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.

The X case itself has crossed that line

Feb 2nd, 2013 3:40 pm | By

Here are Michael Nugent and Ivana Bacik responding to abortion law questions at an Irish parliamentary hearing.

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

Mary-flavored potato chips

Feb 2nd, 2013 12:33 pm | By

Aw, another innocent marketing decision goes awry.

Sandwich shop chain Pret A Manger has withdrawn a new “Virgin Mary” brand of crisps following religious complaints.

The firm, with about 350 shops in the UK, launched the spicy tomato crisps – based on the non-alcoholic version of a Bloody Mary cocktail – last week.

This prompted complaints, including from Catholic groups, that it was an offensive reference to Jesus’s mother.

A company spokesman said it had noted complainants’ “strength of feeling” and withdrawn the product to avoid offence.

Now look here, Jesus’s mother isn’t the only virgin Mary in the world. How do the complainers know that Pret A Manger didn’t mean their cousin Mary age six? How do they know Pret A Manger meant just that one virgin Mary and not any other virgin Mary?

(I bet I know how Pret A Manger is pronounced, and I bet it’s not prounounced as if it were, you know, French. I bet it’s pronounced PRETTaMONjay. It’s certainly not spelled as if it were French.)

The Reverend Nick Donnelly, deacon of the Diocese of Lancaster and author of Protect the Pope website, was among those who complained to Pret A Manger.

Following the decision to withdraw the crisps, he wrote on the Protect the Pope site: “Clive Schlee and Pret A Manger deserve our unreserved thanks for listening to our concerns as Catholics and for acting so quickly to remove the brand of crisps.

“It seems fitting that Pret A Manger are planning to give any unsold crisps to the homeless.”

He added: “One of the things we need to go away and think about is what this incident tells us about how we defend our faith in the future.

“We’ve been passive for too long in the face of mockery of our faith and discrimination against us as Catholics.”

Yeah? How noisy have you been about child-raping priests? Ireland’s industrial schools? Lies about condoms?

H/t Roger.

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

No you may not decide for you

Feb 2nd, 2013 10:40 am | By

The anti-abortion phalanx in Ireland is shouting louder than ever, according to the BBC.

The groups taking part – Youth Defence, Pro Life Ireland and the Catholic organisation, the Iona Institute – testify to the polemical nature of the debate here.

“Keep Your Promise!” they shout – a direct reference to a 2011 election pledge by the main party in Ireland’s coalition not to legislate for abortion.

Nice pledge – a “promise” to keep women enslaved by the physical fact that it’s possible to become pregnant without consent.

Nope, sorry, laydeez, tough shit. God gave you the equipment to become pregnant so if you do become pregnant you don’t get to complain that you didn’t mean to, that you don’t want to bear a child at this time, that it was an accident or coercion. No dice. Your plumbing, your choice; it’s too late to back out now. You should have thought of that before you were born female.

During mass, priests across the country stress the importance of every human being’s right to life from the moment of conception until natural death.

While many Catholics remain devoted to the church’s official position, some of those I spoke to after a service at St Theresa’s Church in Dublin feel conflicted.

“It is unfair of the Catholic religion to impose their views,” said one of the few churchgoers who would talk, stating that she was not in favour of abortion.

“That said, I think the mother has the right to decide,” she added.

During mass, priests across the country talk sanctimonious bullshit, but even some churchgoers manage to maintain a grip on some shred of reasonable practical ethics.

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

When is World Yellow Star Day?

Feb 1st, 2013 5:37 pm | By

Oh swell, it’s “World Hijab Day.” Whatever the hell that is. It seems kind of early, since it was also “World Hijab Day” back in September, according to Taslima. I wonder when World Chains of Enslavement Day is.

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain forum has a page on the subject.

I begrudgingly wore the headscarf until very recently. I started disliking it when I was 13, and my dislike for it got more and more intense until I absolutely fucking hated it by the time I was 17. I didn’t express my feelings towards the hijab, partly because as a Muslim I felt guilty for feeling that way, but mostly because I was too scared that my parents would force me to continue wearing it and view me differently/negatively if I broached the subject.

Absolutely fucking hating it is a good sign.

I’m an ex-muslim and I have to wear it every fucking days. If I don’t, well I might be dead or thrown outside of the house. I don’t want that, because it’s already tensed at home. So I have no choice to wear it every day when I’m in College, when I go to some family friends’ house etc. I’ve been wearing it since I was 12 years old and I’m turning 19 soon. I don’t know when I’ll take it off, but it would be of course after I escape away from my house…. :/

Seven years muffled in a bandage she hates wearing. Horrible.

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

I did not compare TAM to Nazi Germany 2

Feb 1st, 2013 4:55 pm | By

I’m tired of this, so I’m going to set the record straight, even though it’s futile. I did it once last summer, and now I’ll do it again.

I did not “compare TAM to Nazi Germany.” The harassers have been posting that version all over the place and it’s a stupid malevolent lie.

Here is what I said. Exactly what I said, not a new and improved version of what I said invented by the mildew people.

Responding to DJ Grothe’s “a climate where women — who otherwise wouldn’t — end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe” quoted by Rebecca,

I said:

As Jews in Germany circa 1936 might have created “a climate where Jews — who otherwise wouldn’t — end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe.” As the Southern Poverty Law Center creates a climate where people who are the object of systematic vocal hatred end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe. That’s not to compare TAM with Nazi Germany or racist pockets of the US, of course, but then Rebecca didn’t name TAM in the item DJ quoted, either; she (or rather USA Today, indirectly quoting her) said “the freethought community.”

See? I compared a stupid and unpleasant thing that Grothe said to various hypothetical things that someone might have said in other situations. (Yes, the examples were too strong, and I later took them back, but that’s a different subject.)

That is NOT the same thing as making “an analogy between TAM and Nazi Germany.”

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

“The request of every PC whiner”

Feb 1st, 2013 4:10 pm | By

I was just rereading this post from a month ago, which quoted Michael Nugent’s response to Thunderf00t’s plea command to organizers of secular conferences to shun feminists:

Thunderf00t concludes with a call to conference organisers and leaders of secular groups:

“Seriously, those who organise conferences, get a grip. You do not have to appease the request of every PC whiner. The secular community can achieve great things, but it will never achieve anything while it has poison like this being dripped into its heart. Please forward this video to leaders of secular groups who you think need to hear this message.”

Thunderf00t, I’ll give you a straight answer. As an organiser of conferences and as chairperson of Atheist Ireland, I will oppose any attempts to ostracize the people you name, and I will also oppose any attempts to ostracize people like you who disagree with them.


I don’t think I knew it when I wrote that post, but Nugent had already gone public with Atheist Ireland’s plans on the matter of making Atheist Ireland inclusive (or as Tf00t put it “appeasing the request of every PC whiner”). He did a post after their annual General Meeting to lay out their plans for next (now this) year.

Check out item 6.

6. Women in Secularism Conference

  • Organize an international Women in Secularism conference in Dublin
  • Invite speakers from Ireland, elsewhere in Europe, and other Continents
  • The theme of the conference is Empowering Women Through Secularism
  • Start promoting theme on UNESCO Philosophy Day November15
  • Support the CFI Women in Secularism Conference in Washington

Oh. They’re going to have their own, international Women in Secularism conference in Dublin, as well as supporting the one in DC.

That’s fantastic.


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

Talking about honor killing

Feb 1st, 2013 3:39 pm | By

A panel in Oslo discusses Deeyah’s film Banaz: a Love Story. The panel is Deeyah; Diana Nammi, Director of the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation; Detective Superintendent Caroline Goode who led the investigation into the murder of Banaz Mahmod; and anthropologist Unni Wikan.

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

A leaflet listing the regulations for women

Feb 1st, 2013 11:59 am | By

Things it’s good to hear are now lying in the dirt

A leaflet listing the regulations for women under Islamist rule now lies in dirt here at the tribunal in Timbuktu. Rule No. 1: The veil should cover the entire body. Rule No. 4: The veil cannot be colored. And Rule No. 8: The woman should not perfume herself after putting on the all-enveloping fabric.

Any of those rules or other rules broken? 95 lashes.

Several days after French special forces parachuted in and liberated this storied city, there is a growing sense of freedom. Though in the houses immediately facing the Islamic tribunal, many of the 8- and 9-year-old girls are still wearing the head covering.

“It is out of fear of the Islamists that they still wear this, says Diahara Adjanga, the mother of one girl said Thursday.”They hit everyone — even children.”

That’s what they do – they hit everyone. Meaning of life, to them. Impose hateful life-denying rules on everyone and especially on women, and hit everyone who “disobeys” no matter how trivially. A strand of hair escapes? WHAM.

Fatouma Traore, 21, said that there was one commander who was especially brutal to the women in Timbuktu.

“We don’t want the army to catch him. It’s the women who want to arrest him so that we can kill him ourselves. …  Even if you’re talking to your own blood brother on the stoop of your house, they hit you. Even if you are wearing the veil, and it happens to slip off, they hit you. This man, Ahmed Moussa, he made life miserable for women. Even an old grandmother if she’s not covered up, he would hit her.”

She picks up her 1-year-old niece and hoists her on one hip, saying: “We even bought a veil for this baby.”

I hope she gets over the wanting to kill him part, but I can see where it comes from.


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

Intuitive heuristics

Feb 1st, 2013 11:19 am | By

Daniel Kahneman explains that there is such a thing as the affect heuristic,

where judgments and decisions are guided directly by feelings of liking and disliking, with little deliberation or reasoning.

The example he had just given was the chief investment officer of a large financial firm, who told Kahneman he had just invested tens of millions of dollars in the stock of Ford Motor Company. Why? He’d gone to an automobile show and been impressed by Ford cars. “Wo, good cars!” Yes but that’s not the relevant question. The relevant question is whether the stock is currently underpriced.

The cio did an affect heuristic thing – which is pretty funny, really, given his job. But the thing is, Kahneman explains, the relevant question is more work to answer correctly than the irrelevant one.

When the question is difficult and a skilled solution is not available, intuition still has a shot: an answer may come to mind quickly – but it is not an answer to the original question. The question that the executive faced (should I invest in Ford stock?) was difficult, but the answer to an easier and related question (do I like Ford cars?) came readily to his mind and determined his choice. This is the essence of intuitive heuristics: when faced with a difficult question, we often answer an easier one instead, usually without noticing the substitution.

Thinking, Fast and Slow p 12

I love that final half-sentence. I’m going to set it off by itself so that we can admire it in all its glory.

when faced with a difficult question, we often answer an easier one instead, usually without noticing the substitution.




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

It’s charisma

Jan 31st, 2013 4:46 pm | By

Some grey bloke did a nice video last October. I may have already posted it but never mind, here it is again.

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

Remembering Chaucer

Jan 31st, 2013 11:43 am | By

Coming up this week at the Tate Modern:

a major performance-art event conceived and curated by US artist Suzanne Lacy. Silver Action will see 400 women aged 60 and over – who have taken part in some of the last century’s major political protests, from the 1968 Ford sewing machinists’ strike to Greenham Common – converge on the gallery’s subterranean performance space, the Tanks, for a live, unscripted performance about ageing and activism.

Why? Well one reason is…

One evening a couple of years ago, 82-year-old Barbara Robson was crammed in a rush-hour London tube train. Politely, she asked a young man near her, smart in his suit and tie, if he might move along a little. “He turned to me,” she says, “and told me that, as an old woman, I was a total waste of space. I felt so wounded I could hardly speak.”

I suspect that young man was raised chiefly by the internet. There are a lot of things I like about the internet, but dapper young men who feel cheerfully free to tell old women they should be dead – they are not one of those things.

Lacy’s central aim is to challenge preconceptions about older women. “There’s a very large public conversation now about resources,” she says, “and what to do with an ageing population. Because women live longer, that will impact them more than men. I’m trying to shift the discourse away from one of isolation and increasing frailty: we should see older women as an amazing resource – not just talk about them taking resources.”

Robson, a mental health activist, is certainly excited about Silver Action’s potential to change the way she feels about growing older. Along with 13 other women who will be taking part, I meet her at a workshop at Tate Modern, arranged to stimulate the conversations volunteers will have on the day, and compile a timeline of significant events they’ve been involved in. “This feels like such an important thing to be a part of,” she tells me. “Every day I feel invisible – this is a way to feel less so.”

And you know, there are actually some good things about being ancient. Having a bigger personal frame of historical reference is one. Overall accumulation – mental accumulation, I mean – is another.

H/t Maureen Brian.

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

Always a horrible waste

Jan 31st, 2013 10:16 am | By

What a waste. What a horrible waste.

Less than two weeks ago, Hadiya Pendleton was leading her classmates in the King College Prep School Marching Band down Pennsylvania Avenue on the afternoon of President Obama’s second inauguration. It would be an opportunity of a lifetime for any 15 year old, but for Pendleton, it was her last. On Tuesday, she was gunned down in a park a few blocks from school on the South Side of Chicago, less than a mile from the first family’s home.

It’s always a horrible waste and it happens way too much. As I said at the time, the children at Newtown are no more (or less) of a waste because there was a larger than usual number of them for a single event. There are way too many Hadiya Pendletons in Chicago.

And there’s the school bus driver in Alabama who did his best to prevent a guy with a gun from causing harm to the children on the bus and was shot and killed.

Charles Albert Poland Jr., was driving a school bus for the Dale County Board of Education on Tuesday afternoon, a job he had done full-time since 2009.

At about 3:40 p.m. a gun-wielding man boarded the bus carrying 22 students near Destiny Church on Highway 231.

The suspect, identified to NBC News by a source close to the investigation as area resident Jimmy Lee Dykes, tried to take children off the bus — but the 66-year-old Poland was determined to not let that happen.

For his heroism, the driver was shot and killed.


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

Rushdie the radfem

Jan 31st, 2013 6:08 am | By

Salman Rushdie’s in India and he talked to the BBC there. I transcribed most of it.

The bigger question India needs to ask itself is about gender relations, is about how men think about women, and actually to an extent how women think about women because again there’s a lot of oppression inside families by matriarchs of daughters-in-law.

And many women bring up these boys, you know? And don’t teach them proper ways to behave.

Rajini Vaidyanathan: What appals you the most about the way women are treated here?

Well just the brutality of it, the easy brutality of it, and the fact that mostly people get away with it.

It’s nothing to do with what clothes they wear, with whether they go out in the evening – it’s to do with the way men behave towards them.

He cited the disppointing reaction from politicians, gurus, the police.

Unless these attitudes change – and I think young people have to demand that they change -

Vaidyanathan: What would your recommendation be?

Well first you’ve got to start talking about it the right way. You’ve got to stop criminalizing women in this situation and shift the focus to how men think about women.

You’ve got to start changing the terms of the conversation.

He’s talking about culture, ideas, discourse – what confused people label “radical” feminism. It’s not radical. It’s core feminism.


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

Everyday sexism at the Beeb

Jan 31st, 2013 5:31 am | By

BBC World does a thing where it reads a proverb as a little filler item. Yesterday’s proverb – which is currently visible on its Africa page – is a charmer.

Today’s African Proverb

“He who never saw his mother while she was young thinks his father wasted the dowry”

A Maragoli proverb from Western Kenya sent by H Essendi, Southampton, UK

Good choice. Well done, BBC.

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

Grievance 1: your face bruising my fist

Jan 30th, 2013 4:27 pm | By

Lee Moore is hoping for a cease fire.

I think a cease fire could be possible, since I haven’t been firing except when attacked. That makes it easy to agree to a cease fire. Do I want to write about Reap Paden and Atheist Asshole all the time? Fuck no. Of course not. If they would leave me the hell alone I would be delighted to forget all about them.

But Lee wants more than just a cease fire.

I am going to do something about it.  In order to facilitate this I am calling for representatives from both camps in these blog wars to sit down with me in what may be the first of many live and public google hangouts to discuss grievances and come back to the world of civil discussion and cooperation.  I am also asking for an end to the attacks from both sides as a show of good faith (and not the faith of the religious, but the faith that all atheists share: faith in ourselves—in our humanity and our ability to work together to create a more rational, understanding society).

So I invite you—no, I implore you—to join us in our campaign for cooperation.

If you are interested in being a part of these talks please contact me at

Yeah no. Cease fire, hell yes: be my guest. To discuss grievances, hell no. What “grievance” does franc hoggle or any of the rest of them have against me? That I’m ugly and disgusting and should be made to shut up? Yeah I’m not discussing grievances like that.

But don’t let me be a party pooper. If you want to do a google hangout to discuss Reap Paden’s grievance that I eat cat food, knock yourselves out.

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

And with one bound she was free

Jan 30th, 2013 10:13 am | By

More harassment. More complications. More failure to disclose. More clumsy attempts at setups. More provocation followed by noisy media blitz to express outrage at the response to the provocation.

The A-news people, who do that podcast I was invited to do, posted a podcast on Monday, the day I was invited.

Lee Moore, the guy who invited me, never mentioned the podcast, not when he invited me and not yesterday when I told him about  the tweet from the impersonation account (one of them) and Paden’s blog post. He never said a word about it. He should have, since half of it is about me (and my incomparable awfulness).

The second half is devoted to talking to some guy called Anton Hill. A few weeks ago this Anton Hill tweeted at me out of nowhere – I don’t know him, I’d never had any kind of contact with him, he was a total stranger to me – to demand that I give him evidence (or maybe he said proof) that the mildew pit is misogynist. I said no, do your own homework.

Oh my god call the cops!

I don’t have time or inclination to explain everything to every stranger who tweets at me. I explain things in blog posts, not in tweets to strangers.

But he thinks this is an outrage. Last week somebody sent me a link to a 19 minute video he did on the subject. Yes really! 19 minutes!

I only watched a couple of minutes. Those minutes are quite self-important. Apparently it’s a huge deal that he hassled me on Twitter and I refused to get into a long thing with him and eventually called him a creep – a huge deal in the sense that I did a terrible thing by not consenting to be harassed and by calling him a creep.

It looks remarkably like entrapment, this kind of thing.

  1. Provoke her
  2. Refuse to stop; keep provoking her until she calls you a creep
  3. Make a federal case out of her calling you a creep

People do it to me a lot. They monitor me and track me and follow me, they get in my face, then they make a federal case about whatever happens when they get in my face. Don’t think there’s any remedy in just ignoring them; then it’s a crime against free speech, it’s blocking, it’s banning, it’s refusing to engage with “disagreement.”

Here’s some of the serious thoughtful “disagreement” of Anton Hill a couple of hours ago:



See how that works? Pretend to be all serious and committed to discussion and disagreement when that works, and admit it’s just pissing people off for fun when there are other funloving Watchers around.

Of course there are people commenting on his video to say that I “compared TAM to Nazi Germany” which is a shameless lie; of course thoughtful Anton Hill is swallowing the lie. On and on it goes.

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

Still eating cat food

Jan 29th, 2013 4:12 pm | By

How cute.

Yesterday a guy invited me to do a podcast on Women in Secularism and “problems with online discussion (cyber bullying).” I said sure. Later he told me that he has a couple of partners on the podcast, one of whom is…Reap Paden. Oh. Not doing that then.

So what do we have here? Why it’s a blog post by Reap Paden wondering why I could possibly not want to chat with him.

Ophelia Benson was offered a guest spot on the A-News podcast today. She accepted too.  Then when she learned  the details ( I am a co-host on the show) She pulled out (so to speak) Ophelia has done public speaking before right? So it isn’t that she is unable to speak in public. What is it with these people who gleefully libel and slander people left and right showing no ability to grasp the concept of responsible behavior in even its basic form? They can spout off constantly claiming they want the world to be a better place but can’t be bothered to actually talk about it with anyone who doesn’t already subscribe to their thinking. What is Ophelia Benson worried about? Does she think I am  going to come through her computer monitor and steal all her cat food from her or somethin?  Even if I was a ranting prick to her all she would have to do is hang up. She would then have a REAL example of someone behaving the way she has been claiming. That would also provide her with something else she yearns for. I think you could call it the “holy grail” of freethought blogs , credibility. No one there has it but they all long for it. Over and over again they have tried to claim they possess it but it always turns out to be made out of the same stuff you find in Mr Rodgers neighborhood, make-believe and sock puppets. I find it laughable that any of these ‘social justice warriors’  really think that by avoiding human interaction with anyone except those who smile and nod the world is going to give them any consideration. What a huge waste of time. I have a standing offer to anyone who wants to offer their side of things and have a real back and forth conversation. No one can claim I am unable to do anything but rant, all they need to do is take a look at the list of people who have been guests on my podcasts.

That’s not the end of the “paragraph,” it goes on even longer, but that’s a sample. Great, isn’t it? Why would I not want to go on his podcast and share a laugh about my passion for eating cat food? And hey, if I did go on it and he went on too long about cat food, I could just hang up! It’s golden! I don’t know why I passed up the chance!

Yes I do. There are many many podcasts. I can choose which ones to do. I don’t want to do one with Reap Paden, because I dislike the way he talks to and about people, including me. I prefer to do podcasts with thoughtful people.

I love the idea that doing his podcast would give me credibility. How would it do that, exactly? And then there’s his accusing freethought blogs of sockpuppetry. Project much?

Here’s the rest of that long “paragraph” (free advertising for Reap! I’m so generous):

 I have more than proven myself able to have an adult conversation there is no valid excuse to decline especially if you really believe in the words coming out of your mouth or popping out of your keyboard. I can’t imagine what it must be like to not be able to stand up for what you believe in because it is so fragile and weak. If you remove it from the protective wrapper of your warped perception it will be crushed under the weight of common sense, how good could it be really? I don’t even disagree with everything they find fault with but we will never find common ground as long as they refuse to exchange ideas and instead only attack or misrepresent. I they can’t even manage to find a way to get along with other skeptics and atheists how could they possibly think they can win a battle with religious people over all the things they are hoping to change? Not a chance[.]

There is no valid excuse to decline? I need an excuse? I’m obliged to do his podcast? That makes about as much sense as insisting that blocking people on Twiter is a crime against free speech.

In any case I have good reasons to decline his podcast: he talks a lot of vicious shit, and I want nothing to do with him. I don’t “refuse to exchange ideas”; I simply refuse to talk to him.

His control of language is another reason; I can’t keep up with him. Call me fragile and weak if you must.

Now I know PZ has been very supportive of me and I don’t mean to insult him but, to be honest, PZ is like a conceited,  bitter, vindictive, bully. He is far too busy to ever make sure his point is clear or to make a case for his side of an argument. He is to important to be bothered by silly details like being accurate and honest. It is much easier to shut down the critics by shutting off the comments and/or  banning them when (or sometimes before) they  post presenting a counter opinion. If we could harness the condescension  and  arrogance contained in PZ’s head it could power 3 states an still be enough to run the intense limelight he thinks constantly shines on him.

I wonder what he would say if he did mean to insult PZ.

But then at the end he has a change of heart and tries to reach out.

 No matter what you say PZ  Myers or how many times you ban me. No matter how great you think you are Stephanie Zvan. No matter how badly you wanna be famous, smart, and or cool Adam Lee. No  matter how many times Ophelia Benson claims the sky is falling. No matter how long Ed Brayton keeps his fat head buried in the sand so he can deny the damage he has not only allowed but encouraged. And the same for the rest of you…. I am not going to allow you to force your thinking on me or allow you to try and force it on others without saying something about it. I don’t know what happened that resulted all you loons getting hit on the head with a safe at once but you people remind me of a damn zombie invasion only you ate your own brains now you just wonder around bumping into each other.

Hmmm…maybe I should do that podcast after all.

Kidding! Totally kidding.

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

Anything to take away their humanity

Jan 29th, 2013 9:56 am | By

One thing in that interview with Nick Turse

On how the military trained U.S. troops to dehumanize the Vietnamese

“The idea was that the Vietnamese, they weren’t really people. They were subhuman, mere ‘gooks’ who could be killed or abused at will and, you know, veterans I talked to told me that from the moment they got into basic training they were told, ‘Never call them Vietnamese. Call them gooks or dinks, slopes, slants, rice-eaters.’ Anything to take away their humanity, to dehumanize them and make it easy to see any Vietnamese — all Vietnamese — as the enemy.”

Oh really? That’s very interesting.

I always knew that went on, of course, but I’m not sure I knew it was part of the training. I did know it was part of the training in World War I, and that dehumanization has always been part of military training – but I must not have known that in the Vietnam war recruits were actually told never to call them Vietnamese, because hearing it startled me.

So the words you call people matter, then? They make a difference? They’re important enough to include as part of basic training during a war? Certain kinds of words can take away the humanity of a set of people, and make it easy to see them as the enemy?

Well imagine that.

I thought that was all wrong. I thought that was a delusion of the crazy feminists. Well, maybe crazy feminists were in charge of military training during the Vietnam War. Yeah that must be it.


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

Anything that moves

Jan 29th, 2013 9:33 am | By

There was an interview on Fresh Air yesterday with a guy who’s written a book about civilian massacres and other atrocities in the Vietnam War, Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam. Apparently the received wisdom is that My Lai was an aberration. I actually didn’t know that – I thought My Lai was just the one that got a lot of publicity but that there were plenty of others. It’s the nature of that kind of war, and of that particular war. I even thought I remembered reporting on it from the time (yes I’m that ancient!), but the author, Nick Turse, says there wasn’t much in the US. (But there was in the foreign press, he says. Hmm. In that case surely at least lefty outlets picked up on it, in which case I probably would have seen some of it, in which case maybe I am remembering correctly. Ramparts, In These Times, Mother Jones – I remember them as paying attention.)

There was a huge archive, and Turse grabbed it, just in time.

When I first found these records I was a graduate student. I was working on another dissertation at the time, and I was about 200 pages in, so I contacted a couple Vietnam War historians that I knew and tried to get them to work on it. … And one of them told me that he thought I should do this, that he was burnt out on the war. He had moved on to another project. … But this was something that I should do … that I should get down there right away.

So I went to my dissertation adviser and I said, ‘Do you think that I can write a book and my dissertation at the same time?’ And he told me that he thought I was crazy, but he said, ‘You know, if it’s that important, then you should shift to this topic.’ And I said to him, ‘OK, but I’ll have to put together a grant proposal.’ … I was a grad student at the time; I didn’t have the funds for this project. He wrote me out a check on the spot and said to get down there right away before these records disappear.

So within 24 hours I was in my car, and I drove down to the National Archives. And I put every cent that he gave me into copying, and I would copy from the moment the Archives opened in the morning until they kicked me out at night. And because I put all the money into copying, I went and slept in my car in the Archives parking lot.

And I did this for a couple of nights, and by the end of it, I had the whole collection. And I thought my adviser was being a little paranoid, but it turned out to be excellent advice, because sometime after I published my first article on this, the records were pulled from the Archives’ shelves. And they haven’t been on the public shelves since.

Well done, good and faithful graduate student.

That’s on the must-read list.

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

Any time

Jan 29th, 2013 9:14 am | By

Ahahahahaha – I usually never do spam jokes but this one is too good to pass up.

Perfectly composed articles, thankyou for entropy.

Thank you for entropy! ♥♥

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