A guest post by Robert Fendt. Please address comments appropriately. 🙂
(Note: this text deals with harassment, sexism, misogyny, racism and transphobia. Readers’ discretion is advised.)
Dear reader: are you male? White? Heterosexual? Cisgender? Healthy? Congratulations: this text is for you. It also means you are among us lucky ones who get to play the game called ‘life’ on the easiest setting there is. Don’t believe it? Read on.
Disclaimer: I’m also a white male cisgender heterosexual person. And for a long time, I would have said about me having it particularly easy in life: don’t be ridiculous. But I do have friends and colleagues who are not male, who are not white, who are not heterosexual, who are not cisgender, some of whom have to deal with disability or illness, and listening to them has changed and reshaped my perspective. It’s time it changed the perspectives of us all.
In the ‘western’ countries, freedom of opinion and speech are fundamental rights, designed to protect minorities from persecution. So how ironic is it that nowadays ‘free speech’ also functions as a smoke screen for the harassment of women and minorities?
Imagine being a woman walking down the street. Now try to guess how common cat calls and whistles are, and how many unsolicited comments about your body and looks you get. Try to guess how common it is that strangers come uncomfortably close or even touch you without your consent. If you guessed “rarely”, then guess again. Being a woman in public means being scrutinised and ogled and commented upon, at the very least. And now do me a favor: honestly try to imagine being in that position. Imagine dealing with stuff like that. For every. Single. Fucking. Day.
Continue reading “(Guest Post) Words of mass destruction: the weaponization of 'free speech'” →
Satire depends heavily on the cultural context in which it was made. Charlie Hebdo is certainly a leftist rag, and certainly satire, and certainly understood as such within France’s cultural context. However, there are some universals about satire that people, time and again, forget.
The first and most important thing to remember is that satire can damage just as much as the original offense, and sometimes more. Charlie Hebdo’s satire was about taking some aspect of the news cycle — some politician or celebrity who held racist and sexist views — and illustrating the logical end result of those views. In a context where a great deal of damage has been done by outright propaganda by outright racists and sexists, where “Evil Banker Jew” and “Monkey-Like Black Person” are well-worn tropes, depicting them as though you’re resurrecting the trope in order to scandalize the person who still holds those views is fraught and potentially more damaging to the person who’s damaged by the original racism.
The second thing to remember about satire is that it is a powerful weapon, to be wielded carefully so as to avoid splash damage. Attacking a class — or being perceived to be attacking a class — that is already under siege by society, is “punching down”. Even if you’re trying to shame the person who’s holding an antisemitic or anti-black or anti-woman view, you could very well legitimize or normalize attacks on that class of person by increasing the number of instances where it’s perceived to be acceptable. Increasing the frequency of a meme does not NECESSARILY legitimize it, but it CAN.
Continue reading “Brief thoughts on Charlie Hebdo and freedom of speech” →
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has instated a ban of Twitter ostensibly over concerns that it hosts pornography, but from all appearances actually in response to repeated leaks of damning recordings of government officials.
However, the way that the ban is implemented is very rudimentary — the government has forced all ISPs in the country to remove twitter.com from their DNS servers.
In response to this ban, activists have been graffitiing Google’s DNS servers:
Picture obtained here, can’t find the original source — if you do, let me know.
It’s not clear how long this workaround will last, but there are other avenues. One could, for instance, switch DNS to OpenNIC, or if changing DNS no longer provides enough of a workaround and these ISPs are forced by the government to shut down all traffic to Twitter’s servers, then you could instead connect to Tor or some other anonymizing VPN or proxy service.
When people complain that they’re being silenced for being blocked or moderated on a blog, I have to laugh — that’s not in any way an abrogation of your freedom of speech. Having all access to the internet cut off by a totalitarian government, on the other hand, is most decidedly one, and is most decidedly something we all must fight.
Here’s an interesting little situation that’s come up recently. Apparently, a gun columnist by the name of Dick Metcalf questioned the wisdom of gun rights advocates demanding there be absolutely no limits to the “Right to Bear Arms” by arguing that a sixteen hour course for a concealed carry permit was reasonable. As a result, he was fired from his column with Guns And Ammo, and now his career of 40 years has evaporated.
Just days after the column appeared, Mr. Metcalf said, his editor called to tell him that two major gun manufacturers had said “in no uncertain terms” that they could no longer do business with InterMedia Outdoors, the company that publishes Guns & Ammo and co-produces his TV show, if he continued to work there. He was let go immediately.
“I’ve been vanished, disappeared,” Mr. Metcalf, 67, said in an interview last month on his gun range here, about 100 miles north of St. Louis, surrounded by snow-blanketed fields and towering grain elevators. “Now you see him. Now you don’t.”
This is almost identical to what happened with that Duck Dynasty jackass being suspended by A&E for saying stupid homophobic bullshit, only that story had a “happy” ending — right-wingers successfully rallied to demand that A&E reinstate Duck Dynasty because HOW DARE THEY TAKE AWAY HIS FREEDOM OF SPEECH by… exercising their own freedom to choose what gets aired on their network. And A&E caved, mistaking the conservative outcry for something actually approaching a morally justifiable standpoint.
I anxiously await the protest by Sarah Palin, Brian Brown, and the whole host of conservative loonies to demand that Metcalf’s column be reinstated. I further await the people running interference on the Duck Dynasty issue as being a matter of freedom of speech to say something, anything, about this guy’s column about guns.
The story I mentioned yesterday has another twist. But first, I need to set a few things straight.
Everything about William Swinimer’s “defiant” wearing of the t-shirt that calls non-Christian lives “wasted” smacks of martyrdom to me. In a very small township like Chester Basin, in a school where most of the population is Christian and of the less than tolerant kind, Swinimer’s exhortations that he’s doing it to stand up to the bullies smacks not only of hyperbole but of outright fabrication. My first instinct when I read this story was not to once again assign blame for the situation on the ridiculous hate speech laws Canada has to suffer (which, yes, this case does have that fatal flaw at its core), but rather to lament that the school board completely mishandled this case and let it spiral out of control, taking action at the least-actionable offense to their, and all of our, detriment. This led to some misunderstandings about my feelings in comments and on Facebook, but they’ve evidently since been cleared up.
There’s a lot more to the story than the National Post discussed, though. For instance, via CBC, apparently William’s father John pulled him out of classes on the same day he was supposed to return from his suspension, wearing the probably rank t-shirt and all, when all students were scheduled to be able to participate in voluntary sessions on how to discuss religion without being disrespectful of others. Evidently William could have opted out, but his father opted him right the hell out of school altogether.
But John Swinimer said he wants Forest Heights Community School in Chester Basin, Lunenburg County, to only teach the basic courses, leaving religion out of it.
“He will not attend this school unless they are having reading, writing and arithmetic — good old-fashioned academics,” he said, waving a New Testament bible. “When they’re having forums, when they’re having other extra-curricular activity, he will not attend that school.”
Continue reading “Jesus t-shirt kid pulled from school by dad til they stop discussing being respectful” →
Update: The below is mostly nullified as the bill was sent back to the House with amendments, but died anyway. Thank goodness. Of course, all the other non-trolling-related nonsense mentioned below still stands!
Well, if you happen to troll someone in Arizona, anyway.
Arizona House Bill 2549 passed both legislative houses last Thursday and is now awaiting approval from Arizona’s governor Brewer. The statute states that,
“It is unlawful for any person, with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend, to use a ANY ELECTRONIC OR DIGITAL DEVICE and use any obscene, lewd or profane language or suggest any lewd or lascivious act, or threaten to inflict physical harm to the person or property of any person.”
If the electronic devices and means are employed to stalk a victim, the penalty bumps up to a class 3 felony.”
Continue reading “Trolling to be illegal worldwide (Updated: bill dead!)” →
Obligatory trigger warning because HOLY FUCK.
There is, suddenly, a lot of to-do about TJ Kincaid, also known as The Amazing Atheist, a provincial and prejudiced man who believes himself to be superior to others by virtue of having figured out the question of God (e.g., “there isn’t one”). A lot of people who have otherwise ignored his rants are tuning in now that he’s flamed out so spectacularly over at Reddit, you know, like you do. And most of the criticism is, as it turns out, about the fact that he appears to be suffering from a bigotry version of the Dunning Kruger effect. I think this is close to the mark, but does not go quite far enough.
Russell Glasser of The Atheist Experience passed around the Freethought Blogs back channel a preview of his most recent post, where the events over at Reddit are covered in excruciating detail. Among other things, he said the following to a rape victim (below the fold):
Continue reading “The man who could not see his own reflection, but thinks he looks Amazing nonetheless” →
Freethought Blogs was founded by our Glorious Leader Ed Brayton on the principle that many great voices in the community (meaning, at the time, himself and PZ Myers) were being actively squelched in some fields of interest and needed a place where they could blog about atheism, skepticism, humanism, politics, et cetera, without being curtailed on one or any of these topics by their blog overlords. It has since expanded to include more, and better, writers than I, but I am privileged to also call this blog my home, and the compatriots and friends I have made here mean the world to me. Not to mention the total autonomy I have in what I get to talk about and how I get to do it — there is, basically, no hive mind, no dogmatic demand of adherence to any principles in specific. We disagree with one another quite frequently, in fact, but we are comrades where and when it counts. All in all, Freethought Blogs is generally a damn good place to be.
And then some assholes come along and demand the right to piss on your rug. All in the name of “freethought”.
Continue reading “Freethought, and freedom to express yourself on someone else’s private property” →