Welcome to Up-Is-Down world, where “Free Speech” doesn’t mean what you think it means

It’s a sad day in America, when a movie review site has been seized in a fascist coup and is denying people their free speech rights. The people are shrieking through their ball gags on Twitter about this criminal assault on democracy.

You might be wondering how they did it, and what they did. Rotten Tomatoes noticed that movies that hadn’t been released yet, that no one had even seen, were being swarmed by people downvoting them, making their reviews unreliable and even more biased than usual. So they made a rule: you don’t get to rate a movie until after it has been released. This, of course, is a colossal threat to democracy!

What triggered these people is that next week, Marvel is releasing another super-hero movie, titled Captain Marvel. The hero is a…a…a WOMAN. The usual delicate little flowers have been raging about this atrocity for months, howling that it has to be a really bad movie (it might be, I’m feeling considerable super-hero fatigue myself), and organizing brigades of angry keyboard warriors to downvote it, sight unseen. The sleazy underbelly of YouTube is full of angry man-children who have been bellowing about a movie with a woman in the lead for months, and it’s just ridiculous. The movie is going to be playing at the Morris Theater next week (in time for my birthday! Maybe my wife will take me there on a date!), and I’ll watch it, and you know me, I’ll probably complain about it on the blog afterwards. It’s OK. But these nuts…

One of the leaders of the anti-woman mob is mentioned above: Ethan Van Sciver. He’s a Mormon comic book artist who has apparently alienated all the big publishers and is reduced to begging for money on the internet, and has found the kind of red meat that draws in gullible young men to donate. His secret ingredient is raging misogyny. And stupidity.

That’s brilliantly idiotic. We’re all Captain Marvel obsessive SJW bullies, which is a peculiar way to describe people who are just fannishly interested in seeing a movie, and we shouldn’t be permitted to push normal people, who don’t want to see the movie, around. Gosh, I agree. If you don’t want to see a movie, don’t see the movie. There is no campaign to gather up Van Sciver fanboys and strap them into theater seats. There is no scheme to disallow negative reviews (just look on YouTube, there are already heaps of negative reviews from people who haven’t seen it). Once it has been released, even Rotten Tomatoes will allow the brigading twits to charge forward and click a button to give it zero stars.

It’s kind of creepy how one small, loud segment of the internet has become a hate-filled clique that feeds on their own rage.

What’s Alex Jones up to nowadays?

Since he’s been kicked off of most social media platforms, Alex Jones’ revenue has been drying up, and he’s getting desperate. He’s at the stage where he’s appearing on bottom-feeding podcasts trying appeal to his hardcore conspiracy theorist fans to get their approval, which means he’s battier than ever. Go here; it’s just a series of short clips from the Joe Rogan show (ewww), in which Jones feverishly declares that “they” have made fricken’ deals with interdimensional aliens and a post-human error has occurred and none of us are going to make it. He’s not looking particularly good, either.

Now I’m wondering what’s going to happen with another crazed, not-very-bright, delusional manipulator notices the walls closing in on him…only this guy has a button to our nuclear arsenal, and, presumably, direct access to the interdimensional aliens. If we’re lucky he’ll just go on the Joe Rogan show, where all the crackpots go for a little friendly stroking.

The 43rd Midwest Philosophy Colloquium Race and Gender in Analytic Philosophy! Here on campus! Tonight!

I’m sure that title gets your heart racing. The first lecture in the series is tonight at 7. It’s by Jeanine Weekes Schroer, who will be talking about “Race, Grace and Intractable Moral Problems”. Sounds fun, I think I’ll be going, although lately I’ve been leaning towards favoring utilitarian spider philosophy: if it disturbs your web, bite it, fill it with venom, and suck it dry. Maybe I need to pay more attention to human-centered philosophical solutions, though.

(Although…writing a book that takes a spider-centered approach to philosophy would probably be a best seller in the Intellectual Dork Web community (better than lobsters, anyhow) and would also exemplify its own philosophy by biting, envenoming, and sucking the wallets — and souls — of its devotees dry. Tempting.)

Catastrophes and annihilation

I’m a guest on this week’s Philosophers in Space podcast, and that’s the cheerful topic of our discussion of the movie Annihilation, a film that I saw as one of the creepiest horror films ever when I first saw it, but my appreciation has grown greatly after a second viewing. It’s actually a movie about change and transformation, bringing together concepts from cancer and deep ecology. So we had a lot to talk about. So much we need two episodes, and Thomas Smith and Aaron Rabi and I will continue next week.

Also, that bear…haunts my nightmares. And we didn’t say enough about how great and atmospheric the music was.

George Pell missed an opportunity

In 2016, Pell wrote an essay titled “A wise reply to atheism’s strongest argument”. It gets off to a bad start — don’t brag about how wise your answer is before you’ve even given it — but it gets even worse.

You might be wondering what atheism’s strongest argument might be, and I’ll cut to the chase: Pell thinks it’s the argument from evil. Personally, I don’t find it very compelling or interesting, because it presupposes a god whose purposes we’re supposed to be arguing over, but OK, I can see where a Catholic would find it relevant. And then…this is child rapist George Pell. I would think he’s spent a lot of time contemplating evil, rationalizing evil acts, fantasizing about evil, condemning evil people, practicing evil. He’s an evil authority! If anyone is going to be an expert on justifying how god would allow evil to persist, it’s a devout evil-doer who has to be having an interesting internal monologue on the acts he has committed.

Evil and suffering constitute the most formidable argument against monotheism, for those who believe in the existence of one good and transcendent Creator God.

So I settled down to read a challenging argument about how a benevolent, omnipotent, omniscient being could co-exist with evil in his personal hand-made universe, and boy was I disappointed. The entirety of his argument is one paragraph. One short paragraph. Most of the essay is namedropping philosophers and theologians and explaining how the resurgence of atheism should jolt us out of our silence and indifference because oh, this is such an important question, and isn’t suffering such a wonderful gift from God yadda yadda yadda. The Catholic bullshit gets thick in there.

But here is the one paragraph which purports to answer the whole Problem of Evil.

I believe that the intellectual arguments now available to be drawn from biology (the discovery of DNA) and from physics and chemistry and the fantastic improbabilities necessary for evolution from the Big Bang to humans, mean that the rational or metaphysical path to the Supreme Intelligence is easier for us than in the past. Thinkers are coming to God from or through science.

It’s lies and nonsense through and through, and it isn’t even relevant to the question.

The intellectual arguments from biology and physics and chemistry are all about the fundamentally natural properties of our universe. They don’t say a god did it; they say chemistry happens whether a god wills it or not. The probability argument is not an answer to the evil argument, and you can’t use improbability to claim that the current state of life couldn’t possibly arise without design and purpose. Also, the more science you’ve got in your life, the less need you have for silly mythology, so no, with few exceptions, scientists aren’t suddenly flocking to church every Sunday.

This isn’t what I’d be interested to hear from Pell. God did wicked things; George Pell sexually molested 13 year old boys. Is he going to claim that DNA and physics and chemistry and biology compelled him to force his penis into a child’s mouth? That it was fantastically improbable that he was wracked with sexual obsessions, therefore God must have made him do it? Save it for the trial defense. I’d like to hear how a man who thinks he is good can commit gross, unforgivable crimes.

Maybe I should just read Dostoevsky instead.

Jacob Wohl: In the running for dumbest person on the internet

Fresh off his trip to make up lies about Minneapolis, Jacob Wohl crawled back under the rock he came from, but not before giving a big interview to USA Today. He gloated about the Minneapolis trip.

He flew to Minnesota last week to “investigate” the rumor that Somali-American Rep. Ilhan Omar married her brother, a mission for which he tried to fund-raise $25,000 from his online followers. Wohl’s trip to the heartland devolved into bizarre tweets in which he suggested that Minneapolis was so overrun by Somali jihadists that he had to wear a bulletproof vest and travel with a team of “security professionals.”

That isn’t the big news, though. The important thing he did was to brag about creating multiple fake accounts on Twitter and Facebook in order to intentionally undermine the next presidential election with fake news.

No, really.

He bragged about his secret operation to corrupt a federal election to a widely read newspaper. There is stupid, and then there is Jacob Wohl stupid. The result was inevitable: he’s been permanently banned from Twitter.

Twitter banned notorious Trump supporter Jacob Wohl from its platform on Tuesday, alleging that Wohl broke the site’s rules against creating fake accounts.

Wohl’s ban came hours after he boasted in a USA Today interview about his plans to create fake accounts on Twitter and Facebook, which he said would be used to manipulate the 2020 election.

“The account was suspended for multiple violations of the Twitter Rules, specifically creating and operating fake accounts,” a Twitter spokesperson told The Daily Beast.

Wohl had already created several fake accounts before he was banned, according to a source familiar with Wohl’s activities on Twitter. Wohl told USA Today that he intended to use the accounts to help Trump in the 2020 election, pushing Democratic primary voters to back weaker candidates who would be easier for Trump to defeat in the general election.

He’s still on Instagram and Facebook — Facebook, because it is notoriously the worst social media site for enforcing even its ineffectual rules, worse than Twitter, if you can believe that. I suspect he doesn’t care about the ban anyway, because he was creating fake accounts…so he’ll just create more fake accounts. He’ll have his friends create fake accounts. There is no credible authentication on any of these sites. And so the manipulation will continue.

It’s possible he’s not the dumbest person on the internet, just one of the least ethical.

“Truly I say to you…you will deny Me”

George Will is what passes for an intelligent man on the conservative side, I suppose, but wow, but religion twists his brain into a pretzel. His latest illogical argument is about the Bladensburg cross. This thing.

He thinks that the Supreme Court should rule that this is not a religious symbol. His arguments for this are, well, fucking stupid.

It was for reasons of traffic safety that the government in 1961 acquired the ground on which the Bladensburg cross sits. If, 58 years later, a few people in this age of hair-trigger rage choose to be offended by a long-standing monument reflecting the nation’s culture and traditions, those people, not the First Amendment, need help. The court should so rule when, sometime before this term ends in June, it announces its decision in this case, as the nine justices sit beneath a frieze that includes a symbol of religion: Moses with the Ten Commandments.

Bladensburg last had the nation’s attention because of the shambolic events of Aug. 24, 1814. President James Madison fled from there, where feeble American resistance enabled British soldiers to proceed to torch the president’s house and the Capitol. At Wednesday’s oral argument, the court, sitting across the street from the Capitol, can begin to tidy up its establishment clause jurisprudence that Justice Clarence Thomas correctly says is “in shambles.”

Here’s the enlightened reasoning he uses to arrive at this counterfactual conclusion.

  • It’s just the Outrage Brigade complaining. They “choose to be offended”, so they should just not choose that way. Only people who take Christianity for granted have voices that count.
  • It’s tradition. Yeah, so? Slavery was a tradition, too. That something was done one way in the past does not entail that it must be done in the same way for eternity.
  • It’s passive. No one is going to be converted just by walking past a cross, which is true, but that’s not the concern. This is on government land. It sends the message to everyone that the government favors one religion over another.
  • Honoring the war dead is a secular purpose. Sure, it’s even a humanist purpose. But what matters here is how they’re honored. Would Will make the same argument if the symbol were an inverted pentagram instead of a cross? No, he would not. He would freak out that the dead were being honored with sacrilege…to him.
  • There are other Christian symbols in government facilities. Yep. That’s not an argument for keeping others, it’s an argument for tearing them all down. Or, if they’re artistically worthy, neatly excising them and transferring them to private hands.
  • Circumlocutions. Many defenders are referring to this as a “cross-shaped object”, as if that passively removes all religious context. If I say a statue is only shaped like a winged demon osculating the hind end of a goat, that doesn’t abruptly turn it into an abstract, neutral object that would make no heretical impression on a passing Christian.

The whole thing is ridiculous. This cross was dedicated as an explicitly Christian symbol.

Representative Stephen W. Gambrill of the Fifth Maryland District delivered the dedication address, in which he stated: “You men of Prince Georges County fought for the sacred right of all to live in peace and security and by the token of this cross, symbolic of Calvary, let us keep fresh the memory of our boys who died for a righteous cause.”1 An invocation was given by Rev. A.J. Carey, pastor of St. Jerome’s Catholic Church. Rev. B.P. Robertson, pastor of the First Baptist Church pronounced a benediction.

For a court that claims the intent of the authors of the Constitution must be respected to suddenly pretend that the plain intent, clear symbology, and openly stated purpose of a giant Christian cross can be disregarded so they can maintain a dishonest pretense is absurd to an extreme degree. This is Christian conservative hypocrisy.

But I’m a pragmatist. I’m willing to compromise. I’m willing to cut George Will and other fanatics some slack and let them have their obvious Jesus monument if they’ll concede that we can reinterpret the Second Amendment to mean that only official military organizations of the US government are free to bear arms. You know, that’s less insane than putting on a pious act that a Christian symbol of Calvary is nothing but two sticks at right angles to one another.

Also, hey, George Will: read Matthew 26:34.

All right, what do I need to do to get a woman to look at me like this?

If I have to wear a dress, I’m willing — it’s a small price to pay. I’d also be flattered if I got a man to look at me like that.

In my case, I think it’s going to take a heck of a lot more than just a skirt, sad to say.

Oz and Phil are a disgrace to their titles

I despise “psychics”, so I’m happy to see John Oliver go after them. He makes a very good point, too, that those media personalities like “Dr” Oz and “Dr” Phil who cheerfully endorse psychic quackery on their shows are just as evil.

It wouldn’t be John Oliver if they didn’t have a gimmick. This time, they’ve set up a website with their “psychic”. Go ahead, get a reading. It’s just as accurate as John Edward.