Bad survivor

Whenever “call out culture” is critiqued I typically approach the piece with skepticism–it’s a term so loosely used to the point of being useless at this point, and I just want people to define their terms precisely. Regardless of what we actually call it, this piece is about non-state methods of community policing, and has some valuable observations on how messy the process can be:

Content Notice: Abuse, threats of violence.

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Staff Sergeant Mildly Annoyed, reporting for duty in the Outrage Brigade

“Don’t feed the tone trolls.”

One of my first experiences with in-person transphobia was actually a feminist context, rather than an atheist one. One of the other participants had made a classic bungle in trans-antagonism: conflating gender identity and gender role. This isn’t a terribly uncommon mistake. In the admittedly esoteric field of trans feminism they are terms of art, generally heading in the direction of consistent meaning within the discourse; the mistake is analogous to using chromosomes and genes interchangeably, or conflating quarks with protons. It’s a sign the person is unfamiliar with what trans scholars have actually written about ourselves, and although this conflation is a foundational premise in many trans-antagonistic strains of feminism, I try to assume it is simply a matter of ignorance.

It was eventually my turn to speak. I introduced myself as well as my area of interest, and explained that many definitions within trans discourse often use the term “gender identity” in relation to an experience of the body (comfort, apathy, distress) and use the term “gender role” to describe external expectations thrust upon you specifically because of your assumed sex assigned at birth. [ex: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5] In this way many feminist observations are easily reconciled with trans liberation: All people are in part oppressed by these rigid and unrealistic expectations, in different ways and to different degrees, and we should unlearn them. All will benefit–cis, trans, man, woman, both, neither, sometimes either, all or none of the above. This is not to say that gender roles account for all people’s oppression, just a part of it. From this perspective the alleged “spat” between trans folk (chiefly trans women) and feminism is utterly nonsensical. There need be no disagreement.

And yet. And yet…

I was accused of being “angry”–by someone, and I kid you not, red in the cheeks and raising her voice–even though I was flatly stating what trans discourse actually says. I hadn’t even accused the speaker of malice (again, I assume ignorance first). All I meant by my comment was that the basic idea motivating the other participant’s bizarre animus against trans folk wasn’t rooted in any material I was aware of–material I continue to be unaware of, as the people using this premise seldom cite sources, or when they do, cite each other saying the other said this in a fashion that would have had me laughed out of my undergrad.

One would hope that as the self-styled paragons of debate and rationalism and/or empiricism, atheists would recognize a straw-stuffing exercise when they see it, and applaud someone for speaking up in the name of rigorous debate.

And yet, and yet

Here we are: Staff Sergeant Mildly Annoyed, reporting for duty in the Outrage Brigade. Maybe I’m doing it wrong, because I’m so numb to people’s ignorance on trans issues that “anger” is actually a relatively rare emotion I experience anymore. In fact I am pleasantly surprised whenever someone manages to speak on the issue without unknowingly spewing bile on their audience. So at this point, expect y’all to be, at best, clueless. My bar is so low for atheist dudebros that they gain a point of approval just for figuring out that “transgender” is an adjective.

Nothing you say ever really surprises me anymore. Maybe it stings your ego that you are not the Paragon of Perfect Thought in every subject, that you sound like a child when you wander into areas beyond your expertise. That’s not writing you off or putting all your work in a trash bin. It is, in fact, a demonstration of the precious debate that many of you claim to admire. Sometimes y’all are really fucking wrong, but somehow when we discuss that, we’re “dividing the movement.”

If I could be assured I were inoculated against the consequences of asinine men, I would consider it immensely amusing that many of atheism’s much-vaunted leaders say, with no hint of irony, that those of us concerned with fairness and justice are being divisive, after tweeting third-rate shit like this:

I’m not outraged. I’m no more outraged than when a toddler throws a tantrum. It’s the sort of immature, emotional outburst you simply expect from them, and while it certainly may be annoying, we would not say that a parent trying to coax their toddler back down to Earth is “outraged.”

Some toddlers continue to express anger nonetheless. At least in their case it’s sometimes because they can’t articulate between degrees of necessity and desire because they lack awareness of abstract concepts.

I wonder, then, what your excuse is.

Staff Sergeant Mildly Annoyed signing off. Ten four.


The greatest tragedy in Sarah Ditum’s mind is treating white women like adults

Let’s get one thing perfectly clear: Sarah Ditum is constitutionally incapable of directly stating what she means. She has been trained in a feminist tradition that trades almost exclusively in equivocation and doublespeak. This is one aspect of debunking TERFs that makes the task so grating–the ambiguity, rather than being a sign of the TERF’s lack of principles, instead reflects poorly on the critic since we sometimes guess incorrectly at what they’re trying to say. From there they can swoop in and claim that they actually meant something else, which, again, should be considered evidence that they are shitty communicators rather than evidence the critic has misunderstood. So I confess, I’m at a backfoot here, squinting at Egyptian hieroglyphs without the benefit of a Rosetta stone.

Feminists have spent decades trying to get the value of women’s unpaid labour recognised, to basically no avail. The trouble all along, it turns out, was the framing: instead of saying women deserved credit for their contribution to the economy, feminists should have said that women deserve blame. Because blame is one commodity where people are happy to give women their due. The obvious absence of women from the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia – where female counter-protester Heather Heyer was killed by a car allegedly driven by an alt-right supporter called James Alex Fields – could have lead to a discussion about the male near-monopoly on violence. Instead the impulse to cherchez la femme kicked in early and hasn’t let up since.

This isn’t particularly difficult, Ditum.

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Who the flying fuck thought arrest quotas was a good idea?

Ever wondered what it would look like if the cops were actively incentivized to misbehave?

Wonder no longer.

Follow my words here carefully. In 2013, a federal judge, Shira A. Scheindlin, in a 193 page ruling, stated that New York’s horrendous “stop and frisk” police tactic was unconstitutional because it unfairly and disproportionately targeted “blacks and Hispanics who would not have been stopped if they were white.” She did not rule that “stop and frisk” in and of itself is unconstitutional, but that the way New York was administering it, on the backs of people of color, was. The facts were undeniable, but the practice itself was not overruled.

A staggering 5 million incidents of stop and frisk took place in New York since 2002. Nearly 90% of those stops were of people who were found to be completely innocent. The overwhelming majority of stops, of course, were done against black and Latino residents of the city. When the practice was formally disbanded in New York City after Judge Scheindlin’s decision, it was seen as an enormous victory for police reforms. And it was, but something that is perhaps even more nefarious than stop and frisk unofficially rose up within the NYPD to take its place — a crisis of false arrests driven by an unwritten quota system being overseen by precincts across the city.

Just three days after Donald Trump was inaugurated, New York City agreed to something that is so scandalous, so huge, that only the incoming presidency of Donald Trump could’ve outshined it. New York City agreed to pay $75 million (that’s $75,000,000) out in a police corruption case that should’ve rocked the city and the nation to its core. They likely chose that date and time on purpose. The case had been in litigation for years and years, but the city chose one of the most fragile, news heavy times in the history of modern American media to drop an absolute bomb. The city admitted that it was forced to dismiss over 900,000 arrests and summonses because they simply didn’t have the evidence to back them. These weren’t 900,000 stops that were made, but 900,000 legal actions accusing people of crimes that they did not commit. They were all bogus. Not 9,000. Not 90,000 — which seems like an outrageous number, but 900,000. Not only that, but the case actually had its very own deleted email scandal, where every almost every single email Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly ever sent was deleted — never to be found again. Yeah, really.

Here’s the lawsuit:

Try not to explode when reading more here.


Stay in your lane: Poverty edition

The American dream will always remain a dream because of the realities of poverty. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle, and breaking it without intervention is a matter of dumb luck. Despite this, the “myth of hard work” persists.

Well-meaning people who have never been poor are convinced that they know what I should have done. That subtle tweaks to my budget could somehow stretch my $9.50 per hour. I should have gotten a roommate. I should have lived somewhere cheaper. I should have found a better job.

Anyone who’s ever lived in poverty has probably had this experience.

In the U.S., we have become so accepting of the fact that poverty is not a symptom of a grossly unequal economy, or the result of numerous systemic failures, or the product of years of trickle-down economics, but instead, that the only thing standing between a poor person and the life of their dreams is their own decisions, their own choices, and their own failures.

This is why I would advise any person whose immediate reaction upon hearing about a friend, relative, or stranger on the Internet who is living in poverty is to offer unsolicited advice to hold their tongue (or fingers), at least long enough to consider what other forces contribute to poverty and how their “help” may actually be insulting, incorrect, and downright damaging.

Read more here.


How many punches, precisely, are they allowed to throw?

Stephanie Zvan has articulated her thoughts on self-defence and the application of violence, and her arguments mirror my own:

[CN: on top of all the Nazi stuff, talk about the threat of sexual assault]

Yesterday I asked whether the people still telling me not to punch Nazis after Charlottesville were telling me to be martyred or to stand aside while someone else is.

Mostly I didn’t get any answers. I expected that. That’s what happens when “Just say ‘no’ to violence!” runs into situations where violence is inherent and inevitable. Ironically, the act of making an option unspeakable makes the pro-rational discussion with Nazis crowd unable to discuss current events rationally. Weird. (Not at all weird.)

I also ran into a couple of people yesterday who would prefer martyrdom to enacting any violence. That’s fine. I can’t relate to it in any way, but I don’t have to. It’s a personal choice. But it being a personal choice means you don’t get to impose it on me or anyone else. You don’t get to choose that someone else dies in the name of nonviolence.

I detest violence. I would much rather use every other tool in my toolbox to resolve conflict. But I will not write violence off as an option, especially when the threat of it is sometimes the only thing preventing injury to begin with. Arguing that I am obligated to take these blows strikes me as insufferably arrogant.

Read more here.


The “liberal echo chamber” is not a thing

I has data:

The media landscape is distinctly asymmetric.

The structure of the overall media landscape shows media systems on the left and right operate differently. The asymmetric polarization of media is evident in both open web linking and social media sharing measures. Prominent media on the left are well distributed across the center, center-left, and left. On the right, prominent media are highly partisan.

From all of these perspectives, conservative media is more partisan and more insular than the left.

The center-left and the far right are the principal poles of the media landscape. 
The center of gravity of the overall landscape is the center-left. Partisan media sources on the left are integrated into this landscape and are of lesser importance than the major media outlets of the center-left. The center of attention and influence for conservative media is on the far right. The center-right is of minor importance and is the least represented portion of the media spectrum.

Conservative media disrupted.
Breitbart emerges as the nexus of conservative media. The Wall Street Journal is treated by social media users as centrist and less influential. The rising prominence of Breitbart along with relatively new outlets such as the Daily Caller marks a significant reshaping of the conservative media landscape over the past several years.

So there it is. Right-wing politics are coalescing around conspiracy websites, while left-wing politics remain broad in scope. The echo-chamber is not ours.

Of course, as a person who is paid to fact-check bullshit, I could have told you that. The “liberal bias” my blag has been accused of is actually just a reflection of right-wing politicians’ tendency to charge through reality as if facts are porcelain pots that can be broken if enough force is applied. It’s not like I’m hiding my criticisms of left-wing woo; it’s just that woo is a little too busy twirling in a corn maze to get anywhere, so the focus will be proportional to the batshittery that is getting somewhere.


“all laws are for the good of the community, and any who challenge them must be against it”

I have always struggled to properly articulate my position on freedom of speech, as a legal concept created by the state. Canada (wisely, in my opinion) has defined theoretical boundaries at which point your speech is understood to also be an act of violence, and treated accordingly in theory–rather than conceiving of speech and violence as infinitely separable per the USA’s First Amendment. Even with the limitations on what can be literally said, though, power continues to distort the ability of some participants to speak their minds, per this naive liberal ideal. Or, to borrow the Markteplace of Ideas–some of us are cash poor and can’t afford to set up a vendor.

Enter political anarchists: (emphasis added)

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