Notes and Comment Blog

The bullies’ creed

Nov 15th, 2014 12:03 pm | By

On the upside though, I’ve discovered an excellent Twitter account to follow, that of biologist Josh Witten, and four tweets that say a thing I keep having occasion to say, and say it beautifully.

Saying you “respect women’s toughness” as a justification for not considering how actions affect others as individuals is a cop out.

It’s a lazy & selfish excuse to do what you want when and where you want to. It’s the philosophy of a toddler.

Women are tough. That doesn’t mean we should structure society so they constantly have to be tough, on guard, to survive their day.

You show a high opinion of people by giving individuals the time & energy to consider how you affect them.

I think the first time I felt the need to make a point of saying that was after I read Paula Kirby’s horrible piece “The Sisterhood of the Oppressed.” She likes that “women are tough” line of talk, and she takes it to mean that women should just battle through the obstacles rather than that the obstacles should be done away with. I don’t know if she got that from Dawkins or Dawkins got it from her or they have both always thought it, but whichever it is, it’s a terrible way to think about structural oppression. Terrible. It’s a bullies’ creed. If it were true, then we should all go out of our way to make everything more difficult for everyone, because it’s good for us, like exercise.

Bollocks. We should do no such thing. We should try hard to get rid of all needless obstacles, in order to maximize everyone’s ability to use her particular talents and ambitions. There are plenty of obstacles we can’t do anything about; there’s no need to create new ones by being shitty to people. Also? Being shitty to people is bad for the character.

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

Gnu feminism

Nov 15th, 2014 11:42 am | By

So Richard Dawkins is calling astronomer Jennifer L Hoffman a pompous idiot then.

Jennifer L. Hoffman @astroprofhoff

.@weswt @missafayres Am I serious about being respected by colleagues in my professional environment? Uh, yes. #shirtstorm
9:00 PM – 12 Nov 2014

I wonder how many other colleagues and perhaps friends he’s calling pompous idiots.

I think I’ll collect some. Feel free to assist.

There’s Phil Plait:

I tweet about the sexist shirt worn by a scientist & get thoughtful replies. @roseveleth does the same and gets monumentally harassed.

There’s Sean Carroll:

Rosetta landing shows humans are awesome; Rosetta scientist shows individual humans have a long way to go. #shirtgate
5:13 PM – 12 Nov 2014

There’s Jacques Rousseau:

.@GretaChristina explains (something that shouldn’t need explanation) why Matt Taylor’s shirt was offensive: … #Rosetta
1:52 AM – 15 Nov 2014

As context for some concerns sparked by (not about) #Rosetta shirt, this piece on sexism in academic science:
7:42 AM – 15 Nov 2014

There’s drug monkey:

Which reminds me- hey scis who want to be edgy and rad….try a man-bun instead of an offensive shirt
11:17 AM – 15 Nov 2014

H/t Hj Hornbeck

There are:

Dr. Raychelle Burks
Dr. Pamela Gay
Dr. Gwen Pearson, “Bug” Gwen just did a couple retweets, which was probably pompous, according to Dawkins
Dr. Nicole Gugliucci

H/t kellym

There is Carolyn Porco:

Carolyn Porco gave Richard Dawkins a response on Twitter, and he took down one of his silly tweets:

H/t Xanthë

There’s hydrogeologist Scott K Johnson:

.@RichardDawkins Wish you would respect other women’s viewpoints of it more, in addition to @carolynporco ‘s.

Stephanie’s off the top of her head list:

Emily Willingham:

Alice Bell:

Jacquelyn Gill:

Tom Levenson:

Ed Yong:

Ben Lillie:

Maryn McKenna:

MarieClaire Shanahan:

Melanie Tannenbaum:

Sarcastic Rover:


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

Dawkins on “the pompous idiots whining about a Rosetta scientist’s shirt”

Nov 15th, 2014 10:01 am | By

Huh. I thought it was over. I thought it had ended well, and we were all going to move on. I thought it had ended well and without bitterness and recriminations. I thought Matt Taylor had said damn, that was a really bad move and I’m sorry, and we had all figuratively embraced him and gone back to rejoicing at the success of the Rosetta mission. (Not that we had stopped. I’m seeing people complaining of “radfems” fussing about a shirt instead of paying attention the the success of the Rosetta mission. Wrong. We were doing both. It’s nice not to have a shirt cluttering things up though.) I thought it was done and dusted.

I’m so naïve.


Richard Dawkins on Twitter.

Do not blame feminism for the pompous idiots whining about a Rosetta scientist’s shirt. True feminism is bigger and better than that.

Many congratulations to Matt Taylor and the Rosetta team on an amazing feat of space engineering. Such things make me proud to be human.

Remind me – who made Richard Dawkins the arbiter of what true feminism is?

Is he also the arbiter of what true anti-racism is? Of what true LGBT rights are? Of the true essence of every struggle for equal rights everywhere? Or is it just what rights women get to have that he thinks is his decision to make? Is it only on feminism that he considers himself an expert?

I wonder exactly how many colleagues and friends he just called pompous idiots in that tweet.

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

Sleep well Philae

Nov 14th, 2014 5:53 pm | By

Philae is indeed going to sleep. No hop, no sun shining on the solar panels.

Philae Lander @Philae2014 ·1 hour ago
.@ESA_Rosetta I’m feeling a bit tired, did you get all my data? I might take a nap… #CometLanding

Thank you, @ESA_Rosetta! I did it! I became the first spacecraft to land on a comet & study it! But it’s not over yet… #CometLanding

My #lifeonacomet has just begun @ESA_Rosetta. I’ll tell you more about my new home, comet #67P soon… zzzzz #CometLanding

Now cut that out. Philae isn’t Bambi’s mother.

Have a nice nap Philae.

But before those three, there was this:

My controlroom after a more than 100% successful #CometLanding (watch the party in the background)

Embedded image permalink

It’s exciting to be human today.

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

Women become more silent

Nov 14th, 2014 4:56 pm | By

Ed Yong wrote a post in 2010 about a study of how objectification silences women.

Many people brush off the importance of men staring at women’s bodies.

Tamar Saguy is different. Leading a team of Israeli and US psychologists, she has shown that women become more silent if they think that men are focusing on their bodies. They showed that women who were asked to introduce themselves to an anonymous male partner spent far less time talking about themselves if they believed that their bodies were being checked out. Men had no such problem. Nor, for that matter, did women if they thought they were being inspected by another woman.

Saguy’s study is one of the first to provide evidence of the social harms of sexual objectification – the act of treating people as “de-personalised objects of desire instead of as individuals with complex personalities”. It targets women more often than men. It’s apparent in magazine covers showing a woman in a sexually enticing pose, in inappropriate comments about a colleague’s appearance, and in unsolicited looks at body parts. These looks were what Saguy focused on.

And in shirts with exaggeratedly sexy women on them. I’m not talking about Matt Taylor here; he apologized without any “but you’re so touchy” bullshit. But I’m seeing people shouting about “callout culture” and it’s just a shirt and nuance and “tribalism”…most of it from people who aren’t subject to being dismissed in quite that way.

She recruited 207 students, 114 of whom were women, on the pretence of studying how people communicate using expressions, gestures and vocal cues. Each one sat alone in a room with a recorder and video camera. They had two minutes to introduce themselves to a male or female partner, using a list of topics such as “plans for the future” or “four things you like doing the most”. The partner was supposedly sat in the next room and either watching the speaker from the neck up, watching from the neck down, or just listening on audio. The camera was tilted or blocked accordingly.

The summary? Men talked the full two minutes no matter what; women talked the full two minutes to a woman or a man who could only hear them, but not to a man who could see them, especially one who could see them only from the neck down.

As Saguy explains, “When a woman believes that a man is focusing on her body, she narrows her presence… by spending less time talking.” There are a few possible reasons for this. Saguy suspects that objectification prompts women to align their behaviour with what’s expected of them – silent things devoid of other interesting traits. Treat someone like an object, and they’ll behave like one. Alternatively, worries about their appearance might simply distract them from the task at hand.

I would think a more salient explanation would be the possibility (or likelihood?) that the man wasn’t paying attention to what she said. There are cues to pick up when you’re boring people, and if you do pick them up you probably stop talking…Unless, of course, you’re one of those hugely important people who just can’t be boring no matter what, and so never worry about other people’s level of interest in what they’re saying.

Anyway. Yes – in for instance science, when you’re on the job it’s really not relevant whether or not your body is pleasing or arousing to other people; that’s not what you’re there for. If there are messages that tell you otherwise, that can be offputting. There’s not much “nuance” to that thought, but so what? There’s not much nuance to tits and ass, either.

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

How jealous Aristotle would be

Nov 14th, 2014 4:05 pm | By

More cheerfully – the lander also tweeted a graphic confirmation that it drilled into the comet.

Embedded image permalink

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

Baby don’t go

Nov 14th, 2014 4:01 pm | By

Philae is losing energy fast. It sent us a graphic of its declining voltage.

Embedded image permalink

Make it hop! Make it hop out of the shadow!

No Philae don’t goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

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

Pants in flames

Nov 14th, 2014 12:03 pm | By

News not news: Brendan O’Neill “argues” dishonestly.

Case in point: he has a stupid rant about how the Grand Old Feminism of Yesteryear has reversed course and gone all wrong. You know what it is without looking – feminism used to be brave and tuff and liberatory, and now it’s all about being viccctimzzzzzzzz. The first few paragraphs could have come from Christina Hoff Sommers or Richard Dawkins or TIME magazine. Then he gets into particulars, and that’s where the dishonesty comes in.

From aspiring to freedom to conspiring with the authorities to harry and censor alleged deviants — how did feminism’s star fall so hard? For a glimpse into feminism’s stunning shift, look at what feminists in the West have been hitting the headlines for during the past fortnight.

Here in Australia, a mob of intolerant feminists chased the silly pick-up artist Julien Blanc out of the country and got Immigration Minister Scott Morrison to revoke his visa. Morrison said Blanc, who advises sad men on how to cosy up to the opposite sex, said things that were “derogatory to women” and had “values (that are) abhorred in this country”.

Right there. How to “cozy up to” women. That’s dishonest. Choking women is not cozying up to them. Teaching men how to cozy up to women sounds sweet and affectionate, while what Blanc “teaches” is hostile and dangerous. Blanc advocates criminal violence, not “cozying up.”

Now you, like me, may think Blanc is a tosser, but think about the dangerous precedent being set here: the state has been empowered to say what kind of values it’s acceptable to hold in Australia.

Again – that’s dishonest. It’s not a matter of “values”; it’s a matter of criminal assault. If O’Neill wants to argue that states shouldn’t deny visas to foreign visitors who are visiting in order to teach men how to assault women, then he should argue that, not something very different.

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

Use coercion and threats, use intimidation

Nov 14th, 2014 11:42 am | By

Excellent – so Brazil is another place that won’t be giving Julien Blanc a visa. John Morales left a link to this ABC (Australia) article yesterday.

Brazil has said it will deny a visa application from an American “pick-up artist” who was forced out of Australia last week after a social media campaign against his methods of teaching men to seduce women.

No, not seduce – assault and (if successful) rape. Seduce means persuade. You don’t “seduce” people by grabbing them and shoving their heads onto your crotch.

In a statement, Brazil’s foreign affairs ministry said there were “enough elements” about Julien Blanc’s background to deny him a visa.

Blanc teaches men to seduce women using techniques that include choking and intimidation.

Again – that’s not “seduce” – it’s more forceful than seduction is. That should say “Blanc teaches men to force women into sex using techniques that include choking and intimidation.” Choking ≠ seduction.

The 25-year-old, from US-based group Real Social Dynamics (RSD), was forced to leave Australia after his visa was cancelled in the wake of protests against his workshops in Brisbane and Melbourne.

If he had really just been teaching men “to seduce women” I don’t think his visa would have been cancelled. I can’t know that for sure, but it seems like a reasonable guess.

According to RSD’s website, bootcamp workshops in Brazil are scheduled in Rio de Janeiro and Florianopolis in January, at a cost of $2,500 per participant.

$2,500 to listen to a very unprepossessing young man give advice on how to assault women. That’s quite a scam.

“It’s very positive that the Brazilian government is reacting to this and saying this guy is not welcome here,” said Leila Reboucas, from feminist organisation CFEMEA.

“We can’t just accept it and call it freedom of expression, because it’s not.”

In videos of his workshops on YouTube, Mr Blanc advocates using physical aggression and emotional abuse to convince women to have sex.

One of his pick-up techniques to “open” a woman is to approach the target and choke her before covering her mouth to keep her quiet.

Mr Blanc shared a pie-chart designed to educate victims of domestic violence about the behaviours of abusers, promoting it as a cheat-sheet of his techniques.

The chart, published on his Facebook profile, shows “power and control” in the centre, and slices describing how to “use coercion and threats, use intimidation, use emotional abuse, use isolation, deny, blame and minimise, use children, use economic abuse, use male privilege”.

And it that doesn’t work, there’s always the shooting rampage. Elliot Rodger was reportedly a fan of Blanc’s.

H/t Eneraldo


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

Philae may go to sleep in a few hours

Nov 14th, 2014 10:56 am | By

The Rosetta scientists are going to try to make it hop out of the shadow, but it sounds like a long shot.

Scientists controlling the Philae lander on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko are preparing to make a last ditch attempt to “hop” the robotic probe into a sunnier spot on the comet’s surface.

If they fail, the lander will go into hibernation. Without sufficient sunlight on its solar panels, its mission will be over.

The lander’s legs have a built-in spring action that can be commanded to fire. These commands will be uploaded tonight during an expected communications window that opens at around 21:00 GMT. There is no guarantee of success.

Yeah no kidding. Where’s the complaint desk we could go to if there were a guarantee?

The odds don’t seem good. It’s lying on its side with one leg up in the air, in the shadow of a boulder or cliff. They’ve tried things to make it move and they haven’t worked.

But. It’s still done most of what was hoped for.

Philae’s primary mission was always designed to last around 60 hours. Engineers then covered the spacecraft in solar panels in the hope that sunlight could recharge a set of secondary batteries and extend the mission for months.

Despite the awkward landing, Stephan Ulamec, Philae lander manager, DLR, estimates that 80% of the science Esa was hoping for has been achieved. If the current drilling operation works and Philae delivers samples to one of its onboard instruments, that will rise to 90%.

That’s pretty good when you consider it’s 4 km in diameter and millions of km away. Dropping the Rover on Mars looks like a walk to the grocery store in comparison.

If the attempts at moving the lander do not work, then tonight’s communications window will almost certainly be the last one in which the scientists can talk to the lander. But all might not be lost forever.

The comet is currently out beyond the orbit of Mars, heading for its closest approach to the sun in August 2015. This will bring it as close to the sun as Earth’s orbit. There the sunlight will be brighter and may just allow Philae to re-boot and power up.

Good luck, Philae.


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

TIME flops

Nov 14th, 2014 10:37 am | By

Surprising no one anywhere (maybe that can be  one of TIME’s “words” to be banned next year), TIME’s offering of “feminism” as a candidate for its annual “what word should be banned” poll provided inspiration for the kind of people who hate feminism. How could TIME possibly have foreseen that??! Other than by thinking about it for a quarter of a second, that is.

Yes, why does everyone have to talk about feminism? Why can’t we all just be feminists quietly? At home? Only very late at night when everybody’s sleeping? Or like in our teeny tiniest voices? Or in a soundproof hyperbaric chamber, maybe, where it won’t, like, bother anybody?

Ok, maybe that’s not quite fair, but making a case for banning a word that refers to a mass social movement alongside the nonsense phrase “om nom nom” is pretty stupid. So stupid we suspected it’s the work of 4Chan’s /b/ board, and we were correct. Over at /b/, the Internet’s home for barely potty-trained trolls, everyone’s being encouraged to vote for “feminist,” with one user declaring, brightly, “Let’s trigger some bitches.”

And that’s exactly why there’s no need for feminism any more and the word should be banned.



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

European Space Agency hangout

Nov 14th, 2014 8:58 am | By

For your enjoyment and enlightenment: a hangout with a bunch of people involved in the Rosetta project. They are there to give updates on what’s happening.

One of the people is Matt Taylor, he of The Shirt. Starting at 15:20 (which is the first time he talks) he apologizes for wearing The Shirt. Good; thanks, ESA. Then he collects himself, and gets a pat on the shoulder from the guy next to him, and then he talks about the project.

Good. Done. Now we can talk about the project and leave The Shirt behind!


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

Women are characterized as crazed and vindictive

Nov 13th, 2014 5:52 pm | By

A very interesting commentary on Jian Ghomeshi from a couple of weeks ago.

…graphic videos were presented to CBC executives — by Ghomeshi! — as a pre-emptive gambit, to save his job, an attempt to convince the stunned suits assembled that the women were willing participants and, look, bruising could occur even when the activity was consensual.

The women who’ve spoken out insist they never consented to this treatment.

Within a legal framework, consent is crucial. In practice, however, it turns into a judicial ledge from which an accused can jump into the “she-was-willing” safety net below. The standard of proof is simply too high, as victims have learned to their traumatizing dismay.

With plain assault, that doesn’t work – people don’t consent to being beaten up (apart from the occasional genuine masochist). People don’t consent to having their noses broken and their teeth knocked out. But people do consent to sex, so saying “she wanted it!” does work in rape cases. This is why lack of prosecution or conviction doesn’t necessarily mean lack of guilt. This is why sometimes warnings are all anyone has. “Watch your back with that guy; keep an eye on your drink; don’t let him get you alone.”

In the midst of the Ghomeshi whirlwind, Chief Bill Blair said no investigation had been launched because no complainants had gone to police. Now they have. As of this writing, no charges had been laid against Ghomeshi.

Blair encouraged any woman who has endured a sexual assault to come forward. Crowns who prosecute sexual assault endlessly make the same plea.

Many women won’t go there. Their wariness is understandable.

Every historical fallacy, every outrageous stereotype, every cultural misconception is heaped upon the complainant. Sexual assault victims are de facto disbelieved. Women are characterized as crazed and vindictive.

Does that sound familiar? Very, very familiar? It does to me.

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

Very small and very far away

Nov 13th, 2014 1:54 pm | By

Reading up on the Rosetta mission.


What makes the Rosetta mission so special?
Rosetta will be undertaking several ‘firsts’ in space exploration.

It will be the first mission to orbit and land on a comet. That makes Rosetta one of the most complex and ambitious missions ever undertaken. Scientists had to plan in advance, in the greatest possible detail, a ten year trip through the Solar System. Approaching, orbiting, and landing on a comet require delicate and spectacular manoeuvres. The comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, is a relatively small object, about 4 kilometres in diameter, moving at a speed as great as 135,000 kilometres per hour.

And doing that very very very far away.

How did Rosetta reach comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and how long did it take?
Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko loops around the Sun between the orbits of Jupiter and Earth, that is, between about 800 million and 186 million kilometres from the Sun. But rendezvousing with the comet required travelling a cumulative distance of over 6.4 billion kilometres. As no launcher was capable of directly injecting Rosetta into such an orbit, gravity assists were needed from four planetary flybys – one of Mars (2007) and three of Earth (2005, 2007 and 2009) – a long circuitous trip that took ten years to complete.


But – it may not last as long as they’d hoped. It’s in a shadow so its battery isn’t going to last long because it can’t be recharged by the sun. So the scientists are working fast to grab what they can.

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

Despite a request from the prosecution

Nov 13th, 2014 1:31 pm | By

A bit of sadism from the Italian Supreme Court. A couple in their 50s tried three times to adopt a child and failed, so they paid a woman in the Ukraine to have a baby for them.

Italy’s supreme court has ruled that a baby born to a surrogate mother in Ukraine cannot be kept by the Italian couple who paid for it and must be put up for adoption.

Under Italian law, the person who gives birth to a baby is legally its mother, and the use of surrogate mothers is outlawed.

I have my doubts about surrogacy, and maybe some about people in their 50s adopting, but yanking an existing baby away seems like a crap thing to do.

The mother in Ukraine refused to put her name on the birth certificate.

When the couple returned to Italy and tried to register the boy at the registry office, they were charged with fraud, La Stampa daily said, without providing details on how the would-be parents were found out.

Despite a request from the prosecution to leave the child in the Italian couple’s care, the court decided that the “child of no-one” – whose mother cannot be traced – must be put up for adoption.

Just pointless sadism.

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

Guest post: Dumping them out is a fine solution

Nov 13th, 2014 12:41 pm | By

Originally a comment by themadtapper on Dissent of the day.

I don’t believe in an identity politics that seeks to remove structural oppression by forcing others to say things they may not want to say, or do things they may not want to do, or by ostracizing people for whatever-ism they are found guilty of.

Isn’t “ostracizing people for whatever-isms” precisely the remedy libertarians suggest in place of “forcing people to do things they may not want to do”? Don’t require restaurants to serve black people, just boycott them and let them know you won’t deal with racists! Don’t require Christians to serve gays, just boycott them and let them know you won’t deal with homophobes! Free market will work it’s invisible-hand magic and all the bigots will be gone!
What does he suggest in place of both force and ostracism? Does he think calm rational dialogue is going to make sexist jerks realize they shouldn’t harass women on the street or grope them on the subway? Does he think a friendly intervention is going to make frat boys realize they shouldn’t try to liquor up women so they can have their way with them? Does he think a polite tweet is going to make gamergaters realize they shouldn’t threaten to rape and murder women they disagree with? He says he doesn’t scorn feminism, but also seems to not want feminists to do anything that would actually change the status quo. Standard “conservative libertarian” indeed; only supporting equal rights as long as it doesn’t rock the boat. Fuck that noise. The boat is full of assholes. Dumping them out is a fine solution.

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

It’s all about the provocations

Nov 13th, 2014 12:31 pm | By

Via Lou Doench and Craig Stiles, a piece about Andrew Sullivan that the excellent Eric Alterman wrote for The Nation in January 2013. I think I once knew some of this and buried it, but a lot of it I didn’t know.

The fact that few individuals can be shown to have demonstrated worse judgment over the course of the past two decades, and risen higher as a result, is yet another example of the changes that Sullivan-style “journalism” has helped to bring about.

He first made a splash as the young conservative editor of The New Republic, where he championed a lot of terrible people.

It’s no easy matter to determine which of these charlatans did the most damage to the magazine’s reputation. (Indeed, it’s a measure of just how abysmally TNR’s editorial filter functioned under Sullivan that Camille Paglia calling the then–first lady “Hillary the man-woman and bitch goddess” doesn’t even make the top five.)

Jeezis god. That makes me want to put Paglia and Sullivan in a cell with Christina Hoff Sommers and Rush Limbaugh, and let them duke it out for eternity.

As a freelance journalist, Sullivan made waves by outing public figures without their consent and making medically unsustainable claims for the drug treatments he was taking (in The New York Times Magazine, no less). His recklessness reached a kind of weird apogee after 9/11, when his own personal panic led him to describe the tens of millions of Americans who voted for Al Gore as “the decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts,” who “may well mount a fifth column.” He specifically named yours truly as an alleged fifth columnist and suggested that others read my work “and you’ll see that I’m not exaggerating.” Alas, Sullivan did not take his own advice, as I supported the US attack on Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and never said or wrote differently. (Sullivan also used the occasion to slander the late Susan Sontag in the same sentence, insanely inventing what he called a “constant attraction” to the “acolytes of Bin Laden”—and, later, Katha Pollitt, whose position on Afghanistan he compared to someone who leaves a rape victim lying in the gutter due to her short skirt.)

And he’s not good at combining his changes of mind with admission that he got things wrong in the past. I know from experience that the one entails the other. I’ve changed my mind about various things, and that means I have come to think I was wrong about them in the past. That’s how that works.

Sullivan has moved steadily leftward over time but argues, like the French ex-Stalinist Pierre Courtade, that he was right to be wrong. As recently as 2007, when The New Republic lamented its role in publishing McCaughey’s dishonest attack on the Clinton healthcare plan, Sullivan bragged: “I was aware of the piece’s flaws but nonetheless was comfortable running it as a provocation.” And he still calls his support of Murray’s racist, eugenicist-based arguments “one of my proudest moments in journalism.”

So Sullivan takes publishing a dishonest piece as “a provocation.” Interesting.

Were Sullivan a great reporter with some screwy opinions, one could conceivably embrace the one and ignore the other. But speedy snap judgments are really all he’s selling. Yet if one reads the breathless coverage of his decision to launch an independent blog—to say nothing of the promotional copy from the publications that have hired him over the past two decades—one will find precious little discussion of the accuracy of the information in which he traffics. In this sense, Sullivan resembles his fellow British performance artist and celebrity scribe, Christopher Hitchens. Though a far more stylish writer than Sullivan, Hitchens, too, repudiated the balance of his life’s work without ever admitting having done so, much less explaining how he had come to be one of the people he’d spent a career eviscerating. Both of these charming British imports put their talent in the service of a journalism of “provocation,” as Sullivan terms it, untethered to traditional conceptions of evidence or even honesty.

Well, possibly, but Hitchens did do a lot more in the way of substantive or useful journalism than Sullivan ever has.

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

Dudes in shirts

Nov 13th, 2014 10:38 am | By

Discussion of Matt Taylor continues, for instance via Alice Bell in the Guardian:

It’s not just what he wore either, his language stunk of a casual sexism too. Watch the video in the Mail’s version of this “British scientist taking Twitter by storm” story, and you can hear Taylor refer to the Rosetta mission as “the sexiest mission there’s ever been. She’s sexy, but I never said she was easy.”

I captioned a Facebook post about this yesterday “with dialogue by Chuck Lorre” but I didn’t realize quite how accurate that was. “Easy” – good god, he sounds like Julien Blanc.

ESA can land their robot on a comet. A comet! It’s amazing. But they still can’t see misogyny under their noses. It’s painfully ridiculous. Pointing this out is not a distraction to the science. It’s part of it. It’s time science finally realised that.

I suppose Andrew Sullivan would say “but science doesn’t want to realize that, much less to act on it, so it’s bad to try to get them to realize it and act on it.”

One absurd counter-argument I’ve been seeing is that this is just “puritanism” and hatred of sex. Please. A shirt plastered with mostly-naked hotty women isn’t “sex”; it’s women-as-sex-toys for straight men. A shirt like that is “sex” only if you assume that the only point of view is that of the straight man, or perhaps even more narrowly the straight man who finds imaginary cartoon hotties arousing. That is not the only point of view, so that kind of shirt is not a metonymy for sex.

No, on the contrary, what that shirt amounts to is a tacit claim that the only point of view that counts is that of the kind of straight man who sees women as either hawt and a target, or a nuisance.

If the shirt stands for just “sex” in general, why don’t we see gay men at space agencies wearing shirts plastered with mostly-naked hotty men? Why don’t we see straight women at space agencies wearing shirts like that? Why don’t we see all parties wearing shirts plastered with pictures of people fucking? Why bother to talk about the probe’s landing on the comet at all, why not just talk about sex instead?

So have a photo instead.

landing location

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

Dissent of the day

Nov 12th, 2014 5:20 pm | By

Our own friend MrFancyPants wrote Andrew Sullivan’s Dissent of the Day for today. There’s glory for you!

I’m also disappointed in the continuing scorn that you heap upon feminism. You don’t seem to understand even the most basic facts about it and the sneering tone that you take is unbecoming and not like you. You seem to lose all ability to understand nuance when you write about it. I’m a “straight white male” and even I realized that, in that video, my demographic “as a group” was not being disparaged. You’re like a walking poster child for the #notallmen hashtag and the enraged, entitled, petulant man-boys who complain on it.

And the strawmen – could you just stop with that? You wrote: “Instead of seeing the web as opening up vast vistas for all sorts of voices to be heard, they seem to believe … that women are not strong or capable enough of forging their own brands”. Um, what? Show me a feminist who thinks that women are “not strong or capable enough.” Go on, show me one, anyone, anywhere. You cannot, because they don’t exist. It’s the anti-feministswho think that. Just look at the words of Phyllis Schlafly, for example, and the immeasurable damage that she has done.

And then there is this: “They want gender quotas for all media businesses, equal representation for women in, say, video-games, gender parity in employment in journalism and in the stories themselves.” Gender quotas, huh? Well, I looked through WAM’s “About us” page, the “What we do” page, and the “Action center” page, and didn’t see a thing about “gender quotas.” In fact, what they seem to want to do is simply to raise awareness of the disparities – there is no call for legal action to implement and enforce some quota. It’s intellectually dishonest, Andrew, to write things like that when you know them to be untrue.

Sullivan responds:

[L]et me address the assumption that I am pouring scorn on feminism. I’m really, really not. I favor the removal of any formal or legal barriers to women’s success.

Just not any of the other kinds of barriers – the informal barriers, the belittling, the patronizing, the interrupting, the overlooking, the underestimating, the sexually harassing. Those all have to stay, because to get rid of them would be tiresome to the people who don’t want to.

But I’m still a conservative-libertarian. I don’t believe in an identity politics that seeks to remove structural oppression by forcing others to say things they may not want to say, or do things they may not want to do, or by ostracizing people for whatever-ism they are found guilty of.

Wow. That’s quite an admission. He doesn’t believe in seeking to remove structural oppression by forcing others to say things they may not want to say, or do things they may not want to do.


He doesn’t believe in seeking to remove structural oppression by forcing others to say things they may not want to say, or do things they may not want to do?

How about forcing people not to say things they may want to say, or not do things they may want to do? Does he also not believe in that?

So in the workplace, for instance, I guess Sullivan is opposed to policies that forbid employees to harass other employees for being of the wrong gender or race or class? He’s against “forcing” people to talk and act in ways that refrain from treating other people as inferiors and/or subordinates?

Still. He did say he would stop using the epithet “SJW.” He said it voluntarily, I think.

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

What a theory is

Nov 12th, 2014 4:38 pm | By

Have a very cool video that Alom Shaha pointed out to me, without even mentioning that he’s the one wot wrote it. It’s narrated by Jim Al-Khalili. It’s about the difference between “just a theory” (as in a “theory” that Elvis is still alive or a “theory” that the reason your friend believes that is because she has low self-esteem) and a scientific theory.

It’s got brilliant animations.


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