No, Colleges Aren’t Banning The Vagina Monologues

The popular vblogger Laci Green, in her most recent video, said:

Colleges are banning hugely impactful feminist works like The Vagina Monologues because it implies that some women have vaginas.

This is a common claim – but as far as I can make out, it’s false. Some student groups have chosen not to perform TVM – but choosing not to perform a play isn’t remotely the same as “banning” a play.

To support this claim, Laci displayed the headline to this National Review article, about a student-run group at American University deciding not to perform The Vagina Monologues this year. Instead, they performed a new play, “Breaking Ground Monologues,” which was written by students.

Nothing in the article suggests that the college (as opposed to the student group) was the decision-maker, or supports the claim that American University has “banned” performing The Vagina Monologues.

On Twitter, Liana K pointed to this Inside Higher Ed article to support Laci Green’s claim that colleges have been banning The Vagina Monologues. But the article is about a student group at Mount Holyoke choosing to perform something else this year. How is that an example of a college “banning” The Vagina Monologues?

In fact, the same year that one Mount Holyoke student group decided not to do TVM, a different Mount Holyoke student group decided to do a performance of TVM – and the college released a statement officially approving of both productions.

It may be that somewhere in the country, some college has banned The Vagina Monologues from being performed, but I can’t find evidence of it. And both Laci Green’s and Liana K’s references show how primed people are to interpret virtually anything that happens on campus as censorship. Laci’s implication that “colleges,” plural, are “banning” feminist works like The Vagina Monologues in order to be inclusive of trans students seems entirely false.

Three further notes:

1) Mandolin just pointed out this Julia Serano essay on The Vagina Monologues to me. “It is true that some trans people do not like The Vagina Monologues, or consider it to be trans-exclusive. However, many trans people do appreciate the play, and some of us have performed in it.”

2) This is becoming a pattern of Laci Green distorting the truth in ways that support popular anti-trans narratives. See also here and here.

3) This is also part of a pattern of anti-SJWs interpreting freely made choices as censorship. Student groups being free to choose which plays to perform is an exercise of free speech, not an affront to it.

Posted in Free speech, censorship, copyright law, etc., Transsexual and Transgender related issues | 5 Comments  

Open Thread and Link Farm, Lost Tricycle Edition

  1. McConnell Calls for Repeal of Obamacare After Republican Defections – The Atlantic
    “Repeal and Replace” has failed; McConnell and Trump are now both advocating for “Repeal Now, Replace Later.”
  2. Related: Repealing Obamacare without replacing it would be a disaster – The Washington Post
    Alternate link.
  3. Détour — A film by Michel Gondry – YouTube
    This ten-minute film, about a tricycle trying to find its way back to its owner, is pretty awesome. And it was shot on an IPhone. (Gondry is probably most famous in the US for co-writing “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”)
  4. What you should know about that really nasty anti-trans bill in Congress.
    I don’t think this bill could get through the Senate – it can’t be passed through reconciliation, as Charles pointed out to me, so it would need Democratic support to pass.
  5. A basic income really could end poverty forever – Vox
    Note the word left out of the headline – “universal.” Good article, though.
  6. Spectacular Online Responses to 13th Doctor Jodie Whittaker | The Mary Sue
    About time! But good for them. Now let’s see a non-white Doctor next.
  7. What’s the point of an anti-immigrant left? – Vox
  8. The gap between black and white infant mortality is creeping up again, leaving researchers puzzled
  9. California decided it was tired of women bleeding to death in childbirth – Vox
    “The maternal mortality rate in the state is a third of the American average. Here’s why.” Good long-form article. The US’s high maternal mortality rates could be reversed nationwide; if it doesn’t happen, the reason will be political, not medical. As Grace says, “The US doesn’t value women, as demonstrated by our maternal mortality rates.” (Thanks for the link, Grace!)
  10. Fresh trans myths of 2017: “rapid onset gender dysphoria” | Gender Analysis
  11. Easter Islanders Didn’t Cause Ecological Disaster on Their Island, New Research Finds | Archaeology, Paleoanthropology |
  12. Black Girls Are Viewed as Less Innocent and More Adultlike Than White Girls: Study
    Thanks, Grace!
  13. Origami Squid and Octopus Sculptures That Pop Up When Dropped and an Origami Wolf That Pulls Its Mask Off
  14. Globalisation: the rise and fall of an idea that swept the world | World news | The Guardian
  15. Transgender People and “Biological Sex” Myths – Julia Serano – Medium
  16. The law expects civilians to remain calm even when police don’t | Charlotte Observer
    Police are provided with de-escalation training, but some civilian need to de-escalate cops to survive.
  17. How bosses are (literally) like dictators – Vox
  18. Pocahontas Was a Mistake, and Here’s Why! – YouTube
    This half-hour video essay, looking at how Disney’s approach changed between “Pocahontas” and “Moana,” is really excellent.
  19. Medicaid Worsens Your Health? That’s a Classic Misinterpretation of Research – The New York Times
  20. Medicaid is good for children and makes them better adults | The Incidental Economist
    Because Medicaid was originally implemented years apart in different states, there are interesting comparisons that can be made across states. (Hat-tip to Grace.)
  21. The Selfie Monkey Goes to the Ninth Circuit – Motherboard
    PETA, acting (they say) on behalf of the monkey, is suing the human photographer.
  22. Excommunicate Me from the Church of Social Justice | Autostraddle
  23. St. Louis minimum wage will drop from $10 to $7.70 | Local News |
  24. And on the other side of the spectrum: Seattle City Council Passes High-Earner Income Tax – Slog – The Stranger
    Might not be legal, though – it’s going to take a lawsuit to find out.
  25. 4chan trolls want to ‘quell’ anti-Trump dissent by shutting down DIY venues and art spaces – The Verge
  26. What European Political Philosophy Has to Say Today (with tweets) · kpanyc · StorifyLengthy Twitter storm by a NYU history professor, arguing that it’s impossible to understand today’s politics (or the 20th century, really) without looking at the role of nationalism, and also that the Republican party cannot be said to be “conservative.”
  27. Japanese-American in Boston: Kimono Wednesdays protest postmortem.
    This very long (3 parts!) 2015 post, by a Japanese-American blogger who followed the Kimono protests closely and is very critical of the protestors, is well-written and had information I hadn’t read before.
  28. Steve Trevor, Joss Whedon, and the men getting in the way of Wonder Woman · For Our Consideration · The A.V. Club
  29. The most alarming Trump administration attack on voting rights might come from the Department of Justice, not from Kobach’s commission. | HuffPost
  30. And a longer-form article going deeper into the voter purge issue: These Three Lawyers Are Quietly Purging Voter Rolls Across the Country – Mother Jones
  31. Medicaid Beneficiaries Are Happy With Care : Shots – Health News : NPR
  32. Why does Trump’s voting commission want data it shouldn’t have? | TheHill
  33. One Person, One Vote: Estimating the Prevalence of Double Voting in U.S. Presidential Elections
    “We find their proposed purging strategy would eliminate about 200 registrations used to cast legitimate votes for every one registration used to cast a double vote.”
  34. Trump’s Trolls Are Waging War on America’s Civil Servants | Foreign Policy
  35. The World Doesn’t Mooch Off U.S. Health-Care Research – Bloomberg
  36. Unions’ Effect on Productivity –
    Storing this here in part because it’s relevant to an upcoming political cartoon.
  37. A Good Cartoon — mlk and civil rights protests in cartoons: then, as now
  38. Yasmine Weiss’s Strange, Intimate Portraits | Hi-Fructose Magazine
Posted in Link farms | 102 Comments  

Cartoon: The Only Way Democrats Can Win

If you enjoy these cartoons, please help me make more at Patreon. Even a $1 pledge makes a difference for me.

I think this comic pretty much explains itself. :-)

I’m happy with the art, especially with the two female figures. I drew someone in high heels! That may not seem like a big deal to you, but you don’t know how deeply and truly I suck at drawing high heels. They’re a very complex shape!

I also had a lot of fun drawing the middle lady’s tattoo sleeve, although looking at it now I’m not sure I should have made it the same hot pink as her hair. Ah well.

Thanks so much for those of you supporting my Patreon! I’m so lucky to be able to make my cartoons about whatever I want, and still get paid. It’s amazing living in a time of social media and crowdfunding.

I have two nieces living with me, who are now 11 and 13. When I was their age there was no internet; we thought having two phone lines the house was pretty cool and high-tech. The world has changed so incomprehensibly fast. What will it be like when they’re my age? Hope I’ll still be around to find out.


The cartoon has one panel, which shows three people having a heated discussion. The three people are an older Black woman, a young white woman with tattoos and pink hair, and a middle-aged Latino man wearing suspenders and a collared shirt.

OLDER WOMAN (smiling, holding up a forefinger as she explains): There’s only ONE strategy which will let Democrats win elections, and by an AMAZING coincidence, it requires us to foll all my policy preferences.
TATTOOED WOMAN (angry, holding up a hand in a “stop!” gesture): Don’t be RIDICULOUS! The one true strategy is following MY policy preferences!
SUSPENDERS MAN (angry, with his arms outspread): You FOOLS! Everyone knows that MY policy preferences are the only way we can win!

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Elections and politics | 13 Comments  

What I’m Reading – Male Lust: Pleasure, Power, and Transformation

This book, Male Lust: Pleasure, Power, and Transformation, has been on my shelf since the early 2000s. Back then, it was at the top of my to-read list, but circumstances intervened and so I am only picking it up now. I’ve read the introduction and I think it’s really interesting to juxtapose the two passages below. In the text, the first one actually comes after the second one. I have put them in this order because I think it creates an interesting tension between them.


Because a privileged man’s life is “unremarkable,” he is less likely to know how his social position affects his life. A “white” man knows he is “white,” but he is likely to have little idea how this identity shapes his social world, much less his sexuality. He’s rarely forced to stop and think about it. Any interpersonal or emotional difficulties he might have are thus made to appear as individual worries. This illusion of a fully autonomous self lets privileged men act with less concern about the social impact of their actions—they are more “free” than others. Yet, this freedom makes them less able to identify the links between their concerns and the larger social environment. Because of this hyperindividuality, itself socially constructed, privileged men are vulnerable to intense feelings of self-blame and isolation when something goes wrong. It makes them less able to understand how their lives relate to the lives of those around them, and less able to respond to the social forces that daily shape their lives. (xix)


Think of a judicial system that not only favors heterosexuality but reserves its favor for specific types of heterosexuality: not S/M—that could cost you your kids; not polyfidelity—that could cost you your kids too; not for pay—that could cost you your kids and put you in jail. Think of the African-American, Latino, and Chinese men who have been lynched for the mere suspicion of looking at a white woman. Whatever biological ground our bodies provide, “male lust” is clearly a highly regulated—and therefore social—affair, shaped through a deployed and nearly ubiquitous series of sticks and carrots. Removing these pressures, or adopting a different set, would radically change the way we think about the social/biological categories “male” and “sexuality.”

Posted in Gender and the Body, Sex | 25 Comments  

Cartoon: How is THAT Racist?


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Transcript of Cartoon

Panel 1 is a title panel, with nothing but lettering.
LETTERING: White People Ask… How is THAT Racist?

Panel 2
A young white woman with red hair and a roundish face looks bewildered as she speaks.
WOMAN: I’m suing because Black students got into a college that rejected me, and I’m blaming affirmative action instead of my mediocre grades. How is THAT racist?

Panel 3
An older white woman, with curly white hair and glasses and a floral print dress, speaks cheerfully.
WOMAN: I would NEVER use the “n-word.” I call Black people “thugs” instead. How is THAT racist?

Panel 4
A middle-aged white man with glasses and a collared short-sleeved shirt raises his arms as he speaks, looking bewildered.
MAN: A law preventing TENS OF THOUSANDS of Blacks and Latinos from voting is a price worth paying if it stops just ONE illegal vote! How is THAT racist?

Panel 5
A large, mostly-bald white man grins, wearing a sports team t-shirt with a grotesque caricature of a grinning Indian, and the team name, “Indians.” He has a tattoo of the same design on one forearm.
MAN: I love wearing my team’s merch! How is THAT racist?

Panel 6
A concerned, meek-looking white woman, with a nice haircut and hoop earrings, speaks to the viewer.
WOMAN: I just think that hordes of illegal aliens coming from Mexico are ruining America. How is THAT racist?

Panel 7
A brown hand (the only non-white person in this strip) holds a smartphone. On the smartphone, an angry-looking white man in a suit is speaking to the camera; the image is labeled “Angry Channel.”
MAN: All I’m saying is that black people have genetically lower IQs, so we should expect them to earn less and be criminals. How is THAT racist?

Panel 8
A young white woman with bright pink hair, a plaid dress, and tattoos covering one arm speaks intensely to the viewer.
WOMAN: How can they say “Black lives matter”? Don’t they know that EVERYTHING has to include WHITE people? How is THAT racist?

Panel 9 (final panel)
A white person wearing a full Klu Klux Klan outfit, including the hood, is holding his hands up and shrugging.
KKK MEMBER: White people must prepare for the coming race war or the lower races will WIN! How is THAT racist?

Posted in antiracism, Cartooning & comics, Race, racism and related issues | 10 Comments  

Open Thread and Link Farm: Primitive and Unscientific Edition


  1. Trumpcare will probably kill thousands. That’s neither uncivil nor alarmist to say.
  2. Better Suggestions for Democrats who want to Win Elections | Noah Berlatsky on Patreon
    And see also Noah’s followup post, Love the One You’re With.
  3. AP Analysis: Gerrymandering gave Republicans advantage in House, state elections
  4. Democrats are still obsessed with Jill Stein. They should start obsessing over nonvoters instead.
  5. KING: 2 Supreme Court rulings must change to end police brutality – NY Daily News
    “As long Tennessee v. Garner and Graham v. Connor stand as law, police brutality will be protected. That’s the bottom line.”
  6. Prosecutors are the ones most able to hold cops accountable.
    Which makes it a shame that they have so little motivation to ever hold cops accountable.
  7. A liberal think tank just released its own proposal to fix Obamacare – Vox
  8. Jean “Moebius” Giraud on drawing from the work of other artists, from life, and from photos… – Ragged Claws Network
    Brief, but he makes really good points.
  9. Texas Couple Exonerated 25 Years After Being Convicted of Lurid Crimes That Never Happened
    It was a Satanic Panic case. So painful to read about.
  10. Bridging the Inferential Distance on Desexualization | Thing of Things
    Sexual attraction and oppression.
  11. After the president’s tweet, I must withdraw my support for everything but his agenda – The Washington Post
  12. Professor fired after defending blacks-only event to Fox News. – The Washington Post
  13. The Texas Supreme Court just gave a big, fat middle finger to same-sex couples
  14. Web host agrees to pay $1m after it’s hit by Linux-targeting ransomware | Ars Technica
  15. Fresh trans myths of 2017: “rapid onset gender dysphoria”
  16. Here are all the ways Jeff Sessions is wrong about drug sentencing – The Washington Post
    And here’s an alternative link.
  17. California Single-Payer Organizers Are Deceiving Their Supporters. It’s Time to Stop.
    According to this article, the CA legislature literally cannot enact single payer, because of the stupid ways the CA tax laws are set up. It would require a ballot measure.
  18. Watch this person makes a pancake that looks like a human skull – YouTube
  19. You Say You Want a Single-Payer System: The Canada Health Act
    A brief nutshelling of the principles behind the Canadian health care system.
  20. Julia Serano, Transfeminist Thinker, Talks Trans-Misogyny – The New York Times
  21. Debunking “Trans Women Are Not Women” Arguments – Julia Serano – Medium
  22. Fareed Zakaria Says Blaming Immigrants Is the one Thing Right Wing Populists Share – The Atlantic
  23. Data on Campus Censorship Cases | Thing of Things
    “I’d strongly advise against drawing any conclusion from it firmer than ‘censorship of both liberals and conservatives occurs on college campuses, and conservatives probably face more.'”
  24. (13) Billy Joel – We Didn’t Start The Fire (Historically Accurate Almanac) COMPLETE – YouTube
    A fan video to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire,” with historic footage provided for each of Joel’s over 100 references. Weirdly fascinating.
  25. BREAKING: Tom Price promises to provide healthcare to millions of undocumented immigrants!* |
    A Trump official is counting undocumented aliens as Americans who Obamacare failed to cover. I agree, I’d love to see them covered.
  26. Anita Sarkeesian’s astounding ‘garbage human’ moment – Polygon
  27. Muralist Odeith Crafts Engrossing Illusions | Hi-Fructose Magazine
    That’s one of his works at the top of this post.
  28. A top scientist was asked to downplay facts by EPA chief of staff. | Grist
  29. Survey: Just 5 percent of economists believe Trump’s big tax promise – The Washington Post
    That promise – that tax cuts pay for themselves – is not a Trumpism, but something accepted as true (at least in public) by virtually all high Republican officials.
  30. Health Care Premiums Have Gone Down Under Obamacare – Mother Jones
  31. The Supreme Court’s double standard for qualified immunity cases – The Washington Post
    Interesting look at a debate between Supreme Court justices.
  32. Chris Pratt Doesn’t Think Regular Americans Are Represented | The Mary Sue
    To be fair, Pratt later took his comment back.
  33. No-Platforming Only Helps The Person Being No-Platformed Spread Their Message – The Unit of Caring
    Worth reading, and I partly endorse this. But the evidence she’s talking about seems to be about violent no-platforming, not no-platforming in general.
  34. The Democratic Party: Labor’s Frenemy – Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money
  35. Jeff Sessions and the Odds of Imprisoning Innocents – The Atlantic
    Reforming criminal forensics is essential to reducing the number of false convictions. But Sessions wants to stop reforms.
  36. Fun with the nasal cycle
    Why we have two nostrils.
  37. Supreme Court unanimously overturns North Carolina’s ban on social-media use by sex offenders – The Washington Post
    And I unanimously agree.
  38. Are Democrats Ready to Push Medicare for All? – Rewire
  39. “Medicaid-for-all” vs. “Medicare-for-all”. – HealthCommentary
    This author argues that Medicare for all is better.
  40. Medicare-for-All vs. Single Payer: The Impact of Labels | The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation
  41. Veiled Lives? Muslim women, headscarves, and manufacturing Islam – Girl w/ Pen


Posted in Link farms | 66 Comments  

Cartoon: How Trumpcare Helps Ordinary Americans



If you live in Alaska, West Virginia, Maine, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, or Arkansas, it’s ESSENTIAL that you call your senator! It’s easy and doesn’t take long; you can find calling scripts here.

Special shout-out to my talented collaborator on this cartoon, Mr. Adrian Wallace!

If you like these cartoons, please support my patreon.


This is a single panel cartoon.

The cartoon shows three giants, in fancy dinner dress, at a dining table. The room screams “wealth”; the chairs are fancy, the windows are huge, the wall is pillared, etc. The table is also fancy, with expensive-looking chairs and a fancy lace tablecloth.

Lying on the table is a woman with a grimace of pain and fear, who is labeled “Medicaid.” The three giants are ripping away huge chunks of her body and eating the chunks.

In front of these scene stands an ordinary-sized human, a white man wearing a suit and tie. He is smiling and talking directly to readers.

MAN: Our plan is all about helping ordinary Americans.

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Health Care and Related Issues | Comments Off  

Cartoon: Who’s A Good Voter?


If you enjoy these cartoons, please support them on Patreon.

Trump is in some ways more awful than the typical Republican politician – more crass, more ignorant, more dangerously impulsive. But a lot of his awfulness is just what we’ve come to expect from Republican politicians. You can’t be a viable Republican politician, in this age, unless you sign on for a long list of indefensible and irresponsible positions.

My point is, Trump’s election didn’t come out of nowhere. The GOP spent years teaching its voters to accept ridiculous nonsense as truth, and Trump is the result.

Artwise, I think this is one of my better efforts – I like the flat pink colors on the crowds versus the fuller colors on the two GOP operatives. (Thanks to my friend Naomi for suggesting that approach!) Better still, to my eyes at least, it really doesn’t look like any of the other political cartoons out there. And by the way, those Tea Party hats are pretty hard to draw!

Panel 1
Two men are standing slightly above of crowd of people. They are petting people in the crowd on the heads, as if they were dogs. The crowd looks happy. There are t-shirts and a banner that say “Reagan.”
One of the men is young, blond, and wearing a shirt and necktie. The other man is bald, has glasses, and is wearing a vest over his shirt and necktie. Both are white.
BLONDE: We can cut taxes, up military spending, and balance the budget! Yes we can!
GLASSES: WHO’S a good voter? YOU are!

Panel 2
The same scene, but now the crowd is wearing “Dole” t-shirts.
BLONDE: Industry would be doing great if it wasn’t for evil enviornmentalists. GOOD VOTER!
GLASSES: Tax cuts for the rich pay for themselves! GOOD boy! GOOD voter!

Panel 3
The same scene, but now the crow is wearing “Bush” t-shirts.
BLONDE: All your woes are caused by immigrants and Black people! Yes they ARE!
GLASSES: Global Warming is a HOAX made up by Al Gore! What a GOOD voter!

Panel 4
The same scene, except the crowd is looking angrier, and some of them are wearing tricorn hats, indicating that they’re Tea Party members. One wears a “NObama” t-shirt.
BLONDE: Illegal voters are stealing elections for the Democrats! GOOD VOTER!
GLASSES: Experts and journalists are all LIARS! Only Fox tells the truth! GOOD VOTER!

Panel 5 (final panel)
The two men are looking unhappy, having been left behind by the crowd of voters. We can see the crowd well in the foreground, wearing “Make America Great Again” hats.
BLONDE: Trump’s a con man and a liar. But our base LOVES him!
GLASSES: How’d they get like that?

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Elections and politics | Comments Off  

It’s Gross to Use Otto Warmbier’s Tragedy to talk about White Male Privilege

Otto Warmbier was a 22-year-old American who, early in 2016 was convicted by a North Korean court of stealing a poster. He was put in a North Korean prison, until he was returned to the US in a coma on June 13th of this year. Warmbier died without waking up on June 19th.


A few progressives have responded by saying… Well, I’ll let Affinity Magazine’s (now deleted) tweet speak for itself.

The comedian Larry Wilmore (who I’m usually a fan of) also criticized Warmbier harshly about a year ago, making fun of Warmbier for crying as he begged for mercy:

Look frat bros dudes, if your hazing includes international crimes, you’ve got to read the fine print on your American frat bro warranty. It’s all the way at the bottom so it’s easy to miss, but it says: “Frat bro privilege not valid in totalitarian dystopias.” Listen, Otto Von Crybaby, if you’re so anxious to go to a country with an unpredictable megalomaniac in charge, just wait a year and you’ll live in one! It’s coming, you guys! You know that shit is coming! Make America Great! It is catchy. I’m going to cry. Okay, to get a better sense of Otto, let’s talk with some of his fraternity brothers. So, please welcome Preston and Hawes. So guys, is it upsetting to see your frat brother begging for mercy in North Korea?

Do I have to explain how repulsive that is?

(Wilmore apologized a couple of days ago.)

The writer La Sha wrote the HuffPost article “North Korea Proves Your White Male Privilege Is Not Universal.

It’s important to note that La Sha’s article was written before Warmbier’s coma and subsequent death. Also, the article’s approach is all over the place; for a few paragraphs, it verges on satire, demonstrating what it would sound like if people responded to Warmbier’s case the way many whites respond to police shootings of Black people. But that satiric tone, if it was intended at all, is ambiguous and not maintained. Both the introductory paragraphs and the conclusion seem very much in earnest.

All these views fall somewhere on the spectrum from wrong to disgusting. Here’s why:

1) It’s blame-the-victim. Placing the blame on a victim when what happened to them is grossly disproportionate for whatever they allegedly did wrong is, well, wrong. And it blames the wrong person.

The reason I object to people saying “well, rape is horrible, but she shouldn’t have gotten drunk” when a woman is raped is not that I think it’s never a mistake to get drunk. (For example, if she had gotten drunk, slipped in a puddle, and thereby gotten mud on her favorite shirt, I probably would think it’s her own fault for getting so drunk.) My objection is, first of all, that it’s unreasonable to say “well, she shouldn’t have gotten drunk” regarding a rape victim, because the harms she suffered is so grossly disproportionate to anything she did wrong, that bringing it up that way is frankly indecent. And, secondly, it fails to put the blame where it belongs – on the rapist.

That the person acknowledged “rape is horrible” in passing on route to their main point doesn’t change any of that.

The logic in this case seems similar to me. Even if Otto Warmbier did steal a poster, what happened to him was so vastly disproportionate that blaming Warmbier himself becomes indecent. And La Sha’s passing acknowledgement that the punishment was wrong doesn’t make it okay.

2) All of these people take it as fact that Otto Warmbier stole a poster. But we don’t know if that’s true. The face of the man in the video is impossible to make out. Human Rights Watch called his trial a “kangaroo court.” And it’s safe to assume that Warmbier’s “confession” was coerced.

This is not a trivial point. When we accept without question North Korea’s version of events, we are (effectively if unintentionally) taking the side of the oppressor against the victim.

3) Using “privilege” to explain one individual act (that may not even have happened) is the wrong way to think of privilege.

Privilege is a useful way of talking about aggregate disparities between groups of people. We can say, for instance, that employers favoring thin job applicants over fat job applicants (because they assume fat job applicants are lazy) is an example of thin privilege. But we shouldn’t point to a single instance of a thin person being hired and say that it’s an example of thin privilege.

We don’t know that. Even if thin privilege didn’t exist, some thin people would still get hired. Similarly, if even white male privilege didn’t exist, some 22-year-olds would still make foolish mistakes.

Privilege is a little like global warming in this way. We can say for certain that extreme weather events are happening because of global warming. But that doesn’t mean we can point to any one storm and say “this was caused by global warming.” Global warming tells us what’s happening in the aggregate, but it doesn’t establish causation for any single event.

Even if Otto Warmbier stole a poster – and I feel compelled to repeat, we don’t know that he did – we can’t know what caused him to be do that. It could be white male privilege, but it could also be any of dozens of other factors that make up any individual’s personality. Privilege is real and important, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all explanation of any time a privileged person acts badly.

4) It’s not always wrong to politicize tragedies. Sometimes a tragedy suggests policy actions we can take to make future tragedies less likely, and in that case not talking about the steps we could take might be irresponsible. (Questions of time and place still apply, of course). Are there policy options that would make it harder for firms to promise American tourists that visiting Korea is safe (as the tour firm that took Warmbier promised)? If so, now might be a fruitful time to push for that change.

Similarly, BLM activists are 100% right to use each new police shooting as an occasion to push for change.

But it doesn’t follow that every tragedy should immediately be politicized. When we consider responding to a tragedy with politics, we should ask ourselves: Is what I’m saying related directly to a policy change that could have prevented this tragedy? Am I discussing this in a way that disparages the victims? Is talking about this in this way showing a lack of compassion for the victim and their family? Will this actually help in any significant way?

I assume that La Sha, Wilmore, and Affinity Mag failed to ask these questions. They considered only one factor. That’s rigid one-note thinking; that’s doctrinaire politics taking precedence over compassion. And yes, it’s wrong.

I have no interest in being part of a political movement that blames the victim of an authoritative regime; that laughs at the suffering of torture victims; that can’t imagine any priorities other than their own political narratives could ever be relevant. But that’s what our movement would be if Affinity Magazine’s attitude, as displayed in that tweet, becomes the norm.

Posted in In the news, Korea, White Privilege | Comments Off  

Cartoon: It’s No Longer About Obamacare


If you enjoy these cartoons, please support them on Patreon.

Transcript of cartoon.

This cartoon has a single panel, which shows Mitch McConnell, holding an axe, standing next to a huge tree that he’s clearly been chopping down; the tree is labeled “Medicaid.” Next to the tree is a tiny baby tree that he’s not chopping down, labeled “Obamacare.” In the branches of the Medicaid tree, there are countless tiny people looking terrified.

MCCONNELL: What’s the fuss? We’re only repealing Obamacare.

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Conservative zaniness, right-wingers, etc., Health Care and Related Issues | Comments Off