Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter to All Who Celebrate!

I'm taking a break for a week to catch up on some reading and viewing. 
See you on Monday, April 24!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Around the Nets

When the United story exploded early this week, I mainly had fun with the memes. Seriously -- the internet really outdid itself this time. Even a Catholic satire site decided to play, which amused me to no end.

But there are serious things to learn from the whole incident, as discussed by the writers below:

How United Happens, by Charlie Martin

Big organizations frequently act like idiots, says Charlie, because their leaders lack on-the-ground knowledge. To me, this seems like an excellent argument for keeping organizations (like - ahem - governments) small and local whenever it's humanly possible.

United Airlines and the Internet Mob, by Amie Gibbons

In this post, meanwhile, Amie summarizes why United was in the wrong here and then goes on to address why the American public responded with one angry voice (a bizarre occurrence indeed). According to her (correct) analysis, our airlines have become so wedded to government support that they have started to behave like government agencies and not like private companies -- and as anyone who's been to the DMV or the VA will no doubt confirm, government agencies either don't care one bit about pleasant customer service or are just too incompetent to provide it due to the reasons discussed by Charlie above.

Whatever the issue may be with United, it seems clear that the industry as a whole needs to get off the government tit, as the subsidies are going to the airlines' heads.

In other news...

Could It Be Time to Deny White Men the Franchise? Huffington Post

Folks in my circles knock the HP all the time for being an SJB-converged fake news site, but honestly, I'm glad it exists. Without it, we would never get to see the sort of insanity that is condoned by much of today's left. Deny white men the franchise? Let's leave aside the fact that this is openly calling for human beings to be denied their rights based on sins that completely different people committed. Like I've said many times before, these ideologues have no clue what it's actually like to be white. While it's true that the European imperialists were often predatory, they did not represent the great mass of white men. They were the people in power. The great mass of white men, in the meantime, continued to struggle to make ends meet -- much as they do today. This collective guilt bullshit is really getting tiresome.

Whedon Warns Trump May Start Killing Gays, Christian Toto

Based on what? Based on the fact that Trump is the first successful GOP candidate to support homosexual marriage? Jesus. I adore much of Whedon's work and think he's a real talent. But he needs to start taking some meds before he completely loses touch with reality -- assuming, of course, that he hasn't already, which we all have good reason to doubt.

Forcing Political Correctness on Employees and Characters Is Killing Marvel Comics,
Jon Del Arroz

Fans of SFF should find this discussion pretty familiar. I happen to agree with other writers that there are multiple factors involved in Marvel's decline - like, for example, the changing nature of the market for comics - but the political uniformity Del Arroz describes is also a big problem that is certainly not limited to one particular company publishing one particular genre of geek literature. If you head on over to Tor's blog, you can see another pretty good illustration of capital-F Fandom's tendency to mistake political agendas for quality in a field completely outside the comics industry. Note: Being "queer" does not make a book good. It doesn't make a book bad either, mind you, but you can't use queerness as a standalone gauge for literary merit. Does the story work? Are the characters people a reader can relate to and care about? Does it address universal human themes that will still resonate ten, twenty, or even a hundred years down the line? If you can't answer those questions, you may want to reassess.  

Monday, April 10, 2017

A Stupid Thing I've Seen Today

In the video above, Sargon takes a few minutes to make fun of a social justice warrior's stated desire that teachers countenance language anarchy in their classrooms for the sake of "marginalized populations" who may not feel "comfortable" using received American English. He's right on point when he argues that this proposal is racist; African-Americans are not uniquely incapable of learning the dominant - or correct - grammar and don't need to be molly-coddled by their instructors just because they use AAVE at home. To assert that black students should be granted special dispensation is basically enhancing any stigma that may be attached to AAVE by implicitly suggesting that its users are too stupid to learn something else.

But I'd like to add another point: This "researcher" - and interviewing a few people on your campus is not actually research, cupcake - has no clue what it's like to be white. Like every other social justice cultist, she presumes that white people never have to "code switch" and never deal with any stigmas attached to their manner of speaking. This is just not true. As anyone from the Southern U.S. or the Appalachian region will tell you, there is plenty of negative baggage attached to white dialects that don't fit the broadcast norm. Southerners and mountain folk are assumed to be idiots as a matter of course -- not to mention racist, sexist, homophobic bigots whose laughable idea of high art is a NASCAR race. If you're southern, you could be Doc freakin' Taylor - a bona fide rocket scientist - and yet still have to present your CV to elitist northerners before they'll accept you know what you're talking about. But nobody is talking about giving "hillbillies" and "rednecks" a pass on the whole standard grammar thing. My friends and acquaintances down here just accept "code switching" as a fact of life -- like, for example, my AP US History teacher twenty years ago, who admitted freely in class one day that when he goes back home to West Virginia, his style of speech completely changes on a dime. "I'm not Mike anymore. I'm Maaaaaaaaaike."

TL;DR: Academia is once again rewarding ignorance. White people do "code switch" and do deal with stigma. People suggesting otherwise can kindly sit on a certain finger and rotate. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Grumpy Thoughts: The Diversity Edition

Let's be frank: In some sense, this post remixes things I've covered here, here, and here. But since people are once again claiming that we readers who declare ourselves "human wave"/"superversive"/"pulp revolutionaries"/[insert anti-establishment SFF label here] are "bigoted" and consequently "hostile to diversity," I don't really feel the need to say anything especially new in response.
  1. We are not hostile to "diversity." If you actually take the time to read the authors we anti-establishment types enjoy, you will find that "straight white men in rocket ships" is not really an accurate description of their work. These books abound with characters of color, strong female characters, queer characters, etc. 
  2. We are hostile to a particular ideology that wears the innocuous ideal of "diversity" as a skin suit while preaching something else entirely. Said ideology refuses to acknowledge that we are individuals, preferring instead to carve us up into superficial collectives that share disadvantage -- or that share "privilege." Said ideology then attempts, in top-down fashion, to redistribute prestige to those collectives who, its adherents feel, have been especially victimized by "the system" and to shame and suppress those collectives who, in these adherents' estimation, are to blame for the suffering of the former.
  3. We hate the ideology described above because it justifies bullying. At base, this ideology denies that different subgroups of the human race can ever find common ground through relationships and dialogue. Like the old-style racists they are supposedly fighting, social justice bullies essentially believe that cross-group empathy is a crock and that certain groups are irredeemably inferior -- and once you've embraced this, rationalizing violence and other animalistic power plays becomes oh so easy. You are basically released from all the rules that define civility and fair play.  
  4. We also hate this ideology because it actually severely curtails diversity wherever it is practiced. First of all, wherever this ideology holds sway, people are actively discouraged from saying anything real about culture, about race, about sexuality, or about any other touchy subject that will actually inspire productive conversation. As a matter of fact, in establishment circles, we've now seen the development of a certain type of editor/beta reader whose sole job is to enforce a particular orthodoxy on these topics. This ideology, in other words, seeks to breed parrots - not thinkers - and tries to coerce us into shutting up about any realities that conflict with its premises. 
  5. Secondly, wherever this ideology holds sway, creators who fit into certain minority demographics are expected to present themselves in a very narrow way or else be branded traitors to their kind. Similarly, any differences that exist between the subgroups of the white population are completely ignored. What results are flat, simplistic understandings of whiteness, blackness, gayness and so on that don't lead to quality, fully human art.  
  6. We also dislike a certain style of writing that, while not synonymous with the aforementioned ideology, is strongly associated with that worldview. This style of writing features pseudo-deep brooding masquerading as trenchant social commentary and main characters who, fundamentally, lack agency. Nothing actually changes in these sorts of stories; they are pure, structure-less emotion.
  7. Further, even when a particular work manages a recognizable plot, we disdain themes that denigrate human achievement and are really fucking sick of Republicans, Christians, poor whites, immigration skeptics and other left-favored scapegoats' being portrayed in the same stereotypically negative fashion over and over again in establishment-produced fiction. To be totally honest, that's why I personally am a little more forgiving when it comes to right-wing message fiction; it's not high literature by any stretch of the imagination, but at least it offers me something different.
So no -- we didn't stop reading mainstream comics or SFF because we hate "diversity." In reality, we have responded rationally to an activist movement in the establishment that has declared us unpersons and peddles versions of the world that, in our opinion, are profoundly faulty. If you want to bring us into your audience once again, perhaps you should consider promoting the only "diversity" that truly matters: diversity of thought.

Friday, April 7, 2017

An Intellectual Crush

Since I discovered him, I've been mainlining a lot of Jordan Peterson. I know I've mentioned him twice before in recent days, but I just can't help sharing more of his oeuvre because I think he's saying things that desperately need to be said.

Here, for example, Peterson questions the radical left's gender ideology, citing its utter lack of objectivity. If the scientific evidence is presented to me, I can accept that a very small number of people have disorders of gender identity that are best treated through medical transition. But trans activists aren't interested in evidence or in careful diagnosis; they just want to force other people to turn off their skepticism and grant self-declared trans folks unearned power and moral standing. Like Peterson, I'm not down with that.

Here, Peterson avers that unfettered free speech is vital because free speech is how we think. I understand and appreciate this argument on a gut level because I grew up with a father who regularly encouraged me to say whatever was on my mind so that he could play devil's advocate and tear me down. At the time, it drove me crazy -- but as an adult, I now recognize how brilliant a teacher Dad actually was. We reason better when we're not endlessly affirmed in our beliefs; we have to butt up against people with whom we disagree or else we'll lose the ability to articulate, defend, and - when necessary - correct our worldviews. Plus, as Peterson points out, driving certain speech underground because it is "hateful" or whatever doesn't actually cure bigotry. No: Suppression of "hate speech" enhances its allure. If suppression of "hate speech" actually worked, Trump would not be president. Alas, "build a wall" is now a motto of the new punk.

This video is longer, but it's also worth a listen. I actually cheer when Peterson declares that flying flags emblazoned with the hammer and sickle is tantamount to waving flags emblazoned with the swastika. Because yeah: Compared to the communists, Hitler was just a piker.

Oh, and if you're interested in academic psychology at all, I also highly recommend visiting Peterson's personal YouTube channel, which is loaded with free lectures on the science of personality and ideological formation. Go and watch!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Avoiding the Hell of the Radical Left and Radical Right

I know I've failed at producing written content lately. My apologies; health issues, once again, have been getting in the way. I am, however, working on several ideas - including some owed reviews - that should make it to print before too long.

In the meantime, you can enjoy the above-embedded wisdom of Canadian academic Jordan Peterson or check out Marina Fontaine's awards news round-up. As you are no doubt aware, the Hugo shortlist for this year has been released -- but as Marina points out, there are other games in town that deserve our attention and input!