Open Thread and Link Farm, Trapped Inside This Rotting Building Edition

I Am Part of the Resistance Inside Nyarlathotep’s Death Cult – McSweeney’s Internet Tendency
Thanks to Grace for the link!

Demanding an End to ‘Modern Day Slavery,’ Prisoners Launch Multi-Day Nationwide Strike | Portside
Includes a list of the prisoners’ demands.

Julia Serano: Everything You Need to Know About Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria

ECHIDNE OF THE SNAKES: Do 20% of Men “Get” 80% Of All Heterosexual Sex?
Spoiler: No.

Bank of America freezes account after asking proof of residency | The Sacramento Bee

Social science replication crisis: studies in top journals keep failing to replicate – Vox
There’s some interesting discussion here of what this could mean for researchers going forward.

‘Alley Oop’ Comic Strip May Be Going The Way Of The Dinosaurs | Deadline
My first reaction was, “Alley Oop is still running?” Turns out the strip has been running over 80 years, but is now in reruns. It has about 600 papers, however, so I bet the syndicate will find someone to keep it going. Cartoonists with Ally Oop ideas, now may be the time to send in your pitches!

The Great Chinese Art Heist | GQ
This could be the basis of an awesome heist movie. Or a reverse “Indiana Jones.”

Opinion | YouTube, the Great Radicalizer – The New York Times
YouTube’s algorithms are biased to showing us more and more extreme videos, apparently because that keeps the most people watching longest, bringing in more ad dollars. Interestingly, this is literally the opposite of the expected outcome of the “an open marketplace of free speech will lead to the truth succeeding” arguments. Alternate link.

Is sex work still the most dangerous profession? The data suggests so

The Country’s First Climate Change Casualties? – Pacific Standard
“Scientists predict Tangier Island could be uninhabitable within 25 years. This is the story of the people willing to go down with it—and why they’ve risked it all on Donald Trump to keep them afloat.” The population of Tangier Island is less than 1,000; would it make more sense to give up on saving the island and instead offer the residents who are willing to relocate generous grants?

Mel Gibson set the pattern for a #MeToo comeback. Others will follow it. – Vox
Unfortunately, this isn’t the way I’d like to see things go; Gibson mainly got to come back by staying below the radar for a while and refusing to talk about it, while his friends sometimes told the media that he’d gotten a bum rap. My preference would be for celebs in need of rehabilitation to undergo a restorative justice process with their victims, if the victims are willing.

‘Virtue-signalling’ – the putdown that has passed its sell-by date | David Shariatmadari | Opinion | The Guardian

Victorian Doctors Didn’t Treat Women With Orgasms, Say Historians – The Atlantic

For Older Voters, Getting The Right ID Can Be Especially Tough : NPR

Against Identity Politics | Francis Fukuyama
This is one of the better attacks on identity politics I’ve seen, not least because he doesn’t dismiss the problems identity politics addresses. But I still think he makes his case by leaving a lot out. It’s not obvious that the zero-sum game Fukuyama posits – that if we concentrate on (for example) racism, then the left won’t also concentrate on economic ideas – is actually true. The support for a basic income has recently been shooting up on the left; ditto for medicare-for-all.

The New Science of Seeing Around Corners | Quanta Magazine
Really neat stuff that I don’t fully understand. “…the computer vision scientist Antonio Torralba noticed stray shadows on the wall of his hotel room that didn’t seem to have been cast by anything.”

Why We Should Lower the Voting Age in America – Rolling Stone

Is a glass of wine a day really unsafe? A new alcohol study, explained. – Vox
The answer is “no.” But this fuss is indicative of a larger problem in how food and health is reported. Reading this article made me think of this brilliant Funny or Die sketch.

The Living Wall by Nikita Nomerz | Bored Panda“Russian street artist Nikita Nomerz travels around various cities in his homeland to find abandoned structures and bring them back to life.”

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53 Responses to Open Thread and Link Farm, Trapped Inside This Rotting Building Edition

  1. 1
    Harlequin says:

    I know this is often a hard question to answer, but if you can articulate what you’re not sure you understand about the seeing-around-corners stuff, I might be able to help explain it a different way. (I promise not to repeat my rant about how cool Fresnel lenses are!) And if you’re fine with your current level of knowledge, that’s also fine, of course :)

  2. 2
    Gracchus says:

    I see Fukuyama and Pankraj Mishna are going to “debate” identity politics in London on Oct 14.

    The spectacle of two men opinionating on whether women’s identity should matter in politics doesn’t promise to be an edifying one.

  3. 3
    Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I haven’t had comments on your link farms for a while, but I always read them and like them.

  4. The University of Nebraska commissioned a study to see if conservatives feel stifled on campus: https://www.chronicle.com/article/U-of-Nebraska-Wondered/244517

  5. 5
    desipis says:

    RJN,

    That article misrepresents what the the actual study was about. It was a study about the campus climate in general, not specifically about conservatives. In fact the study didn’t even ask about the participants’ political position in the survey, so it cannot tell us whether conservative students or staff feel stifled on campus or not.

  6. 6
    nobody.really says:

    Thesis: We all need something to believe in–a creed or tribe. Contrary to the song “Imagine,” a people without religion or nation would become a people rapidly created new bases for affiliation. And some bases for affiliate have worse consequences than others.

    This comes to mind as I read Ross Douthat’s editorial “Conservatism After Christianity,” relaying statistics such as 25 percent of Trump voters who never attend church describe being white as “very important” to their identity; for voters who attend church services more than once a week, it was only 9 percent.

    Interestingly … the different groups make about the same amount of money, which cuts against strict economic-anxiety explanations for Trumpism. But the churchgoers and nonchurchgoers differ more in social capital: The irreligious are less likely to have college degrees, less likely to be married and more likely to be divorced; they’re also less civically engaged, less satisfied with their neighborhoods and communities, and less trusting and optimistic in general.

    This seems to support the argument … that support for populism correlates with a kind of communal breakdown, in which secularization is one variable among many leaving people feeling isolated and angry, and drawing them to the ersatz solidarity of white identity politics.

    Christianity may have shortcomings, but lack of Christianity may have more.

    Policy implication: We need to acknowledge the social value of creeds/tribes (“free exercise of religion”?)–and maybe nudge people toward the least pernicious tribes/creeds. I never really got behind nationalistic rituals, but they look relatively benign to me today.

  7. 7
    Kate says:

    This seems to support the argument … that support for populism correlates with a kind of communal breakdown, in which secularization is one variable among many leaving people feeling isolated and angry, and drawing them to the ersatz solidarity of white identity politics.

    I think there’s more to it than that, nobody.really. Among the ten states with the lowest level of religiosity – Vermont, Washington, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Alaska, Oregon, Montana, Colorado, Nevada, only Alaska went for Trump. Among the ten most religious – Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Arkansas, West Virginia, South Dakota – they all went for Trump. So, in the U.S., lack of religion in the state culture doesn’t seem to correlate with support for far right policies. I suspect if we looked at rural vs. urban the division would become even more stark, with urban atheists being pretty liberal. The nonchurchgoers who support Trump are not the product of secular culture, they are alienated from their religious local cultures.
    There’s no reason to push people back into religions. There’s lots of reasons not to – starting with misogyny and homophobia.
    Invest more heavily in schools, so that all young people have the opportunity to explore their interests – bring back art and music; expand sports programs beyond football, basketball and baseball; encourage clubs for camping, hiking, fishing and other outdoor activities. What’s most important – allow students to participate in at least one or two activities each term for free, as part of their public education. Help young people develop wholesome interests. Keep as many kids as possible – especially teenagers – involved in after school activities supervised by adults.
    Then, when they finish school, have a combination of UBI and minimum wage which allows people with high school educations to comfortably support themselves on one 40 hour per week job, so they have the time and money to continue to engage in their interests and to volunteer for programs for their own children to participate in.

  8. I haven’t yet read the piece on Mel Gibson, but this essay by Rebecca Sonit, “The Fall of Men Has Been Greatly Exaggerated,” is relevant and timely. A quote: “Rebecca Traister wrote early in the flood of #MeToo stories last year “we see that the men who have had the power to abuse women’s bodies and psyches throughout their careers are in many cases also the ones in charge of our political and cultural stories.”

  9. 9
    Erin says:

    I’m apparently not allowed to post in the “Mint Garden” – 3 posts, which were not all that controversial I thought – were instantly deleted, so I will post in the open thread:

    Richard Jeffrey Newman: Would it be possible to post an “executive summary” above your long posts? I’m sure that many people can follow all the twists and turns and digressions, but it is difficult for me to understand exactly what you mean.

    I was getting the same feeling as lurker23 and LimitsOfLanguage in the Mint Garden thread that you are changing your argument each time (and also shaming people as having no respect to shut down argument), but I don’t have the time or patience or inclination to track down quotes for evidence. Even if I were allowed to post there.

    Make it a bit easier on the rest of us!

  10. 10
    Grace Annam says:

    Erin:

    I’m apparently not allowed to post in the “Mint Garden” – 3 posts, which were not all that controversial I thought – were instantly deleted…

    They were not. They were marked as spam by the automated spam filter. Why? No idea. It’s automated, which is the whole point. Being a computer program filtering humans, sometimes it catches things it shouldn’t. But, as I just had to wade through the spam folder to find and free your comments and I thereby got to read a lot of spam, personally I’m glad that it’s there.

    That said, I feel a little as though you came to my house, knocked at the door, and upon receiving no answer, announced to the community that apparently you’re not welcome in my house… which I found out upon returning from a business trip. In other words, all the moderators here have jobs and other obligations, and also volunteer our time here, so if there is a problem with a post, it would be pleasant if you would let us know politely, rather than announcing that we are preemptively not allowing people to post in certain places.

    Grace

  11. 11
    Petar says:

    The article about the sex workers is very interesting, and the data seems solid.

    The title, on the other hand, is pure attention seeking bullshit, and I do not think that the conclusion is supported even for the UK. It’s even less relevant to the US.

    Yes, being a sex worker is very dangerous, compared to most legal professions. Most, not all.

    From the data in that article, there were 110 homicides of sex workers in the UK from 1990 to 2016, which is 110 murders in 27 years, for an estimated 72,000 to 150,000 sex workers. That is about 4 homicides per 100,000 workers per year (6 deaths from all causes). For comparison, in 2016, the death rate for logging accidents in the US was 135.9 per 100,000 loggers. Next were roofers, divers, fishermen, farmers, miners, and truckers. 632 truckers died while driving, out of 3,500,000 total workers. Less than a tenth, compared to loggers, but still twice as high as the homicide rate for sex-workers in the UK. So basically, four to five million people (mostly men) in the US are more likely to die from work related accidents than UK prostitutes are to die, period. (4/100k homicides, 6/100k all deaths)

    And that’s for legal professions. How dangerous is being a street walker compared to being a drug runner, murderer for hire, or even simply a drug pusher? This is a relevant question, because when sex work is criminalized, sex workers are made more vulnerable, as they have to operate in less policed areas, as it becomes riskier to report crimes suffered while working, as becomes harder to share information about clients and areas, etc.

    By the way, I think that the half-assed criminalization of sex work popular in Europe is nonsense. Sure, it is legal to be a prostitute, but it is illegal to advertise, organize, run a border, solicit on the street, or in some jurisdictions, even to hire a prostitute. This still drives the workers underground, so it still raises their risks.

    For the record, I have no firm opinion on whether sex work should be legal or not, but I think that both “absolutely legal when complying with other laws” and “absolutely illegal” are more defensible positions than the mess of laws in the UK, Bulgaria and Sweden.

  12. 12
    Gracchus says:

    @Petar: Comparing USA to UK is not necessarily that revealing. The overall homicide rate in the USA is much higher than the UK; it would not be at all surprising to find that sex workers in the USA experience an even higher homicide rate than their UK counterparts, one that might be more comparable to the death rate of forestry workers.

    Incidentally, Amp wrote an excellent piece about workplace deaths back in 2007; the statistics may be old, but the analysis is still extremely valid: http://amptoons.com/blog/?p=3232&cpage=1

  13. 13
    Petar says:

    @Petar: Comparing USA to UK is not necessarily that revealing. The overall homicide rate in the USA is much higher than the UK; it would not be at all surprising to find that sex workers in the USA experience an even higher homicide rate than their UK counterparts, one that might be more comparable to the death rate of forestry workers.

    The problem is that the numbers tossed around for the US sex workers death rates are insanely varied.

    The data for 2016 I have access to shows 41 homicides for an estimated one million sex workers, or a rate very similar to the U.K, namely about 4 per 100,000.

    But the number 204 per 100,000, i.e. 50(!) times higher is all over the Internet. I cannot find where it originates… it is often quoted together with numbers derived from the 2016 data, but it also appears as early as 2013. You can find it on hg.org, on health24.com, and even, again uncredited, on statista. Combine that number with uncontroversial hard data from the 2016 FBI databases, and it turns out that one out of every eight homicide victims in the US is a sex worker…

    You can believe the 204 per 100,000, if you wish, but to me it smells like spinach.

    If you believe the 4 per 100,000, instead, then it is safer to be a sex worker than to be a truck driver, and one Hell of a lot safer than being a logger or fisherman.

    And if you think the truth is somewhere in between, then sex work is still nowhere close to being the most dangerous profession. You need the 204 per 100,000 number to get them ahead of of the loggers.

  14. 14
    Petar says:

    Heh. I thought I had found the source of the 204 per 100, 000. It was quoted in three places, such as this.

    Supposedly, it was in an article titled Prostitution’s Pernicious Reach Grows in the US. October 23, 1996. by Brad Knickerbocker Staff, writer of The Christian Science Monitor.

    Except that I read it, and could not find any mention of that particular statistic. My impression is that the number was quoted in the 2010 congressional testimony by Ernie Allen, and improperly attributed to the Christian Science Monitor article. Then the factoid took a life of its own.

    If we assume that it is true, and by using the following well sourced government data:

    1) The US murder rate in 1996 was 7.4 per 100,000
    2) The US had about 1,200,000 sex workers in 1996
    3) The US population was 269.4 millions in 1996
    4) About 80% of US sex workers are female
    5) About 22% of US homicide victims are female

    … we would have to believe that almost exactly half of the women murdered in the US in 1996 were sex workers. Which is ridiculous.

    Thus I hereby resolve to sneer at anyone who quotes the 204 per 100,000 homicide rate.

  15. 15
    Mookie says:

    There’s also the not insignificant matter of finding, identifying, and categorizing the dead while determining, where possible, the legal causes of their deaths. When and by what means and at what cost murder victims are correctly identified is not straightforward, nor is there a streamlined, universal process used by recording entities to distinguish, if a distinction is necessary, between a sex worker who is dead and a dead body belonging to a person who has ‘form*’ as a sex worker somewhere in their past. What about Canada’s growing body of disappeared, largely First Nations women? And where do trafficked people fit in?

    There are questions concerning the murderers themselves, which intentionally target sex workers and which incidentally do, and whether they are repeat offenders, and if so, how do they differ from other murderers. Solving these cases appears to be not very common, and investigations don’t reliably result in concomitant charges and convictions but open verdicts. As for solid federal numbers on unsolved cases, that’s a thing devoutly to be wished, as the Murder Accountability Project has ably demonstrated, because they’re not being reported or used as data outside the state (or, in some cases, the city).

    *and does this form stand up to scrutiny? are the convictions safe? were they the result of a negotiated plea?

  16. 16
    nobody.really says:

    Is Mirka’s photo in the NYT? The only way to know is to check….

  17. 17
    AJD says:

    Amp, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the link to your Twitter on the right-side column of the page is broken.

  18. 18
    Ampersand says:

    Aaargh…. I’ll look into the Twitter thing when I have time. I know some other bloggers have had a similar issue recently.

    Also: Jordan Peterson Threatened to Sue Feminist Critic Kate Manne. Because Jordon Peterson loves free speech!

  19. 19
    Erin says:

    As others have pointed out, when someone earns a doctorate, they have earned the title Dr. regardless of where they teach, but I will say about this cheap shot the same thing as I said above and for the same reasons: Please don’t do it again.

    It has to do with the title “Professor”, not “Dr.”. If she is a legitimate professor at an actual university (I’m not sure), she should be called professor. If not, her title is “instructor”.

    At real universities, people start out as adjunct, research associate, lecturer, instructor.

    Then there is a grueling process over many years, in which a person publishes (or perishes) and advances in “rank”.

    Assistant professor

    Associate professor

    Professor (“full professor”)

    Distinguished, endowed or university professor

    Now for someone to co-opt the title “professor” when that person has not done this grueling climb is being deceptive to the non-academic world and also a bit more than irritating.

    My little buddy Hugo Schwyzer was fond of that tactic. He was an INSTRUCTOR – his official title – at Pasadena City College (a community college). Like every other phony thing in his little phony cockroach life, he gladly heard the title “professor” without correction. This is offensive to people who have put in the real work of climbing the ladder.

    If you cannot understand why this is offensive, then I have no more conversation with you.

  20. 20
    Eytan Zweig says:

    “Professor” is a job title, and like any other job title, it’s awarded by the employer, not by society. If she has a contract that says she is employed to be a professor, she is a professor, regardless of what her job actually entails.

    In the specific case of Prof. Ford, she is employed in a genuine university, albeit not a particularly well known one. Her webpage on the university’s site lists her job title as “professor” (though it also seems like she goes by Blasey professionally, so perhaps her preferred mode of address would be “prof. Blasey”).

    That said, if you choose to express your disdain to her employer and not use her job title, that’s one thing. But she has definitely earned the title of “Dr.” and therefore you should use it instead.

  21. Erin,

    As someone who has held the official job title of, whose academic rank has been, Professor for the last nine years at the community college where I teach–and it is a title that I have earned through a “grueling” (to use your word) promotion process that spanned the first twenty years of my career–I find the assumptions you make and conclusions you draw in this comment on the “HE would never do that” thread both ignorant and arrogant.

    Over the course of the promotion process I just mentioned, in order to earn the title of Professor, I published five books, served as co-translator on a sixth, presented a long list of papers at scholarly conferences, and taken on substantive departmental and college-wide leadership commitments at the college. Every single one of my colleagues who has achieved the rank of associate or full professor has done some version of the same thing. (The professional ranks at my school for academic faculty are instructor, assistant professor, associate professor, and full professor.)

    Nor is my community college unique in this regard. Two-year schools throughout the country have some version of a promotion and tenure process that requires a similar kind of substantive professional development in order to earn higher rank and the salary increases and other perks that go along with it. Now, I am going to assume–because I have no evidence to the contrary–that you are right that Hugo’s professional rank when he was forced to leave PCC was Instructor. However, for you, because of your personal animus towards him, to generalize in the derisive and belittling way that way that you did about the professional, academic, and intellectual achievements of community college faculty is, as I said, an ignorant and arrogant cheap shot that is beneath your stated reasons for wanting to be part of the conversation on this blog. Please, I will ask you one last time, live up to those reasons and don’t take this kind of cheap shot again.

    (Also, I think your understanding of the relationship at four year colleges and universities between adjunct and other contingent faculty and the tenure track of Assistant, Associate, Full Professor is inaccurate at best–at least if we are talking about higher education in the United States. You may not agree with the policy positions taken by AAUP regarding the use of contingent faculty, but the description of contingent faculty and the relationship between contingency and the tenure track is factually accurate.)

    (Edited to make it clear that Professor is not just a job title at a community college; it is an earned academic rank.)

  22. 22
    Ampersand says:

    Is Mirka’s photo in the NYT?

    So neat! I really really really wish those photos had been available for me to see ten years ago…

  23. 24
    nobody.really says:

    Is Mirka’s photo in the NYT?

    So neat! I really really really wish those photos had been available for me to see ten years ago…

    Something to keep in your files for your next Mirka sequel. I see a Rocky-type sequel, where the old villains return to help Mirka train for her next fight—against the dragon. (After all, Mirka said she aspired to be a dragon-slayer. And if in the first act you say you want to be a dragon-slayer, then by the final curtain the audience expects to see some dragon-slayin.’)

    A gas main explodes, killing lots of people in Mirka’s town, and prompting some discussions between Mirka and her stepmom about the problem of evil. Alluding to the Holocaust, the stepmom tells Mirka that occasionally bad things happen—bad, at least, from humans’ perspective—but that can’t make us bitter. Besides, they don’t have time for ruminations; they’ve got to get everything prepared for her sister’s wedding.

    But when Mirka’s in private, the normally unflappable troll breathlessly arrives to inform Mirka that this was no gas main explosion—it was the dragon. And as the owner of the sole dragon-slaying sword in the vicinity, it’s Mirka’s duty to do something about it.

    So, in-between Shabbat meals, silver-polishing, and Hassidic funeral rituals, Mirka sneaks away for some combat training with the troll, the star, the big fish, and the witch. They figure out where the dragon is hiding, and prepare an ambush for the day after the wedding.

    Alas, the dragon has other plans. Just as the wedding is getting underway, Mirka realizes that the dragon is planning another attack. So, bedecked in her wedding attendant attire, Mirka must sneak away, get her sword, and confront the dragon. She is brave, but no match for the dragon. Fortunately the troll, the star, the fish, and the witch arrive to do their part. Still, it’s an even match—until the cavalry arrives, in the form of Mirka’s stepmom, in her wedding finery, riding on the back of the witch’s pig. Stepmom declares that she was FURIOUS when the pig arrived to inform her that the witch has dragged Mirka into another one of her crazy schemes. Stepmom and witch proceed to have a shouting match in the middle of the combat. Look at how the Jews have suffered throughout the ages—all because people regard them as foreign, as OTHER; how dare the witch associate the Jews with witchcraft, risking even greater public malice? The witch retorts that the stepmom has always been naïve; the larger world has never lacked for an excuse to abuse the Jews, and it’s foolish not to seize what little advantages you have—especially (in case you haven’t noticed) WHEN YOU’RE CONFRONTING A DRAGON. (Apparently this is part of a long feud between these two.)

    Still, the stepmom resolutely refuses to use magic (even though the witch suggests this is an option). Instead, in an inversion of the first novel, she begins shouting and lecturing the dragon until the sun SETS. Observing that the dragon is circumcised, she announces that it is now Shabbat, and the dragon’s work must desist. The dragon, shamed, slinks away. [Ok, come up with your own climactic resolution then.] But we realize that during the combat, the troll or the witch has been fatally wounded.

    In the denouement, we see the wedding concluding with the guests none the wiser, and both Mirka and stepmom looking disheveled. Finally, we observe Mirka and stepmom (and fish? And star? And pig?), away from the rest of the family, performing the Hassidic funeral rites for the slain party. Within the family, this entire episode will be their secret.

    There you have it, Amp. Just a little story to scribble away at when you weary of political cartoons and Superbutch.

  24. Lurker23:

    You asked me these questions:

    1) Do you think accepting others requires not offending them, so that “no offense” is a subset of “accept”?
    2) Do you think everyone should avoid offending all other people? if so, who gets to say what is or is not offensive, and what do we do when people disagree?
    3) Do you think everyone should accept all other people outright? if so, what do we do when people disagree?
    4) if you think only some people should have to accept or not-offend others, how do you choose who is in which groups, and what are the groups you use now?

    While you might like to think these questions have a straightforward answer, they do not. You have not, for example, defined the context in which you would like “accepting,” “not offending,” “disagreeing,” and so on to apply. This matters, because while I might agree that one should, in the workplace for example, in general avoid offending others for holding views that are different from yours and even deeply offensive to you–just as one should avoid imposing such views on others in the workplace–I do not agree that is the case in other situations.

    The only reason I initially said that I would not answer your questions “soon” was that I wanted to give some serious thought to this distinction. As a union officer–which means I get involved personally when these questions come up in the workplace–I take this issue quite seriously. In any event, this will be the last thing I have to say about this. I hope you feel it answers your questions:

    Workplaces and similar types of situations aside, I don’t particularly care whether or not I offend or otherwise hurt the feelings, for example, of an antisemite (or someone who expresses antisemitic sentiments/ideas, whether or not they understand that to be the case) by pointing out her or his antisemitism (or the antisemitic nature of what they have expressed). I have similar feelings about Evangelical Christians who try, in any of the ways that they try, to persuade me that I ought to become a Christian so that I do not burn in hell. I also don’t particularly care if I offend people who are rape apologists or who minimize the significance of sexual violence. I don’t go out of my way to give offense to these people–and I will, if I feel it’s worth my time and effort, take care not give offense–but I don’t particularly care if they end up feeling offended as the result of some interaction I have with them where their views are at stake.

    In other words, I don’t feel the need to accept and not offend people who, in some manner or other, see me (or express ideas that treat me) as less than human–which, I hasten to add, is not the same thing as saying I would choose to treat them as less than human. Nor does it mean that I see them as less than human in return. Being honest about the fact that there are ways of viewing and being and acting in the world that are less just than others is not the same thing as telling people who hold those views that they do not belong in the world, no matter how much their feelings may be hurt when they are confronted with that honesty.

    Edited to add some additional clarification.

  25. 26
    lurker23 says:

    “I hope you feel it answers your questions”
    Richard, it does not even come close! i do not even understand if you think it does?

    it is like i asked you to clearly state “whether you think people should eat factory chicken or not”, and you answered by talking about hunting and ecology, and you spent a lot of time explaining that you were not talking about beef or lamb, and that you did not have an issue with free range chicken, and ended up telling me that you don’t really like chicken much anyway, but you weren’t saying that you didn’t think that factory farming should result in a death sentence. and at the end of it i would ask my friend “does Richard think people should eat factory chicken or not?” and my friend would have absolutely no idea.

    i don’t understand why you think it is OK to dig into other people’s inner workings and dodge the attempts to get a straight answer out of you, about what you think should happen. this is not good faith, here.

    you can see how easy it is, here, with my answers:

    1) Do you think accepting others requires not offending them, so that “no offense” is a subset of “accept”?

    No, people can accept other people and still feel free to offend them.

    2) Do you think everyone should avoid offending all other people? if so, who gets to say what is or is not offensive, and what do we do when people disagree?

    No, people do not need not to offend others, but people may choose to be inoffensive if they want to, or polite, of course, and the second part does not matter since i answered “no”.

    3) Do you think everyone should accept all other people outright? if so, what do we do when people disagree?

    No, and the second part does not matter since i answered “no.”

    4) if you think only some people should have to accept or not-offend others, how do you choose who is in which groups, and what are the groups you use now?

    i don’t have to solve that problem because i did not think that.

    See? Easy to give a good faith answer. obviously good faith requires a bit of wiggle room, so if you asked “do your answers always work if you are talking about starving people trapped in a submarine below a nuclear war” or even “do your answers apply in a workplace where there are specific rules” i would say no, i am not trying to think that every single social interaction in the world is identical, but they are good general starting points.

    While you might like to think these questions have a straightforward answer, they do not.

    of course they do. i just did.

    I do not think the answer is easy, but i think it can be stated generally, with fair accuracy. i could certainly answer them all. so could you, if you wanted to, you are obviously very smart. i would bet $100 that you KNOW the answer in your head, you just don’t want to SAY the answer, i do not know why though.

    You have not, for example, defined the context in which you would like “accepting,” “not offending,” “disagreeing,” and so on to apply.

    i am looking for a general social rule, clearly stated, which can be the subject of further discussion.

    ………which, I hasten to add, is not the same thing as saying I would choose to treat them as less than human. Nor does it mean that I see them as less than human in return. Being honest about the fact that there are ways of viewing and being and acting in the world that are less just than others is not the same thing as telling people who hold those views that they do not belong in the world, no matter how much their feelings may be hurt when they are confronted with that honesty.

    this is a very illustrative “answer.”

    my question asked you to say what was, or what is. your answer is only what was not, or what isn’t. that is why it is not an answer. i want explicit and you are trying to answer implicit. that is ducking the question.

    i know you know what clear explicit answers are. i know you could answer with fewer words than it would take to duck. i don’t understand why you don’t do it. are you unwilling to take a stand on your answers?

  26. 27
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    It’s not just ducking the question. I have no idea what dehumanizing means anymore, and RJN’s comment adds to my confusion. I’ve been an open atheist since I was 6, and as kid and teenager countless friends would try to convert me and express fear that I’d burn in hell. I was threatened with hell in school, at sleep overs, with a Catholic girlfriend, and among some evangelical guys I ran track with who encouraged me to join the Christian Athletes association because it looks good on a resume, even though I was the guy reading Hitchens and Dawkins between periods. I would get pressured and dragged to Younglife meetings (though I eventually went willingly as they were fun, we’d play football, and it was a great place to meet girls). Never once did I see these conversion attempts as dehumanizing. These friends wanted me saved because they sincerely thought I’d burn, and they didn’t want to see a friend and fellow human suffer. If that is an example of dehumanization, I’m curious what disagreement over human nature is not dehumanizing. Do I dehumanize Christians, Muslims and Jews when I claim their God is make believe? (there was a time when most people would have answered yes to this) Or do they dehumanize me when they say God’s real and wishes to see me punished? Do Marxists dehumanize Liberals? Does Diana Fleischman (evolutionary psycologist who specializes in sex, hormones, and behavior) dehumanize Judith Butler? Or is it the other way around? Do IQ researchers dehumanize all of us? Is refusing to agree with the way someone self-identifies de-humanizing? What about fundamental disagreements concerning Identity itself?

    How can we figure out what is and isn’t “just” if we hold thinkers morally responsible for exploring the minefield that exists at the boundaries of moral philosophy? In my mind, issues surrounding sexually identity exist at this boundary- much more so than antisemitism.

  27. 28
    Ampersand says:

    Lurker, it seems to me that if you find conversing with Richard so incredibly irritating – and your tone suggests you do – the answer might be to stop responding to Richard.

    However, if you do wish to continue responding to Richard, please try to be nicer. Thanks.

  28. Jeffrey,

    The idea that all Jews must accept Christ before the second coming can occur (which is a belief held by a good many, but not all, the Evangelical Christians who have tried over the years to convert me) is not merely a disagreement over human nature; it is an idea that, when acted upon, implies (and, if successful, would result in) the disappearance of my (an entire) religious and cultural identity from the face of the earth. That is something very different from “exploring the minefield that exists at the boundaries of moral philosophy.”

    Do I dehumanize Christians, Muslims and Jews when I claim their God is make believe? (there was a time when most people would have answered yes to this) Or do they dehumanize me when they say God’s real and wishes to see me punished?

    It is true that there was a time when the heresy of atheism would have gotten you killed (just to take the most extreme example), but would you seriously argue now that the way of life that would have condemned you to death was a just one just because it happened to be the one that the majority of people followed at the time?

    Do Marxists dehumanize Liberals? Does Diana Fleischman (evolutionary psycologist who specializes in sex, hormones, and behavior) dehumanize Judith Butler? Or is it the other way around? Do IQ researchers dehumanize all of us? Is refusing to agree with the way someone self-identifies de-humanizing? What about fundamental disagreements concerning Identity itself?

    I think you are conflating more than a few different kinds of oppositions here, but yes, of course it is true that any belief system can be turned to dehumanizing and oppressive purposes, but if we are not willing to make the distinction between expressing a belief or acting out of that belief in a way that merely hurts someone’s feelings and a belief or action that carries with it the implication, if not the explicit intent, that they are less than human, that they should not be alive on the face of the earth as who they are, than we are failing our moral responsibility to be human (and humane) to one another.

    How can we figure out what is and isn’t “just” if we hold thinkers morally responsible for exploring the minefield that exists at the boundaries of moral philosophy?

    I would ask the opposite question, with a slight adjustment. How can we not hold thinkers morally responsible, not for the act of “exploring the minefield that exists at the boundaries of moral philosophy,” but for the consequences that follow from that exploration? After all, more than a few groups over the years have been oppressed, tortured, and killed as a result of such consequences.

  29. 30
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    RJN, let’s set sex and gender aside for a second. There are more powerful examples of harmful ideas that are likely worth exploring. All around the world there are teams of researchers looking for DNA SNPs that correlate with intelligence.

    A day will come when a significant chunk of a person’s intelligence can be explained with a cheek swab. This is going to create pain- not just among a fraction of a percent of the humans population, but among every young child who upon having their genome sequenced learns that their chances of achieving that degree or job they desire are very very low due to circumstances out of their control. It’s hard to say how many people could be hurt by this knowledge until we learn more, but if our understanding of the genome and intelligence someday approaches the observed heredity (even the low estimates), the number of people hurt by this science could approach half the humans on Earth.

    The idea that some fraction of our intelligence is determined by the genome is perhaps the most powerful example of hurtful idea that I can think of because of the vast numbers of people it will hurt combined with real predictive validity. Unlike other more obviously evil ideas, the individual variance of a genetic component to intelligence is almost certainly true and people can be made to see the truth of it.
    Do you think those who research it are morally responsible for the pain they will cause? If so, does that mean you think they should stop? If not, what exactly is the purpose of moral responsibility?

    What I left out is that a genome level understanding of intelligence could do great good (or harm, who really knows how we’d use that knowledge). The good and bad of exploring the science behind sex and gender is way less obvious, but still, it’s not hard to imagine ways in which people could be harmed even as we discover things about ourselves that are useful.

    It’s probably pretty obvious by now that I’m biased toward an ethical system that allows for maximal truth seeking. I’m biased for are least two reasons. One, I think we cannot decide what is and isn’t hurtful without understanding facts. I would have been more hurt as a young atheist if I didn’t understand things like evolution and the big bang- these things increase my certainty that hell is make-believe. Secondly, a culture that discourages truth seeking is going to be made irrelevant by those cultures that embrace it. The truth seekers will win the wars, amass the resources, survive the droughts, and most likely run the world. Knowledge is useful and we gain power by seeking it out. It’s what we do, it’s the niche we evolved to fill, and you’ll have a hard time talking people out of it.

  30. 31
    lurker23 says:

    Okay, Ampersand. i am sorry if you think i was not nice, i did not mean to be not nice, in fact i think Richard is very smart and told him so. i thought it was okay to keep asking because that seems to be what Richard does, and what other people do too. But i will try not to push him for specific answers if he will not give them.

    is this sort of think okay with you?

    RICHARD, you explain dehumanizing like this;

    a belief or action that carries with it the implication, if not the explicit intent, that they are less than human, that they should not be alive on the face of the earth as who they are

    i would like to actually know what that means and where the lines are between “dehumanizing” and “not dehumanizing”. i would like to understand this so when we talk, i know that “what Richard means” and “what i think Richard means” are close to the same thing.

    the first thing that i do not understand is whether it is an objective or subjective analysis.

    Imagine that my religion only likes chocolate ice cream and i think “the world would be a better place if there were no vanilla lovers”. Is that statement dehumanizing on its own, standing alone, without any further analysis? or is it only dehumanizing if one/some/most/all vanilla ice cream lovers are actually offended and feel dehumanized?

    also, if i think “vanilla lovers are very bad people” (or something else which we agree is not objectively a problem) and some vanilla lovers FEEL dehumanized, does that make it dehumanizing?

    also like I said to Ampersand, if you do not want to explain what you mean and you just want to keep on using the word, that is okay too, i will not try to make you answer anymore.

  31. 32
    J. Squid says:

    A day will come when a significant chunk of a person’s intelligence can be explained with a cheek swab.

    That is awfully optimistic and I sincerely doubt that will happen.

    But if it is possible, what purpose would that serve? Why would we want to be able to do that when we have so many other, existing, ways of determining a person’s intelligence?

  32. Jeffrey:

    First, I will grant, because I do not really know for sure, that what you are saying about intelligence and the genome is settled science.

    Do you think those who research it are morally responsible for the pain they will cause? If so, does that mean you think they should stop? If not, what exactly is the purpose of moral responsibility?

    Second, I note that you have changed the terms of the argument here, at least as I understood the question you are asking. I understood you to be asking about philosophical explorations at the boundaries of…, not “hard” scientific research that raises the kinds of thorny moral and ethical questions you’re talking about.

    Third, I think you’ve changed the terms in another way as well, in that you are not talking about conflict between the kinds of oppositional positions you listed in your comment above. Your asking about how a society incorporates, gives meaning to, and acts on new knowledge. (This may implicate those oppositional positions, and it may create new ones, but I think that is still different in significant ways from the how you framed this in your other comment.)

    I make these points not to be argumentative, but just to say that, given this change in my understanding of what you’re asking, my answer may not be entirely consistent with what I wrote above.

    And, unfortunately, I need to end this comment here. Someone has come to my office door, and I am typing on a computer I won’t have access to later. I will respond more when I can. (To you as well, lurker23.)

  33. 34
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    I think you are conflating more than a few different kinds of oppositions here, but yes, of course it is true that any belief system can be turned to dehumanizing and oppressive purposes, but if we are not willing to make the distinction between expressing a belief or acting out of that belief in a way that merely hurts someone’s feelings and a belief or action that carries with it the implication, if not the explicit intent, that they are less than human, that they should not be alive on the face of the earth as who they are, than we are failing our moral responsibility to be human (and humane) to one another.

    I’m just trying to figure out what kinds of opposition are actually dehumanizing. What if that which I question isn’t one’s humanity, but rather the idea that the second half of your quote above maps onto the real-life conflicts I observe here on Alas and other places?

  34. Jeffrey:

    I’m just trying to figure out what kinds of opposition are actually dehumanizing. What if that which I question isn’t one’s humanity, but rather the idea that the second half of your quote above maps onto the real-life conflicts I observe here on Alas and other places?

    Just dropping in quickly to say that the wording of this question makes it hard for me to know precisely what your question is. More on the other conversation when I get the chance.

  35. 36
    Gracchus says:

    Richard

    Just out of curiosity, without going into details of the Norwegian language conflict, would you say advocates of Nynorsk – who want to see the Norwegian Bokmal language entirely replaced by Nynorsk – are also engaging in a dehumanising practice towards Bokmal speakers? They are after all envisaging a world where the Bokmal-based language culture disappears.

  36. So three different people have asked me four different questions–two for Jeffrey, though I am hoping you will clarify your second question more. I think it will be easier to respond to each in a different comment, because, while they are not unrelated, I can’t see how to answer them in the same comment without making it overly long and potentially very confusing. So, Gracchus first, since I think yours is the easiest to answer: My initial response is that, yes, if one group is actively, purposefully, working to disappear the language/culture of another, that is dehumanizing. The Japanese did it to the Koreans; the French did it to the Haitians; we in the US did it to Native Americans; and this list could go on and on. One common way that a language is defined among linguists–or at least it was when I was in graduate school–is as a dialect with an army. One sure way of occupying, conquering, oppressing a people, once they have been defeated militarily, is to attack their language and culture as not worthy of existence and then impose the language and culture of the conqueror. I’ll also say that, in my studies and in my experience, language politics is never divorced from racial, nationalistic, socioeconomic, etc. politics. So, in the US in the 1970s, there were people who seriously argued that speakers of Black English (who were, of course, Black) did not have a language, did not have the ability to reason, and more, because of the differences between Black and Standard English. Whether or not this reasoning applies to the situation in Norway, though, I don’t know, since you didn’t give any details.

  37. Jeffrey:

    The idea that some fraction of our intelligence is determined by the genome is perhaps the most powerful example of hurtful idea that I can think of because of the vast numbers of people it will hurt combined with real predictive validity. Unlike other more obviously evil ideas, the individual variance of a genetic component to intelligence is almost certainly true and people can be made to see the truth of it.

    Do you think those who research it are morally responsible for the pain they will cause? If so, does that mean you think they should stop? If not, what exactly is the purpose of moral responsibility?

    I think there is a difference between knowledge that causes pain because it changes our fundamental understanding of the world–the earth is round, not flat; the sun does not revolve around the earth, but the earth revolves around the sun–and putting that knowledge to use for dehumanizing purposes. As I said in my previous comment, I am going to accept for the sake of argument that what you say here is settled science. In fact, I don’t think it is, but I think arguing about that would distract from the question you’re asking.

    So let’s imagine a world in which every child is genetically tested at birth and their intelligence is mapped as you suggest. I can imagine that the transition to that world from the one we live in would cause pain to an awful of people for a range of reasons. Is the fact of that pain in and of itself dehumanizing? I don’t think so. For me, the important question would be: to what use is this new knowledge about intelligence put? If it is used, for example, to create an intelligence-based caste system, I imagine that would be quite dehumanizing of the people on the bottom. I would not, however, say that the people who discovered the “intelligence gene” would be morally responsible for that caste-system by definition; I’d say that the people who established the system and administer it, etc. are, first and foremost, the morally responsible ones.

    There is another, difficult question: Should the people who made the discovery have anticipated this use of their knowledge? To account for this question is why hospitals and other scientific institutions have ethics boards–because there is no such thing as knowledge divorced from politics, from questions of right and wrong, etc.

  38. lurker23:

    I am sorry to answer a question with a question, but I need a little more clarification. You wrote:

    Imagine that my religion only likes chocolate ice cream and i think “the world would be a better place if there were no vanilla lovers”. Is that statement dehumanizing on its own, standing alone, without any further analysis? or is it only dehumanizing if one/some/most/all vanilla ice cream lovers are actually offended and feel dehumanized?

    also, if i think “vanilla lovers are very bad people” (or something else which we agree is not objectively a problem) and some vanilla lovers FEEL dehumanized, does that make it dehumanizing?

    Is “the world would be a better place if there were no vanilla lovers” a foundational belief of Chocolatism, or is it just one person’s extrapolation from the fact that Chocolatism happens not to include vanilla flavoring? Similarly, is “vanilla lovers are very bad people” something that follows logically from the tenets of Chocolatism or is it one Chocolatist’s opinion based on a lack of contact with Vanillaists or some other more or less purely personal experience? I am asking about the difference between an explicit and/or implicit institutional stance towards Vanillaists and personal one that may not be reflected in the institutionalized religion because I think what follows from the thoughts you are asking about would be different in either case; and I think that will matter for how I will answer you.

  39. 40
    Gracchus says:

    ” Whether or not this reasoning applies to the situation in Norway, though, I don’t know, since you didn’t give any details.”

    It’s not an exact parallel, but Nynorsk speakers would say, not that Bokmal isn’t a language, but that it’s a foreign language – that it’s a form of Danish with a few Norwegian words thrown in. Bokmal speakers would say that it’s its own language, albeit one influenced by Danish. So Nynorsk speakers would say they’re not destroying the language overall (although they do want to destroy its presence in Norway), but Bokmal speakers would argue that their eventual goal is the language’s destruction, or at least its relegation to a language spoken only by historical linguists, e.g. something like Cornish.

  40. 41
    lurker23 says:

    Richard,

    I withdraw my very confusing hypothetical, i am sorry i used it, i was trying to use one which would not side track us because of connections to real life issues but i am starting to see it will just side track us for other reasons because i did not do a good job writing the hypothetical.

    i will try to be better at my question.

    1) Can you try your best to provide an explicit definition of “dehumanizing” which does not rest on a bunch of other loosely defined words which we will then have to go and define? even if you end up including some other loose terms it would help, i think.

    if you can do this, you can ignore all the other questions (or not, they may help explain your definition because they are clarifying)

    and of course you do not have to answer anything if you do not want to.

    2) Is “dehumanizing” something that applies to actions or thoughts or both?
    3) Do you evaluate it on its own, standing alone, without any further analysis? or is it only dehumanizing if people are actually offended and feel dehumanized?
    4) What if people feel dehumanized, do you ever over-rule that with objective analysis or is it all subjective?
    5) how do you handle intent? my thoughts towards hitler are probably what you would call ‘dehumanizing’ and i feel about as bad to hitler as it is possible to feel. but i do not actually question the fact that hitler was human, so in my view if i had those same thoughts about someone else i would not be dehumanizing them either, and if you told me i was dehumanizing them (or hitler) i would disagree.
    6) how direct does it need to be? to illustrate with the term ‘violent,’ i generally use that term to mean ‘directly physically harming someone’. to show the other extreme in some contexts i have seen people use ‘violence’ against a group to mean something similar to ‘having a position which might influence society in some way that some other people may be more likely to commit some violence against some of that group’. how does that work for “dehumanizing?”

    again, you do not need to answer these or anything else.

  41. 42
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    RJN,

    I agree we don’t need to litigate whether or not there is a genetic component to intelligence, it’s a fine thought experiment regardless of whether or not it’s true.

    That said I feel obligated to respond, because I feel you’ve mischaracterized what I wrote. There is no “Intelligence gene.” That’s silly. I’m also not claiming that intelligence is entirely genetic or inheritable, I’m saying that one’s genes account for a part of the variance. My understanding is that IQ exists and is heritable, and that this finding is among the most well supported in all of psychology. I’m a welder, so there’s no reason for me to discuss this here with you when everyone’s time would be better spent reading the writings of experts. If you’re curious you should seek out the writings of actual psychometricians. If you did, I think you’ll find I did a relatively good and careful job of stating the consensus view within the field, especially for a layman, though I know many critics exist outside of it. It’s a topic I’m interested in, so I’ve read quite a bit on both sides. I’ve name dropped Stuart J Richie before, and I’ll do it again. He’s well respected, and very clear- clear enough that a layman like me can follow along.

  42. Jeffrey,

    That said I feel obligated to respond, because I feel you’ve mischaracterized what I wrote. There is no “Intelligence gene.” That’s silly. I’m also not claiming that intelligence is entirely genetic or inheritable, I’m saying that one’s genes account for a part of the variance. My understanding is that IQ exists and is heritable, and that this finding is among the most well supported in all of psychology.

    I’m sorry I misrepresented you. I put “intelligence gene” in scare quotes because I was using it as a shorthand for the more complex idea you were talking about. Clearly it did not communicate that. Further, my point about doubting whether some of the things you said were in fact settled science was directed at what you had to say about predictive validity, not about IQ per se, and I am sorry I wasn’t clearer about that.

  43. 44
    Ampersand says:

    Hey, those of you who have been reading “Alas” for a decade, remember the fake wedding?

  44. 45
    Kate says:

    I didn’t remember the fake wedding. I’m pretty sure I’ve been reading here for at least a decade (I found you through a link from Shakesville, when it was still Shakespear’s Sister).

  45. 46
    nobody.really says:

    I remember the wedding as if it were last decade.

    Kinda.

  46. 47
    Harlequin says:

    I had sorta thought I’d been commenting here about that long, but I guess not!

  47. 48
    Petar says:

    I just want to vent about the whole Kavanaugh fiasco.

    At this point, I think it is irrelevant to his confirmation whether he was the one who assaulted Ford, who exposed himself to Ramirez, and who waited for his turn with inebriated women.

    Even assuming that he was not, he is definitely the one who keeps insisting that he was of legal drinking age as a high school senior, who gives completely conflicting accounts of his high school and college years at different occasions, who loses his temper in indecorous ways, and who cannot even fake political impartiality.

    That his candidacy is still being considered disgusts me.

    I am no fan of most Supreme Court justices, and the two who have never really pissed me off are on different sides on the most four on five splits. I think that the US political system is going further and further from social democracy. (Not that it was designed to be one, or ever was one.) I have not been optimistic about anything important since at least 2001.

    Kavanaugh either cannot comprehend something as simple as the drinking age in Maryland in 1983, or can program himself to believe a falsehood, or can repeatedly claim something he knows is untrue.

    No matter which of the above is true, he should not be allowed to join the eight people who can ram their views down the throat of a nation. Too much responsibility for someone like him. Too much responsibility for anyone, to be honest, but can we at least pretend that we are choosing at least decent human beings for the post?

    As evidenced by the 2016 election, the ship has clearly sailed for presidential candidates, but maybe there is still a chance for the Supreme Court?

  48. lurker23:

    It’s taken me longer than I thought it would to make the time to respond to you, but, finally, here I am. I don’t know if you will find this response to me any more clear than any of my other responses. You would like to operate, I think, at a level of abstraction that is, to me, unproductive precisely because it is divorced from real life issues. In any event, here goes.

    You asked me:

    Can you try your best to provide an explicit definition of “dehumanizing” which does not rest on a bunch of other loosely defined words which we will then have to go and define?

    I’ve given this a lot of thought, actually, and I think the best place to start is with a dictionary definition. Merriam-Webster (online) gives these two:

    • to deprive of human qualities, personality, or spirit
    • to treat (someone) as though he or she is not a human being

    I am going to assume at least a basic agreement on what “human qualities, personality, or spirit” are and also on what it would mean to treat someone “as though he or she is not a human being.” If I can’t assume that, then we’ll have to stop the discussion here, not because it’s not a subject worth talking about, but because I just do not have the time to have that discussion.

    So, assuming that we agree on that, here are some thoughts:

    I think dehumanization does apply to both actions and thoughts, the difference is that thoughts, if they are not acted upon–either by the individual who has them or the society of which that individual is a member, remain thoughts and don’t necessarily harm anyone. I believe, however, there is a difference between dehumanizing thoughts that arise because of what I will refer to as simple personal animus and those that arise in the context of oppression, which always has an intellectual, cultural, political, artistic, socioeconomic history, as well as an institutional structure that is both larger than any one person’s feelings and also shaping of those feelings, whether the person realizes it or not. By the former, I mean situations in which my personal feelings about you–because of your personality, because you have done me some specific harm, or something like that–are so strongly negative that I am unable or unwilling to recognize that you are more than whatever that “horrible thing” happens to be. By the latter, I mean things like racism, antisemitism, transphobia, sexism, and so on. I am much more interested in talking about the latter kind of dehumanization, so the rest of my comments will focus on that.

    You asked:

    Do you evaluate it on its own, standing alone, without any further analysis? or is it only dehumanizing if people are actually offended and feel dehumanized?

    If by “people” you mean the entire group against which the dehumanization is directed, then, I suppose, it might make a difference. In other words, if all the Jews in the world were to decide that there is nothing offensive in the idea that Jews are blood-sucking leeches whose only interest is amassing as much money as possible and imposing Zionist rule on the entire world (a not uncommon antisemitic belief), then, perhaps (and it’s a big perhaps), it might not be dehumanizing for someone to call me a blood-sucking leech. In the absence of some unanimous agreement among Jews to that effect, I don’t think it matters whether any individual Jew takes offense at that kind of rhetoric. The rhetoric itself is still dehumanizing and I would argue that the person who uses it has a responsibility to think carefully about why they use it. If they believe it, well, then they are antisemitic and should not be surprised when people call them out about that; if they don’t believe it, then why use it? Why contribute further to the antisemitism that is already out there? And if, after it is pointed out to them that the rhetoric is dehumanizing (assuming they did not know beforehand), they continue to use it, they should not surprised when the Jewish people they know, even their friends, stop trusting them as fully as before, perhaps stop associating with them in the way did before, and so on. To express an idea, after all, is to perform an action, and actions have consequences.

    Then you asked:

    What if people feel dehumanized, do you ever over-rule that with objective analysis or is it all subjective?

    This question sort of leads into your question about intent, I suppose. It is possible that someone will interpret as dehumanizing something that is, in fact, not dehumanizing–or that was not intended to be so. This can happen when two people’s points of reference are very different (because of culture, age, language). It could be that I have unwittingly said something that is racist, for example. I am thinking of a woman I know from another country, a person of color, who got very angry at a Black man and started calling him, among other kinds of animals, a monkey. In her language and culture, that kind of name-calling simply does not have the racial overtones that it does here in the US. He was not present when she said this, but I imagine he would have been quite offended if he had been, and he would have had a right to be offended, and to feel dehumanized by that. Obviously, he would need to understand the woman’s point of reference, but that understanding would not have invalidated what he felt when he first heard her. At the same time, while there was no racist intent in her speech, that woman clearly she had to learn that the result of her speech was to make her sound racist and to find other ways of expressing her anger.

    You asked also about your own dehumanizing feelings towards Hitler, which I think many people probably share. When I was in yeshiva, we were having a conversation about repentance, and the question came up, “Could Hitler ever sufficiently repent what he had done?” Almost everyone in the room said no. That just was not possible. But then one of the rabbis–I wish I could remember which one–said something that has always stayed with me, even though I no longer believe in a god. “If Hitler could never repent,” he said, “then there is no such thing as repentance.” His point was that, independently of the (entirely reasonable) animus people has towards Hitler, if you were truly going to believe in the possibility of repentance, then there had to be a perspective from which it was also available to Hitler. What it would take for Hitler’s repentance to be valid, he said, was a separate question, but once you decide that there are people whose actions permanently put them beyond the pale of humanity, then you have turned what it means to be human from something into which we are born and to which we have, therefore, an absolute right into something that is contingent not just on our actions, but on whichever group of people arrogate to themselves the right to judge and mete out consequence for those actions.

  49. 50
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Petar,

    I think it’s pretty obvious why Kavanaugh was less than truthful. He made the political calculation that admitting to his level of drinking, and his crude sense of humor as a teenager would be more damaging than any accusation that he perjured himself.

    I think he made the correct political calculation. I also think this is all terrible. Not only is it likely that a man who lied under oath will sit on the USSC, (a place where sworn testimony is kinda important) we also live in a society where the contents of a high school year book are of grave importance to the appointment of a political official.

    I personally wouldn’t have held it against him if he said “I drank too much and may have blacked out, but that’s just not the way I behaved under those circumstances” or “we turned Renate’s name into a joke about easy sex, and that was a terrible thing for us to have done,” or “I’ll tell you honestly what devils triangle means…” Some of the most well-behaved girls at my high-school had raunchier messages encoded on the “senior shirts,” shirts cliques of friends would wear on certain Fridays. My own senior shirt was almost nothing but insides jokes of a sexual nature. Many teens are hyper sexual, even if they aren’t actually having sex. We would joke about it constantly, sometimes in hurtful ways. Cliques of teens are horrible to each other as a rule. What I do hold against Kavanaugh is lying about all this. I hold it against him even though it’s true that many people will turn into Puritans if it suits their political biases. A man who claims to be so honorable should find a seat on the Supreme Court beneath him if he needs to lie to sit on it.

    I was OK with his anger, and even the degree to which his anger was expressed in a partisan way. Both those things are understandable if one assumes he’s innocent. I even thought it more likely he’s innocent of sexual assault than guilty. But I’m 99% sure he lied during sworn testimony, and that’s enough to disqualify him.

  50. 51
    lurker23 says:

    Richard Jeffrey Newman says:
    September 30, 2018 at 2:43 pm
    lurker23:
    You would like to operate, I think, at a level of abstraction that is, to me, unproductive precisely because it is divorced from real life issues.

    i honestly appreciate your attempt, and i thank you for trying it! i am not sure we are destined to discuss this to completion :) But the discussion is fun.

    it is odd to me that you think my question is ‘too abstract’, because to me the literal opposite is more accurate. i want to know what you are saying more precisely, and so i am asking you to define a term which you are using. i don’t think that is being abstract, unless you also are using a different definition of ‘abstract’?

    I’ve given this a lot of thought, actually, and I think the best place to start is with a dictionary definition. Merriam-Webster (online) gives these two:

    to deprive of human qualities, personality, or spirit
    to treat (someone) as though he or she is not a human being

    I am going to assume at least a basic agreement on what “human qualities, personality, or spirit” are and also on what it would mean to treat someone “as though he or she is not a human being.” If I can’t assume that, then we’ll have to stop the discussion here, not because it’s not a subject worth talking about, but because I just do not have the time to have that discussion.

    from my perspective that seems very circular and not very useful. some dictionary definitions are like that. i suspect we may have different definitions of what ‘treating like a human’ means, which is why i asked for a definition.
    maybe you can replace it with other words?

    For me, the point of language is to try to aid communication, and i try to focus on communicating with people who do not understand me or agree with me? if you ask me to define a term that you do not understand, i will either try to do so or i will try to work around the term using different language.

    your statement above makes me think that you like to use words differently, maybe in a way which only makes sense if i already know what the words mean, or if i already agree with you? so a word like ‘dehumanizing’ for you is probably very efficient because most of the people you talk to are maybe thinking the same way and you can save a lot of explanation by using it? there are more than one of those terms in social justice i think or that is how it seems to be: everyone who uses them a lot seems to know what they mean, at least in their own mind, but nobody else like me can entirely understand what the terms mean with any real degree of accuracy.

    but it does not work here because the whole thing i was trying to understand was how we might be different in meaning, and how i might figure out what the differences were.

    i think i can probably identify some things which we would both agree are dehumanizing–for example, the slavery practiced in the US. but i am also sure that there are many things you think of as dehumanizing which i would call wrong, or bad, or bigoted, but which are not dehumanizing in my mind.

    So, assuming that we agree on that, here are some thoughts:

    even if we do not agree on that above, this is still helpful FYI for me to understand you better, so thank you again

    By the latter, I mean things like racism, antisemitism, transphobia, sexism, and so on. I am much more interested in talking about the latter kind of dehumanization, so the rest of my comments will focus on that.

    Yes, this is much more interesting!!

    also i will skip some parts in quotes, i hope that is okay.

    the idea that Jews are blood-sucking leeches whose only interest is amassing as much money as possible and imposing Zionist rule on the entire world (a not uncommon antisemitic belief)…The rhetoric itself is still dehumanizing

    this is antisemitic of course and it is an asshole thing to think or say. we have no disagreement that this is very bad. But it may help me to understand:
    -I say “that statement is very antisemitic and he is being an asshole.”
    -You say “That statement is dehumanizing and he is being an asshole”

    How are those statements different? If you just called it “antisemitic,” what would be missing?

    What if people feel dehumanized, do you ever over-rule that with objective analysis or is it all subjective?

    This question sort of leads into your question about intent, I suppose. It is possible that someone will interpret as dehumanizing something that is, in fact, not dehumanizing–or that was not intended to be so. This can happen when two people’s points of reference are very different (because of culture, age, language).

    i promise i am trying to be funny and not mean. but i think you missed out on one very obvious possibility: one person can literally have no idea what the other person means by “dehumanizing” :)

    anyway, i really thank you for trying to answer this! it is totally okay if you do not want to have this conversation any more but i am finding it very interesting and not frustrating so i would enjoy if if you would like to keep talking.

  51. 52
    Mookie says:

    we also live in a society where the contents of a high school year book are of grave importance to the appointment of a political official.

    I have to say, Jeffrey Gandee, I really don’t understand what you’re getting at here. You think it’s “terrible” that this could happen, but in the next paragraph you seem to be attributing great weight to that yearbook yourself by describing under what circumstances Kavanaugh could successfully explain its contents away to your satisfaction.

    For my part, I don’t think consideration of the yearbook is at all beyond the pale, here. Any more than his calendar is. The yearbook is a contemporaneous, unfiltered, and voluntary account of his life (and that of his friends’s and co-abuser) during the period in which he’s been accused of sexual assault while drunk, and that account references drinking and sexual behavior and attitudes towards women in general and his female peers in particular. He named a sexual conquest. While now claiming that being a virgin at the time means definitively and categorically that he couldn’t have done what he is accused of.

    If he wants to rely on his charmed background and upbringing and where he went to school and with which powerful figures he rubbed elbows, his summer diary, and the would-be exonerating testimony of his friends and fellow students, this is fair game. It’s no different than viewing and dating correspondence from victims who documented their experiences to their correspondents in writing long before they made a public accusation. Analysis of those documents and comparison with them to current testimony can corroborate statements, can reveal errors and/or lies, can be used as circumstantial evidence of a serious crime or perjury, or both.

    So, of course it’s crucial to take into account a political appointee’s integrity and honesty. The yearbook has helped to establish that he has lied to the Senate and to the press. There are no legal or ethical barriers to using a person’s past words against his present ones, particularly when they were always on public view and were made without duress. He has emphasized that he was an adult at the time, so there’s no issue about a minor’s rights. The school fees his parents paid also paid for him to proudly air this all in public, 30-odd years ago.

    Are we supposed to be okay with investing this amount of power in a person that will lie this boldly? His candidacy is not in danger because he attended keggers and liked to brag about that at length; it’s in danger because, as a well-educated, rational, and successful legal mind, he decided those keggers were dangerous to admit to. It’s up to him to explain why we shouldn’t interpret that choice, in the here and now, as automatically disqualifying and under the circumstances, suspicious enough to warrant additional scrutiny under more legally-binding guidelines. It is not unreasonable to want someone squeaky clean in a role with duties that will decide an entire nation’s future. We, in turn, get to decide his.

    One thing I do agree on, though. It shouldn’t have taken a yearbook to tank him. The Trump administration and its congressional allies flubbed badly here. Particularly because, thanks to yesterday’s news, we now know Kavanaugh and co. were discussing in July what to do about one of his victims. All in all, this was a pretty audacious gamble on their part, and demonstrates what they think of the fitness of this government to adequately screen its appointees and/or the power it has to protect them from being confronted with stark reality. FAKE NEWS gets a lot of traction, amirite?

  52. 53
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Mookie:

    I have to say, Jeffrey Gandee, I really don’t understand what you’re getting at here. You think it’s “terrible” that this could happen, but in the next paragraph you seem to be attributing great weight to that yearbook yourself by describing under what circumstances Kavanaugh could successfully explain its contents away to your satisfaction.

    No, I don’t attribute great weight to the yearbook. I attribute great weight to the importance of sworn testimony about the yearbook, because sworn testmony is very important in a court of law. I disagree with you that admitting to making sexist jokes would be “explaining away” anything, because I’m pretty sure that would be telling the truth (do you have some alternate theory? I figured we’d all agree that those are sexist jokes). I just don’t think that making sexist jokes as a teen in the 80’s is disqualifying, nor do I think it’s evidence for or against the allegations against him. I think enough people disagree with me on this last point that Kavanaugh felt it necessary to lie under oath. Or perhaps he’s trying to shape his reputation in a deceitful way. What’s terrible is that I think a lying judge is about to be confirmed, and that we live in a world where those lies were a smart move politically. I don’t like games that reward bad behavior.

    Then you say this:

    Are we supposed to be okay with investing this amount of power in a person that will lie this boldly?

    I get how I wasn’t entirely clear on my first point, but this question above is either bad faith or you aren’t actually reading my comments before replying. I ended the comment you reply to with this sentence:

    But I’m 99% sure he lied during sworn testimony, and that’s enough to disqualify him.

    I think this whole affair is really complex

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