believer's responsibility to convert to feminism, and not the responsibility of the feminist to convince the skeptic.  Because we're sick to death of male shit and being oppressed.  And don't get started on the abuses of women's rights under Shari'a law.  Remember what we discussed above about you're not having an opinion on anything?  Stop being such a racist.  Unless you've completed your pilgrimage to Mecca, of course.

13. We don't hate men, we hate male privilege.  Privilege which is an innate trait of being a male in a patriarchal society.  Which you can't help or control, but since you benefit from it, it's your fault anyway.  So we actually get to hate you all we want and just not be responsible or accountable for it.  When will we cease to be a patriarchal society?  Well, if that ever happens, you'll be the first to know.  I wouldn't hold your breath, though.  This patriarchy thing isn't a bad deal, really.  We'll always find some reason to insist we're oppressed.  Trust us on that one.

So we don't really hate you as a person.  We hate your privilege, so we get to act as if we hate you.  We can also get all sanctimonious about how you're "making it all about YOU" when you accuse us of man-hating, because that's such an obviously privileged and entitled male thing to do.  Even though we are making it about you.  Slick, eh?

14. Fucking enough already.  I'm literally shaking right now.  I just can't even.  I'm never having sex with another guy again.  I'm so sick of having to educate your stupid privileged asses when you haven't lived a fucking day as an intersectionally oppressed woman of color in a racist, capitalist patriarchy.  Just die already.  I'm cringing just thinking about getting naked with another one of you ever again.

Ha ha ha!  Who the hell am I kidding?  It's just a matter of time before I'm all decked out in a silky french maid outfit or something like that, making a hot meal for the next hot dude who sweeps me off my feet and I get the hot D from, because hormones.  The same hormones I'll insist up and down on every internet forum I can type on are the byproducts of white male science.  Hormones win in the end.  They always do.

The problem with that, however, is that I can't use that fact to exploit the sexual insecurities of young, socially awkward men on the internet.  So whenever I have a keyboard and screen in front of me, it's all about going full Dworkin and rattling that saber.  When I get called out on it, I'll be the one the site moderators believe when I report the dude for trolling, harassment or hate speech.  How's that for irony?

Just remember: Feminism is all about equality.  That's all.  Equality.

Are you sure you still want to be a male feminist?  Are you among the millions of men who are more than eager to sign up for all of the above?  Yes?

Wow.  Just wow.


Saturday, 8 April 2017

YouTube Apocalypse - Time to Bite the Bullet

If you subscribe to anyone on YouTube, you've no doubt heard of the mass demonetizations that many YouTubers have sustained over the last few days.  This happened as a result of lost advertising revenue stemming from moral panic over "hateful" content.  I discuss the matter in somewhat more detail here.  This has decimated revenues for many channels, with some losing virtually everything they make from adsense, Google's advertising program for content creators on its host sites.

The evidence is that there's no real ideological agenda behind who's being shut down and who isn't.  Left leaning channels such as David Pakman and Kyle Kulinski's Secular Talk have been particularly hard hit.  So this doesn't appear to be an SJW hit job.  David Pakman does, however, raise the specter of a channel "black list" - entire channels that have been demonetized, ostensibly due to their featuring any kind of potentially controversial content.  Pakman's description of YouTube's decision to cave into hysteria rather than stand up for itself and its content creators would be comical if this didn't present an existential threat to a huge variety of alternative voices to capital's mass media narrative.

Moral panics aren't unique to the social media age.  They are a recurring phenomenon in the western world.  And presumably the eastern world also.  What is important to remember is that the subject of the panic need not be completely fabricated.  Threats are often real, but overstated.  More crucial are the incentives that actors in media, law enforcement, public advocacy and so on have in generating public fear and hysteria.  Perhaps some of you will remember one or more of the following:

  • Anti terrorism panics following 9/11.  Exploited by President Bush to erode civil liberties via the Patriot act and get America bogged down in petrodollar warfare in Iraq.
  • Violence in video games, as promoted by conservative attorney Jack Thompson, back in the 1990s.
  • Related to the above, sexism in video games, as promoted by YouTube commentator Anita Sarkeesian.  This resulted in a counter-panic over alleged feminist and SJW infiltration of video game journalism and geek culture more generally.  Ongoing.
  • Satanism in popular culture back in the 1980s, and Satanic cult activity more generally.  Ranging from backwards masking on heavy metal albums to role playing games.  I personally have fond memories of this one, as I was a fan of heavy metal and dungeons and dragons back in the late 1980s.  I use the term "fond" facetiously.
  • Just say no to drugs!  1980s to present day.
  • Anti Communism.  The red scare (1920s), McCarthyism (1950s) and the revitalization of the cold war in the Reagan era (1980s).
  • Anti Fascism.  The brown scare (1940s), anti militia fears, especially following Timothy McVeigh's Oklahoma City bombing in the 1990s, and present day, leading up to and following Trump's election.
  • Rape Culture.  Present day.  Leftist versions of this focus heavily on college campuses, but would have us believe that rape and violence against women are sanctioned in western society. Right leaning variants focus on immigrants, especially Muslims.  Rape is a terrible thing and should not be trivialized, but as with most moral panics, those aggressively pushing either rape culture narrative have an agenda that goes deeper than protecting the public.
That's just the tip of the iceberg.  America, leastwise, has had a paranoid and puritanical streak almost since the beginning.  Not long after getting off the boat at Plymouth Rock, the puritan descendants of the Mayflower Pilgrims were hanging witches at Salem.  Since then, it's been recurring cycles of similar kinds of things.  Present day social justice issues such as white supremacy and patriarchy tap deep into the national psyche.  Always, it seems, there are enemies in our midst.  Sometimes, there really are, but for the actual threat to be equal to the hype is vastly the exception rather than the rule.

The upshot of all of this, for now at least, is that a vital source of alternative media is threatened, and those who would see this alternative preserved are now going to have to put their money where their mouths are.  This means supporting the patreons and other fund-raising efforts that socially minded YouTubers are, by necessity, engaging in.  Truth is, we've had a free ride for too long, perhaps.  Were you to get similar information from a magazine or newspaper, you'd be paying for it.  Either through the purchase of individual issues or periodic subscriptions.  The support options for the patreon accounts of the YouTubers I support are much less than the cost of a newspaper, in any event.  

Plus, there's the age old truth that he who pays the piper gets to call the tune.  The more YouTubers rely on corporate support via advertising, the more corporate their content will inevitably have to be.  The less reliant our favorite independent voices are on this revenue stream, the more independent they will be.  Besides, wouldn't watching YouTube videos be more enjoyable with fewer ads in them? 

Do this as much, or as little, as you can afford.  If you're tight for cash, I get it.  I've chosen to support Secular Talk, Sargon of Akkad, TJ Kirk and Kraut and Tea, all of whom produce (in my opinion) good material fairly consistently.  For under twenty bucks a month, all told.  Less than my alternative media habit cost me back in the 1990s.  Perhaps YouTube will get its act together and not be quite such a bunch of old church ladies about this whole matter, and some semblance of reason will be restored to its advertising scheme.  Even should that happen, however, I would hope our favorite YouTubers will have learned a valuable lesson about diversifying their revenue sources.  I would still urge even nominal support levels.  

As a bit of an aside, Samizdat Broadcasts - the sister YouTube channel to this blog, does not have a patreon, does not use advertisers, is not monetized and does not generate revenue.  Not yet, anyway.  

But I would appreciate more subscribers.  Hint.  Hint.  <grin>


Thursday, 6 April 2017

WSJ vs YouTube Moral Panic Redux

Folk Devils and Moral Panics, a study of UK media coverage of and reaction to rival youth groups published in 1972 by former London School of Economics sociology professor Stanley Cohen remains to this day the definitive text on media generated mass hysteria.  A moral panic occurs when the perceived threat posed by a given social phenomenon is vastly greater than the actual threat that they really pose.

Moral panics are often instigated by "moral entrepreneurs" - people with a desire to either adopt or discontinue a particular social norm.  These moral entrepreneurs work hand-in-glove with mass media to create a "deviancy amplification spiral" that takes place when mass media becomes fixated and sensationalistic in its coverage of the behaviors that the moral entrepreneurs are seeking to change.  Persons targeted by the moral entrepreneurs as being responsible for the targeted antisocial behaviors are, not surprisingly, cast in a consistently negative light and Cohen refers to them as "folk devils."

Once they start, moral panics make reasoned discussion of the issues in question more difficult, impossible even if sufficient levels of outrage and hysteria are generated.  Further, Cohen asserts that moral panics reveal a great deal about social divisions and the fault lines of power in the societies in which they occur.  What is essential to understand is that moral panic is most likely to ensue when moral entrepreneurs, public or organizational authorities and the media all stand to gain through an increase in public concern over such-and-such an issue.

  • Moral entrepreneurs see the social and cultural change they're after, or at least a push in that direction.
  • Public (or private) authorities get to extend their power, under the pretense of countering whatever the threat to normalcy happens to be.
  • The media enjoys a wider audience, and the attraction to advertisers that this results in.
The relationship between authorities, media and moral entrepreneurs is mutually reinforcing.  The moral entrepreneurs rely on the media to present their concerns to the public and on the authorities for taking action to curb the folk devils and the antisocial behaviors they're supposedly engaging in.  The authorities rely on the moral entrepreneurs for contextual "information" to act upon, and on the media to advise the public of their proposed course of action.  The media itself relies on the moral entrepreneurs and the authorities to provide sensational content.  

The perverse incentives and feedback loops that this inevitably creates results in the level of threat being exaggerated and targeted scapegoats being demonized to an extent far greater than the actual level of harm they do, hence Cohen's reference to them as folk devils.  It should stand to reason that moral panics usually feed off of existing social prejudices, and target people with relatively little in the way of power and resources with which to fight back, at least at first.

Moral panics are a recurring phenomenon in most societies.  Among the better ones that I can recall off the top of my head, named according to the folk devils involved, include:
  • The "Satanic Panic" of the 1980s - one I remember well because as a role playing gamer and heavy metal music fan in those days, I was a target of it.  Vast numbers of Satanic cultists were allegedly involved in ritualistic child abuse and sacrifice.
  • The natural predecessors of the Satanic Panic, the witch crazes of late medieval Europe and early America.
  • Various anti-communist panics, such as the red scare of the 1920s and McCarthyism in the 50s.
  • Evil music: Hostility to the use of instruments in early and medieval Christendom, Jazz in the 1920s, early rock and roll in the 1950s, heavy metal in the 1980s, gangsta rap in the 1990s.
  • Video games: Exposure to games desensitizes youth to violence, makes youth lazy and obese, games are addictive to the detriment of family and relationships, games portray certain kinds of people in a negative light, objectify women, etc.  Gamers are dope-pushing gangsters (when arcades were a thing, back in the 70s and 80s) and/or neckbeard misogynists (the much more recent gamergate controversy) and so on.
You get the picture.  Sometimes a moral panic is just a cultural meme that spins out of control, but sometimes panics occur at the behest of some elite or another, with a vested interest in suppressing a group they don't like.  Anti-socialist and anti-communist panics being supported by big business interests as an obvious example.  Whether or not this applies to more recent tendency for YouTube to be portrayed as a wretched hive of Nazi scum and racist villainy in legacy media outlets, the Wall Street Journal in particular, has yet to be firmly decided.

The Wall Street Journal has reported, not entirely illegitimately, on the "objectionable content" of some prominent YouTubers.  YouTubers have suggested, again not entirely illegitimately, that the motivations behind this WSJ coverage are not so pure as they'd have the public believe.  

The latest, as I write this, is that Ethan Klein of the popular YouTube channel H3H3 has taken down a video in which he made apparently false allegations that the WSJ used a doctored photo to illustrate that advertisers on YouTube were inadvertently supporting bigoted content.  Allegations among the YouTube community, summed up, is that the WSJ is stirring up a moral panic over objectionable content to deter companies advertising on YouTube, and thereby hurting a medium that has come to constitute a threat to the legacy media's customer base.  This after WSJ coverage of controversial opinions expressed by prominent YouTubers PewDiePie and Jontron.  

YouTube has recently responded with a statement that it will require a YouTube channel to have over 10,000 views before it becomes eligible for monetization.  

There's no sense in denying the presence of racist and fascist voices on YouTube. Plus, there is no need to contrive false stories of writers for the WSJ intentionally doctoring material to falsify claims of objectionable content on YouTube.  You do not have to look long and hard for real racist and fascist content on YouTube.  Trust me on that one.  

But YouTube itself is not a racist or a fascist platform.  The occasional troll is a small price to pay to have what is potentially the reach of a film or television studio at the disposal of anyone with a laptop with a camera and an internet connection.  This is the angle that I would advise both YouTube itself and the YouTube community to take vis-a-vis this whole matter (as if they're going to listen to me!)  Do not deny the presence of objectionable content.  Rather, promote the platform as a vehicle for the democratization of mass media - something that progressive people should be supportive of rather than intimidated by, as has apparently been the case in the wake of this issue.  Regressive leftists are going to regress.  Who'd have guessed?

Were YouTube and its prominent voices to say something to the effect that, "Yes, there are a few bad apples, but it's the price we pay to have a platform that promotes and enables free speech and gives what was once mass media reach to now just about anybody" and portray itself as a populist and democratizing agent in mass media, otherwise notorious for corporate concentration and control, surely some of these lost advertisers would return.  Isn't this preferable to knuckling under to regressive moral panic over alleged racism and fascism - not entirely unfounded but certainly exaggerated, and thereby allowing the much more genuinely authoritarian phenomenon of corporate concentration of mass media to suppress this historically unique democratizing media platform?

YouTube has systems in place to report objectionable content, and as any YouTuber would tell you, videos can get demonetized or even deleted and channels shut down at the drop of a hat, with violations of kafkaesque "community standards" being one of many reasons that this can occur.  YouTube itself and its communities can make the broader public aware of this without fabricating conspiracy theories or trying to fight moral panic fire with fire.  That the WSJ has a vested interest in curtailing the proliferation of new media does not require allegations of falsifying evidence to prove that such-and-such a YouTuber is a Nazi.  This need merely be suggested and from there left to the judgement of the broader public to reflect upon.

YouTube itself, and the YouTube community as a whole can also pose the broader questions of where do the more valid comparisons with fascism really lie: in lame jokes and easily debunked conspiracy theories told by a marginalized minority within the YouTube community, or the use of moral panic in the organization of a corporate boycott by what is by name a quintessentially corporate media organ to financially starve a media platform that potentially gives a mass media scale voice to the people as a whole, even those without the mass media scale capital base this has, until now, required?  

Sam Harris on Identity Politics

Sam Harris talking sense about identity politics.


Sam Harris:
I distrust identity politics.  Of all kinds.  I think we should talk about specific issues.  Whether it's trade or guns or immigration or foreign interventions or abortion or anything else.  And we should reason honestly about them.  I'm not the first person to notice that it's pretty strange that knowing a person's position on any one of these issues generally allows you to predict his position on the others.  This shouldn't happen.  Some of these issues are totally unrelated.
Why should a person's attitude on guns be predictive of his views on climate change? Or immigration?  Or abortion?  And yet, it almost certainly is in our society. It's a sign that people are joining tribes and movements.  It's not the sign of clear thinking.  If you're reasoning honestly about facts, then the color of your skin is irrelevant.  The religion of your parents is irrelevant.  Whether you're gay or straight is irrelevant.  Your identity is irrelevant.  
In fact, if you're talking about reality, its character can't be predicated on who you happen to be.  That's what it means to be talking about reality.  And it also applies to the reality of human experience and human suffering.  For instance, if vaccines don't cause autism, if that is just a fact and that's what the best science suggests at this point, then when arguing against this view, you need data, or a new analysis of existing data.  You need an argument.  And the nature of any argument is that its validity doesn't depend on who you are.  That's why a good argument should be accepted by others, no matter who they are.
So in the case of vaccines causing autism, you don't get to say, "as a parent with a child with autism, I believe X, Y and Z."  Whatever is true about the biological basis of autism can't depend on who you are, and who you are in this case is probably adding a level of emotional engagement with the issue which is totally understandable, but would also be unlikely to lead you to think about it more clearly.  The facts are whatever they are.  And it's not an accident that being disinterested - not interested, but disinterested, that is not being emotionally engaged, usually improves a person's ability to reason about the facts. 
When talking about violence in our society, again, the facts are whatever they are.  How many people got shot, how many died, what was the color of their skin, who shot them, what was the color of their skin?  Getting a handle on these facts doesn't require one to say, "as a black man, I know X, Y and Z.  The color of your skin simply isn't relevant information.  
When talking about the data, that is what is happening throughout the whole society, your life experience isn't relevant information, and the fact that you think it might be is a problem.  Now this isn't to say that a person's life experience is never relevant to a conversation.  Of course it is.  And it can be used to establish certain kinds of facts.  If someone says to you, "Catholics don't believe in hell" it's perfectly valid to retort, "actually, my mother is a Catholic and she believes in hell."  Of course, there's a larger question of what the Catholic doctrine actually is.   
If a person is making a statement about a certain group of people, and you are a member of the group, you might be in a position to falsify his claim, on the basis of your experience. But a person's identity and life experience often aren't relevant when talking about facts, and they're usually invoked in ways that are clearly fallacious.  Many people seem to be making a political religion out of ignoring this difference.  
So I urge you not to be one of those people.   
Sound advice, Sam.