Quotulatiousness

February 6, 2018

Katie Roiphe on the new whisper network

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

She’s already taken a lot of heat from other women over this essay:

For years, women confined their complaints about sexual harassment to whisper networks for fear of reprisal from men. This is an ugly truth about our recent past that we are just now beginning to grapple with. But amid this welcome reckoning, it seems that many women still fear varieties of retribution (Twitter rage, damage to their reputations, professional repercussions, and vitriol from friends) for speaking out — this time, from other women. They are, in other words, inadvertently creating a new whisper network. Can this possibly be a good thing?

Most of the new whisperers feel as I do, exhilarated by the moment, by the long-overdue possibility of holding corrupt and bullying men such as Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, and Matt Lauer to account for their actions. They strongly share some of its broader goals: making it possible for women to work unbothered and unharassed even outside the bubble of Hollywood and the media, breaking down the structures that have historically protected powerful men. Yet they are also slightly uneasy at the weird energy behind this movement, a weird energy it is sometimes hard to pin down.

Here are some things these professional women said to me on the condition that their names be withheld:

    I think “believe all women” is silly. Women are unreliable narrators also. I understand how hard it is to come forward, but I just don’t buy it. It’s a sentimental view of women … I think there is more regretted consent than anyone is willing to say out loud.

    If someone had sent me the Media Men list ten years ago, when I was twenty-five, I would have called a harmlessly enamored guy a stalker and a sloppy drunken encounter sexual assault. I’d hate myself now for wrecking two lives.

    One thing people don’t say is that power is an aphrodisiac … To pretend otherwise is dishonest.

    What seems truly dangerous to me is the complete disregard the movement shows for a sacred principle of the American criminal justice system: the presumption of innocence. I come from Mexico, whose judicial system relied, until 2016, on the presumption of guilt, which translated into people spending decades, sometimes lifetimes, in jail before even seeing a judge.

    I have never felt sexually harassed. I said this to someone the other day, and she said, “I am sure you are wrong.”

    Al Franken asked for an investigation and he should have been allowed to have it; the facts are still ambiguous, the sources were sketchy.

    Why didn’t I get hit on? What’s wrong with me? #WhyNotMeToo

    I think #MeToo is a potentially valuable tool that is degraded when women appropriate it to encompass things like “creepy DMs” or “weird lunch ‘dates.’” And I do not think touching a woman’s back justifies a front page in the New York Times and the total annihilation of someone’s career.

I have a long history with this feeling of not being able to speak. In the early Nineties, death threats were phoned into Shakespeare and Company, an Upper West Side bookstore where I was scheduled to give a reading from my book The Morning After. That night, in front of a jittery crowd and a sprinkling of police, I read a passage comparing the language in the date-rape pamphlets given out on college campuses to Victorian guides to conduct for young ladies. When I read at universities, students who considered themselves feminists shouted me down. It was an early lesson in the chilling effect of feminist orthodoxy.

But social media has enabled a more elaborate intolerance of feminist dissenters, as I just personally experienced. Twitter, especially, has energized the angry extremes of feminism in the same way it has energized Trump and his supporters: the loudest, angriest, most simplifying voices are elevated and rendered normal or mainstream.

February 5, 2018

QotD: The Age of Hypocrisy

Filed under: Europe, Germany, History, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Hitler (one cannot mention him without the subliterates mouthing, “Reductio ad Hitlerum!” — not realizing that they are quoting Leo Strauss) was the great enabler. He gave cover to all lesser evils, including the greater of the lesser ones; and thereby retired all the prattling politicians from the Age of Hypocrisy, which he closed. Now all the baddies seemed good, by comparison, and everyone needed a baddie of his own, or they would get one assigned from Berlin.

The Age of Hypocrisy re-opened, of course, with Hitler’s death, when political discourse again softened. (Hypocrisy is the padding on the madhouse walls.) But for a twelve-year run in Germany, and shorter periods wherever their shadow fell, Hitler’s Nazis erased hypocrisy.

This is what Karl Kraus meant, when he said that the Nazis had left him speechless. For decades he had exposed the lies and deceitful posturing not only of politicians in the German-speaking world, but among their immense supporting cast of journalists and fashion-seeking intellectuals. He was the greater-than-Orwell who strode to the defence of the German language, when it was wickedly abused. He identified the new “smelly little orthodoxies” as they crawled from under the rocks of Western Civ — the squalid, unexamined premisses that led by increments to the slaughterhouse of Total War. He was not, even slightly, a revolutionist; he had no argument against anyone’s wealth or status, even his own. Rather, through savage satirical humour, with language untranslatably precise, impinging constantly upon the poetic, he undressed the false.

He had seen the First World War coming, in the malice spreading through the language; in the smugness that fogged perception; in the lies that people told each other, to preserve their amour-propre; in the jingo that lurked beneath the genteel. After, he saw worse.

David Warren, “The decline of requirements”, Essays in Idleness, 2016-06-07.

February 3, 2018

QotD: Subsidising the arts

Filed under: Humour, Liberty, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

… the Luvvies justify tax subsidy of The Arts by saying, “We can’t call ourselves a civilized country without opera houses, ballet companies, etc., etc.”. Well, perhaps not. But can we call ourselves a civilized country when we have to be forced to pay for these things against our will? Does that not then make us an uncivilized country pretending to be civilized, aping true civilization, a sort of cargo-culture? It’s not our culture at all, spontaneously emerging through voluntary action, it’s someone else’s, laid on the top of our real civilization like fancy icing on (as they might have it) mud. Isn’t that worse?

Sam Duncan, commenting on David Thompson’s “Elsewhere (100)”, davidthompson.com, 2013-10-09.

February 1, 2018

The Martian Chronicles – A Dying Race – Extra Sci Fi – #11

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Extra Credits
Published on 30 Jan 2018

We’re diving into Ray Bradbury’s short stories about life on Mars — and how that life reacts when it encounters human life, and what *their* reaction says about American society in the Cold War era.

January 29, 2018

A new collection of H.L. Mencken’s “The Free Lance” columns

Filed under: Books, History, Liberty, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

In Reason, Bill Kauffman reviews S.T. Joshi’s new selection from H.L. Mencken’s Baltimore Evening Sun essays:

The longtime Baltimore Evening Sun columnist, American Mercury editor, and rumbustiously splenetic critic, who graced this orb from 1880 to 1956, would not be published in any major newspaper today. The reasons he foresaw over a century ago, when he decried the “cheap bullying and cheaper moralizing” whose purpose was the extirpation, the annihilation, of anything resembling a robust exchange of ideas. Two beliefs puffed up the righteous censor, according to Mencken: first, “that any man who dissents from the prevailing platitudes is a hireling of the devil,” and second, “that he should be silenced and destroyed forthwith. Down with free speech; up with the uplift!”

Plus ça change and all that.

S.T. Joshi, who has chosen his primary scholarly interests — Mencken, H.P. Lovecraft, and Ambrose Bierce — with a fine eye for readability over reputation, has assembled a selection of Mencken’s Evening Sun “Free Lance” columns of 1911–1915 into a book called A Saturnalia of Bunk and contributed an informative introduction to it.

Henry Louis Mencken churned out six of these 1,200-word meringues every week, a vertiginous pace that makes Joyce Carol Oates look like Harper Lee.

Logorrheic bloggers aside, does anyone really have that much to say about the controversies of the day? Mencken once nicked Bierce for reprinting his early work, which was “filled with epigrams against frauds long dead and forgotten, and echoes of old and puerile newspaper controversies.” Is A Saturnalia of Bunk similarly irrelevant?

Happily, no. Although Mencken’s fusillades against, say, blue laws have grown fusty, his rousing conclusions — “the militant moralist tries to steal liberty and self-respect, and the man who has lost both is a man who has lost everything that separates a civilized freeman from a convict in a chain-gang” — have lost none of their punch.

These columns, composed while their author was on the shy side of middle age, afford, says Joshi, “a nearly complete view of Mencken’s political, religious, social, and cultural philosophy as it had evolved up to this point” — and this philosophy would largely remain constant for the rest of his rooted life. (Mencken, a dyed-in-the-wool third-generation Baltimorean, a sardonic citizen of his place, made his home in the house in which he grew up.)

January 20, 2018

Lindsay Shepherd discovered “that not only are critiques of social justice not taught, they aren’t even to be acknowledged”

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

In Quillette, Uri Harris writes about the trainwreck Jordan B. Peterson interview on UK Channel 4 with Cathy Newman, where Newman appeared to be unable to engage with his arguments, as though she was previously unaware of their existence. Harris also briefly touches on the background to the WLU kerfuffle with Lindsay Shepherd which I think explains a lot about how that incident was triggered:

When Lindsay Shepherd was reprimanded last year by three Wilfrid Laurier faculty members for showing her class a video clip from a televised debate on gender pronouns, Shepherd’s professor Nathan Rambukkana wrote an apology drawing attention to his teaching style. He wrote: “[T]here is the question of teaching from a social justice perspective, which my course does attempt to do.”

When I contacted Lindsay Shepherd earlier this month, she told me that she didn’t know Rambukkana taught from an explicitly “social justice” perspective. However, after going through the syllabus, she realised he had talked about it in his Week 2 lecture, and that the reading material that week also mentioned it. Yet even then, she said, she was unaware how loaded the term “social justice” is and how it often aligns with censorship and one-sidedness. Her response when I asked her whether she recognised various social justice terms was:

    My undergraduate degree is in Communication from Simon Fraser University, and the gist of my program was learning about power; mostly power as it manifests in media and media industries. I was very accustomed to talking about feminism, racism, and oppression. Less so the other terms you mention, which I only became more acquainted with in my graduate degree program, and many of them as a result of the Laurier incident — i.e. I was unaware of any substantial critique of intersectionality, gender theory, and critical theory, as we were only taught them from the “social justice perspective.”

Shepherd had lots of exposure to a social justice perspective, but only from within the perspective itself. She was taught social justice beliefs but had never been taught to critique those beliefs. When she came across a professor who did just that—Jordan Peterson—she found it interesting and new, even while disagreeing with him. (She later came to realise he may have been right about the legislation he was criticising.) So she shared a clip of the debate with her students, and only afterwards did she discover that not only are critiques of social justice not taught, they aren’t even to be acknowledged.

The methodology underpinning much of the social justice perspective is known as critical theory. What’s notable about critical theory is that it specifically distinguishes itself from ‘traditional’ theories through its emphasis on criticism. This makes the apparent unwillingness of its adherents to engage with criticism themselves especially noteworthy. When you explicitly emphasise your criticality and base your theory on a commitment to look beneath appearances and see things as they really are, you don’t get to be selectively critical.

January 12, 2018

President Oprah?

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

I didn’t watch the TV or movie awards show that Oprah used to launch her presidential campaign test balloon, but many others did. Those who watched it generally came away very impressed, based on mentions in my various social media feeds. Those who read it later include skeptics like Colby Cosh:

The Oprah for President boomlet didn’t last long, did it? Oprah Winfrey is somebody who has been discussed occasionally as a semi-serious presidential candidate since the early 1990s. The talk-show hostess accumulated so much cultural and financial capital so quickly, once she became a national television figure, that the thought has always been universal: if she really wanted to run, it is hard to see how she could be stopped.

Indeed, if the Americans elected her, she would undoubtedly turn out to have the same sort of presidential “pre-history” that Donald Trump did. People had been making “President Trump” jokes for ages, although we never noticed quite how many of those jokes there were until they all came true and weren’t jokes anymore.

On Sunday night, Oprah give an acceptance speech for a lifetime-achievement award at the Golden Globes, and people found it so stirring that it started a mini-wave of “Oprah 2020” references and remarks on social media. What was most interesting about the speech was not its intensity or its profundity, but the fact that it was, self-evidently, designed as a political candidate’s address.

[…]

If you would like a Hollywood liberal president, or any president other than the one the United States has, criticizing Oprah goes against your immediate partisan interests. (At least it probably does. Is anyone really too sure about the character of her personal core politics?) There is no sense denying it: if she did run, she probably could win. In 2016 we all got a stark lesson in just how much televisual familiarity, a large personal fortune, and control of media attention can accomplish in a presidential election.

And, of course, she has enormous charisma. Even those of us who think her influence on American culture has been baleful must acknowledge there is something magnificent and stately about her, and that she represents the American dream about as well as any individual human could. Financially, Donald Trump can only dream of having her track record — and, probably, her fortune.

It doesn’t mean she should be president. One almost suspects that the Oprah 2020 trial balloon might have enjoyed more success if it had been launched six months ago. Amid the tearful liberal trauma that followed the defeat of Hillary Clinton, the Most Qualified Presidential Candidate Of All Time, the despairing temptation to seek a television president even more familiar than Trump was bound to be more powerful. The passage of time, combined with Ms. Clinton’s obnoxious re-litigation of a strategically dumb campaign, may have helped blue America regain its senses. This is, I think, good news. And not just for the liberals.

January 11, 2018

William Gibson: The Gernsback Continuum – Semiotic Ghosts – #8

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 18:51

Extra Credits
Published on Jan 9, 2018

Ways that we dream about the world sometimes create a shared vision that we start to believe is real. When William Gibson first explored these “semiotic ghosts” of a pristine American future in the Gernsback Continuum, he showed how these visions of modern technology can separate us from our own reality and the personal meaning our world should hold for us.

December 29, 2017

QotD: Post-structuralism

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

Another problem in 1970s academe was a job recession in the humanities that arose just as deconstruction and post-structuralism arrived from Europe. The deconstructionist trend started when J. Hillis Miller moved from Johns Hopkins University to Yale and began bringing Jacques Derrida over from France for regular visits. The Derrida and Lacan fad was followed by the cult of Michel Foucault, who remains a deity in the humanities but whom I regard as a derivative game-player whose theories make no sense whatever about any period preceding the Enlightenment. The first time I witnessed a continental theorist discoursing with professors at a Yale event, I said in exasperation to a fellow student, “They’re like high priests murmuring to each other.” It is absurd that that elitist theoretical style, with its opaque and contorted jargon, was ever considered Leftist, as it still is. Authentic Leftism is populist, with a brutal directness of speech.

Post-structuralism, in asserting that language forms reality, is a reactionary reversal of the authentic revolutionary spirit of the 1960s, when the arts had turned toward a radical liberation of the body and a re-engagement with the sensory realm. By treating language as the definitive force in the world — a foolish thesis that could easily be refuted by the dance, music, or visual arts majors in my classes — post-structuralism set the groundwork for the present campus impasse where offensive language is conflated with material injury and alleged to have a magical power to create reality. Furthermore, post-structuralism treats history as a false narrative and encourages a random, fragmented, impressionistic approach that has given students a fancy technique but little actual knowledge of history itself.

Camille Paglia, “The Modern Campus Has Declared War on Free Speech”, Heat Street, 2016-05-09.

December 10, 2017

13 Non-Pedophile Reasons You Can Hate Roy Moore

Filed under: Humour, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

ReasonTV
Published on 8 Dec 2017

Even if you disregard the nine women accusing Roy Moore of sexual assault, there are plenty of reasons to despise him.
—–
Judicial incompetence, constitutional ignorance, and industrial strength bigotry are just some of the issues with the Alabama judge. In the latest Mostly Weekly Andrew Heaton covers some of the many reasons why Roy Moore sucks:

• He taught a class discouraging women from running for office.
• He’s referred to people as “reds and yellows”.
• He thinks the accusations of pedophilia are pushed by homosexuals and socialists.
• Accepted money from a Neo-nazi group.
• Said gay marriage was worse than slavery.
• Wouldn’t rule out death penalty for gays.
• Wants to rescind free trade agreements.
• He’s anti-immigrant.
• Believes Barack Obama wasn’t born in America.
• Believes 9/11 is God’s punishment for legalizing sodomy and abortion.

Mostly Weekly is hosted by Andrew Heaton, with headwriter Sarah Rose Siskind.

Script by Sarah Rose Siskind with writing assistance from Andrew Heaton and Brian Sack.

Edited by Austin Bragg and Siskind.

Produced by Meredith and Austin Bragg.

Theme Song: Frozen by Surfer Blood.

December 7, 2017

Frankenstein: Radical Alienation – Extra Sci Fi – #6

Filed under: Books, History, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Extra Credits
Published on 5 Dec 2017

What draws us to Frankenstein, and to sci fi as a whole? As the novel wraps up and our time with its characters draws to an end, Mary Shelley lays out the final theme which shaped the identity of science fiction as a genre: radical alienation and the search for a place to belong.

December 3, 2017

Command and microcontrol

Filed under: Britain, Military, Technology, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Ted Campbell relays some thoughts from a recent British criticism of how military operations are now capable — and therefore very frequently are — micromanaged by higher authority:

There is a very useful and, I hope, thought provoking article (written under a nom de plume by a serving British officer) published in the Wavell Room website.* It is entitled “Mission Command; The Fall of the Strategic Corporal; the Rise of the Tactical Minister,” and in it the author laments the fact ~ and it is a fact in Canada, too, I assert ~ that “British Mission Command and performance has regressed, largely as a result of our headquarters incorporating American military information technology as well as replicating American headquarters structures and manning. During recent counterinsurgency operations we have employed increased quantities of manpower, technology and process to try and make sense of the exponentially increasing volumes of information piped into an increasingly static headquarters. These bloated headquarters have bred a culture of over planning and control. The information technology revolution has allowed Ministers and UK based senior officers to directly reach down to the tactical level in distant operational theatres.” As a British general said in a recent speech titled “‘In command and out of control’ [the] creep at the National Level to from Mission Command to Mission Control. Prolonged campaigning in Iraq and Afghanistan has created an expanded bureaucracy with a function of identifying and mitigating risk that has not receded. The advent of ‘lawfare’ and a hysterical media has reduced our Civil Service’s threshold for presentational and reputational risk. This has led to an ever increasing legal and policy oversight and scrutiny of operations. The lack of domestic appetite for wars of choice rather than of national survival has led to a dramatically reduced appetite for risk to life on operations.” I am 99.99% certain that several serving Canadian generals and senior officers (post ship/regiment-battalion and squadron command level) could have and wish they had written the same words.

First, the very term “Mission Command” is rubbish. I know there is a whole body of literature about it, but it’s still rubbish ~ just well very documented rubbish. There is, very simply, command which is supported by control. The notion of “Mission Command” came about in the USA when it became clear that too many US senior officers were unable to exercise effective combat command because they were “nervous nellies” (or overzealous careerist) who would not or could not trust their subordinates to get on with the job. The image of a helicopter belonging to the division commander hovering over a helicopter belonging to the brigade commander hovering over the battalion commander’s helicopter that is hovering over the company of men on the ground comes to mind. Then a few other US military leaders decided that a new “concept” and a few PowerPoint presentations featuring gothic lettering and pictures of German generals would put things right … instead things went from bad to worse, but not just in the US military.

[Click to see full-size image]

Second, command and control (C2) is, actually, a quite simple thing to understand … it is the whole process by which a commander receives and analyzes his (or her) orders, does his (or her ~ always presumed from here on in) reconnaissance, makes his appreciation (estimate) of the situation and his plan and then issues the orders that commit his troops to battle. There it is in under 40 words … that’s not too hard to grasp, is it? But it can be bloody hard to do!

December 2, 2017

Great Movie Fighting Techniques as illustrated by Helen of Troy

Filed under: History, Humour, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Lindybeige
Published on 31 Jan 2014

This video played fine within Sony Vegas Studio, but very oddly in Windows Media Player. On YouTube it seems to be part way between the two. I just wish my videos would look and sound the way I set them in the editing software. No matter – this will have to be good enough. I have delayed uploading it too long already.

This feature film (also broadcast as a mini-series) has I think enough commentable material in it for one more video.

December 1, 2017

“Maybe Trump’s voters aren’t angry enough yet”

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

One of the most disturbing phenomena of modern American political discourse is just how badly Trump’s critics are doing their jobs. It’s almost as though they’re collectively trying to get him another term in office. ESR has a bit of a rant:

I have more and more sympathy these days for the Trump voters who said, in effect, “Burn it all down.” Smash the media. Destroy Hollywood. Drain the DC swamp. We’ve all long suspected these institutions are corrupt. What better proof do we need than their systematic enabling of rape monsters?

As a tribune of the people Trump is deeply flawed. Some of his policy ideas are toxic. His personal style is tacky, ugly, and awful. But increasingly I am wondering if any of that matters. Because if he is good for nothing else, he is good for exposing the corruption, incompetence, and fecklessness of the elites – or, rather in their desperation to take him down before he breaks their rice bowls they expose themselves

Yeah. Is there anyone who thinks all these rocks would be turning over if Hillary the serial rape enabler were in the White House? Nope. With her, or any establishment Republican, it’d be cronyism all they way down, because they’d feel a need to keep the corrupt elites on side. Not Trump – his great virtue, perhaps overriding every flaw, is that he doesn’t give a fuck for elite approval.

Maybe Trump’s voters aren’t angry enough yet. It’s not just a large number of women our elites have raped and victimized, it’s our entire country. Our infrastructure is crumbling, our debt is astronomical, our universities increasingly resemble insane asylums, our largest inner cities are free-fire zones terrorized by a permanent criminal underclass. And what’s the elite response? Oh, look, a squirrel – where the squirrel of the week is carbon emissions, or transgender rights, or railing at “white privilege”, or whatever other form of virtue signaling might serve to hide the fact that, oh, look they put remote-controlled locks on their rape dungeons.

It’s long past time for a cleansing fire.

November 30, 2017

Bitcoin

Filed under: Economics, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Charles Stross explains why he’s not a fan of Bitcoin (and I do agree with him that the hard limit to the total number of Bitcoins sounded like a bad idea to me the first time I ever heard of them):

So: me and bitcoin, you already knew I disliked it, right?

(Let’s discriminate between Blockchain and Bitcoin for a moment. Blockchain: a cryptographically secured distributed database, useful for numerous purposes. Bitcoin: a particularly pernicious cryptocurrency implemented using blockchain.) What makes Bitcoin (hereafter BTC) pernicious in the first instance is the mining process, in combination with the hard upper limit on the number of BTC: it becomes increasingly computationally expensive over time. Per this article, Bitcoin mining is now consuming 30.23 TWh of electricity per year, or rather more electricity than Ireland; it’s outrageously more energy-intensive than the Visa or Mastercard networks, all in the name of delivering a decentralized currency rather than one with individual choke-points. (Here’s a semi-log plot of relative mining difficulty over time.)

Bitcoin relative mining difficulty chart with logarithmic vertical scale. Relative difficulty defined as 1 at 9 January 2009. Higher number means higher difficulty. Horizontal range is from 9 January 2009 to 8 November 2014.
Source: Wikipedia.

Credit card and banking settlement is vulnerable to government pressure, so it’s no surprise that BTC is a libertarian shibboleth. (Per a demographic survey of BTC users compiled by a UCL researcher and no longer on the web, the typical BTC user in 2013 was a 32 year old male libertarian.)

Times change, and so, I think, do the people behind the ongoing BTC commodity bubble. (Which is still inflating because around 30% of BTC remain to be mined, so conditions of artificial scarcity and a commodity bubble coincide). Last night I tweeted an intemperate opinion—that’s about all twitter is good for, plus the odd bon mot and cat jpeg—that we need to ban Bitcoin because it’s fucking our carbon emissions. It’s up to 0.12% of global energy consumption and rising rapidly: the implication is that it has the potential to outstrip more useful and productive computational uses of energy (like, oh, kitten jpegs) and to rival other major power-hogging industries without providing anything we actually need. And boy did I get some interesting random replies!

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