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Trigger warning: I’m going to talk about trigger warnings. If you’re the type of person to flip your shit about people using trigger warnings, you might not want to read this post unless you have the resources to attack me for defending the use of trigger warnings.

That opening paragraph is at least half serious. Guess which half?

Recently, much has been made about a recent request that college courses provide trigger warnings for those courses that might contain discussion of racism, violence, rape, etc. And by “much has been made”, I mean that, once again, a great many people are arguing against straw dummies and complete misunderstandings of the topic at hand.

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WaPo: Homegrown radicals opposed “US actions in the Muslim world”. See what they did there?

I have hardly had any time lately to blog (or much of anything leisure-related, honestly), but I’ve been trying to keep an eye on how the media’s been reporting on the Boston Marathon bombing. With Glenn Beck and the rest of the right-wing desperate to make this bombing about Islam, to fuel the rampant anti-Muslim racism in the States presently, this particular news article jumped at me as just a little too blatant about drawing links that aren’t there. It takes some ridiculous contortions to make the Boston bombing suspects’ actions have anything whatsoever to do with Islam, and the Washington Post was more than willing to pretzel themselves in an article purporting to explain how the brothers are essentially home-grown domestic terrorists with non-existent ties to outside influence.

The wording here is just too precious:

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe an ongoing investigation, said Dzhokhar and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed by police as the two attempted to avoid capture, do not appear to have been directed by a foreign terrorist organization.

Rather, the officials said, the evidence so far suggests they were “self-radicalized” through Internet sites and U.S. actions in the Muslim world. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has specifically cited the U.S. war in Iraq, which ended in December 2011 with the removal of the last American forces, and the war in Afghanistan, where President Obama plans to end combat operations by the end of 2014.

Emphasis mine.

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Ram Truck Superb Owl Farmer Wrongness

Jodi Thibeault is a skeptic, a feminist, an atheist, and most importantly, a human being. Her vocation is ass-kickery; her hobby is vineyard management.

This is so so so wrong and so many people are sighing and crying about it.

Here’s the text:

And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker.” So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the field, milk cows again, eat supper, then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.” So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt and watch it die, then dry his eyes and say,’Maybe next year,’ I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from an ash tree, shoe a horse with hunk of car tire, who can make a harness out hay wire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. Who, during planting time and harvest season will finish his 40-hour week by Tuesday noon and then, paining from tractor back, put in another 72 hours.” So God made the farmer.

God said, “I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bales, yet gentle enough to yean lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-comb pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the leg of a meadowlark.” So God made a farmer.

It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed, and brake, and disk, and plow, and plant, and tie the fleece and strain the milk, . Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft, strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh, and then sigh and then reply with smiling eyes when his son says that he wants to spend his life doing what Dad does. “So God made a farmer.”

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Network climate change coverage dropped 80% from 2009-2011

Funny, I guess something must have happened to fix the planet so that we might “stay the course” while I wasn’t looking! Suddenly, despite the big “ClimateGate” manufactroversy which should theoretically have driven all sorts of crazy TV coverage, the networks have all but gone silent on the topic.

Since 2009, when the U.S. House of Representatives passed a climate bill and a major climate conference took place in Copenhagen, the amount of climate coverage on both the Sunday shows (Fox News Sunday, NBC’s Meet the Press, CBS’ Face the Nation, and ABC’s This Week) and the nightly news (NBC Nightly News, CBS Evening News, and ABC World News) has declined tremendously. This drop comes despite a series of newsworthy stories related to climate change in 2010 and 2011, including a debate over comprehensive climate and energy legislation in the U.S. Senate, a series of record-breaking extreme weather events, notable developments in climate science, the rise of so-called “climate skeptics” in the House of Representatives, and a deal struck at the most recent UN climate summit in Durban, South Africa.

Apparently Donald Trump got way more coverage. And yet, despite his best efforts, he’s very unlikely to cause economic and humanitarian calamity in the near future.

Worse yet, on those shows, 50% of the guests are politicians (two to one for the Republicans, naturally), 45% media personalities, and 5% “other” which I assume might include actual climate scientists. So almost everyone discussing anthropogenic global warming on the news, during what little coverage the topic gets, actually knows what the hell they’re talking about.

What I’ve learned from MediaMatters’ analysis, hosted on ThinkProgress, is that people no longer care about climate change, even though it’s definitely still happening, and it’s definitely humankind’s fault. Apparently the smokescreen machine put up by the fossil fuel industry and the Party of No Responsibility For Our Actions has succeeded in obfuscating the truth of the climate crisis. I can only hope the pendulum will swing again and people will realize that the longer we wait to take action, the more painful the switch off fossils will be.

Justin Griffith covered by Fox News and BBC: an exercise in compare/contrast

I could not ask for a more perfect bit of compare/contrast. The mainstream American media is stone-silent about Sergeant Justin Griffith of Rock Beyond Belief fame, with the obvious exception of Fox News. The only news you’ll get about this atheist-in-a-foxhole Stateside is the fact that one of the acts for Rock Beyond Belief once did a music video that included images of a church burning, in a song denouncing sectarian religious violence, and Fox News spun it all to hell and back as though it was military-sanctioned encouragement of violence against religions.

Meanwhile, across the Pond, the BBC has covered Justin and our shared fight asking if the US army can embrace atheists. Their answer is significantly more reality-based than Fox’s, of course.
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Print media warning label stickers

Via someone on Twitter sometime this past weekend (I swear, I noted it somewhere, but I can’t find the note now), this awesome resource would come in exceptionally handy the next time you’re perusing a science magazine at a doctor’s waiting room, or your work’s lunch room newspaper.

Sticker on newspaper article reads Warning: Journalist does not understand the subject they are writing about

Okay. New plan for world domination. I’m going to make a lot of money… somehow… off of creating a digital version of this that we can stick onto certain media websites with penchants for posting terrible pseudoscience. Like Google Sidewiki only designed to eviscerate nonsense-peddlers.

(What? It’s no worse a plan than those underpants gnomes have, is it?)

Teaching girls that pretty isn’t pretty enough

One of my pet peeves, for far longer than I have identified as a feminist, and probably longer than I’ve even known the word “feminist”, is the creeping and insidious way that women are portrayed as perfect Barbie dolls in the media. When I learned that photos were often retouched, airbrushing away those parts that weren’t quite Barbie-like, that weren’t quite perfect, I felt an empathetic betrayal for every little girl who thought they weren’t good enough because they weren’t like those images. These girls were being taught that they weren’t good enough, because they weren’t like the images of women they see in the media — images of women who don’t actually exist.
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Our newest Canadian import: flu vaccine scaremongering

The Agora Cosmopolitan, a.k.a. The Canadian, has a piece up about the flu vaccine that gets pretty much everything about them wrong. It’s no surprise, mind you, considering the article is copied wholesale, verbatim, in its entirety, from a crank website that it links at the bottom of the page as the “internet site reference”. Lazy beggars. They begin:

Thimerosal is a widely used vaccine preservative that is present in the majority of flu shots and other vaccines. Thimerosal is 49% mercury by volume, an extremely toxic chemical element that wreaks havoc on the nervous system, neurological function, and overall biological function [1]. Each dose of flu vaccine contains around 25 micrograms of thimerosal, over 250 times the Environmental Protection Agency’s safety limit of exposure.

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potholer54 on science media

Using an example of FOX “News” science reporting, among other such examples, potholer54 (aka Peter Hadfield) explains how to dig for information in science media. He also takes the media to task for their incomplete, inaccurate, or otherwise suspicious interpretations or misrepresentations of actual science. Use this as a primer on how to debunk the Cliff Clavens of the science blogosphere.
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Fox makes fun of scientists, NASA, and climate realists in one fell swoop

Fox News gets it wrong, on purpose, again. I know, I’m shocked too. They breathlessly title this article Aliens Could Attack Earth to End Global Warming, NASA Scientist Frets — having obviously been edited from “NASA Scientist Claims” (check the URL) because that was insufficient sneering.

First, let’s make this clear — the panel was asked to come up with scenarios why aliens might attack us. They were asked to come up with “neutral”, “unintentional harm” and “intentional harm” scenarios wherein we make first contact with aliens. Among the reasons aliens might decide to attack us are: 1) to enslave us, 2) to eat us, and 3) to strike preemptively before we wreck their shit.

Extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) “could attack and kill us, enslave us, or potentially even eat us. ETI could attack us out of selfishness or out of a more altruistic desire to protect the galaxy from us. We might be a threat to the galaxy just as we are a threat to our home planet,” it warns.

One such scenario is the stuff of many a Hollywood blockbuster, a “standard fight-to-win conflict: a war of the worlds.” But another might resonate more with fans of Al Gore’s documentary film “An Inconvenient truth.”

It speculates that aliens, worried we might inflict the damage done to our own planet on others, might “seek to preemptively destroy our civilization in order to protect other civilizations from us.”

The reason they might clue in to our presence to begin with? Well, we’re kinda in the process of wrecking our own environment, in ways that might be detectable from light years away via the same methods that we’re using right now to figure things out about exoplanets’ atmospheres. The fact that once, we had very little CO2 in the atmosphere, and now we’ve got a lot more (like double!), might be a big old warning flag to these extraterrestrials that something is happening on our planet and it might be worth checking it out. They might realize that we’ve entered the industrial age but haven’t matured past rampant capitalism, and that has arrested our ability to actually do something about having destroyed our only life support system. They might well be concerned that we’re spacefaring, and that we might spread our self-destructive habits to other niches in the cosmic neighborhood, maybe even threatening their own planet with our backward and self-centered ways.

But the scientists were asked to come up with sci-fi scenarios why they might attack us. This ain’t “oh those crazy liberals think we’d better stop that imaginary global warming that Al Gore invented or else some aliens will wipe us out”. This ain’t about the conservative ideals of profit-first, sustainability-never. This is speculation based on a specific request made of these scientists and it’s not all that far-fetched given that our own level of technology allows us to determine things about planets that are hundreds of light years away that might just tip us off that something big was changing on those planets too. This is barely science fiction. And yet Fox News takes the opportunity to craft the perfect headline, the one that’ll make sure us crazy liberals are laughed at for our crazy ideas.

There’s nothing objectionable about the study you’re sneering so hard at, Fox. I’d advise you stop sneering soon or your collective faces might freeze like that.