Quotulatiousness

February 7, 2016

That awful moment when music passes you by

Filed under: Humour, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Kathy Shaidle recounts the painful moment of transition:

And it was during the 1990s — that is, my 30s — when That Thing I’d heard tell of and had dreaded ever since finally happened to me:

Every new! hit!! song!!! sounded like it was being played at the wrong speed. By an all-chimpanzee band. From inside a padlocked storage container. Kids these days

QotD: How we solved the drug problem

Filed under: Media, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Today during an otherwise terrible lecture on ADHD I realized something important we get sort of backwards.

There’s this stereotype that the Left believes that human characteristics are socially determined, and therefore mutable. And social problems are easy to fix, through things like education and social services and public awareness campaigns and “calling people out”, and so we have a responsiblity to fix them, thus radically improving society and making life better for everyone.

But the Right (by now I guess the far right) believes human characteristics are biologically determined, and biology is fixed. Therefore we shouldn’t bother trying to improve things, and any attempt is just utopianism or “immanentizing the eschaton” or a shady justification for tyranny and busybodyness.

And I think I reject this whole premise.

See, my terrible lecture on ADHD suggested several reasons for the increasing prevalence of the disease. Of these I remember two: the spiritual desert of modern adolescence, and insufficient iron in the diet. And I remember thinking “Man, I hope it’s the iron one, because that seems a lot easier to fix.”

Society is really hard to change. We figured drug use was “just” a social problem, and it’s obvious how to solve social problems, so we gave kids nice little lessons in school about how you should Just Say No. There were advertisements in sports and video games about how Winners Don’t Do Drugs. And just in case that didn’t work, the cherry on the social engineering sundae was putting all the drug users in jail, where they would have a lot of time to think about what they’d done and be so moved by the prospect of further punishment that they would come clean.

And that is why, even to this day, nobody uses drugs.

Scott Alexander, “Society Is Fixed, Biology Is Mutable”, Slate Star Codex, 2014-09-10.

February 3, 2016

Brace yourself for the predictable bullshit about “trafficked” prostitutes at the Super Bowl

Filed under: Football, Law, Liberty, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

In Reason, J.D. Tuccille explains why the usual media coverage of underage/trafficked/sex slave prostitutes being shipped in to cater to the depraved masses at the Super Bowl are so much hysterical nonsense:

When the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos face off in San Francisco, experts warn us to expect Cam Newton and Peyton Manning to face burial under a tidal wave of human flesh — not the opposing team’s defensive line, as you might expect, but a writhing mass of sex slaves inundating the Super Bowl and the Bay Area.

Or so government officials and moral panic types would have it.

“Super Bowl host cities typically see a jump not just in tourists, but also in some crimes, including human trafficking and prostitution,” San Francisco’s KGO warned earlier this month on Human Trafficking Awareness Day, an annual event held every January 11.

“The good news is that we are continuing our efforts to fight human trafficking,” San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón said the same day. “The bad news is that the problem continues to increase.”

Gascón made his comments at a press conference deliberately tied to the big game, in anticipation of a wave of “trafficked” sex workers descending on the area.

That term – not “prostitution,” but “trafficking” — is a deliberate choice, selected to confuse people accustomed to the plain language established over the long history of the buying and selling of sexual services. The reason why is obvious. While the trade in sex was once frowned upon in itself, that’s no longer necessarily the case. A YouGov poll published this past September found Americans almost evenly divided, with 44 percent favoring legalization of prostitution, and 46 percent opposed. That’s up from 38 percent support for legalization in 2012. Amnesty International is among the organizations seeking to recognize people’s right to, in the organization’s words, “the full decriminalization of all aspects of consensual sex work.”

Opponents of commercial sex find themselves on the wrong side of shifting public opinion, so they pull a little rhetorical sleight of hand to get around that inconvenient word “consensual.” The implication of the “trafficking” terminology is that prostitutes are slaves — and they’re being hustled off to a major sporting event near you.

“Coercion is much rarer than ‘trafficking’ fetishists pretend it is,” insists Reason contributor and former call girl Maggie McNeill. “The term ‘trafficking’ is used to describe many different things along a broad spectrum running from absolutely coercive to absolutely not coercive, yet all of them are shoehorned into a lurid, melodramatic and highly-stereotyped narrative.”

February 1, 2016

QotD: The usefulness of political polling

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Ten months before an election we have conjecture and nothing more. Pierre Trudeau was a political corpse 10 months before the 1980 election. Remember who won? The electorate has to be whipped, beaten and prodded to give a damn about politics even during the writ period. Had the pollster asked if Daffy Duck or Justin Trudeau should be the next Prime Minister, there’s a fair chance the media would be talking about whether a cartoon with a speech impediment can lead Canada. Oh wait.

Richard Anderson, “I Dream of Coalition Governments”, The Gods of the Copybook Headings, 2014-12-19.

January 31, 2016

QotD: “…women are fucking liars about sex”

Filed under: Media, Quotations, Science — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

… homosexuality is probably not inborn. A Swedish twin study with a sample size of 7600 found that genetic factors and shared-environment factors together explained only a third of the variance in sexual orientation, while two-thirds were explained by unshared environment. In short: sexual orientation in humans is less inborn than how hardworking you are. Indeed, Spandrell admits as much, saying that we do not know the cause of gayness. Maybe because it’s not inborn? Just saying.

One must point out that the “born this way” myth was invented by LGBT people to get people to accept us: “we can’t help it! It is mean to hurt people because of something they can’t help! Don’t worry, it’s genetic, accepting us won’t make anyone else gay!” I don’t fully understand what the Cathedral is, but if anything is part of the Cathedral the Human Rights Campaign is, and I feel like that is a fairly depressing amount of belief in the Cathedral’s myths from a self-declared neoreactionary.

Spandrell argues that female paraphiliacs do not exist because they do not usually tell researchers about being paraphiliacs. Unfortunately, he is missing the very large confounding variable, which is that women are fucking liars about sex. As I pointed out in my Anti-Heartiste FAQ, evidence suggests that the entire sexual partner gap between men and women is explicable by women being goddamned liars. There is no reason to believe they wouldn’t also be goddamned liars about their paraphilias.

Spandrell challenged me in his comment section – if female paraphilia is a thing – to find cases of female death by autoerotic asphyxiation. It is true that women are less likely to die by autoerotic asphyxiation. However, women are less likely than men to masturbate, and even when they do they masturbate less often than men do, decreasing the risk of women dying through masturbation. However, this is self-report data and thus falls under the “women are goddamned liars” explanation. Autoerotic asphyxiation deaths are massively undercounted to begin with; it is relatively common for people who die by autoerotic asphyxiation to be mistaken for suicides or “sanitized” by family members who don’t want to admit their child died by masturbation. Given that women lie massively about sex, it is possible that families are more likely to sanitize female autoerotic asphyxiators. Finally, I hate to be the feminist who points this out to the neoreactionary, but men and women are different. This probably extends to sexual fetishes. I admit that none of these are particularly solid arguments. However, I do have reason to believe that women have things that may be considered paraphilias.

Porn.

The rise of the ebook has massively expanded the amount of porn that women read. Like I said, women are fucking liars about sex. They want to read porn, but they don’t want to admit that they want to read porn – and as plausibly deniable as Harlequins are, those Fabio covers make it look a little too much like porn for a lot of readers.

Ozy Frantz, “A Response to Spandrell”, Slate Star Codex, 2014-09-15.

January 30, 2016

QotD: Government funding for the arts

Filed under: Economics, Government, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

People who oppose Soviet-style collective farms, government subsidies to agriculture, or public ownership of grocery stores because they want the provision of food to be a private matter in the marketplace are generally not dismissed as uncivilized or uncaring. Hardly anyone would claim that one who holds such views is opposed to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But people who oppose government funding of the arts are frequently accused of being heartless or uncultured. What follows is an adaptation of a letter I once wrote to a noted arts administrator who accused me of those very things. It articulates the case that art, like food, should rely on private, voluntary provision.
Thanks for sending me your thoughts lamenting cuts in arts funding by state and federal governments. In my mind, however, the fact that the arts are wildly buffeted by political winds is actually a powerful case against government funding. I’ve always believed that art is too important to depend on politics, too critical to be undermined by politicization. Furthermore, expecting government to pay the bill for it is a cop-out, a serious erosion of personal responsibility and respect for private property.

Those “studies” that purport to show X return on Y amount of government investment in the arts are generally a laughingstock among economists. The numbers are often cooked and are almost never put alongside competing uses of public money for comparison. Moreover, a purely dollars-and-cents return — even if accurate — is a small part of the total picture.

The fact is, virtually every interest group with a claim on the treasury argues that spending for its projects produces some magical “multiplier” effect. Routing other people’s money through the government alchemy machine is supposed to somehow magnify national wealth and income, while leaving it in the pockets of those who earned it is somehow a drag. Assuming for a moment that such preposterous claims are correct, wouldn’t it make sense from a purely material perspective to calculate the “average” multiplier and then route all income through the government? Don’t they do something like that in Cuba and North Korea? What happened to the multiplier in those places? It looks to me that somewhere along the way it became a divisor.

Lawrence W. Reed, “#34 – ‘Government Must Subsidize the Arts'”, The Freeman, 2014-12-05.

January 28, 2016

QotD: George Orwell on American fashion magazines of the 1940s

Filed under: History, Media, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Someone has just sent me a copy of an American fashion magazine which shall be nameless. It consists of 325 large quarto pages, of which no less than 15 are given up to articles on world politics, literature, etc. The rest consists entirely of pictures with a little letterpress creeping round their edges: pictures of ball dresses, mink coats, step-ins, panties, brassières, silk stockings, slippers, perfumes, lipsticks, nail polish — and, of course, of the women, unrelievedly beautiful, who wear them or make use of them.

One striking thing when one looks at these pictures is the overbred, exhausted, even decadent style of beauty that now seems to be striven after. Nearly all of these women are immensely elongated. A thin-boned, ancient-Egyptian type of face seems to predominate: narrow hips are general, and slender, non-prehensile hands like those of a lizard are quite universal. Evidently it is a real physical type, for it occurs as much in the photographs as in the drawings. Another striking thing is the prose style of the advertisements, an extraordinary mixture of sheer lushness with clipped and sometimes very expensive technical jargon. Words like suave-mannered, custom-finished, contour-conforming, mitt-back, inner-sole, backdip, midriff, swoosh, swash, curvaceous, slenderize and pet-smooth are flung about with evident full expectation that the reader will understand them at a glance. Here are a few sample sentences taken at random:

“A new Shimmer Sheen color that sets your hands and his head in a whirl.” “Bared and beautifully bosomy.” “Feathery-light Milliken Fleece to keep her kitten-snug!” “Others see you through a veil of sheer beauty, and they wonder why!” “An exclamation point of a dress that depends on fluid fabric for much of its drama.” “The miracle of figure flattery!” “Molds your bosom into proud feminine lines.” “Isn’t it wonderful to know that Corsets wash and wear and whittle you down… even though they weigh only four ounces!” “The distilled witchery of one woman who was forever desirable… forever beloved… Forever Amber.” And so on and so on and so on.

A fairly diligent search through the magazine reveals two discreet allusions to gray hair, but if there is anywhere a direct mention of fatness or middle-age I have not found it. Birth and death are not mentioned either: nor is work, except that a few recipes for breakfast dishes are given. The male sex enters directly or indirectly into perhaps one advertisement in twenty, and photographs of dogs or kittens appear here and there. In only two pictures, out of about three hundred, is a child represented.

On the front cover there is a colored photograph of the usual elegant female, standing on a chair while a gray-haired, spectacled, crushed-looking man in shirtsleeves kneels at her feet, doing something to the edge of her skirt. If one looks closely one finds that actually he is about to take a measurement with a yardstick. But to a casual glance he looks as though he were kissing the hem of the woman’s garment — not a bad symbolical picture of American civilization, or at least of one important side of it.

George Orwell, retitled as “George Orwell Wrote One of the Most Incensed Takedowns of American Fashion Magazines”, The New Republic, 1946-12-02.

January 27, 2016

QotD: Are saxophones sexist?

Filed under: Media, Quotations, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

That men and women may also have much in common — opposable thumbs come to mind — I take for granted. I like to contrast both male and female humans with other sexually-paired primates, though this is another distinction that is becoming controversial. God made them male and female, in my frankly religious understanding, but this does not mean He did not do the same for other species. It instead points to a deeper profundity: Yin and Yang created He them.

Let us not be distracted by pettifog in this matter. Those who oppose, or even propose to persecute “sexists,” themselves frequently maintain a distinction between the sexes, but it is glibly statistical, when not incomprehensible. Consider for instance an argument I heard recently, amounting to a complaint, that the ratio of male to female saxophone players is too high. Why would this be so? “Because we have a male-dominant culture, and saxes are traditionally associated with macho.”

Both statements are lies, the first in a boring, but the second in an interesting way. Adolphe Sax invented the instrument (around 1840) to fill a hole between the feminine woodwind and the masculine brass sections in an orchestra. It was only after the fact that this gender-neutral horn itself selected for male players. And even feminists — who are seldom quite as obtuse as they pretend — can see that a woman playing a sax is making a “statement” in which she is paradoxically accentuating her “female sexuality.” The suggestion that this should be cancelled by sex quotas is thus demonstrably batty.

We could extend this by considering different aspects of masculine identity embodied in the voices of soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones, and then broadening to draw comparisons across the wind range, through the historical development of the heteroglottal reed, but that would make our discussion too lascivious.

As “diversity” is much prized today, let me mention that I am a sexist myself. Or, if I’m not, nobody is. I share the unreconstructed view of my diverse parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and other ancestors, back to Eve and Adam, on the existence of, and distinction between, the two sexes. Only one of them can have babies. Only the other can impregnate. But let me add that this is not the only distinction, and moreover, a large field of distinctions would anyway follow if only from that elephantine biological fact.

David Warren, “Sexes & saxes”, Essays In Idleness, 2014-12-03.

January 26, 2016

QotD: The rise of the superhero movie genre

Filed under: Business, Media, Quotations — Tags: — Nicholas @ 01:00

Why Superheroes? What is it about the Superheroic genre that makes supermovies better than modern mainstream movies?

The answer is threefold.

First, older mainstream movies, such as GONE WITH THE WIND and WIZARD OF OZ did not follow the modernist and postmodernist tastes which have ruined so many recent movies. Those mentally empty and morally corrupt philosophies had not yet reached mainstream popular entertainment in those days.

So the first part of the answer is not that superhero movies grew better than normal, just that mainstream movies grew worse. This happened as nonconformists of the 1960’s and 70’s became the establishment in Hollywood. Their world view, which I here have called dehumanism, when consistently portrayed, lacks sympathy, drama, purpose, point and meaning; and therefore the films that win acclaim by accurately reflecting the dehuman world-view lose the ability to tell a tale in a dramatically satisfying way. Dehumanity and drama are mutually exclusive. More of one means less of another; and it is a rare genius who can reconcile the two.

The modern movies that most obviously defy these corroded modern conventions are deliberately nostalgic homages to serial cliffhangers: STAR WARS and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. These are among the bestselling movies of all time, and they transformed the industry and the audience expectations: summer blockbuster tentpole movies spring from nostalgic roots.

Second, there have always been superhero movies, such as CAPTAIN MARVEL serial cliffhangers. Not until recently has the special effects been able to match what pen and ink portrays. The amount of suspension of disbelief needed to feel a real thrill untainted with cynicism when watching some feat of derring-do portrayed with cheesy special effects is rather high, and only small children have that much imagination to spare. We grown-ups need more realistic special effects before we will believe a man can actually fly. So technical advances, not any change in the manners and morals of the people, allow superheroics to appear on the silver screen in a fashion that they once upon a time could not.

Third, and most importantly, superhero movies, like homages to serial cliffhangers, are fundamentally nostalgic, fundamentally childlike. One of the conventions of nostalgia is that the audience is not allowed to scoff or look cynical at the simplistic purity of the drama. If someone says STAR WARS is simply too blatantly black-and-white, with its orphaned farmboy hero in a white gi, and evil warlock-knight villain in a black cape, black skull mask, black Nazi helmet, and black lung disease wheezing, that someone just does not “get” the film. The purity of the theme is not a bug, it is a feature.

The superhero movie, along with the crowd of science fiction and fantasy movies, was welcomed into the movie theaters only after STAR WARS made such genre films respectable (which it did by tallying up a respectable profit).

Now, mere nostalgia is not the selling point. GONE WITH THE WIND or MEET ME IN SAINT LOUIS or CINDERELLA MAN or SEABISCUIT are all nostalgic movies, historical period pieces taking place in periods still within living memory (at the time they were made) of the older members of the audience. No, the rise of cliffhanger serial movies and superhero movies are a particular type of nostalgia: a longing not for our childhood, but instead for the stories from serials and comics of our childhood.

And this is for the most practical and obvious reason imaginable: stories from the serials and comics of our childhood were more decent, more entertaining, and, in their simplistic way, a better reflection of the Great Tale of salvation and redemption which makes all great stories great.

Childhood tales of heroes and superheroes are not tainted with deconstructive postmodernism. Tales of heroes are about salvation, saving people in the most literal sense of the word.

John C. Wright, “Supermanity and Dehumanity (Complete)”, John C. Wright’s Journal, 2014-12-13.

January 25, 2016

The Davos Men

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the Globe and Mail, Margaret Wente explains why the great and the good at Davos are worried about the lumpenproles back home:

Forget APEC and the G20. Forget the climate-change summit. If you belong to the global elite, the only place that really counts is Davos – the yearly schmoozefest where central bankers and celebrities meet to network and exchange Big Thoughts. Where else can you party with both George Soros and Leonardo DiCaprio? When they invite you to Davos, you know you’ve arrived.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has arrived. This year he shared top billing with Mr. DiCaprio, the activist actor who has been nominated for an Oscar for being mauled by a bear. Everybody wants to get a load of the hottest star in politics. Besides, they need a break from the relentless doom and gloom.

[…]

But Davos Men aren’t like the rest of us. As Chrystia Freeland so memorably wrote in a famous 2011 piece in The Atlantic, they live increasingly in a world apart, “a transglobal community of peers who have more in common with” each other than with the folks back home. They live in gated communities and send their kids to private school. “The real community life of the 21st-century plutocracy occurs on the international conference circuit,” she wrote.

[…]

The gathering at the Swiss ski resort is as close as you can get to a pure meritocracy. All the people at Davos are the smartest people in the room. Like Mr. Trudeau, they are forward-looking and postnational. They believe that nationalist sentiment is a defect of the bitter clingers, who don’t understand that diversity (despite Cologne) is good for them. Unlike the bitter clingers, they are personally untouched by the seismic shifts underfoot. They’re on the winning side of change. Every year their lives get better and better.

But now, the bitter clingers are rising up, pitchforks at the ready. They are rallying behind Donald Trump – Trump! – in a massive rejection of every value a Davos Man holds dear. They’re convinced the elites have failed them. They blame the elites for the disruptions of globalization and technology that have stolen their jobs and their children’s futures.

They will never work at Google. And they’re mad as hell. They’ve lost all trust in the business and political and intellectual and celebrity class, jetting to their conferences 60,000 feet in the air. That includes the folks in Davos – the smartest people in the world, with no idea what to do.

Virtue signaling

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

At Acculturated, Mark Judge outlines one of the more irritating ways that the “great and the good” show how much better they are than us uncultured, boorish masses:

British author James Bartholomew has secured his place in history. Recently, he invented the perfect phrase for our times: “virtue signaling.”

Virtue signaling is the popular modern habit of indicating that one has virtue merely by expressing disgust or favor for certain political ideas, cultural happenings, or even the weather. When a liberal goes on a tirade about how dumb and dangerous Senator and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz is — a tirade devoid of specific examples of Cruz’s mendacity — that person is actually signaling to others that he or she is virtuous. It has very little to do with Cruz’s actually personality or record.

Celebrities who publicly express panic about the environment without knowing much about science are virtue signaling. So are those who seize on current events to publicize their supposedly virtuous feelings, as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg did recently when he wrote on Facebook: “If you’re a Muslim in this community, as the leader of Facebook I want you to know that you are always welcome here and that we will fight to protect your rights and create a peaceful and safe environment for you.” Well, that’s a relief—Facebook won’t be banning Muslims.

[…]

The New Left of the 1960s was more about rage than reason, and they passed their anger down to their Millennial offspring. Often the entire front page of left-leaning websites like Slate and Salon are nothing but virtue signaling, the headlines all variations of: Celebrity/Politician/Activist A Just Destroyed the Homophobic/Sexist/Racist Idiocy of Politician B. Usually the articles are jeremiads without much reporting. If research is going to buzzkill your virtue signaling, well then, to hell with research.

But then, virtue signaling is not about journalism. It’s a way to vent your anger.

January 23, 2016

QotD: The Canadian Broadcorping Castration

Filed under: Cancon, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

There is the CBC that exists in reality, the CBC that no one watches or really cares much about. Then there is the CBC that exists in the mind of its defenders. The CBC that may have at some point existed, albeit briefly, but never quite as anyone remembers it. The Mother Corp’s dwindling band of supporters think of it as they think of Canada; a bundle of vaguely patriotic abstractions carefully divorced from the frigid realities of daily life.

There is little point in reminding the reader that the CBC is a government subsidized anachronism that, so far as it ever made sense, made sense when men still walked around wearing fedoras and chain smoked at office desks. Though in fairness it’s unlikely Don Draper would have ever watched anything quite so lame.

If a thing lacks either beauty or utility the sensible thing is to get rid of it. Yet the Mother Corp survives. The seemingly indestructible zombie of the Canadian media landscape. The CBC continues to exist not because it’s relevant but because it’s too much trouble to kill. The Conservatives are afraid of pulling the plug because they’ll be attacked for silencing their critics, the Liberals are afraid of firing their most loyal supporters and the NDP has an ingrained resistance to cutting things loose, however useless. See Chow, Olivia.

Take the frequently used line by the CBC’s defenders and erstwhile allies: We need the state broadcaster to ensure a national conversation. Thing about conversations is that at least two people are required. Otherwise you’re just talking to yourself in a dimly lit room. There are terms to describe people like that and defender of the Canadian nationalist faith isn’t one of them.

This is more than just beating a dead public policy horse. The CBC’s absurdity is not as fascinating as what it reveals about the Canadian Left’s mindset. As a life-long resident of the Imperial Capital I can attest to the prevalence of the CBC Friend. This Friend will wear CBC buttons, buy CBC apparel and speak passionately about the value the CBC provides to Canadians of all ages, ethnic backgrounds and regional localities. About once a week they’ll muster up their patriotism and spend twenty minutes slogging through whatever’s on Radio One before switching back to classic rock.

The CBC Friend is to the CBC as Sunday Catholics are to Christianity. Piety bleeding into righteous hypocrisy. Which would be fine really. Except that Sunday Catholics don’t dip into my pockets. Messers Baldwin and Lafontaine mostly separately Church and State in Canada. Unfortunately Mackenzie King made a point of not separating Broadcasting and State. The basic conceit remains the same in either case: My Truth is so True and so Right that everyone else must pay for it.

But the Truths that the CBC promotes go far beyond whatever Peter Mansbridge is grumbling about tomorrow night. They are a vision of Canadian society that most Canadians find unrecognizable. It’s been joked for years that the CBC doesn’t tell Canada’s story to Canadians, it tells Canada’s story from Torontonians. This explains the special smugness about the reporting that simply isn’t found elsewhere in the country. Not even in Ottawa.

Richard Anderson, “A Platonic Relationship”, The Gods of the Copybook Headings, 2014-12-10.

January 16, 2016

David Bowie was not the “trans messiah”

Filed under: Britain, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Brendan O’Neill on the attempt to portray David Bowie’s career as something other than music, showbiz, and a set of unevenly brilliant self-marketing abilities:

Poor David Bowie. Barely 72 hours dead and he’s already being misremembered. Turn on the TV and you’ll see cultural talking heads telling the world he was the granddaddy of transgenderism. Open a newspaper and you’ll come across 800-word PhD theses masquerading as op-eds, informing us Bowie paved the way for the “gender fluidity” of the 21st century, the fashion for declaring oneself neither male nor female, but rather non-binary, or genderqueer, and whatever the other post-gender labels are. (It’s easy to lose track. Last year Facebook increased its gender options from 50 to 71, overnight. Presumably some professor suddenly discovered 21 hitherto unknown genders.)

It is a blot on Bowie’s good name to link him with the politics of transgenderism. Just because in the early Seventies he rocked the cultural world by coating himself in makeup and donning dayglo jumpsuits with vertigo-inducing platform shoes, that doesn’t mean he was transgender, far less that he facilitated modern transgenderism. On the contrary, there’s a stark difference between Bowie’s cross-dressing antics and today’s seemingly catching gender dysphoria: Where Bowie and other queens and freaks in the Sixties and Seventies were flipping a beautifully manicured finger at authority, modern transgenderism seeks to become its own form of authority, chastising and censoring those who dare dissent from its theology. The glam crowd broke boundaries; the trans elite enforces new ones.

Bowie’s death had barely been tweeted before people were hailing him the trans messiah. A British newspaper said that 40 years ago Bowie had flown “the flag for the non-binary movement.” Which is patent nonsense, since nobody — certainly not this contrarian lad from Brixton in South London — was using the turgid phrase “non-binary” in the early 1970s.

January 15, 2016

QotD: The temptation to “shade” the truth toward the consensus

Filed under: Environment, Media, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

As I am fond of saying, it works like a stock market bubble. There is no need to posit a conspiracy. David Friedman’s view that this is a matter of a build up of many little lies rather than a few big ones is a more realistic as well as a more charitable picture of the mechanism at work.

I am yet more charitable than Professor Friedman. Though I completely agree with him that there are almost certainly many scientists shading their conclusions, it might well be the case that they are not doing so consciously at all. All it would take is for a lot of people with jobs to keep and mortgages to pay each to see which side their bread is buttered when the time comes round to apply for grants. As the American socialist author Upton Sinclair put it, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” On the unbuttered side of the bread, when a scientist observes that colleagues who raise doubts suffer for it, she would be acting much like the rest of humanity if she, while never aware of feeling fear, somehow finds herself more comfortable out of the intellectual proximity of these pariahs.

In a way the Rosetta scientists had it easy. All they had to do was hit a moving target half a billion kilometres away. Succeed or fail, there is no kidding yourself and no kidding others. Twenty-eight minutes later you and the world will know.

Natalie Solent, “Bubbles, lies, and buttered toast”, Samizdata, 2014-11-13.

January 12, 2016

David Bowie, RIP

Filed under: Britain, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Colby Cosh on the career(s) of David Bowie:

When we look at the enduring core of what we still awkwardly refer to as “rock music,” what we find is bizarre: a group of people born between about 1940 and 1948, mostly on one island. This cluster of neighbours took black American folk music and electric instruments and used them to hammer out a musical language whose vocabulary and power eventually rivalled that of the old Western orchestral tradition.

Somehow the seeds of war fell on England and sowed giants. It can’t just have been the bombs, even if Bowie did use the V-2 as a metaphor on the Heroes LP. (Has any single person, in retrospect, done so much to make Germany cool? They need to give Bowie a monument the size of the Hermannsdenkmal.)

[…]

The awful news of Bowie’s demise on Sunday reveals that he was not quite the same kind of star as notional equals like Ray Davies, Pete Townshend or even Mick Jagger. He was a songwriter of the first rank, an omnivore and a multi-instrumentalist whose taste in collaborators is a legend unto itself — yet his involvement in music seems almost circumstantial. It was the thing one happened to do, born where and when he was.

He gave so many excellent cinema and television performances that one suspects pop stardom’s gain might have been acting’s loss. What might Bowie have achieved if circumstances had steered him into the Royal Shakespeare Company instead of blues clubs? Is there an alternate reality in which people are reminiscing about Sir David Jones’s Richard III and regretting that he never got around to Lear?

One is tempted to add that Bowie could have been a great fashion designer or conceptual artist — but, then, he was both those things, when he wasn’t, ho-hum, dashing off “Life on Mars” or “Sound and Vision.” He was not of the fashion world as such, but slip out on any night, in any city of size from Tokyo to Toronto, and you’ll see homages to Bowie. Any ambitious, expensive pop concert still follows the Bowie idiom. His imprint on world culture is rivalled by few other pop stars, and perhaps none has its breadth. One is tempted to invoke Elvis or Dylan.

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