Monday, July 24, 2017

The "shake" of Shakesville is for Shakedown Artist—on the greed of Melissa McEwan

I usually ignore Melissa McEwan because life's too short for feminists who don't realize that because poverty is disproportionately female, Bernie Sanders' policies would do more to help women than Hillary Clinton's would have.

But she's attacking the dirtbag left, and I love the dirtbag left.

One member of Chapo Trap House, Felix Biederman, made a joke that went too far—it was about rape. I agree it went too far, he agrees it went too far, everyone agrees it went too far. He apologized and said he would donate the rest of the month's income to CRR. I assume that's the Center for Reproductive Rights. The tweet right after his is from a survivor who approved of what he did.
But Melissa wants the money for herself instead of for an organization that would help others:
How much does she make from defending neoliberalism? The only clue I've seen is at Shakesville:
These fuckers make $72,706 a month for their podcast. A MONTH. That is significantly more than I make in an entire year. 
How significantly, she doesn't suggest. The US median household income is $56,000, so if she's doing anywhere near that, she has no grounds to complain.

Some people say Biederman's apology wasn't good enough. The word police loves to police apologies. I see nothing in what he wrote to suggest it's insincere. The test will be whether he keeps from repeating what he did. Until then, this is no one else's business.

Well, except McEwan's, because she'll trumpet it for as long as she can hope to get a penny from it.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Women show more gender bias than men in Implicit Association Tests

There Are Problems With the Gender-Bias IAT, Too -- Science of Us:
The first thing to know about implicit-sexism IATs is that they follow a pattern not really seen in other areas of IAT research. Generally speaking, for IATs dealing with some oppressed class of people, nonmembers of that group score higher, and are therefore seen as more implicitly biased against the group. White people generally score higher on a so-called black-white IAT than black peoples for example, for example, while ethnic Germans generally score higher than ethnic Turks on IATs involving traditionally German and traditionally Turkish names (Turks are a marginalized minority group in Germany).

Sexism IATs are different. As Greg Mitchell and Phil Tetlock put it in a book chapter that is very critical of the IAT, “One particularly puzzling aspect of academic and public dialogue about implicit prejudice research has been the dearth of attention paid to the finding that men usually do not exhibit implicit sexism while women do show pro-female implicit attitudes.” This appears to be a pretty robust finding, and if you translate it into the same language IAT proponents speak elsewhere, it means men don’t have implicit sexism and are therefore unlikely to make decisions in an implicitly sexist manner (women, meanwhile, will likely favor women over men in implicitly-driven decision-making). Even weirder, when you switch to IATs geared at evaluating not whether the test-taker implicitly favors men over women (or vice versa), but whether they are quicker to associate men versus women more with career, family, and similarly gendered concepts, the IAT somewhat reliably evaluates women as having higher rates of implicit bias against women than men do.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Is there any evidence that Bernie Sanders ultimately helped or hurt Hillary Clinton's campaign?

There are two narratives that annoy me because I see no evidence for them. The first is the Clinton camp's insistence that Sanders hurt her chances of winning. The second is the authoritarian socialist insistence that Sanders helped the Democrats by running.

I followed the polls at RealClearPolitics. So far as I can tell, Sanders had no effect on Clinton—the only effect he had was to make people realize a democratic socialist could win.

My belief hangs on this fact: For most of the race the polls at RealClearPolitics said Clinton would beat Trump by one or two points, as she did—which meant she was within the margin of error to lose to the Electoral College, as she did. Those polls also said Sanders would beat Trump by eight to ten points. (Neoliberals dismiss that by citing their gut feeling that wouldn't happen, but their guts are irrelevant here. The fact remains that people knew Sanders's positions, they knew he called himself a socialist, and he quickly became and remains the country's most popular politician.)

Because the terms of competing for the presidency as a Democrat included endorsing the winner of the primaries, when Sanders was squeezed out by DNC shenanigans, he endorsed her.

And the polls showed no bump for Clinton because of his endorsement.


With Sanders out, his supporters settled for their second choice. Democratic lesser-evilists went for Clinton, Republican lesser-evilists went for Trump, third-partiers went for a third party, and stay-homers stayed home.

Clinton's fate can't be credited to Sanders. It's all on Clinton and the country's rejection of the neoliberalism that's been widening the gap between rich and poor for over thirty years now.

A reminder that Obama could have passed single-payer in 2009 if he had wanted to

Crossing National Public Radio (NPR) Off My List for Health Care Coverage | naked capitalism:
“Cobble together the votes” is sloppy language that conflates two arguments: First, a sin of commission: The argument that Democrats needed 60 votes to pass the bill against a filibuster. This is a lie, since the filibuster rules can be changed with a majority vote, which Reid did in 2013 (but for something important like judicial nominees, not saving American lives). Second, a sin of omission: ObamaCare was passed under reconciliation with a majority vote, so Democrats could have passed a real solution like single payer, as opposed to the best possible Republican plan, ObamaCare, which, as good neoliberals seeking a markets-first solution, is what they did.
Click the link in that paragraph for a longer explanation.

ETA: Read "Obama and the Democrats" if you wish, because it's true the Democrats needed to be willing to give us single payer, and they didn't even try.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Emma Bull's take on how the writers should handle the change of gender on Doctor Who

I wrote,
They don't need to do more than have the doctor glance in a mirror and react visually, or say something casual like, "That's interesting."
Emma wrote,
I remember when he complained about never regenerating as a ginger. Which would itself be a pretty great comment on this regeneration: "STILL not a ginger."

Monday, July 17, 2017

Speech, not skin or gender, matters most when recasting characters

On Twitter, talking about the new star of Dr. Who, John Bullock said,
Oh hang on. I'll accept a lady doc, black doc, gay doc, trans doc... but make the doc not British and I'm out. Some lines you don't cross!
Someone asked why, and I replied,
Because what ultimately characterizes people is speech, not skin. Batman must talk like a rich New Yorker, and the doctor, like a Brit.
This is why it makes perfect sense for Idris Elba to play James Bond and Jodie Whittaker to star on Doctor Who. It's why, in the 1990s, when a movie was made of the British Avengers TV show, I wanted Chow Yun-Fat to play Steed and Michelle Yeoh to play Emma Peel--Hong Kong's culture was sufficiently affected by British rule that Chow and Yeoh would have worked, while people with American accents would've just seemed wrong.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

On Sandwichfail, Hipsters, and Foodie Privilege: Why Liberals Quibble with the Wrong Part of David Brooks' Essay

David Brooks, a conservative, talks about culture and class in How We Are Ruining America - The New York Times. The liberal internet is generally ignoring the parts about class—thereby showing class continues to be the US's last taboo—and focusing on this paragraph:
Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.
Alyssa Rosenberg has one of the nicer liberal responses in How good manners would have saved David Brooks from his deli disaster. She, like many others, thinks Brooks should have educated the friend rather than going somewhere else. Her take is what's expected from an American who is able to talk about going on vacation in Vietnam. Foodie culture is all about being the recommender, the discoverer, the one who is able to do the equivalent of calling "First!" on a culinary experience, and fellow foodies are delighted at the opportunity to be second because they know they'll share the new cuisine with their own friends.

For the rich and for adventurous members of the working class, finding and sharing new foods is a delight. What Brooks gets right is that this attitude is promoted in universities, and especially in expensive private universities, the finishing schools of the rich. But it's not limited to universities, of course—as a young man, my Dad traveled the world in the Merchant Marine and loved eating what the locals ate. Science fiction fans, perhaps because they tend to be university grads, have delighted in new cuisines for as long as there've been fans. People who live in major cities tend to take new cuisines for granted and look forward to the chance to try something new.

But people from limited backgrounds can feel like their ignorance is a reason for embarrassment. I don't know if David Simon based this scene in The Wire on something he experienced, but it rings true:

Some writers agree about the upper class's cultural barriers in ‘It’s Not the Fault of the Sandwich Shop’: Readers Debate David Brooks’s Column - The New York Times.

What the people who say Brooks should've educated his friend miss is that would put Brooks in the position of being the educator rather than the friend. People who assume everyone is like them would insist on eating at the gourmet shop and would show off their knowledge, and it's entirely possible that their guest would end up enjoying it.

But those of us who don't think all people are alike know this isn't the only possibility. The guest might be forced to pretend to be happy. Considerate people try to read the situation: is it better to push to go to the place that seems to make someone uncomfortable, or is it better to find an option that both of you like?

Brooks and his friend went for Mexican. There's an odd assumption from some people that this was condescending. I have to wonder if they associate Mexican food with working class food—the only information about class that's clear in Brook's anecdote is that the first choice was a gourmet sandwich shop.

I'd prefer Mexican.

PS. I'm sidestepping Brooks' class analysis here—as a socialist, I agree it's facile. I'm simply agreeing that there are cultural obstacles which richer people want to deny or downplay because the alternative is to acknowledge that they think their culture is better than that of the working class.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

How to make us believe characters are in love

Emma and I are watching an old TV show that currently has two sets of characters involved in romances. One couple convinces me they're in love; the other does not. My first thought was the actors in the second couple didn't have chemistry. Then I realized I was letting the writers off the hook by failing to ask why those characters didn't have the vague thing we call chemistry.

The answer is the writers didn't provide it. The first couple get to have fun together. The second couple, the unconvincing couple, never do. It's not enough to show that characters care for each other. You have to show why they care. For most of us, that means doing things that make us laugh together.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Cultural appropriation theory criticized by people of color

Because identitarians believe the thoughts of people with "lived experience" matter most when discussing issues of social identity, here are some thinkers on race and culture who have unquestionable "lived experience":

Arun Gupta - I was sent this list below of "White-Owned Appropriative Restaurants in Portland.":
They want to fix all cultures as fossils in a museum, not allowing for adaptation, changing tastes, social roles, or fashion. It reminds me of how the National Front fetishizes a notion of the pure French nation.
In Defense of Cultural Appropriation - The New York Times by Kenan Malik:
Appropriation suggests theft, and a process analogous to the seizure of land or artifacts. In the case of culture, however, what is called appropriation is not theft but messy interaction. Writers and artists necessarily engage with the experiences of others. Nobody owns a culture, but everyone inhabits one, and in inhabiting a culture, one finds the tools for reaching out to other cultures.

... There are few figures more important to the development of rock ’n’ roll than Chuck Berry (who died in March). In the 1950s, white radio stations refused to play his songs, categorizing them as “race music.” Then came Elvis Presley. A white boy playing the same tunes was cool. Elvis was feted, Mr. Berry and other black pioneers largely ignored. Racism defined who became the cultural icon.

But imagine that Elvis had been prevented from appropriating so-called black music. Would that have challenged racism, or eradicated Jim Crow laws?
On ‘Maybellene’ and General Tso’s Chicken by Jonathan Zimmerman:
Berry never claimed to be the sole originator of anything. "Chuck Berry’s style … is only back to the future of what came in the past," he wrote in his 1987 autobiography. "And you know, and I believe it must be true, ‘there is nothing new under the sun.’ So don’t blame me for being first, just let it last."
Let White People Appropriate Mexican Food—Mexicans Do It to Ourselves All the Time by Gustavo Arellano:
The Mexican restaurant world is a delicious defense of cultural appropriation—that's what the culinary manifestation of mestizaje is, ain't it? The Spaniards didn't know how to make corn tortillas in the North, so they decided to make them from flour. Mexicans didn't care much for Spanish dessert breads, so we ripped off most pan dulces from the French (not to mention waltzes and mariachi). We didn't care much for wine, so embraced the beers that German, Czech and Polish immigrants brought to Mexico. And what is al pastor if not Mexicans taking shawerma from Lebanese, adding pork, and making it something as quintessentially Mexicans as a corrupt PRI?
 Of kimono and cultural appropriation | The Japan Times by Shaun O'Dwyer:
Manami Okazaki, whose book “Kimono Now” analyses modern kimono fashions, told me that her main worry was “that this (protest) will affect museums/ event organizers wanting to do kimono shows in the future, which is the last thing the industry needs.”

...That message, recently iterated to me by an employee at the Nishijin Textiles Center in Kyoto, is this: Anyone can appropriate and creatively modify kimono styles whenever and however they like.

...Kaori Nakano, a professor of fashion history at Meiji University put it to me this way: “Cultural appropriation is the beginning of new creativity. Even if it includes some misunderstanding, it creates something new.”
Japanese-American in Boston: Monet's La Japonaise Kimono Wednesdays at the MFA: "Kimono try on is an established part of Japanese cultural sharing. One of my friends reminded me that in Kyoto it's a big tourist thing to do something called "maiko for a day" (maiko are apprentice geisha) and it's popular with both Japanese people and international tourists. Another friend reminded me that it's common for non-Japanese to also wear kimono, yukata, and happi coats as obon festivals and other matsuris in places like Hawaii and California."

Japanese-American in Boston: Myths and facts about Kimono Wednesdays and the protests:
The MFA controversy clearly falls into the category of #firstworldproblems. I've continued to write about it because the protesters have continued to minimize and dismiss dissenting Japanese and Japanese American viewpoints which is not something I can accept.
Underneath the 'Orientalist' kimono | The Japan Times:
“The real reason why traditional kimono culture is about to (become) extinct,” wrote avant-garde fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto, “is because of its tendency to aspire to ‘perfection’ as a style that does not allow any other foreign item to be added to it. My advice for anyone wearing kimono is to challenge this rigidity; let’s forget about attending kimono lessons.”


From Jenner to Dolezal: One Trans Good, the Other Not So Much | By Adolph Reed Jr.:
When all is said and done, the racial outrage is about protection of the boundaries of racial authenticity as the exclusive property of the guild of Racial Spokespersonship. ... Beneath all the puerile cultural studies prattle about "cultural appropriation" ... lies yet another iteration in what literature scholar Kenneth Warren has identified in his masterful 2012 study, What Was African American Literature?, as a more than century-old class program among elements of the black professional-managerial stratum to establish “managerial authority over the nation’s Negro problem.”
Bonus thoughts by people from groups that some say are not white:

If you think Greeks are not white or are "imperfectly white":  "Why the Theory of Cultural Appropriation is Pro-Capitalist"—a guest post by Jonas Kyratzes:
...people from those countries are rarely threatened by “outsiders” taking on elements of their culture; in fact, they celebrate it. In Greece, when some element of Greek culture becomes popular worldwide, it tends to make the news. As a good thing. As in hey, we’re poor and miserable and everything is shit, but at least we’re still relevant in the world. People like our stuff! If you all start loving the bouzouki, we’re not suddenly going to run out of music over here.
If you think Jews are not white: The Myth of ‘Cultural Appropriation’ - The Chronicle of Higher Education by Walter Benn Michaels: of the particular responsibilities of the humanities and social-science faculty is to help make sure that the students who take our courses come out not just richer than everyone else but also more virtuous. (It’s like adding insult to injury, but the opposite.)
Identity crimes — both the phantasmatic ones, like cultural theft, and the real ones, like racism and sexism — are perfect for this purpose, since, unlike the downward redistribution of wealth, opposing them leaves the class structure intact. Thus, for example, one can completely support (as I do) the actions of Middlebury College students in demonstrating their opposition to what they called Charles Murray’s "white nationalism" while at the same time noting that it’s not white nationalism that’s making poor people poorer; it’s capitalism. And when it comes to fighting capitalism, the Middlebury student body (median family income $244,300; about a quarter of Middlebury students come from the top 1 percent; three-quarters come from the top 20 percent) is not exactly in the revolution’s vanguard.
Update: Added several new bits about kimonos. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

On Zootopia and the problem with using species as a metaphor for race or ethnicity

I thought Zootopia was fun, but I hated its metaphor, something that's bugged me at least since Spiegelman's Maus. A human race is an artificial concept, a tribe allows outsiders to join and insiders to leave, but a species is an immutable aspect of identity. The fox and rabbit of Zootopia can be friends, unlike the cats and mice of Maus who are genetically driven to be enemies, but they cannot mate. Using species as metaphors for race or tribe validates the beliefs of black and white racists who babble about racial purity.

But I quibble. Zootopia and Maus both have something important to say, even though what they say is a bit muddled. That's human art for you.

Friday, June 30, 2017

William Sanders is dead. He was a better man and a better writer than his haters.

I never met William Sanders, but I admired his work, and after I began studying mobbing and call-out culture, I admired the man, too. I wrote about him in The Powwow Dancer vs. the People of Privilege - Mobbing William Sanders.

The story of his that is most likely to be remembered is online: "The Undiscovered" by William Sanders (pdf).

He retired from writing, then wrote a couple of stories. I'll always wonder what more he might've written if fandom's identitarians had not decided to drive him from the field.

ETA: I learned of this from Gardner Dozois's Facebook post.

When anti-racists say they are racist, they mean you are

The original anti-racists—not the first people to fight racism, but the people who developed the race reductionist approach called Critical Race Theory—taught that all white people are racist because they grow up in a racist society. If you think about that, you'll know in a second it's nonsense because every society produces rebels. But the original anti-racists were not rebels. They were Ivy Leaguers who wanted to reach the top of the class pyramid, so they rejected the anti-capitalism of King and Malcolm X.

Science says their belief is wrong. There've been several tests to measure racism. None conclude that all white people are racist. Project Implicit's race test suggests a higher percentage of white people have measurable racism than any other test I know of, but Project Implicit is criticized by many people who think it suggests people are more racist than they actually are. Project Implicit's creators agree that could be so.

But anti-racists hate Project Implicit because it suggests a large minority of white people prefer black folks, and a smaller minority have no preference. In the discussion at Steven Brust’s Fourth Street Fantasy Remarks Generate Heat (a gift that keeps on giving), Cheryl S. said,
Ah, the Project Implicit test. Like Chad, I’ll never get those minutes back, but here:
Here is your result:
Your data suggest a moderate automatic preference for African Americans over European Americans.
Which I do have (and the test knows that because it asked me and I told it so), but since I’m white, I also harbor implicit, deeply rooted and societally based racism, so this don’t mean nothing. Also, in addition to all the flaws pointed out in the article @jayn linked, there is a significant flaw in the test (it times things, which may be meaningless if you’ve taught a test taker a system and then change it), plus all the photos were of men. In other words, this is the Myers-Briggs of racism testing, which is to say it’s meaningless drivel and proves precisely nothing except that people like taking stupid tests.
The research I've seen suggests the test is not amenable to gaming—I know my attempts to game it have failed—so there are two possibilities:

1. Cheryl S. is right about her racism, and Project Implicit failed her.
2. Cheryl S. is wrong about her racism, but a basic human rule applies: faith trumps facts.

I don't know Cheryl S., so I can't speculate. I'm fine with either possibility.

But if her faith requires her to feel she's harboring racism, don't assume she gets satisfaction from flagellating herself. A different mechanism is at work. Anti-racism's roots are in the religious theory of social justice, and their model of racism is that it's a sin passed from parent to child. When white anti-racists insist they are racists, they are not just saying they are sinners. They are saying they have been saved, but you are still damned.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Terrible Sea Lion: Persistent Politeness is Loved by Friends and Feared by Foes

A year ago, I shared this observation:
"Its 'sea lioning' when it's someone you don't agree with and 'calling out' when you do." —James 'Grim' Desborough
I noted,
There is one important difference: A sea lion must be polite, while a caller-out must be filled with (self-)righteous fury.
Sealioning came up in the discussion at Steven Brust’s Fourth Street Fantasy Remarks Generate Heat. These are the parts that I hope are worth sharing:

In response to one person, I said,
I’m amused by your mention of sealioning. Someone said this today on Facebook: “I think people who are weak debaters throw these terms [sealioning and strawmanning] out at people like caltrops, hoping they will grind their opponent down by boring them to death.”

Greg Hullender said,
From the cartoon, I would gather that “to sea lion” is to continue to press someone on an issue past they point where it’s clear they realize they’re wrong in an attempt to force them to admit it. A polite person, having made his/her point, will simply drop the subject once it’s clear the other person can’t really defend it. Sea Lions never drop anything.

That said, to accuse someone of sea lioning is to admit to being wrong, no? Or at least to having an indefensible position. It’s like pleading the fifth amendment.
Hampus Eckerman told Greg, "Feels like you didn’t read the comic." Greg replied,
I saw that definition, but it doesn’t match the comic. Reread the comic, but replace “sea lion” with “homosexual” or other minority. (Better, use a derogatory word for a minority.) Then you’ll see where I’m coming from.

I do see the point that the sea lion proves her point, in a way, by being so persistent. In that case, though, the cartoon seems to be making fun of anyone who stands up to discrimination. That’s not a great interpretation either.
I said,
As for “sealion” as a verb, based on the cartoon, it means “politely persist”, a trait admired in friends and hated in foes.
JJ insisted that a sea lion is a form of troll, and Lydy said,
Is Will really arguing that sealioning is good behavior? I may never stop laughing.
I said,
JJ, of course the sea lion is terrible to the people who oppose it. I said so.

But if a sea lion was a troll, the word would not have caught on. Trolls appear with their own issues and insult people like a fifth grade bully. The sea lion is relentlessly on topic, even when others want to drop it, and perfectly polite.

Lydy, you missed this part of what I wrote: “and hated in foes”. But that’s fine. I’m fascinated by the manifestations of cognitive dissonance. Gandhi covered them well when he wrote that first they ignore you….
Hampus provided links to the artist's statements about his intention: Wondermark » Archive » “Sea Lion” Has Been Verbed and Wondermark » Archive » 2014 Errata.

I replied,
As for “sealion”, any comic strip is open to interpretation. Even its creator may not be fully aware of its implications, simply because artists are human. See Authorial intent - Wikipedia
And then JJ insisted a sea lion is a troll, so I added,
JJ, there’s no definitive definition of any word anywhere, of course, but Wikipedia has a decent definition of internet troll: Internet troll

Note that unlike a troll, a sea lion does not start the discussion, does not go off-topic, and is polite rather than inflammatory. However, language is mutable, so the definition of troll may expand to include sea lion.

Understanding the identitarian difficulty with metaphor and idiom

Notes: This is a follow-up to Four kinds of safe spaces and a question about idiom. Some of the quotes are from longer posts at Steven Brust’s Fourth Street Fantasy Remarks Generate Heat that touch on other subjects. I've done my best to include everything about metaphor and idiom to keep from misrepresenting anyone, but if you spot anything that should've been included, mention it in the comments and I'll update this post.

Greg Hullender said,
I’m a linguist, and we have a slightly different definition of idiom than the popular one, but one that gets used in a lot of examples is “He kicked the bucket” to mean “He died.” This is certainly not literal, but I’d argue it isn’t metaphorical either.
I said,
Greg, how is it not metaphorical? Kicking the bucket is not meant literally—it’s a metaphor for dying. There are several theories for its origin, but whether it was originally a bucket or a beam or something else, that idiom seems perfectly metaphorical. I’d love to hear your argument that it isn’t.
Then I went googling to learn more, and added,
There seems to be an argument that idioms, like cliches, are so familiar that we don’t have to process them as we do a new metaphor. But that does not mean they aren’t metaphors. It just means they’re familiar.
Then I thought a bit and said,
Y’know, Lydy and WW may be onto something. For those of us who try to use language consciously, idioms are metaphorical. But for people who often use an idiom, it functions as a unit of sound that the hearer does not think about because the hearers believe they know the meaning—they literally don’t think about it. So when Steve used “safe space” as a metaphor, the part of the audience that has a single understanding of “safe space” literally could not grasp what he was saying.
Greg Hullender answered my question about kicking the bucket:
If I say “The sea was a mirror,” that’s a metaphor. You know the sea isn’t really a mirror, but you know what I mean. I read novels in French, Spanish, and Italian, and when I run across a new metaphor, even though I’ve never heard it in English, I can always figure it out. (Contrast “simile” where I’d say “The sea was like a mirror.”)

But with “Kick the bucket” or “Everything was in apple-pie order,” there is no way in the world to figure it out without a visit to the dictionary.
And he quoted what I said about Lydy and WW being onto something and said,
Linguists refer to this as lexicalizing a phrase. That means it effectively becomes a new “word” in the dictionary–a word that happens to contain spaces–whose meaning cannot be deduced simply from the pieces. “Real estate” is a good example. One could argue “safe space” is too.

An idiom is a bit more than a lexicalized expression because, unlike the latter, an idiom is not “productive.” Note that I cannot say “The bucket was kicked by him.” Only certain grammatical forms of the idiom are valid, whereas a lexicalized expression should have the same flexibility as any other word.
Lydy, who continues to insist that "safe space" is a term of art that is neither literal nor metaphorical, announced that she knew what a term of art was. I said,
Lydy, you say you know what a term of art is, but a term of art has a specific meaning to the group that uses it, which is to say, it is meant to be understood literally by them. Which is why the people who understood “safe space” as a term of art were so upset when Steve used it metaphorically.

Greg, thank you. Your definition of idiom seems to be “obscure metaphor”–you need to know the references to make sense of the metaphor, but if you’re very familiar with a language, you can use an idiom to communicate without knowing its past.

As for “the bucket was kicked by him”, give the internet a little more time. 🙂
So what happened at Fourth Street:

Steve, thinking like a writer, used a metaphor. But he did not know that some of his audience were part of a group that understands "safe space" as a term of art and therefore were as confused as Scientologists would be by someone who used one of their terms of art as a metaphor.

Bonus: Safe-space - Criticism - Wikipedia

In College and Hiding From Scary Ideas - The New York Times: "But the notion that ticklish conversations must be scrubbed clean of controversy has a way of leaking out and spreading. Once you designate some spaces as safe, you imply that the rest are unsafe. It follows that they should be made safer."

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Four kinds of safe spaces and a question about idiom

At Steven Brust’s Fourth Street Fantasy Remarks Generate Heat | File 770, Lydy Nickerson claimed,
I would like to point out that “safe space” is neither a literal nor a metaphorical phrase. It is a term of art, coming out of various complex discussions about how to deal with racism, sexism, and kierarchy.
World Weary added,
i’m surprised to find a writer unfamiliar with the concept of idiom, a term which describes a word or words with a specific but non-literal and non-metaphorical meaning. The bane of translaters everywhere.
This is a slightly revised version of my reply,
World Weary, the reason idiom is difficult to translate is because idioms can be literal, but they’re more commonly metaphorical. When they’re literal, they assume knowledge that outsiders don’t have. And that’s true when they’re metaphorical. Can you offer an example of an idiom that is neither metaphorical or literal?

To take this back to the topic:

A safe space can be a literal space that is safe from physical danger because danger cannot enter, like a fortress or an isolated chamber such as the safe room that rich people build in their homes.

A safe space can be one of at least three kinds of spaces where the safety is metaphorical, based on the consent of the people who meet there:

A space that is free from physical danger by agreement, like sacred grounds or a place where a flag of truce is flying.

A space where no ideas are taboo.

A space where certain ideas are taboo.
Thinking more about the possibility that an idiom could be literal but obscure, I went looking and couldn't find any examples, but I found a good definition of idiom at English Idioms | Lists of Idioms with Definitions and Examples:
An idiom (also called idiomatic expression) is an expression, word, or phrase that has a figurative meaning conventionally understood by native speakers. This meaning is different from the literal meaning of the idiom's individual elements. In other words, idioms don't mean exactly what the words say. They have, however, hidden meaning.
So, can anyone offer an example of an idiom that is neither literal or metaphorical? 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Black Panther wisdom: two quotes by Huey P. Newton and Fred Hampton

“I dissuade Party members from putting down people who do not understand. Even people who are unenlightened and seemingly bourgeois should be answered in a polite way. Things should be explained to them as fully as possible. I was turned off by a person who did not want to talk to me because I was not important enough. Maurice just wanted to preach to the converted, who already agreed with him. I try to be cordial, because that way you win people over. You cannot win them over by drawing the line of demarcation, saying you are on this side and I am on the other; that shows a lack of consciousness. After the Black Panther Party was formed, I nearly fell into this error. I could not understand why people were blind to what I saw so clearly. Then I realized that their understanding had to be developed.” ―Huey P. Newton

“We got to face some facts. That the masses are poor, that the masses belong to what you call the lower class, and when I talk about the masses, I’m talking about the white masses, I’m talking about the black masses, and the brown masses, and the yellow masses, too. We’ve got to face the fact that some people say you fight fire best with fire, but we say you put fire out best with water. We say you don’t fight racism with racism. We’re gonna fight racism with solidarity. We say you don’t fight capitalism with no black capitalism; you fight capitalism with socialism.” —Fred Hampton

ETA: The Women's Liberation and Gay Liberation Movements, Speech given by Huey Newton, founder of the Black Panthers, August 15, 1970.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Censors censor discussion of censorship—a 4th Street followup

I made a post on the 4th Street Fantasy Facebook page asking which specific part of the 4th Street Code of Conduct Steve Brust is supposed to have broken. Alex Haist, who silenced Steve, also administers the 4th Street page; she deleted my post.

I then asked this on her post about closing comments:
I am guessing you deleted my post. Perhaps this is the proper place to ask the question: What specific part of the Code of Conduct did Brust break?
She replied,
No, this is not the right place. As I said, you're welcome to have this conversation with us in email.
and then she turned off commenting on that post.

So I made a new post, trying to point out that if you expect people to abide by your speech code, you have to be able to explain which part of the code applies to what you censor. Otherwise, you just appear to be a dictator.

Okay, I worded the post much more gently than that, but she must have seen the implications, because she deleted it.

Yes, I know private censorship is perfectly legal. It is still wrong.

Relevant: XKCD doesn't understand free speech—or the difference between legal and moral rights

Friday, June 23, 2017

Why it's easier to speak among free speech supporters than in a "safe space"

In defense of safe spaces, Scott Lynch said, “It is difficult to be bold in front of strangers when you don’t feel fundamentally welcome.”

That's certainly true. But it's not the only consideration.

It is impossible to be bold in front of strangers when you don’t know what may inspire them to silence you. It is much easier to be bold in front of free speech supporters. Even the ones who most oppose you will support your right to speak.

The Malcolm X Code of Conduct

“Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery.” – Malcolm X

“Obey the law” does not mean submit to authority. Martin Luther King believed in nonviolence and Malcolm believed in self-defense, but they had more in common than not, including a preference for legal protest. It's tactically wise. A speaker is more effective in public than in prison.

Because Malcolm believed in self-defense, his “if” is essential: Has no one laid hands on you? Stay peaceful, courteous, and respectful.

Nothing in his code kept him from demanding justice, as you may see by watching any of his speeches or interviews.

Possibly relevant: I discuss cowboy codes of the early 20th century in A little about America's idea of cowboys and traditional male values. They have a lot in common with Malcolm's code.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Denying "standing": how identitarians marginalize the marginalized who disagree with them (focusing on 4th St. Fantasy)

At Followup On Fourth Street, Hopping689 told Steven Brust,
Your opening address was in no way aggressive and I heartily approved of it. Speaking as a disabled woman. 
If a writer has nothing to say about society, I don’t read their work and I certainly don’t go to hear them speak. Why would I, if they have nothing to say? Surely nearly every story is about society and the individual’s place in it. Especially SFF, aka “the literature of ideas.” 
By “safe space” do those who object actually mean “commercially safe space”? If groups are socially and economically disadvantaged to the point they don’t feel safe speaking up in public discussions, hadn’t the panel better address the political forces behind that? If you don’t talk about real things, real people don’t care. They don’t have the time. The purpose of the discussion becomes insular, otherwise; maybe even indulgent. It’s the very thing that puts busy, cash-strapped, tired people off reading in the first place. Anti-intellectualism relies on art which says nothing. 
It seems a fairly typical use of identity politics to quash genuine political discussion, whether it’s done consciously or not. And anyway, (to make the old joke) speaking as a woman, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.
But her comments have been excluded from the identitarian narrative because it does not fit. Like Adolph Reed, whose short piece on anti-racism should be read by anyone who is concerned with racism, she cannot be dismissed with the usual ad hominem, so she's simply ignored.

I started thinking about "standing" when I read Cheryl S.'s comment at Steven Brust’s Fourth Street Fantasy Remarks Generate Heat | File 770:
...I commented yesterday that Brust lacked standing. He doesn’t get to redefine the meaning in order to make a rather dubious point while also dog whistling the culture. wars.
Why does Steve lack standing? Because he's a white male who does not accept the neoliberal understanding of privilege developed in the Ivy League.

As a disabled woman, Hopping689 should have all the "standing" anyone needs to have their position taken seriously. But for identitarians, ideology trumps identity, a fact that should be especially obviously when cis het white male identitarians tell a story that erases Hopping689 and all the women who did not feel threatened by Steve.


Ideology makes you confuse the literal and the metaphorical--a bit about the 4th Street Kerfuffle

Yes, some people literally did not understand that Steve Brust was speaking metaphorically

"Why the Theory of Cultural Appropriation is Pro-Capitalist"—a guest post by Jonas Kyratzes

Jonas made a comment on My opening remarks at Fourth Street Fantasy Convention that deserves more attention, so I've made it a guest post. -WS

Why the Theory of Cultural Appropriation is Pro-Capitalist

by Jonas Kyratzes

Of course the concept of appropriation is pro-capitalist: it treats culture, inherently diffuse, messy, mixed up and impure, as an ownable good available in limited amounts. It’s an even more extreme version of the logic applied to software piracy. It’s turning everything into a product.

Even the excuse that the point supposedly is to protect people from that culture (and not to police cultural borders) comes purely in capitalist terms – the function is to protect those artists who make a living by selling a purist fantasy. And usually, to be clear, these are Americans who have some ancestral connection to that culture, not people from another country. Because people from those countries are rarely threatened by “outsiders” taking on elements of their culture; in fact, they celebrate it. In Greece, when some element of Greek culture becomes popular worldwide, it tends to make the news. As a good thing. As in hey, we’re poor and miserable and everything is shit, but at least we’re still relevant in the world. People like our stuff! If you all start loving the bouzouki, we’re not suddenly going to run out of music over here.

And the irony is, of course, that this demand for cultural purity actually *diminishes* opportunities for artists from these countries. If certain elements of their culture become part of the global mainstream, that’s actually a chance to have an impact! It makes you more easily understood, makes what you have to offer more accessible. It builds bridges. But the anti-appropriation argument actually just has the effect of limiting “cultural authority” to the tiny minority of English or American middle-class artists who take on the role of “authentic” representative/consultant and perpetuate these rigid Maoist-style ideologies to safeguard their position.

The people outside the US most likely to be against appropriation, i.e. against the mixing of cultures, are fascists. The people most likely to make a big deal about “their” culture are extreme conservatives. That’s what you’re supporting on a global scale when you fight against appopriation – the very worst parts of society, the equivalent of your very own white supremacists. The rest of us are deeply opposed to nationalism, to cultural chauvinism. We’re not insecure about “our” culture. We’re fighting against borders, against segregation, for unity and understanding between cultures. Cultures which, incidentally, simply cannot be ranked in some convenient hierarchy – our histories are way too messy for that.

Why American leftists insist on supporting the extreme right, the worst enemies of the very oppressed you claim to want to help, will never make sense. We could really use your solidarity, but that would require an internationalist, transcultural perspective.

Yes, some people literally did not understand that Steve Brust was speaking metaphorically

A footnote to Ideology makes you confuse the literal and the metaphorical--a bit about the 4th Street Kerfuffle:

I completely understand why people find it hard to believe anyone did not understand that Steve was speaking metaphorically. That croggled me, too. But the difficulty of understanding metaphor began with the first comments at 4th Street Fantasy Society:

David Cummer Are you saying Steve intended to make people feel threatened?

LikeShow more reactions
ReplyJune 17 at 2:29pm
Alex Haist David Cummer He said so explicitly, so yes.

LikeShow more reactions
ReplyJune 17 at 2:30pm

I answered,

Will Shetterly Alex has trouble understanding metaphors, so she did not hear what he was saying. This would not have been a problem had she asked him if what she inferred was what he intended to imply.

June 18 at 12:30amEdited

Even after considerable discussion about metaphors, there were exchanges like this:

Karen Osborne Because he literally said that we should feel threatened. Good heavens.

June 20 at 3:54pmEdited
Will Shetterly Karen Osborne Did he say it literally or metaphorically?
Will Shetterly I asked Matt Smit this, and he hasn't answered yet: Is it no longer possible to use "threaten" as a metaphor? I'm old, and language changes, so if that's so, it'd be good to know. In my day, anything could be meant literally or metaphorically.
Matt Smit You asked Reuben, not me, Will.

June 20 at 3:58pm
Karen Osborne Will - You already know what he said.

June 20 at 3:59pm
Will Shetterly Karen Osborne Yes, I do, and I know it was a metaphor.

ETA: At Steven Brust’s Fourth Street Fantasy Remarks Generate Heat | File 770, Hampus Eckerman doubles down on the idea that Steve's metaphor was a literal threat. I replied, "All metaphors are said literally. That does not mean metaphoric speech is literal speech, even though English would let us say that."