Resolutions for a Better World

Here we are, three days into the new year. Still looking for a good resolution or two? I don’t do mine on the holiday for a number of reasons, but the following are all things I’ve worked to do myself.

  • Consider not saying anything. What do you want your words to do for the people you’re communicating to? If whatever you were about to say is there to show off your knowledge or experience, talk about how good a human being you are, or change the subject to something you like better, maybe don’t. If they require someone else to be ignorant in order to be useful, maybe don’t. And if they’re violating someone’s boundaries, yeah, just don’t.
  • Take care of the caretakers. We can fall into social roles without meaning to. Some people become the designated adult in their interactions, the mom friend (whatever their actual gender). Turn that relationship on its head sometimes. Ask them how they’re doing or what they need.
  • Credit creators. Like Sarah Andersen‘s work? Share it from her website or social media accounts. Same for other artists. Don’t share tweets or quotes with the creators’ names cropped off. Google the phrase you liked best and reshare if you have to. Quote people instead of restating their points. Tell the world which analysts and academics inform your worldviews. Link to them.
  • Don’t harsh the squee. (Thanks to Lynne M. Thomas for the phrasing.) Challenge media that harms people, but give up the idea that your aesthetic preferences are a guide to a better world. Art is complex, and the smallest part of the whole may be exactly the thing that gives a patron life. Pleasures shouldn’t have to be guilty because they’re not universal.
  • Think about what you want. Before you point out yet again that Trump admitted to sexual assault and still sits in the Oval Office, figure out what you’re looking for. Do you want to feel less alone with that knowledge? Then it would be nice to offer some sympathy yourself as you share. Do you think there’s something your social media followers can effectively do about that? Consider sharing your secret with them. Are you just “raising awareness”? Ask yourself whether you know anyone who isn’t already painfully aware.
  • Sweat the small stuff sometimes. The world’s political problems are…huge. They’re beyond me right now. If you’re reading this, you probably don’t have the magic button that will fix things either. You do probably have a few messes that are in your power to clean up, though, be they personal or very, very literal. They’re not unimportant. Your role as the person who can take care of them isn’t unimportant. The improvements they’ll make to your life aren’t unimportant. When the big picture is too big, go ahead and think small.
  • Contemplate your own conservatism. It’s easy to think our most extreme conservatives have a lock on the stuff. The truth is, though, that we all have our ruts. We have our received wisdom that may be older than it is sound. We have our resistance to change. We have our shortages of imagination. That isn’t wrong. It’s human. But knowing where we are conservative can help keep us from making asses of ourselves insisting our unexamined intuitions are progressive truth.

Feel free to steal any of my resolutions. Suggest your own to make the world a better place.

Resolutions for a Better World
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Mock the Movie: Lowest Common Denominator Edition

You know how, if you were raised on fantasy but not Tolkien and you come to read it as an adult, it’s a collection of all the oldest, most tired, embarrassingly racist and sexist tropes you could imagine? Yeah, well, Tolkien was at least literally a product of his times. He built something strong enough that people have spent most of the last century making it better.

Bright doesn’t have that excuse. Urban fantasy has been its own genre for 30 years. It’s been dealing with racism as a theme all that time, reacting to Tolkien and others in dialogue with him the entire time, learning (sometimes) from its own mistakes. This movie came out in 2017, with the shiny, fresh take of “Wait. No, no, get this. What if there were racism—actual racism, because it oppresses a real race? Huh? Huh?!”

At least it leaves a full field of mistakes to made and mocked?

This one is available on Netflix. Continue reading “Mock the Movie: Lowest Common Denominator Edition”

Mock the Movie: Lowest Common Denominator Edition

Mock the Movie: Holiday Hijinks Edition

There’s nothing like Christmas with the family to bring you peace, clarity, and a firm resolution to stop ripping everyone off. Or at least that’s what the makers of Christmas Caper would like us to believe. The real problem in Shannen Doherty’s (fictional) life is that she hasn’t spent enough time being forced to take care of kids, because those little buggers will reform anyone.

This one is available on YouTube. Continue reading “Mock the Movie: Holiday Hijinks Edition”

Mock the Movie: Holiday Hijinks Edition

On Advantages and the “Unfairness” Thereof

I woke up to a bunch of “But Clinton had an unfair advantage in the primaries because of the decisions she was able to make.” The thing is, though, I don’t care. Not one tiny little bit.

I care that Donna Brazile characterized all this so very badly. I care that she was left hanging by her publisher and Politico. Both should have done substantial fact-checking on a claim this contentious, and neither seems to have done any. Politico in particular had published accounts of the joint fundraising agreements in 2015 that at least needed to be addressed and which were the starting point of unraveling Brazile’s account of hidden skullduggery.

I care that the DNC was left in such a sorry state. I’m disturbed that I haven’t seen any outlet reporting that they reached out to Obama and Biden for comment on that. Bankrupting the DNC is not just not a small thing in itself, but it created the opportunity for an ethical quagmire that, from reports, it took the party and the candidates months to work through.

I care that fundraising is such a central part of our campaigns. I hate that two-year-long campaigns require professionalization of staff (even as I know we can’t do the short campaigns of a parliamentary system). I hate the constant message inherent in fundraising appeals that you have to have money to spare to support candidates. I hate what the need to not scare off money does to our political speech.

But I don’t remotely care that Sanders may have screwed himself by opting out of fixing the party he wanted to have back him. Continue reading “On Advantages and the “Unfairness” Thereof”

On Advantages and the “Unfairness” Thereof

Mock the Movie: Too Many Legs Edition

Yes, technically this Wednesday is November. Halloween will be over. But who are we to let the holiday go in a timely fashion when we could haul out a terrible, timely movie instead? So this month, mock William Shatner with us in Kingdom of the Spiders. Tarantulas won’t actually hurt you, but the overacting might be deadly.

This one is available on YouTube. Continue reading “Mock the Movie: Too Many Legs Edition”

Mock the Movie: Too Many Legs Edition

On All the Podcasts

I’ve been a bad guest. A bunch of great podcasters have had me on their shows recently, and I’ve been just boosting their social media posts instead of linking them here. So if you want to hear me talk about various topics, here’s where you can do that.

Bi Any Means with Trav Mamone, “‘Divisiveness’ in the Atheist Movement

Today we’re going to talk about a recent blog post she wrote about “divisiveness” in the atheist movement.

The post was written in response to Dogma Debate host David Smalley’s recent talk at this year’s Gateway to Reason conference (the link to which I’ll put in the show notes). As I tell Stephanie in the interview, at first I thought he did a good job talking about how not to let different opinions divide the movement. But as Stephanie explained, when people in the atheist movement talk about divisiveness, they’re not talking about the “Everyone I don’t like is Hitler” meme.

Serious Inquiries Only with Thomas Smith, “Stephanie Zvan on Anti-Harassment Policies and More

Stephanie was on the ground floor in terms of trying to get anti-harassment policies into the codes of conduct for skeptic and atheist conferences. We talk about the history of that, and then we discuss whether the atheist movement is worth saving or if we ought to abandon it altogether and start something new.

I recall going on at least one rant about the conceptual penis “hoax” as well.

The Inciting Incident with Marissa Alexa McCool, “Outrage Brigade

This week, Rissy is joined by activist Stephanie Zvan in studio to discuss the Outrage Brigade, among other things, and Bethany and Rissy reflect on what’s transpired since the interview was recorded afterward.

We touched on a lot of issues in this one: Mythinformation Con, who gets to have their concerns heard, the problems of celebrity in movements that are supposed to be about truth.

Brainstorm Podcast with Cory Johnston, “Sexual Harassment in the Atheist Community

There’s something troubling going on in the atheist and skeptic community, and apparently it’s been happening for awhile. People are getting away with sexual harassment and sometimes assault because they have standing in the community and people want to hear them speak at their conferences and have them as guests on their shows. I talk with Stephanie Zvan about this, how long it’s been going on, and what we can do about it.

This is very different than my interview with Thomas. There’s a lot less history and a lot more practical details, including evaluating allegations as a skeptic. I turned an awful lot of these questions on their heads and was perhaps not at my most diplomatic. Cory handled it all with very good grace.

On All the Podcasts

Retconning Mythinformation Con

After last weekend’s debacle at Mythicist Milwaukee’s conference, which included the audience cheering on harassment of a rape victim and victim’s advocate, Mythinformation Con speaker Melissa Chen has decided she knows what really happened. It was impressive enough that I had to share. My comments are included.

Now that #MythCon is over, I see the entire tempest in a teapot that resulted in a very different light. This was more than just an attempt by a radical faction of atheist activists who are fully aligned with the political machinations of ANTIFA to deplatform speakers they didn’t want to hear.

This was presumably Chen’s original position on those objecting to having a professional harasser there. I’m half giggling over “We show up where those we believe to be fascist are engaging in organized action and disrupt or protect those who do” being rendered as “political machinations” and half wondering when the self-appointed hyperbole police are going to show up. Chen posted this several days ago. Dan Arel identifies as antifa (no capital letters required), but to the best of my knowledge, Steve Shives and Kristi Winters have mostly refuted anti-antifa nonsense. If that makes people politically dangerous in Chen’s mind, there are an awful lot of us she’s eyeing as enemies.

Also, this has never been about not wanting to hear people. Winters spearheaded the effort to get Mythicist Milwaukee to remove Sargon as a speaker. She’s listened to more nonsense from Sargon than anyone but his most undying fans. She documented his behavior. She debated him. If Chen ever believed this was about anyone objecting to hearing him personally, she might want to spend more time checking her assumptions about people with differing politics.

It was more than just a campaign to be a thorn in the side of organizers (Mythicist Milwaukee) by driving up security costs with audacious claims to local police and media with no basis in truth.

You can tell me the fans of Gamergater shitlords aren’t dangerous when their targets stop being doxxed and swatted. When their targets’ events stop being cancelled because of shooting threats. When their “ironazi” flags stop showing up at rallies where people die. Then I’ll listen.

Until then, you’re just telling me you’re either not paying attention or not being honest.

This was ultimately about keeping atheism activism within the bounds of “Atheism Plus.”

2012 YouTube called. It wants its authoritarian bogeyman back. Continue reading “Retconning Mythinformation Con”

Retconning Mythinformation Con

Mock the Movie: Hacksploitation Edition

No, not hackers. If only. Larceny isn’t even that. It’s a bad Dolph Lundgren film. No, not a bad film that has Dolph Lundgren in it. I mean a film on the bottom end of the Dolph Lundgren oeuvre. Yeah, that bad. We’re watching it anyway.

This one is available on Netflix. Continue reading “Mock the Movie: Hacksploitation Edition”

Mock the Movie: Hacksploitation Edition

Mythicist Milwaukee in Their Own Words

Callie Wright of The Gaytheist Manifesto released an extra edition of the podcast this week. In it, she speaks with the organizers of Mythicist Milwaukee’s conference being held this weekend about their decision to invite YouTube anti-feminist (anti-Sarkeesian, Gamergater) “Sargon of Akkad” (Carl Benjamin) to speak at their conference.

It’s not a friendly interview. Callie challenges them on nearly everything they have to say. In response, they say…anything, really. They brought him in as an entertainer. They want to settle the record on him. These are conversations already being had, so why not on their stage. People are bored with atheism. We don’t know what’s in his heart. He’s not really as bad as people say. He does a bunch of dry stuff talking about political philosophy.

This seems to be the most straightforward statement of their position:

He has a huge platform. He’s wildly successful in his own right. Why not Sargon? I understand what you’re saying about Twitter and all these other things, but guess what. There’s been entertainers that troll each other all the time. That’s just the way the world goes.

Also known as, we don’t really care what he did.

Callie did a great job pointing out false equivalencies and attempts to stray from the topic. There are a few things I want to add, though. Continue reading “Mythicist Milwaukee in Their Own Words”

Mythicist Milwaukee in Their Own Words

Let Me Count the Ways

I hate understanding what Peter Boghossian is tweeting about. It doesn’t make him less wrong. It just means I have to write about it, because everyone else is trying to figure out what he thinks he means, and he’s still wrong.

This latest nonsense is no exception. It’s nearly fractally wrong. Let me count the ways.

Screen capture of three Boghossian tweets. Text in the post.
Text: Tweet 1: There are no right angles in nature, yet no one says right angles are *social* constructs because they’re not morally motivated to do so.

Tweet 2: I’ll amend this with the modifier “Platonic” or “perfect”.

Tweet 3: Actually. I rescind this. I think it still holds. No?

He went back later and specified Platonic, in case you think it makes a difference.

Let’s start with the way this is supposed to be wrong. Continue reading “Let Me Count the Ways”

Let Me Count the Ways