Saturday, May 31, 2008

Male Privilege In My Podcasts

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Yup. It's not just the forums, or the chat rooms that they claim they aren't really associated with. It's the podcasts themselves, as well.

I was listening to the Non–Prophets podcast last Saturday. One topic, which had swept the internet and cable news channel all last week, was the new alleged letters from Einstein where he said theism was childish. On the podcast, they talked about contradictions where you can find quotes from Einstein where he seems to believe in a god, even a personal one, and you can find quotes where he is atheist. Dillahunty and Shilling and Loubet do a good job pointing out that, as with many atheists in the world, Einstein probably believed in a god in his early life, and did not in the later part of his life.

Even so, they explained, scientists and professionals of all kind can always be found expressing popular opinions as their own, and we shouldn't always take what they say or imply at face value.

Cut to about 23m:30s into the podcast file, they begin talking about pornography, stemming from an aside about a college secular organism offering fellow stuents to trade in their bibles for porn. One of them immediately accuses anybody who finds pornography to be offensive and/or degrading to women a a prude. The other says he doesn't want to go that far, but then talks about how "we" (the Non–Prophets? Just him and the other podcast host?) have had arguments with the ACA (Atheist Community of Austin) about whether or not prostitution should be legal, and the following long quote is the result. I think I have the voices identified correctly. I don't watch the video files for atheist experience often, so I'm not 100% sure on that. One person, Dillahunty I think, does most of the talking, while I thought only Loubet had smaller comments. Maybe Loubet and Shilling were both adding small bits to Dillahunty, but I couldn't tell them apart here. Dillahunty is clear, the others aren't.

Dillahunty: Um, well, I — I don't want to take it that far, because — because I think that some of them have good reasons... you know we've had good arguments before, um, with an ACA group about, you know, whether or not prostitution should be legal, and um, whether establishments of strip clubs or whatever, um, "oh they'r explotings women," Well let me tell ya. I've been to strip clubs, it's not the women who are being exploited in the strip clubs.

Loubet: Ha ha ha ha. Good point.

Dillahunty: Uh, their wallets get fat, they are safe... I think that, if, you know if we end up having the discussion about prostitution, the best argument you could make is that it's going to happen either way, um, we should use strip clubs as an example, and, legal brothels, and, like Vegas and other countries as an example, of how to turn this industry, which is going to happen anyway, into something that is safe and non exploitive. I mean, you can go to, uh ok, what I end up see — uh, somebody will say, "Well, you" — if you go to a brothel and you end up talking to one of the prostitutes, most of them will say "Hey, this is what I wanna do, I mean, I make good money, you blah blah blah" and the answer you get, and this comes from religious people and non–religious people, anyonoe who's opposed, is "well those women are lying, they're so, they're so abused they don't know any better.

How dare you, be so arrogant and condescending, that, a — a person, a free–thinking person, who's — who's not hurting anybody, who's making a living, and tells you that they're happy... How dare you just call them a liar.

Loubet: Just contradict them.

Dillahunty: Because their view, of, of right and wrong, their view of life and happiness doesn't match yours.

You know, if, if somebody tells me they're happy, congratulations. I'm glad your happy. Um, as long as you're not hurting anybody else, cool.

(trying to get off the subject now) But I didn't meant to get off on the whole...

Loubet: If, if if if, you know, if you tell me you believe in god, no matter how difficult I find that, to you know, comprehend... I grand them the same, common courtesy, you know... If they say they're happy, believe 'em.

Dillahunty: The problem is, that there are examples of people who will tell you, "oh I'm happy and this is wonderful," when they aren't. Um, and —

Loubet: What, out of fear?

Dillahunty: yeah, um, and, it's kind of cult–like in training you, so this, with, um, women in abusive relationships, where, you know despite being beaten, they just love them so much that they don't want to turn them in or leave them, uh, But those are types of things I think we can analyze psychologically. Um, and it's not just a simplistic comparison to the norm,

Loubet: And I don't think we're talking about the pimp and his hoes.

Dillahunty: yeah,

Loubet: We're not talking about that kind of situation.

Dillahunty: I mean, you know,

Loubet: That is exploitative.

Dillahunty: yeah...

Loubet: you know, get the girls hooked on drugs, and then use them up. You know that's... that is exploitative.

Dillahunty: Yeah, and I've always... been opposed to that. But anyway, I didn't mean to get this up, and...

And they move on.

What — the — fuck.

At one moment, hey people who aren't hurting anybody and who appear happy (scientists, other professionals) lie about their beliefs and contentment all the time, and we shouldn't be surprised, and can casually skeptical of their veracity on the subject. The next, somebody else who's not hurting anybody and appears happy (a strippper or prostitute) should be believed at face value.

That's pretty fucking contradictory.

Also, he says that strippers — all strippers — are exploiting men, i.e., hurting them. So even turning strippers into "somebody who's not hurting anybody" for his analogy is at best disingenuous.

So let's get this straight. Dillahunty says he doesn't like seeing women exploited. So when he goes to strip clubs, he makes sure to find one that he thinks appears non–exploitive of its women employees. Then he gets on the microphone for the podcast and acts as if all strip clubs are like the one he selects, in spite of the fact that he may be selecting against entering a majority of strip clubs as they fit his criteria for exploitation.

Dillahunty you fucking hypocrite.

Also, notice just a complete false dichotomy in the beginning. It's not the women being exploited in the clubs, he says. Implying it's the men.

As if an industry can't simultaneously exploit both employees and customers, men and women, in different ways. As if exploitation is always one–way.

He also injects a fallacy of excluded middle. He paints a picture in which there's only battered wives and drug–addicted prostitues, then bitches in strip clubs taking all your money. Nothing in between.

Oh, fuck you Matt.

Here's the reality of the situation. Women in strip clubs aren't given insurance, health care, anything like that. It has to come out of their pocket, and that makes the "wallets getting fat" claim pretty stupid, especially when we all know now that insurance companies will find any reason to not give you money. One of those reasons could be your work, which means strippers have to do some fancy footwork to keep health insurance, and all their effort is in vain if they catch an STD from a guy who touches them, and they get labelled with a "pre–existing condition." Especially if they have children, and many do. Additionally, strippers rarely, if ever, get holidays or requested days off in a non–exploitive way, as these businesses are not a meritocracy. They have to personally court for common decency. The relationships are cheapened by both the customers and the bosses.

And then, finally, stripping does not translate into any other career field (it's not even a career). The stripper's life, unless she already has the wit and determination (and you can't act as many strippers have it; remember, that 50% of everybody is below average), is condemned to a life in sex work. It takes extraordinary effort to get out of it. The club owners, customers, the men in their lives, their fellow strippers, and assholes like Dillahunty always shame them when they're outside the club trying to have normal lives, accusing them of leeching off of men and corrupting the child support system. Even their families.

And finally, strippers age out. Yeah, go talk to all the retired strippers in the world who's cash didn't last (because of drug addiction that nobody in the club or family would help with, or supporting children, or some kind of debt they can't handle), who don't have any applicable job skills as the world passed them by while they stripped.

Tell me how not exploited they all are. You piece of shit.

Of course we can say we know better than other people on whether or not they're expoited. Dillahunty and Loubet do it all the time. Day in and day out, they talk with the ACA and each other, and in email replies to fans, about how atheists need help waking up, who need help to stop lying to themselves, who need help to stop being fooled, into thinking that they're being treated right. Dillahunty/Loubet/Shilling constantly exhibit exactly the "arrogance" they denounce when they do not take people's stated beliefs at face value. Much about the persecution we atheists face by this religious country can easily be translted into coherent patterns found in every bigotry, against the poor, against the weak, against non–heterosexuals, against women, against other races.

But it all goes out the window when they talk about women doing sex work. Because they think if they were women, they'd find stripping glamorous.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the worldview of somebody drenched in male privilege.

And they get support for this worldview. Most of the fans of the Non–Prophets and the Atheist Experience are also fans of the Skeptics Guide to the Universe. One of it's hosts, Rebecca Watson, is featured on a website called Skepchicks, which spearheaded a calendar for skeptics that features nude women (covered up to be PG-13). That is exploiting women. That they have a skep–dude calendar is also exploitive of those men featured in it hardly compares, as it doesn't have it's own popular website and nobody ever advertises it, much lest hosts a blog on its site. And most of these fans are under the delusion that Rebecca Watson is a feminist. But I have to tell you, she's not. She rarely talks about exploitation of women, of misogyny, of our rape culture. She has nothing to say about the SGU forum/chat's rape jokes. She doesn't discuss or link to any other feminists from the blogosphere, even obvious ones like Amanda Marcotte, Jessica Valenti and Pam Spaulding. And she's never audibly or textually angry about anything she writes concerning sexism.

So what we have is a bunch of white men drenched in male privilege, living in Texas, who are convinced that they've seen all their is to see in the world of sex work, that strippers are bitches, and that since they have this one popular woman friend in the podcast/skeptic world, they can act as if nothing they say goes against women as a gender.

Fuck that.

And a Friday Feminist Fuck–You to male privileged podcasters.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

On Personal Agency and Made-Up Areas of Neutrality,

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Let's just get this straight. It is impossible to be a person and not be an active agent. People often misplace action upon passive persons, but that doesn't mean that you can be passive and active at the same time. It just means that the active agency has not properly been identified. Language is elicitation and solicitation. Always. Anybody who ever says "Hey — I'm just sayin'!" is lying, or (and this is unlikely) unaware of the consequences of his words. When you are speaking, you are an active agent. When it comes to the exchange of ideas, you can't elicit a concept and at the same time be passive.

There is ambiguity. But since you have elicited a concept, you have become an active agent about it, and there's no such thing as as passivity.

I present to you 5 examples of common bullshit defensive of bigotries or criminal behavior, in no partcular order:

  • "What did he expect, this is the internet!"
  • "Come on, this is business, people!
  • "Internet: serious business!"
  • "It's just a game, don't let the smack talk get to you."
  • "I'm just sayin'."

I recently confronted a chatroom — and this is the third one — about their rampant misogyny, and just like the first two times, I've found the group to be so defensive, so obsessed, so pathological in their rape–centric clique that I'm too disgusted to ever go back.

What I did a few days ago, I did in the name of justice. When people are discussing behavior that is simultaneously a crime in the legal sense and in the sense of human rights — in thise case rape — there is no such thing as a person positing a neutral position. The fact of the matter is, if you have no position, and you're of capable psychological condition, you are still an enabler, and that puts you on the criminal side. Making fun of victims is even worse.

Sorry to break it to you, but it's the truth. And it's true no matter what the place or medium of communication, whether it be face to face, on the telephone, snail mail, email, graffiti... or even an internet chatroom.

To cover some of the many defenses of the constant rape jokes and misogyny in the IRC channel for (some) fans of the Skeptic's Guide to to the Universe podcast:

You can say Lzrd didn't mean it all day long, but it still doesn't make it right. And even in context, I know I'm still in the right saying that it was hateful. You act as if you don't mean your rape jokes, but you can only possibly try to argue about it being facetious if you do not approve of directing the jokes towards a victim. Lzrd crossed that line. Then you defended it. You focused more on being positive that he didn't mean it before you could ask his defense, and more on attacking me just for the boot before you even tried to think about why we all have boot powers and when it's OK to use them.

It's clear, even from the context of the whole discussion of that CNN link about the youtube rape girl, that nobody in the room was comfortable talking about it. The best you could say about it was that it was "weird" that the prosecutors dropped the case. Heck it wasn't just the court–appointed attorneys that abandoned her, it was the entire DA office. The best you could say was that it was "weird?"

It was — nay, it IS an injustice. To knowingly remark upon it as anything less is reprehensible. It was not only an injustice for not listening to her and giving more credit to the counter– allegation that she's making it up, it was also contradictory to the mandate of their jobs as the DA and prosecutors. To have nothing to say about these issues when you bring it up, is ridiculous.

Then after failing as human beings to call an injustice when you see it, you tried to change the conversation. Even after I tried to point out that there is a pattern of prosecuting attorneys exhibiting a pattern of bias against rape victims in this manner. No, it was just too awkward for you to have anything meaningful to discuss for once, even when you are the ones to bring it to the table.

And Lzrd hasn't even come into the picture yet. After you successfully quashed the conversation, somebody else came in and asked what's up. Your responses were about your new subject. You tried to evade the subject that you were just on entirely. And then, after a couple minutes, out of nowhere, Lzrd chimes in with his "joke."

So no. It was not innocent. And it was not neutral.

The article goes on to describe how rape victims to speak up about their rapes become futher victims to the hostility of their peers.

This should invoke your sympathy. But instead, you "jokingly" blame her? Call her a whore, say she fails at life and that she's just "whining" on youtube?


You actually use one of the main victim–blaming fallacies that all rape educators talk about: you criticize the victim based on what your a priori (i.e., prejudiced) ideas of what a victim should act like, then acted as if she must not be since she didn't 'fit the profile'.

And yes, while some of those listed were away from their keyboards, I can still say you support him. For day after day, you come in, take a couple minutes to read what your IRC client has recorded for you, and you never have anything to say about the rape jokes that have been going on. You always support them. And you supported Lzrd because he had the justified knowledge that you would not criticize or penalize him in any way.

As for LeeTheAgent's constant defense that it's just the internet: I think it's pretty clear that you all do not think of it that way. You have spent hours upon hours, adding up to days, fuming at me, writing about me, insulting me, getting ladyK to follow me on Twitter (Twitter alerts you to everybody who follows you), making pseudonymous comments on my blog, and making an enormous thread on the forum. You clearly have emotional investment in your chat sessions.

Today Marcella Chester posted an article concerning the girl who committed suicide because of online harassment. Everything she had to say is relevant to this incident. I will quote the article in it's entirety (until/unless she asks me to parse it down).

Differentiating Between Jerks And Criminals

Techdirt has a post opposing the federal charges related to the suicide of Megan Meier which takes the position that harassing Megan under a false identity by first working to become her friend and then turning on her was nothing more than being a jerk.

To say that I disagree with this assessment would be an understatement.

The story is, most definitely, sad and tragic -- and it's no surprise that there are people out for vengeance, with the main target being Lori Drew, the adult who participated in some manner in the hoax. However, as we said back when state prosecutors in Missouri couldn't find any law to prosecute, being a total jerk online is not a crime. As stupid as the prank was, it wasn't designed to make the girl commit suicide.

This positioning of someone as merely a jerk is something I see often when people want to stop someone from being held legally accountable for the deliberate and targeted actions they take which cause harm to others.

It is critical to note that this hoax was not stupid as characterized above, it was clever. The hoaxer and those in on the hoax decided not only on a name for the "boy" who would friend Megan, but an entire backstory was created for this "boy." If the stated goal of information gathering used to to create this profile were true then there would have been no sudden turn by this "boy" from someone who liked her to someone who hated her.

Befriending and then attacking someone using a fraudulent identity cannot be done for any purpose other than to inflict emotional pain. That makes it an act of vengeance for the fallout between Megan and Ms. Drew's daughter. But Techdirt overlooks this fact and turns those actions into random jerk behavior.

Not surprisingly, those who want to hold the "jerk" accountable are framed as the "people out for vengeance" and people who "target" someone else. This rhetorical strategy turns those who want accountability into the only people who have crossed an ethical line. Those who want justice for the person harmed become the only people who must be stopped.

Nice trick, but one we cannot fall for.

Many tech people have taken the position that anything goes online and that targeting and harassing others and using false identities to do so are just normal behaviors which say nothing negative about the person or group of people who harasses others. But harassment is harassment. Online communication is only a medium for communication. Ganging up on a 13 year old girl online is no more excusable than ganging up on a 13 year old girl offline.

This framing device is popular with those who refuse to use the label of rapist for a boy who corners his girlfriend and makes it clear that she will be trapped until she gives him the sex he wants. If the girl doesn't try to scratch the boy's eyes out then the boy is a jerk and the girl might feel raped but she choose to give that boy sex. If she feels raped that's a tragedy. If she reports this rape "she is out for vengeance" and has "targeted" this boy.

This framing deliberately and falsely disconnects the boy's action from the girl's decision and turns the girl into the only one who took actions to intentionally harm someone else. Since a boy who uses physical coercion to rape is framed as a non-rapist then those who hold him accountable have -- by this warped logic -- committed the greatest wrong.

Those who use the "jerk" excuse claim to be against the harm done, but their framing directly supports that harm and complete lack of accountability for the harm caused.

A jerk is someone who lets the door slam in your face when you are carrying a heavy box. A jerk is someone who lets a stinky fart rip the second the elevator doors close and then smiles as the others in that elevator car make disgusted faces.

The woman who created a false MySpace profile took actions which cannot accurately be equated to genuine jerk behavior.

What they are doing is deliberately disconnecting cause from effect. Those who intentionally inflict harm on others are excused of all responsibility by labeling the harm their actions caused as a tragedy.

Getting killed by a landslide is a tragedy. Getting swept away in a flood is a tragedy. Being targeted for harassment through fraud is no tragedy. It is malicious injury even if those who inflicted the injury used the Internet as their weapon.

Those who don't acknowledge this cannot be viewed as credible observers.

There are only 3 differences between the criminal in this story, and the members of the SGU–fans IRC channel.

  • The victim is not aware of this particular incident of ridicule.
  • The victim is not dead.
  • The ridiculers made sure to do it in a place where it is not likely to reach the victim.

Beyond these details, people who constantly make rape jokes, like those I listed and even some more that are there every day of the week (not to mention the members that frequented Janice Rael's irc channel wikkedwire # stopperbot when I left it), are not better than the criminal in the preceding case by a high enough degree to warrant sympathy for their exposure or a lack of criticism for their callousness.

I think, justifiably, that they are fully aware that if they did what they do to the girl's face, it would be criminal harassment. That they only do it in an IRC room or somewhere they know that the law will probably treat it as untouchable, speaks not of their insincerity in the hatred/callousness with which they fill their humor, but of their forethought. It's a tactic. Which is why I know their callousness and/or hate is real.

I must also point out that I blog non–anonymously (another detail that these chatters chose to mock) because of my disgust of the internet = unreal mentality.

And finally, the reason why it has taken me several days to elaborate upon my original post. When ducky (or ducky_sgu as he calls himself in SGU's channel as opposed to the JREF channel), took it upon himself to vandalize my profile, writing "16y.o. gothfail girl" in the "custom title" attribute.

Ducky is the techie for the site. He is not an admin or a mod. It is outside his job and permissions to censor or edit other members' posts. He even states as much in a post he made to explain why he's not banning me like you all begged him to.

And he vandalizes my profile. If you want a case of serious hypocrisy and lying, you'll find it in ducky. He even sends me a personal message insulting me some more and defending his actions, and even that was sexist. Because he, like all of you clearly do, believes that activism against the defense or belittling of rape is a female–only endeavor, and that it indicates an emotional volatility found only in women that is to be ridiculed.

You have proven yourselves every bit the misogynists as I have described you.

Ducky said that if I have any problem with it, I should take it up with Rebecca (Watson). The implication being "Hey, I know a woman who's ok with rape jokes, therefore rape isn't bad." Again, hypocritical, a non–argument, and because of the "women can't be misogynist" defense, further proof that you are, exactly as described, rape apologists.

Well you know what? I took it to Dr. Novella. And he made ducky take it down.

At least I have real reasons for taking actions that may "defame" your character. But you... you're another level of cretin. A forum cannot be justly run when somebody with the privileges to alter the very code, takes it upon himself to vandalize. And because he wasn't really punished beyond a reprimand, he knows he can get away with it. To make things worse, he's a volunteer, and he knows that the SGU cast will have an extremely difficult time finding a free replacement, and if they can't, they'll have to pay somebody enough money to grind the podcast to a halt. Basically he's holding them hostage.

On Sunday, May 18, "LeeTheAgent" and "emptiness" tried to harass me in Phil Plait's weekly chat at Not just me, either. They threatened to hold up the entire chat (bustling with over 100 users) with their harassment. They had to be threatened with kickbanning before they stopped. It was only because I argued explicitly that we were on Phil's time (and everybody else's time) and it was not the time or place to do it, that I was not kicked with them.

When I told them I wouldn't be discussing these issues until my profile vandalism was corrected, they laughed about it. They condone it.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a fascistic attitude. The SGU forums right now, has somebody with the power to manipulate it's code, who, with his supporters, is in the business of harassing others, to the point where he can censor beyond his rights. And because his supporters will do it outside of the forum, and hold up other people's ability to communicate, had intentions of inhibiting freedom of speech by trying that day to control even whom else I can listen and speak to.

So there you have it. Rape, like any other hate crime, is something on which one cannot be neutral. You are either for it or against it. And the members of the SGU forums who I have named are surely on the wrong side, as I have explained.

On top of this, they have chosen to support a fascistic method of suppressing opposing attitudes on the forum of which they are members.

Feminists like myself are not merely better than these assholes. We're fractically better. (Oh, I do just love that meme)

This is as far as I'm going to discuss it with the SGU forum members, as they cannot be trusted to be conversed with on equal grounds. I am turning on comment moderation, and I will forbid/delete anonymous posts.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Misogyny and Rape Jokes in IRC

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I've recently added a link to the Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast's fan IRC channel, and I'm thinking of removing it. And most of the other chat links as well. The reason is this: I'm tired of being the only one who's not a rape apologist in chat.

If you're at all familiar with lolcats and its general genre, no doubt you've read somebody on the internet say "surprise buttsecks!" Since most nerds are white men, it's of no surprise that the internet is bubbling with misogyny at every corner. But if you don't use IRC, it may surprise you to learn that even in the most allegedly friendly places, you'll hear "surprise buttsecks" and other rape jokes more on an IRC channel than in any other place excepting "mens rights" groups.

Unfortunately, this still applies to every channel that isn't explicitly feminist, including every fucking chat link I've put in my side bar.

Know what? I will be taking those links down.

It's so frustrating. These skeptics/science–enthusiasts will sit there and write on their blogs and forums all day about how one of the biggest problems with religion is its obsession with controlling women. Then they come in to the chat room or IRC channel and do these fucking rape jokes. And just about every time I confront it, I'm told I have no sense of humor, hey it's just a joke, and many will even retort "Of course rape can be funny — think of Elmer Fudd raping Bugs Bunny" (fuck you, George Carlin).

This shit is enexcusable. From anyone.

Tonight I was in the SGU–fans room when <Lzrd> had this to say about This 16yo girl who's rape case was dropped by prosecutors and she had to take her plea for help to youtube.

Fucking 16yo whores who fail and whining about it don't deserve shit.

The creator of the room gave us the option of protecting our usernames by registering our nicks with the server. Your nick is protected because you automatically get operator powers. This means only others of the same rank or above can kick you.

I immediately used my ops to temporarily ban Lzrd. And I know it was the right thing to do. There has to be a point where we stop tolerating victim blaming and rape apologetics even if you don't think that much of it. This should have been it for everybody in the room.

However, as predicted, nobody knew why I banned him, most thought it unnecessary, and one idiot named Joe_Shmoe (who already resents me because I had the "nerve" to notice that his pre–prepared one–liner responses do all his thinking for him) berates me for a few minutes about how it's not my channel to moderate and nobody should eve be banned, before leaving in a fit of repressed anger as a rape apologist who isn't getting hoorah'd for fighting back at me.

mickal555, the creator of the channel, didn't have the guts nor forethought to look into why I was berated for using the mod powers I was given by him, and took them away just because he wants to be a peacekeeper. Nor did he seem to notice that I had unbanned Lzrd by the time he got involved.

When Joe_Shmoe insisted that Lzrd "Certaily didn't mean it," I replied by comparing that to every person who complains about "the niggers" will say they didn't mean it right after words. Joe says that's a non–sequitor. But obiously it's not. What's happened is that a person thought they were safe to be a bigot around everybody in the room, and when it turns out it wasn't safe, they backtrack or somebody tries to do it for them.

I think I drove the point home when I parodied the Shawshank Redemption: "All bigots are innocent, don't you kno(sic) that?

But when a jab is clearly not really a joke, we all know what really happened.

My message to the SGU forum:

Don't put up with rape jokes and other forms of misogyny. We should all know by now that sexism, as it manifests all sorts of violence, is every bit as big a problem as racism. We shouldn't put up with rape jokes any more than we should jokes about lynching, or the recent ass who made the Obama – Curious George t–shirts.

A list of all those in the room who defended Lzrd or did not protest against him enough:

  1. Joe Shmoe
  2. Black Magic
  3. ChandlerB
  4. ducky_sgu
  5. emptiness
  6. finnland
  7. GlennCuttleFish
  8. Istario
  9. Kikyo
  10. King Arthur
  11. La Palida
  12. mickal555
  13. SkepticsApprentice

Now even though SkepticsApprentice agreed with me that it wasn't funny nor tolerable, he didn't think Lzrd should've been banned, and that attitude supports rape apologetics, because people who make rape jokes deserve to be told in some direct way that it's wrong. If somebody decides they feel comfortable to complain about a black person running for president at your poker table, you kick them out of your house like Ed did.

It's that simple.

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

On Being a Douchebag Commenter

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Hi folks! It's me, your friendly neighborhood Douchebag Commenttmer! I'm here to talk to you about the difference between trolling and expressing dissenting views, and commenting ethics.

Apostate has apparently lost her cool and her knowledge of the subject.

It all started when I used to hang out in an IRC channel with a formerly–sane individual known as Janice Rael. There was another person chatting who called himself Barefoot Bum. Hey, I know that guy, I'd seen him quoted or mentioned in another blog I know. I subscribed to his blog. It wasn't long into chatting with him that he mentioned he has a wife, and she has a blog. Her blog is The Apostate. So, I subscribed to her blog without even reading it yet.

One of the first things written by the Apostate that I got to read was a piece concerning the Blog Carnival of Radical Feminists. This is when Apostate started exhibiting some prejudicial behavior for a skeptic. The carnival had barely even begun, and yet Apostate seemed to know everything about the motivations and thinking processes of the bloggers featured within, without even having bothered to read it. Instead, she judged them simply by the description of the carnival. Pretty asinine, eh? Well that exact behavior will be repeated.

According to the Apostate, everybody featured in the Carnival of Radical Feminism is a young woman who's just pissed off at a sexual assault and is blaming all men for all evil everywhere. These past misdeeds just run their life, they're perpetual victims. No need to read what they actually have to say, though, the carnival's description says it all. Naturally just about everything Apostate has to say is patently wrong. The asinine retardery was too much, and so in a Douchebag Commenttm I responded in kind.

What is the Carnival of Radical Feminists about? According to the home page and the creator's pages:

Description: The Carnival of Radical Feminists is held each month on the Full Moon. Hosted by a different blogger for each edition, it aims to foreground the the finest radical feminist posts from around the blogsphere.

Keywords: adical feminism, separatism, anti-prostitution, anti-pornography, woman-only space, gender, goddess, matriarchal, matrilineal, dykes, lesbian, separatists, anti-bdsm, women's land, women's community, womyn, wimmin, womon, anti-racism, imperialism, coloni

The Carnival of Radical Feminists will be held each month on the full moon. Hosting responsibility will be shared, and at least to begin with, pending additional radfem suggestions and process, our goal will be to foreground posts in the feminist blogosphere which highlight or showcase radical feminist analsis, theorizing, process, events, politics, and ideas, and which celebrate and honor sisterhood as it has been herstorically envisioned by radical feminists.

We hope the Carnival of Radical Feminists will build the profile of radical feminist bloggers, will direct extra traffic to participating bloggers, and particularly newer radical feminist bloggers, and will build radical feminist community worldwide.

All submissions consistent with herstoric radical feminism are welcome, whether they are written by men or women, and even if the blogger does not specifically identify as a radical feminist (yet!).

I'd also quote the first edition of the carnival, but it seems to have been deleted from its host!

But what I do remember that the "Radical" in "Radical Feminists" does not mean extreme, like normal religionists vs extremist religionists — it means root. In short, it is all about patriarchy. It's not whole feminist activism, with trying to dissect each and every individual case of misogyny or a bad handling of a rape report found in the press, or trying to make some women feel better one day at a time, or for holding hands across America, or to chronicle the daily lives of a few select feminists like a blog. It is, as I said, Root, rudimentry, fundamental, basic, the core, foundational, the fountainhead of why feminism exists and how it began. Of course the carnival will feature strong, verbose feminist screeds directed at the patriarchy, unapologetic and bold. It's not there to supplant the original Carnival of the Feminists, it's not a group trying to flex it's proverbial muscles and show everybody up, it's not a hate group. It's not astroturf, or the evangelicals of the Feminist sphere using the no true Scotsman fallacy everywhere it goes (nay, Apostate has cornered that market).

To quote Levar Burton, don't take my word for it. Look at the real home page of the carnival HERE.

Now we can see where Apostate gets the carnival all wrong.

I was best friends with my brother through our teens. We were inseparable, almost incestuously attached to each other. We pledged to never marry, to grow old together in a bookshop we would jointly own. Yet when my very proper and sexually timid brother was wrongfully accused of following around two girls in a supermarket and hauled in by police and slapped around and generally abused, I told him he deserved it as a male, because the collective suffering of billions of women meant random individual men's suffering meant nothing, even if he was innocent. What can I say, I was 16 and Very Angry at men.

So I know all about the rage. I still experience it — at a lesser level because it' exhausting and my life isn't as limited as it used to be — but I also distrust the radical feminist weltanshuaang. Take this little manifesto as an example, from the radical feminist, Heart. It' all about women and sex. It's a pretty narrow view of the world, and it seeks to define and explain the world in a neat little Feminist Theory of Everything. I have a deep intellectual distrust of all Theories of Everything. Usually, they're endeavoring to sell a version of The Truthtm appealingly simplified and packaged for the consumption of someone desperate for clarity, desperately trying to make sense of stuff that doesn't and never will make sense.

So, we are to understand from Apostate that the Carnival of Radical Feminists is a bunch of 16yo girls who are pissed off at boys like a bunch of pseudo–nostalgic highschool juniors. And notice, she doesn't ever quote a single line from a submission to the carnival.

I wonder if Apostate even understands how a blog carnival works. Anybody can submit a post, even one of their own creation. She could write in about the carnival itself and about radical feminism, and I'm sure the host would feature it. But no, it's much safer to criticize from a distance. Very cliquey that way, as 16yo's are wont to be.

The next time Apostate did something stupid was recently when she didn't understand why some feminists were saying the Sean Bell case was a feminist issue, too. And this was right after she pointed out that Feministe didn't post on the sheriff who turned his prisoners into sex slaves. I remember when they didn't, and I remember why: they were too busy dealing with the Amanda Marcotte & Seal Press fiasco. So that overshadowed anything else for a few days, they missed something, and then Apostate doesn't understand why. I left a comment stating that black women are a subset of black people, and also of women, so naturally feminists should have something to say about blanket racism against black folk. Somehow it went over her head.

And then only days ago, she says she's in the middle of reading Jessica Valenti's book. And she goes on to ask us why Jessica never talks about how women should have to vote for Clinton. Either she writes sarcasm very poorly (debatable), or she doesn't read the blog (it's actually a multi-authored blog and often one of them says something so well they don't re-iterate), or she thinks the book is going to cover it and so far it hasn't. Oh no wait, she actually says she doesn't read up on the blog so much.

It would've been a good post if she asked the question simply as an illicitation of thought, and then answered it. But she didn't. Just left it hanging there as if she made some kind of amazing point.

So what we have here is a person who has a book in front of her face, and instead of just reading the damn thing, she asks commenters on her blog, a blog on which she actually states she doesn't have time to answer individual comments all day long. So why ask? It's like being at a movie with a person who keeps asking "What's going on? Who's he talking to? What's she going to say next?" It's actually worse if it's not a movie but instead a book, and simultaneously in this case, a blog. You want to know if something is going to happen in a book that's right in front of you? Here's an idea: READ IT! I simply cannot believe that if Apostate actually read feminist blogs as much as she says she does, she'd be lacking an answer to her question. There has to be a point in a multi–authored blog domain, where you figure out that if they're not saying they disagree with a fellow author's points, they probably agree.

So now you have context as to why I wrote those Douchebag Commenttms.

It is still irksome that Apostate doesn't get the reason I've written those comments, and why I say she disappoints me "Kind of often." I've subscribed to her blog for a year now, and I read my feeds every day. 98% of the time, what she has to say fits right in with several other blog feeds I scan. Sometimes I think a post is pretty good, in fact I've bookmarked a few.

So what do I mean when I say she disappoints me? Well first notice I don't say I hate her. I don't think she's genuinely stupid, she just has a prejudicial bias against fellow feminists that gets her into stupid situations. That's why I pointed out what a fucking dolt she can be a dolt, instead of is/are.

So I'm not wasting my time. In high school, even though I thought marijuana was useless, I hung out with stoners every day at lunch simply to practice being in the presence of views I disagree with, and to practice tolerance. I had other routines with other groups I disagreed with on some small or moderate level.

In fact with some blogs I subscribe to it's the same routine.

Am I a troll on Apostate's blog or other blogs? No. I don't say things just to be inflammatory. I don't think that I've jilted her, scored some kind of point for some side, and I don't invest in the responses to my comments until the blogger focuses on my point in a post of its own.

Is reading her blog a waste of my time, then? No. As I said, there are a few posts of hers I've bookmarked so I can read again later.

We come to a question of ethics, or pragmatism, at this point: Should we refuse to read blogs or sites that we sometimes or often disagree with? Not necessarily. It goes back to what I said. I put myself in front of moderately oppositional views to practice tolerance, and in hopes of finding a change of mind.

Is that so bad? To have hope that somebody will get over some obstacle to being better in some area? To listen for it, to wait for it, and to give an occasional kick in the but for a gloriously bad mistake?

And which is worse? To refuse to read somebody with whom you moderately disagree, or to tell somebody who moderately disagrees with you to not even bother listening to you? I think they're both just as bad. And it's another tragically dumb mistake by Apostate, because there's nothing worse than the doctrine of "If you have nothing nice to say, then don't say anything at all."

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Off the Easel, KC Star's Racist Cartoon Column

(Jump to comments.)

The Kansas City Star is really pissing me off. Here's why. Political cartoons are most often dumb, late, and inept. But others really take the cake. Sometimes you just want to slap its author right in the face. Here's my letter I have submitted for the opinions section:

Three times in the last week, "Off the Easel" has been blatantly racist, and to continue printing it is egregious.

First, Glenn McCoy makes an Obama pull string doll that strawman's Obama's position in the bitterness controversy and makes it look like Obama was just talking about white redneck hicks on farms or something, by making a racist false dichotonomy between white people who must live in rural or suburban communities, and black people who must be the people in the inner cities that Obama forgot to mention.

Next, Pat Oliphant has Obama saying "He's not heavy, he's my ____ Pastor!"

Yeah, because when black people get real, they always go profane, right? So that was racist, too.

Then today, Lisa Benson has Obama transformed into a container of KoolAid. Why? Because black people, all black people apparently, can't afford milk and juice and always drink koolaid, in Lisa's mind. It might as well have read "Grape Drank".

This is UNACCEPTABLE. "Off the Easel" and all of its artists should be fired, and should issue public apologies.

I've added some bold on "unacceptable," as I'm hoping that's how the editor translates the capitalization. And what goes in the blank is "goddam."

For context, here are the cartoons in question, in order of publication:

  1. Obama vs white folk
    April 24, 2008 Glenn Mccoy
  2. Obama the nigga
    April 28 Pat Oliphant
  3. Obama likes grape drank
    May 6 Lisa Benson

I really hope it's as obvious to any readers out there as it is to me. Let's put them into further context. Here is the full quote surrounding Obama and bitterness, found HERE at Huffington Post, surprisingly the only damn place I've found so far to put this quote in a whole context:

So, it depends on where you are, but I think it's fair to say that the places where we are going to have to do the most work are the places where people feel most cynical about government. The people are mis-appre...I think they're misunderstanding why the demographics in our, in this contest have broken out as they are. Because everybody just ascribes it to 'white working-class don't wanna work — don't wanna vote for the black guy.' That's...there were intimations of that in an article in the Sunday New York Times today - kind of implies that it's sort of a race thing.

Here's how it is: in a lot of these communities in big industrial states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, people have been beaten down so long, and they feel so betrayed by government, and when they hear a pitch that is premised on not being cynical about government, then a part of them just doesn't buy it. And when it's delivered by — it's true that when it's delivered by a 46-year-old black man named Barack Obama (laugher), then that adds another layer of skepticism (laughter).

But — so the questions you're most likely to get about me, 'Well, what is this guy going to do for me? What's the concrete thing?' What they wanna hear is — so, we'll give you talking points about what we're proposing — close tax loopholes, roll back, you know, the tax cuts for the top 1 percent. Obama's gonna give tax breaks to middle-class folks and we're gonna provide health care for every American. So we'll go down a series of talking points.

But the truth is, is that, our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there's not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

Um, now these are in some communities, you know. I think what you'll find is, is that people of every background — there are gonna be a mix of people, you can go in the toughest neighborhoods, you know working-class lunch-pail folks, you'll find Obama enthusiasts. And you can go into places where you think I'd be very strong and people will just be skeptical. The important thing is that you show up and you're doing what you're doing.

Can somebody please tell me how Obama is talking only about white people? Can somebody tell me, please, how this only speaks about Pennsylvanians, and even then only the white people in Pennsylvania? Mind you, there are plenty of people of all races who have fallen for this anti-immigration thing, and many more who fall for the anti-trade schpiel, either in the face of China, the middle-East, or Cuba.

I didn't think so. Because "blue collar," "small town," and "working class" are not synonymous with "caucasian." The cartoon above is Glenn McCoy's projection of his own prejudices onto Obama's speech.

Fuck Glenn McCoy.

The second example of racism, from Pat Oliphant, is more obvious. Like almost everybody else in the country, he has no interest in criticizing other candidates for their crazy religious leaders, such as John Hagee, the leader of McCain's church. No, only Obama gets this shit. That's racist in and of itself. It's compounded because even when Oliphant is criticizing another politician for being connected to some distasteful personality, he doesn't have them utter what he and others consider a swear.

And of course, the black politican's life is a jungle. Yeah.

Fuck Pat Oliphant.

So the first two I can see getting printed out of sheer laziness on an editor's part, not to moention the paper is probably contracted. But the last one... Holy shit. How the fuck could an editor not censor or disown such a thing?

Mind you, in print this cartoon is monochrome, but even then the racist stereotype is obvious. Obama, as the black guy, can't afford milk, or juice, and likes purple stuff. Such is the mind of Lisa Benson. It was easy finding a colored version of this comic, and whadyaknow, the stuff is purple. Grape/purple for the negro, yessa massa! Like Glenn Beck, Lisa Benson thinks black people only live in the inner city.

Fuck Lisa Benson

And finally, Fuck the Washington Press Writers Group for employing these people..

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