Tuesday, December 16, 2014

How many fallacies can one shirt hold?

Let me count the ones I see.

1. Obey the law, and you have nothing to fear.
2. Break the law, and you deserve to be tortured to death.
3. Rules #1 and #2 are applied equally to all Americans.
4. Police never break the law themselves.
5. When they do, they are never protected in ways civilians wouldn't be.

Oh wait, I get it...this shirt is for police officers!

Breathe easy, cops-- and hey, don't break the law. But if you do, and murder one civilian after another in horribly gruesome ways, breathe won't suffer the fate they did.

Especially if they're black.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

When doxing is okay

Doxing (from dox, abbreviation of documents), alternatively spelled doxxing, is the Internet-based practice of researching and broadcasting personally identifiable information about an individual. -- Wikipedia
In some cases, this "research" involves simply looking at the email address from which a message came, and including it rather than expunging it when you publish ("broadcast") the content of that email. Many bloggers have a stated policy of doing this-- if you email them, you accept that the content of your message and the email address might be made public on their blog.

Alanah Pearce, an Australian video gamer reviewer (via video blog), recently gained international attention by tracking down and contacting the mothers of the frequently underage boys who were sending her rape and death threats via email, Facebook messages, Twitter, etc.

I'm okay with these things.

I think what Pearce is doing is awesome, actually. Frequently when I see someone saying horrible things on the internet, I wish there was a way to find out if their loved ones could see it. Whether they know that their family member is, in their spare time, using that time to harass people, espouse bigotry, and in general be a despicable human being. I feel simultaneously a sympathetic horror for what this woman is going through, and a desire that couples generally would hang out in the same sorts of internet spaces as their spouses, and parents as their children.

But I would never try to enforce such a thing, because sometimes privacy and anonymity are very important and must not be violated. If you've been following Gamergate, you know that quite well. You might know that Felicia Day's personal information was published on the internet shortly after she wrote an essay expressing concern about that exact thing. You might know that Brianna Wu and Anita Sarkeesian have both fled their homes after internet harassers published their home addresses and expressed an interest in paying a visit.

Some people refrain from even sharing their names online, because they are whistleblowers or fear other kinds of recrimination from their employers, because they are trans or gay but not openly so, because they are atheists but not only so.....there are all kinds of reasons why a person might not be doing anything wrong, but not want every aspect of his or her identity made known.

That's why doxing such individuals is wrong.

Rebecca Watson, noted skeptic and feminist who has been experiencing harassment and threats online for years because of these things, published an essay on Friday entitled Why I'm Okay with Doxing. That's not the type of doxing she was talking about.

The type of doxing she was talking about is the kind I mentioned earlier-- publishing the name and/or email address of people who made this information available themselves in the process of insulting, harassing, and threatening others.

The distinction seems quite clear to me, but perhaps that's because I actually read her essay. Several other people seem to have not made it past the headline.

Ken White of Popehat had an amusing exchange on Twitter with such a detractor, also on Friday, which I summed up thusly:
Accuse someone of breaking the law. When questioned, scramble frantically to find the law you accuse someone of breaking, which you didn't know existed when you made the original accusation. When questioned further, admit that it's not against the law. When asked for a moral basis for condemnation, scramble frantically to find one of *those*. Fail completely. Take ball. Go home.
The detractor charmingly and repeatedly referred to Rebecca as a cunt, which prompted the following tweet from Ken:

Which really addresses the crux of the issue.

Rebecca is talking about publishing the names and/or email addresses of people who are sending insulting and threatening material to her. Threatening people, whether over the phone, via email, in blog comments, via Twitter, etc., is not only immoral but also illegal. In spite of this illegality, going to the police about these threats is frequently a worthless and even counter-productive pursuit, which means that publishing the information of these people is, effectively, the only thing she can do.

Let me repeat: making the identities of people who harass and threaten her public, in the hopes that the public will become more aware of these threats and people making them, is really the best tactic at the disposal of people like Rebecca Watson. It is, arguably, the only tactic at their disposal.

I wouldn't have thought that "disclose your identity to someone in the process of threatening them, and you cannot morally or legally expect them to keep this information private" was such a hard line to take. It seems stupidly obvious to me. But apparently it isn't, and that's why I'm writing this post.

Doxing is sometimes okay. Such as when someone is harassing you, actively reaching out and sending messages to and about you which are libeling and/or threatening you, and you respond to them by publishing their name and/or email address, contacting their family (especially if they're underage), etc.

Doxing is sometimes not okay. Such as tracking down personal information of someone who is not harassing you and publishing it in detail, including contact information such as a home address which give the impression that you either intend or wish to encourage others to take physical action against this person.

Context, for chrissakes.

Friday, December 12, 2014

How to be more attractive to John Smith

A man who is sexist against women is also sexist against men, because he assumes, falsely, that all or most men are likewise sexist against women.

Is this a rule? I feel like this should be a rule. At least, I have not yet seen a counter-example.

This essay on Thought Catalog, non-encouragingly titled 13 Things a Woman Can Do to be More Attractive to Men, certainly isn't one. In fact, it should probably also be a rule that every such list should drop the "n" from "Men" and change it to "Me."

It's not worth bothering to take apart in its entirety, but I just want to examine one item to illustrate the sexist projection of the author, the not-at-all-pseudonymously-named-I'm-sure John Smith.
13. Stop Hoarding Guy Friends 
9 out of 10 of your guy friends just want to sleep with you anyway. Men know how other men think. The first guy that comes to comfort you after a big fight will also be the first one to say “he’s not good enough for you” in order to sabotage the relationship, and then he’ll be the first one to try to get into your pants after he convinces you that your man is a creep. It’s not about having trust issues. It’s about knowing how people act. Trust is earned, not immediately granted.
He says that 9 out of 10 guy friends just want to sleep with you, which would mean that they're not actually friends at all -- just one-night-stands-in-waiting.

Which tells you two things:
  1. John Smith is extremely unlikely to be an actual friend to a woman, but is simply a one-night-stand-in-waiting himself, and 
  2. John Smith assumes that every other heterosexual man on the planet is like him in this regard (statistically speaking, the 1/10 male friend could be gay). 
Now, sure, plenty of male friends of women want to sleep with them. But wanting to sleep someone doesn't disqualify most people from being able to be that person's friend in addition to the sexual interest. Women do it all the time, gay men do it all the time, and I'm sure straight men do it all the time as well. John Smith, apparently, does not.

John Smith is probably also insanely jealous (like hell it's "not a trust issue"), because of the aforementioned projection of his own "sex-only" motivation onto every other guy on the planet.

It's really interesting how the same people who are most likely to apply rigid generalizations to entire other groups of people are so often just as willing to apply those same generalizations to their own group. Generalizations applied rigidly are called prejudices, and ingrained prejudices are called bigotry. John Smith's bigotry against women, ironically, makes him bigoted against men as well.

Though he assuredly doesn't see it that way-- he thinks his belief that other guys see women in exactly the same way he does is just the Truth. His entire list would be more appropriately called 13 Things A Woman Can Do To Be More Attractive To John Smith. But then nobody would read it, because nobody gives a shit about what would make them more attractive to John Smith. And he probably knows that.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

So many questions about what Jim Garlow knows

From Right Wing Watch:
Earlier this week, Jim Garlow called in to the "Point Of View" radio program to discuss his participation in the Vatican's recent summit on marriage. During the course of the conversation, Garlow offered up a rather interesting argument against the acceptance of gay marriage. 
"All the people who advocate for so-called same-sex marriage ought to have to live in homes in which the plumbers who built them, or the electricians who built them, didn't understand the difference between the male and female end of piping or plumbing or of electrical as well," he said, "and see how that home works out for them." 
"It doesn't work," he concluded.
Does Jim Garlow know...
  • that plumbing and electrical outlets aren't literally gendered?
  • that while people didn't invent water or electricity, we invented the means of conveying them-- and named those means? In other words, that people precede plumbing rather than being modeled after it?
  • that people are, themselves, neither plumping nor electricity?
  • that it will always sound utterly creepy for homophobes to talk so obsessively about genitalia?
  • that countless same-sex couples have managed to make it "work" quite well, all over the world and throughout time, in our species as well as others?
  • that "Make it work" is in fact the catchphrase of a famous gay man with his own considerably larger and more fabulous congregation?
  • that if corresponding connectors and fasteners had been instead named "America" and "Gay Marriage," it would be an equally valid analogy?
  • that he has the moral reasoning skills and existential aptitude of a five year old child?
Actually on that last point I should be asking-- does this pastor's congregation know? And if they do they care?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Letter to the editor

Justice system ignored facts  
I don’t know whether to feel saddened or enraged from reading about the man choked to death on a New York City street. The sources indicate this type of restraint by law enforcement officers was banned 20 years ago, yet a Staten Island grand jury saw no problem with the outcome of the officer’s action (Dec. 4 Eagle).  
Quite a few years ago, I was hired to be the summer school librarian at an alternative high school in Wichita. An African-American student came in frequently to finish up his homework, so we began to share stories. One day he revealed that the glasses he wore were just plain glass. He said he wore them so he would look less threatening. On more than one occasion when he entered an elevator, a woman would get off rather than share the space with him. He hoped the glasses would render him less aggressive-looking.  
I have never forgotten his story. Evidently, after all these years, we haven’t made much progress in seeing past a person’s color. 
I see myself as a problem solver, but I cannot come up with a solution to the problem of a justice system that can ignore facts with such a degree of capriciousness. 
Suzanne Koch is my mom. Did I mention that my mom is amazing?

Dawkins leads charge, is startled by army

We Hunted the Mammoth is a good site to read if you don't know what the men's rights movement is. If you've ever heard the acronym "MRA" and not understood what it means, that's where I'd suggest you go (hint: the "A" stands for "activist").

So I guess it's only fitting that Dave Futrelle, author of WHtM, be the one to chronicle the fact that Richard Dawkins has never heard of the men's rights movement. And that Paul Elam, founder of MRA web site A Voice for Men and commonly recognized unofficial leader of the men's rights movement, was shocked to hear this.

Frankly I'm a little shocked, myself. See, it's not really that unusual to not know about the men's rights movement, or especially about Paul Elam, if you're the average person. But Richard Dawkins is very far from the average person in this regard. He has a dog in this fight, you see, and it's a little jarring to realize that he doesn't seem to know which dog is his.

Not only is Dawkins a self-proclaimed feminist who issues proclamations about what "true feminism" is, but he's a self-proclaimed feminist who has angered feminists again and again by making comments which are tone-deaf at best, and unquestionably anti-feminist at worst, on Twitter and in other places. He's a self-proclaimed feminist who is apparently a big fan of another self-proclaimed feminist who seems to specialize in anti-feminism these days, Christina Hoff Sommers.

Now, it seems to me that the difference between anti-feminism and MRA is a very small one, indeed. It’s as if Dawkins found himself a hole in the side of a mountain and moved into it, making friends with the bats and the blind fish and what-not, only to emerge one day and be utterly astonished when somebody asks “So Richard, what’s it like to live in a cave?”