Saturday, December 8, 2018

Ten Signs Your Movement Is Evil

As I hope I've suggested in the past, I happen to think that our society needs right and left, conservatives and liberals/leftists, Republicans and Democrats. Without us conservatives, folks on the left can miss why certain traditions exist in the first place, and why "change" does not always lead to improvement. Without the left, we conservatives can miss opportunities to progress in ways that are actually advantageous for our country and for humanity as a whole.

So why do I spend so much blog space expressing anger at a left whose existence I fully acknowledge is necessary? Because there's a distinction in my mind between left-leaning ideas that are worthy of consideration and ideas that are not. I tweeted recently that I happen to think environmental degradation, corporate abuse, hardening class distinctions, and racial/ethnic disparities are real problems that demand thoughtful solutions, and I still stand by that belief. What I can't abide are the social justice warriors.

Many liberals and leftists seem to be under the impression that the pejorative "SJW" applies to them. "What's so bad about being a social justice warrior?" they ask. "I'm anti-racist, pro-LGBT, and I've never voted Republican. I'm an SJW!" But unless you're comfortable with the methods I'm about to describe below, you're not -- even if your bedroom is plastered with Bernie Sanders memorabilia.

So what makes an SJW? What's the difference, for me, between standard leftists and those I believe are clear and present dangers to me and mine? Quite simply, monstrous leftists do the following:

  1. They deny that truth is objective and universally accessible. They tell me, for example, that I can't discuss race relations in the U.S. because I'm white -- or that I can't discuss the transgender issue because I'm "cis." But what you feel as someone who is non-white or trans may not be based wholly in reality. As it turns out, memory and perception are incredibly fluid and prone to error; that's why everyone - and I mean everyone - needs to seek external validation before acting upon an emotional impression. If you just assume you're right at the get-go, you will do tremendous damage.
  2. They don't respect boundaries. They block traffic, destroy property, harass and intimidate opponents in public spaces (and even at their homes), and/or gleefully humiliate others in pursuit of their aims -- or they simply refuse to condemn such tactics when they're used by others. But none of these things are okay in our current context; indeed, aside from the destruction of property, which can be justified in a declared war, I don't think these are okay in any context.
  3. They're censors. You can discuss why you think certain movies/television shows/songs/scientific studies/etc. are problematic to your heart's content (as long as you're willing to accept push-back). You can even suggest that we modify our speech for the sake of politeness. But the minute you start demanding that songs be removed from the radio, dissident academics be fired, or that our speech and expression be regulated legislatively, you have crossed my line. You don't get to control people that way. I don't trust you - or anyone else - with that power.
  4. They magnify offense -- and then respond with no sense of proportion.  Unintentionally insensitive remarks or actions cannot be socially engineered out of existence. I'm sorry, but people are imperfect and should be given room to screw up -- and if we happen to be put out by such imperfections, we should respond with grace, not rage. I'll give you an example: The hotel we stayed at for our recent Thanksgiving trip had clearly tried to make the room we were given accessible for the disabled. Unfortunately, the toilet was not quite high enough, and the flexible shower-head couldn't be dislodged from its post so we could use it while seated. Now, if either my dad or I were an SJW, we might've screamed that this was proof - proof! - that the hotel in question was "ableist" or some such nonsense, and we probably would've sought to shame them in public. But since we're not SJW's, we calmly informed the front desk that we had a few accessibility problems with the room and just left it at that. We assumed that they meant well - and probably didn't realize that their shower-head was not working, oh by the way - and we acted on that assumption. This is healthy; assuming the opposite - that all mistakes are due to malice that deserves punishment - leads to unhappy people and unhappy societies.
  5. They think they should be able to break normal rules with impunity. They think, for example, that they can park illegally and then scream "racist!" when someone not of their skin color calls them out on it. They think, for example, that they can show up at a place of business after closing time and insist on being served and then, once again, scream "racist!" when the clerks inside refuse. They think, for example, that they should be allowed to repeatedly dine and dash at Chipotle and then get some poor working folks fired for asking, understandably, for payment in advance. I'm sorry for the language, but fuck you. It's not racist to enforce traffic laws or business hours, and it's certainly not racist to expect to be paid for a product. If you think you have a right to flout these fundamentally reasonable protocols, you're an SJW - and a menace.
  6. They play games with definitions to worm their way out of charges of hypocrisy. Bigots with social power do more damage than bigots without that power. But the purpose of the "racism = prejudice + power" equation is not simply to point out this uncontroversial truth; it's to completely absolve certain groups of any wrongdoing. We can see this true purpose in the corollary that always accompanies the aforementioned formulation: that people of color have no power. This is absolutely false on its face. If you can convince large corporations to bend to your will to avoid your ire, you have power. I don't care how many of you are politicians or CEO's.
  7. They purposely misconstrue what people say and assign malign motives where none exist. I'm a teacher. I know there are people out there who struggle with reading comprehension. But I don't think leading SJW's fall into this group given that many of them are fairly adept as writers, therefore exhibiting somewhat-above-average verbal intelligence. No: SJW's understand what we're saying; they simply call us -ist and -phobic because it's easier than actually answering our arguments. They're intellectually lazy, not dumb.
  8. They congratulate or blame people for things they can't control. Nobody chooses to be born white, male, straight, or cis; nobody chooses to be born non-white, female, gay, or trans. These are immutable characteristics that confer neither moral worth nor moral worthlessness. Being human in a general sense entitles you to be treated fairly and with respect for your rights, but beyond that, it's your character and the quality of your work that should earn you prestige. But SJW's want to upend this idea; they think that some groups are entitled to much more than their basic human rights and that other groups should abase themselves to make this happen.
  9. They seek equal outcomes, not equal opportunity. I'm open to the idea that there are process issues with our system that hamper equal opportunity (especially when it comes to our utterly dysfunctional system of education). But SJW's don't care much about process; they just want to give certain people what they have not earned to balance the cosmic scales -- and if that means other people get screwed, well then those "privileged" assholes probably deserved to be taken down a peg.
  10. Overall, they're joyless, vengeful, and nasty people. They spend their every waking minute, it seems, trying to destroy people who offend them. They comb through old social media posts looking for dirt -- and when they can't find what they want, they straight up lie. They insist on hectoring people about their politics at all times and in all places, turning apolitical activities that could bring us all together into additional cultural battlefields. They refuse to let us escape and just enjoy our lives for bloody once because they have convinced themselves, beyond all reason, that they - or their mascots - are in imminent danger of persecution and even genocide and that, consequently, their exquisite concerns should be the center of our focus 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. No: we are not in that place. I'm no big fan of Trump, but he's not Hitler; he's not even in the same galaxy as the Fuhrer, and the more you scream, wild-eyed, that we're all going to die, the more I'm going to tune you out.
If you are left-of-center but do not share the features just described, I don't have a problem with you. We can probably come together and work out our political differences in a civilized and rational manner. If you're left-of-center and do share any or all of the above characteristics, then yes: I'm afraid you are my enemy. Please reevaluate your life choices before you destroy this country.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Don't Just Sit There. Fight Back.

I have been informed through the magic of the intertubes that there was a - situation - at LosCon recently involving accomplished hard science fiction writer and "Killer B" Gregory Benford and an audience member who took issue with the former individual's use of the word "honey" in a wholly sensible remark on the importance of getting the science right. Said word was not intended to address anyone in particular - and in fact arose in a discussion of contemporary greats that highlighted the works of several female authors - but that didn't matter to Ms. Precious Snowflake, who simply had to disrupt the panel and bitch to the concom.

What strikes me the most about the eye-witness accounts of this dust-up is the fear. Normal, well-adjusted fans who were enjoying the discussion - including Benford's contributions - sat there dumbstruck, wanting to tell the ideologically-possessed screecher to shut her damn mouth, yet hesitating in the hopes that someone else would make the first move.

We can't let crazy social justice warriors intimidate us, guys. They don't deserve that kind of power.

If you are a member of the sane silent majority, you need rise up and shut these people down the minute they start making a scene. Be that brave soul who stands up and tells a screaming radical, "Stop. We came to hear the panel, not your nonsense." Or: "Be quiet. You're ruining the panel we were enjoying." Demand that the volunteer in the back reach out to SecOps. Encourage anyone else who decides to speak up for rationality and civility. Start that preference cascade.

I know you folks think you're alone because the aspiring totalitarians are so damned loud, but you're not. If you stand up for yourself and your right to a convention experience free of toxic political grandstanding, I guarantee your fellow fans will back you up.

ETA: Just heard that one woman did try to stop Ms. Agenda from monopolizing the discussion. Good for her. We should all follow her example. The more bold we are, the more we can counteract these destructive ideas and get back to the business of fostering genuine diversity and tolerance.

Please remember that as science fiction fans, we've always been forward-thinking, humanistic, and progressive in a general sense. That's why our fandom is being targeted: because we are nice, accepting of Oddballs, and willing to play with ideas. We don't deserve to be treated like bigoted monsters. Don't let anyone abuse us that way.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Video of Interest: Digilante

This is a worthwhile personal reflection on whether or not our vengeful, forgiveness-free culture actually does any good. And unlike many of the videos I post here, it's not super long, so it shouldn't be too hard to give it a watch.

God Bless and Happy Thanksgiving. I'll be back on Dec. 1. See you then!

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Grumpy Thoughts, 6th Edition (Language Warning!)

  • So apparently, white women are now designated targets of the disgusting left because we don't all vote Democrat. Meanwhile, I'm sitting here wondering why we and we alone are expected to bend the knee to people who deny our agency and declare us "handmaidens of our patriarchal husbands." Come to think of it, I'm also wondering why we're expected to vote for people who insult our husbands, fathers, and brothers, branding them the source of all that's wrong with the world. And further, why should we vote for anyone whose policies, in our opinion, are bad for America just because we don't have whips available to make a public show of our penance? Seriously: Fuck. You. I'm not going to debase myself that way. I didn't do anything wrong. My brother didn't do anything wrong. My dad didn't do anything wrong. As far as I know, none of my ancestors participated in slavery or Jim Crow -- but even if they had, family members living today are not guilty by association. Guilt is not collective, you unbelievable douche-canoes.
  • It's not in any woman's interest to vote for politicians who wish to scuttle border control, meritocracy, free speech, freedom of religion, and/or due process in the name of "social justice." Nor is it in any woman's interest to vote for politicians who insist we must have the right to murder our children on the taxpayer's dime in order to be full participants in the American economy. These are just some of the major convictions that drove my votes in the midterms, and I refuse to apologize for said convictions just because some racists on the internet command it. I don't need to "do better." I need you to take a gander at my two middle fingers. 
  • As a white woman living in a brown neighborhood whose clientele are predominantly brown, I understand that people-of-color face very real challenges that need to be addressed through community action and, in some cases, smart public policy. But when I look around, I feel compelled to ask what the Democrat Party has done to deserve the near 100% loyalty of certain minority populations. The evidence makes it pretty clear: Democrat strongholds are terrible places for people-of-color to live. So frankly, if I'm going to vote with my brown brothers and sisters in mind - and how do you know I don't think about that already, you condescending would-be mind-readers? - I'm still not going to vote the way you want me to. I'm not going to vote for objective failures just because they talk a good game; I'm going to vote to try something different.
  • Everything the leftist zeitgeist preaches is counter-productive. Every damn thing. In shitting all over colorblindness as a social ideal, it is actually intensifying racial hatreds. In seeking to protect kids from the "trauma" of math failure or public speaking, it is making young people more anxious and less "college and career ready," to use the technocrats' buzzwords. In demanding that men take sole responsibility for protecting the virtue of women, it trains women to be helpless or, in some cases, actively cruel. So when I voted, I voted against that zeitgeist. What we need instead is a radical reorientation of our public policy -- one that recognizes and works with the human nature that actually exists

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Spare Me Your Lectures on Civility, Blue Checks

People on the right can be hostile and violent. So can people on the left. But here's the difference as I experience it: When a crazy Trump supporter with a rap sheet sends "bomb-like" packages to high profile Democrats, the mainstream conservative media personalities I follow have no trouble condemning him. When Trump says something stupid and insensitive after Charlottesville, those self-same mainstream conservatives call him out on it -- while also utterly disavowing the fringe racists whose actions led to a woman's death. But I have yet to see any mainsteam leftwing members of the press acknowledge the violence of their own side. Don Lemon and others of his class have never searched their souls on air and questioned whether their friends might share the blame. No, it's all Trump's fault; it's never theirs.

Trump is a symptom, not the disease. If you would talk to Trump supporters for two seconds, you would hear the myriad ways in which right-leaning folks have been harassed, blacklisted, defamed, and otherwise kicked around by leftists -- particularly in fields that have always leaned left, such as academia and the arts. And the frustrating thing? Until Trump, nobody went to bat for these people. Before Trump, the GOP was notoriously inept at defending the right from the charge that it was -ist and infected by -ism. The result? A massive ground-swell of resentment among people tired of being called things they manifestly were not. Take it from someone who, as a right-leaning writer, was watching this unfold in real time.

There were warning signs if you cared to see them. A few Republican primaries ago, Newt Gingrich surged in popularity the moment he attacked the press. I remember that distinctly. I also remember the excitement among conservatives in the early days of blogging. Finally - finally - we had a powerful tool to counter mainstream media bullshit. Indeed, for as long as I've been a conscious, politically-engaged conservative, I have seen hatred of the press on my side -- and in my opinion, that hatred is generally earned. No newsworthy event in which I've been a participant has been covered with even a modicum of accuracy; it's all been poorly researched, dishonest spin.

The upshot? Trump is not some unique boogie man who's broken our discourse by stoking hate. He's playing to what already exists. And yeah, okay, he shouldn't do that. As a president, he should be trying to unite us instead of encouraging the Great Untruth of Us-Versus-Them (thanks, Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff). But to act like Trump is the sole inventor of "incivility" - to act like everything is just peachy except for Trump - is pish-posh. Admit that you have done something wrong, Mr. Lemon, and then we'll talk.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Things That Make Steph Happy: My Hero Academia

Today, I watched the most American thing ever -- and strangely enough, it was made by the Japanese.

Of course, there's a lot more going on here than a tag line that makes bald eagles cry tears of red, white, and blue. This is about a great hero's last hurrah -- a teacher's sacrifice for his pupil. And it reduced me to ugly, snotty sobs.

Welcome, readers, to the magic of My Hero Academia, in which a superficially silly premise - a world in which almost everyone has superpowers thanks to a mega-dose of handwavium - manages to work by being absolutely sincere in its appreciation for the Western comic books that appear to be its inspiration. Marvel and DC may have lost their way in recent years trying to duplicate Alan Moore's Watchmen (or Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer), but Kohei Horikoshi? He still believes in heroes, and if his storytelling is any indication, he wants you to believe in them too.

One of the major complaints raised by #Comicsgate regarding today's Western comics is that they lack genuine human emotion. This is not true of My Hero Academia. Everyone in Horikoshi's story has a relatable motivation, whether it be Midoriya and Bakugo's deep admiration for All Might (which they express in very different ways, obviously), Ochaco's desire to help her struggling parents, or Iida's worship of his pro-hero older brother.

Even more importantly, My Hero Academia has a moral center. The only reason Midoriya, the principal protagonist, has superpowers at all is that he earned them by working hard and demonstrating a capacity for selflessness. (Incidentally, this also happens to be true for the aforementioned All Might.) And his genetically gifted classmates? In a way, they have to earn their power too. After a devastating loss in UA's sports festival, Ochaco realizes she has to seek mentors beyond her comfort zone who will teach her ordinary combat skills she doesn't have. When Iida's brother is permanently crippled by a big bad, he learns a lesson in prudence when his quest for vengeance nearly ends in disaster. And even Bakugo - rage-filled Bakugo - passes his own test when he refuses to be tempted by the League of Villains. The message is clear: to be a hero means setting aside pride and selfishness.

I really can't put into words how refreshing My Hero Academia is -- although Richard Meyer's "clean feeling" definitely captures the basics. If you're tired of an American pop culture that seems to have given itself over to cynicism and rarefied political obsessions, maybe this weeb stuff can be your antidote.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Podcast #9 w/#1 Marmaduke Fan & Disney Princess Nonsense

The return of my podcast went well -- audio issues aside. If you were unable to watch the stream live (I know I was up against some big channels whose audiences are my targets), click play below:

Now, for the rest of this post, I'm going to expand on my brief remarks regarding one of this weekend's controversies du jour: the supposed sexism of Snow White, Cinderella, and The Little Mermaid.

I've always been a little skeptical of the romantic tropes featured in many Disney princess films. I don't think you can know someone is your "true love" the instant you meet them; infatuation can happen in a split second, perhaps, but love requires conversation and a great deal of time in your potential partner's company. And truthfully, if I had girls who were old enough to be interested in boys, I probably would remind them that Disney movies are (often sanitized) re-tellings of classic fairy tales whose deep historical purpose was not to serve as a mere guidebook to dating in the real world. However --

As I mentioned in last night's broadcast, I watched Snow White yesterday for the first time since my childhood, and yes: the fact that the prince is essentially a non-entity in that film does bother me at the superficial level. But does that mean I think Snow White is sexist -- or that it teaches terrible lessons about consent? No.

Granted, Snow White is a very stereotypically "feminine" character. She's frightened of the woods. Her vulnerability and beauty quickly attract a crowd of adorable forest creatures. She enjoys housework and basically mothering the dwarfs. But - mark me, feminists - I don't think there's anything wrong with this. There are plenty of nonfictional women who fit this mold. All of my own mother's talents - sewing, interior decorating, flower arranging, cooking - fall firmly into the "feminine" category, and I will fight anyone who attempts to argue that Mom, therefore, is not strong or worthy of admiration.

I think it's terribly confining and narrow to say that all women must be housewives. I think it's also terribly confining and narrow to say that all women must be butch, independent bad-asses. There is room in the world - and in fiction - for both types.

As I remarked somewhat clumsily last night, the feminist reading of Snow White also fails to see the ways in which the film gently lampoons men. Pre-Snow White, the dwarfs don't know how to keep a tidy house and are, apparently, totally clueless when it comes to table manners. One long sequence in the movie argues pretty explicitly that it takes a woman to remind men to wash and present themselves respectably for dinner. And I know - I know - that every single woman reading this right now is smiling and nodding because we have all seen this exact phenomenon in our own lives. I love you, gentlemen, but it wasn't for no reason that we girls joked about "the four smells of Morgan Hall," the all-male dorm at my first college.

When you get right down to it, Snow White is presented as the civilizing force. That's extraordinarily complimentary to women.

And the prince? The flat character who wakes Snow White from her coma with a kiss?  Twitter has done an okay job mocking the #MeToo hysteria over this moment, which has been replicated by happily married couples on many a morn since time immemorial, but I have yet to see anyone on my TL address the Christian cultural genesis of the original story and what its beats are actually supposed to signify. As I said, Snow White's eating of the poisoned apple is an undeniable allusion to Eden -- which means the prince, who resurrects Snow White after her apparent death, is meant to represent Christ, Who has rescued humanity from the death of original sin and will bring about the general resurrection at the end of time. Bottom line, we're talking about a literal deus ex machina here; thus, on a deep level, it doesn't matter that the prince has no apparent reason to love Snow White. Christ has no reason to love us either; His love is perfect and unconditional.

The feminist readings of Cinderella and The Little Mermaid, meanwhile, are just as shallow. That Cinderella suffers as much as she does and yet never becomes bitter - that she is able to remain kind and good and capable of forging real friendships - is a testament to her strength as a character, not her weakness. And I'll say it again: She isn't rescued by a man. She's rescued by little mice who are the beneficiaries of her compassion -- which means, in the end, she does rescue herself by being the sort of person who inspires heroism in others.

And Ariel's crush on Eric is only part of the reason she gives up her voice; she's also driven by a profound curiosity about the human world and a desperate desire to escape her father's strictures and strike out on her own. I was ten years old when The Little Mermaid was released, and because I was precocious and already a little rebellious, I deeply related to the yearning Ariel expresses in "Part of Your World," which goes far beyond the desire for romance.

This rush to condemn any creative work that doesn't hew to the strict, politically-correct script of 2018 is ahistorical, lacking in imagination, and frankly anti-human; we definitely shouldn't be encouraging children to read and interpret texts in accordance with said rush. Instead, we should be helping kids understand each story's context and should encourage them to have empathy for its author(s), who lived in radically different times and places and thus saw the world in radically different ways.