Mock the Movie: White Savior Special Edition

It’s been a rough couple of months around these parts: oral surgery, unusual drug side effects, Trump administration. We’ve missed a couple of scheduled mockings. We’re more than due for pain of the artistic sort.

So we’re doing a special event for April. Starting tomorrow and going Wednesday and Sunday evenings until we’re either done or crying for mercy, we’re watching Iron Fist.

No, I don’t know how you put together a superhero trailer with zero dramatic tension despite an entire season of material either, but we’re going to find out. Feel free to join us. Definitely pity us. Here’s the viewing schedule:

  • Wednesday, April 5, 9 p.m. EDT: “Snow Gives Way” and “Shadow Hawk Takes Flight”
  • Sunday, April 9, 9 p.m. EDT: “Rolling Thunder Cannon Punch” and “Eight Diagram Dragon Palm”
  • Wednesday, April 12, 9 p.m. EDT: “Under Leaf Pluck Lotus” and “Immortal Emerges from Cave”
  • Sunday, April 16, 9 p.m. EDT: “Felling Tree with Roots” and “The Blessing of Many Fractures”
  • Wednesday, April 19, 9 p.m. EDT: “The Mistress of All Agonies” and “Black Tiger Steals Heart”
  • Sunday, April 23, 8 p.m. EDT (note different starting time): “Lead Horse Back to Stable”, “Bar the Big Boss”, and “Dragon Plays with Fire”

Mock one. Mock all. Mock the episodes that made you wish Marvel would do the Fantastic Four as a television series instead. We’ll be here for all of them.

Continue reading “Mock the Movie: White Savior Special Edition”

Mock the Movie: White Savior Special Edition
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About Your April Fools Joke

So you want to make an April Fools joke. Yeah, me too. I love lying. I love surrealism and building other realities and changing people’s minds.

Photo of a line of plastic clowns with identical wide-open mouths.
“The Laughing Clowns” by Bernard Spragg, CC0 1.0

There are reasons I don’t do that every day, though. Once, a long time ago, I made a friend sincerely doubt that it was raining as we were out walking in it. She punched me. I deserved it. I was treating her like an experiment—Can I do this?—rather than the friend she was.

This is why a lot of people hate April Fools Day. As it turns out, most of us hate being treated as experiments, as means to someone else’s end. (If you’re not one of these people, let me know. There are a few things I’d like to know that I haven’t been able to get past an IRB. No, there’s no consent form. No, I’m not going to tell you what the experiment is. Why should that be a problem?)

It isn’t hard to lie to people: Continue reading “About Your April Fools Joke”

About Your April Fools Joke

The Myth of the Pay Gap Myth

This post is brought to you courtesy of Patreon. If you want to support more work like this, you can sign up here.

In his 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama had this to say about the U.S. gender pay gap.

You know, today, women make up about half our workforce, but they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment.

Women deserve equal pay for equal work.

You know, she deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship. And you know what, a father does too. It is time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode. This year let’s all come together, Congress, the White House, businesses from Wall Street to Main Street, to give every woman the opportunity she deserves, because I believe when women succeed, America succeeds.

Now, women hold a majority of lower-wage jobs, but they’re not the only ones stifled by stagnant wages.

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, and this year marked a slight shift in the celebrations. While humanity hasn’t completely abandoned “When is International Men’s Day?” Day, this year included significant celebrations of Pay Gap Sea-Lioning Day.

Photo of one pan of a balancing scale covered with coins against a backdrop of more coins.
“Money” by Dun.can, CC BY 2.0

A day dedicated to women’s equality wouldn’t be complete without discussing the pay gap, and, as usual, this brings the apologists out of the woodwork. We don’t need to do anything about the pay gap, they imply, because it isn’t discrimination. There is no shortage of men on social media ready to tell you that “leading feminists” say Obama’s 77-cent figure specifically is a lie.

Which feminists? In particular, self-proclaimed “equity feminist” Christina Hoff Sommers has dubbed the gap a “myth”, a claim that, being short, is perfect for the Twitter debate club and drive-by commenters to haul out whenever people address pay disparity.

Even the head of a skeptics organization has claimed in the past that the pay gap isn’t real.

Even private-sector sex discrimination is more relic than reality. The so-called pay gap, the “73 cents for every dollar a man makes,” one hears recited like a mantra by feminists and politicians, doesn’t exist. When true cohorts are compared — men and women with equal education, seniority, duties and hours — the pay gap shrinks to a couple of pennies.

But does this “pay gap myth”, which Sommers continues to recycle in widely read publications, hold up under scrutiny? Is it true that the reason women are paid less is because they choose to go into different fields and work different hours than men do? And if choice does play a significant role, should we stop talking about the pay gap? Continue reading “The Myth of the Pay Gap Myth”

The Myth of the Pay Gap Myth

The Power—and Danger—of Story in Activism

It didn’t take long after Trump’s initial attempt at putting his promised Muslim ban in place by executive order for the stories to come rolling in.

There were people who disembarked from their planes, only to find they were no longer welcome in what was to be their new country. There were families, some with children, trapped and neglected in the limbo that is an airport on the wrong side of Customs and Immigration. There were heroic young attorneys sitting on hard floors, clustered around the outlets usually monopolized by business travelers.

There were Iraqi military translators who had risked their lives for our soldiers, sent back to a less-than-united country where their service was viewed by some as treason. There were students whose studies and research came to an abrupt halt when they couldn’t re-enter the country. There were doctors stretched thin across rural populations who faced the choice of never seeing their families again or abandoning their already underserved patients.

There were workers coerced into signing away the documents that make them “legal” immigrants instead of the faceless horrors of our national imagination. There were children awaiting live-saving medical coverage. There were athletes turned away trying to compete. There was a photogenic prime minister next door, always ready for slivers of positive coverage.

There were tears and patience and hunger and dashed hopes and confusion and righteous protests against blatantly unnecessary cruelties. There were stories. There were so many stories. Continue reading “The Power—and Danger—of Story in Activism”

The Power—and Danger—of Story in Activism

Because Ignoring It Worked So Well

Yesterday, an article was published in The Observer1 to let us all in on the exciting secret that Milo Yiannopolous likes attention. He even actively seeks it out.

Someone like Milo or Mike Cernovich doesn’t care that you hate them—they like it. It’s proof to their followers that they are doing something subversive and meaningful. It gives their followers something to talk about. It imbues the whole movement with a sense of urgency and action—it creates purpose and meaning.

You’re worried about “normalizing” their behavior when in fact, that’s the one thing they don’t want to happen. The key tactic of alternative or provocative figures is to leverage the size and platform of their “not-audience” (i.e. their haters in the mainstream) to attract attention and build an actual audience. Let’s say 9 out of 10 people who hear something Milo says will find it repulsive and juvenile. Because of that response rate, it’s going to be hard for someone like Milo to market himself through traditional channels. His potential audience is too spread out, and doesn’t have that much in common. He can’t advertise, he can’t find them one by one. It’s just not going to scale.

You’re shocked I know. Me too. I never would have guessed this before I saw people sharing it on Facebook in yet one more attempt to find an acceptable way to say, “Don’t feed the trolls.” I thought he was shy and retiring.

All right. That’s 100% obvious bullshit. Yiannopolous didn’t invent shock jockery. It’s not at all a new concept. We all know that protests draw attention to the thing or person being protested. We do it anyway, and for very good reason. Continue reading “Because Ignoring It Worked So Well”

Because Ignoring It Worked So Well

Nazis, No Platforming, and the Failure of Free Speech

This post is brought to you courtesy of Patreon. If you want to support more work like this, and see it earlier, you can sign up here.

In the past couple of months, I’ve seen many, many people complain about protesters blocking entrance to talks on campus by professional instigator Milo Yiannopolous. “No, no”, people say. “Go in and listen and challenge him. Free speech is important. The best counter to bad speech is more speech. Ugh, these protesters are so violent and immature.”

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen many, many people say that willingness to punch neo-Nazi Richard Spencer or to appreciate the fact that someone else punched him makes someone equivalent to a Nazi morally. “Noooo”, they say. “If you resort to violence, you have no standing to object to their violent suggestions. You say it’s okay to hit people whose opinions you disagree with. Plus it won’t stop them.”

Photo of an olive green megaphone against an olive green background. Interior of megaphone is bright red.
“Megaphon” by floeschie, CC BY 2.0

To everyone who’s found themselves saying one version or another of those: Y’all have no idea what you’re talking about. You’re making stuff up to support your predetermined stance on freedom of speech.

I mean that part about making stuff up literally. No one I’ve heard say anything like this about Yiannopolous has been to one of his productions. I have.

To start with, Yiannopolous makes nearly no arguments in his presentations. He does make assertions, but rather than backing them up with anything, his schtick is to talk about how outrageous he is for saying these things and giggle that it makes people mad at him. No one will be educated on the reasoning of the Right by engaging with him.

What they’ll find instead is demagoguery and Yiannopolous encouraging the audience to suppress dissent. Continue reading “Nazis, No Platforming, and the Failure of Free Speech”

Nazis, No Platforming, and the Failure of Free Speech

Getting SLAPPed, Please Help

In September, on my birthday, I was served with an absurd lawsuit trying to shut me up. I’m fighting it, but I need help. I can’t explain the situation any better than we already did:

Dr. Richard Carrier is suing us for reporting  on his well-known allegations of misconduct. These allegations were widely reported on throughout the community, including by third-parties critical and sympathetic to him who are not themselves defendants.

This lawsuit has all the hallmarks of a SLAPP suit — a lawsuit filed to stifle legitimate criticism and commentary. The named defendants are Skepticon, The Orbit, and Freethought Blogs – as well as individuals Lauren Lane, the lead organizer of Skepticon; Stephanie Zvan, a blogger for The Orbit; PZ Myers, a blogger for Freethought Blogs; and Amy Frank-Skiba, who publicly posted her first-hand allegations against Carrier.

We need your help to keep our voices alive. All the defendants are represented by the same attorney, First Amendment lawyer Marc Randazza. Randazza is providing his services at a significant discount, but we are not asking him to work for free. Plus, there are thousands of dollars in “costs” for the case that don’t include legal bills, and there is no way to discount those. In order to continue fighting this lawsuit, we, the defendants of this case, have put together this campaign to raise money to defray our costs, some of which is outstanding. Donations will be used only for this case. In the event that the funds raised exceed our legal bills, they will be donated to Planned Parenthood .

We are pooling our defense costs with Skepticon, however as a 501(c)3 non-profit Skepticon is also conducting its own fundraiser where donations may be tax-deductible (ask your tax advisor). Skepticon cannot use donations it receives to help pay the shares of other individuals or organizations, though, and any excess funds raised via their campaign will go to the Skepticon conference fund.

We are confident that the court will uphold our First Amendment rights. But, through time, stress, and of course financial expense, every case like this has a chilling effect. Your support enables us to fight, and creates a warmer environment – not just for us but for others in the future.

Thank you for your support of freedom of speech, and may your new year be powerful and effective!

If you can, please donate here to help keep suits like these from being an effective silencing tool. If you can’t donate, please share. Thank you.

Getting SLAPPed, Please Help

Saturday Storytime: Goddess, Worm

Sometimes you choke on a single line in a story. Just one, that’s all it takes to bring it home and make it take up residence. I won’t tell you which line it was in this story from Cassandra Khaw, but it was there.

“Goddess.”

Flinch. Eyes dilate. Her look is not the frightened regard of a hare, but a broken–backed glare of a thing defeated but undiminished.

“Don’t call me that.” When she speaks, she can taste silk, like strands of damp hair but more viscous still, a choking flavor, semen–salty, spuming from her lungs.

“Goddess—” Flinch again. “—we are sorry. It’s just we—”

“Leave.” Snapped, the word, and jagged with teeth. Her retainers—a spirit of ink and courtly poetry, a guzheng turned maiden—comply, bowing, bowing again, before they exit with a hiss of silk. She shivers. She loathes the sound.

Cotton is the only material she can tolerate on her bare flesh, cotton and nothing else. Not even wool, which reminds her too much of—she rips herself from the memory, begins to pace the dimensions of her room.

In the last few weeks, Heaven has lost its understanding of her and gained instead a kind of pity, not selfless as it should be, but rooted in accusation. Poor child, they say. Broken child. Ruined child. Stupid, ungrateful child. How hard others have fought to earn this status, giving away breath and bone and blood, all for a sliver of place in these courts of undying jade. And yet, she would slough it away, like a snake that had tired of its skin, and take him with her too.

A sigh escapes, coils into a growl.

Him. Always him. As though she was extraneous, a cancer grown on the face of a god.

They can all go to hell, she thinks, savage. She does not care. But there is one thing she does miss, does long for: her name. Only the shape of it remains now, winnowed to nothing by the passing millenias, a ghost of syllables. Occasionally, she wonders if she might compromise, might beg to be returned the appellation that Heaven had endowed in that fugue when she was merely function, neither woman nor worm nor horse.

Her lips, blood–red, curl into a sneer. No, she thinks. Never again. Even if they make her remain nameless forever, rootless, like the spectre she’s become.

Double doors open. Light cuts through the room’s penumbra, spills white–gold across her simple dress, its pattern borrowed from peasantry. She tips her chin up, unbowed. They will not have her pain.

The figure silhouetted in heaven’s radiance is new, cadaverous, unmistakably male, arms bent in the manner of a mantis. “It is time, Goddess.”

Flinch. Snarl. She provides no rebuke, chooses instead to spin a fantasy where she devours him, a piece at a time, mandibles cracking bone. She thinks of brain matter, of how it must taste, jewelled softness glimmering pink in the bowl of his skull.

A deep breath. Drawn, held, surrendered.

“I am ready.”

Keep reading.

Saturday Storytime: Goddess, Worm

Mock the Movie: Zombie Nazis Edition

Don’t worry. That could never happen. The Nazis are dead and gone. Dead Snow is just a fantasy movie we chose because it uncomfortably straddles the line between homage and cliche. No other reason. None at all. Whyever would you think this is topical. Or cathartic?

This one is on Netflix. Continue reading “Mock the Movie: Zombie Nazis Edition”

Mock the Movie: Zombie Nazis Edition

The Upside of Abuse

Martin Hughes has responded to my prior post on anti-theism. He notes that he decided not to respond point by point, but I definitely consider it responsive nonetheless. It’s a personal and vulnerable post, and I think it’s a valuable contribution to any discussion of the experiences of prior believers.

Martin’s post also clarifies that part of our disagreement is in how we conceive and construct our identities around religion. Where mine are many and determined by my actions, his is singular and determined by his primary priorities. While he’s rejecting “anti-theist” as his singular label, he’s not rejecting all anti-theist work. I still have serious concerns about the way vocal and public rejections of that label feed narratives that reject anti-theist work as anti-social, but I think Alex Gabriel’s piece from yesterday can speak to those for now.

Instead, I’m going to answer the personal with the personal. I don’t know that this is even arguing with Martin’s post, though my perspective is definitely not his and is counter to it in some ways. But who knows, maybe people dealing with situations like his will get something out of it.

It’s not a secret that I come from an abusive home. From the time I learned to say, “No”, there was nothing I could do right and very few places I could go to get away from the consequences of that. Eventually abuse became abandonment, and there’s nowhere to go to get away from that.

It’s also not a secret that one of the places Gamergate and “alt-right” harassment tactics were honed was in the broader secular movement or that I was one of the targets of those. Implicit and explicit threats, demeaning sexual commentary, smear campaigns, coordinated monitoring and attacks at a dedicated site, denial or tacit acceptance of the harassment from people and institutions who benefited from their critics being silenced, big names directing harassers and refusing to take responsibility–all of that was there. It still is.

People ask me how I do it sometimes, how I handle the harassment. I usually shrug or say I don’t know. I do know. I handle it because I was abused. Continue reading “The Upside of Abuse”

The Upside of Abuse