One reader's rave

"Thanks for the newspaper with your book review. I can’t tell you how impressed I am with this terrific piece of writing. It is beautiful, complex, scholarly. Only sorry Mr. Freire cannot read it!" -- Ailene

Cassie Jaye, the day before I met her at the _Red Pill_ world premiere

Sunday, September 23, 2018

When Confronting Media Illiteracy, It's Important Not to Replace It with Indoctrination

The July/August issue of The Pennsylvania Gazette contains an article about Penn alumna Erin McNeill's advocacy group Media Literacy Now. Properly construed, media literacy is an important issue, but I see reason to doubt whether her group's approach to it is truly evidence-based and free of ideology. I've submitted this letter to the Gazette:

Erin McNeill says, "Media literacy is about understanding the messages that we see and consume." But who decides what those messages actually are?

A repeated point of contention for several decades has been disagreement about what ideas various media -- from comic books, to sexually suggestive ads, to pornography, to video games and now comics again -- actually are conveying to their consumers.

In the 1950s, for instance, Fredric Wertham promoted a threat narrative about comic books which led to congressional hearings but is now largely discredited. Similarly, in the '80s one-sided hearings were held to promote a threat narrative about pornography which has little basis in science.

It troubles me that McNeill combines uncontroversial points like teaching young children about the decision-making structures and commercial interests behind what they see on television, with talk about identifying "bias, sexism, and racism in media," as if the question of what sorts of media content are actually promoting these and other kinds of bias were not, in fact, hotly disputed to this day.

Instead of a special subject of "media literacy" into which educators could inject their own ideological biases, it would be better simply to make the skills of critical thinking itself a core, ongoing part of the curriculum.

McCarthyite Scare Campaign Attacks Alternative Media

Mainstream media are attacking their competitor YouTube by pushing a McCarthyite report on "alternative influencers" that implies letting people hear a variety of ideas and interact with their presenters "radicalizes" them.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

PGN Perpetuates Negative Nerd Stereotypes

This week's edition of the Philadelphia Gay News carries an editorial cartoon continuing the false stereotypes of nerds, and gamers in particular, as being misogynistic. I've submitted this letter to the editor:

I'm disgusted by the false stereotype of nerds in this week's editorial cartoon.

"Those nerds might appreciate a girl -- any girl -- joining their class!" Oh, really? In fact there are lots of women and girls in gaming and other parts of nerd culture.

Here's a video of three women actively involved in speaking out against being "invisibilized" by the false stereotype that all gamers are cishet white guys:

And here are thirty more gamers who don't fit that stereotype -- 22 of them women:

For ongoing coverage and discussion of nerd culture anchored by three women, check out this website/podcast:

If any girls are discouraged from getting involved with nerd culture, it's usually not the boy nerds who are doing it. It's all the people outside of the culture who perpetuate the false stereotype. PGN shouldn't be part of that.

P.S. To be clear, I'm not suggesting that it's inherently derogatory to suggest that only members of a particular demographic group are interested in a particular kind of hobby. The only problem with that is its potential to discourage members of other groups to pursue the same interests. What was inherently derogatory was in the following panel, where it was implied that male nerds had been uniformly opposed to a female Doctor Who and that the reason for this was misogyny. There actually was no such uniform opposition, while it's not hard to think other possible reasons for such opposition as there was. For one thing, inasmuch as the Doctor is supposed to have continuity of personality from one incarnation to the next, doesn't regeneration as a woman pose the potential for gender dysphoria? (We see the reverse of this process depicted in Dreadnought, a novel about a transgender superhero who's finally freed of gender dysphoria when the cape she inherits gives her a perfect body, including one of the right sex for the first time.)

Thursday, September 20, 2018

I just called Senator Hirono's office to express my outrage that someone sworn to uphold the US Constitution has, in just a few sentences, attacked both the freedom of speech and the presumption of innocence, as well as promoting the false stereotype that men and only men are responsible for sexual violence, something for which women actually show a comparable propensity (see attachment). SAVE's message about this, slightly edited, is below.

Hello Eric,

Most Americans believe free speech and the presumption of innocence are cornerstones of democracy. But not Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawii.

In a recent interview about the sexual misconduct allegations against Judge Kavanaugh, Hirono remarked,

"Not only do women, like Dr. Ford, who bravely comes forward, need to be heard, but they need to be believed. Guess who's perpetuating all of these kinds of actions? It's the men in this country. And I just want to say to the men in this country, 'Just shut up and step up. Do the right thing for a change.'"

Are we going to acquiesce to Hirono's call to end free speech and the presumption of innocence? If not, please call her office now: (202) 224-6361.

The SAVE Team

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

New Visions, Old Acquaintance

I spent a few hours last week at Elwyn Institute, where my friend Rey Williams, who's developmentally disabled, had invited me to the New Visions program's Annual Recognition and Awards Ceremony. He was one of those who received a certificate.

An interesting part of the experience was seeing again the director of the program, Sharon Amill (nee Potts), for the first time since we'd attended many of the same classes from the fourth through the eighth grade at H. C. Lea School.


The first science fiction I ever read was 2001: A Space Odyssey, when I was ten. This morning I just finished re-reading it.

While, unsurprisingly, I got more of the symbolism this time, I'm a bit puzzled by the blurbs describing the story itself as an allegory. But I did just get an idea while reading this article about the AE-35 unit:

It says, "The most human part of the ship, then, is in some sense this little gadget." And this reminds me of something I heard a few years ago at a filk circle. There was a song called "Lab 35," and it was an allegory about the creation of humanity by God. It was explained to me that the title refers to the fact that the Hebrew numerals for 35 also form the word meaning "human." Perhaps the designation Clarke gave this unit wasn't random.

I think the image below was the cover of the copy I read when I was ten, or something very much like it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

"Identitarian Realism"

It struck me today that the ongoing campaign of "left" identitarian authoritarians (sometimes called "social justice warriors" or SJWs) to infiltrate and take over various geek subcultures and then try to drive out anyone who doesn't conform to their agenda, is analogous to the "socialist realist" school promoted as the only valid form of art and literature in Stalinist Russia.

Socialist realism insisted that art had to portray class struggle along the lines of a simplistic, vulgarized kind of Marxism. While this was ostensibly supposed to advance the interests of the workers, its real function was to allow the Stalinist bureaucracy to maintain an iron grip on thought within the USSR and prevent the appearance of any independent working-class politics.

Similarly, SJWdom is ostensibly about advancing the interests of various "marginalized" groups as defined by postmodernism-inspired identity politics, but its actual function is to help a section of the Western intelligentsia maintain its grip on a section of the academy and to further extend it by taking over one area after another. This campaign isn't limited to geek subcultures, but a lot of the effort has gone there first, probably because these are seen as smaller and easier targets than some other aspects of society.

It should be noted that there's an intellectual confusion, promoted by the Right, that tries to conflate this sort of identity politics with Marxism, often by calling it "cultural Marxism." This is quite inaccurate, since IDpol is neither class-centered nor, in the last analysis, even materialist -- both essential features of Marxism. To be sure, identitarians will occasionally reference class -- usually as part of the stock phrase "race, class, and gender." But it's interesting that, of all the categories of "marginality," this is the one that they most often omit to mention -- probably because the working class is the only such group to which none of the core SJWs belong, a fact to which it wouldn't serve their interest (or self-image) to draw attention.

The implicit rationale for calling IDpol "Marxist" would seem to be nothing more than its totalistic character -- combined with a false of equation of Stalinism to Marxism -- but by that reasoning one might just as well call Christian fundamentalist politics "Marxist," which would be manifestly ridiculous.

In fact, as others have argued, postmodernism and its political offshoots are better seen as a stratagem whereby capital, expressing itself through corporatized universities, has seduced many intellectuals who like to see themselves as radical to abandon any effective kind of radicalism by replacing the materialist focus on class, and the concrete institutions that maintain class, with a semantics-obsessed preoccupation with the abstraction of "marginality." This leads to a politics that is more interested in symbolism than substance and, to the extent it has a practical effect, is about advancing a layer of "marginal" people within the structures of the academy and other institutions. Or, as Chris Hedges has put it, "It was always about patronage, not revolution."

Far from undermining capitalism, this performs the function of reinvigorating it by co-opting "the best and brightest" from various demographic groups, giving them a stake in the present system, while splintering the working class.

P.S. On Twitter, where I've posted a link to this piece, Hannah Wallen (@oneiorosgrip) suggests the focus on geek subcultures is because this is where the most creative activity occurs, and totalitarians can't allow creativity.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Troubling Anomalies in the Honey Badgers Case

Disturbing anomalies in Alison Tieman's case against Calgary Expo and The Mary Sue: after the pretrial settlement conference but before the trial  itself, a Justice of the Alberta Supreme Court stepped in and tried to pressure her to settle, in the process making aspersions about her motivations, calling her "stubborn," etc. And now, weeks out from the judgement against her, the court still hasn't published it nor sent her the copy she ordered. (Very long interview.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Today I saw someone in a T-shirt bearing the image of a "Toynbee tile" -- a very inside way of saying, I'm from Philly.