Another account

Here we go again…another woman, Deborah Ramirez, has stepped forward to testify about Brett Kavanaugh’s drunken behavior at Yale. It’s a story vetted by Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer, two journalists with a rock-solid reputation.

Will the Republicans finally withdraw this nomination? If they push it through, all they’ll accomplish is to diminish the authority of the Supreme Court still further.

Maybe the Intellectual Dark Web isn’t as profitable as they dreamed

Oh, look. “Pangburn Philosophy” the guy who’s been sponsoring these talks by alt-right asshats all over the place, maybe isn’t doing quite so well lately.

Can’t pay his speakers? Sam Harris and Majid Nawaz refusing to go on stage? Wow.

Can this get any more embarrassing for them?

Whoops. There go Jordan Peterson and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Whatever will happen to this conference?

They just lost 4 of their 5 headliners. That’s a catastrophic collapse.

From now on, I’m going to send all those obnoxious Peterson cultists to Adam Rutherford

I hope he enjoys them, because I’m more than a little tired of those obtuse wankers. Rutherford is writing about what makes humans unique, and isn’t shy about pointing out that most of the pop sci claims are nonsense.

Because sex and gender politics are so prominent in our lives, some look to evolution for answers to hard questions about the dynamics between men and women, and the social structures that cause us so much ire. Evolutionary psychologists strain to explain our behaviour today by speculating that it relates to an adaptation to Pleistocene life. Frequently these claims are absurd, such as “women wear blusher on their cheeks because it attracts men by reminding them of ripe fruit”.

Purveyors of this kind of pseudoscience are plenty, and most prominent of the contemporary bunch is the clinical psychologist and guru Jordan Peterson, who in lectures asserts this “fact” about blusher and fruit with absolute certainty. Briefly, issues with that idea are pretty straightforward: most fruit is not red; most skin tones are not white; and crucially, the test for evolutionary success is increased reproductive success. Do we have the slightest blip of data that suggests that women who wear blusher have more children than those who don’t? No, we do not.

Peterson is also well known for using the existence of patriarchal dominance hierarchies in a non-specific lobster species as supporting evidence for the natural existence of male hierarchies in humans. Why out of all creation choose the lobster? Because it fits with Peterson’s preconceived political narrative. Unfortunately, it’s a crazily poor choice, and woefully researched. Peterson asserts that, as with humans, lobsters have nervous systems that “run on serotonin” – a phrase that carries virtually no scientific meaning – and that as a result “it’s inevitable that there will be continuity in the way that animals and human beings organise their structures”. Lobsters do have serotonin-based reward systems in their nervous systems that in some way correlate with social hierarchies: higher levels of serotonin relate to increased aggression in males, which is part of establishing mate choice when, as Peterson says, “the most desirable females line up and vie for your attention”.

I’m definitely buying his new book, The Book of Humans: 4 Billion Years, 20,000 Genes, and the New Story of How We Became Us when it becomes available in March. I’ve been praising his last book, A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes, to everyone I know, and I just learned that it’s going to be used as a text in one of the anthropology electives offered at our school. He’s an author you must not miss if you’re interested in good explanations of evolution and genetics.

America is Animal House

The Washington Post has a good story on Christine Blasey Ford, and let’s get this out of the way: she’s also a product of wealthy, preppy, privileged, private school and country club culture. I despise those people. That they are the class that dominates politics is one of the big problems with this country.

But she got out — she fled as far as she could from the kind of people that Brett Kavanaugh instead chose to wallow with. The kind of people who thought getting drunk until they vomited was the height of fun.

Every summer, the “Holton girls” would pack into a rented house for Beach Week, an annual bacchanal of high-schoolers from around the region. The prep schools that formed Ford’s overlapping social circles usually gathered at a Delaware beach town each year. Kavanaugh, in his senior-year yearbook, cited his own membership in the “Beach Week Ralph Club.”

Like Kavanaugh, Ford was part of that alcohol-fueled culture. But those unchaperoned parties, at beach rentals and Bethesda basements alike, frequently left the girls feeling embattled.

“The boys were pretty brutal,” Evers said. “They would do what they could to get you drunk, and do whatever they would try to do to you.”

And then those boys go on to become lawyers and politicians, and do whatever they would try to do to the American people.

I have to say that this Twitter thread (read it all here) pretty much has American culture pegged.

Remember those cheap comedies from the ’80s, like Porkies or Revenge of the Nerds? I remember laughing at them, but what they were really doing is instilling in us a forgiveness for the excesses of Asshole Culture. Sure, they’re committing rape, they’re humiliating women, they’re praising turning the tables on bullies by becoming bullies yourselves, but boys will be boys, and isn’t it funny to peek in the girls’ showers or their bedroom windows and see boobies?

Try watching them now. They haven’t stood the test of time, and are painful to see, because now (I hope!) we can all see that the underdogs are all privileged white boys who have managed to succeed only by finding a new group of victims, usually women, to exercise power over. They are stories about clawing your way up the hierarchy by stomping hard on people, where you win by being cunning and brutal and making your opponents suffer, and your reward is getting the girl, whether she likes it or not.

And today, Cthulhu help us, it’s the people who absorbed those messages who now run the country.

You know, it pains me to say it, because I loved the anti-establishment message of another of those ’80s comedies, Animal House, and it actually does have some funny moments, but…it’s part of the problem. It celebrates sexism (don’t you like to see boobies?), and it is underdogs battling the privileged, but it’s two frat houses fighting for dominance. It’s the frat system that is the problem, and no one ever seems to think of leaving the whole rotten edifice. Then the hero is Bluto Blutarski, who is a crass, crude, ignorant failure who uses bluster and unearned confidence to claw his way up the ladder…he is the archetype of Trump. Real-life Blutarskis are not funny anymore.

It is sort of funny in a laugh-through-the-tears, ironic way that in the closing credits of the movie, they say that Blutarski goes on to become a US senator. It’s too true. That’s why we can still laugh. But do you still laugh when you see all the Blutos actually running congress? Becoming Supreme Court judges? Getting elected president? I don’t think so.

Traps are so manly

I love this video — it speaks the truth.

Although, I have to confess, the bit at the end is a manly punch to the gut, because it’s too true — I never told my father I loved him, and he never said it to me, not because we didn’t, but because Real Men don’t talk about it. I’m not a particularly macho kind of guy, but this poison has affected even me.

I blame the voice of Pappy Jack, and I’m gonna beat him up if I ever meet him.

Jordan Peterson, fragile little snowflake and misogynist

I remember the old days of the internet, when some dork would throw a hissy fit and demand that we skeptics immediately remove all our mean statements about their devoutly held beliefs, and threaten us with legal action. And we’d all laugh at such absurdity, because once it’s on the internet, it’s being spread widely and isn’t going to go away, no matter how fiercely you stamp your foot or how loudly you scream.

I’ve personally experienced their ire: Pivar, Shermer, Carrier, to name just a few. Their efforts are futile. The facts do not disappear when they make you uncomfortable. Yet they still don’t get it.

The only difference today is that now it’s the so-called rationalists who are making willy-nilly threats of lawsuits to silence their critics, all while simultaneously genuflecting before the altar of free speech. It’s freakin’ weird, man. You’d think their heads would explode, or that at least their followers would notice the hypocrisy and turn their backs on them. But they don’t.

Latest in the litigious free-speechers who want to shut people up: Jordan Peterson. He’s suing someone who criticized his book.

In June, he threatened to sue Down Girl author and Cornell University assistant professor Kate Manne for defamation, after she criticized his book, 12 Rules For Life, and more generally called his work misogynistic in an interview with Vox. (Peterson previously filed a lawsuit against a university whose faculty members, in a closed-door meeting, argued that showing his videos in a classroom created an unsafe environment for students.) In letters to Manne, Cornell, and Vox, Peterson’s lawyer, Howard Levitt, demanded that all three parties “immediately retract all of Professor Manne’s defamatory statements, have them immediately removed from the internet, and issue an apology in the same forum to Mr. Peterson. Otherwise, our client will take all steps necessary to protect his professional reputation, including but not limited to initiating legal proceedings against all of you for damages.” (You can read the full letter below).

Among the statements Levitt objected to: Manne’s contention that Peterson’s book included “some really eyebrow-raising, authoritarian-sounding, and even cruel things,” as well as her observation that “it doesn’t seem accidental that [Peterson’s] skepticism about objective facts arises when it’s conveniently anti-feminist.” The lawyer and his client were equally unhappy with this line: “I also suspect that for many of Peterson’s readers, the sexism on display above is one tool among many to make forceful, domineering moves that are typical of misogyny.”

You don’t do this. You don’t bluster and threaten to sue critics of your book, no matter how savage their reviews. You especially don’t sue them when they can quote you and support all of their contentions, when your whole schtick is making broad-brush characterizations of people as archetypes and stereotypes.

I don’t get it. I get abused far worse, over a longer period of time, by various people who despise me, and they aren’t shy about doing it publicly (although, admittedly, they often do it behind the veil of anonymity), and I’ve never once thought about suing someone far it. These free-speech paladins, on the other hand, do it all the time.

Reminder: we’re still fundraising to defend ourselves from one SLAPP suit by one of these asshats. Not one of the usual freeze-peach suspects has spoken out against that suit — they’re inviting him to speak at their conferences, instead.