Friday, March 30, 2012

Adam Carolla on Media Bias

He makes a powerful point about the Tyler Clementi affair. Basically with a focus on the misreporting, the current legal state of the accused, etc.

Carolla pawns the entire thing off as 'media bias' and the need to sensationalize things, but I think he's missing some more proper targets. Absolutely there was a media bias and muckraking angle with the story, but it was built up in part by the LGBT groups themselves. There was a conscious decision to make Clementi a martyr, and for that to happen, Dharun Ravi had to be a villain. Not just "an asshole", but a full-fledged villain - some angry, hateful homophobe who was trying his best to mentally assault Clementi and drive him to suicide, subconsciously if not consciously.

As Mark Shea now and then suggests, homosexual acts are downright sacramental. It's not enough to tolerate - it has to be praised and fetishized. Carolla talks about how, in the future, if a real tragedy takes place, the misreporting in this case will make people less likely to believe it. That's possibly true. But the real hope is that people get the idea that anything they do or say which can be viewed as disapproval of a homosexual act may in turn ruin their life. What in any other situation would be viewed as the behavior of a jerk - even a momentary jerk - may well be trumped up into full-fledged evidence of monsterdom. Quite a number of people would love for that threat to be perpetually hanging in the air.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

David Albert on Krauss' Latest Book

He's not a fan.

You have to deal with a possible pay wall to get at it, but here's a taste of what Albert serves up, re: Krauss. With emphasis added.

He complains that “some philosophers and many theologians define and redefine ‘nothing’ as not being any of the versions of nothing that scientists currently describe,” and that “now, I am told by religious critics that I cannot refer to empty space as ‘nothing,’ but rather as a ‘quantum vacuum,’ to distinguish it from the philosopher’s or theologian’s idealized ‘nothing,’ ” and he does a good deal of railing about “the intellectual bankruptcy of much of theology and some of modern philosophy.” But all there is to say about this, as far as I can see, is that Krauss is dead wrong and his religious and philosophical critics are absolutely right. Who cares what we would or would not have made a peep about a hundred years ago? We were wrong a hundred years ago. We know more now.

Topped off with Albert mentioning that Krauss' entire approach to the conversation - and really, the Cultists of Gnu's move in its entirety - is petty and wrong-headed. In the New York Times.

It's been a pleasant weekend.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012

Driving the Point into the Ground

Recently I've been on a communication kick, and my best example has been the Westboro Baptist Church. I've pointed out that, for all their supposed 'anti-gay' rhetoric, their rhetoric usefulness is to those who disagree with their stated beliefs. They are used - and my suspicion is, willingly - as pawns for people who want to associate certain beliefs (rejecting gay marriage, etc) with assholes and idiots.

Here's some more evidence.

An atheist rally, and who do they make sure to invite explicitly? The WBC. While, incidentally, reacting with anger to the presence of actual Christians, who are (mistakenly, in my opinion) there to offer them dialogue and to reason with them.

Why are atheists inviting the WBC to their hatefest?

Because. WBC. Is. Useful. To. Them.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

LGBT Tag on Wikipedia - What?

Here's something to ponder.

Why does Wikipedia have a specific "LGBT" tag? Of course, that's "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender". This is the name of a modern political group/movement - some loose alliance of a diverse collection of people. It's weird and inappropriate to apply this tag to freaking Sappho of Greece, as if she were a proud member of what's largely a 20th century socio-political grouping.

Gay men and lesbian women are not identical. Even where their inclinations are concerned, there are different motivating factors, and likely different physiology in play. Bisexuals? Don't get me started - they're the red-headed stepchild of the entire movement, at least next to the "transgendered". And "transgendered", while it has its own problems, is utterly unlike homosexuality or bisexuality as offered - it's a state of physical impairment requiring corrective surgery, and that's only if you don't consider it to be more properly considered a mental impairment.

This tag should not be in use on the wikipedia. But I will say this - once again, you can admire the group for the sheer ferocity they have. These guys will plant a flag anywhere they can. Learn from their group, even while you try to reason with them individually.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

More on the cultural aspect

Here's Pat Buchanan discussing the culture war in some aspects. In particular, this part stands out.

And if you can set limits on what journalists write and broadcasters say, you can shape what people think and believe.

What's key is that the limitations can shape people's thoughts and beliefs. Not, necessarily, arguments. Most people who support gay marriage couldn't defend their support intellectually if their life depended on it, beyond droning some bumper-sticker slogans. (Frankly, many people who oppose it are in a similar boat.) More than that, if the cultural winds started to change, I'm willing to bet a good number of those who support it would stop due to that change in climate alone.

Public piety is exactly that - public. For show. Just as you have 'nominal Christians' - Christians in name, even Christians in some practice, but for whom ultimately a kind of watered-down and non-reflective faith at best obtains - you have nominal leftists. People who choose their words carefully, who will say the right things if probed and even vote the right way, but who are ultimately are pretty blase about the whole thing. If in the next five years gay marriage were portrayed in popular culture as a joke or morally offensive, these are the people who would react by changing their minds to reflect the new mood, not by standing their ground and defending their ideals. Because they have fewer than most think, and fewer than even they think.

Which isn't to say that there aren't determined leftists out there, just as there are determined Christians.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Communication Issue

See, I keep trying to figure out how best to express the communication issue, because it's extremely important. The problem is trying to distill communication down to nifty, boxed rules just rarely seems to work. But maybe I can illustrate what I'm talking about better.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Other Side of Rush

As I mentioned in the comments - while I think Rush ultimately apologized over nothing, I do think he made a misstep in joking about this girl being a slut or a prostitute. Not that I think it was wrong for him to call her that on any principle (complaining that you need the government's help to force companies to cover your 1k+ annual contraception bill because you simply get bent over that much makes that fair game), but because of the reaction it will get. You can make the same point without going for language that will cause many people, women in particular, to just tune out and switch into "defend the poor girl" mode.

The problem with this move is some people think there's a kind of nobility to being the loudest, most obnoxious asshole on the block, and that being anything less than maximally insulting is some kind of cowardice. Bill Maher would be a fair example of a guy who will just straight up call someone a cunt with minimal provocation or justification. It's no coincidence he's also a fair example of someone who gets tuned out and shunned by many people because of his behavior. He preaches to a particular choir - he doesn't gain new ground.

The point is that communication matters. It is a skill, not a stance, and saying what you think is the truth in the bluntest way possible is not a substitute for figuring out the best way to present your thoughts - at least, if your goal is to actually turn back cultural forces and make gains. And that does mean, to a certain degree, you have to figure out the way some people are going to react emotionally and instinctively to your words and plan accordingly. With Rush, I think he could have simply made a whole lot of play out of the bare facts of "exactly what are you doing if your contraception bill runs 1k annually?" Ask if she realizes a condom isn't necessary for each individual finger on the guy's hand. Ask if guys are double bagging it when they nail her. Have a blast with it, by all means.

And work in the reasoning too. Maybe, just maybe, this isn't a problem for the government. Point out what someone's annual cigarette bill is, then ask - does this high tab add up to an argument for government subsidized cigarettes? No, it doesn't.

Of course, I know I say this as an anonymous schmuck on the internet. Rush is the one making millions with his radio show, he doesn't really need my advice, thank you. But the advice goes far beyond Rush. The fast way of saying it is that if you prioritize being obnoxious and pissing people off (even with "THE TRUTH!!!!") over figuring out the best way to make your point without sacrificing it, you're part of the problem when it comes to lost ground in a culture war.

Wait, maybe I should have said that more subtly.

Anyway, next time I'll point out yet another pitfall with this kind of thinking: the people who are so concerned with being nice and delicate that they shut up when they should speak, and speak when they should shun.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Rush Apologized Over Nothing

I'm not a big fan of Rush Limbaugh. I don't dislike him or anything - I'm just on the apathetic side.

But he shouldn't have apologized over the contraception question. He should have doubled down and said, "She's blowing 1000 a year on contraception in her own words. She wants the government to pay for it. I'd like to know just how many condoms she's running through each year on top of her pill - and since she's demanding the government get involved to pay for it, it's not so clear that her sex life is sacred and private."

His misstep was going for the name-calling. But damn, what an opportunity missed. She's spending 1000/annual on contraception? Ask. Her. Why.