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.


Swirly crucifixion

Apr 19th, 2014 5:33 pm | By

Racking your brains for the right Easter present? (You do give Easter presents don’t you? Doesn’t everyone?)

I recommend some Swirly Crucifixion Pops – they’re on sale for 39 cents.

CROSS SHAPED SWIRL POP

Or you could get a fancy chocolate or vanilla crucifix lollipop for $4.50.

Enjoy those edible torture devices!

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



What would the neighbors say?

Apr 19th, 2014 4:41 pm | By

One from the Center for Reproductive Rights:

A Dallas hospital has chosen to discriminate against two good doctors rather than protect women’s health.

Two weeks ago, the hospital revoked the doctors’ admitting privileges, specifically because—and they said as much—they provide abortion services.

That’s illegal, and we are fighting against the hospital’s decision in court.

Here’s what the hospital told them:

“[Your] practice of performing [abortions] is disruptive….[and] creates significant exposure and damages to [our] reputation within the community.”

What on earth? “Disruptive”? What is this, kindergarten? And how does it damage the hospital’s reputation, unless the hospital cares only about its reputation among Catholic priests and other anti-abortion fanatics. I don’t think hospitals are supposed to make medical decisions on frivolous arbitrary personal grounds like that.

Right now, Texas law requires doctors providing abortion to have admitting privileges at a local hospital—a requirement with far-reaching and dangerous consequences.

As we’re seeing in Dallas, hospitals can discriminate against providers. And if enough providers are denied privileges, clinics will close. Women seeking essential reproductive health care will have nowhere to turn.

This is no hypothetical “worst-case scenario.” Patients in McAllen, TX, for example, must drive 300 miles roundtrip just to see a doctor since their only local clinic has been forced to close.

Because it’s Texas.

There’s a later update:

Update: A state judge just temporarily reinstated the two doctors’ admitting privileges. But the fight is far from over. The case is still moving forward. 

The Texas Taliban strikes again.

 

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



Silence is seen as approval

Apr 19th, 2014 12:38 pm | By

Doctor NerdLove also talks about the bullying of women in geek culture.

Cold hard fact: geek culture has a problem with women. We have shown it time and time again. Tess Fowler. Anita Sarkeesian. Mattie Bryce. Zoe Quinn. Lea Hernandez. Colleen Doran. Gail Simone. Kate Leth. Laura Hudson. Jennifer Hepler. Alice Mercier.Courtney Stanton. Elizabeth Sampat.

Whenever the subject of how women are treated in geek culture comes up, people will immediately rush to dismiss and diminish and derail the conversation. They will argue that everyone takes shit online. Or that women just need to learn to grow a thicker skin because this is how the big boys do it. There will be people who want to say “it’s important to note that guys get this too!” or rush to complain that it’s not all men who do this. They will want to play “devil’s advocate” or complain that they don’t harass women so it’s unfair for people to bring it up because it’s “tarring men with a broad brush” or maligning otherwise well-meaning dudes so just shut up about it already because it’s not really a problem anyway because theirfriend is totally a woman and is cool with this shit and never gets threatened.

And so on and so on, and it’s all bullshit.

Because when people rush to qualify how it’s “not all men” or “it’s not a problem”, it’s a way of distracting from the two real issues at hand.

First: that it’s directed at women specifically because they are women. I write a lotabout feminist issues. I even have my own dedicated haters who crop up in the comments to complain every time I talk about anything smacking of feminism. And not only do I not get even a hundredth of the shit that Asselin has – or Lea Hernandez or Kate Leth or any of the other women I’ve mentioned earlier – but I’ve never had rape threats directed at me. Nor have 99% of the high-profile male writers and bloggers who cover the same issues. Nor do any of us get the same volume of violent threats. Or the stalkers. Or the harassment. Because for women, this doesn’t just stay on the Internet. It follows them  everywhere.

The second is that when people argue or derail the conversation about it, they’re trying to distract from the fact women are being threatened in order to shut them up. To make them go away. To chase them away from the community entirely. The “Beat Anita Sarkeesian” game wasn’t about refuting her arguments, it was about making the scary woman who (they think) is going to rob them of their gaming T&A go away. The harassment that Zoe Quinn faced for her game Depression Quest was because people wanted to make her stop talking. Jennifer Hepler had her children threatened because people didn’t like what she had to say about Dragon’s Age 2, a game she helped write. Janelle Asselin gets rape threats for criticizing a comic book cover. Kate Leth – an outspoken critic of the casual harassment and misogyny in geek culture – gets targeted by men who are determined to “punish” her for… making comics they don’t like.

Hating and bullying women is the cool thing. How did that happen?

Doctor goes on to say that just not bullying isn’t enough, because silence just enables the bullying.

…just “not being that guy” isn’t enough. If you don’t want to be tarred with the same brush as the cancerous assholes who target the women in our community, you need to speak up. Because this isn’t women’s problem. This is a man’s problem. It’s men who are the cause and it’s men who can and need to be the solution.

Because our silence is enabling them. Our silence is seen as approval. It’s validating their shitty behavior because nobody is speaking up against them.

And that is true in the community of atheists and skeptics, too.

See, we have the platform. We have the voice. We have the male privilege that says male voices have more impact, that we aren’t dismissed as easily. And we need to use it. We have to be the ones who make geek culture a place where this sort of toxic hate and abuse of women is unacceptable. Do not let this behavior go unremarked. Push back against idea that belittling, harassing or abusing women is somehow a masculine virtue, that it’s acceptable because “Internet, lulz” or “guys just being guys”. Marginalize these people. Isolate them. Excise them from the community – we don’t need them, we sure as shit don’t want them.

Atheists and skeptics please note.

 

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



88 remain in slavery

Apr 19th, 2014 12:07 pm | By

The Guardian put the count of missing schoolgirls in Nigeria at 88 last night, with 24 more having escaped.

The Borno state education commissioner, Musa Inuwo Kubo, said on Friday night some of the latest escapees were found on Wednesday nearly 50km from their school.

Extremists had attacked schools and slaughtered hundreds of students in the past year. In recent months they began kidnapping students, who they used as cooks, sex slaves and porters.

But this week’s mass abduction was unprecedented. The attackers also burned down many houses in the town.

I don’t even think “extremists” is the right word. They seem more like psychopaths. Their only goal seems to be to kill and destroy, while having slaves to cook for and fuck them when they’re not on the job of killing and destroying.

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



A forgotten bon mot

Apr 19th, 2014 9:48 am | By

Something I missed back in 2008 – which doesn’t surprise me, because I don’t pay attention to the minutiae of election campaigns – was a throwaway characterization of Hillary Clinton by Christopher Hitchens.

I happened to see a reference to it in a book, one that has nothing to do with atheism or the atheist “movement” or the deep rifts in the atheist “movement” or anything like that. I wasn’t looking for it, I just happened on it.

But it’s a moment when I’m particularly tired of the atheist movement’s habit of drooling over the same 5 or 6 men year after year after year, especially when the men in question have a habit of dismissing or insulting a woman now and then for no apparent reason.

It’s in a Slate from January of that election year, and it’s mostly about Obama and the focus on race.

Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois is the current beneficiary of a tsunami of drool. He sometimes claims credit on behalf of all Americans regardless of race, color, creed, blah blah blah, though his recent speeches appear also to claim a victory for blackness while his supporters—most especially the white ones—sob happily that at last we can have an African-American chief executive. Off to the side, snarling with barely concealed rage, are the Clinton machine-minders, who, having failed to ignite the same kind of identity excitement with an aging and resentful female, are perhaps wishing that they had made more of her errant husband having already been “our first black president.”

Well, she was running for president, and casual insults of every kind are just inevitable when you do that. But still – that’s everybody’s lamented hero, The Hitch.

He was sort of a hero of mine too, starting in the mid-90s, long before god is not Great. But over the past few years I’ve gotten more (or re-) sensitized to casual sexist contempt, especially when it comes from heroes and stars. I admire Hitchens less than I used to. He was brilliant, but not brilliant enough to be beyond casual sexist contempt.

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



Oh dang, that was recorded?

Apr 18th, 2014 5:36 pm | By

The newly elected mayor of Latta, South Carolina, just fired the town’s first female police chief because she is openly gay. She’s been a cop there for more than 20 years, with an exemplary record.

Bullard was recorded by a city council member making several unsavory statements about Moore and other town employee.

According to a local news report (which obtained the audio), Bullard said:

“I would much rather have.. and I will say this to anybody’s face… somebody who drank and drank too much taking care of my child than I had somebody whose lifestyle is questionable around children.Because that ain’t the damn way it’s supposed to be. You know.. you  got people out there — I’m telling you buddy — I don’t agree with some of the lifestyles that I see portrayed and I don’t say anything because that is the way they want to live, but I am not going to let my child be around. ”

I’m not going to let 2 women stand up there and hold hands and let my child be aware of it. And I’m not going to see them do it with 2 men neither.”

And I’m going to take their jobs away. And then I’m going to be in big big trouble.

Let’s hope so at least.

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



Whose job

Apr 18th, 2014 5:20 pm | By

PZ also marvels at this idea that internet bullying doesn’t count. (PZ is at the AA Convention; I wonder if he’s dropped in on the art show yet.)

He starts with the suicide of Amanda Todd and the arrest of the guy who harassed and extorted her.

I pointed out back then that some members of the atheist community have a vile lack of empathy. I will mention it again. Miri rages against the online idiots who insist that internet activity can’t really do psychological harm — they diagnose freely over the internet, and claim that you can’t possibly develop stress disorders from the bullying tactics of the usual slymey suspects — Miri tears that argument up with basic scientific facts from the field of psychology (remember the days when skeptics at least paid lip service to science?)

I’m just going to point to Amanda Todd. Her death wasn’t virtual.

And then, he goes on – if they think internet bullying is so ineffectual, why do they spend so much time and energy doing it?

Good question.

One commenter – Bronze Dog – expands on the point.

I’m once again disgusted by “the internet isn’t real”. The internet isn’t some griefer-friendly MMO we can just quit playing. For many of us, it’s a large part of our social lives. It’s a large part of many people’s professional lives, too. You might as well say that mail and telephones aren’t real. Hell, I’d say the internet is more invasive than the telephone was originally, since there was a time you could switch to an unlisted number. Now, any sufficiently determined troll can find your phone number, email, or blog.

Also – we really need to jump all over this idea that it’s the job of the people being harassed to stop participating in whatever technology or social media site that is conveying the harassment, instead of the job of the people doing the harassing TO STOP DOING THE FUCKING HARASSING. No no no no no no no no, it’s not my job to hide inside and throw away my computer. It’s the job of shitty people to keep their shittiness to themselves. They’re the ones doing bad things that they need to stop doing. They are. I’m not, Melody’s not, the targets are not; they are.

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



Life among the quiverfull

Apr 18th, 2014 4:07 pm | By

Amanda Marcotte looks at some of the laughably typical scandals plaguing the reactionary-Christian movement.

There’s the resignation of Doug Phillips, and even better, there’s what is revealed in the lawsuit filed by the woman he’d been “inappropriately” “romantic and affectionate” with.

While the complaint never mentions sexual intercourse, it does claim that he repeatedly groped and masturbated on her while she protested. The plaintiff alleges she was basically moved into Phillips’ house with his wife and children, taken on many family vacations, and given work as a caretaker for the family, all while secretly being bullied into sexual encounters without consent. She even claims that Phillips told her that they would marry soon, as he believed that his wife was about to die.

Torres-Manteufel’s lawyer provided me with a copy of the complaint. It is searing in its criticisms of Doug Phillips. “Phillips’s patriarchal movement teaches that men are, and should be, in the absolute control of women,” reads the complaint, claiming that Torres-Manteufel was therefore bullied into believing she had no choice but to submit to Phillips’ alleged sexual abuse, even though she feared it made her “damaged goods.”

“In other words, women within this movement are perceived to exist only for the end-goals communicated by the male leaders that perceive themselves as the ‘patriarchs’ of this world,” the lawsuit reads. The conclusion is that a woman who truly believed this—whose boss, mentor, and father figure taught her that total submission was her duty in life—was not able to effectively plot an escape from a sexually coercive relationship.

And that is the case with all patriarchal religions; that’s how they work. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

The scandal around Phillips is just the latest in a long line of ugly shocks to the far Christian right that threaten to destabilize and possibly capsize the community. As The Wire reported in early March, Bill Gothard, the leader of the Institute in Basic Life Principles, resigned his position in the wake of a series of accusations of alleged sexual abuse from dozens of women in the organization. IBLP, like Vision Forum Ministries, is a major clearinghouse for adherents to Biblical patriarchy, teaching members to shun contraception, embrace extreme forms of female submission, and, of course, use homeschooling to shelter young people from the outside world.

The better to exploit them in secret.

Similarly, both Bob Jones University and Patrick Henry College—schools that were established in no small part to give these homeschooled and sheltered kids from far Christian right backgrounds a place to go to college—have been at the center of accusations of indifference and even of allegedly covering up reported sexual abuse on campus. BJU received a lot of heat when they fired an outside firm that had been brought on to investigate accusations of sexual abuse, only to rehire them when it looked like they were punishing the firm for being too thorough in exposing the problem. Patrick Henry College was the recent target of an exposé in The New Republic that explored how young women who brought sexual abuse complaints to the school were frequently drummed out of the college or made to felt that they had somehow brought the abuse on themselves.

Sound familiar? Stone the woman who reports a rape?

The “pitch” of Biblical patriarchy, as epitomized by Michelle Duggar, is that women will be coddled and worshipped in exchange for giving up their ambitions and the autonomy to practice an extreme form of female submission. The unpleasant truth is that a culture that teaches that women are put on Earth for no other purpose but to serve men is not going to breed respect for women.

Not that atheism is doing a brilliant job either, so far…

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



Tyson and Tits

Apr 18th, 2014 3:16 pm | By

I was hoping AA just hadn’t seen those painting, but no, that’s not the case. They tweeted one of them yesterday.

Embedded image permalink

Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh

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



Why don’t the bullied people just hide?

Apr 18th, 2014 12:50 pm | By

Another psychologist explains PTSD. Caleb Lack asks Can one get PTSD via Twitter? and answers yes, easily.

I don’t really keep up much with drama and goings-on in the skeptoatheist online world. I’ve got friends who do, though, and they pointed me to a recent post with the in no way linkbaitesque title of:

Woman claims she has PTSD from Twitter and Cyberstalking

Twitter gave me PTSD’: Woman claims mean comments and ‘cyberstalking’ gave her an illness usually suffered by WAR VETERANS

I was asked by this friend, basically, “Can one get post traumatic stress disorder from Twitter?”

In a word: Yes.

That second link isn’t to a post at all, it’s to an article…in the Daily Mail. Yes, the Daily Mail – the UK tabloid sleaze-sheet, which yes, actually published an article echoing “Thunderfoot” jeering at Melody for having PTSD from being harassed on Twitter. That’s the kind of outlet that allies itself with “Thunderfoot” and his harassing friends.

I urge reading the whole post; it’s both interesting and informative. Here’s a takeaway:

TL;DR – PTSD occurs more often in females, as well as for a host of pre-, peri-, and post-trauma variables, with around 6-7% of the U.S. population qualifying for the disorder at some point in their lives, not just war veterans (although they have very high rates).

So, now that you know a bit more about PTSD than you did before (hopefully, anyway. If not, you may need to do some rereading), let’s return to the question at hand: can one “get” PTSD from Twitter?

Bullying has long been known to have a severe impact on mental health, particularly if the bullying is repeated and prolonged. While research has traditionally focused on youth (as briefly reviewed here), more recent work has examined it’s impact on adults. as well, particularly in the workplace. Research focusing specifically on cyberbullying has found very similar results to “traditional” bullying, in terms of increased risk of depression, suicide, and anxiety. In youth, around a third of bullying victims display quite high rates of PTSD symptoms and rates are perhaps even higher in adults who are bullied.

The comments are filling up with comments by people who like to bully demanding why Melody doesn’t just stay away from Twitter. They could instead be deciding not to bully people, but no, that’s not what they’re doing. They’re demanding why a victim of bullying doesn’t just deprive herself of one of the major social media outlets in order to avoid bullying by people like them.

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



Welcome to oligarchy

Apr 18th, 2014 12:25 pm | By

The BBC reports on an academic study that finds the US is an oligarchy rather than a democracy. I knew that, but it’s interesting to have a study.

the two professors have conducted exhaustive research to try to present data-driven support for this conclusion. Here’s how they explain it:

Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.

In English: the wealthy few move policy, while the average American has little power.

The two professors came to this conclusion after reviewing answers to 1,779 survey questions asked between 1981 and 2002 on public policy issues. They broke the responses down by income level, and then determined how often certain income levels and organised interest groups saw their policy preferences enacted.

2002…long before Citizens United.

They conclude:

Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organisations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.

Eric Zuess, writing in Counterpunch, isn’t surprised by the survey’s results.

“American democracy is a sham, no matter how much it’s pumped by the oligarchs who run the country (and who control the nation’s “news” media),” he writes. “The US, in other words, is basically similar to Russia or most other dubious ‘electoral’ ‘democratic’ countries. We weren’t formerly, but we clearly are now.”

It’s not a cheerful finding.

 

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



The count

Apr 18th, 2014 12:10 pm | By

The BBC is still reporting on the kidnapped schoolgirls in Nigeria. Their reporter there, Will Ross, says the government is saying 99 girls are missing but parents are saying it’s 150 to 200.

The attack on the school in Chibok, a remote part of Borno state, happened late on Monday with gunmen reportedly storming the school, stealing food supplies and ordering the students onto lorries.

On Wednesday, the military said most of the abducted students had been freed “as troops pursuing the terrorists close in on the den of those believed to have carried out the attack”.

But Mr Olukolade said it was based on a report “filed in from the field indicating that a major breakthrough had been recorded in the search”.

“The report forwarded to the public on this issue was in good faith and not intended to deceive the public,” he said.

“The number of those still missing is not the issue now as the life of every Nigerian is very precious.”

Local education officials say 99 of the girls are unaccounted for, but some parents suggest between 150 and 200 are still missing, the BBC’s Nigeria correspondent Will Ross reports.

I still want to know why education is haram but kidnapping is halal.

 

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



The missing 200+

Apr 18th, 2014 12:04 pm | By

Richard Attias at the Huffington Post points out the lack of coverage of the kidnapping of more than 100 schoolgirls in Borno, Nigeria.

The Western media has made barely a mention of this story and appears resigned to ignore this abduction, which is an act of terror and unprecedented barbarism against these students whose only crime was to go to school.

That’s actually not true. It may be true of US media, but it’s not true of for instance the BBC World Service – it was the top story on Wednesday and it got a lot of minutes. He probably had no idea how much coverage there was in French, German, Swedish, Spanish etc etc media. Be careful  not to say “Western” when you mean “US.”

But anyway, if the US media are ignoring it, that stinks.

The World Service said yesterday that Nigeria had had to adjust the number way upward – they were now saying it was over 200 girls.

It’s awful.

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



See this door?

Apr 18th, 2014 11:21 am | By

For refreshment after that – the new xkcd.

Free Speech

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



“It’s more of a guy thing” in paintings

Apr 18th, 2014 11:00 am | By

NSFW

Two more, for the total of three, at the Art Show and Silent Auction at the American Atheists’ Convention in Salt Lake City.

I’m told this one is hanging just below one of Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

This one is sculptural; the hand is part of it.

Stephanie Zvan's photo.

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



An affordable price

Apr 18th, 2014 10:05 am | By

NSFW

So the American Atheists Convention is going on this weekend – Easter weekend, you know. Tom Flynn has the glory of giving the Easter sermon.

There’s an art show and auction. I loved the one last year. I kept wandering back to it to gaze some more.

But this year…There’s one guy who has a bunch of portraits of The Godmen of Atheism, and along with them – some naked women. The Godmen are all fully dressed, and the women, not so much.

Like this one:

See the oh so witty caption? “What glass ceiling?” Hahaharight, because naked woman among all the Godmen in suits – yeah that’s busting the glass ceiling all right. And the Women’s Rights barcode? Hahaharight because whatever.

I looked up AA’s Code of Conduct again.

American Atheists does not tolerate harassment of or by conference participants in any form. Prohibited conduct may include but is not limited to harassment related to gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age, religion, sexual images in public spaces (not related to convention sessions or materials)…

Hmmm.

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



Using abducted students as cooks, sex slaves and porters

Apr 17th, 2014 6:22 pm | By

Boko Haram has kidnapped more than 100 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in Borno State.

The government closed all schools in Borno three weeks ago because of frequent attacks in which hundreds of students have been killed in the past year. The girls who were kidnapped had been recalled so they could write their final exams.

The extremists have been using abducted students as cooks, sex slaves and porters.

Boko Haram has been on a rampage this week, blamed for four attacks in three days that started with an explosion at a busy bus station during the Monday morning rush hour in Abuja, the capital, which killed at least 75 people.

Two attacks in northeastern villages killed 20 people Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

People from Chibok are searching the Sambisa Forest for them.

Education is forbidden, but mass murder and kidnapping for enslavement and rape – those are not forbidden. Funny kind of god Boko Haram has.

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



Gabriel García Márquez

Apr 17th, 2014 6:12 pm | By

From the Guardian:

Few writers have produced novels that are acknowledged as masterpieces not only in their own countries but all around the world. Fewer still can be said to have written books that have changed the whole course of literature in their language. But the Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez, who has died at the age of 87 after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease achieved just that, especially thanks to his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Since its publication in 1967, more than 25m copies of the book have been sold in Spanish and other languages. For at least a generation the book firmly stamped Latin American literature as the domain of “magical realism”.

Born in the small town of Aracataca, close to the Caribbean coast of Colombia, García Márquez (or “Gabo” as he was often affectionately nicknamed) always identified himself with the cultural mix of Spanish, black and indigenous traditions that continue to flourish there. Although later in life he lived in Paris, Mexico and elsewhere, his books returned constantly to this torrid coastal region, where the power of nature and myth still predominate over the restraints of cold reason.

Hm. It’s not necessary to oppose reason to nature and myth. One can value and draw on all three.

Journalism was to remain a passion throughout his life: time and again his fictional stories have their basis in tales he heard as a young journalist, as he explains for example in the introduction to the 1994 novel Of Love and Other Demons. At the same time, whatever fantastic elements are to be found in his novels and short stories, García Márquez learned from journalism the craft of story-telling, showing himself to be an astounding judge of pace, surprise, and structure. He was also immensely interested in the cinema. In Rome in the 1950s he studied at the Experimental Film School, and while living in Mexico in the 1960s wrote several film scripts. He also dabbled in television soap operas, arguing that this was the way to reach the broadest possible audience and satisfy their need for narrative.

By the mid-1960s, he had published three novels that enjoyed reasonable critical acclaim in Latin America, but neither huge commercial nor international success. His fourth novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, first published not in Colombia but in Argentina, was to change all that. It tells the story of succeeding generations of the archetypal Buendía family and the amazing events that befall the isolated town of Macondo, in which fantasy and fact constantly intertwine to produce their own brand of magical logic. The novel has not only proved immediately accessible to readers everywhere, but has influenced writers of many nationalities, from Isabel Allende to Salman Rushdie.

It was via Salman Rushdie, on Facebook, that I learned he was gone.

 

 

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



Silence empowers the Neo-Nazis

Apr 17th, 2014 5:41 pm | By

As I’ve been pointing out, Ayaan Hirsi Ali gets misread by people who are convinced she’s a far-right racist, or people who want to convince others that she is. There’s “Loonwatch” for instance. Loonwatch gives a very warped version of the talk in which she mentioned Anders Breivik. The article is titled Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Sympathizes with Terrorist Anders Behring Breivik and it repeats the accusation in the text.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali was invited to Germany to receive the Axel Springer Award, to recount her “escape” from Islam.

Sympathy for the Devil

In her acceptance speech, Ali expressed her sympathy for terrorist murderer Anders Behring Breivik. Her writings were included in Breivik’s manifesto and she took the opportunity of the speech to try and distance herself from his actions while squarely putting the blame for Breivik’s massacre on his targets.

That’s a lie. She didn’t express any sympathy for Anders Breivik. Here is her talk (thanks to Anthony K for the link), which is titled The Advocates of Silence.

“People ask me if I have some kind of death wish, to keep saying the things I do. The answer is no, I would like to keep living. However, some things must be said and there are times when silence becomes an accomplice to injustice.” I wrote those words in 2005. I was alluding to the plight of Muslim women who live in Europe, whose suffering inspired me to make the film Submission with Theo van Gogh. He was shot and stabbed to death by a radical Muslim.

Today, the problem of how to integrate Muslim immigrants into European society is, if anything, even more complex and challenging than it was then. There are, of course, still the advocates of silence. They say that an honest discussion of the challenges posed by some Muslim immigrants to European society will lead to a build-up of hatred against those immigrants: A hatred so vile and so strong as to translate into violence. A violence carried out by lone renegades like the Norwegian Anders Breivik, now on trial for his horrific spree in Oslo last year, or a more organized violence by neo-Nazi groups.

The advocates of silence also warn that honest discussion will encourage the emergence and rise of populist parties whose only political issue is immigration and Islam. They fear the election through non-violent means of politicians with a violent agenda that they will apply to Muslims as soon as they get into office. Advocates of silence conjure up terrifying visions of fascistic regimes that will implement mass deportations of Muslims, mass imprisonment of Muslims, the closing of their mosques, the shutting down of their businesses, the exclusion of Muslims from education and employment, and other types of discrimination.

I recommend reading the whole piece. She gives a careful and fair account of what the advocates of silence argue, so fair that she presents a convincing case.

The advocates of silence warn us that publishing these facts or debating them in the media and in parliament will transform the existing resentment towards Muslims into violent behavior. The sentiment of xenophobia, they argue, is irrational and cannot – or will not – tell the difference between a good Muslim and a bad Muslim. The xenophobes will persecute Muslims regardless of their guilt or innocence and hurt them.

Censorship and silence, we are told, are the best preventive remedies against hatred and violence.

I believe that the advocates of silence are wrong, profoundly and dangerously wrong.

I do not dispute that some Europeans are xenophobic, and that the tendency to scapegoat others is prevalent in many places. I understand that this tendency is more pronounced in times of economic hardship, such as much of Europe outside Germany is experiencing. I can see, too, that a major part of the difficulty if integration Muslims into European society has a social and economic explanation. Most immigrants of Muslim countries into Europe these days come from segments of society in their country of origin with little education and little or no job skills.

That’s a sample. You can see what I mean, I think – she doesn’t give a weak version of the argument she disputes, and she concedes many of its claims. Then she presents her arguments.

Secondly, silence empowers rather than weakens the populists and the extremists. When the political mainstream censors itself, the populists and extremists can represent themselves as the only people capable of addressing one of the major issues of our time. By breaking the taboo, they win trust and respect on that issue even as the parties of the establishment lose trust. Some newspapers – I will not mention them by name – may choose not to publish critical voices, but those in society for whom the presence of Islam is a problem can now simply click on their favorite blogs.

Thirdly, and perhaps most seriously, silence empowers the Islamists, the radical agents of hatred. The young Muslim dropout, who is morally confused, is approached by a confident Islamist with a not so hidden agenda. The Islamist’s potential rivals in the struggle of hearts and minds – the Christians and the humanists – have been silenced by the kind of inhibitions I have already described. Muslim ghettoes in Europe today are exposed without censorship to the siren song of jihad, of martyrdom, of Sharia law, of hatred and self-exclusion. Here is an extreme ideology just as abhorrent as the neo-fascism of a Breivik. Yet to speak out against radical Islamism is to be condemned as an Islamophobe.

Fourthly and finally, that one man who killed 77 people in Norway, because he fears that Europe will be overrun by Islam, may have cited the work of those who speak and write against political Islam in Europe and America – myself among them – but he does not say in his 1500 page manifesto that it was these people who inspired him to kill. He says very clearly that it was the advocates of silence. Because all outlets to express his views were censored, he says, he had no other choice but to use violence.

That last paragraph is the one brandished by people who loathe her as evidence that she was sympathizing with Breivik. She was doing no such thing.

Decades of informal censorship in Europe have led not to the promised integration of Muslim immigrants but to a culture of evasion and avoidance which has allowed extremism – both Jihadism and neo-Nazism – to flourish amid a general impotence of the established parties.

She does not like or want either of those.

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



You check it like you actually give a damn

Apr 17th, 2014 1:50 pm | By

Another message to men – specifically geek guys – about sexual harassment.

That women are harassed online is not news. That women in comics and the broader fandom cultures are harassed online is not news. That these women are routinely transmitted anonymous messages describing graphic sexual violence perpetrated upon them for transgressions as grave as not liking a thing… that is actually news to me, and it’s probably news to a lot of you guys reading this.

But it’s not news to a lot of women I know, and to women whose work you’ve read here and around the Web.

Nope, it’s not.

The Internet is a boon to humanity. It is also terrible. That is its special nature. Every cogent thought put forth has a dark, mindless twin — sometimes these twins are legion — ready to feed on a person’s idea and process it into the toxic waste found at the bottom of virtually any website you care to visit. We call them trolls, and anyone reading this site or others like it knows that popular art and its surrounding fandom attract a particularly nasty strain of them.

I’m not just talking about the trolls. I’m not just talking about the mischief makers, the haters, the contrarians or the pedants. What I’m also talking about is something much worse and heretofore all but invisible to me and many other men like me. I’m talking about this:

Women in comics are the deviation, the invading body, the cancer. We are the cure, the norm, the natural order. All you are is a pair of halfway decent tits, a c*nt and a loud mouth. But see, it doesn’t matter how loud you get. It doesn’t matter how many of your lezbo tumblr and twitter fangirl friends agree with you and reinforce your views. You can be all “I’m not going to be silent about misogyny so f*ck you!” all you want. In the end all you are is a pathetic little girl trying to effect change and failing to make a dent. You might as well try to drain the ocean of fish. That’s the kind of battle you face with people like me. We won’t quit. We won’t stop attacking. We won’t give up. Ever.

I’ve encountered such sentiments before, but it’s only recently that I’ve learned how common they are.

Those remarks were sent to Janelle Asselin, a ComicsAlliance contributor, professional comic book editor, and academic researcher. She posted them on her Facebook page, to which she’s restricted public access for obvious reasons. I’ve republished the message here with her permission.

I’m sure what that guy says is true, but what I think is also true is that it will cost them all the best places. They won’t get to hang out with the cool kids.

At last month’s Emerald City Comicon in Seattle, Janelle joined former ComicsAlliance Editor-in-Chief Laura Hudson and occasional CA contributor Rachel Edidin on a discussion panel about sexual harassment in fandom culture and media. Laura and Rachel have also written about harassment before and since. It’s a subject I care about too, and I attended knowing I would hear some profound stuff about women in the industry in which I’ve spent a huge part of my adult life. But I went mainly because all three of these women are my friends and colleagues and I like to support their endeavors in all things. I didn’t think there would be anything for me, as a man, to take onboard from the sexual harassment panel. I don’t harass women. I hate men who do. What else was there for me to do but listen and try to empathize?

As it turns out… this. Writing this thing you’re reading now.

You see, each of these women — and they’ve been echoed by others including Kate Leth and Heidi MacDonald — explained something to the Seattle crowd that I thought I knew but never truly understood before:

This isn’t their problem, guys. It’s ours. We have to solve it.

Sexual harassment isn’t an occupational hazard. It’s not a glitch in the complex matrix of modern life. It’s not something that just “happens.” It’s something men do. It’s a choice men make. It’s a problem men enable. It’s sometimes a crime men commit. And it is not in the power nor the responsibility of women to wage war on this crime.

It’s on us.

How do we fight this war? We stop enabling. We check ourselves and, when necessary, wreck ourselves. Do you know a guy who’s hate-following women on Twitter just to troll them? You check him. Do you know a guy who’s writing disgusting screeds to women journalists because they don’t like the same things he likes? You check him. Do you know a professional whose discourse with women in his field is loaded with gender-specific language and condescension that could enable further abuse? You check him. Are your Twitter followers identifying you as a sympathetic ear for their sexist views? You check yourself. Is your website’s message board a cesspool of ignorance and hate? You check it like you actually give a damn. Do you know a guy who’s sending rape threats to women for any reason? Oh, you report that guy.

That. That’s what’s needed. A lot lot lot lot more of that.

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