Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.

Higher-level cognitive deficits

Oct 16th, 2012 12:42 pm | By

The chances are good that at best Malala will be less than she would have been if those shits hadn’t shot her in the head. Time talked to a brain injury expert.

When will they be able to tell what the long-term damage is?

Months to years. It’s six months to a year before you get a sense of what the long-term damage is. Her recovery and prognosis depend on what the initial neurological deficits are. Young people do much better, prognostically, for recovery. In the early stages there may be a lot of fairly dramatic improvements. The question becomes, What will be the long-term deficits, compared to her baseline? That’s often a much more difficult question that takes time. She may be able to walk and talk, but will she be able to function? I’m sure she’s a very bright girl. Will she be at the same level?

Is it possible that she’ll be able to return to how she was before the injury?

I would say, given the severity of the injury, there is a strong possibility there may be some deficits. That doesn’t necessarily mean she can’t function and have a fulfilling life, but [there is a chance of] higher-level cognitive deficits.

Which is what they wanted. It’s what they all want. Women should be stupid and ignorant, so that they can’t fight back.

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

It’s called charisma

Oct 16th, 2012 10:48 am | By

Some grey bloke has a new video about charismatic atheist doodz…

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

Pesky atheists pretending to like science

Oct 15th, 2012 5:11 pm | By

I want to post a picture of a Mars rock. It has to be a pyramidal rock. Luckily, there is a picture of a pyramidal rock at NASA.

[robotic voice] “Look at this glorious picture of a pyramidal rock on Mars. I am such a geek.”

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS


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

Microaggression and macroaggression

Oct 15th, 2012 4:12 pm | By

Drop everything and read this article by Soraya Chemaly on a book about the link between violence against girls and women and military conflict.

If you take one idea away from the year 2012 this should be this:

“The very best predictor of a state’s peacefulness is not its level of wealth, its level of democracy, or its ethno-religious identity; the best predictor of a state’s peacefulness is how well its women are treated. What’s more, democracies with higher levels of violence against women are as insecure and unstable as nondemocracies.”

U.S.? Look at yourself in the mirror. 

There is a direct relationship between the treatment of women in everyday life — in homes, on streets, at schools and work — and a nation’s propensity for engaging in war.  It turns out that the security of girls and women — how safe they are in their homes, in their schools, on their streets,  is the measure of the security of the state they live in. In very few countries do we have a clear and culturally evident equality in the equal value of boys and girls and in very few states are girls secure.

Consider the simplest fact that everywhere, when you want to humiliate a boy or a “real man” you accuse him of being a “girl.” If the U.S., if he’s a rookie football player, you give him a little girl’s backpack to show him his “place”; if he’s an Iraqi prisoner, you make him wear girls’ underwear to demonstrate your complete power over his body.  In Afghanistan, cross-dressed dancing boys are “invisible victims” of rape.  It’s a shaming tool and a cheap weapon.  If you’re a boy — you understand your intrinsic superior value.  If you’re a girl or a woman it’s a slap in the face every time you see it or hear it.  Most of us brush it off and go about our business. But it wears away in your brain nonetheless. How can it not? It really is everywhere a subtle, backhanded reminder that your way of being is a way to denigrate and insult others.

The linguistic and actual subjugation of girls is a ubiquitous cultural meme that feeds a real and deadly harm. And, it turns out, has everything to do with war.

This is what I keep saying (except the war part, which I didn’t know). I also keep getting called a bitch and a cunt for saying it – which I think proves my point, but the bitchers and cunters think…what do they think? I don’t know. They pretend to think it doesn’t matter, but I don’t really believe them. I think they think it does matter and that’s why they do it. They want to do the kind of damage it does. Why? I don’t know. A multi-year bad mood maybe?

Sex and World Peace was written by Valerie M. Hudson, Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, Mary Caprioli, and Chad F. Emmett.  Their findings are derived from more than 10 years of study.  During this time, this group of multi-disciplinary researchers created the Womanstats Project and Database, the most comprehensive aggregation of data regarding the status of girls and women in the world. The database, which contains more than 130,000 datapoints, includes more than 375 variables for 175 countries, all of which have populations of at least 200,000 people.

What does the treatment of women have to do with a propensity for war? Soraya suggests that it has to do with how people think about difference.

I understand that there are many other intersectional factors that make up “difference” and how we define what is “other” in culture, e.g. race, class, sexual identity, religion — but, as Shirley Chisholm said, “The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says: It’s a girl.” The exact same thing happens to boys — only with a radically polarized set of stereotypes. The first and most profound difference, globally, remains gender.

Please think hard about what this means. Then talk about it! Then share it! Blog, Tumble, tweet, “like,” whatever. It’s a big idea with daily relevance and real and powerful consequences: Microaggression against girls and women in private, in neighborhoods, in communities is integrally connected to macroaggressive national behavior.  The greater the polarization of gender in a household, the higher tolerance there is for violence and oppression and the greater the violence experienced by women and girls in those households the greater the likelihood of militarization and national violence.

All over the world, societies are experiencing cultural and political backlash against 50 years of dissolving gender polarity.

While we are the backlash against the backlash. Keep on.


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

Mandatory bullying in the schools

Oct 15th, 2012 3:10 pm | By

Sometimes the ugliness is just suffocating, and also hard to believe.

Take a good idea…

On Mix It Up at Lunch Day, schoolchildren around the country are encouraged to hang out with someone they normally might not speak to.

The program, started 11 years ago by the Southern Poverty Law Center and now in more than 2,500 schools, was intended as a way to break up cliques and prevent bullying.

And it would also teach children some useful things – such as, that you don’t have to eat lunch with the same people every single day; that it can be interesting and fun to get to know different people; that it can be a nuisance to have to spend time around people you don’t like but that it’s going to happen anyway and you might as well get used to it and practice being civil about it.

But nooooooooooooooo – the theocrats don’t think so.

But this year, the American Family Association, a conservative evangelical group, has called the project “a nationwide push to promote the homosexual lifestyle in public schools” and is urging parents to keep their children home from school on Oct. 30, the day most of the schools plan to participate this year.

What the fuck?

Why, because everybody outside your own tight little clique is (because outside your own tight little clique) one of them there HoMoSeckShuals? And eating lunch with them is “promoting” their “lifestyle”?

Ugly ugly ugly.

“I was surprised that they completely lied about what Mix It Up Day is,” said Maureen Costello, the director of the center’s Teaching Tolerance project, which organizes the program. “It was a cynical, fear-mongering tactic.”

A tactic for the sake of what? What does not sitting with different people at lunch get them? What is that I don’t even.

Well it’s because the SPLC recently added the AFA to its list of hate groups. (Gee, I wonder why.)

“The reality is we are not a hate group. We are a truth group,” said Bryan Fischer, director of issue analysis for the association. “We tell the truth about homosexual behavior.”

Although the suggested activities for Mix It Up at Lunch Day do not expressly address gay and lesbian students, the law center itself promotes equal treatment for gays and lesbians and that philosophy then informs the school program, he said.

“Anti-bullying legislation is exactly the same,” Mr. Fischer said. “It’s just another thinly veiled attempt to promote the homosexual agenda. No one is in favor of anyone getting bullied for any reason, but these anti-bullying policies become a mechanism for punishing Christian students who believe that homosexual behavior is not something that should be normalized.”

Who believe that? Or who inflict that (baseless, nasty, hatey) belief on students they take to be HoMoSeckShuals. If the students are telling other students that they should not be normalized, then they’re bullying.

Parents who are on the American Family Association e-mail list were encouraged to keep their children home on that day and to call school administrators to tell them why.

Horrible, harm-doing, malevolent people. Bullying for Jeezis.

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

Apples but not bananas? What about pineapples?

Oct 15th, 2012 2:38 pm | By

Hahahaha this is great – did you know the Apple logo is blasphemous?

Yes well once you’re told of course you can see it. Apple; bite missing. But would you have thought of it if you hadn’t been told? Aha!!1! I thought not. You’re probably blasphemous yourself.

In this case it’s a sect of ultra-Orthodox believers in Russia that are claiming that the Apple logo is indeed blasphemous:

Radical orthodox Christians from Russia remove Apple logotype from the company’s products and put a cross sign instead of them. The orthodox find the half-bitten apple logotype anti-Christian and insulting their belief, something that may potentially cause serious problems for Apple’s products in the country.

Interfax news-agency reports about “several” cases, where the radical orthodox, including priests, swapped the Apple logo for an image of the cross, the symbol of Jesus Christ. According to the ultra-radical orthodox activists, the bitten apple symbolizes the original sin of Adam and Eve and is generally anti-Christian.

Of course. Because it couldn’t just be an apple, with a bite taken out. Plus the forbidden fruit isn’t an apple anyway. But whatever.

…one of the results of the Pussy Riot controversy is that the Duma, the Russian Parliament, is considering laws to make offending religious feelings a criminal offence. The question, obviously, will be whose religious feelings? How large a group will have to be offended? My understanding of Russia is not what it once was (back when I lived there for example) but I would expect the law to really say that offending the hierarchy of the Orthodox Church will be an offence and offending anyone else won’t be. But that does assume that they write the law that way.

It’s always possible that they’ll write it much more broadly and that any small group will be able to claim that pretty much anything at all is blasphemous according to their specific religious beliefs. Even the Apple logo.

Or the apple. Or the apple plus all other kinds of fruit, to make sure.

[Patiently: No, it's not the same as "bitch" and "cunt." Go away.]


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

Lying liars tell lying lies

Oct 15th, 2012 2:18 pm | By

A bit of housekeeping. Boring, I know, but it’s an outrageous vicious lie and it’s sticking in my head the way corn sticks in your teeth. It’s so outrageous and so vicious that this one time I will even link to the pit. It may be futile or even worse than futile, since Studies Have Shown that correcting a lie enforces the lie rather than correcting it; nevertheless I can’t just let it sit there.

One “Richard Strawkins” (see what I mean about how this works? the lie won’t damage him [I'll assume he really is male] because that’s not his name; it will damage only me) said on October 5,  in a discussion of Dawkins’s foreword to the new Jesus and Mo collection:

Does anyone remember the time that Jesus and Mo had that cartoon based on PZ, mansplainin’ correct feminism to the barmaid? It was about a month after elevatorgate started. Ophelia was so furious that she outed the J and M’s authors name on Butterflies and Wheels. (the name began with “D” -It’s memory holed now and there’s no way I’m going to repeat it here) Outing someone like that, someone who is more than likely to be targeted for murder by Islamic fundamentalists, just because they make a joke you don’t like, is hardly the action of a friend.

That is a fucking evil vicious lie. I never did any such thing.

“mordacious” pretended to remember it.

Yes, I remember that very well. She’s a sick piece of work, that one. Doing something like that can get someone killed (and I don’t mean getting upset that someone warned you that you might want to take care at TAM, I mean stabbed, shot, beaten and sent to the Russian front).

Lies lies lies lies lies you evil bastards.

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

Perverted chattering degenerate misanthropes hunt for witches

Oct 15th, 2012 10:52 am | By

It’s Brendan! Again! Yes he’s back, that mischief-loving scamp from Living Libertarian Marxism or do I mean Zombie Catholic Theocracy. What is it this time? It’s that the reporting and commentary on Jimmy Savile is – wait for it – a witch-hunt.

Wut? The guy’s dead. How can it be a witch hunt when he’s dead?

With each passing day – hour, in fact – the Jimmy Savile scandal looks more and more like a modern-day version of the hysteria that gripped seventeenth-century Salem, when a small town in Massachusetts became convinced that it had witches in its midst. Since the first accusations of child abuse were made against the late BBC entertainer in an ITV documentary on 3 October, Britain’s chattering classes have become consumed by a witch-hunting mentality, with almost every respectable institution, from the BBC to the NHS to the child-protection industry, finding itself dragged into a vortex of Savile-related suspicion and rumour, accusation and counteraccusation.

But he’s dead. He’s gone. People in Salem became convinced that it had witches in its midst: living witches, currently active witches, witches that could get you at any moment. Not people who were already gone.

We also have hysterical, mob-like attacks on the alleged witches, as in Salem. Being dead, Savile can’t be dragged into a showtrial and hanged, as the witches of Salem were, but he can be subjected to a posthumous trial by media, in which every claim made about him is instantly taken as good coin.

At least he admits the logistical problem with his being dead, but only to sweep it away. I don’t know how careful and accurate the coverage is, but Brendan doesn’t really seem to be interested in that – he’s clearly much more interested in his usual ”I’m not like them” pose and in hyperbolic castigation.

And in the most striking echo of Salem, the initial fingerpointing at Savile has descended into fingerpointing at others; at everyone; at those who knew about his abuse but said nothing, and those who didn’t know about it but should have; against the ‘complicit’, the ‘silent’, the ‘enablers’, the ‘accomplices’.

And? What about it? There are such people in the world; what’s with the scare-quotes?

The Savile story is really a vessel for the cultural elite’s perverted obsession with child abuse, and more importantly its belief that everyone is at it – that in every institution, ‘town, village and hamlet’, there are perverts and innocence despoilers, casually warping the next generation. In modern Britain, the figure of The Paedophile has become the means through which the misanthropes who rule over us express their profound fear and suspicion of adults in general, and also of communities and institutions – even of the institutions they hold dear, such is the self-destructive dynamic triggered by the unleashing of the Salem ethos. If Savile had never existed, the chattering classes would have had to invent him, so perfect an encapsulation is he of their degenerate view of the whole of adult society today.

Godalmighty. Is it funny or scary or both? It’s as if he’s describing himself, but somehow projecting it onto everyone else. One minute “the cultural elite” has a perverted obsession, but the next minute that elite is seeing perverts everywhere. Which is it?! Is it the elite that is perverted, or is it the elite that sees perverts under every rock? And who are these misanthropes who fear adults who rule over us? Who are these chattering classes with their “degenerate view”? He sounds scarily like a Nazi there.

It’s as if he’s a raving lunatic complaining about all these raving lunatics cluttering up the place.

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

Malala is now in the UK

Oct 15th, 2012 10:16 am | By

She’s getting specialist treatment.

Although Pakistan had initially insisted she could be treated in her home country, a military statement said that a panel of doctors had recommended she be “shifted abroad to a UK centre which has the capability to provide integrated care to children who have sustained severe injury”.

On arrival at Birmingham Airport, she was taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital by ambulance, travelling at a slow speed because of the nature of her wounds.

The hospital has a recently-opened major trauma centre specialising in both gunshot wounds and head injuries.

Its specialist team has 10 years of experience of treating UK military casualties and Medical Director Dr David Rosser said Malala Yousafzai “could be viewed as a battle casualty”, which put doctors there “in a good position to treat her”.

Security, he added, was taken very seriously “at the best of times”.

If she survives, she will need treatment to repair or replace damaged bones in her skull and to undergo neurological treatment.

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

Update from Rawalpindi

Oct 14th, 2012 5:19 pm | By

Al Jazeera has a grim update about Malala, but it’s from an unnamed source who isn’t authorized to talk to the media, so…who knows. The latest on the record news though is better.

Military surgeons conducted three consecutive clinical examinations on Sunday and compiled a report which stated: “Malala’s condition is stable and she is recovering from her injury steadily.”

According to military surgeons at the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology, Rawalpindi, Malala respired without a ventilator on Sunday for a few moments after successfully moving her limbs on Saturday.

“It was an amazing development made by her body. Usually patients on ventilators with such a complicated head injury never show such signs … Keeping our fingers crossed to see her regain consciousness,” one of the surgeons on the board responsible for Malala’s treatment told The Express Tribune requesting anonymity.

I hope they’re not just feeding the world hopeful lies.

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

I get to be in a cartoon!

Oct 14th, 2012 3:48 pm | By

Is that cool or what!

Mind you, my friend the author of Jesus and Mo may not like it much, especially given the feeble quality of the wit. But my monstrous ego is flattered.

 I don’t get any lines though. I just say Peezus Christ at the end every time.

I’m not even in the latest one (number 8). I guess I’m just there for the rhyme. Monstrous ego deflated.

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

A Greek blogger goes to see Corpus Christi

Oct 14th, 2012 12:55 pm | By

Aorati Melani is the blogger, which is Invisible Ink in English.

I am here to stay

In front of the theater, another crowd had gathered, and another group of policemen was preventing them for approaching. Behind the police, there were a few people, priests, monks, a lady with a scarf on her head and some men in suits, three of which, as I learned later, were parliament members of the Golden Dawn party.

The air smelled of tear gas and my eyes stung, but generally there was relative calm. I approached the officers and said that I wanted to enter the theater.

“Go away, ma’m. Please, go away”
“Has the play been cancelled?”
“We don’t know. Please step back.”

I did step back, but I didn’t leave. I tried, in vain, to locate my friends with whom we had arranged to meet. I walked around the ring of police officers, trying to get through, all the while explaining that I wanted to enter the theater to see the show, but without success. My efforts, and the Atheist Union t-shirt I was wearing, attracted the attention of protesters who started to comment:

“What does she want? To see the play?”
“She’s a lesbian and wants to see the fags?”
“Look at her t-shirt! Atheist Union!”
“She’s an atheist!”

Their interest turned onto me and they started talking, their words mostly full of tension: logical fallacies, insults and threats. I tried to stay calm and steady, to respond rationally and coolly, and to engage the others, and while I succeeded, I can not say the same thing for them. I will try to convey some of the comments here, somewhat out of order, because I can no longer remember exactly who said what, with a few exceptions.

“Go away, you fucking commie!”
“Why did you come? To see the fags? What are you, a lesbian?”
“It’s none of your business.”
“She’s a lesbian, don’t you see? You have no man with you, no children, no grandchildren, you’re a lesbian!”
“Look at the t-shirt, she’s an atheist! Get the hell outta here!”
“I want to see the play.”
“You want to see the faggots? They’re faggots! Perverts!”
“They swear against our Christ, our Virgin Mary!”
“How do you know? Have you seen it?”
“No, but so they told me. They told me it swears against our Christ. It must be banned!”
“If you don’t want to see the play, don’t. Why shouldn’t I?”
“They blaspheme against our God! We have the one true God!”
“He’ll strike you down with lightning and burn you! You’ll see what God will do to you!”
“Since God will do it, why are you worrying about it? Go home, rest, and trust in God.”
“You’ll go to Hell!”
“There is no God, nor is there a Hell.”
“There isn’t? Then I won’t talk to you, you’re not worth it.”
“I want to talk to you. I believe you are worth it.”
“Hey, don’t waste your time on her, she’s not worth it. She’s trash.”
“Get out of here, Albanian!”
“I’m Greek.”
“Greek? True Greeks don’t do such things! You’re Albanian!”
“You’re trash! May God have mercy on you.”
“Is this the religion of love?”
“Christ threw out the merchants from his house with a whip! That’s how we’re going to throw you out!”
“This isn’t a church, this is a theater. You are stopping us, not the other way around.”
“Christ said, “I did not come to bring love, but a sword”. He said, “Bring me my enemies, and slay them before me!”"
“In other words, you want to slay me?”
“Listen here, bitch, we are Greek Christian fascists! 90% of Greeks are Christian fascists, understand? As a fascist, i have the right to tell you to get out of here.”
“As a fascist, you have the strength, but not the right.”

There’s a lot more. Read on.

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

Carlin isn’t the issue

Oct 14th, 2012 12:30 pm | By

No, just saying “I can use any words I want to” doesn’t deal with the problem. No, it really doesn’t. Not even if you say it really loudly, or over and over again, or really loudly over and over again.

Another day, another Internet radio show, another transcript, another attempt to make the problem just a matter of swearing.

…there is nothing that is placed outside of purpose, especially words, and what words I use depend on what message I am trying to convey. This is why I have such a problem with censorship. I would just as soon see Vincent Van Gogh censored as I would any artist, and the same goes for any wordsmith.

It’s one of the reasons I admired George Carlin so much. Do you remember his shtick back in the 1970’s, the one where he listed seven words that you would never, ever hear on television? Well, here we are, thirty years later, and you still won’t hear the words “shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker or tits” on NBC, CBS or ABC.

One, we need to define what kind of censorship we’re talking about. But more important, two, notice what words are not in Carlin’s list. Nigger, kike, faggot, spic, wop, yid, wetback, greaser, chink, slope, gook, Polack – you get the idea.

Except for “tits” the words were and are all swear-words. Three of them are also epithets. That seems to confuse people. Swearing is one thing and epithets are another. The problem I mentioned is not a problem about swearing, it’s a problem about epithets.

What saddens me is that there is a movement within the freethought community to censor words, just for the sake of their existence – giving no thought to context. There are words that have been deemed simply too offensive to even utter, and that, as a wordsmith, I have a huge problem with, because it reminds me of a certain religion that has a prophet that depicting an image of is too offensive to even draw.

No, that’s wrong. We utter them all the time. The problem is not uttering them, the problem is using them as epithets to revile and degrade certain women. The problem is using them as epithets to whip up hatred of certain women. The problem is using them in that context. It’s not true that we give no thought to context! It’s the opposite of the truth. A man furiously screaming that a particular woman is “a fucking bitch” is one context, and we do think about it.

Don’t even get me started on phrases like, ‘the n-word’ or whatever word people want to describe in similar fashion. If I mean to say something, I am going to use the word, not a rendition of the word. It reminds of the Christian who says, “Well, Sally is such a b.” For fuck’s sake, if you think Sally is a bitch, then just call Sally a bitch, and move on. We know what you mean, and using a letter in place of a word does NOT make you a better person.

And yet and yet and yet! Notice that he still doesn’t say – despite having set himself up to say exactly that – “For fuck’s sake, if you think Sally is a nigger, then just call Sally a nigger, and move on.” It’s still just bitch. Bitch is ok; bitch is fine; just say it, and move on. But what about “nigger”? Is that fine?

I haven’t seen him say it’s fine. I think the fact that he hasn’t said that indicates that he wouldn’t say that. Good. But then why does he say it when it’s about women as opposed to non-white people? And why, to be blunt, is he so obtuse about it?

I am a wordsmith. An architect. I will use whatever words I choose to build with, and it is your choice to drive by and bitch about how ugly the building is, or drive around town to find other things I’ve built. Either way, your choice. Just know, in any given room you’ll likely find an old record player, with a scratchy recording of a familiar voice, saying, “shit piss fuck cunt cocksucker motherfucker tits,” and sometimes even “fart, turd or twat.

But not, I take it, nigger, kike, faggot, spic, wop, yid, wetback, greaser, chink, slope, gook, Polack. Why is that, Al (for it is he)?



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

How dare you suffer!

Oct 14th, 2012 11:49 am | By

The Amazing Atheist raged at the fact that this young woman was getting attention when other people have died, too. She was a well-off Western girl with plenty of privileges, so how dare we consider her story particularly tragic? There are so many other people who are worse off than she was!

Yes there are. So the next time a friend of yours is upset about something, instead of sympathizing, you’ll shout: “Other people are much worse off than you are!!” Right? No. So what is Mr Amazing’s point? Apparently to degrade Amanda Todd even after she was dead. Never give up, eh?

I don’t see any difference between him and the bullies who beat her up and mocked her on facebook and poured scorn on her in school.

And some people wonder why there is a growing rift in the atheist movement. All you have to do is look at people like the Amazing Atheist to see that some atheists, people who are convinced that there is nothing beyond ourselves, that we are dependent entirely on our fellow human beings and nothing more, lack that humanity that is our only source of unity and our only true reason for living.

Don’t be surprised that some of us want nothing to do with such sociopaths.

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

Thankful for not having our heads chopped off

Oct 14th, 2012 11:25 am | By

Yiannis Baboulias tells us more about Greece and Golden Dawn.

On Thursday night the Athens premiere of Terrence McNally’s play, Corpus Christi, was cancelled following protests by members of the far-right party Golden Dawn (including some MPs) and religious groups.

The protest had a clearly homophobic agenda. Manolis V, a journalist, was attacked by protesters while the police apparently did nothing: “The police is next to us. I shout ‘They’re beating me, aren’t you going to do something?’,” he wrote on Twitter. “I move away so I can look on from distance. A well-known Golden Dawn MP follows me. He punches me twice in the face and knocks me to the ground. While on the ground, I lose my glasses. The Golden Dawn MP kicks me. The police are just two steps away but turn their back.”

The spectacle of fascists physically attacking people whose moral agenda they disapprove of has become routine in today’s Greece. What should come as more of a shock is the tacit approval of the police.

Another place on the list of places we have to be grateful not to live in. I hate that list, because so many people do have to live in the places on it, and are subject to the violence and intimidation that make the list what it is.

Not only have the Golden Dawn refused to apologise for their actions outside Corpus Christi, but the Golden Dawn MP Ilias Kasidiaris – famous for physically assaulting a leftwing politician on live TV – didn’t miss the chance to hand out warnings: “In any case where the religious sentiment of Greeks is insulted, the Golden Dawn will react dynamically,” he said. “If someone tries to stage a play making fun of Muhammad in a Muslim country, he will lose his head. They won’t react peacefully as Greeks do.”

Judging by Sunday’s protest, which Kasidiaris did not attend, “peace” equals abuse, censorship, violence and a complete disregard for the laws Golden Dawn supposedly venerate. Apparently we should just be thankful for not having our heads chopped off.

Melian dialogue anyone?

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

Men deserve their veil of privacy

Oct 13th, 2012 4:44 pm | By

Amanda Marcotte nailed it at Comment is Free a couple of days ago.

A man’s right to privacy versus a woman’s right to live free of male violence: these two principles routinely conflict in modern society, with the former winning out most of the time…

This belief that men deserve a veil of privacy that makes it easier to harass, beat, and rape women is so ingrained in our society that it’s difficult to stand back and see how nonsensical it really is.

Most of our stalkers have their veil of privacy. They talk degrading shit about us day in and day out, and none of it ever touches them by so much as a drop. They have complete immunity and impunity to do their best to turn us into little piles of filth.

The inability to step back and see what’s really going on here is all over the online battles over non-consensual pornography being distributed on Reddit. Adrien Chen, a blogger for the popular news-and-gossip website Gawker, apparently threatened to out a popular Reddit user who goes under the name violentacrez, and who has built up quite a reputation as a reliable source of masturbatory fodder photos of non-consenting and often underage women. An entire subculture has grown up online, with male users trading these sexualised photos on subreddits with names like r/creepshots and r/jailbait, which are openly cherished by users precisely because the women in the pictures do not want to be in the pictures, and would be humiliated and mortified to find out.

When challenged on this, the users hide behind legalese, claiming that since the creepy photos are taken in public, they have a legal right to have them. The implication is that women and underage girls deserve to be humiliated and used sexually against their will for the high crime of leaving their house.

But men, on the other hand, have the right to consent. Women don’t, men do. Surely you can understand that – it’s so simple.

After Chen made violentacrez aware of the impending outing, violentacrez deleted his account. In retaliation, the r/politics subreddit has banned links from Gawker, calling outing violentacrez “completely intolerable”. At issue here appears to be – wait for it – consent. An online poster should not have their real-life identity revealed without their consent, it appears.

That is all good and well for most people, but the Reddit users in question have already declared that they believe that women don’t have a right to refuse consent to be participants in their homemade pornography. If women have to be in your porn whether they like it or not, it seems only fair that your name should be out in public, whether you like it or not. For everyone who feels bad for violentacrez and worries about how humiliated he’ll be if people find out, I beg you to start extending that sympathy instead to the women who have pervy pictures of them being traded online without their consent.

Harassers, rapists, wife beaters and now online creeps who make non-consensual porn rely on our discomfort with outing them to routinely violate women’s right to control their own lives and sexuality. The sooner we stop believing that men who deny women’s right to consent deserve a veil of privacy to do so, the sooner we can bring an end to these kinds of routine violations of women’s basic right to autonomy.

Silly Amanda, rights are for men.


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

Malala is doing better

Oct 13th, 2012 3:59 pm | By

She’s started moving.

“Movement has been witnessed in Malala’s hands and legs which is a positive development,” Maj Gen Bajwa said while giving a briefing on Malala’s health here on Saturday.

He said the doctors have cut down the amount of sedatives being administered to Malala Yousafzai in view of the steady improvement in her health condition. Her condition is satisfactory, he added.

That’s good.

Update: people have been passing this front page of the NY Times around on Twitter all day.

Embedded image permalink



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

In ‘white man’s burden’ style

Oct 13th, 2012 3:34 pm | By

On the wonderful Pakistani Atheists and Agnostics Facebook page the other day, a friend posted a link to an obnoxious sneery article on Racialicious about the Half the Sky PBS series. She was infuriated by it. She was right.

…the PBS film Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women, a well-publicized neo-liberal “odyssey through Asia and Africa” hosted by everyone’s favorite white savior New York Times reporter, Nikolas Kristof.

Well that’s a shitty start. “Neo-liberal”? No. Neo-liberal is libertarian free market gospeller; the film wasn’t about that.  ”White savior”? That’s just offensive.

…in ‘white man’s burden’ style, Kristof even says at one point, “When you have won the lottery of life that there is some obligation some responsibility we have to discharge.”

Yes, he does say that, but in context it’s clear that he’s not doing a “white man’s burden” number. He’s saying what’s true: some people have the good luck of not being born into horrendous circumstances – like for instance being a prostitute because that’s your subcaste and you’re not allowed to do anything else – while other people don’t, and it is only ethical for the former to use their good luck to try to improve that of the latter. Would it be better to ignore people who have not won the lottery of life? Are selfishness and indifference better?

Perhaps reflecting this sense of noblesse oblige, the film is based on an amazingly problematic premise: the camera crew follows Kristof as he travels to various countries in the Global South to examine issues of violence against women–from rape in Sierra Leone, to sex trafficking in Cambodia, from maternal mortality and female genital cutting in Somaliland, to intergenerational prostitution in India. Because, hey, all the histories and cultures and situations of these countries are alike, right? (Um, no.)

No. So what? They all do have something in common, certainly.

There are plenty of critiques I could make of Kristof’s reporting (in this film and beyond, see this great round-up of critiques for more). Critiques about voyeurism and exotification: the way that global gender violence gets made pornographic, akin to what has been in other contexts called “poverty porn.”

For example, would Kristof, a middle-aged male reporter, so blithely ask a 14-year-old U.S. rape survivor to describe her experiences in front of cameras, her family, and other onlookers? Would he sit smilingly in a European woman’s house asking her to describe the state of her genitals to him? Yet, somehow, the fact that the rape survivor is from Sierra Leone and that the woman being asked about her genital cutting is from Somaliland, seems to make this behavior acceptable in Kristof’s book. And more importantly, the goal of such exhibition is unclear. What is the viewer supposed to receive–other than titillation and a sense of “oh, we’re so lucky, those women’s lives are so bad”?

Identification, for one thing. Empathy. Interest. Engagement. Solidarity. A desire to do something useful. Awareness of what kind of thing needs to be done.

Why would the opposites of all these be better?

The issue of agency is also paramount. In the graduate seminar I teach on Narrative, Health, and Social Justice in the Master’s Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University, I often ask my students to evaluate a text’s ethical stance by asking themselves–“whose story is it?” For example, are people of color acting or being acted upon? Although the film does highlight fantastic on-the-ground activists such as maternal-health activist Edna Adan of Somaliland, the point of entry–the people with whom we, the (presumably) Western watchers, are supposed to identify–are Kristof and his actress sidekick-du-jour.

Bullshit. Edna Adan was far from peripheral. At other times, yes, the outsiders did serve as a kind of bridge, because they’re the naive newcomers who have to be told everything and shown everything. But is that a bad thing? Not that I can see. They come across as incompetent, and we feel incompetent with them, and we also learn along with them. We’re the novice outsiders and the people we’re visiting are knowledgeable and informed. I thought the show did a pretty good job of that.

Although a few passing comments are made about rape, coerced sex work, and other gender-based violence existing everywhere in the world–including in the U.S., hello?!–the point that is consistently reiterated in the film is that gender oppression is “worse” in “these countries”–that it is a part of “their culture.” In fact, at one point, on the issue of female genital cutting, Kristof tells actress Diane Lane, “That may be [their] culture, but it’s also a pretty lousy aspect of culture.”

There’s nothing that smacks more of “us and them” talk than these sorts of statements about “their culture.” Postcultural critic Gayatri Chakrovorty Spivak, in fact, coined the term “white men saving brown women from brown men” to describe the imperialist use of women’s oppression as justification for political aggression.

Ah well if postcultural critic Gayatri Chakrovorty Spivak says it it must be true. She translated Derrida, so she knows.

It goes on in that vein. I won’t cite any more, because life is short. But I think it’s a horrible piece. The author, Sayantani DasGupta, teaches in the “Narrative Medicine” program at Columbia. The what? Yes.


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


Oct 13th, 2012 12:02 pm | By

The outing of Reddit’s “Violentacrez” is all over the place. He’s one of Reddit’s most loathsome users (members? denizens? occupants? what’s the right word?), and Adrian Chen outed him on Gawker as one Michael Brutsch, who works at a Texas financial services company  as a programmer.

Loathsome how?

His speciality is distributing images of scantily-clad underage girls, but as Violentacrez he also issued an unending fountain of racism, porn, gore, misogyny, incest, and exotic abominations yet unnamed, all on the sprawling online community Reddit. At the time I called Brutsch, his latest project was moderating a new section of Reddit where users posted covert photos they had taken of women in public, usually close-ups of their asses or breasts, for a voyeuristic sexual thrill. It was called “Creepshots.”

Oh. That’s how.

There’s more.

Reddit’s laissez-faire attitude towards offensive speech has led to a vast underbelly that rivals anything on the notorious cesspool 4chan. And with Jailbait, Violentacrez decided to create a safe space for people sexually attracted to underage girls to share their photo stashes. I would call these people pedophiles; the Jailbait subreddit called them “ephebophiles.” Jailbait was the online equivalent of systematized street harassment. Users posted snapshots of tween and teenage girls, often in bikinis and skirts. Many of these were lifted from their Facebook accounts and thrown in front of Jailbait’s 20,000 horny subscribers.

Violentacrez and his fellow moderators worked hard to make sure every girl on jailbait was underage, diligently deleting any photos whose subjects seemed older than 16 or 17. Violentacrez himself posted hundreds of photos. Jailbait became one of Reddit’s most popular subreddits, generating millions of pageviews a month. “Jailbait” was for a time the second biggest search term bringing traffic to Reddit, after “Reddit.” Eventually, Jailbait landed on CNN, where Anderson Cooper called out Reddit for hosting it, and Violentacrez for creating it. The ensuing outcry led Reddit administrators to reluctantly ban Jailbait, and all sexually suggestive content featuring minors.

Oh gee – killjoys. Meanies. Prudes, cunts, bitchez. How dare anyone intefere with people stalking and endangering underage girls.

Since Brutsch stumbled on Reddit from a link on the internet culture blog Boing Boing in 2007, he has pushed the boundaries of Reddit’s free-speech culture. He has done this mostly through creating offensive subreddits to troll sensitive users. Some of the sections Violentacrez created or moderated were called:

  • Chokeabitch
  • Niggerjailbait
  • Rapebait
  • Hitler
  • Jewmerica
  • Misogyny
  • Incest

No Genocidebait? That would be hilarious.

Violentacrez explained his trolling philosophy to the internet culture website the Daily Dot in August of 2011. He had sparked yet another controversy by posting a graphic image of a partially clothed woman being brutally beaten by a large man, in “beatingwomen,” a subreddit dedicated to glorifying violence against women. A Redditor had called out the picture in a post, and it was voted to the front page.

“People take things way too seriously around here,” Violentacrez said. ” I was not surprised by the outrage of the person who made the post, because I see it all the time. What was surprising was the community support for it. Most posts that complain about these things never do very well, and are quickly buried or deleted. I think it’s interesting how many people defend my right to act the way I do, while decrying my posts themselves.”

A troll exploits social dynamics like computer hackers exploit security loopholes, and Violentacrez calmly exploited the Reddit hive mind’s powerful outrage machine and free speech values at the same time.

It was this pattern, repeated to various degrees dozens of times, that made Violentacrez an unlikely hero to many of the white male geeks who make up Reddit’s hard core. They saw Violentacrez as a champion in the fight against the oppressive schoolmarms…

Yup. I’ve written about the “schoolmarm” hatefigure before. My angry reaction to being called that was what got me instantly and permanently banned from the Talking Philosophy blog…and that was three years ago, before the hot new trend of unabashed misogyny landed in theaters near us.

He wasn’t happy about being outed.

He asked a number of times if there was anything he could do to keep me from outing him. He offered to act as a mole for me, to be my “sockpuppet” on Reddit. “I’m like the spy who’s found out,” he said. “I’ll do anything. If you want me to stop posting, delete whatever I posted, whatever. I am at your mercy because I really can’t think of anything worse that could possibly happen. It’s not like I do anything illegal.”

The women in all those “creepshots” didn’t want to be outed. The underage girls in all those photos didn’t want to be outed. Brutsch didn’t worry about them or what they wanted. It’s fine to do it to them, but he begs and pleads not to have it done to him. Miserable fucking bastard.

H/t Beatrice Pteryxx.

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

Malala’s condition is “satisfactory”

Oct 13th, 2012 11:04 am | By

She’s still on a ventilator but her vital organs are “intact and working properly.” The swelling in her head has subsided.

Her two schoolmates are doing better.

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