21 December 2009

The Most PC Thing You'll Ever Read

Go on, have a look. It's basically a guy whining that Rage Against the Machine don't deserve to be Christmas #1 because he doesn't share their opinions. How so?
  • They have "images of books" on their website. He doesn't like the books in question.
  • They also like Che Guevara, Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore.
  • Their guitarist, among other things, once said "A great song should destroy cops and set fire to the suburbs", which Edmund Standing takes very literally indeed
You'll notice in the article, there is zero analysis of Rage's music or even lyrics. You wouldn't expect similar for the fucknut right's artists. You don't hear Edmund Standing laying into W.B. Yeats for his politics, or Wagner for his fruity views on Jewish people. Does he refuse to watch Briget Bardot films because of her disgraceful views on Muslims? When he was at university, did he start yelling in the lectures every time someone mentioned Heidegger? I imagine if we were getting 'Peaches in Regalia' to Christmas #1, he wouldn't be condemning Frank Zappa and listing the faults of libertarianism. His objection to Chomsky is especially nasty, slandering him as a "pseudo-academic" despite the article he links to, '200 Chomsky Lies', only making one passing reference to linguistics. Would he also refer to Chris Brand as a 'pseudo-psychologist' because of his views? Actually, speaking of racist gobshites, hasn't Dannii Minogue said enough stupid shit to disqualify the X-Factor from another Christmas #1?

This is a textbook case of what the right-wing call 'political correctness'. Getting all oversensitive about certain opinions, making some athletic leaps of logic and then coming over all censorious towards anything associated with anything they disagree with. Deciding who should be where in the charts based on their politics, using a bad Brecht play you saw a few years ago to dispute Marxism, that sort of thing. That Chomsky one's a classic actually, I've come across that before. Some horse's arse with zero interest in L1 acquisition disputing his professional credentials because of his privately held beliefs. At least when Kilroy got sacked, he'd had a shit chat show anyway.

I always wondered why these people saw 'PC' everywhere, why they were so disgusted at writers like Polly Toynbee, who they seem to imagine as fifty feet tall with Communist lasers for eyes. Now I know. It's because they imagine we lefties think just like them, and are just doing exactly what they would do in the same position. The only reason they're ever upset about PC is because it's happening to them.

Of course, I've just completely failed to mention Rage's music or lyrics, so I should point out that 'Sleep Now in the Fire' has the best lyrics (which, isn't really saying much from my point of view) and (apologies for the youtuber visuals) 'Ashes in the Fall is just generally an awesome, awesome piece of music. Especially the Gang of Four-ish bit in the middle.

20 December 2009

Exploiting Misogynist Killings Like a Rat up a Drainpipe

What did I tell you? WHAT DID I TELL YOU? Three days and already the Goren murder is being exploited. Read the post, look at the quotes it highlights. One accuses the government of ignoring a root cultural cause:
The Government has also been turning a blind eye to the problem [of fundamentalism], which only makes things worse.
This one also seems to miss the point a little, as I'm not convinced this was a particularly fundamentalist family.

A few speculate as to why the government is failing to prevent honour killings:
It’s a betrayal of these women to be PC about this. Look at the figures. Asian women in Britain are three times more likely to commit suicide than their white friends.
instead of looking after the human rights of vulnerable young women you get accused of doing down the Asian community.
Is this because forced marriage is not a problem in those areas, all of which have some of the largest Asian populations in Britain? Or is it because authorities there are failing to use the powers for fear of creating offence? I am afraid it is the latter.
And this one actually specifically mentions multiculturalism and diversity:
Serious crimes are being treated as a matter for diversity officers rather than for the police and the courts… stop trying to excuse forced marriage as just a price to pay for multicultural diversity.
But, notice, only as red herrings, only as reasons why honour killings are tolerated, not actually as problems.

All the articles quoted were pretty good, and I basically agreed with most of all of them. But look how the overview read them:
Campaigners against so-called honour killings have spoken with one voice against multiculturalism after Tulay Goren’s father was jailed for her murder.
So-called honour crime, and the alien value systems that breed it
the murder of Tulay Goren has uncovered yet more criticism of the multicultural doctrine and political correctness
It is time for campaigners and politicians who question the benefits of multiculturalism to join forces
There's even a cheap shot blaming Labour.

We even get a bonafide iylismwdyglt when a verbose commenter goes even further:
Namely; people who wish to live in the UK or elsewhere, should be in no doubt, not even a shadow of a doubt, that entertaining such slave, misogynist attitudes have no place or business in the civilized world. And should they wish to act out their way of life, just to feel at home [...] they shall be removed right back to wherein they came and where such attitudes are acceptable and obviously such an “honorable” way of life for them. Better still do not come here in the first place. It is that simple! [...] All cultures are very far from being equal.That is a fact of life, take or leave it! Everyone, with the exception of children, mentally under developed and the out dated advocates of PC/MC creed know that much.
A few articles speculate about why our society fails to protect women from honour killings. A (Tory?) blogger twists it a little way so it's about multiculturalism. Along comes your comment monkey, suddenly the issue is who should and should not be allowed to live where, whose culture is best and whether right of residence should be tied to personal values.

I'd also like to explain why I don't put the bunny ears when I talk about honour killings or consider the term some kind of deformation of the language. I'm not particularly bothered about whether the killings were honourable. Apart from good old-fashioned sabres at dawn, I can't think of an occasion where any killing ever was honourable. It should be taken as read that we don't agree with any crimes, that we don't ever confuse motive and justification. But that's the implication of any objection to the term 'honour killing'.

On top of that, there's a reason Mehmet Goren would have preferred to see his daughter dead than married to the wrong man, while almost nobody in Europe is holding their duelling wounds open to get a better scar. 'Honour', as a concept, is valued and defined differently in different cultures. In the West, it's largely seen as outdated and subordinate to reason, rule of law, personal freedom and loving your children. Hence settling our disputes verbally in court and letting our kids marry whoever they want. We could only achieve this by devaluing honour as a cultural value, something we should obviously be encouraging as much as possible in cultures that kill for it. Acting as if honour is always good and needs to be protected with punctuation is tacitly devaluing the seriousness of the crimes committed in its name, like claiming Osama Bin Laden is not a "real" Muslim. Accepting that honour is just one of many shifting cultural values and declining to pass judgement on them lets us examine motives without approving of them. It allows us to separate our judgement of someone's actions with our judgement of their values, and so we should, as in the end, it was her father's actions and not his cultural values which killed Tulay Goren.

17 December 2009

Watch

Well, I reckon this story will trigger a fierce debate about honour killings, women in Islam and "multiculturalism". By which I mean a bunch of people will use this as a stick to beat Muslims with. Now, I've mentioned this before, and it'll be good to see it in action. We all know this is going to trigger anti-Islamic sentiment, but watch how it works.

Basically, behind the killing were Mehmet Goren's Southern Turkish/Islamic cultural values of family honour and paternal authority. Watch how quickly the debate shifts from the second half of that to the first. Watch how the opposition switches from feminism and individual rights versus honour and patriarchy, to mono- versus multiculturalism. Watch how disgust at the killer, sympathy for the murder victim and admiration for the courage of the key witness become sidelined by rage at the culture they shared. Watch how discussions of culture shift from what to whose values. And watch how professed concern for Muslim women soon reveals itself as masked hatred.

05 December 2009

Epic Xenophobia Failure

Switzerland, Switzerland, Switzerland, if you're going to pretend your attacks on Islam aren't just about Islam, don't try and do it by laying into the Jews. Surveys consistently confirm them as the most popular darkies and heathens among far-right not-racists across Europe, and have done for decades.

Besides, normally when the PC brigade do the Jew test on not-Nazis, you can just say it's crass and Muslims and Jews aren't comparable. Trying to be consistent by chucking in some anti-Semitism just does our job for us. Idiot.

02 December 2009

I'm Confused

You know what Libertarians like? You know what they fucking love? Absolutely bum to bits? Banning shit. Yeah, take THAT, pointy tall symbol.

In other news, the Communist blogosphere is erupting with support for the bankers, prominent Zionists have pledged their support to cancelling the whole Israel thing, and nothing makes sense any more.

PS: Pigdogfucker has more.

01 December 2009

Vague Weapon

Oliver Kamm spouts some libellous wank about MediaLens. He uses the phrase "genocide denial", which I think is quite clever. Of course, one problem is that what he's accusing them of:
We sparked off "several hundred e-mails" - perhaps as many as 500 - affirming that Chomsky had +not+ denied there had been a massacre in Srebrenica.
Technically, of course, this is genocide-denial-denial. Another problem is that well, it's not like Holocaust denial or Srebnica denial, or any other denial of specific historical events. Basically, you can accuse almost anyone of genocide-denial so long as there is one genocide they don't think really happened. This can, if you want, include the Thetan genocide or any you happen to make up. It's vague.

The awesome thing about it though, is that it's not like Holocaust denial or Srebnica denial, or any other denial of specific historical events. Basically, you can accuse almost anyone of genocide-denial so long as there is one genocide they don't think really happened. This can, if you want, include the Thetan genocide or any you happen to make up. It's vague. And it sounds almost as bad as Holocaust denial, and makes your victim sound like a far-right conspiracy-nut, even if all they've done is claim the Alderaan genocide to be fiction.

Incidentally, recent historical sources show quite clearly that Oliver Kamm perpetrated an act of genocide on Belgians in 1885. Ask him. He won't deny it.

25 November 2009

Dear Nick Cohen: Please Defend to the Death

Nick Cohen is very angry at a Muslim:
[John] Denham is entertaining Inayat Bunglawala of the MCB, who gave a taste of the 'progressive' policies Labour is encouraging when he wrote an article defending Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, and a preacher who recommends wife-beating, genital mutilation of girls and the murder of apostates and homosexuals. Earlier this year, the sheikh said of Adolf Hitler's massacres of the Jews: 'This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers.'

I like that. "Wrote an article defending". Classic smearmonger sleight-of-hand from Cohen there. I can disapprove of the death penalty for shoplifting without being pro-shoplifting. Every day, batsmen across the world defend the wicket without sharing its opinions. Who's to blame for this world where anyone thinks this kind of bollocks smear is worth printing? I'll tell you who: shit Voltaireans. You know the ones. Not read a word of his work except one thing he didn't even say:
I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

Thing is, a lot of people these days - especially racists and homophobes - use it exclusively for people they who they don't disapprove of. So instead a doctrine of universal free speech that says "I personally disagree, but you can say it if you want", we get the far less universal "I personally agree entirely, so you can say it if you want". And now Nick Cohen thinks (or expects his readers to think) that 'defend' means 'wholeheartedly agree with'.

Let this be a lesson to you. Every time you use that quote for someone you agree with, you're breaking it. You confuse the slow readers of the world, and you make it easier for shameless dick-waving journos to run their petty, spiteful guilt-by-association shtick on proper human beings.

Of course, I defend Nick Cohen's right to say all this, but please don't take that to mean I don't think he's a hackish bag of dicks.

04 November 2009

More of the Same, Please

Lukewarm on the heels of bloodless genocide and non-violent Jihad come the verbal pogroms.

Is it just me or when fucknut culture-warriors like Griffin, Delingpole and Phillips put forward their most apocalyptic visions of what the left is inflicting on their people, does it actually sound like the utopian fantasies of the world's most extreme pacifist?

I eagerly await the tea-and-biscuit Holocaust.

23 October 2009

Problem With Question Time

Short post to follow a long one.

Question Time last night: everyone except the BNP themselves seems to be gushing about how Nick Griffin got torn a new one last night, but I'm inclined to disagree. They said he was a wolf in sheep's clothing, but I don't think we ever really saw the wolf, although the sheep's clothing slipped a few times, like when he continued to evade questions about his Holocaust denial even when the Justice Minister told him he was safe. But there were three moments when I think everyone involved did abysmally:

"White": Instead of telling the audience and people at home that Griffin meant 'White' when he said 'indigenous' it would have been far more effective to simply press him on it until he admitted it himself, for example by asking him to clarify what "non-indigenous" meant. Just shouting "white" looked like a smear, and let him pass himself off as a witty anti-racist, with the retort that skin-colour doesn't matter.

Benefits of multiculturalism: Nick Griffin asserted that multiculturalism has been foisted on us by a liberal elite and has "given us nothing but tax-bills in return". He wasn't picked up on this, even in pure economic terms.

Wicked and vicious faith: Some idiot in the audience asked him about this and gave him a chance to go off on a rant he's probably been rehearsing since he got on the plane out of Libya. He wasn't picked up on his claim that "it says so in the Quran", as if you can just extrapolate from there, with no history of interpretation, what all Muslims actually believe.

The Yes-Platform types insisted that letting the BNP expose themselves would be the best strategy, but that's not what happened. I still don't know why Nick Griffin changed his mind about the gas chambers, and his neatly-worded, reasonable-sounding spiel about why Islam actually is a wicked and vicious faith was being repeated, uncut and unchallenged on the Today programme.

On the other hand, "The leader of a Ku Klux Klan, and almost entirely non-violent one" is a brilliant bit of backtracking.

Quote Me As Saying I Misquoted Myself

Man, Jan Moir is an terrible, terrible liar. Here's her attempt to justify making an utter arse of herself in front of the internet.
Last week, I wrote in this column about the death of Boyzone star Stephen Gately.
I've included this first line just to show that not everything Jan has written here is complete bollocks.
To my horror, it has been widely condemned as 'homophobic' and 'hateful'. Obviously, a great deal of offence has been taken and I regret any affront caused. This was never my intention.
This excuse never ceases to amuse me. You didn't intend to offend anyone because, being an insensitive, halfwitted cow who writes for one of the most cynically mendacious and manipulative publications in the country and doesn't understand Twitter, you thought you were addressing an audience exclusively composed of polite, middle-class homophobes who wouldn't be offended.
To be the focus of such depth of feeling has been an interesting experience, but I do not complain.
This is one of the best preambles to a lengthy complaint I've ever seen. Is there an award for this or something?
To them, I would like to say sorry if I have caused distress by the insensitive timing of the column, published so close to the funeral.
This is pretty good as well. The article was spot on, it's just, well, maybe she should have given it another week.

That's just the beginning of her bollocks though. She then reels off lie after lie after lie about what she said in her original column:
The point of my article was to suggest that, in my honest opinion, Stephen Gately's death raised many unanswered questions. What had really gone on?
They're only "unanswered" if you ignore the coroner and persist in asking questions about other people's private lives.
Absolutely none of this had anything to do with his sexuality. If he had been a heterosexual member of a boy band, I would have written exactly the same article.
even though he could barely carry a tune in a Louis Vuitton trunk
It is not disrespectful to assume that a game of canasta with 25-year-old Georgi Dochev was not what was on the cards.
the ooze of a very different and more dangerous lifestyle has seeped out for all to see.
What had been reported about that night is that Stephen and his civil partner Andrew Cowles went to a nightclub and brought back a Bulgarian man to their apartment. There were also reports of drug-taking. Following this, it was reported that Cowles went to the bedroom with the Bulgarian, while Stephen remained on the sofa. I have never thought, or suggested, that what happened that night represented a so-called gay lifestyle; this is not how most gay people live.
Not everyone, they say, is like George Michael. Of course, in many cases this may be true.
Do you really hold your readership in such contempt you don't think we'll understand the difference between 'most don't' and 'many may not'?
My assertion that there was 'nothing natural' about Stephen's death has been wildly misinterpreted. What I meant by 'nothing natural' was that the natural duration of his life had been tragically shortened in a way that was shocking and out of the ordinary. Certainly, his death was unusual enough for a coroner to become involved.
Whatever the cause of death is, it is not, by any yardstick, a natural one. Let us be absolutely clear about this.
After all, Stephen was a role model for the young and if drugs were somehow involved in his death, as news reports suggested, should that not be a matter of public interest? We were told that Stephen died of 'natural causes' even before toxicology results had been released. This struck me as bizarre, given the circumstances.
I should apologise, as that second one isn't from the original article, but from the same embarassing excuse-fest. I would have thought Jan Moir would draw the line at lying about what she said in a separate article, but she obviously doesn't even trust Mail readers to remember ten seconds ago or scroll up.
The point of my observation that there was a 'happy ever after myth' surrounding such unions was that they can be just as problematic as heterosexual marriages.
Gay activists are always calling for tolerance and understanding about same-sex relationships, arguing that they are just the same as heterosexual marriages. Not everyone, they say, is like George Michael. Of course, in many cases this may be true. Yet...
Indeed, I would stress that there was nothing in my article that could not be applied to a heterosexual couple as well as to a homosexual one.
Canasta, Jan?

And, of course, she misrepresents the reactions:
This brings me back to the bile, the fury, the inflammatory hate mail and the repeated posting of my home address on the internet. To say it was a hysterical overreaction would be putting it mildly, though clearly much of it was an orchestrated campaign by pressure groups and those with agendas of their own.
Ah, agendas.
However, I accept that many people - on Twitter and elsewhere - were merely expressing their own personal and heartfelt opinions or grievances. This said, I can't help wondering: is there a compulsion today to see bigotry and social intolerance where none exists by people who are determined to be outraged? Or was it a failure of communication on my part?
If by "failure of communication" you mean 'lie', then yes, it's several unconvincing failure of communications.
Certainly, something terrible went wrong as my column ricocheted through cyberspace
Was it that you wrote it?
It is worth stressing that the version of events I recounted in my column had already been in the public domain, having been described in detail in several newspapers.
The facts were never an issue in your article. The tens of thousands of people who complained about your article were based on your ham-fisted attempt to bring them together and speculate about how they might have killed him.
unread by many who complained
I think this is maybe why she thinks she can get away with such shameless lies. She genuinely doesn't think anyone read it, and obviously they won't be able to now, as they'll probably have thrown their print copy away by now.
Their view, and mine, was that it was perfectly reasonable of me to comment upon the manner of Stephen Gately's death, even if there are those who think that his celebrity and sexuality make him untouchable.
Revealing sentence here: the idea of him being untouchable because he wasn't even in the ground and his family were still reeling from the shock didn't cross her mind. This would go a long way to explain the other awful ghoulish shite this horrible, horrible woman has put her name to.
Can it really be that we are becoming a society where no one can dare to question the circumstances or behaviour of a person who happens to be gay without being labelled a homophobe?
I love this excuse as well. Hopefully her next column will go "No-one can even dare purposefully distort the facts without being labelled a liar".
Finally, I would just like to say that whatever did or did not happen in Majorca, a talented young man died before his time. This, of course, is a matter of regret and sadness for us all.
Except for you. You get paid by the word.

17 October 2009

Poor Jan Moir

I'm a bit late with this, so I'm sure you've all read the offending article and its fuckwit follow-up. So I'd like to ask you a question: how much do you know about Stephen Gately? Obviously fans will know a shitload more but let's face it, he was a fairly normal member of a band I don't like, who generally kept a low public profile. In fact, like most non-fans, I'd pretty much forgotten about him until he died. You can't expect me to know that much about the guy. But here's everything I do know:
  • Boyzone
  • Irish
  • Gay
  • Dead
That's more than enough for someone who isn't interested in Boyzone or where famous people put their willies. And if I hadn't known a single thing, really, neither of our lives would have been in the slightest bit different. But I'm not a journalist. My income doesn't depend on expressing spontaneous opinions on stiffs I never knew

Jan Moir's does. She's a professional journalist. When Gately inconsiderately died on her, she had to write something or else she would have been one of the people who didn't write about him. But Jan Moir is not just not that bright, and probably knows even less than those four facts. She desperately needs to link something to his death, or, well, what would she write? It's like when they kept finding those girls in Austrian cellars. I mean who the fuck knows anything about Austria for fuck's sake? So you've just got to link it to the Nazis. Always happens when you have to cover a story you know fuck all about. The serious uninformed journalist must strike a balance between free-association and uninformative whiffle. "Yewhat? Either you're joking about a man's death or you're serious, and I don't know which is worse" or "What the fuck was the point in me reading that then? I knew he was dead already so why don't you tell me something I don't know you pointless, overpaid cow?" Jan Moir, being particularly vulnerable to accusations of being a pointless, overpaid cow, must tread especially carefully. The untimely death of Stephen Gately has, therefore, three possible explanations:

  • Irish: You know, you could pull this off maybe. Heart conditions can be exacerbated by drinking, and everyone knows how the Irish like a drink. A few Irish people might complain, but it's not like they dodged that bullet anyway. It might look racist, but then you can always play the PC card and shout "You can't even insult someone because of their race without being called a racist". The only problem with this approach, really, is that we've been making Irish jokes for so long nobody takes them seriously.

  • Boyzone: See, you could pull off "The Curse of Boyzone" if one of them had died or gone off the rails before. In fact someone's probably got one all written up ready for the next one. But it just doesn't work on the first fatality. That's still an 80% survival rate. You could maybe insinuate that, instead of a few rounds of canasta, they had invited the other guy round for three-part harmonies, but that would have been a bit of a busman's holiday.

  • Gay: It's the only rational choice. Gayness, unlike Boyzone, is something people generally do in private, so you have absolutely no idea what it really involves. Also, very few people genuinely believe stupid shite about the Irish these days, but there's still a lot of people believe a lot of bollocks about gays, how they bum and what they do (drugs) when they're not bumming or doing their gay jobs. Yeah, there'll be complaints, and you'll finally prove to the world what a sorry excuse for a human being you are, but people will read your article and find it vaguely informative and stimulating.
Best of all, you won't have had to do a blind bit of research, you can just let stereotypes and readers' own prejudice do all the work for you, leaving you free to carry on championing gay rights.

But it looks like the Mail will have the last laugh anyway. Take that twitter! Man, I bet the blogosphere is quaking in its boots.

10 October 2009

Interesting Oxymoron

Odd. I've always found the things a bit silly. Either they're clever ways to describe something absurd (like 'living dead' or 'best worst movie'), silly puns ('same difference' and 'civil war'), or they're complete nonsense. I've found very few that anyone would actually use in a normal sentence without either a heavy dose of irony or a zombie apocalypse. There are some, like 'old boy', which probably started off as pithily ironic descriptions but carved themselves such a rut in the language we no longer think of them as such. But I could never think of one that had come up organically, with no attempt at contradiction.

Then I found one. It's pretty nasty. "Enemy civilian". I mean, if someone's doing something that makes them your enemy, they're not really a civilian and if someone's not actually fighting, then they can't be your enemy. Yet you see this phrase all the time. Especially from pro-Israeli types around Christmas last year.

I searched for it a bit and found this nasty piece of work:
Israel has often endagered its own soldiers in war for the fear that using superior firepower may cause civilian deaths among those who indiscriminately kill our civilians without batting an eyelid.
Now I have fairly strong opinions on this. I also didn’t like this dubious caveat:
I have no pleasure when truly innocent enemy civilians are killed
implying that just being a civilian isn’t enough to make a Palestinian innocent (I doubt he'd say the same for the long-suffering people of Sderot). But I'm not really interested in any of that. I'm interested in what he means by "among those". Who are "those who indiscriminately kill our civilians"? Are they Hamas or Al-Aqsa fighters? Clearly not, there are no civilians among fighters, by definition. So this "group" is quite clearly Palestinians. Cosmic X holds Palestinian civilians responsible for the actions of Palestinian combatants, and therefore reckons they are less deserving of life than Israeli civilians.

And this seems to be fairly typical of the kind of people who use this oxymoron regularly. The very idea that whether a civilian “belongs to” your side or theirs should affect the moral or strategic value of murdering them in cold blood is utterly revolting. The idea that their lives may be worth less, the idea that Palestinian civilians dying instead of Israelis should be slightly better because it might annoy Hamas are not ones you should be able to hold without getting regularly kicked in the groin, yet both seem to permeate these kinds of debates, and both are horrible, horrible attitudes that people get away with expressing on a daily basis. It astounds me how such a murderous, racist, not to mention nonsensical phrase slots so neatly into our language, and it says a lot about our attitudes.

02 October 2009

Another Fake String to His Rubbish Bow

MAN this is good. Rod Liddle is a feminist. As well as a socialist, of course.

In other news, Richard Barnbrook is a lifelong Black Panther.

29 September 2009

Actually, Rape-Rape Is Exactly What It Is

For those strugglers at the back, Whoopi Goldberg is an idiotic fucking disgrace.

But jaw-dropping apologetics for forcibly fucking drugged kids in the arse don't just happen. Fuckwits don't take place in a vacuum. How do you get to the point where having sex with a minor against her will doesn't count as rape? Well, it's because it's both. Polanski was charged with rape because the girl was thirteen at the time. Because she couldn't give consent at all, the fact that she repeatedly asked him to stop was immaterial.

Statutory rape is sort of a different matter in that sense. The problem isn't the coercion, it's the numbers and the perviness they imply. This is, I reckon, our principle objection to having sex with children is that it's perverse and wrong and paedoey. Thing is, I'm not exactly for paedophiles getting their rocks off, but, as a problem, it's sort of dwarfed by people too young to understand what they're agreeing to being pressured, tricked or forced into having sex. Adult-on-adult rape sets off our sexual-violence emotional alarm. A 44-year-old raping a thirteen-year-old sets off our prurient-obsession-with-other-people's-orgasms alarm, which is louder than our sexual-violence alarm, but which we've trained ourselves to ignore for fear of being curtain-twitchers and Victorians.

What Whoopi Goldberg seems to have meant by "it's not rape-rape" is that it's only rape because of the girl's age, and because he drugged and forced her into it. Which, I admit, would move it into a slightly different moral area if it wasn't for the minor fact that both are the case. So, in the sense that it's rape on two counts, "rape-rape" is sort of exactly what it is. Maybe she just fumbled her words, and meant to say that the two rapes cancel each other out.

24 September 2009

Glenn Beck the Shit Magician

Watch this clip of Glenn Beck throwing a frog into boiling water. Watch it carefully. Watch when nothing comes out of his hand. Wind back. Watch when he goes to pick up the frog and it jumps out of his hand after he's closed it. This guy makes Gob Bluth look like fucking Gandalf.

18 September 2009

Literally in a Figurative Sense

Via Unspeak again, I came across this concerned citizen complaining about "literally". This is a bone I've had to pick with the world at large for a while, and I pick on Jeff Strabone because he seems to have summed up most of the arguments and a couple of the failings around the word.

Firstly, he gives a good example of, what is in my opinion, the only merit of prescriptivism: pragmatism, saying that
If we lose the literal meaning of 'literal', we would be depriving our language of one of the two words, the other being 'figurative', that most help us understand how language does and does not work.
And he's basically right. The opposition between 'literally' and 'figuratively' is a highly useful one. And in 'literally' acquiring a figurative sense, it basically falls prey to the exact kind of semantic shift that makes it necessary. But we're not dealing with a binary here. People can use metaphors in several senses, and just two words doesn't cut it.

I'll give you a couple of examples: 'to drink someone under the table' has, ostensibly, two meanings - the metaphorical sense of outdrinking someone, and the literal sense of outdrinking them to the point that they slump under the table. But the metaphorical meaning is itself ambiguous: did you carry on drinking after your opponent had thrown in the towel, or did you just get more in before closing time? 'To laugh your head off' means 'to laugh a lot' in the figurative sense, in the literal sense, nothing. But, being naturally prone to exaggeration, people might say they laughed their heads off for levels of hilarity well below the average for that idiom, in the same way someone sitting with a face like a slapped arse might type 'rofl'.

How to distinguish between the two? 'Figurative' announces metaphor, hyperbole or both. 'Literal', in its old sense, declares no hyperbole, no metaphor. What do we say when there is metaphor, but no hyperbole? "I was literally laughing my head off" could not possibly mean decapitation by hilarity, it could only mean "I was laughing hard enough to merit this colourful figure of speech". But what about drinking under the table? Here we have three possibilities: outdrinking, outdrinking with a clear victory and outdrinking with the opponent physically slumped under the table. One is clearly literal, one is clearly figurative, but what about the one in the middle? Well, have you ever met anyone, anywhere, ever, who would say "I literally drank him under the table" and leave it at that? When you hear where the losing inebriate ended up, and believe me, you will, then you know what kind of 'literal' you are dealing with. Nine times out of ten, the context and the intelligence of the listener is enough to clear up most ambiguities.

So let's take Jeff's example:
Now, normally this redtape is a nuisance. We work through it. It is inconvenient. It is a nuisance. But we just sort of move through the redtape of Government. But in this case, it is literally a noose that is around the necks of people, of business owners, large and small, family members—strangling their efforts to recover their communities that were devastated.
Jeff adds
Is it time for Northern troops to occupy Louisiana again as they did during the Reconstruction? Is someone literally lynching people down South with nooses made of literal red tape? Senator Landrieu seems to think so.
No, because that would be ludicrous. Would anyone seriously interpret it that way, even for a second? What Senator Landrieu seems to be getting at is this: "Many politicians, possibly myself included, would call this bureaucracy a 'noose' when it is really just a nuisance. This is not the case here. Though not actually a noose in the physical sense, it is serious enough to merit the comparison".

From the supposed degeneration of 'literally', we've actually gained a handy tool against the degeneration of other words and idioms. Jeff seems to think 'literally' has swapped places with 'figuratively', but that's clearly not the case. 'Literally' has found a niche in the clarification of figurative speech. However, because this inevitably ends up strengthening the idiom, prescriptivists and pedants often assume it means nothing more nuanced than 'really'.

Jeff adds:
One of my standard parlor tricks (no, not a literal parlor) in the classroom is to de-familiarize everyday figures...My favourite is 'planet', thought today to mean a big chunk of matter that orbits a star. The Greek word for those bright lights was 'planetos', literally 'wanderer'. They called them wanderers or wandering stars because they moved idiosyncratically against the backdrop of the celestial sphere of all the other fixed stars that rotated as one. Thus, when we call a big chunk of orbitting matter a planet, we are using a dead metaphor, for the word literally meant 'wanderer'.
This is a rather charming etymological fact and a clear illustration of just how necessary this distinction is. But I can't imagine how general ambiguity in the word 'literally' would introduce ambiguity to this specific context. The rest of this QI-nugget makes it clear what information should be expected - a meaning of the word which is literal in the old sense. Even with the false assumption that the new sense of 'literally' is purely emphatic, that makes no sense in this context. In the same way, there is no ambiguity if I ask whether the Greeks literally believed the planets to be wandering. Emphatic belief makes no sense here.

Aside from that, language is often enriched by ambiguity, and can easily survive it. Even a word like 'literally' can. Not convinced? What does 'planet' mean literally in English? Is it a big, round space-rock, which is not true to its Greek origins, or is it a wanderer, in a sense which is never used in English? Does 'month' literally mean 'moon'? Is a porcupine "literally" a spiny pig? Discuss. 'Literally' seems to have a third sense involving etymological regression which nobody's ever had a problem with. Go back to "He said he was literally laughing his head off." I'm sure you'd agree that's literally impossible. But does that mean it's utterly impossible? Or does it mean it is impossible to do literally? And other, similar words and phrases have coped with the same ambiguity. "I'm not exaggerating, I laughed my head off" works much the same as with 'literally'. 'Actually' and 'really' can both mean both 'literally' and 'emphatically', as long as there's context and intonation to help distinguish.

But even if you don't agree, it's not really any of your business how other people use words, and besides, it's happened now. Complaining about it somehow seems as much use as shouting at the waitress to take the milk out of your tea. So why not learn to love milky tea and start using the figurative sense of 'literally' to your advantage? If there's one thing I love about language, it's that it shows how intelligent, resourceful and witty people can be when left to their own devices. The English language is a testament in itself to how naturally human communication adapts to any kind of change, so I'm sure we'll muddle our way through. Look up. When I wanted to clarify 'literally' I found myself using 'physical' twice. I like to think it worked. Or we could try playing games with 'quite literally'. Either way, I for one am both curious and optimistic about how this will pan out.

16 September 2009

Go On, Shoot the Messenger

This PDF gives lots of useful tips on whether to believe health stories in the press.

Now I've always had a fairly cynical attitude to the press. I remember one time when I was a kid I saw an advert for some lucrative prize draw in The Sun and asked my dad why we didn't get that particular newspaper. I can't remember his exact words but they were along the lines of "it's full of bollocks", though with more temperate language. I spent the whole second year of Uni fuming at Daily Express headlines (this was during their "NOW ASYLUM SEEKERS ARE HITLER WITH YOUR MONEY" phase, before they discovered Muslims). But until I started reading the Bad Science blog and got my mum the book a year or two ago, me and my dad had a theory.

This theory explained why there was always something new causing/curing cancer in the headlines. I'm sure we've all had this theory, and it was along the lines of "Some scientist, right, wants an excuse to drink more red wine or eat more chocolate or something, so he does a study to show it cures cancer, then goes home and tells his wife". It didn't explain why forgetting anniversaries or fucking your doctoral students was never found to cure cancer, but we're both literature graduates, so go easy on us. Anyway, Dr. Goldacre's explanation, that the papers are feeding us bullshit on a daily basis, made more sense. But to this day I can't understand why that never dawned on me, that it might be the press, which I knew was full of shameless, cynical lies, was actually at fault and misrepresenting research. I just sort of bypassed that and went straight to speculating about the scientists. Weird how, even if you know not to believe everything you read, sometimes you mentally cut out the middleman and don't even notice you're doing it.

Meanwhile the BBC is at it again, this time attacking an innocent academic for using the un-PC "insect" label.

15 September 2009

Ian Pilmer: Utter Delingpole

Ian Pilmer, climate change sceptic and coward, has, as yet, failed to answer George Monbiot's questions on scientific claims made in his book. He's also failed to answer his own (ludicrous) questions, even with ten quid sterling up for grabs. Mounting evidence that literally anyone James Delingpole agrees with is a horse's arse.

14 September 2009

Unspeak Returns

Little more than a month hanging up its hat, Unspeak is back. Now I might be jumping to conclusions, but it looks like this sudden and hopefully permanent return was brought about by a Johann Hari cash-in. This ended up as basically a potted summary of his journalistic output. There’s some very good points (about the “politics of envy”), some borrowed points that deserve an airing (the practice of labelling fair, rather than unfair, trade), some old grudges aired, some rather silly points that nonetheless raise an interesting point (that stuff about the Queen), and then some utter car-crashes of ham-fisted hypocrisy. Stephen Poole tackles most of the latter, concluding that
Hari is confusing “honest” with “argumentative, but on my side of the argument”.
Hari, in fact, seems to be unspeaking the term ‘unspeak’, using it not for words that deliberately distort language contain an unspoken argument within them, but for words he disagrees with. Which an intelligent, rational person who understands the term would never do.

You also get the classic Hari move of making a good point, then bollocksing it up (as I also mentioned in the Unspeak comments):
“Out of context.” I would allow this phrase to be used, but in highly restricted circumstances. Sometimes, a quote is taken out of context, but if you are going to make that accusation, you should be required to give the original context, and explain why the quote was wrong.
Absolutely great. If you’re going to claim you were misquoted, give the real quote. If you think someone got you wrong, put your money where your mouth is and set them straight. Give the context, and we’ll make up our minds if that makes it ok. It’s a great point, and Hari could have left off there and come off well. Unfortunately, he didn’t:
For example, when I revealed that Jake Chapman said his art-works performed "a good social service, like the children who killed Jamie Bulger," he simply said this was "stripped from the proper context." How? I have read it in context repeatedly and can't see his argument.
I haven’t read it in context [pdf] (well, I did ages ago but I forgot it) and I know exactly what he means. The Chapman brothers piss people off. They’re sort of upmarket hate-figures, for members of the chattering classes who consider all that child-murderer stuff a little too plebeian. And they do it very artfully, playing on the peculiar and irrational sensibilities of bourgeois art punters, scratching away at fetishes like “originals” (like with the Goya etchings) and “authenticity” (like with the African Ronald McDonalds), and by saying deliberately provocative things. Hari doesn’t get this. Hari also got very annoyed when his artistic sacred cows got satirised. But Hari also considers printing this context beneath him. We can read what the context wasn’t, if we’re really curious:
It wasn't preceded by a sentence saying "If I was an attention-seeking fool who didn't take anything seriously, I would say..."
But otherwise we have to keep the faith and assume that, because he read the quote in context and failed to understand it, he must be right about it.

But there was one interesting little story caught my eye. Hari’s take on it is that bland, statistical terms like ‘infant mortality’ don’t do them justice, which Stephen Poole makes short work of. But the story is:
In Malawi in southeast Africa, the country's soil became badly depleted by overuse, so the democratic government there adopted a sensible policy of subsidising fertiliser. The nation's hungry farmers were given sacks of it at a third of its real cost – and the country bloomed. Then the World Bank damned this as a "market distortion" and said that if Malawi wanted to keep receiving loans it had to stop them at once. So the subsidies stopped, and the country's crops failed.[...]Three years ago, the Malawian government finally told the World Bank to stick its loans, and subsidized fertiliser again. Now nobody there is starving, and the country is the single biggest exporter of corn to the World Food Programme in southern Africa.
Now, what we see here, is the triumph of rationalism over superstition. You have to remember, we’re dealing with a group with a very strong belief system and who can get quite aggressive and petulant when confronted with evidence to the contrary. This primitive people live in terror of what they call “market distortion”, which, they believe, brings bad luck and can make you uncompetitive.

12 September 2009

I Wonder Why...

Notice which class of arthropod this video on the BBC focuses on. Why could this be?

Edit: Just thought about a bit more and realised it's because the BBC is inherently biased towards spiders. Should have been obvious really.

21 August 2009

Eurabia-Mongering Part 1: Textbook Stupidity

I suppose you’ve all been thinking “Isn’t Alex clever for thinking up a term like ‘Eurabia-monger’. Well the first thing you need to do is read this article. Once again I’ve found most of the things I wanted to say written in one lengthy article before I got round to saying them. Things like:
Restrictive immigration laws passed since 1973 have generally upheld the conservative idea that, as the German philosopher Carl Schmitt put it, "a democracy demonstrates its political power by knowing how to refuse or keep at bay something foreign and unequal that threatens its homogeneity".
In The Politics of the Veil, the distinguished scholar of gender studies Joan Wallach Scott explains how the banning of a small piece of cloth that covers the head and neck affirmed an "imagined France", one that was "secular, individualist and culturally homogenous" and "whose reality was secured by excluding dangerous others from the nation".
[Young Muslims’] choices in turn depend on how quickly and readily their "hosts" will make them feel at home. Strident invocations of the Enlightenment or some other historically and eternally fixed essence of Europe seem increasingly symptoms of intellectual lag and cultural defensiveness. Multi-ethnic Europe is an immutable fact, and needs, appropriately, a more inclusive, open-ended identity, one derived more from its pluralistic and relatively peaceful present, and supranational future, than its brutishly nationalist and imperialist past.
The second thing you need to look at is this self-important arse, because, apart from the statistics, he manages to cram most of what’s stupid and hypocritical about the Eurabia myth into one small article.

Delingpole’s main beef with Muslims is that he can’t go swimming at certain times without having to cover up his navel and knees, saying:
If parts of that community feel unable to use those facilities for religious or cultural reasons, well that should be their problem and no one else’s

Which is all well and good, except I imagine that one way they might tackle that problem is to club together and book the pool one night a week. Does Delingpole also smell a global conspiracy when his local is closed for a private party, or when he sees an empty taxi with the light off? And no, it shouldn’t be anyone else’s problem, but in areas with large numbers of sexually conservative religious folk with money to take elsewhere, it does rather become the swimming pool’s problem too. Now the Telegraph might go out of its way to alienate Muslims, but I imagine most businesses consider waiving good money for the sake of of political incorrectness a bad idea. Delingpole is either immensely stupid, or is objecting to the very existence of the Green Pound as a market force.

There is some good Eurabia-monger sleight of hand in here as well. Opening with the classic faux-Feminist argument, Delingpole begins his justification for demanding women strip off. You see, the purpose of the burkini is
to enable women in thrall to extreme Saudi-style dress codes to go swimming on beaches and in public baths without incurring a beating or instant divorce from their characteristically tolerant and cosmopolitan menfolk.
Naturally any Islamic taboos about nudity are only felt by the men. The women themselves are simply mindless, powerless, blank slates onto which the savage Muslim male will forcibly project his cultural ideals unless a magnanimous Western government beats him to it. Neatly sidestepping any kind of female agency, Delingpole hoists the weighty burden of telling women what to do onto his rippling white shoulders and, with his heroic pisstaking, original pop-culture references and throbbing boner for Brigitte Bardot, he strikes a mighty blow for Feminism across the faces of long-suffering Muslim women everywhere.

But I digress. Delingpole isn’t particularly interested in the rights of the Burkini-wearer. He simply uses her, with a token nod to something vaguely progressive, as a weapon against her husband, father and brothers. Hoisting her in the air, he swings her about his head like a morning star, before bringing her crashing down on the turban of the invading Turk:
So the Burkini is part of the honey campaign: all those parts of the Islamist war on the West that have nothing to do with killing people. This campaign includes everything from schoolgirls fighting legal battles (with the help of one Cherie Blair) to fight for their inalienable right to go to school dressed like a sack, to Muslim supermarket workers trying to dictate the terms of their employment (refusing to sell alcohol), to the ongoing campaign (apparently endorsed by our own Archbishop of Canterbury) for certain civil decisions in the Muslim “community” to be made under Sharia law.

Firstly, he actually admits, straight-faced, that this part of the “war on the West” doesn’t even involve killing people. Just picture it: instead of using military means to spread civil democracy, using civic and democratic means for military goals. There clearly must be something in all that “religion of peace” stuff after all, if Islamists can even fight wars without killing. Put alongside bloodless genocide it almost sounds like a line from ‘Imagine’.

And note his three examples: wanting to choose what you wear to school and using the civil courts, adding conditions to your employment contract, and using a system of civil arbitration for which the legal framework has long existed. Now these are all fairly reasonable things to do. More to the point, these are reasonable things to do that middle-class white Judeo-Christian/atheist types do do, quite reasonably, every day. Of course, Delingpole probably has no general objection to legal challenges to school uniform, or to individual contract negotiations, and was probably entirely oblivious to arbitration laws allowing for religious courts when it was mostly Orthodox Jews using them. Delingpole is actually offended, terrified even, of Muslims going about their daily business, in case they do it Islamically. His next post will probably detail how Muslims buying bog-roll, yawning or polishing their glasses on the hem of their veil is all part of the honey-trap.

And what is this “West” of which he speaks? Women’s lib, freedom of speech, free enterprise, the rule of law, democracy and human rights, all of these things are worth defending from a backward religious ideology. But the Eurabia-monger doesn’t really believe in any of them. Not for other people, anyway. Ok, feminism’s fine as long it means bare thighs and midriffs for us to look at and not the right to sexual privacy, and as long as you’re not picketing the troops, free speech is very important. Free enterprise is also ok when it makes us rich, but it can be abused by Muslims to hire pools and dictate the terms of their contracts, as can the law courts to make demands on the government. More insidiously, by increasing their numbers at literally impossible rates, Muslims can skew democracy in their favour, while human rights laws only serve to tie our hands. The superior ideals of the West are not there to be applied, they are there to exist in theory and demonstrate our ideological superiority in the big game of identity politics. And the threat comes from Muslims using them. Protecting “universal values” from Orientals basically leaves you with “Western values”, and protecting them from the exercise of those values basically leaves you with “the West”. So what are we protecting at the end of the day? A vague direction that seems to lead largely to white people, under threat from Muslims standing around doing nothing. Excuse me if I don’t fetch my rifle just yet.

Part 2

11 August 2009

Who the Fuck is Gordon?

Quite a good article on banks. It says very clever things like:
The taxpayer has to guarantee high street bank customers against default on their own personal savings. Because history tells us that modern economies simply cannot operate if everyone keeps all their savings under the mattress.
But that is no reason to guarantee a bank's liabilities to its wholesale creditors. They are mainly other banks and professional investors, and they should be required to consider the risk of default before ever committing funds. If they get it wrong, they should take the hit.
and this
Neither Labour nor Tories are intending to do it.
Why not?
Because the bankers have scared the living bejeebers out of them. The bankers have threatened to leave and the politicos don't have the nerve to call their bluff.
So the playing field remains heavily tilted. Against us.

Unfortunately it also says this:
Meanwhile, every BBC bulletin is headlined by news of yet more banker bonuses, and demands that the government step in: bonuses should either be capped, or better still banned altogether. And while we're at it, shooting a few bankers outside the Mansion House wouldn't be a bad idea either.

So why is Comrade Brown so reluctant to act?
How do you manage it? First explain how the mob is clamouring for some rich fuckers to go to the wall, or at the very least not be allowed to get so rich. Then cast the PM as a Commie for not going along with it. I mean how? How accustomed to this kind of unimaginative knee-jerk smearing do you have to be to drop it into this context?

Unless I’ve missed something. Maybe this guy is a big fan of Gordon Brown and is desperate for an election so he can vote for him and extend his democratic mandate from one to two. Maybe he’s a Communist and – being a particularly thick Communist – thinks Gordon is too. Maybe he’s under the impression that because Brown does a little mild tax-and-spend, that he’ll be well up for shooting some Tzars in the woods. And so maybe he’s a little disappointed that Gordon hasn’t been doing the whole Scientific Socialism thing properly, and wonders why so-called “Comrade Brown” isn’t living up to his moniker. Or maybe he’s one of these tax bores who bandy the ‘Comrade’ gag about so much that they’ve forgotten it’s a just silly nickname that they made up.

07 August 2009

Even More

When I made the 'spiderwatch' tag I thought I was joking. Clearly not. What is it with the BBC and mf spiders? I just don't get it.

Birds are cleverer, anyway.

28 July 2009

Total Individual Freedom (Within Reason, of Course)

I’ve been avoiding the right-wing blogosphere for a while because it’s largely uninformative, because it makes me angry and, well, because it’s shite. But I dipped a toe and found that Biased BBCas ungrateful as ever, by the way – have got angry at the BBC seven times in one month, once in the standard fashion, once predictably, once melodramatically, once unremarkably, once generously, once
quite openly, and once, best of all, as a brief afterthought to a lengthy rant about something entirely unrelated to the BBC for the same reason. Why? Because the BBC dedicated some airtime to an opinion, or even just allowed an opinion to be expressed, which they didn’t like. None of these seven posts actually analyses the coverage, or mentions alternative points of view that were omitted. Each one simply complains that these ideas were given time, that prominent elder statesmen or internationally respected organisations who hold these ideas were given time, or that someone might be considering possibly giving these ideas time. Now, it’s perfectly reasonable to want extra publicity for your opinions, but wanting the state broadcaster to suppress ideas and even whole religions that you disapprove of is, well, it makes you feel a bit manky.

Meanwhile a “Libertarian” titles an article ‘What does it take to get a film banned?’ and some bummer-fearing God-botherers get censorship and insufficient censorship confused. And this isn’t the first time I’ve noticed this sort of thing either. Which all makes me wonder why the right-wing, champion of small government and bastion of individual freedom, is so concerned with controlling and limiting what we can watch, read and hear on the radio. Did I miss a meeting? Has the Libertarian party decided it’ll just concentrate on the particular liberties its members exercise and not bother with any others? Does freedom now mean freedom to ban stuff and boss people around?

22 July 2009

R.L. Stine on Israel

Ben White’s got a book out on how Israel’s policy in Gaza and the West Bank constitutes, by the UN’s definition, apartheid. I’ve not read it, but Eric Lee thinks it’s anti-Semitic. Pigdogfucker has cut his article down neatly, in both senses, but in time-honoured A-Level Eng Lit-style, I’d like us to look at how Eric Lee, as an author, manages to create an air of plausibility and an effect of not-being-a-big-long-bollocks-whine in the text.

Among other inaccuracies about police behaviour, there’s some lovely sleight-of-hand in here:
Earlier, I had noticed several officers of the Metropolitan Police present and overheard a conversation between them and War on Want staffers in which Hoffman's name came up.
Now was that “Nah, don’t mind him, he’s just ________” or was it “Here’s a tenner. Give ________ a Tomlinson special, if you know what I mean”? We don’t know, because Eric Lee wasn’t listening properly, but he managed to extrapolate the second and we’re meant to do the same. I suppose the proof of the pudding is whether Hoffmann got moved on or not. There’s no sentence stating “Hoffmann was then promptly escorted from the premises”, so I’m going to do some extrapolating of my own and say he probably wasn’t, as the man himself seems to confirm.

The classic pro-Israeli argument-bender isn’t that conspicuous but it is there. How it works is you try to simplify the debate and push it towards Israel’s Right to Defend Herself. You make sure you relate every argument back to the danger Israel faces and, while your opponent might ask how, why, when or in response to what Israel should defend itself, you treat everything as whether. As soon as your opponent gives in and engages you on that, you’ve won. Then they’re left arguing that Israel should just roll over and die, which means Jews going into the sea and incidentally how come it’s only Israel you think shouldn’t be allowed to defend itself? It’s a neat way of sidestepping anything to do with proportionality, human rights or any of that wishy-washy stuff where countries with big guns don’t get to do whatever they want with them, and on top of that, you switch positions with your opponent, and seem like a pragmatist fighting absolutism when the opposite is the case. Justification is required for something of Israel’s critics don’t believe and never argue: that Israel is different and so should not be allowed to defend itself in any way or for any reason, and everyone forgets to ask for justification for something a lot of Israel’s supporters do believe and regularly argue: that Israel is different and so should be allowed to defend itself in any way or for any reason.

Eric Lee sneaks this in with a classic combo: A “What About...” Argument with the left followed by “Baddies Are Really Bad” Argument from the right. The “What About...” Argument doesn’t work full stop, as Johann Hari points out quite well. Though the fact that Lee even what-abouts the Holocaust in, as if it needs to be mentioned for everything someone Jewish might have sneezed on, is particularly hackish. The “Baddies Are Really Bad” Argument is, I would say, fairly reasonable in certain contexts, for example in a pragmatic argument on when and to what extent Israel should return fire. But in a book about how to classify Israeli policy, it is largely irrelevant, in the same way that whether a latte macchiato counts as proper coffee doesn’t depend on how thirsty you are. Unless I’m wrong and the book is actually full of references to ANC atrocities and how Nelson Mandela was a terrorist. Aside from that, pointing out how bad Hamas are is a waste of time, as hardly anyone in the West needs telling, except as a tokenistic gesture to neutrality. Bringing Hamas into the discussion simply turns it away from Israel’s treatment of Palestinian civilians and towards Israel vs. Hamas, away from how Israel deals with a terrorist presence and towards if it should at all. The fact that Lee considers Hamas even slightly relevant to the Israeli apartheid debate also stinks of anti-Arabism and Islamophobia. It implies that the actions of certain individuals within a population should determine the rights of that population as a whole. That racial segregation isn’t that bad – or at least isn’t racist – as long as you really need to do it and the race in question really deserves it.

But here’s the money shot:
Two Jews stood up during the discussion – the only two who made an issue of being Jews – and represented themselves as coming from tiny grouplets with names like “Jews Against Zionism” or something like that.

I'm sure that War on Want has no problem with Jews like that.

This leaves the question open, what kind of Jews does War on Want have a problem with? Well, assuming Lee means anti-Zionist Jews, I guess that leaves all the others, i.e. pro-Zionist Jews and Jews that sit on the fence or have never really thought about it. So what he’s implying is that War on Want have a problem with Jews that actively believe in something they oppose, and also with Jews who have no opinion on an issue they consider important, although they have no problem with Jews who agree with them. In fact, if Lee’s assertion that War on Want have no problem with Jews who share their priorities and principles, that’s pretty much proof that they’re not anti-Semitic.

Not sure? Let’s try removing all references to Jews and Jewish stuff and see how the quote sounds. I reckon this will work with almost any prejudice as well, racial, religious or partisan.
Two people stood up during the discussion – the only two to make an issue of their particular religious/ethnic background – and represented themselves as coming from tiny grouplets with names like “People Opposed to the Very Thing that War on Want is Currently Criticising”.

I'm sure that War on Want has no problem with people like that.

Just for fun, let’s put some other stuff back in. I went to a Libertarian-funded conference on cutting taxes and ranting about DDT the other day.
Two black people stood up during the discussion – the only two who made an issue of being black – and represented themselves as coming from tiny grouplets with names like “Black People Against The Insidious Creep of Statism” or something like that.

I'm sure that the Libertarian Party has no problem with blacks like that.

It came as a shock to me, writing that last sentence, to realise just how nasty and racist the Libertarian Party is. I’m actually starting to rather enjoy this game, and I reckon you can play it with pretty much anything except Christians liking Jews for Jesus. Now if I imply that Libertarians have a problem with black people who advocate higher taxation, or that Jeremy Clarkson has a problem with people from Kibworth Harcourt who install speed cameras, I’m not technically lying. In actual fact I’d imagine most Libertarians are too busy getting angry about other people touching their money to notice creed or colour, and I’ve never heard Jeremy Clarkson specifically rail against Kibworth Harcourt. But, being a rather na├»ve species, we naturally assume that if someone mentions something, it’s actually in some way relevant to what they’re saying. This despite ten years of Family Guy.

So for the record, I have no problem with Jews like that either. In fact, one of my best friends is a self-hating Jew. I do, however, have a problem with Jews who believe in stuff I strongly disagree with and Jews who don’t care about things I think they should. I especially have a problem with groups of Jews who walk really slowly right in the middle of the pavement, and three abreast so I can’t get past when I’m in a hurry. Oh, and Jews who don’t like Soundgarden, I can’t understand them at all. But Jews who share all my tastes and opinions exactly and who are considerate to the people around them in the ways I actually notice and care about, then no, provided that they don’t do things I’m proud of doing better than me, I have no real problem with Jews like that.

10 July 2009

That's MY Opinion

So I’d got my opinions on banning the Islamic veil all worked out, and was already to do a big fat blog post on them. Then I find out some Frog’s nicked all my ideas five years in advance.

Now my main objection was that hijab is, essentially, a differing standard of nudity. Therefore a ban is nothing more than forced self-exposure. Alain Badiou says:
Clear something up for me, please. What exactly characterizes Republican and feminist rationality on what is to be shown of the body in different spaces and at different times, and on what is not? As far as I understand, nowadays still, and not only at school, neither nipples are shown, nor pubic hair, nor the male member. Do I have to get angry that these parts are “withdrawn from the sight of others”? Must I suspect husbands, lovers and eldest brothers?
Which is basically what I’ve always said. Badiou goes further though:
It used to be taken for granted that an intangible female right is to only have to get undressed in front of the person of her choosing. But no. It is vital to hint at undressing at every instant. Whoever covers up what she puts on the market is not a loyal merchant.
Let’s argue the following, then, a pretty strange point: the law on the hijab is a pure capitalist law. It orders femininity to be exposed. In other words, having the female body circulate according to the market paradigm is obligatory. For teenagers, i.e. the teeming center of the entire subjective universe, the law bans any holding back.

My other, more general, objection is that the best way to liberate people maybe not placing restrictions directly on them. Badiou thinks similarly:
Grandiose causes need new-style arguments. For example: hijab must be banned; it is a sign of male power (the father or eldest brother) over young girls or women. So, we’ll banish the women who obstinately wear it. Basically put: these girls or women are oppressed. Hence, they shall be punished. It’s a little like saying: “This woman has been raped: throw her in jail.” The hijab is so important that it deserves a logical system with renewed axioms.

The only thing I can add is that banning a symbol of oppression is like giving firefighters a great big fan for blowing away smoke. Bloody French.

Edit: Not sure about the translation mind.

23 June 2009

Lads and Losers

Imagine a group of drunk men sitting round, watching pornography together. Imagine the jokes they tell to distract from the fact that they’re sitting in a room full of other men, all with erections. Now imagine 150 illustrated pages of it. This is known as a “lad-mag”. Not only is the writing shit, they can’t even publish their artistic photography without putting a joke caption on it. Not a funny caption. Not even a caption intended to be funny. A caption that readers will simply recognise as a joke, therefore rendering any semi-on sustained by the reader ironic. What I’m trying to say here is, I don’t really like lad-mags. My old flatmate’s Maxim still ranks as the worst document I’ve ever read. I don’t like them. They’re shit. Really shit.

So Feminazery. Brace yourselves. You’ve got an open goal here. Please don’t fuck it up. I mean, look who you’re up against: Piers Hernu, who says his teenage readers are being
slowly broken in, as it were, to the harsh realities of the sexual world
The harshest thing I’ve ever seen in a lad mag was the revelation that not every woman will have anal sex with you whenever you want it, and, well, I don’t think reality has ever really featured in his publications. So not only are we playing with a tennis ball here, he’s throwing it very gently to you, under-arm. And don’t think this is going to be an allusion to girls being rubbish at sports. This isn’t really cricket. This is intellectual debate. You’ve got Simone de Beauvoir, Judith Butler and Monique Wittig waiting in the pavilion, he’s got a plastic bat from Woolworths, held upside-down. You can do this, Feminazery, you can do this. And with 98% of the population on your side, you could even get away with cheap “you-wish” gags, snobbishly writing stuff in a plebeian accent, confusing ‘sexually explicit’ with ‘sexually arousing’ and mocking your opponent’s body-shape. You could even save quality one-liners like “me tarzan, you fuckbucket” for the comments section and you’d still be doing fine.

Oh, but you trod on your stumps. Nice one:
An airbrushed, submissive, surgically-enhanced, Aryan model flaunting her knickers and knockers isn’t sex; it’s wank-fodder. Wank-fodder, no less, for the spotty teenager who can’t get a real girl because he doesn’t know how to – and Nuts and Zoo sure as hell aren’t going to teach him.
Pretty much everybody masturbates. I had one friend at school who claimed, claimed not to. And if someone tugs one out over Nuts it’s probably not because they can’t get a real girl, it’s probably because they can’t get better pornography. So, why the cheap dig at spotty teenagers who don’t know how to pick up girls? Is it so hard to maintain a light-hearted, humorous tone without laying into some outsider or other? Would you respect them more if they were better at procuring the use of a vagina? And let’s be honest, “How to Make Every Girl in the Room Beg for It” and “How to Make Her Come like a Steam Locomotive Using Only Your Knees” run in alternate issues. While that might not get you the kind of woman who writes Feminist media blogs, I’m guessing they must have a reasonable success rate to get churned out so regularly. So even the expression of sympathy tacked on at the end doesn’t work.

I boggled when I saw that quote, I really did. And I almost never boggle. Is a so-called ‘Feminist’ blog really using “can’t get a real girl” as a casual insult? Is its supposedly progressive author really equating male social worth with sexual conquest? Because it looks an awful lot like it. And this isn’t just stupid in terms of theory, it’s a colossal strategic blunder. The involuntary celibates who the writer, Who Knows, looks down on from the privileged position of ever having had a sexual partner, are natural allies of the Feminist movement. They’re not only outsiders to the system, they’re conscious victims of it. Really conscious, trust me. Feminists and Daily Mailists might worry about teenage girls with low-self esteem seeing the women in FHM, but I rarely see concern for the teenage boys being indoctrinated to go through bisexual lingerie models like James Bond, or their self-esteem when they inevitably fail to do so. Because lad-mags abuse men, and especially boys, too. More so in fact – as well as bombarding us with fantasy images of women we can never have, they push an ever-narrowing definition of masculinity on us, limited to guns, cars, sports, gadgets, fucking and drunken banter. What’s oddest is that Who Knows goes on to say that
if we really had a problem with “sexually repressed morality”, we might have less of a problem with teenage pregnancy
Now come on: do you want your teenage boys fucking or not? Will you chastise them for losing their virginity too early or disdain them for losing it too late?

Anyway, speaking from experience, us losers can go either way as regards gender equality. On the one hand, we end up resenting other men as competitors: successful, undeserving and secretly, if not openly, disdainful of our failures. Even other losers become rivals, as we hope and pray they don’t find happiness before us, leaving us still further behind. On the other hand, after repeated rejection you can find yourself hating women more than life itself. So we don’t really feel we have any allies. Now do you see what this is Feminazery? This is a group of people, disgruntled with the state of things, hostile to typical masculinity, resentful of the effect binary gender identity has had on their lives, feeling largely under-represented and, to be honest, with a lot of extra time on their hands to read stuff and think about the world. This is another under-arm tennis ball sailing slowly towards the middle of your bat. You just have to pick your approach. You can argue that prescriptive norms of gendered behaviour are the root of our frustrations, or you can use potential allies as an offensive byword for male inadequacy. But just remember, we’re emotionally fragile creatures, not to mention horny, and your opponent’s offering pick-up guides and naked breasts.

15 June 2009

Compulsory Nationhood: “Cultural Imperialism” Part 2

What with nationalist parties both extreme and petty making such gains in Europe recently I’ve dusted off an old ramble on their bizarre modern creed.

What country was Otto von Bismarck born in? If you said a country beginning with G that he is famous for creating and that therefore, by definition, didn’t exist at the time, dock yourself five points. You tried to define another, historic region in terms of your own, modern, nationalist one. You do it all the time. We are taught that for over a hundred years, France and England fought bitterly over land in France, but in reality, the fight was between French and English (or rather Norman) kings and their private armies, as that was largely how these things worked back then. We see Columbus and Da Vinci as Italians and Kafka as a Czech, despite these places not existing during their lifetimes. We sometimes use the phrase “in what is now” to pay lip-service to historical accuracy, but the idea of the nation state is so deeply entrenched that when we look at history, we can’t help but draw our modern borders on a sheet of mental tracing paper and tape it over the map. This notion is deeply entrenched in Western culture, and more so than ideas of free-market capitalism or republican democracy – while we’ve slipped into dictatorships, protectionism, monarchies and planned economies, no country in Europe has abandoned nationhood except to allow the secession of further nations. Even the Soviet Union and its allies quickly slipped into Nationalism, often more so than the capitalist lands. Since having the idea of nationalism, the West has both expected and forced everyone else to adopt.

Let’s start with the Middle East. Ba’athism has been largely Arab-led and often anti-Imperialist national movement, Iranian nationalism draws on the country’s long history, Turkish and Kurdish nationalism are similarly home-grown. However Ataturk consciously copied European republican values, and Ba’athists drew heavily from European Fascists and proto-Fascists such as Fichte (fatuous as comparisons between Saddam and Hitler always are, they are rooted in truth). The European concept of nationhood has essentially spread to this region by the book rather than the sword, but there are notable exceptions. Lebanon, Iraq, Israel, three of the countries most marred by inter-ethnic and sectarian conflict were all invented by Europeans: French imperialists, British imperialists and a largely Austro-German colonist movement respectively.

Africa is a more straightforward example. Its conflicts and corruption are quite often blamed on “tribalism”. Africans bring their problems on themselves by favouring petty tribal divisions over loyalty to their unified country’s governments. Is this not imposing our standards? Africa is supposed to abandon its own irrational divisions between human beings, and start using ours. And these are very much our irrational divisions – Africa’s national borders were drawn by European imperialists at the height of European imperialism, and have remained as Africa tried to integrate itself into the international community. It is quite obvious then that this is imperialism, but in light of what has happened Rwanda and the Sudan, is it such a bad thing to force Africa to abandon its savage ways and join the twentieth century? Well, look at Germany and Yugoslavia. Little is different – national borders were drawn by the Belgian and British crowns, Bismarck and the League of Nations, and encapsulated several tribes within them. And just as the ruling Sudanese Arab tribe slaughtered the Black Sudanese tribe within its borders, so the ruling Aryan German tribe slaughtered the Jewish German tribe within its rapidly expanding borders, so as to adapt the real, living German population to the invented idea of the German Nation. How many of Africa’s difficulties with ‘tribalism’ are down to the inherent backwardness of the system and how many are down to its incompatibility with the nationhood it was actually forced at actual gunpoint to adopt? I’m honestly not sure where to start with that one. But I imagine having a state with starkly split ethnic identity – or rather a government whose jurisdiction is arbitrarily extended over several disparate self-identifying groups – can’t be healthy, especially when one group acquires power over the other. Ethnic cleansing is an extreme example but provoking distrust for and favouritism among the government would be more banal problems. This is hinted at in articles by the BBC and New York Times, and this African writer says pretty much the same thing (though I’d advise him that lemonade is sweeter than lemon juice). And I know that, despite the horrific and brutal ethnic conflicts that have scarred the continent since independence, primitive African tribalism has caused far, far less division and bloodshed than our modern, civilised model for arranging tribes.

There are of course exceptions – the racism of Imperial Japan was not, as far as I know, imported from Europe, South American Bolivarian nationalism and the USA’s flag-wavers were far more a reaction against “old” Europe, indeed the latter inspired our values far more than it aped them. But cultural imperialism even penetrates into post-Imperial Europe: in our dealings with ethnic and religious minorities. We expect them to “integrate” to the culture of their adoptive nation. Very often, this is stupid and petty, for example Norman Tebbit’s infamously stupid “Cricket Test”, and in Germany, a match against Turkey in the recent European Cup was considered an “Integrationstest”. We’re so fascinated by female Muslim hair that we constantly discuss how to make them show it us. However we also focus on practices that even the most tolerant Islington liberal would not accept: female circumcision, violent homophobia, honour killings, brutal Sharia punishments and so on. The focus of these debates is seldom feminism, sexual liberalism or human rights, but in terms of integration and the culture of the host nation. Rather than expecting foreigners’ oppressive traditional values such as chastity, manliness, honour and piety to give way to our modern, liberal, secular ones, we expect them to be sacrificed for petty national loyalty. We do not expect them to take on our values of tolerance, equality and individual rights, but one single value of the homogeneous nation state. Naturally, we use the contrast between illiberal and reactionary aspects of immigrant cultures and our own civilised sensibilities to drive the debate, but we tend to do so to further our demands for assimilation, rather than openly using integration as a means to promote our progressive values.

When it comes to things like human rights, open government, religious freedom, women’s liberation or outlawing child labour, we hum and haw and wring our liberal hands about imposing our cultural values on other parts of the world. Yet for some reason the most divisive, irrational and consistently destructive cultural value in European history, our arbitrary method for dividing people into peoples, has got under the radar and imposed itself indelibly upon much of the world.

Part 1

13 June 2009

Blocking Ambulances

A Leicester woman has gone to prison after blocking an ambulance and, probably indirectly bringing about a man's death.

Why am I not expecting similar sentences for this?

11 June 2009

Which Wing?

A lot of internetting about whether Brussels’ shiny new Hitler wannabes are far-left or far-right. Some detailed and rather scary, some zany metaphors, some pragmatic, some self-entitled and demanding and one spot on. Predictably, all the left-wingers are claiming that the BNP are extreme right-wingers and all the right-wingers are claiming they’re extreme left-wingers. The left-wingers also seem to be arguing it as well as claiming it. But generally, everyone’s chucking in those all-important caveats about how the BNP have a mixture of some right-wing and some left-wing policies before hitting their usual opponents over the head with them.

At the root of this debate is the inability to define left- and right-wing. Each side has its own criteria for the divide, based on its own rhetoric and core values. The modern, libertarian-leaning, capitalist right, despite flirtation with traditions and identity and so forth, defines itself largely in terms of freedom, almost exclusively freedom from large government. It therefore sees the left as controlling and statist. The left, as ever, defines itself in terms of equality and sees the right as maintaining and encouraging inequality. What we have with the racist authoritarians of the BNP is quite a conundrum. Their beliefs, if not their policies too, basically amount to state-enforced inequality. We’ve got a party that openly embraces the two concepts that left and right most abhor. So it’s expectable for both sides to try and push the British definitely-not-Nazi Party off on each other. But defining the split exclusively in your own terms is not just silly and ineffective, it’s also getting unbearably tedious.

Aside from that, their ‘left-wing’ policies – nationalising the railways, bringing the troops home and something that looks a bit like homesteading – are generally fairly moderate. Their “extremism” is largely expressed in their attitude to immigration, crime and Islam. So perhaps “centre-left-cum-far-right” would describe them better. Even the BNP’s moderate rhetoric betrays it. Their bugbears are Marxists and political correctness. When anti-fascist protesters delivered Nick Griffin’s breakfast directly to him, it was mostly Labour he alleged to be conspiring against him. Richard Barnbrook has dedicated his life to never shutting up about the ‘liberals’ and they smear their opponents as unpatriotic, self-hating and active supporters of anything we fail to hate sufficiently. So even if right-wingers consider them left-wing, I expect the BNP would disagree rather strongly. Must be left-wing then.

09 June 2009

Bad Humanities

I like Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science. I think it’s one of the best and most important blogs on the internet, with a really good set of well-updated links. I think the scientific method and post-Enlightenment rationalism are quite easily the best and most reliable ways to understand the world, and I agree that where there are limitations and human error involved, for the most part it is scientists who are the first to acknowledge and fight them, for example with double blinds and high sample-sizes.

But a lot of its readers, and occasionally its writer, have fallen for the post-postmodern backlash. Now I’m a humanities graduate, French and German language and literature, and as such I wouldn’t dream of claiming another branch of humanities, say, Women’s Studies, was all bollocks because I didn’t understand it. Nor would I criticise the Russian department for not taking into account French grammar. I certainly wouldn’t have the danglies to wade into something as far removed from my field as the sciences by, say, reading one or two bad nuclear physics texts then claiming that the entire discipline was smoke and mirrors/the Emperor’s New Clothes/mutual mental masturbation because it used big words I didn’t know. Yes, I’ve put forward tentative theories about physics, but I’ve not actually rubbished the entire science, and to my knowledge I’ve never used ‘scientist’ as a synonym for ‘cretin’ as has been done for ‘humanities graduate’.
But there’s a nasty little thread running through, for example, this nasty little thread, that levels exactly those accusations against “postmodernism”. For example:
I always wonder whether people writing this type of thing mean what they say - or whether it is just an exercise in wordplay. Or maybe i'm just not clever enough to see the point.
Which is why science is the greatest of human achievements and pomo is a ridiculous verbal construct, a bunch of words (many of which are given arbitrary or false meanings) masquerading as philosophy. Oh, and these guys are professors and assistant professors for the same reason Chomsky is regarded as a linguistics expert and homeopathy degree courses are offered. All narratives are equally valid... Whether intended or not, that's exactly how post-modernists present themselves, and in an obfuscatory literary style that so befits the pointless idiocy of the term "post-modern". It's what happens when physical reality becomes too difficult or distasteful to follow and it becomes necessary for some to invent alternative "realities" and delusions (fairytale castles of which to elect themselves King). The Emperor's new clothes...
The telling part in that last one is the “pointless idiocy of the term”, basically a self-righteous admission that you don’t understand. Like shouting at your waiter for speaking Spanish. A couple of posters also demonstrated a clear lack of understanding of the entire branch of academia that they were railing against:
Just noticed that the paper's first author, Stuart J Murray (PhD) is: "Assistant Professor of Rhetoric & Writing" and "Trained in philosophy and rhetorical theory and criticism"
- I think "rhetoric" is the word that stands out here. The whole thing reminds me of nothing so much as the kind of convoluted and turgid speeches the old Iron Curtain politicians were wont to give.
This one has confused the older, more academic sense of ‘rhetoric’ as a part of the medieval Trivium and the newer, popular sense of ‘empty but pretty speech’. And is rather smug about it.
“What are the current social and political conditions under which scientific knowledge appears to be ‘true’?”
Eh? If we elect a new government will medical treatments stop working? Is that the kind of thing they're getting at? Will gravity stop working and pacemakers fail to keep heart attack victims alive? I think what they are saying is there is no such thing as absolute truth and the views we have of EBM are wrong, because the evidence actually depends somehow on what state the country (or the world, I suppose) is in and if things were different then the evidence would therefore show us a different truth. The truth is bent to (or by) political considerations and social conditions. Possibly. Sounds like bollocks to me, anyways.
This one seems to have oversimplified and misunderstood the whole idea of subjective truth, and assumes that the evidence will change rather than our reading of it, and that postmodernists think the earth and sun moved differently in relation to each other when the Catholic Church had Galileo under house arrest.
They seem to be arguing against Evidence Based Medicine using philosophical wordplay without providing any concrete examples of it's failure or any example of something better.
I have picked up the occasional sociology text and once struggled my way through a Foucault primer. I have to confess I struggled with it, it just seemed to be a collection of anecdotes used to inform an argument that made unprovable assertions.
But these two have made a more subtle mistake. The discipline they are attacking is not about drawing conclusions from data, but applying principles to texts or observations. It might not seem very scientific, but it’s not exclusive to “PoMo”. You could just as soon demand statistical evidence for the Platonic Ideal or Hegel’s dialectics.

The Sokal affair, incidentally, makes a similar mistake. The scientific accuracy of his essay was, unsurprisingly, not so important in a humanities journal. The principles he puts forward are consistently and rigorously argued in relation to physics, and furthermore, he had taken a particularly unorthodox point of view. While it may not be acceptable in the sciences to say something unusual and provocative purely to open debate, this is common in the humanities, Social Text’s open editorial policy even actively encouraged it. The humanities place far more emphasis on rebutting and refuting arguments than the sciences, publishing an ineptly-argued or shoddily-researched essay in a Deconstruction journal is equivalent to publishing a failed experiment in Nature, though not factually accurate, it is still a valid contribution to the discourse. He has in fact shown, explicitly and tacitly, that he doesn’t really understand postmodernism. What he and many other anti-postmodernist scientists do by this, is criticise the humanities for not using their methods. Or, in more PoMo terms, he has falsely presented his social norms as universal, and become confrontational after suffering severe culture shock.

Basically, what we’ve got here is a large number of scientists, first getting angry at a branch of the humanities for criticising science without understanding it (in their defence, the specific abstract they were discussing did seem to know very little about science), and then attacking a very wide branch of the humanities, and sometimes the entire department, because they don’t understand it. Sometimes, of course, they don’t bother waiting for the humanities to criticise science. This massive display of hypocrisy taps into one of the particular problems facing science and evidence-based medicine, and one of the areas where alternative medicine, homeopathy, snake-oil and nutriwoo have an advantage.

There are no limits to what science will investigate, to what, in theory, can or can’t be disproved with dispassionate, empirical investigation. Science is, in that sense (the philosophical, rather than the political), totalitarian in its aims, in that it claims to apply to the totality of human thought. For those less familiar with its usage in postmodern discourse, the word can seem a lot more aggressive and critical than it actually is. But the obvious limit to what empiricism can prove is the validity of empiricism. Claiming that evidence-based medicine has been proven to work is as pointless, tautological and circular as arguing that evil is bad, that sexual perversion is immoral, or that the Bible is true because it says so in the Bible. Basically, any argument in favour of science is either pragmatic or entirely epistemological, and so has always been the territory of philosophy. The problem with empirical science’s dominance in this area is that it has developed as an entirely different mode of thought, and scientists, as a rule, do not concern themselves with the philosophical mode of thinking as part of their profession. Alternative healers do: philosophy, magical thinking, associations and spirituality are usually key to their methods in one way another. This means they are usually better schooled in the epistemological argument and thought needed to debunk and defend medical practices than proper doctors.

Rubbishing areas of the humanities because you don’t understand them is not just ignorant, arrogant and unscientific, it’s bringing a knife to a gunfight because you think guns are an illusion. Ben Goldacre, and especially his more arrogant readers, need to remember that Bad Science is not actually a science blog, but one on media studies and politics, and that they are basically scientists wading into the humanities. Although Goldacre generally does a very good job, this wilfully ignorant disdain and distrust for any recent development in the humanities (as one poster put it, ‘postmodernism’ is “a bit of a catch-all phrase for anything, well, after the modern times of the 80s”) does neither science journalists like Goldacre nor the cause of evidence-based medicine any favours. If you don’t believe me, try thinking up a logical, evidence-based counter-argument to this.