Notes and Comment Blog

These frivolous incidents

Jan 6th, 2014 12:35 pm | By

But, from a couple of months ago, a young sports writer called Jim Pagels explained at Slate that Twitter death threats are just a joke and everybody should ignore them.

Just about every week, it seems there’s a story about a celebrity, athlete, or politician receiving death threats from morons on Twitter. The media often treat these frivolous incidents like they’re a fatwa on Salman Rushdie. The latest example: New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs, for performing poorly on fantasy football teams. (Fitting there be fantasy threats for a fantasy sport.)

The stories often give the impression that this is some kind of shocking event for which we should pity the “victims,” but anyone who’s spent 10 minutes online knows that these assertions are entirely toothless.

Yes! Totally! That is so true! Except of course for the ones that aren’t, and the fact that there’s no way to tell the difference. Also except for the fact that being the target of extended obsessive hatred is itself not actually toothless. Except literally. It is literally toothless, yes, but figuratively, it’s not.

In a piece in the Atlantic last year, Jen Doll wrote: “If there’s anything to be afraid of, it’s this idea that death threats are this kind of new online norm.” They are, in fact, the norm. However, I think it’s also safe to assume that these wannabe Tony Sopranos only represent the lowest trenches of society.

Ah yes “safe to assume”…but such things are more safe to assume for some people than they are for others. Also, the fact that some guy thinks it’s safe to assume something isn’t particularly compelling as a reason to assume it yourself. Also, even if the harassers and threateners do represent only “the lowest trenches of society,” so what? That’s still a lot of people.

So how do we stop this trend of pointless reporting? There really aren’t any clear solutions. There will always be a dark corner of the Internet, so you can’t stop the source. And you can’t tell websites to stop publishing these stories, because they surely generate boatloads of mindless page views. Maybe the solution is to just let the Internet continue to be the Internet, and people will eventually grow bored of this “news.” Or perhaps we should just send death tweets to the writers who report on these occurrences. It seems like they take these threats rather seriously.



(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Disproportionately lobbed at women

Jan 6th, 2014 12:18 pm | By

More on the campaign against women on the internet: Amanda Hess on Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet.

A woman doesn’t even need to occupy a professional writing perch at a prominent platform to become a target. According to a 2005 report by the Pew Research Center, which has been tracking the online lives of Americans for more than a decade, women and men have been logging on in equal numbers since 2000, but the vilest communications are still disproportionately lobbed at women. We are more likely to report being stalked and harassed on the Internet—of the 3,787 people who reported harassing incidents from 2000 to 2012 to the volunteer organization Working to Halt Online Abuse, 72.5 percent were female. Sometimes, the abuse can get physical: A Pew survey reported that five percent of women who used the Internet said “something happened online” that led them into “physical danger.” And it starts young: Teenage girls are significantly more likely to be cyberbullied than boys. Just appearing as a woman online, it seems, can be enough to inspire abuse. In 2006, researchers from the University of Maryland set up a bunch of fake online accounts and then dispatched them into chat rooms. Accounts with feminine usernames incurred an average of 100 sexually explicit or threatening messages a day. Masculine names received 3.7.

This isn’t good. It isn’t a good arrangement. It’s a barrier where there shouldn’t be a barrier. It’s an obstacle, a deterrent, a disincentive, to half the population. That should not be happening.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Weekends and holidays are not “days”

Jan 6th, 2014 11:21 am | By

The NY Times reports, to the surprise of no one who has been paying attention, that all these new anti-abortion measures passed by states have made abortion much harder to get. Well they would, wouldn’t they.

A three-year surge in anti-abortion measures in more than half the states has altered the landscape for abortion access, with supporters and opponents agreeing that the new restrictions are shutting some clinics, threatening others and making it far more difficult in many regions to obtain the procedure.

Right. That was the idea, wasn’t it.

The new laws range from the seemingly petty to the profound. South Dakota said that weekends and holidays could not count as part of the existing 72-hour waiting period, meaning that in some circumstances women could be forced to wait six days between their first clinic visit and an abortion.

Ok that’s one I hadn’t heard of. Brilliant. So if a woman needing an abortion has the bad luck to be unable to get an appointment until the Friday before a holiday Monday, she has to wait until the following Friday.

Laws passed last year by Arkansas and North Dakota to ban abortions early in pregnancy, once a fetal heartbeat was detected, were hailed by some as landmarks if quickly rejected by federal courts. But bans on abortion at 20 weeks, also an apparent violation of constitutional doctrine, remain in force in nine states.

In Roe and later decisions, the Supreme Court said that women have a right to an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb — at about 24 weeks of pregnancy with current technology — and that any state regulations must not place an “undue burden” on that right.

In 2013 alone, 22 states adopted 70 different restrictions, including late-abortion bans, doctor and clinic regulations, limits on medication abortions and bans on insurance coverage, according to a new report by the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.

Well, you see, the meaning of the word “undue” has changed radically over the past 40 years. Also the word “24″ and the word “right.”

A dozen states have barred most abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy, based on a theory of fetal pain that has been rejected by major medical groups. Such laws violate the viability threshold and have been struck down in three states, but proponents hope the Supreme Court will be open to a new standard.

A partial test is expected this month, when the Supreme Court announces whether it will hear Arizona’s appeal to reinstate its 20-week ban, which was overturned by federal courts.

Many legal experts expect the court to decline the case, but this would not affect the status of similar laws in effect in Texas and elsewhere. Still, those on both sides are watching closely because if the court does take it, the basis of four decades of constitutional law on abortion could be upended.

And the laws and rules and shackles and burdens that keep women down could be made tighter and heavier.

The proliferation of state restrictions is recreating a legal patchwork.

“Increasingly, access to abortion depends on where you live,” said Jennifer Dalven, director of the reproductive freedom project at the American Civil Liberties Union.

She added, “That’s what it was like pre-Roe.”

Backward. Marching marching marching backward.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

But it’s social

Jan 6th, 2014 10:11 am | By

Andy Lewis aka le canard noir tells us the Society of Homeopaths are applying to become accredited as a voluntary professional register with the Professional Standards Authority.

Professional how? Standards of what? Professional standards in what universe? What “professional standards” are even possible for homeopathy?

I wonder if homeopaths ever get charged with malpractice.

Back to our black duck friend.

Should the PSA approve their application, it will mean that the PSA, rather than ensuring standards in health care, has become a direct threat to public health.

The PSA are calling for feedback by the 17th of January on the Society of Homeopaths before they approve them. Perhaps you might want to let them know what you think about their fitness against the stated standards.

That sounds like a good project to me.

So I take a look at the professional standards [pdf] that Andy linked to. Right at the start I see a problem -

Standards for organisations holding a voluntary register for health and social care occupations

Uh oh…

The Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care¹ oversees statutory bodies that regulate health and social care professionals in the UK. We assess their performance, conduct audits, scrutinise their decisions and report to Parliament. We also set standards for organisations holding voluntary registers for health and social care occupations and accredit those that meet them.

¹ The Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care was previously known as the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence.

Hoo-boy. I can see homeopathy making it in because of that “Social Care” addition. It could make it in as “Social Care” but then of course use the accreditation to make homeopathy seem valid as Health Care, which is to say, medical treatment. Andy gives ten compelling reasons why they shouldn’t, but concludes that they probably will anyway because

 Recently, in the House of Lords, a quesiton was asked about “whether they intend to appoint a scientist to the Professional Standards Authority”. The response from Earl Howe was frightening,

My Lords, the Government have no plans to change the membership of the council of the Professional Standards Authority. The authority is required under the Health and Social Care Act 2012 to set standards for organisations holding voluntary registers for health and social care occupations, and accredits those which meet these standards. It is not required to make a judgment on the beliefs and practices of individuals registered with the organisations that it accredits.

Let that sink in. The regulator has no obligation to consider the beliefs and practices of those it wishes to regulate.

Even more shocking perhaps was the response of Baroness Pitkeathley, who just happens to be the Chair of the PSA.

Does the Minister agree that as by next March more than 75 occupations and 100,000 practitioners will be covered by the accredited voluntary register scheme, the public are much better informed and better protected than they have ever been?

It is not clear how Pitkeathley thinks that the public are going to be better informed and protected by her rubber stamping the most egregious form of quackery that we have to put up with.

What a mess.

To remind you, if you wish to make your views known about this issue, then you have until the 17th of January to send a submission to the PSA about the suitability of the Society for accreditation.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Singed earth

Jan 5th, 2014 6:09 pm | By

A scalding post by Janet Stemwedel, on the expectation of trust. It’s a ventriloquial sort of post, speaking in the voice of someone else. It’s variations on the theme: “you should trust me.” It’s extremely well done.

Yes, I used the cover of friendship, your loyalty and my apparent track record of not-misbehaving with hundreds of women (including you!), of being a good guy except for one single lapse of judgment (which I swore was not as bad as it sounded, because that woman who you didn’t know was trying to take me down), to ask you privately to convince a couple other people that I was still a good guy. I guess it was awkward when you discovered I’d split up the list of people who needed convincing and asked other people to do this too? And when you discovered that I described the task with one of the people I assigned to you as “getting her to put down the pitchfork”. In retrospect, that probably seemed kind of manipulative of me.

But you should trust me, I totally get how what I did was wrong, and I won’t do it again.

Sure, I haven’t actually acknowledged that lying to you and trying to manipulate you to protect my reputation and relationships was a bad thing to do. I haven’t acknowledged that it harmed you. I haven’t said sorry.

But you should trust that I am sorry and that I won’t do it again. I shouldn’t need to say it.


You may remember that yesterday I quoted a comment that Janet posted on Martin Robbins’s post:

I[t] would be a mistake to think that Bora hurt exactly three people here. Or that he has apologized to all the people he harmed.

I say this as someone he harmed, someone he has not apologized to as yet.

I wondered when I read it and then when I quoted it what the harm was. Now I know. Now we know.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Misreading the law in question

Jan 5th, 2014 3:52 pm | By

There are people who say that Dallas hospital is getting the law wrong.

The hospital says Texas law prohibits it from following a family directive when a pregnancy is involved, although three experts say the hospital is misreading the law in question.

There’s something very wrong with this country. On the one hand, “stand your ground” laws, so if some guy thinks a kid in a hoodie might be up to no good, he’s allowed to kill him to be on the safe side. On the other hand, technology can re-start a pregnant woman’s heart even after the brain is already stone dead and the fetus’s brain probably is too, but neither can be allowed to die the rest of the way until the woman’s body expels the fetus. No big deal about the kid in the hoodie, but ignore every right the pregnant woman ever had just in case the fetus might survive. Something definitely wrong there.

Hospital spokeswoman J.R. Labbe said she isn’t permitted to confirm that Marlise Munoz had been declared brain-dead, only that she was pregnant and hospitalized in serious condition.

“We are following the law of the state of Texas,” Labbe said. “This is not a difficult decision for us. We are following the law.”

But three experts interviewed by The Associated Press, including two who helped draft the law, said a brain-dead patient’s case wouldn’t be covered by the law.

“This patient is neither terminally nor irreversibly ill,” said Dr. Robert Fine, clinical director of the office of clinical ethics and palliative care for Baylor Health Care System. “Under Texas law, this patient is legally dead.”

Yes but fetus. The hell with Renisha McBride, shot dead for asking for help after she crashed her car, but when it comes to fetus – nothing else counts.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Just you wait

Jan 5th, 2014 3:20 pm | By

Katha Pollitt has a roundup of the year in feminism. Again, 12 and 13 are among my favorites.

11. After Savita Halappanavar was killed by sepsis in 2012, because her doctors refused to complete her miscarriage while the doomed fetus showed signs of life, Ireland passed a law permitting abortion to save a woman’s life. Well, it’s a start. In other Irish news, the McAleese report linked the government to the infamous church-run Magdalene laundries, where “fallen women” were imprisoned until 1996.

12. Women in Britain discovered their inner rebel. The website and hashtag Everyday Sexism laid bare the daily reality of misogyny for ordinary women. Massive grassroots efforts succeeded in putting Jane Austen on the ten-pound note, despite threats of rape and death against campaign leaders Caroline Criado-Perez and MP Stella Creasy.

13. Last year’s horrible rapes from Delhi to Steubenville sparked an ongoing wave of news coverage and feminist activism. Real change will have to wait till next year, though. This year, Jameis Winston, who evaded rape charges as many athletes do, won the Heisman Trophy.

A prediction: real change will always have to wait till next year.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Maintained as an unwilling incubator

Jan 5th, 2014 2:49 pm | By

Darlise Munoz of Dallas was 14 weeks pregnant when she died suddenly of what doctors think was a pulmonary embolism. Her husband found her at home; he performed CPR and called for an ambulance, and she was taken to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth.

Electric shocks and drugs started her heart again and it continued beating with mechanical support, but her brain waves were completely flat. She had gone without breathing for too long to ever recover.

But when the heartbroken family was ready to say goodbye, hospital officials said they could not legally disconnect Marlise from life support. At the time she collapsed, she was 14 weeks’ pregnant.

And because doctors could still detect a fetal heartbeat, state law says Marlise Munoz’s body — against her own and her family’s wishes — must be maintained as an unwilling incubator.

But the fetus had gone without oxygen too. The fetus’s prognosis is not good. Also, both Munozes had discussed this situation and didn’t want the dead-but-breathing-by-machine scenario.

Marlise and Erick Munoz, the parents of a young son, both worked as paramedics for the town of Crowley. Because their jobs brought them into routine contact with sudden death and suffering families, they had conversations about their end-of-life wishes.

Marlise had made it clear she would never want to be kept artificially alive with no hope of recovery.

“Being active paramedics and knowing the facts, they know that people who have this happen to them don’t come out of this very well,” said Crowley Fire Department Lt. Tim Whetstone, a member of the town’s firefighters association that has rallied around the Munoz family.

But that’s all beside the point, because the law.

Hospital authorities have declined all comment, other than to say they have no choice but to follow state law.

According to a 2012 report by the Center for Women Policy Studies, laws governing end-of-life preferences for pregnant women vary by state. Texas is one of 12 that automatically invalidates a woman’s legal prerogative if she “is diagnosed with pregnancy.”

“These are the most restrictive of the pregnancy exclusion statutes, stating that, regardless of the progression of the pregnancy, a woman must remain on life-sustaining treatment until she gives birth,” the report says.

If the bitch didn’t want that the bitch shouldn’t have gotten pregnant, right?

H/t Ewan



(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

How’s Graham Murkett these days?

Jan 5th, 2014 2:22 pm | By

Some grey bloke has 17 predictions for 2014.

I especially like 12 and 13.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)


Jan 5th, 2014 10:07 am | By

From last September, a Think Progress piece about a big UN report on the roots of sexual violence.

Among the conclusions…

Unhealthy attitudes about sexuality take root at a young age. More than half of the study’s respondents who admitted they had violated someone’s consent were teenagers when they first raped someone. Most sexual crimes recorded in the study occurred when men were between the ages of 15 and 19. The authors point out this finding “reinforces the need for early rape prevention.” Sexual violence prevention advocates in the U.S. say that this type of education can begin with comprehensive sex ed. Teaching kids about the bodies from an early age helps instill a sense of self-confidence and ownership in them. Then, they’re more likely to avoid violating another person’s consent, or be more willing to speak up when someone tries to violate theirs.

Men rape because they have been taught that they have a right to claim women’s bodies. One of the fundamental concepts at the heart of “rape culture” is the idea that rape is inevitable, men can’t help themselves, and women must therefore work to protect themselves against it. Within the context of rape culture, the idea that men are entitled to sexual experiences is deeply entrenched. The UN researchers found that this attitude is pervasive among the rapists they surveyed. Among the men who acknowledged they had sexually assaulted someone else, more than 70 percent of them said they did it because of “sexual entitlement.” Forty percent said they were angry or wanted to punish the woman. About half of the men said they did not feel guilty.

It’s about attitudes. Attitudes matter. Attitudes have an influence on what happens, on what people do, on actions and agents. That’s so obvious it seems idiotic to spell it out, yet there are still a great many people who think that trying to change attitudes to, say, women, or the relations between women and men, or aggression, is terrifyingly “radical” and exactly like the Nazis and the Stasi.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

They set her on fire

Jan 4th, 2014 6:05 pm | By

There are protests in India over the gang-rape and murder of that teenage girl in Kolkata.

Apparently the authorities are no longer talking about suicide.

She was then set on fire on December 23 and died in a state-run hospital late on New Year’s Eve, police said.

“She gave us a dying declaration in front of the health officials that she was set on fire by two persons close to the accused when she was alone at home on December 23,” local policeman Nimbala Santosh Uttamrao told AFP.

It beggars belief. They raped her and then to punish her for being raped by them, they set her on fire.


What is wrong with people?

Several hundred activists on Wednesday protested in Kolkata over the crime, which was shocking in its brutality, even after a year when sex crimes have been widely reported in India.

Meanwhile, Taslima’s serial, which might have raised some consciousness about the way women are treated in South Asia…will not be seen, because someone thought it might offend someone. Fabulous priorities.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Atheism Bingo

Jan 4th, 2014 4:44 pm | By

American Atheists are all in a lather about getting to 100,000 Likes on their Facebook page RIGHT NOW. I have no idea why, but they are. So fine, I’ll encourage people to go Like their Facebook page. If they get 100,000 likes then Dave will wink at the camera on Fox News on Tuesday. I don’t see that as an incentive; I hate winking. I think he should eat an olive, instead.

They offered this as an interim reward.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

It doesn’t look a day over a thousand

Jan 4th, 2014 4:14 pm | By

Happy birthday to Waterford. Today is its 1100th birthday. It had a celebration with fireworks and pretend Viking ships.

Waterford was founded 1,100 years ago by the Vikings,and a free outdoor spectacle took place on the city’s quays tonight, produced by street theatre company Spraoi.

Telling the story of the arrival of the Vikings in 914 AD, the event had dance, performance, pyrotechnics, light, music, narration and special effects.

Three stylised Viking ships which took two months to build were also on display.

Thousands of people attended despite stormy weather with flooding.

Vikings! Fireworks! Viking ships! It sounds great.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Who apologizes to whom for what

Jan 4th, 2014 3:45 pm | By

Melissa Harris-Perry apologized for what sounds like a mean joke.

MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry offered a tearful and passionate apology to the Romneys on Saturday for remarks she and her panelists made about the family’s adopted black grandchild.

In a segment last week, Harris-Perry joked about the grandson while one panelist, actress Pia Glenn, sang “one of these things is not like the other” and comedian Dean Obeidallah sought to draw a parallel to the Republican Party’s problems with diversity. The remarks drew heavy criticism from high-profile conservatives like Sarah Palin and Scott Brown.

And today she apologized.

I wonder…did Rush Limbaugh ever apologize for calling Sandra Fluke a slut?

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

“Although ultimately nobody was really harmed”

Jan 4th, 2014 11:09 am | By

Martin Robbins has a brilliantly lucid guest post, hosted by Janet Stemwedel (aka DocFreeRide), at Adventures in Science and Ethics about what was wrong with the way Bora Zivkovic returned to the internet.

First, the optimistic version of the story, then, what’s wrong with it:

Bora Zivkovic was an outstandingly talented science blogging expert. A fundamentally good man, he made some terrible mistakes that affected three women he worked with, although ultimately nobody was really harmed. Those mistakes cost him his friends, reputation and career. Now, he’s paid the price, and hopefully we can forgive him and welcome him back into the community he’s done so much for.

It’s a pleasing, comfortable narrative that many of us would love to subscribe to. It’s also toxic and wrong, and an acknowledgment of this from Bora (and his supporters) would be a welcome step on the road to genuine redemption.

The first problem is that by any objective, clear-headed assessment, Bora was incompetent. He didn’t lose his positions at ScienceOnline and Scientific American as a punishment for doing bad things, or to somehow ‘pay’ a ‘price’ – as if these jobs were his to give away – he lost them because it became apparent that he wasn’t fit to do them, and in fact never had been.

Why? Because the parts he failed at are not peripheral but central.

…this isn’t a set of scales were balancing. We’re not weighing good against bad here, because the things that Bora fucked up are not optional. ‘Not sexually harassing women’ is not a ‘bonus extra’ in the job description. He harassed professional contacts for sex, brought his employers into very public disrepute, seriously damaged the reputation of a major conference, and undermined relations in the communities in which he worked.  Bora was one of the community’s key gatekeepers, and months later men and women are left wondering if the course of their career was altered for better or worse by one man’s sex drive.

That’s not trivial or minor, you see.

The second problem is the nature of sexual harassment, and how that fits in with the stories of Monica Byrne, Hannah Waters and Kathleen Raven – three names entirely absent from Anton Zuiker’s grueling 5,000 word ode to rare vegetables, incidentally.

A key thing to understand about harassment is that it’s usually part of a long-term pattern of recidivist behaviour, often by people who are not obviously ‘villains’, who rely heavily on psychological manipulation and the abuse of power structures within their communities or institutions.

The evidence we have here, in the form of testimony and e-mails, shows a clear pattern of deliberate behaviour repeated on many occasions over at least two years. The women were identified, targeted, isolated, manipulated, and their boundaries repeatedly tested, often in professional contexts, over a sustained period of time. The methodologies of these incidents are so uncannily alike that even the same pick-up lines are used.

That’s something to take seriously. It’s not something to shrug off after six weeks.

That brings me to Bora’s return to world on online science on January 1st, accompanied by his friend and ScienceOnline co-founder Anton Zuiker’s epic meditation on friendship and something called ‘Piper Methysticum roots’. Zuiker begins his post with what he believes is a sparkling and colourful anecdote about some sort of vegetable brewing, but that isn’t his most serious mistake. Indeed, it probably isn’t even in the top five.

“It’s good that Bora offered his apology, and I believe he did so contritely and humbly,” he writes, failing to link to this apology because at the time of writing it simply did not exist. He mentions the need to be “sensitive to the women who spoke out,” yet in 5,500 words that include two substantial diatribes on the apparently substantial difficulties he experiences procuring root vegetables, he fails to mention any of them (though links were later added).

Zuiker’s worst mistake though was publishing this self-absorbed, history-rewriting, pseudo-intellectual clusterfuck when he sits on the board of one of the organizations still trying to deal with the fallout from Bora’s actions, ScienceOnline. They were forced to issue a statement on Friday in response to Zuiker’s post“given the close personal and professional history between Bora Zivkovic and Anton Zuiker – and their connection with ScienceOnline – we’ve asked Anton to refrain from any public communication about Bora and that all official communications from ScienceOnline come from the entire board or its Executive Director, Karyn Traphagen.” Nonetheless, this casts a shadow over the upcoming conference.

Martin ends with a response to Bora’s questions about what he should do next. Martin advises forgetting all about trying to get anything back, and instead starting over. Eventually that may result in getting anything back, but that shouldn’t be the goal.

Janet Stemwedel adds an important piece of information in a comment.

I[t] would be a mistake to think that Bora hurt exactly three people here. Or that he has apologized to all the people he harmed.

I say this as someone he harmed, someone he has not apologized to as yet.

That right there is one reason he should be starting over instead of trying to get anything back. He hasn’t even done the basics yet.




(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Sparked by

Jan 3rd, 2014 3:57 pm | By

From a couple of weeks ago there is this Huffington Post article by Hilary Aked, finding deep sinisterness in the opposition to gender segregation at university events.

She starts by saying the furore was “sparked by” the Student Rights report. But that’s not clear at all – the report played a part, but far from the only part.

After that, there’s a lot of hand-wringing about the Henry Jackson Society, without anything really showing what difference it makes. She does at least admit as much, which is a nice change from Gopal and Penny, but she adds,

However, it is vital to situate the origin of such a controversy and origins like this should, I think, lead us to pause and consider whether the narrow framing of this issue is problematic. Is the current discussion, provoked by Student Rights’ report, more about feminism or Islamophobia?

It depends on which people and organizations you’re talking about, surely. The existence of the HJS doesn’t do much to change that fact.

Several commentators believe it is largely about the latter, and so do many students. Apart from being busy fighting to keep their campuses cop-free, a growing number are also giving their support to a campaign called ‘Real Student Rights‘ (RSR), founded to expose and oppose ‘Student Rights’ (far more, I should add, than the turned out for the demo outside Universities UK, which despite what some media reports suggest, was very small and not attended by many actual students - though it was able to compensate for this thanks to a handful of vocal journalists).

“A growing number” – well that could mean it was two yesterday and today it’s three.

There’s a lot more in the same vein, with lots of pointing and suspecting but very little real substance. I think Aked could do a lot more to undermine prejudice against Muslims by marginalizing far-right Islamist groups rather than by trying to marginalize people who resist them.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

More angry at women, more hyper-masculine in their beliefs and attitudes

Jan 3rd, 2014 3:04 pm | By

A study by David Lisak of U Mass Boston, Understanding the Predatory Nature of Sexual Violence [pdf]. A significant point:

There is also a set of newer myths about rape, myths that have been
spawned by the new generation of victimization studies that have emerged since
the 1980’s. These studies documented that rape was both far more prevalent than
traditional crime surveys indicated, and that most rape victims did not report
their victimization. These studies also clearly revealed that most rapes are not
committed by strangers in ski masks, but rather by “acquaintances” or “nonstrangers.”

These realizations led to the general adoption of new language and new
categories of rape. Terms such as “acquaintance rape” and “date rape” emerged
and took hold. Unfortunately, these new terms have created a new mythology
about rape. The term “date rape,” which has become woven into the fabric of
public discourse about sexual violence, carries with it the connotation of “rape
lite.” Victims of date rape are typically viewed as less harmed than victims of stranger rape; and “date rapists” are typically viewed as less serious offenders, and frankly less culpable than stranger rapists. Date rape is often viewed more in
traditionally civil than in traditionally criminal terms: as an unfortunate
encounter in which the two parties share culpability because of too much alcohol
and too little clear communication.

One of the consequences of this new mythology of date rape is that there
has been very little, if any, cross-communication between the study of date rape –
a literature typically based in, and focused on college campuses – and the longestablished literature on sex offenders and sexual predators. In fact, in the author’s personal experience, there is typically considerable resistance within
civilian universities to the use of the term “sex offender” when referring to the
students who perpetrate acts of sexual violence on campuses. This resistance is
one of the legacies of the term, “date rape,” and it has served to obscure one of the
unpleasant facts about sexual violence in the college environment: that just as in the larger community, the majority of this violence is committed by predatory individuals who tend to be serial and multi-faceted offenders.

That’s a disturbing fact. I think I’d thought of it in just the mistaken way Lisak points out: as different from stranger rape, and thus more opportunistic than something done by predatory individuals. The latter version is an unpleasant thought.

And then there’s the motivation…’

Many of the motivational factors that were identified in incarcerated
rapists have been shown to apply equally to undetected rapists. When compared
to men who do not rape, these undetected rapists are measurably more angry at
women, more motivated by the need to dominate and control women, more impulsive and disinhibited in their behavior, more hyper-masculine in their beliefs and attitudes, less empathic and more antisocial.

I recognize the type.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Tub-thumping jingoism

Jan 3rd, 2014 12:24 pm | By

The Independent comments on Gove’s tantrum and Evans’s response.

Today, one of Britain’s most eminent historians hit back at what he described as an “ignorant attack” by Education Secretary Michael Gove on his analysis of the conflict.

Writing in the Daily Mail yesterday Mr Gove accused Professor Sir Richard Evans of failing to acknowledge the debt owed to the soldiers that were killed in the Great War claiming he had previously dismissed attempts to honour their sacrifice as “narrow tub-thumping jingoism”.

Sir Richard, Regius Professor of History and President of Wolfson College Cambridge, suggested the criticism stemmed from his vocal opposition to the Education Secretary’s ill-fated attempts to reform the way history is taught in schools.

Professor Evans told The Independent: “I never said that at all. I said his proposals for the National Curriculum were narrow tub-thumping jingoism and there is some relationship between that.”

History according to the Tory party. Sounds about right.

Professor Evans accused Mr Gove of oversimplification.  “How can you possibly claim that Britain was fighting for democracy and liberal values when the main ally was Tsarist Russia? That was a despotism that put Germany in the shade and sponsored pogroms in 1903-6.”

He said that unlike Germany where male suffrage was universal – 40 per cent of those British troops fighting in the war did not have the vote until 1918. “The Kaiser was not like Hitler, he was not a dictator. He could never make his mind up and changed his mind every five minutes. The largest political party in Germany in 1914 were the Social Democrats,” he said. “Germany was a very divided country in 1914 and becomes more so as time goes on. It is not Nazi Germany,” he added.

Don’t pester the Education Secretary with pedantic details like that. He’s a busy man.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Gove takes to Daily Mail to set historians straight

Jan 3rd, 2014 12:11 pm | By

Once again, I find myself surprised. I didn’t know anyone bothered to defend the First World War these days; I didn’t know anyone had bothered to do that since about 1930. I was under the impression that the defenders started falling silent at a pretty sharp clip in 1915. (That last one is hyperbole. There was a lot of oppression and repression of opponents of the war as long as it was going on. Bertrand Russell did a stint in the slammer for it.)

But once again, I was wrong. Michael Gove is bothering to defend it, and talk smack about people he dislikes in the process. The Daily Mail (yes) is on the case.

Left-wing myths about the First World War peddled by Blackadder belittle Britain and clear Germany of blame, Michael Gove says today.

The Education Secretary criticises historians and TV programmes that denigrate patriotism and courage by depicting the war as a ‘misbegotten shambles’.

As Britain prepares to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the war, Mr Gove claims only undergraduate cynics would say the soldiers were foolish to fight.

Oy. Lots of people at all levels of education (well ok not kindergarten) have been saying that for many decades. For almost all ten of the decades in the centenary.

Has Michael Gove not been informed of what the war in question led to over the following two decades? And then the nasty incident that took place over the six years between 1939 and 1945?

Mr Gove turns his fire on ‘Left-wing academics all too happy to feed those myths by attacking Britain’s role in the conflict’.

He singles out Richard Evans, regius professor of history at Cambridge University, who has said those who enlisted in 1914 were wrong to think they were fighting to defend freedom.

Mr Gove writes: ‘Richard Evans may hold a professorship, but these arguments, like the interpretations of Oh! What a Lovely War and Blackadder, are more reflective of the attitude of an undergraduate cynic playing to the gallery in a Cambridge Footlights revue rather than a sober academic contributing to a proper historical debate.’ 

While writing anti-intellectual bullshit for the Daily Mail is soberness itself.

What an ignorant hack.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

It’s all about the hits

Jan 3rd, 2014 11:44 am | By

Says a guy at pubshare, and he ought to know.

He starts with a picture of a not-hot woman saying women are not for decoration, while hot women laugh at her. Geddit? Feminists ugly, hot women not feminists. Ugly women feminists because ugly, hot women not feminists because not ugly.

Then he explains that provocation gets hits, so when women talk about sexist shit, they’re just making sexist shit more popular.

Feminists always feel the need to fight misogyny. To fight the trolls. To voice their disagreement. Sorry feminists, but when you do that all you do is empower the people you are trying to destroy. You bring eyeballs to an article that says the opposite of what you think, and what I think too. People will not remember your blurb on Facebook saying why you hate this article, they will remember the article itself.  You cannot change someone’s mind in a comment war. All you can do is deliver an awful message to bad people. No matter your intentions, more people read misogynistic trash because you are sharing it.

So if feminists shut up about it, it will go away! He says so.

There is plenty of good feminist writing out there. Jezebel is wonderful. Share that. Don’t share the Slate article that blames women for getting raped. If feminists ignore that Slate article, Slate will not post it again. End of story.
So to the feminists, I have a challenge for you. Next time you see an article that hates on women, don’t share it. Don’t comment on it. Don’t voice your outrage. Roll your eyes and move on. Because if enough of you do, those types of articles will cease to exist. We in this business have no sexist agenda. We just want an engaged audience. When you hate, we win. So stop hating and we’ll stop writing.

See? He said so. All we have to do is shut up, and it will all go away.

He doesn’t say how long that will take though.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)