A handy list

Have you ever found yourself needing to refute a claim that someone is sexist? Here’s a useful compilation of familiar excuses.


He wrote it, but he didn’t mean it. (Poor dear.)
He wrote it, but he’s just repeating what he’s heard elsewhere. (Just give him time!)
He wrote it, but now this is just a reverse-sexist lynch mob. (So I’m on his side now.)
He wrote it, but he was a product of his time. (Everyone was like this back then. There was no feminism.)
He wrote it, but it’s not like he has any influence. (Just ignore him, he’ll go away.)
He wrote it, but he didn’t realise it was offensive. (So why are you taking offence?)
He wrote it, but he’s an anomaly. (‪#‎notallmen‬)

The older I get, the more I detest the “product of his time” excuse. Human beings are capable of learning over the course of their entire life, you know, and age is not a reason to be refractory to change. It’s you young whippersnappers who generally have enough slack in your physiology that you can do whatever you want, while we oldsters are constantly trying to adapt to expanding limitations.

The dismissal for lack of influence is also annoying. The great galumphing herd of ignorant racists might not be individually powerful, but when they find a leader with no shame, like Donald Trump, they can trample a lot of people.

Plagiarism is such a stupid crime

I can imagine a kind of accidental plagiarism: you’re taking notes on a paper, and you neglect to indicate where you’re transcribing verbatim, and days or weeks or months later, you’re sitting down to write and you mistakenly think your notes are your own words. It can happen. It can happen a few times. But it shouldn’t happen often — if you do that a lot, it means you’ve been transcribing instead of summarizing, and maybe you should be flagging your notes for the sections that are in your own words, because apparently they’re uncommon.

When it happens often, there’s no excuse. You’re not writing or thinking, you’re being lazy. You’re also stealing other people’s work. It’s a serious offense, too: we had to fire one blogger here for it, and it was a shame because he was an interesting guy and when he wasn’t plagiarizing he was turning out good stuff. But no excuses: it’s not allowed. Ever.

There’s also the kind of plagiarism that’s just stupid. Yes, I’ve had students who’ve gone googling for material, and then just copied and pasted whole paragraphs and pages into their papers. Do they think we wouldn’t notice the change in tone and quality? Also, professors are a suspicious bunch: when I see clear, mature, skillful writing, I’ll plug excerpts into Google myself just to verify that it’s actually the student’s work…and sometimes it is (Yay!), and sometimes it isn’t (uh-oh.) Again, that’s a very serious problem. It’s an instant F on the paper, with no recourse to repair the grade.

So this is distressing: Jaclyn Glenn is a plagiarist. There’s just no way around it; watch the video there, and you’ll see it — she basically stole another youtuber’s video script, and re-recorded it somewhat dumbed down. When caught, she removed the video.

And this is after she was discovered to have plagiarized a youtube comment. Yeesh. Plagiarizing is bad enough, but using youtube comments as your source? That does not speak well of Glenn’s sources of information.

You already know what FtB would do if one of our bloggers were pulling that kind of lazy stunt. Glenn has had some kind of promotional relationship with American Atheists — will that last? I know she won’t lose any viewers over it, since she caters to a rather undiscriminating crowd.

Maryam also gives a very good talk

I’m not one of those wacky free speech absolutists. I am generally in favor of free speech, but I do think there are also obligations and responsibilities. Let me give you a few examples.

There have been a few instances where I was scheduled to speak somewhere, and officials tried to get me kicked out. That’s inappropriate. They also failed in every case, probably because I’m not as scary as Maryam Namazie. But it’s not right in her case, either.

I’ve had people picket and protest at a few of my talks. I thought that was cool — I encourage my critics to exercise their free speech privileges. My response is usually to talk to picketers and invite them to come inside and listen. Maryam Namazie isn’t one to back down from an argument, either.

I’ve never had anyone threaten to riot if I dared to speak, but that has happened to Maryam Namazie. In those cases, though, whose demands should be respected, the one who is giving a non-violent talk, or the ones who will turn violent if someone disagrees with them?

If someone is truly awful, these events can be a wonderful opportunity to deflate the bad guy. Back in 2004, David Horowitz, complaining about campus speech codes and censorship, gave a talk at St. John’s University. Yes, it was ironic that he was bitterly whining about how universities censor him while speaking at a university. But even more ironically, in part of his speech he railed against the Peace Studies course that was apparently inimical to his ideology…and students spoke up and said that they were taking that course, and that the instructor had given them class time off to specifically attend the Horowitz lecture. Imagine if Maryam Namazie’s opposition to Islamism could have been addressed by thoughtful, peaceful Islamist students showing up to listen attentively. (No, I know, wasn’t going to happen.)

There are limits to what we should tolerate on campus, though. For example, in the case of Condoleeza Rice being disinvited from the University of Minnesota campus a few years ago, I approved. I thought it was great that students were campaigning actively to stop her, because they were exercising their right to free speech, too. But mainly, there were two reasons I thought Rice should have been booted from campus. First, she’s part of an administration that was directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and I don’t think war criminals deserve respect. How many people is Maryam Namazie responsible for murdering? Second, the university was going to pay her $150,000 for an abbreviated lecture, a gross waste of money. How much does Maryam Namazie get paid?

But otherwise, you may disagree with Maryam Namazie, in which case you should be out protesting and making your case, but to pretend that speech by someone with whom you disagree will cause some kind of imaginary harm puts you in the same boat with Saudi fundamentalists.

Poetry? At a science event?

It’s true. This is what happens at a liberal arts college: worlds collide! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria! And poets and scientists talking to one another!

This is precisely what the Christian fundamentalists are warning us of with the Blood Moon Prophecy, which is happening this weekend, and culminates with poetry in a coffeehouse on Tuesday. If ever you wanted to witness an apocalypse, get yourself to Morris stat.


A small step forward for patients’ rights

Dan Markingson was a schizophrenia patient who was enlisted in a University of Minnesota trial of an experimental drug — and he killed himself horrifically while in the experiment. The university has just now made a policy change that excludes people from research trials who are restrained under a 72-hour emergency hold.

That’s nice.

Markingson killed himself in 2004, and it’s taken 11 years to get this minor, and honestly, rather obvious change in policy. Why has it taken so long? Perhaps this attitude by Brian Herman, vice president for research, explains some of the problem.

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