Entitlement Culture War

Woody and Buzz from Toy Story meme -- "Bitter conservatives" top line, "Bitter conservatives everywhere" bottom line. Woody looks appropriately horrified by Buzz's vision.

Woody and Buzz from Toy Story meme — “Bitter conservatives” top line, “Bitter conservatives everywhere” bottom line. Woody looks appropriately horrified by Buzz’s vision.

There’s a turn of phrase that’s been around for a while now: “entitlement culture”. The right wing has this meme that they’ve been foisting on the public that people who are on welfare, people who are on disability, people who are on social security, believe themselves to have certain “entitlements” and that their laziness — read, their expectation that they should get these things — suggests by itself that they shouldn’t actually get what they think they deserve. Interestingly enough, the targets of these particular memes are uniformly the underprivileged — those who are the hardest done by this society, those who have fallen on hard times and aren’t even allowed bootstraps by which to pull themselves back up.

It’s especially noteworthy that the language around this phenomenon is already so polluted by people horrified at the idea that people with nothing might actually need resources to help pull them out of the depths of their despair, and that this is one of those times when the truth of who has a sense of undeserved entitlement is the inverse — it’s always the people who already have it all and think they won it fair and square. The people who’ve spread the meme so successfully have turned the whole argument on its head. And what’s worse is, this same argument about entitlement is happening over and over again, in every single community, under a number of different names, about topics as diverse as birth control and police brutality and video games. In every case, the language is twisted to the advantage of the right-wing reactionary mindset, and somehow we who are anywhere left of Glenn Beck are caught flat-footed by it all, time and again.

There are dozens of disparate threads within my fields of interest with which I’m going to attempt to pick them all up and weave into a single unified tapestry. I may jump around quite a bit, apologies in advance. I’m going to have to start by defining some terms, before I start giving you some examples of what I’m talking about.

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Timeline of harassment and sexual assault allegations against Michael Shermer

Today’s a big news cycle in movement skepticism and movement atheism. My old timeline is woefully incomplete and drastically altered by new revelations, now, thanks to Mark Oppenheimer’s article on the state of misogyny in the atheist and skeptic movements over on Buzzfeed.

So, I’m pulling out the relevant links and pullquotes and revamping this timeline. It’s going to be largely intact from the old one, only maybe expanded to provide more context to each individual point. As with previous timelines this will be a living document — it’s as likely new links will be added or intermixed as I have time, but you’re more than welcome to contribute links in the comments.

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Masculinism

Someone challenged Aron Ra to explain feminism to him via a Youtube video, begging every single one of the seven questions. Aron Ra gave laudable answers, though PZ Myers pointed out some errors and some of the pitfalls that Aron Ra stumbled through (owing, entirely, to the framing of the questions — just look at the expectation of an autocratic hierarchy with an authoritarian power structure).

In the comments at PZ’s, the thread rapidly became a “what about the men” derail by someone who apparently, genuinely, just wanted to explore the topic. He suggested an apposite inverse to feminism would be “masculinism”, which deals with the ways that men are disadvantaged in society.

I had done, some time ago, a piece on the disadvantages of being a man. Strangely enough, all of them stemmed from the current structure of our society, which undeniably advantages men disproportionately. There are a few corrections that need to be made to that essay, which I’ll try to touch on in here. I feel the need to talk about “masculinism”, “egalitarianism” (in reference specifically to gender relations), what it could look like, and why it’s particularly incomplete without integrating into feminism.

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Rachel Maddow on the record of racial disparity in Ferguson

“Let’s make the jail cells more colorful.” This shit that’s happening in Ferguson, right now, is by no means new. The problem, if you’re not paying attention or only paying attention to the more odious parts of the so-called news media your country pretends is super serious and not at all partisan, is those blacks rioting. If you ARE paying attention, though, the problem is the systemic brutalization of blacks by white establishment power. The white establishment is absolutely terrified that they may have gone just slightly too far by murdering a young black boy who was unarmed and whom witnesses claim was 35 feet away from the police officer who murdered him. And they’re expressing this terror by creating a paramilitary presence to gas and attack and try to frighten the living bejeezus out of the people who dare say “yeah, murdering that boy WAS a little too far over the line, thanks.”

This ISN’T fifty years ago. This is NOW.

Pic of riot cop line 50 years ago, and today

Pic of riot cop line 50 years ago, and today

Meanwhile, Ryan J Reilly of Huffington Post and Wesley Lowrey of Washington Post were just arrested at a McDonalds for “not packing their bags fast enough”, then let go when someone realized the cops had just arrested two high profile reporters and told the mayor, whose response was “Oh God”.

This situation is spinning very rapidly out of control as a massive armed response has appeared today to pacify the peaceful protests by pointing guns at law-abiding peaceful protesters and throwing reporters into windows and soda machines.

Police brutality in Ferguson escalates drastically tonight

Another young, unarmed black boy was executed over the weekend — this time by the police. Witnesses claim Mike Brown, a young man returning from a store who was due to leave for university in a week, was shot from 30+ feet away by police while he had his hands up. That he was shot ten times. That he was left to lay in the street for four hours while police “contained” the scene.

The police claimed that he had been shot after a struggle with an officer in which he tried to get the officer’s gun. They claim that he had been arrested on suspicion of shoplifting — despite the store claiming they’d never called the police and didn’t suspect Brown of this alleged crime in the first place.

Protesters chanted things like “No Justice, No Peace” and “Don’t Shoot Me”, and the news media reported this as “Kill The Police”. People are rightly outraged that a young, unarmed boy was murdered by white government officials, and these same officials respond to their grieving by bringing out police dogs and tanks. A cop proclaims, on CNN no less, “bring it on, you fucking animals.”

The town of Ferguson, St. Louis is tonight a warzone as militarized police crack down on protesters. And what do you hear on TV? “Looting” and “rioting”. Nothing about murdering an unarmed boy sparking the protests that are being spun as a race riot. And this in a week that already saw a black man murdered by cops for holding an airsoft gun in the airsoft gun aisle of Wal-Mart.

Antonio French has been recording scenes from the day’s protest and the police action, which now includes firing rubber bullets and tear gas into crowds, shining lights directly at reporters who are trying to take video, and intimidating people who are clearly only armed with cell phones.

This brutality has got to fucking end. What year is this?

The virtual radio silence on Brian Dunning’s fraud

Today, Brian Dunning of the Skeptoid podcast and brand, blogger at SkepticBlog, was sentenced to 15 months prison and three years supervised release.

Barely anyone’s talking about it, though (except, obviously, us Social Justice Bullies who will inevitably be accused of crowing about this news).
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The curious case of a man named James who thinks the secular community should be in bloody civil war

A few nights ago, a post hit my moderation queue on movement cohesion, wherein I speculate that there is no single unified movement, and that as long as the introduction of other values into particular communities continues, “rifts” will only solidify where people have fewer common traits. In my post I further fretted regarding the requests frequently made of feminists, anti-racist activists, gays and trans folk, to swallow their other causes; to put their causes outside of atheism aside in order to cohabitate in a “big tent” with anti-feminists and anti-social-justice folks — who are themselves never asked to stop with their targeted harassment, their bullying, their hate speech.

Richard Dawkins and Ophelia Benson just released a joint statement that amounts to a request of our communities: stop doing all of that. Included in that request is a statement by Dawkins that he does not, even tacitly, support the people engaging in such tactics.

I’m certain that James In The West, who left this lengthy screed on my earlier post, has since seen Dawkins’ statement and wishes he could recant on his strange fan-fiction.
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On that quote purported to be by The Amazing Atheist

Yeah, it might really be a quote by TJ Kincaid, given some corroborative evidence, but the exact wording of the quote cannot be found anywhere else on the internet presently. Better to damn him by what we can demonstrate he really said, and we can demonstrate he said something very close in 2006.

However, no, you probably shouldn’t damn him for holding a terrible opinion in 2006 that he’s since walked back. Not that there isn’t lots else to damn him about.

Since he’s an antifeminist and has expressed a number of backward views on topics like consent, I’m going to go ahead and treat this as a good place to put a fold and trigger-warning you all.
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Movement cohesion

Movement atheism is not a cohesive entity. Heads of orgs like American Atheists, in full-throated promotion of people like Jaclyn Glenn — especially those videos that attack movement feminists for being too firebrandey and poisoning movement atheism with all their “social justice warrior” stuff — they’ve evidently chosen sides. Let’s not mistake that there are, in fact, sides to choose in what amounts to a fundamental division between feminists and antifeminists within atheism. AA has chosen, expressly, the side of the antifeminists, and they’ve framed the issue such that the antifeminists are the ones demanding we stop talking about feminist ideas and the toxic anti-woman environment that these antifeminists inculcate in our movement.

Feminists are told to stop fighting. Antifeminists are asked absolutely nothing — they’re the “reasonable” ones for demanding that the status quo be maintained.

Fuck that.

The surest way to earn my enmity, my directed criticism, is to ask us to stop other fights so we can pretend we’re all one big happy big-tent family. It’s what bugged the hell out of me about courting secular pro-lifers at CPAC, it’s what bugged the hell out of me about the ongoing, constant, concerted attacks of big atheist vloggers like Thunderf00t and The Amazing Atheist against feminists despite the absolute hash they make of logic and reason and empathy in doing so. It’s what continues to bug me about basically every organization demanding that we go big-tent and allow every atheist in so we can all talk about how much God don’t real, but don’t you dare talk about the social impact of how we treat half the human fucking race. Not to mention every other issue that gets derided under the umbrella of “Social Justice Warrior”, like trans rights, gay rights, race issues, and every other aspect of humanism that involves having a shred of empathy for your fellow human being.

The necessity of feminism is evidenced by the comments everyplace it’s mentioned in anything but a negative, straw-feminist casting (take Laci Green’s recent video’s comments, for example). Especially so any time it’s mentioned in atheist settings, because there are precious few that aren’t expressly antifeminist and expressly anti-any-social-justice-but-secularism in bent, thanks to the vociferous libertarian quadrant of our “community” demographics.

There is no one single community. This inter-atheist fighting is necessary because we have coalesced communities around shared ideals, and there’s a shit-ton of you atheists out there who share almost no ideals in common with me outside of “god don’t real”.

I will not throw my other principles under the bus to be part of your hideous granfaloon.