Monday, September 30, 2013

Codgitating the Pope

Codgitator has been writing about Pope Francis as well, and I wanted to reply to some of his comments.

One issue, which I brought up in the previous comment section, is that I don't want to come across as taking too strong of a view here. I think criticisms about the Pope which amount to 'he should have said something that NARAL couldn't twist!' is a fool's game. That I stand by completely, and I'll further stand by the claim that the Pope is projecting a far better image - one that SoCons would do well to not only emulate publicly, but also privately. But I'm not about to make the claim that the Pope has been unquestionably brilliant and he has made no missteps - that's way too far. I think he's been smarter than people give him credit for, more effective than people give him credit for, and he's said a lot which needs to be said. I'll stop short of claims of brilliance, certainly with regards to his interview.

The problem is that I think the position Francis finds himself in is difficult. I really believe social conservatives have made some fundamental mistakes on the three key issues he spoke of - gay marriage, abortion and (for Catholic) contraception. Abortion hasn't been quite as negative as gay marriage, and contraception is off in its own category. But I think, even if one adheres utterly to the orthodox teaching on these matters, SoCons have trapped themselves into thinking 'Well so long as our view is orthodox, we're doing great and there's nothing to change.' Francis was trying to communicate that something is wrong about the current SoCon approach, and there's really no way to do that without ultimately criticizing some SoCons in the process - and for Catholics who see themselves as 'the actually loyal Catholics' (and they are, frankly, especially compared to who they have in mind as disloyal), getting a reprimand by the Pope stings. I'm not sure how you can deliver that corrective while still A) keeping it from stinging somewhat, while B) at the same time being clear. If the Pope managed to do that, I'd be saying he was brilliant. He didn't.

Now, Codgitator also asks me another question:

I mean, read the following piece and tell me that the author is daftly or disingenuously twisting what’s not there in the interview:
Sure, gladly. Let's go through a few key quotes.

Reactions to Francis’s sit-down with Antonio Spadaro, editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, have focused on areas where the Pope seems most in tune with liberal sympathies. 
Well, right there we have a disingenuous twist of the Pope's words - precisely because the Pope is not 'in tune with liberal sympathies' in the interview. Liberal sympathies are 'abortion is totally okay, gay marriage and certainly same-sex sexual activity is totally okay, and contraception is great'. The Pope not only said none of this, he gave not so much as a hint of even 'liberalizing' on these issues. About the only thing that liberals sympathize with is the fact that the Pope upset SoCons by suggesting their tone and focus was out of place - period.

Likewise, I think the suggestions that the Pope's words mean that liberal Catholic theologians (in the sense of wanting to change Church teaching on abortion, contraception, LGBT issues, women's ordination, etc) shouldn't be censored, or that the Pope is opening the door to actual doctrinal changes on these issues, is a clear case of 'twisting what's not there'. There's nothing in Francis' interview which prompts that kind of speculation, or gives any hope to it - and considering Francis has continude LCWR investigations, and has been the Pope right during the formal excommunication of a liberal Australian priest, I think the evidence points against such interpretations. This is the typical liberal two-step of 'We praised you and said good things. Now, if you want to continue receiving our praise, you have to change the teachings.' Again, I think this is the fear gripping SoLibs - that the Pope may say these things, that he may be compassionate and positively portrayed in the media... but at the end of the day, he's orthodox after all.

More from Codgitator:

Hence, I think Dale Price’s warning about “The Nuke” is correct — — and so his question here is my own until further notice: “Can you find any soundbites to fling back at the retrograde, unChristian behavior of progressives? Let me know.”
Well, I've never read Dale Price's blog before... and I have to say, I think Dale's overreacting to an extreme. His complaints seem to come down to the following:

* Whatever the Pope said, it made liberals REAL happy. If the liberals are REAL happy, then something must be VERY wrong. I actually wrote about this exact attitude in a recent entry, and I explained why I reject it. I think some SoCons have caught themselves in the trap of thinking that, if what they're saying and doing isn't provoking ire and rage from SoLibs, then they must be doing something wrong. To a point, this makes sense as a vague guide. Past a point, it's counterproductive.

*  The Pope said he's tired of the Vatican being involved with all these unorthodoxy cases. Dale casts off not only the excommunication of an Australian SoLib priest, but also ignores the continued investigation into the LCWR. His attitude seems to be, 'These were underway before Francis showed up.' Sure - but at the same time, Francis had it entirely within his power to stop either of these things straightaway. He didn't. Why is this not worth something? Why is this not provoking some Catholics to think, hold on, maybe we're not quite in the situation NARAL seems to suggest we're in?

Now, the meat here for this conversation comes when Codg points to Dale's question: 'Can you find any soundbites to fling back at the retrograde, unChristian behavior of the progressives?' First, I think the "soundbite" Dale complains about regarding conservatives - he makes reference to the words 'obsessive' and 'small-minded' - is a non-starter.

The word 'obsessive' appears exactly once in the interview: The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.

Here's my question in turn: where, exactly, is the pro-liberal soundbite in the above? All I see there is a legitimate observation by the Pope. Now, I can imagine a SoLib frantically spinning the above into 'And that's why premarital sex between a male teacher and his 12 year old student is a reflection of Christ's love!' - but they can, and will, spin just about anything. What is in this quote that should take me aback? What should worry me?

Likewise, 'small-minded' appears exactly once. Here's the full quote:

The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all. The confessor, for example, is always in danger of being either too much of a rigorist or too lax. Neither is merciful, because neither of them really takes responsibility for the person. The rigorist washes his hands so that he leaves it to the commandment. The loose minister washes his hands by simply saying, ‘This is not a sin’ or something like that. In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, and we must heal their wounds.

So once again I'm sitting here asking myself - where exactly is the huge offensive portion? He's certainly not connecting 'abortion' with 'small-minded rules'. He warns against a danger of being too rigorous *or too lax*. He explicitly says that being too lax *is not merciful*. Where is the problem I should be seeing with these words?

In fact, all I see is the exact thing Dale asked for: a soundbite to fling back at those progressives. First, since when do SoLib Catholics love proclaiming 'Jesus Christ has saved you'? Should they be giddy at the warning that being too lax, or saying 'that is not a sin', is the action of a loose minister who doesn't care about the person they're dealing with?

Here, have another soundbite.

 I am wary of a solution that can be reduced to a kind of ‘female machismo,’ because a woman has a different make-up than a man. But what I hear about the role of women is often inspired by an ideology of machismo

Talk of 'female machismo' as a negative thing, that a woman has a different make-up than a man, and that the people talking about the role of women is inspired by such is not going to go over well with SoLibs.

So no, ultimately I think Dale is off-target. I also think he's way, way too animated and worked up - that may just be his style, since again, I have not encountered this blog before - over the interview. A lot of these seems to be coming down to the claim that, again, 'If the Left is praising it, then it has to be bad.' My advice on this front is simple: if the Left knows you think like this, if the Left gets the idea that anything they praise is something you either must condemn or reflexively will condemn, you've set yourself up to be screwed over by them.

Trying to explain a social conservative puzzle

I've been watching fellow social conservatives continue to discuss the Pope's recent interview, and in the process I've found myself trying to figure out how to communicate where I think the reasoning is going wrong.

So far, even at Triablogue, I haven't really run into anyone accusing the Pope of suddenly going all liberal or unorthodox on abortion, contraception, gay marriage, etc. Instead, the claim is: the Pope made a mistake, because he said something that could be taken out of context. THAT was the error here - he set himself up to be misreported by groups like NARAL, etc.

I've tried to explain why I think this criticism fails dramatically. NARAL is more than willing to misrepresent and lie about someone's words when it will benefit them. They saw a benefit to misrepresenting the Pope in this case. This is nothing new - Benedict used to get similar treatment, it just tended to be treatment in the other direction, such that a condemnation of gay marriage turned into 'The Pope is against civil rights for gay people and thinks they're all gonna burn, burn, burn!' But the problem there is precisely that the exaggeration about papal statements in the recent past have all tended to be negative dishonesty. 'Benedict is a jerk, because (insert warping of his statements and views here.)' With Francis, it's the opposite. 'Francis is great, because (insert warping of his statements and views here.)'

It's not only the sort of misrepresentation that's been changed, but also the dynamic. SoCons, particularly Catholic SoCons, deal with a whole lot of SoLibs who try to misrepresent Church teaching straightaway. 'Catholics for Choice', or Nancy Pelosi, etc. And they look at statements like NARAL is making and, I think, the first thing that comes to mind is 'Great, because it wasn't hard enough to make it clear that the Church condemns abortion before.' So I know I've got my work cut out for me, on my small corner of the web, explaining why I think Francis was right to say what he did.

Well, I think I found an example that can help me out here, and should assist in getting the point across: John 8:1-11.

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Now, I think any SoCon who has been around for a while is going to admit straightaway... wow, John 8 is one of the most selectively quoted, misrepresented bible passages around. How many times have you encountered 'Let he who is without sin cast the first stone'? How many times has that been used to justify a given act, a presentation of 'Jesus himself said you should leave me alone when I want to get an abortion' or the like? Personally, I've run into it a number of times.

Now, any Christian SoCon is also going to know that these interpretations of John 8 are erroneous. No, Christ did not say that sinners should not be recognized as sinning. No, there's no way to interpret Christ as forbidding calling sin, sin. Etc, etc. You're also going to notice that the clear meaning of Christ's words, the clear thrust of His teachings, hasn't really made a dent in people's willingness to abuse these passages to their own ends.

But has any SoCon ever turned around and accused Christ, or the biblical authors, of having made a mistake - either in saying what He did in the case of Christ, or in reporting it as they did in the case of the biblical authors?

I think most would say, no. And it's easy to see why, I think - because it is a ridiculous standard to use not just the public at large, but dishonest people who will gleefully lie and misrepresent someone's words, in order to determine what you will and will not say. There is no way to make your words 'misrepresentation-proof' with a dishonest person or organization, because even if you nail down all of your terms and your explicit meaning, all they have to do is selectively quote you if they so choose.

This goes beyond Pope Francis. If you find yourself unwilling to express mercy towards, say... someone sincerely struggling against same-sex marriage, or a scared woman who has seriously considered abortion, etc, and if you're unwilling to do this on the grounds that you are guarding against being misinterpreted or misrepresented as actually approving of these behaviors, well... guess what? You've been sandbagged by the SoLibs. They have successfully scared you out of appearing compassionate, or speaking frankly and reasonably - and as a result, it's now far easier to cast you as a hardass who is detached from real suffering or the morally imperfect (as we all are.)

That's part of the reason why Francis' speech has animated me. I sincerely believe Francis did something great. I believe that the move he made is necessary - SoCons need to change their approach, not their commitments. He is showing one way to do it. And the SoLibs are frantic, because they're looking at a popular, congenial Pope of a Church that is their mortal enemy, and if they can't ruin him, then they must at the very least neutralize his message and try to shove their heads under his hands to make it look as if he's blessing them.

If you're a SoCon reading this, I urge you - consider what I'm saying. The SoLibs have played the image game better than SoCons for the past decade, on multiple subjects, and it has paid off. And frankly, this isn't only about image - it's also about sincere Christian compassion, which manifestly does not require regarding abortion, same-sex sexual behavior, or contraception as anything less than sinful.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Crude Thoughts

"Lord of Hosts" would be a good name for a Christian ISP.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

No, science actually hasn't shown a lack of guidance - more conversation logs

I was waiting for the latest conversation to be completely over before posting it, but the whole thing is dragging on now in a way that makes me feel as if someone is trying to run out the clock in a conversation that has no actual time limit. So, here you have it.

Not a conversation about social conservatism or LGBT issues for a change. Instead this is a comments section modest derail on Feser's blog, where I argue against the (popular, even among some Christians) claim that science has shown that various processes - particularly but not exclusively evolution - are 'unguided'. This is one of my favorite topics to engage, partly because it really seems as if it's one that few people actually discuss - but it's one of the topics that most undercuts modern intellectual anti-theism, while at the same time being pretty easy to communicate and grasp.

Intellectual highlights are 'science is utterly silent on the presence or lack of design and/or guidance in its theories, whether fundamental physical theory or evolutionary theory or otherwise, at least insofar as God/gods/powerful agents are concerned', some discussion about the scope of science and Intelligent Design, and more. Argument gimmick highlights include the usual Cult of Gnu testiness courtesy of one anon, and someone by the name of Urban Jean making a grand show of what at first I thought was feigned non-comprehension, but in retrospect may actually be academia-induced damage.

I also thought the Noah's Ark line was funny, I gotta say. Tough crowd.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Banned from Triablogue, and more Pope Francis musings

Yet another conversation log, this one culminating in my apparently being flat out banned from Triablogue - your one-stop shop for right-wing anti-Catholicism. Two argument threads feature in that one - Steve Hays running defense for the decline of social conservatism (at least on some topics) in the US on the grounds that Pope John Paul II did not usher in paradise. Meanwhile John Bugay argues that Pope Francis is guilty of the crime of saying things that a hostile third party can willfully lie about and wildly misrepresent, and sticks to his usual tactic of claiming the Catholic Church is a plainly horrible organization that has never done anything right and only a sap would think otherwise, which he should know because he was a Catholic for years.

I think this is a particularly educational thread - more the conversation with Bugay than Hays, which quickly spins off into bizarre irrelevancies - mostly because it shows how rapidly the criticism of Pope Francis' interview falls apart when actually inspected.

Pope Francis is scaring the hell out of social liberals

I've been watching the fallout from Pope Francis' recent interview. I'm 100% behind him - no surprise there, given the argument I had on WWWtW over this very thing. But what's fascinated me is the reaction not just from conservatives, but from the liberals. The moment I started seeing official 'Dear Pope Francis, thank you. Signed, pro-choice women everywhere' pictures circulating on the web, it confirmed for me something I've long suspected about the LGBT movement, and the leadership of social liberals in general.

First though, let's talk about what has the conservatives upset. I think it's simply that the Pope basically rapped the knuckles of the social conservatives, primarily in the US. Not just Catholics, but social conservatives generally. The Pope suggested that there was way too much of an emphasis on these issues - contraception, abortion and gay marriage - to the point where it was practically monotonous, and mentioned how he was expressly trying not to harp about those things. At no point did he even hint at a change on the issues - in fact, it didn't take long for him to denounce abortion expressly after his interview. But his message was still pretty clear: social conservatives have screwed up their approach on these issues. They've focused on them too much, they've communicated poorly.

Now, here's the thing about political topics. There's an unspoken rule that you're never supposed to criticize someone 'on your team', especially not in a major public venue. Even if you're correct, it's demoralizing. And the Pope? He's not just another social conservative - even to non-Catholics he's a major figure in the fight against abortion and gay marriage, etc. Not only is it demoralizing to take friendly criticism on the topic from a friendly source, but worse - let's be honest - it encourages the social liberals. After all, anything that pisses off a SoCon has to have a silver lining at the very least, just like anything that pisses off the SoLibs is a silver lining for the SoCons. So the Pope said something which upset the SoCons, and at the same time it's made worse because the SoLibs show up to cheer on the Pope and use this as an opportunity to rub salt in the SoCon wounds.

But... there's something more going on here. Something important.

When you think about it, cheering on the Pope doesn't make all that much sense from a SoLib point of view, does it? Sure, he criticized the approach of SoCons... but really, only their approach. Pope Francis hasn't given a hint of liberalizing on sodomy, abortion or even contraception. He immediately followed up his interview with the aforelinked anti-abortion speech. He's not NARAL's friend. So why the hell is NARAL out there sending the Pope virtual thank you messages, expressly from 'all pro-choice women'? Part of it is easy to explain: they want to give the impression that the Pope approves of abortion, because they probably feel that if they can lie their way into a papal stamp of approval, they may win more people over to their cause. But for anyone who actually cares about what the Pope says, and who isn't dirt stupid, this isn't going to really pay off. There's the Pope the next day, preaching against abortion. So what gives?

Here is the hardest lesson, in my experience, for SoCons to learn. SoLibs want SoCons to be hostile. They want them to be angry. And they want to not only have them perpetually ranting and raving - they want to make the SoCons truly afraid of ever being anything less than hostile. So the moment any social conservative (like Pope Francis) starts talking kindly, or forgivingly about people with same-sex attraction, or people who have had abortions, etc - the moment the Pope says 'Look, just because you're gay doesn't mean you're a terrible person, and someone who has had an abortion and repents can be forgiven' or words to that effect, is the moment the SoLibs need to Nip That Shit in the Bud. But they can't directly attack the Pope, or anyone else who says such things, most of the time - they'd look like jerks. So, they attack in a roundabout way: by trying their asses off to warp the message being sent. Basically they communicate, "If you are EVER civilized and compassionate towards gays, if you EVER show that you regard sexually active people with anything short of hate, we're going to make you regret it. We're going to try and transform your humanity into endorsement, we're going to try and penalize you for acting like this - because the idea of someone who opposes abortion or who opposes gay marriage, and who is calm and humane and level-headed, scares the piss out of us."

And it's effective. All the high-strung SoCons look at the reaction and, remember - when something makes the SoLibs happy, the SoCons are automatically unhappy. And if you say something that makes the SoLibs cheer - even if they're only cheering on an intentionally warped, dishonested mangling of the message - the SoCon instinct is to panic a little bit and try to find a way to Never Do THAT Again. Which, of course, is exactly what the SoLib wants, because if the image of the person who opposes gay marriage isn't "angry person screaming about how all faggots are child molestors" but "well-meaning person who cares for gays, but thinks same-sex behavior and sexual culture is harmful", they're in trouble. Likewise, the SoLib - and I'm talking about the diehards here, the dedicated 'politics is my religion' SoLibs - absolutely needs the anti-abortion advocate to be some bizarre "I don't give a shit about single moms, all I care about is that fetus being born - it's a great way to punish the sluts!" caricature. Once it's someone concerned about treating human life as sacred and having people behave responsibly in light of that, the whole conversation will get dramatically difficult in a heartbeat.

So what you're seeing among SoLibs in response to Francis? That's not totally sincere praise and affection. None of them really see much hope for Francis to suddenly become the pro-abortion, pro-gay-marriage, "Go ahead, orgies aren't a sin" Pope. They're actually pretty terrified. There's only room for one kind of compassionate person in this world, and that's them. So if the Pope is going to act compassionate towards gays and such, well, their only option is to try and desperately misrepresent him as The Socially Liberal Pope, and try to mangle his message in the process. What absolutely terrifies them is the introduction of the socially conservative person who nevertheless is and, even worse, appears to be kind-hearted and sincere. At this point they're cornered, and are exhausting their options. If the Pope insists on acting kind towards gays, forgiving of repentant women who have had abortions, etc, then they're going to try and discourage that by screwing with his message, or - lacking that - misrepresenting him to the public to try and fool everyone for as long as possible.

The take-away from all this is, don't take the praise of Pope Francis by SoLibs at face value. There's a meta-game going on here, and it's pretty easy to understand why.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Which atheist is the irrelevant atheist?

Now and then, more outwardly well-adjusted atheists will not only reject Cult of Gnu antics, but will further claim that the Cult hardly represents atheism. Dawkins, Coyne, Maher, Myers... these guys are ignorant jerks, even hateful, it will be conceded. But, despite having a following, they don't 'represent' or act as 'leaders' of atheism. In fact, the complaint will further go, it's annoying that (religious / theist) people spend so much time talking about them. For most atheists, they are largely irrelevant.

I have no doubt that there's a number of irreligious - usually agnostics, or 'nothings' - who are polite, civil, reasonable, and respectful. In fact, I don't doubt a good share of them - and even some self-described atheists - sincerely dislike and reject the tactics and personalities of the Cult of Gnu. If I run into a sincere agnostic (as opposed to, say, a Cult of Gnu atheist who is desperately trying to redefine both atheism and agnosticism in some desperate attempt to avoid any and all burdens of proof), I generally have no problem having a polite and reasonable conversation with them. The same goes for the merely irreligious, the respectful atheist, etc.

The problem is that, when it comes to self-described atheists, I more and more think it's clear that the nice, soft-spoken, even-handed atheists are pretty well irrelevant. At least in a popular sense, and quite possibly in an intellectual sense.

Whatever ill you want to say about them, Dawkins, Myers, Harris and company have had honor after honor heaped upon them by pretty well every atheist organization of note. They get awards named after them, they're granted these same awards, they're keynote speakers and guests of honor, they get regarded expressly as 'leaders' of the atheist 'movement'. And whatever relevantly educated, respectful atheists there are, tend to be entirely ignored.

If there is a legion of atheists out there who reject the Cult of Gnu approach, I have to say - they are doing an absolutely fantastic job of hiding. They present no visible pushback when major atheist organizations heap praise and awards on the Cult leadership. If you say this is because they just plain don't speak up at all and their atheism isn't particularly important in their lives, then you've just argued that they are irrelevant in a popular sense. If you argue that they're simply outnumbered, then once again, they're pretty well irrelevant in a popular sense.

If respectful, civil atheists want to change this, they have their work cut out for them. And I suspect many aren't interested in changing this at the end of the day.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Recent argument logs

Nothing too exciting here, but I like to link up logs of my online discussions here once they're pretty well concluded.

Over on Victor Reppert's blog, what started out as a minor correcting of someone's obvious mistake about Intelligent Design turned into a lesson about the pitfalls of Cult of Gnu atheism. The big lesson: being a member of the Cult of Gnu doesn't automatically make you well-informed about religious and scientific matters, and it certainly doesn't make you smart. I know it's kind of a faux pas to question someone's intelligence, not only among Christians in general but in whatever passes for 'blog culture' too. But really, I stand by my actions in that thread, and on Dangerous Ideas generally - generally the blog where I'm on my worst behavior.

Christian have done themselves a lot of harm by trying to remain civil and respectful with people who not only grant them neither, but who don't really merit either. If you act respectful and even praiseful of a jackass who insults and belittles your faith and others' faith, you're not 'being the bigger man'. You're enabling intellectual bullying. Knock it off, please - even if you prefer to do it with more grace than myself.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Job Opening: 1 New Atheist Leader. Must not make followers feel like creeps.

As time goes on, I notice Cultists of Gnu are becoming less and less willing to rush to the defense of Dawkins. First, most of his actual book has been jettisoned as a source of authority - too many flaws on too many subjects, and the Boeing 747 argument not only looks idiotic in retrospect, but actually counterproductive to the 'cause' when the multiverse is factored in.

Then there was Dawkins ducking the debate with William Lane Craig. To any onlooker, that whole affair just looked... rotten. Transparently a case of "Dawkins is making up whatever excuse he can to avoid this, as he'll get his clock cleaned if he takes part". But some guys - particularly the dumber ones - were still willing to go to the mat for the man on this one.

But now that his "mild pedophilia" comments are circulating in a big way - not that they're anything new, but now they're being noticed - it looks like the Cultists have lost faith. They won't be so quick to follow PZ Myers in his "Hey, Dawkins actually sounds like a pedophile doesn't he?" comments... but you can call Dawkins out on this, and the instinctual reaction seems to be "Let's change the subject, now, to ANYthing else".

Sorry guys - it ain't happening. Dawkins' creepy "hey a little bit of kiddy-fingering isn't the end of the world" defense is sticking at this point. He's done it too long, and too consistently, for him to shake the charge. And if the New Atheists don't publicly disown him soon, the Cult of Gnu is going to pick up another descriptor to go alongside "belligerent, annoying peddlers of rage and faux reason". Namely, "pedophilia apologists".

The atheism+ heretics in the cult already smell the blood in the water. Time to decide if you want to stay in this particular pool anymore.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

We need laws against revenge porn! Wait, what?

So, women let their boyfriends take pornographic pictures and/or videos of them. Later on, the relationship goes south - and the boyfriends end up plastering the pictures online.

What's the solution?

Why, a law against sharing nude photos and videos of someone, even if they happily posed for it, if they don't give express consent.

At this point, I'm starting to wonder just when women are ever going to be treated as adults, liable for their own behavior, rather than treated as - basically - big children who are wards of the state. I mean legally of course, plenty of women know how to act responsible and all. (Well, you know. So I'd think and hope.) Once again, the idea that maybe, you know... women should have some sense and prudence and NOT allow their boyfriends to take pictures or video of them like this is not considered the primary way to deal with the problem. That's blaming the victim, etc, etc.

Note that we're not talking about guys taking these photos covertly, without the women's knowledge. That's a whole other ballgame. We're talking about consenting, willful, 'smile honey! that's perfect! *click*' pics and video. Pardon me if my sympathy is pretty low.

I'm trying to figure out where it will end. Will women be able to bring a lawsuit against guys who bullshit them about driving a porsche and pulling down six figures a year, if the woman decides to blow this guy in the back alley of a bar the night she met him? That's probably bouncing around. 'Truth rape' they'll call it, just as the photo thing is being called 'cyber-rape'. I'm sure using the term in that context doesn't run the risk of backfiring and leading to rape claims being taken less seriously or anything.

The funny thing is, I'm not totally opposed to these laws in principle. I'm more than happy to have the laws on the books be uneven. I just want it, at that point, recognized - legally, formally, and blatantly - that women are actually - for biological and cultural reasons alike - in need of special protection by society and the state, and that men and women are due quite different treatment in general. Seems rather fair, doesn't it?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Quick Note on the Fall of Dawkins

Dawkins is in the news lately, getting hammered - even by fellow Cult of Gnu members - for his "hey a bit of genital fondling ain't that bad" stance. It's funny, of course, and deserved... but the weird thing here is that what Dawkins is saying is nothing new at all. He's had this attitude, and been pretty open about it, for years now.

I can't help but suspect that the reason he's getting slammed about this *now* has less to do with his actual statement, and more to do with the fact that he's been judged as being on the wrong side of a political question. In particular, the wrong side of the left-leaning, activists Gnu atheist's feminist brigade. They demand nothing less than complete subservience, and Dawkins not only refused to give that - he actually snubbed feminists over ElevatorGate. He may well be paying the price for that more than anything.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Sometimes it's best to do nothing.

Probably one of the hardest lessons for anyone to accept in a modern political climate is the idea that, sometimes, it's best to do nothing. There's this prevailing attitude that, whenever there's a problem, something must be done - that literally anything is better than inaction, or accepting the situation as it stands, if the situation is at all negative or imperfect in some ways. That inaction, at least political inaction, is tantamount to 'giving up'.

Americans are too fat? The government must do something! Ban sugary drinks!

Americans are too unhealthy? The government must do something! Smoking outlawed in additional areas!

Some Americans lack health insurance? Universal health care!

Single mothers? Government-sponsored health care! More welfare benefits!

And no matter how much hell is created by any of these things, no matter how many problems are made worse, no matter how many new problems are introduced, there's this attitude of 'Well, at least we did SOMEthing!' It probably stems from the idea that it doesn't really matter what the results of your actions were so long as your heart was in the right place and you just DID something. You cared and you tried. Therefore, no matter what, you were a good person.

I'm sympathetic to the idea that a given person's actions should be judged in context - that if an outcome is less than ideal, but given the information they had at the time and their intended goal, on the whole we may be able to judge them as having made a reasonable choice.

I'm also sympathetic to the idea that people who support a policy on the grounds that, no matter what risks are associated with it, 'doing something is better than doing nothing', are not just incorrect. They are literally rotten people, who make the world worse for doing what they do.

A quick thought on slavery.

If I ask you what your problem is with slavery, and you immediately cite the cruelty of a slaveowner, the pain of being whipped and the exhausting labor, what you're telling me is that you don't really have a problem with slavery per se. You just dislike cruel slaveowners.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Camille Paglia aims low with Weiner

You know, I actually like Camille Paglia. She's interesting. She's some kind of left-pagan-atheist, but she's remarkably civil and manages to be thoughtful in her comments - plus she's something of a curmudgeon, and I tend to like those personalities. She's a good writer, she is actually fascinating to read, and she tends to have original ideas. That's not an easy mix to maintain as consistently as she does.

Anthony Weiner, meanwhile... I have no real opinion on. He's of the politically liberal persuasion, so I presumably wouldn't be enamored of his policies. I think his propensity for whipping his dick out on webcam is hilarious, and yeah, it's not appropriate conduct for... anyone who isn't a porn star, I suppose. So right away, I walk into the recent Paglia article with a bias in favor of Paglia.

But she made a move that I think is at once fascinating yet strangely despicable. She called for the psychoanalysis of Anthony Weiner as punishment:

But beyond that, I have been amazed by the almost total absence of psychological critique in news analyses of the silly Weiner saga. For heaven’s sake, Weiner is no randy stud with a sophisticated sex life that we need to respect. The compulsion to exhibit and boast about one’s penis is embarrassingly infantile — the obvious residue of some squalid family psychodrama in childhood that is now being replayed in public.
Oh really? We're going there? Alright then.

First things first: there's no such thing as a sophisticated sex life, much less one that we 'need to respect', aside from the ones associated with married men and women that are suitably private. Certainly not once we're privy to the specific details of them. That's the real problem with Weiner - it's that some tremendous detail of his antics beyond the fact that he was involved in some kind of online webcam quasi-cheating event. It's the difference between Bill Clinton 'having an affair with an intern' and Bill Clinton 'jamming tobacco products up some chubby intern's vagina'. The first one's vague, nondescript - you know the relationship, not the details. The moment details come in, things not only get more lurid, they get more amusing.

Which leads to the second. I was going to comment on how I'm not sure a nearly-70 lesbian is qualified to talk about what is or isn't infantile sexual behavior with men, but wikipedia lists her as a bisexual at the moment so she may be yet another ex-lesbian. Regardless, I think the comment still goes through. I'm not saying Weiner's behavior is excusable, or even normal. I am saying that I'm not sure Paglia's opinion here carries much weight.

But the third point... the real point... is that Camille recommends an interesting course of action with Weiner: psychoanalyze him. She's lamenting that no one has made this move yet, salivating at the prospect of how humiliating a drag through the mud there can be with this guy. She doesn't pause and ask herself why this is the case. You know, maybe the issue is that this isn't a "Weiner" thing, but more of a "quite a lot of people" thing. It's an internet age, people's self-respect is rather lower - there's a lot of body part pictures floating around out there at this point. Mock him over that, and you're not just mocking Weiner. You're mocking quite the large (ha ha) crowd.

At the same time I think... you know what? Do it. Let's touch that third rail, because I guarantee you - once we do that, we're getting the media equivalent of mutually assured destruction. Does Camille Paglia really think that she's immune to some tasty psychological analysis about her sexual proclivities? Or anyone else, for the matter? Let's start talking about people's sexual desires and activities and what drives them. Not 'who they're sleeping with' or who their husband or girlfriend or life-partner or paramour or whatever bullshit they're associated with. Let's talk about the acts. The kinks. The fetishes. The turn-ons. Let's ask what childhood trauma they experienced, what particular genetic defects they're privy to, to make them like what they like.

But I don't think we'll see it happening, because the world is not ready for that kind of honesty. Indeed, I think it's less ready now than it was ten years ago. It is, for now, a neutral zone that no one talks about, even in the popular press. And few people seem to have the guts to specifically analyze sexual preferences.

That's the funny thing. The closet never went away. It's only gotten bigger. We'll see just how big it can get in the coming years.