On The Evolution Of Weapons

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Jaybird

Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

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156 Responses

  1. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Does it matter which group is doing the weaponizing? We should be weary when Goliath picks up a bazooka. But we should probably be okay with David turning rocks and leather into a sling. No?Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      Works fine when he uses his sling on the Bad Guys. The problem is when he starts to use the sling on people who weren’t Bad Guys when he made it.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      And your proposal on how to distinguish between the two?

      I mean, look at the scene from 8 Mile. Was Eminem in a David vs. Goliath story?

      (Perhaps he was… we tend to forget that the David story didn’t end with David getting a fluke win over a big guy.)Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      I think it does matter. Presumably David wants to win in his fight against Goliath. The constant invoking of privilege seems to not be working in achieving victories. Most people on the receiving end will either ignore or mock it rather then self-examine.

      There isn’t going to be a great victory where a privileged groups acknowledges it was wrong en masse. People don’t work that way. It’s better to focus on concrete material victories rather than looking for psychological ones.Report

    • Avatar j r says:

      The problem with that approach is that it quickly devolves from a conversation about the justifiable use of bazookas and slings and force in general to an argument over who gets to be David and who gets to be Goliath.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @j-r

        I’ll confess that I thought of you when I made this comment, specifically our comments about the conversation often being about who gets to hold the whip.

        One of the problems, as I tend to see it, is that we allow (or are forced to deal with) the people with entrenched power making the rules. So whether we are discussing civility or the rules of war or anything in between, power tends to perpetuate itself.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        Since a lot of the talk about privilege happens online, we have no idea who is making the argumetns. Many times, I’ve seen white people invoke the word privilege against other white people. If this is white women going against male privilege against white men than that is all well and good. If it involves white racial privilege than this is more than a little problematic.

        There also isn’t evidence that these conversations are working how you want them to work. What people seem to be looking for, as Jaybird and earlier Freddie De Boer suggested. is a type of magic word argument that causes the other side to concede the argument. Most of the arguments involving privilege that I’ve observed seem to involve a lot of heat and little light. I’ve rarely seen the allegedly privileged people change their beliefs or concede anything to the other side. There isn’t anything to suggest that the people invoking privilege are going to get any of their goals met, like reduced police harassment of African-Americans, by continually invoking white privilege.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        @kazzy

        You are right. I just tend to believe that the answer to existing harmful entrenched power system is destructing their power and devolving that power to individuals and not simply transferring that power to some opposition.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @leeesq

        The thing is, by this point, claims to “Check Your Privilege” are just a shorthand Ad Hominem, and equally as valid.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @j-r

        I just don’t always know how we do that. It is almost as if we have to say, ‘Okay, you all get the whip now, but only for the next five minutes.’

        Generally speaking, I agree with devolving it to the individuals. I think that still leaves open the question as to what happens if/when those individuals coalesce as an opposing force.

        Power is a tricky thing that way…Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        Let’s face it, most Internet arguments in general generate much heat and little light, so pointing how how privilege does that only means that privilege-containing Internet arguments are about as bad as the rest. This is not a mark against privilege.

        Simple rule: Don’t waste much time with people who argue in bad faith. Avoid social groups with shitty norms — unless you kinda need to be in such groups, like I kinda need to be involved in trans politics even though that space really doesn’t have the best discussion norms. I’ve learned to work within them. Perfection ain’t gonna happen. I try to thoughtfully and effectively add my voice.

        Privilege is hella real. If someone wields it like a hammer in some dumb Twitter fight — well fuck ’em. There are tons of other people on Twitter you can hang with. Go on and live your own awesome life.

        You have a pretty awesome life, right?

        (Hey! Does it sound like I’m privileged?)

        Is there “thin privilege”? Probably. “Tall privilege”? Ask a short dude. Is this getting a bit silly? Maybe, but this stuff is worth talking about and it’s nice to have a vocabulary.

        “But someone was mean to me on Twitter!!!!!”

        Right. And before privilege discourse arrived Internet discussions never flamed out in a orgy of stupid. Oh those halcyon days!

        There are a lot of great conversation that can be had about privilege, and good faith people can and do have these conversations. The problem ain’t privilege like a boot on the face. It ain’t “super weapons” wielded in dumb debates. It’s about finding thoughtful people who listen as much as they talk.Report

    • Avatar aaron david says:

      @kazzy
      “We should be weary when Goliath picks up a bazooka. But we should probably be okay with David turning rocks and leather into a sling. No?”

      The problem is that David is sometimes Goliath.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @aaron-david

        Agreed. Or turns into David. As a general rule, I’m weary of putting the same limits on the oppressed fighting for freedom as we do on the oppressors doing the oppressing. Of course, as many of pointed out, figuring out who is who is never easy.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Err… I mean, a David turns into a Goliath.Report

      • Avatar aaron david says:

        No, it works both ways.

        What I was trying to point out was how who is up, and who is down, is often just a matter of perspective.

        You may think you are the one punching up, but the one getting punched might think the same thing.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @aaron-david

        Fair point. I was thinking of more obvious instances. Slave rebellions and the like. Sure, some might argue otherwise. But most of us would agree that slaves taking up arms to fight for freedom is different than slave masters taking up arms to keep folks enslaved.

        The issue becomes what happens if/when the slaves acquire their freedom. Do they keep their weapons turned on the slave masters? Or move on?Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      @kazzy

      I suspect that one of the issues is that we will never agree on who is Goliath and who is David.

      I’ve noticed this in various attempts to create a Tea Party-Liberal alliance. Tea Partiers make claims that they are representing the little guy and by little guy they mean small-business owners. Liberals/Progressives generally seem to think of the little guy being the staff and not the small business owner.

      There is a lot of psychological research that shows that everyone sees someone just above them as being the big guy.

      http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2015/03/03/how_americans_define_rich_somebody_who_has_more_money_than_they_do.htmlReport

      • Avatar aaron david says:

        @saul-degraw has the right of it I think.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        If privilege is relational, then we’ve got a sorites problem.

        And, if I may mix my metaphors, everybody wants to pull the ladder up after them.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        @aaron-david @jaybird

        I generally dislike the term small-business because as we say in law it suffers from being “void for vagueness”

        A small business can be a coffee shop that works on really tight margins or it can be a really popular bar that is always crowded, a fashionable boutique, or a small law office where the partners usually clear around 800,000 to a million in income a year.

        So we do have a sorties problem. How do we differentiate between the low margin coffee house and the high profit small law firm or plastic surgeon?Report

  2. Avatar dhex says:

    i kinda object to the framing of this entire essay. remove “weaponized” from the equation and what you’re discussing is rhetoric. “weaponized” rhetoric is broadly effective; broadly effective rhetoric will never be subtle.

    the ineffective is presumably not weaponized.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      To the extent that we pretend that rhetoric is a useful tool for discovering the truth of any given proposition, the usefulness of the tool in the hands of others (even The Other) should give us pause.

      (Especially given the problem of “so if we don’t want to rely on rhetoric, what *DO* we rely on?”)Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      “All men are created equal” turns into “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” turns into “Shave and a haircut, for free”.Report

  3. Avatar zic says:

    There’s a reverse image here, too: victimization. The notion that anybody who points out that bad shiz happens is making themselves a victim, and so weak, and so emboldening weakness in our society.

    Very nice post, Jaybird. Love the artwork.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      Remember when George Will wrote that idiotic column about how women falsely claim to have been raped, because victim is such a coveted status these days? One (literally one) of the hundreds of papers that carry his column dropped him, and you can guess what status Will immediately took on.Report

  4. Avatar morat20 says:

    Randomly: The toolkit used in the ‘science wars’ dates earlier than the 90s. The well funded, multi-decade long fight on the link between smoking and lung cancer is where the modern anti-science toolkit arose. (of course, you can find references further back — ‘lies, damned likes, and statistics’ for one).

    There was, bluntly put, an awful lot of money put into making it.

    Not to say that the Creationists haven’t placed their items into the toolkit, but what the smoking lobby brought was a very professional, well-polished and effective set of tools, compared to the more primitive stuff everyone else was using.

    Or maybe not ‘toolkit’. Maybe ‘playbook’ is a better term.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      This is a good point Morat. I find myself wondering if there is a difference between, say, the cynical use of the playbook (your example of “studies are inconclusive” for smoking is a perfect example) and earnest use of the playbook (Young Earth Creationists).

      And whether that difference means much, if anything.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 says:

        It does, at least to me.

        Like Creationists, for instance. I’ve got no beef with the bulk of them, really. The only times I really engage them is when they’re basically forcing the issue (like, say, agitating to get my school district sued by trying to force their religion into the classrooms). Most of them are true believers.

        They weren’t convinced by evidence, they hold their positions through faith. Evidence, science — they’re trying to speak what they think is my language to try to convince me. Mostly they’re not even doing that. They’re seeing what they’re looking for, and not seeking anything else. Again, that’s because they have faith.

        They? They don’t bother me.

        The hucksters — the guys making the stuff up, stuff they know is wrong — to sell it to those folks? THOSE guys tick me off. Con-men always do. Right below them are the scientists who, effectively, are selling out — proving what they’re paid to prove, no matter how much data they have to bury. (The tobacco industry is the premier example of this).

        Bought and paid for ‘results’ is really, really, really the kind of thing that ticks me off because it turns the strength of science on it’s ear. It’s technobabble to confuse, not precise terminology to explain.

        Climate change is another kettle of fish, of course, but the broad trends remain — there’s the people who know what they know, and don’t have any interest in learning more. (This, for anything, often corresponds to ‘what I want to believe’. Let’s face it — the notion that we, as a people, can somehow screw up an entire, huge planet to that degree? Really hard to believe — and really, wouldn’t you rather it wasn’t true?)

        There’s the people making a living off of, basically, lying. Or being idiots. That snowball farce on the Senate floor, for one.

        And then there’s the huckster and con-men, the ones who know just enough to twist things into knots designed to confuse. They’re generally paid to do that.

        There’s the Team Red/Team Blue folks, of course. They only need to know WHO is on which side to pick one.

        And last, and tiniest, are the knowledgeable skeptics. People with some education, learning, or interest in the area. (Larger still are the unknowledgeable skeptics. They know Climate Change is a ‘thing’, but know little more than that. Doesn’t always keep them from having hard opinions on it).Report

  5. Avatar Chris says:

    Each of these stories is somewhat similar in that, when a rhetorical device leaves its home and becomes “weaponized,” or perhaps reified, it loses any nuance or even specificity it might have had. It is entirely unpacked, that is, its users no longer know, or even care, what it is that they’re using and why it does what they’re using it to do. The social categories become essentialized: you are either privileged or you are not, and whether you are indicates something fairly central and immutable about you. Critical concepts become entirely pragmatic, equally unpacked but maintaining their sharp edges: tools designed to “emancipatethe public from prematurely naturalized objectified facts” are now just as easily, and in fact much, much more effectively, used to “[fool] the public by obscuring the certainty of a closed argument.”

    There is of course no way to stop this: it is human nature to appropriate the effective and simple for one’s own purposes, and the power of language comes from its lack of a fixed meaning (arbitrary signs, and all that stuff Saussure talked about). Reification and essentialism are parts of our innate toolbox as well, we don’t even realize we’re doing it. And then these signs become cultural signs, with a social meaning, as well, which makes using them almost a form of incantation. And as always, the internet amplifies these human, all too human habits of ours.

    Anyway, good essay. I can’t say I ever thought I’d see Latour in a post here. Maybe we can do a We Have Never Been Modern reading club now.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      I considered using Sandra Harding as an example but realized that that would start a sub-argument that wasn’t as interesting as the one Latour would inspire. (And I’m pretty sure we’ve had that argument before anyway.)Report

    • Avatar j r says:

      Yes, it is human nature and, as such, it predates our current round of social justice/social criticism debates. Lots of concepts associated with the traditionalist or reactionary world view get weaponized as well.

      A term like patriotism has a specific meaning when being used to laud someone for unselfish behavior and an entirely different meaning when being used to taint a political foe as unpatriotic.Report

  6. Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

    Hello, Jaybird and other Ordinarians.

    I cannot help but think that the first example (FSM) is just an example of Ridicule ™ being weaponized, and that Ridicule ™ has a long and glorious tradition amongst humans. In my opinion, Ridicule stands alone as an indefensible attack – he who faces Ridicule loses. The truer the Ridicule, the more damaging the attack.

    This separates it from your other examples, which seem to be more about co-opting arguments and methods for new/different arguments or topics. This is very different from Ridicule, in my experience.

    “No god and no religion can survive ridicule. No church, no nobility, no royalty or other fraud, can face ridicule in a fair field and live.”

    – Mark TwainReport

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      Good to see you, @john-howard-griffin !

      Is privilege an appropriate subject for the uniquely potent rhetorical ploy of ridicule? Conversely, is invocation of privilege an appropriate target of that particular arrow?Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

        Privilege has always been an appropriate subject for ridicule.

        The problem comes when people get so excited about ridiculing that they forget that it’s supposed to be for something.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Social Criticism to be used against those who have privilege. Ridicule to be used against those who claim to be oppressed but we know that they’re really privileged.

        The problem is that we’re not only playing to the refs, we’re playing to the crowd.

        If you happen to ridicule someone who the crowd is already inclined to see as a bit of an underdog, you’ve just turned heel (to use a wrestling term).Report

      • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

        Mr. Likko, I enjoyed your post on the ACA and Supremos. That seemed like a lot of work to put together. Thanks for your efforts. FWIW, I think the Supremos will decide 5-4 against ACA, though Kennedy’s questions give me some (false) hope right now (though, how funny would it be if Kennedy decided for the government because of States Rights…).

        Privilege is many times a perfect subject for ridicule, I think. Perhaps, even most times. In fact, I might go so far as to say Ridicule is the perfect response to entrenched, oblivious privilege, particularly as practiced in the US. It is a weapon that is available, even when all other weapons are not (not real weapons, of course).

        The less entrenched the privilege is, the less ridicule is going to work, I think. Can’t say whether it’s appropriate or not, since that depends on your perspective, I’d guess.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      JHG! Dude! I’ve missed you. (Show up more often.)

      Yeah, I kinda noticed that when I was writing it. For the first example to really work, it’d need to be how the Christians started co-opting the FSM and use it to mock Godless Evolutionists.

      But that picture!Report

      • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

        I’m around more, just silent.

        I have a question for you (off topic): Are they climate change skeptics, or climate change denialists?

        I don’t see much evidence to support skepticism in this area (except that things are turning out worse than the earlier predicted worse-case scenarios), and this gives them more credit than they deserve. Throwing a snowball in Congress in the middle of winter doesn’t make the trends go away, but this is what many call “evidence”.

        Regarding your conclusion:

        Which gets us to the point now where the concept of privilege has been weaponized so that discussions of privilege are no longer useful to help address the issues of historical oppression that discussions of privilege were originally attempting to combat. Instead of a tool that could be used to make these conversations more fruitful and to help the privileged see things from a new perspective, it became something that could not only shut any given discussion down but a weapon that is as likely to fit in the hands of ideological opponents as anyone and in becoming so, it has become just another weapon in the culture war.

        I would argue that much of this is about destroying a weapon that benefits one side over the other. Accusations of privilege seek to find a more balanced future (read TNC’s Case for Reparations). Destroying the ability to make accusations of privilege seeks to maintain the status quo of those who are privileged (read TVD, right here at this very blog).Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Are they climate change skeptics, or climate change denialists?

        The implication being that there is a perfectly reasonable question for a climate change skeptic to ask and the *EXACT* *SAME* *QUESTION* (like, cut and pasted) would be a completely inappropriate question for a climate change denialist to ask?

        The problem with that is the whole “work the refs/work the audience” dynamic (and we saw this in the whole Young Earth Creationist arena too). Science, ideally, is supposed to be dispassionate analysis of the measurable. When scientists get their personalities involved with the science and start the whole pissing contest and Alpha Male behavior, it looks a hell of a lot like two sides fighting about any old matters of opinion.

        It goes back to the whole “working the refs/working the crowd” dynamic.

        Science, therefore, needs to treat a question that would be worth answering if an honest person asked it (even if the asker asked it in bad faith) because someone out there in the crowd will say to him or herself “I never thought of that… I wonder what the answer is…” and, when the so-called scientist says “you’re a goddamn troll, I won’t dignify you with a response”, they cease to look like a scientist. They look like a guy on a team.

        Accusations of privilege seek to find a more balanced future (read TNC’s Case for Reparations). Destroying the ability to make accusations of privilege seeks to maintain the status quo of those who are privileged (read TVD, right here at this very blog).

        It’s not just TVD, though (who, may I point out, is gone baby gone). Saul had a post discussing elite schools for the children of privilege just the other day that discussed issues such as “identity” and how to deal with accusations of the p-word.

        These aren’t conservatives with barely suppressed rage. They’re good, progressive children who care very, very deeply about things.Report

      • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

        The implication being that there is a perfectly reasonable question for a climate change skeptic to ask and the *EXACT* *SAME* *QUESTION* (like, cut and pasted) would be a completely inappropriate question for a climate change denialist to ask?

        That was not what I intended to imply, nor what happens in reality. Instead, my intention was, and the reality is, that these questions have been asked and answered. Denialists didn’t like the first answers, so they said it was wrong, biased, part-of-a-conspiracy, etc. So, scientists answered the questions again. And, again. And, then one more time. There is no answer that is acceptable, despite the answers.

        And, the answers were conservative (in a scientific sense). Actual measurements have proven to be worse than all of the answers (predictions) given to the questions.

        The only scientists who are saying they won’t answer the questions are actually saying: WE ALREADY ANSWERED THE QUESTION 100 TIMES!!!

        I ready Mr. Degraw’s post on privilege and elite schools. I thought his conclusion was spot on:

        “In the end teaching private school students about privilege is not going to end privilege because they are not giving up anything.

        […]

        The solutions to school and academic inequality are probably going to require much harsher remedies than most people have a political stomach for.”

        I would argue (as Mr. Degraw did) that Economic Privilege >= White Privilege, and is a more entrenched problem.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Well, I’ll give a question that I think is a fun one.

        “Why are the ice caps on Mars melting too? If global warming is a man-made phenomenon, wouldn’t Mars be a nice control for the experiment? If Mars is warming to the point where its ice caps are going away, doesn’t that imply something about our limitations when it comes to addressing the issue and seriously mitigate our responsibility for any warming happening on earth?”

        (One of the answers can be found here: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/10/global-warming-on-mars/ but that question was one that confounded me for a while.)

        Now, there are a number of people out there who have never heard this question. An answer of “JESUS YOU PEOPLE SUCK!” will communicate “I am on a team” to the people out there who have never heard this question asked before.

        It is science’s job to take a deep breath and do it again. (Or give a link to where they did it again.)

        Each and every time.

        Homeopaths who hate vaccines have a much better bedside manner (on average) than “Allopathic” doctors. It is not to the real doctors’ credit to call the people who are worried about their own children names. The doctors need to take a deep breath and explain it again.

        No, it’s not fair.

        But the match is being fought in front of the refs and in front of the crowd and the crowd is as important to deciding a course of action as the refs are.Report

      • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

        Bad example. The question has been asked and answered. But the denialists still don’t like the answer (https://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/07/09/3458131/smith-mars-climate-change/). So, the question was answered again (https://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-on-mars.htm):

        “The global warming argument was strongly influenced by a paper written by a team led by NASA scientist Lori Fenton, who observed that changes in albedo – the property of light surfaces to reflect sunlight e.g. ice and snow – were shown when comparing 1977pictures of the Martian surface taken by the Viking spacecraft, to a 1999 image compiled by the Mars Global Surveyor. The pictures revealed that in 1977 the surface was brighter than in 1999, and from this Fenton used a general circulation model to suggest that between 1977 and 1999 the planet had experienced a warming trend of 0.65 degrees C. Fenton attributed the warming to surface dust causing a change in the planet’s albedo.

        Unfortunately, Fenton’s conclusions were undermined by the failure to distinguish between climate (trends) and weather (single events). Taking two end points – pictures from 1977 and 1999 – did not reveal any kind of trend, merely the weather on two specific Martian days. Without the intervening data – which was not available – it is impossible to say whether there was a trend in albedo reduction, or what part the prodigious dust storms played in the intervening period between the first and second photographs. Indeed, when you look at all the available data – sparse though it is – there is no discernable long term trend in albedo.”Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Dude, I *SAID* that the question had been answered. I even posted a link!Report

      • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

        Yes, you did.

        I was just responding to the “scientists need to answer the question every time and not say ‘you suck’, cause then they seem like they are on a team”.

        The question was asked, and answered. Then, it was asked again. And, answered again. Multiple times.

        I just don’t see where scientists are always saying that they won’t answer the question again. I see them answering the question every time, or at least leading the questioner to the actual papers (ie science) that have been written on this subject that answer the questions.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        I just don’t see where scientists are always saying that they won’t answer the question again. I see them answering the question every time, or at least leading the questioner to the actual papers (ie science) that have been written on this subject that answer the questions.

        I’m not trying to argue that scientists are always saying that they won’t answer the question again.

        I will say that, in my experience of observing the debate, I have seen people who argue the topic online who, for whatever reason, argue against climate skeptics are very likely to resort to “JESUS YOU PEOPLE!”

        So I’d be happy to amend my statement to “people arguing on the behalf of science” rather than “scientists”, if that’d make things clearer for everybody.

        (For the record, this is one of the tactics given me when I was arguing for Young Earth Creation. Most of the people who, as we put it, “believe in evolution” honestly didn’t know what they were talking about but were merely parroting what they were told in order to pass tests before the information was out the window. So someone who knew the tricks and could use the weapons could dismantle someone who didn’t know his LaMarck from his Darwin and couldn’t define “punctuated equilibrium” if you gave him a smartphone first. People watching saw that the Creationist knew his stuff and the (as we put it) “Evolutionist” didn’t. It’s not just about the refs. It’s about working the crowd.)Report

      • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

        Well……that’s a pretty big difference: people who argue the topic online vs. scientists.

        While there are certainly some scientists who are trying to work the refs or the crowd, I think it is fair to say that the vast majority are trying to do real science and answer meaningful questions.

        I don’t know a lot about a lot of things, but I have educated myself over the past 20 years on climate change and the implications for humanity and for other life on this planet. If there is one thing that I have discovered, it is that the denialists have claimed that we need to answer the question again and again for over 40 years.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        And in those 40 years, we have kept getting freshly minted 20 year olds dropped into the middle of the internet experiencing these arguments for the first time. And we’re going to keep getting them.Report

      • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

        Yes. But, the denialists are not the 20 year olds. The denialists are the monied interests, the conservatives, the GOP, the Republicans, the oil companies, the power stations, the (bought and paid for) think tanks, the utilities, the car companies, the airlines, the coal lobby, etc. that are in power across the entire country.

        I’d be happy if we just needed to educate and inform the newcomers. Alas, that is not the case.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        If I don’t click on https://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/07/09/3458131/smith-mars-climate-change/ I can continue to believe that it’s about Valentine Michael Smith.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        someone who didn’t know his LaMarck from his Darwin

        That’s silly. LaMarck was the one who played The Brain,Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      The FSM became a thing among atheists at the same time comparing the Christian God to the tooth fairy was a thing among them, and from that time I’ve felt that the FSM was a less offensive criticism. Part of that might be because it’s so silly, part might be that the FSM wasn’t an established concept carrying a large cultural suitcase, but mostly (and this is related to those first two reasons) I think it’s because the FSM is pretty meaningless. I mean, some folks who took a philosophy course or two might connect it to (appropriately or not) to Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (and things like a baby god therein), but for most people, it’s an entirely empty mock. It’s the rhetorical equivalent of “nana nana boo boo.”Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        I can’t look at FSM without getting hungry.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        “This is my body, which is for you.”Report

      • Avatar kenB says:

        This is my body, boiled and drained for you. This is my blood, mixed with some basil and oregano and poured over my body for you. Do this in remembrance of me.Report

      • Avatar kenB says:

        Dammit, too slow.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Yours was better (also, weirdly grosser).Report

      • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

        I am what is sometimes classified today as a “Progressive Christian.” I am not in love with the term, because, like many people in that camp, my theology is considerably older than what self-styled “conservative Christians” believe. If we take the “progressive” part to merely mean that I vote Democratic, then fine.

        My reaction to the Flying Spaghetti Monster meme is that, unlike the claim in the original post that “it has since become an exceptionally effective rhetorical device against Christian articles of faith,” it is mostly used as a way to kill a conversation. This is effective if that is your goal, but that seems a rather limited ambition. The benefit from my perspective is to serve as an early indicator that nothing interesting was going to occur anyway.

        The expanded form was my interlocutor pointing out some aspect of some other form of Christianity than what I follow, and which bears little resemblance to anything about how I practice Christianity. I would point out that actually, this aspect my interlocutor has pointed out is in fact limited to only some versions of Christianity, and is not universal. Depressingly often, the response to this is an insistence that it actually is universal and if I claim otherwise I am deluded or dissembling, or at best engaged in ad hoc rationalizations to avoid the implications of this aspect. This is despite my pointing out that what I describe has been standard doctrine for many centuries, while what my interlocutor describes is a comparatively recent development, and possibly wildly heretical from my perspective.

        At this point, the conversation can go two directions. If my interlocutor is interested, or at least willing to acknowledge, the range of Christian tradition, then we can talk about that. Often, alas, my interlocutor doubles down, insisting that I am wrong about Christian history and doctrine, and that in fact his experience, typically American White Evangelical Protestantism, is the One True Christianity. The irony is that this is what American White Evangelical Christians have been claiming for decades. My interlocutor is reacting against this, but at the same time accepts this central premise.

        So the upshot is that in recent years I have had fewer such pointless conversations, because nowadays my interlocutor quickly brings the Flying Spaghetti Monster into it, and there is clearly no point in continuing from that point. I imagine my withdrawal at that point is interpreted as a rout from the field of my interlocutor’s glorious victory. Fine. Whatever. Life is too short for this shit.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

        And part of it is because the FSM is, as the OP points out, really just Russell’s Teapot, an idea with a long and rich intellectual tradition.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Hey, Richard. Thanks for commenting (haven’t seen you in a while).

        So the upshot is that in recent years I have had fewer such pointless conversations, because nowadays my interlocutor quickly brings the Flying Spaghetti Monster into it, and there is clearly no point in continuing from that point. I imagine my withdrawal at that point is interpreted as a rout from the field of my interlocutor’s glorious victory. Fine. Whatever. Life is too short for this shit.

        This made me laugh.

        Part of the whole weaponizable rhetoric thing is the possibility that these particular tools are used not because they’re useful rhetorical devices at exploring concepts but because they’re useful rhetorical devices at making your opponent’s heads explode. (It all depends on the goal you’re pursuing.)

        Heff: Russell’s Teapot, in my experience, is not the equivalent of throwing a chair. For whatever reason, when I’ve used it in conversation, it’s actually resulted in furthering the discussion and exploring ideas of the burden of proof and whatnot (and allows me to make arguments about why I don’t believe in a way that deep theists can understand and sympathize with rather than feel like I’ve just poked them in the eye).

        For whatever reason, I’ll point folks to the discussion here and sigh.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC says:

        @richard-hershberger
        I am what is sometimes classified today as a “Progressive Christian.” I am not in love with the term, because, like many people in that camp, my theology is considerably older than what self-styled “conservative Christians” believe. If we take the “progressive” part to merely mean that I vote Democratic, then fine.

        I’m sorta late here, but I just want to give this an ‘A-freaking-men’. Same here. (And let’s all question as to why a *political* identity should be modifying a *religious* identity.)

        Something like 75% of what American Christians believe, at this point, appears to be fanon, not canon.

        If my interlocutor is interested, or at least willing to acknowledge, the range of Christian tradition, then we can talk about that. Often, alas, my interlocutor doubles down, insisting that I am wrong about Christian history and doctrine, and that in fact his experience, typically American White Evangelical Protestantism, is the One True Christianity. The irony is that this is what American White Evangelical Christians have been claiming for decades.

        …that is not irony. That is people, who consider themselves under attack by people who *claim* to be X, taking those people at their word and assuming they *are* X. There’s a lot of things that is, but it’s not irony.

        I understand the frustration, but frankly, you’re pushing back against the wrong people. I have no idea where you blog, but if your interlocutors are *only* atheists, you’re blogging in the wrong place.

        It is not the job of *atheists* to understand Christianity. It is the job of Christians to *explain* it, and, if other Christians are making wrong sweeping generalizations about it, to debate *them*.

        The people to fight are not the people who have been convinced they are on the opposite side from you. The people to fight are the people on ‘your own’ side that are running around asserting things about ‘your’ side that simply are not true. They are the ones breaking things, not atheists that don’t really understand that a lot of Christians are misinformed or outright heretical about their own religion.

        Of course, actually fixing this is almost impossible while a political party has hijacked the religion for political purposes.

        …and I really have no idea what this has to do with the FSM. The entire premise of that is ‘If you get to use non-disprovable religious arguments to attempt to further a political agenda, then I’ll make up *my own* non-disprovable religious arguments’. It seems entirely reasonable as a rhetoric device to me.

        Of course, I’m a guy that thinks if you can’t actually reframe a religious argument as a philosophical argument (like reframing the golden rule as the categorical imperative) that is generally accepted, your religious argument probably doesn’t belong in politics at all. People are trying to make other people live by the specific rules of their religion probably disagree, but those guys are assholes anyway.

        Here’s what you should realize: When you are annoyed by people arguing the FSM and ‘winning the conversation’, realize you’re probably in a discussion with someone who is used to the other guy arguing ‘God said so’ and ‘winning the conversation’.

        I.e….our side started it.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

        “Something like 75% of what American Christians believe, at this point, appears to be fanon, not canon.”

        And yet I get a strong sense that if someone pointed to a Bible and said “all I need is in there” you’d call them an idiotic literalist.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Jim,
        I don’t think the Karaites are idiotic literalists. I think any Christian who claims to rely on the bible entirely is probably an idiotic literalist. This bible thing, it contradicts itself — explicitly.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC says:

        @jim-heffman
        And yet I get a strong sense that if someone pointed to a Bible and said “all I need is in there” you’d call them an idiotic literalist.

        You’d be wrong, then. Why the hell would I call them literalists? Do you even know what the word ‘fanon’ means? My complaint is, quite clearly, about people who have *made up shit* and attributed it to the Bible. Which is, literally, the opposite of being a literalist.

        Granted, anyone who says ‘All I need is in there’ is either delusional or an idiot (Really? There’s a driving manual in there?) and that sort of Christian idiot is a *very* likely indicator *of* people who believe all sorts of made-up things are in the Bible, but that’s not causation…it’s just that people who believe certain stupid things are often likely to believe other stupid things.

        Now, by ‘literalist’, I think you are talking about people who have decided that every word of the Bible should be interpreted as a documentary, instead the parts that most people would agree are myths and stories, and that even the parts intended to document things were written decades later and have contradictory parts. And I think *that* is what you think I would condemn people for…but I actually do not care *at all* about that interpretation. It’s fine by me. I think it’s wrong, but it’s fine by me.

        Almost all the damage to Christianity is being done not by those people (Well, the young earth bullshit stuff makes Christianity look stupid, but it’s pretty well understood that Christianity as a whole does not believe that), but by people who have decided to repeat things that cannot be read out of the text at all, or only read with very tortured interpretations, which makes Christianity and God look like some sort of vicious monster. And, what’s worse, unlike the young earth people, they have actually convinced the media that theirs is the ‘correct’ interpretation. *That* is what is destroying the religious beliefs of young people.

        Of course, those are often *the same group* of dumbasses, and they *themselves* often claim it all flows from a literal reading of the Bible, but I am not stupid enough to let dumbasses frame the debate, nor am I dumb enough to condemn a ‘literal reading of the Bible’, when in fact the actual problem is a ‘literal making up nonsense and claiming it’s in the Bible’.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      @john-howard-griffin

      Re: Ridicule

      I question whether that is really true. It seems to me that ridicule often just gets believers to double down on their beliefs and potentially get stronger (I hate the phrase double down but for lack of a better term).

      I remember a story last year about how it is basically impossible to get an anti-vaxxer* to change their mind with any technique. The best ones were neutral and other techniques just reinforced their beliefs. Our basic tribal-social nature causes us to protect the tribe and our beliefs because chaning your beliefs is one of the hardest things a person can do psychologically, it is a change of core identity.

      The Mark Twain quote is lovely and atheism/secular humanism might be rising but religion still seems to be going very strong.

      *What is most interesting about anti-vaxx is how it shows the triumph of individualism and the death of collective responsibility. Anti-vaxx is about someone saying “I believe I am doing what is best for my children” over “I am doing something that is good for society as a whole.”Report

      • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

        I think I agree with your basic point.

        However, I would argue that the point of ridicule is not to change minds. It is not a scalpel – it is a nuclear weapon. It is used to destroy things that are so large, they cannot be destroyed in any other way.

        Religion may still be going strong, but it’s on its way out, I think. Things are getting crazy with the dogmatic believers (not just here, but everywhere) because they sense that they are losing the long war.

        And, I’d argue that our basic tribal-social nature allows people to sense what’s “IN” and what is on its way “OUT”.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Religion may still be going strong, but it’s on its way out, I think. Things are getting crazy with the dogmatic believers (not just here, but everywhere) because they sense that they are losing the long war.

        Imagine people thinking that Catholicism was on its way out somewhere on the tail end of the Reformation. Or, perhaps, at the tail end of the (so-called) Enlightenment.

        Protestantism was just getting started.

        The thing that is replacing Protestantism may not be calling itself a religion… but it’s got the same relationship to religion that Protestantism had to Catholicism.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        @john-howard-griffin

        I remember an old joke where Robspierre (sometimes Napoleon) is talking to a Roman Catholic Priest.

        Robspierre/Napoleon tells the Priest how the French Government will seize all the Church’s property, disassemble the altars, take down the reliquaries, and turn everything into a Temple of Reason. The speech ends with Robspierre saying “We will destroy the Catholic Church and end their reign of control.”

        The Priest replies “We have been trying to destroy ourselves for a over a thousand years and we haven’t managed to do it yet.”Report

      • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

        Ahh, but see, I’m not arguing that people will change which teams they follow and root for. I’m arguing that the sport is getting less popular every year. There will be fans until the sport isn’t around any more, or is a boutique sport for a niche market. Jai Alai, maybe.

        Of course, I could have used the example of Santa Claus: in the US, almost 100% of kids under the age of 7 believe in Santa Claus. It is ridiculous to say that when these children are grown to adulthood they will stop believing in Santa Claus, or that a significant number will.

        And, yet, nearly 0% of adults believe in Santa Claus.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        John Howard Griffin, comparing a figure like Santa Claus to a religion with a well-thought out cosmology and ethics is absurd. Santa Claus is a folk creation that ads a bit of fun into the holiday experience. The Roman Catholic Church is a well-organized religious body with thousands of years of belief, history, practices, and tradition behind it that has a very developed cosmolgy. It provides meaning in one way or another for hundreds of millions of people. Its not going to disappear.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        There will be fans until the sport isn’t around any more, or is a boutique sport for a niche market. Jai Alai, maybe.

        I would argue that folks will say “we’re not playing childish games like Baseball anymore. We’re exercising by exploring pastimes like Cricket now.”Report

      • Avatar DavidTC says:

        @leeesq
        John Howard Griffin, comparing a figure like Santa Claus to a religion with a well-thought out cosmology and ethics is absurd.

        …I really was expecting a punchline after that sentence. Seriously. I kept reading expecting a Craig Fergason-style switcharoo.

        As an aside, Christianity does not really have a well-thought out cosmology, as evidenced by the fact the central premise (the trinity) of it is nearly inexplicably and poorly supported by the text, and the rest of it is two millennium of fanon with even less scriptural support. (Like, oh, dead believers going to heaven, dead non-believers going to hell. There’s…very little support for that in the text.)

        And the ethics are only ‘well-thought out’ if you only consider the New Testament, where everything got simplified into two rules…which get completely ignored.

        That said, the only way to break religions are to fossilize them where they can’t change, and they eventually become too brittle and snap. This is, incidentally, exactly what conservatives are *trying* to do. We’ll see if they succeed.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        The Earth Mother evolves into Father Sky evolves into Heavenly Father evolves into well-thought out ethics.

        I can only imagine that those will evolve into poorly-thought out ethics.

        To be replaced by Earth Mother, probably.Report

  7. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    Been reading a bunch of privilege stuff lately and I keep getting this image in my mind that’s maybe a bit inappropriate, but here goes anyway:

    I see this shlubby, not particularly attractive, socially awkward, working-class dude. Maybe he’s a stock boy or works in a convenience store. Imagine Seth Rogan, but not famous Seth Rogan. And he goes through life trying to blend in and be positive and inoffensive and maybe catch a break when he can, but that’s not easy given his lack of skills and the shitty economy/shitty culture/etc. But, nevertheless, he stays positive and has yet to become bitter, in spite of marginal living, marginal transient work, and marginal transient relationships. Basically, a lot of the people I know in my town fit this picture. Good folks getting shafted most of the time. Actually, a few of the guys in my band fit too.

    Now, I imagine a university student on the Internet telling him he needs to “examine his male privilege” and I can’t help but think that his natural response, thought but not expressed, would be fairly unprintable.Report

    • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

      That’s interesting, because it makes me think of his black, female single-parent coworker who tells him to “shut his privileged white, male mouth” when he complains about how hard he has it.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. says:

        I’m actually talking about people I work with who absolutely never complain about how hard they have it, even though it’s fairly evident to the rest of us.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        Just because somebody has it worse, does not mean that the people who have it less worse are undeserving of sympathy at times.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. says:

        Actually, this also gets to something I’ve noticed myself, although Freddie’s been pointing it out lately, which is that I’ve worked a LOT of edge-of-poverty blue collar jobs over the past few decades and cannot imagine any of the people I’ve worked with telling another to “shut his white privileged mouth about how bad he has it.” Usually, people commiserate with each other at those jobs. We’ve all been there, or hear you man, or etc. etc. It’s hard! Seriously, I’ve had times where I actually thought to myself, “Goddamnit! I have to buy food again? I just ate yesterday!”

        In fact, here’s the interesting part, and what Freddie’s been banging on about- whenever I’ve heard anyone deploy that sort of insult, it was always, always, always, an upper middle class, white, college student saying that someone else needs to “check his privilege” and stop complaining about how bad he has it. I mean, you’d think it was just an excuse to tell working class people to stop complaining or something.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        @rufus-f

        This came up in one of my threads on Chait’s PC essay. A non-regular commentator mentioned that they attended a prestigious Bay Area private school before college and that there is a lot of Cultural Capital is using the buzzwords and using them correctly.Report

      • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

        That is also interesting. I’d say that is economic privilege rearing its ugly head.

        Re: the saintly blue collar workers you work with

        Every single day I hear people complain (loudly) about how blacks are lazy, untrustworthy, ignorant, misguided, inferior, etc. etc. etc. Every single day I see someone who looks at me and immediately distrusts me, most likely because of the color of my skin (I’m a scary black man). There are many radio shows, newspapers, television networks, and politicians who talk about this every day.

        I’ve worked many blue collar jobs, and I’ve gotten my share of insults from some of those blue-collar folks. I’ve been told to just quit my job and go back on welfare (never been on welfare). I’ve been told that I speak really well “for a Ni!Clang!”. I’ve been told to shut my mouth cause I didn’t know nothin’ that whites didn’t know better. I’ve been skipped over for promotions, where my knowledge and experience were light years beyond the white guy who did get the promotion. And, I’ve been punished for correcting (white) supervisors and working harder than (white) colleagues.

        Yeah, they’re all the salt of the earth. Never would say something bad about anyone. Unless they deserved it.

        My experience seems to be very different from yours.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. says:

        Well, obviously they are. It’s a little weird that I’m telling you about the people I work with in Southern Ontario and you’re calling me on what they’re really like when I can almost guarantee you haven’t worked with them and don’t know them.

        That aside, your experiences sound frustrating and horrible. I’ve experienced the being passed over for promotion so the boss’s buddy with almost no qualifications could have it, being punished (fired once, having my hours cut many times) for correcting a superior, been mocked, told I should go on unemployment, asked to work off the clock to keep my job, and all of those things really suck- BUT to go through that because of something unchangeable like skin color and not because I’m just desperate for work, which can and will change one day- I can only imagine how infuriating that must be.Report

      • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

        Mr. Rufus F., my apologies for getting my dander up. My response was uncalled for. I will endeavor to be better in the future. Of course, all life deserves our empathy, and one person’s misfortune is no excuse for mocking, belittling, or ignoring another person’s misfortune.

        Your first comment hit me like a punch in the face, for some reason. It smacked (to me) of the false equality of “poor white blue collar folks have it really bad – just as bad as any other blue collar folks”. I realize this may not have been your intention. I also realize that I am sometimes the best commenter when I refrain from commenting (by thinking things through a little more and not just reacting).

        When I read something like that, I hear (rightly or wrongly):

        “a white, male, blue collar worker who is told by a (privileged?) university student to examine his white privilege is just as bad/painful/wrong/??? as what is said to black, male, blue collar workers every day”

        We aren’t told to examine our privilege. We’re told we don’t deserve privilege. At least that is my experience.

        My apologies for allowing my personal feelings to color my response (pun intended 😉Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. says:

        Absolutely no offense taken, Mr. Griffin. Not only are these highly sensitive topics, but my comment could be easily misinterpreted. What I did not want to say was something like “Don’t tell me about racism, sexism, or homophobia; being poor and white is the real struggle!” More something like we need to consider how we approach these subjects with people because the way privilege is evoked often has the result of discounting people’s experiences.

        I guess I wish it was more an AND conversation than a BUT conversation. It’s extremely hard to be lower working class now, much harder than when my parents were lower working class I think. AND struggling against racism is and has always been extremely hard. AND sexism and homophobia still hold back many deserving people. AND fighting any of these fights should not prevent us from fighting all of them. Let’s talk about all of them together.

        I think the problem I have with the privilege discussion, and it has been my experience to have it primarily with young white people of means, is that it’s often used along the lines of “You think you have it bad? You’re lucky!” The thing is, when people have it bad, telling them they should examine how good they have it compared to someone else, isn’t very effective. It’s not to say it’s not true- just that making that the topic of discussion makes it easy to discount their experience. I’ve, of course, seen the right do the same “You think it’s bad? Maybe you should try living fifty years ago! Or try living in North Korea!” But it seems like it’s only pockets of the left that still try to shame people into joining their cause (and wonder why it doesn’t work!).Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      Rufus F., this is the exact image I have in my mind when people talk about privilege and it really illustrates my disgust for the concept. There is an essay online that tries to explain white male privilege in terms of being the lowest possible difficulty setting in a video game. It can stil be hard but never quite as hard as other people have it. Now, this is all true but it really seems like a failure of empathy to remind a struggling white guy that other people have it worse. Sometimes even white men need compasion, empathy, kindness, and sympathy. It also strikes me as useless and a form of bullying.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        (Note: That’s a Scalzi essay. You can read it (again) here.)Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        There used to be an old sign at dance halls like Roseland that said something like “Ladies, please remember that guys have feelings too.”Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        Saul, interesting but I was more along the lines of a white guy who suffered a horrible accident or has cancer than having his feelings hurt by romantic rejection.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        I remember reading the Scalzi essay when it came out and, perhaps, more importantly I remember seeing all the social media love that it got at the time. And I remember thinking that it was very typical of the sort of thing that gets this much social media love: interesting, but not particularly original or profound.

        Like I said in the gun control thread there is a problem with making ceterus paribus claims. Yes, all else being equal, being white and male and straight and cis, etc. will generally mean that you have an easier time getting by than if you are not. That is an important insight. Full stop. However, in the real world all else is not equal and you can still be white and male and straight and cis and have something about you that renders much of your privilege moot.

        It’s not that anything in that essay is particularly wrong; it’s just that there is really nothing in there that is likely to convince people who don’t already buy into the paradigm of privilege in the first place. In general, the things that get the most accolades in the social justice universe are not the things that actually work to destroy privilege or bring about justice, but the things that do the most to signal agreement with social justice norms.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        jr, my thought is that the Scalzi essay is largely ineffective because it was going to be read and referred to more by people already in agreement than those that might need a lesson in white, male privilege; who would largely ignore it. My other thought was that the video game analogy isn’t going to work because it meant that it was mainly geared towards nerds and nerds are group that conceive of themselves as underprivileged and bullied by jocks and cheerleaders.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        Please, can we retire the “X is a bad argument cuz {insert group} won’t listen” thing.

        Maybe so, but that is kinda true for a significant number of arguments, and while we can talk about rhetorical strategy, it is also nice to talk about what is actually true, even if a whole cluster of folks don’t wanna hear it.

        Maybe it’s kinda useless to tell some working class white dude that he has male privilege — but is that my fault or his? I bet he never gets his ass grabbed on the subway.

        On the other hand I have a great salary and obnoxiously amazing health insurance. So who wins?

        (Perhaps privilege is complicated and operates on multiple axes? Someone should talk about that. Maybe we could give it a name. How’s “combinationality”? — hmm. Well I guess a good word will present itself eventually. I wonder if black feminists have thought about this?)

        In any case, academic sounding theoretic models seldom play very well will non-educated, regular folks, but we sling that stuff all the time and only complain when we don’t like how the message hits us. Who here has ever uttered, “You know, working class people don’t talk about complex econometric models and thus…”?

        Well duh. And hearing well-educated white attorneys (and similar) talk about how working class folks might hear a message —

        Well maybe let them speak for themselves. Half of them will call me a gross fucking tranny anyway, and at that point talking about privilege seems pretty useless. But I ain’t talking to them, I’m taking to you.

        They still deserve better incomes and healthcare, even if they suck at gender stuff.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        (“Intersectionality” is the term that I’ve heard used. It takes massive efforts of will to prevent intersectionality discussions from devolving into Oppression Olympics.)Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        @jaybird — So when we use the term let us endeavor to use it well. Likewise, let us speak out when we see it used poorly, when we think our voice will help.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        @veronica-d

        Please, can we retire the “X is a bad argument cuz {insert group} won’t listen” thing.

        That’s not what I’m saying.

        Truth has a number of different dimensions. If something is fairly accurate, but incredibly imprecise, is it still true? It depends, right?

        My problem with a great many of the conversations that I see about privilege is that they are incredibly imprecise. That matters.Report

  8. Avatar Patrick says:

    Good piece, JB.

    There’s an interesting dynamic in the process of weaponization.

    We start out with a tool. It’s like Jaybird says, a tool designed to get across some point. It works.

    We end up with a weapon, later on, which is used the way a weapon is used.

    But it’s not really so much a process of evolution, as it is a process of deliberate forging. And it’s not just one side forging it away because it’s a tool that has been shown to win arguments (although that’s half the equation), it is a forging done by two *communities* rather than one individual.

    The tool is passed back and forth by both sides, and at each passing more of the nuance is chipped away, and more connotation is added by either side, and the blade is reforged, and the tang is replaced, and the handle becomes a hilt.

    A pejorative label becomes a reclaimed one, and the act of reclaiming it opens up the original folks who used it as a pejorative to claim that there’s no pejorative here, any more! I’m just using the word the way *those guys* use it, not the way *guys like me* *used to use it*. A flag becomes a symbol. A term intended to enlighten becomes a signal that the folks using it are Culture Warriors and thus deserve whatever opprobrium we heap upon them.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      When I started noticing the culture war, I couldn’t stop noticing it. It’s, like, everywhere. Even weird places.

      It makes me wonder what is really going on here.Report

      • Avatar Will H. says:

        I see it as essentially a matter of semiotics; contortions of cognitive misers in an abbreviated thought process.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      So we’ll start to see things like an a cappella group called “Privilege With Attitude” and Greg Gutfeld doing standup about white vs. privileged? (“So you interviewed some women and minorities before you gave the job to your nephew. What do you want, a tax break?”)Report

  9. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I saw this essay just now on the problems of call-out culture:

    http://briarpatchmagazine.com/articles/view/a-note-on-call-out-culture

    “In the context of call-out culture, it is easy to forget that the individual we are calling out is a human being, and that different human beings in different social locations will be receptive to different strategies for learning and growing. For instance, most call-outs I have witnessed immediately render anyone who has committed a perceived wrong as an outsider to the community. One action becomes a reason to pass judgment on someone’s entire being, as if there is no difference between a community member or friend and a random stranger walking down the street (who is of course also someone’s friend). Call-out culture can end up mirroring what the prison industrial complex teaches us about crime and punishment: to banish and dispose of individuals rather than to engage with them as people with complicated stories and histories.”Report

  10. Avatar Stillwater says:

    Intact family privilege. Happy parents privilege.

    Damn, dude. Eminem’s not busting on his privilege. He’s bustin him on his posing.

    Which gets us to the point now where the concept of privilege has been weaponized so that discussions of privilege are no longer useful to help address the issues of historical oppression that discussions of privilege were originally attempting to combat.

    I think you’re part of the problem your trying to address here Jaybird. I mean that seriously. You’ve tried to equate “parents reading books to their children” with “privilege” as it relates to historical oppression.

    Seems to me those are categorically distinct. And I’ve mentioned that to you in the past. You’ve responded by restating that “parents reading books to their children” is precisely a form of privilege.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      For what it’s worth, I still stand by that. Here, let’s read that excerpt from that post from Freddie again:

      Understand: it didn’t even take one generation. Social capital reasserted itself. Privilege did what it does. At the very moments when my life was most broken, the vast advantages of being born white and male, to educated and caring parents, who read to me and told me I was good, who connected behavior to consequences and advised me to live life consciously– all these realities quietly worked in my favor. No, I don’t have any money, I’m in student loan debt up to my eyeballs, I could very easily emerge from graduate school without a job, my credit’s a wreck, things like car trouble and unexpected tax penalties can totally derail me…. But there is an obvious path to material security for me, whether in the job I want or not, and that advantage is the product of social capital that I did very little to earn. I live a comfortable, fulfilled life, and all for all I am an immensely fortunate person. I have fool’s luck, wanderer’s luck, and I want to remember that every moment of every day.

      That’s the paragraph in its entirety. If I were to look at just a particular excerpt: At the very moments when my life was most broken, the vast advantages of being born white and male, to educated and caring parents, who read to me and told me I was good, who connected behavior to consequences and advised me to live life consciously– all these realities quietly worked in my favor.

      Is Freddie making a mistake here?

      I think he’s being terribly insightful. There are kids out there who have parents who, for whatever reason, can’t read to them. There are kids out there who have parents who, for whatever reason, *WON’T* read to them.

      Privilege does not merely consist of stuff that is redistributable. WOULD THAT IT WAS.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Since when does Freddie establish the parameters of discourse?Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        So Freddie’s conclusion is that Privilege consists of many things some of which are redistributable and some aren’t, some things that are amenable to outside intervention and some aren’t. Makes sense to me but where does that get us? We still need to figure out what things we might be able to do and how to go about it. The practical dimension is still, and always, where the rubber meets the road.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        I’m not appealing to Freddie because he’s Freddie, Stillwater. I’m appealing to Freddie because he made a very good point here.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Then why do you – and have you repeatedly – quoted or referred to Freddie when you make this argument? Make it yourownself if you’re so committed to it. For my part, I disagree with it. As I’ve said a bunch of times over the last few years. It’s just a mistake – conceptual, descriptive, linguistic – to equate those two types of things. Tho I get why you want to collapse the distinction.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Makes sense to me but where does that get us?

        It means that, in addition to the laws we’d probably have to pass and the wealth we’d probably have to redistribute in order to achieve equality, we’d also have to have some very unpleasant discussions about social capital.

        (Note: I’m not saying that in order to say “therefore we don’t have to pass any laws and we don’t have to redistribute any wealth because we HAVE TO HAVE THE UNPLEASANT DISCUSSIONS AND RIGHT FREAKING NOW!” It’s more that I’m noting that if we don’t also have the very unpleasant discussions about social capital, it won’t matter if we redistribute wealth and pass some laws.)Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        For what it’s worth, I also think that using “privilege” to talk about those two things is kind of an issue… one is zero sum and the other is positive sum.

        But there’s a there there.

        It’s possible for me to paint my own childhood as a weird and sad story that I overcame. It’s also possible for me to paint it as amazingly (for lack of a better word) blessed due to all of the social and cultural capital that was forced down my throat.

        Social and cultural capital is worth a great deal… and it manifests itself, among other ways, in stuff like “mom spending five minutes telling you a story before you fall asleep”.

        This is so obvious to me that I find it somewhat confusing that you’re unwilling to call being raised under such good circumstances a form of privilege as well.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Because it strikes me as obvious that being raised in fortunate circumstances isn’t a form of, or more precisely, an expression of, social or cultural privilege. It’s just fortuitous.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        No we don’t have to fix every possible instance of some sort of privilege. We can’t make mediocre parents be better unless they want to be better. We can’t make parents who don’t’ want to read to their read to them. We can’t make not be racist, but we can make rules/laws about what racists can do in some situations. ( I was just reading a bit of the DOJ Ferguson report. Those people can be as racist as they want, but the laws and how they are implemented are sure as hell things we can try to fix and try to eliminate the lack of some privileges the residents of Ferguson were suffering from. ) We can try to make the schools as good as possible and hope some good teachers can mitigate the parents problems…but those are hopes.

        Why do we have to fix every bit of inequity? Has anybody not made of straw ever said we need to ameliorate every possible form of privilege? We can take a swing at things that are amenable to gov action and for things that aren’t…well…some things just suck.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Most of the time, privilege is merely “fortuitous” circumstances, or at least circumstances that those who benefit from and those who don’t benefit from privilege are not responsible for. That’s part of the point, really.

        Though Still’s right, Rabbit’s calling out the dude’s posing in the rap battle.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        one is zero sum and the other is positive sum.

        I’m not sure why that matters in this context.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Why do we have to fix every bit of inequity? Has anybody not made of straw ever said we need to ameliorate every possible form of privilege?

        I’m not saying that we need to “fix” every bit of inequity. What does “check your privilege” mean to you, Greg? “FIX THIS”?

        If that’s how you see it, I can understand how “your parents read to you” would seem like an unfair thing to throw in someone else’s face. It’s not fixable.

        Though Still’s right, Rabbit’s calling out the dude’s posing in the rap battle.

        By making fun of the fact that the guy has an old-fashioned name? What is the proper pose for someone whose parents have a good marriage?Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        What does check your privilege mean?

        It means look at and consider what you’re doing. It does not mean put Diana Moon Glampers to work chaining up Harrison Bergeron.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        What does check your privilege mean? It means look at and consider what you’re doing.

        This is totally an aside, but IMO the phrase itself contains a construction that leads many people away from that unobjectionable meaning, and towards one that often ticks them off – “check” can mean “to examine”, but it ALSO can mean “to put away” or “to stop” (as in “coat check”, or progress/hockey check).

        Commanding someone to “put it away” or “stop it” can come across as abrasive, since A.) it’s a command, that B.) presumes the existence of the item to be checked, instead of inquiring as to its possible existence.

        It’s a valuable concept, that is worded poorly in addition to its being over/misused in online rhetoric.Report

      • Avatar A Compromised Immune System says:

        What does check your privilege mean?

        It means, evaluate your position and double-check to make sure that you are not including false information or the results of a skewed perspective resulting from being the beneficiary of privilege. If you find out that you are, re-evaluate your position accordingly.

        For example, in a discussion about Ferguson PD, it might mean that a white person whose only experience with cops has been “I’m going to give you a warning, drive safe” might need to realize that they, being white, have had a privileged experience compared to a black driver whose experience when pulled over driving a nice car is not “Hello, Officer, how can I help you?” but instead “HANDS UP! WHERE DID YOU GET THAT CAR! STAY THERE WHILE MY PARTNER RUN THE PLATES AND MAKE SURE IT’S NOT STOLEN! DON’T YOU FUCKING MOVE!”Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        What does check your privilege mean?

        It means look at and consider what you’re doing.

        Sometimes it means that. And sometimes it means Shut up! I don’t want to substantively engage with your point, so I’m going to deploy the term privilege as a trump card.

        @stillwater

        It’s just a mistake – conceptual, descriptive, linguistic – to equate those two types of things. Tho I get why you want to collapse the distinction.

        Why exactly is this a mistake? I could turn this around and say that I get why you want to maintain the distinction, but what exactly is the argument for doing so?

        We are in the ideas and metaphors, so obviously there is no hard, objective rule as to what ought to count as privilege and what ought to count as mere fortuitousness. We have a choice of taxonomies. I understand why some people want to maintain these distinctions, but it’s a bit ironic that the people who lean on the concept of privilege the most also want to maintain the privilege of certain kinds of privilege.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        It funny that if cards can be played to trump, they have some power, else they wouldn’t trump. The race card, the privilege card, the feminist card — all only acquire that power because the represent something that actually exists.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        An added thought.

        It occurs to me that the most obvious function of privilege and privilege-checking is that of a Rorshack test.

        When progressives hear “check your privilege,” they hear, “be more thoughtful.”

        And when conservatives hear it, they think, “Shut up, whitey!”

        This leads to a question: what’s the utility of an idea that does not do much work to bridge understanding between two groups of people, but rather functions to strengthen each side’s commitment to their respective world views?Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        The race card, the privilege card, the feminist card — all only acquire that power because the represent something that actually exists.

        I don’t dispute this. The question of accuracy is, however, somewhat different than the question of utility or of precision.

        An idea can be simultaneously accurate and ham-fisted.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @j-r who’s supposed to build the language that bridges that gap? And why would any other meme not, as Jaybird points out, become weaponized?

        You obviously resent privilege cards; and I’d guess you disdain people who invoke victim status. So what do you think works to create better distribution to opportunity and more freedom? What language moves that forward?

        I ask this also presuming that you access to opportunity shouldn’t be limited by race, wealth, gender, etc.; but I often think you fail to recognize the chains and limitations that tradition place on people who might, as you’ve put it, play cards.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        jr, I’m not a conservative and neither is De Boer but both of us, along with many other liberals and progressives, think that “check your privilege” is used more often as a trump card in order to stop a debate or at least reshape a debate than anything else.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        You obviously resent privilege cards…

        I do, but for the exact opposite set of reasons that you presume.

        James Baldwin said it better than me (just sub “social justice language” for “protest novel”):

        The avowed aim of the American protest novel is to bring greater freedom to the oppressed. They are forgiven, on the strength of these good intentions, whatever violence they do to language, whatever excessive demands they make of credibility…

        The failure of the protest novel lies in its rejection of life, the human being, the denial of his beauty, dread, power, in its insistence that it is his categorization alone which is real and which cannot be transcended.

        So what do you think works to create better distribution to opportunity and more freedom? What language moves that forward?
        I have an answer to this. And I am working on a post that I hope to submit within the next couple of days.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        Well, whatever James Baldwin said, it’s got not much ring of truth or insight to me whatsoever. In fact, what he said is a projection, and inserting ‘social justice language,’ sounds rather akin to saying someone who claims victim status denies the truth and beauty of life or whatever.

        You know, I constantly read Emily Yoeffe’s stuff on campus rape, and on the one hand, agree with her totally on the problems of justice created for young men accused of sexual assault/rape. And on the other, I suffer this huge gulf of disbelief because, you know, I’ve been raped, I’ve been sexually assaulted, I’ve been stalked, and I’ve been victim of a pedophile. I know this stuff is very real in a way that she does not seem to comprehend, and ‘victim’ status is not something to embrace so much as it is something to end, in part so that people can have beautiful, rich, and rewarding lives.

        So I’m totally looking forward to your post, but consider, as you write it, that Baldwin’s quote only has weight on one side of the scales and doesn’t see many other potentials of and for beauty that mere victims struggle for.

        (and that playing the victim-calling card is no different than playing the privilege card or the race card or any other distraction from actually discussing opportunity for beauty.)Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        @zic

        You’re misunderstanding the Baldwin quote.

        When you name one group of people as privileged, you are naming another as victimized and marginalized. Some people in that other group will appreciate that, to an extent. On the other hand, not everyone wants to be labeled a victim or wants to be primarily identified by their demography. The question you have to ask is to what extent the work you are doing is really about helping people and to what extent it’s about the privileged making themselves feel better by congratulating themselves on how progressive they are.

        We can say something similar about campus rape and sexual assault in general. You’re pitching this as a battle of sorts between the perspective of assault victims and perspective of those falsely accused. That is fine up to a point as empathy is important, but empathy is also of limited utility. You can have all the empathy and good intentions in the world, but if you’ve misdiagnosed the problem then the solutions that you put in place are not likely to amount to much.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        Actually, @j-r I’m pitching this as the tipping point that changes the status quo; the ‘victims’ have long dealt with being victims, and in their efforts to end that, a knew class of victims emerge, and that new class is offered as a reason to not deal with the previous class of victims. See the comment Mad Rocket Scientist made about false positives on his gun rights post for an example.

        But there are tipping points where there is enough change in social mores, from whatever the source, that the things that limited opportunity for the group being victimized are no longer palatable; hence, coerced sex in a marriage is now recognized as rape, for instance. What interests me isn’t the status quo of whatever balance and accounting is in place at any particular time, but the trend lines and movements that lead to those tipping points and (hopefully) better opportunities for people who’ve long been victims of some sort of rent seeking.

        So no, I don’t think I misread Baldwin, so much as I refuse to look at any of this as fixed.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        @zic

        The question of false positives is completely tangential to the point that I am making and the context of the Baldwin quote. Baldwin is writing specifically about Uncle Tom’s Cabin and some books like it. His point is that in that story, the black characters are relegated to a supporting role in what is essentially a white person’s morality play.

        To make an example in the rape context. The argument is not: we should tread lightly when cracking down on sexual assault, because we might harm some innocent men. The argument is: we should make sure that we get this right and not just doing the thing that we think is right or makes us feel righteous, because if we get it wrong we aren’t helping anybody and are likely doing further harm to the victims of sexual assault.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW says:

        I think Freddie’s making a great point in that paragraph.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        It funny that if cards can be played to trump, they have some power, else they wouldn’t trump. The race card, the privilege card, the feminist card — all only acquire that power because the represent something that actually exists.

        An idea’s social power is only loosely, if at all, related to its truth value. Accusations of being an “uppity nigger” had a great deal of power in the American South in 1950, because people who considered that a crime punishable by death might hear and act on those charges. All kinds of terrible ideas gain power when a critical mass of fools accept them.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC says:

        @j-r
        When progressives hear “check your privilege,” they hear, “be more thoughtful.”

        And when conservatives hear it, they think, “Shut up, whitey!”

        This leads to a question: what’s the utility of an idea that does not do much work to bridge understanding between two groups of people, but rather functions to strengthen each side’s commitment to their respective world views?

        I’m not entirely sure you didn’t just describe *everything*.

        Various people here seem to be making the argument that ‘The word privilege is not changing the mind of anyone who does not already agree with that premise’, which is, quite possibly true…but it has an inbuilt idea that there *would* be an argument that helped, and we should be using that instead.

        The simple truth is, there is a large segment of the population that, when you attempt to convince them, in any way, that things should be more just, or that there actually is prejudice out there, or that they haven’t actually experienced life as a black man so perhaps it’s a bit different than they assume it is…they reflexively disagree. It doesn’t matter what *words are used*.

        There’s plenty of studies out there that show that people do not actually change certain types of opinions when presented with reasoned debate.

        This is not to say that talking about privilege is actually a good way to discuss things. It is not. It has the same problem as calling people a racist. If you call someone a racist, they think ‘No I’m not! You’re an idiot!’. If, instead, you call their action or comment racist, they think ‘Wow, maybe that was a little racist, or at least could look like it. And as I’m *not* a racist, I won’t do that again.’

        Making a *person* be the problem is a good way drive away allies away, especially if it’s something they literally cannot change. (If you call someone ‘a racist’, it is at least *hypothetically* possible they’ll go ‘Maybe I am a racist, I better stop!’. But people can’t stop being ‘privileged’.)

        So ‘privilege’ is a horribly stupid frame. A lot of times, what people are trying to get across by ‘privileged’ could be better explained as ‘not as much experience at X as another person but persists at talking as if they have more’, which should have a name like ‘assumptionating’ or something. ‘Speakingforotherpeoplism’.

        And some of the talk about privilege drifts into outright prejudice, assumptions being made about someone based on a few birth conditions. Despite the fact that, as everyone should know, you cannot *actually* summarize someone’s life with their race, gender, and sexual orientation.Report

  11. Avatar A Compromised Immune System says:

    Recently, in the debate about same-sex marriage, we’ve seen the fights that started up when, say, the debate over same-sex marriage was compared to the debate over inter-racial marriage that was held in the 60’s.

    This is not an inappropriate comparison. In fact numerous news sites have dug up the audio from hearings and court arguments, and the text recordings of those arguments and of the speeches to compare them.

    They don’t just match in tone, they’re nearly word-for-word. Bob Jones Sr’s infamous “Is Segregation Scriptural” speech, delivered on Easter Sunday 1960 before being distributed in pamphlets for two decades, is one of them. It includes the following passage.

    If you are against segregation and against racial separation, then you are against God Almighty because He made racial separation in order to preserve the race through whom He could send the Messiah and through whom He could send the Bible. God is the author of segregation. God is the author of Jewish separation and Gentile separation and Japanese separation. God made of one blood all nations, but He also drew the boundary lines between races.

    Similar speeches almost word-for-word against equality in marriage have been issued across our country for the past decade. It is not an inappropriate comparison.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Yes, but I’ve seen it used with African-American people opposed to gay marriage.

      It’s one thing to use as a rhetorical device, say, against privileged whites. “You guys sound just like the guys who opposed Loving v. Virginia!”

      It’s quite another when white folks (especially privileged whites) use the device in discussions with African-Americans. “Gay people are just like you!”Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      “Almost word-for-word” strikes me as a pretty big stretch. I mean, sure, at a high level they’re basically saying, “God’s on my side,” but you have to change an awful lot of words there to get even a plausible anti-gay-marriage speech, much less one that’s actually been made.Report

  12. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I have a co-worker who I showed this post to and she told me something that made me say “oh, I *WISH* you would leave that comment!” and she said “No.”

    I then asked if *I* could leave the comment and she said “Okay, fine.”

    She’s reading this over my shoulder as I write it.

    Ahem.

    I have a head injury that I was getting treated down at Fort Carson and there is a hierarchy among the soldiers there on how they received their head injury. There are the guys who got shot, the guys who got blown up by an IED, there are the car accident guys, the bike accident guys, the guys who fell in the shower and cracked their skull. There’s a hierarchy among them and some of the guys get a ton of respect and others get looked down upon (the guy who falls down in the shower is at the bottom). The hierarchy among the disabled is leveragable because the IED guy can have dinner with the Clintons and shower guy won’t get to meet anybody. Same injury, same brain damage, completely different treatment. Same cure for the problem: None.”Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      Well that’s interesting. I’d never thought about it, but seeing it described that way it seems inevitable.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      Many years ago i had a client with really bad schizophrenia. He was diagnosed in the army so he was able to use VA hospitals. He told me about different hierarchies of the wounded; the really respected were the 90% disabled who had major problems from active combat. He was on the bottom as just a mentally ill guy.

      People are just hierarchical.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        And people who willingly joined very hierarchical organizations are really really very into hierarchies.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        People who aren’t into hierarchies are a lot better than people who are.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        (Co-worker says “I don’t think that 17-year olds are thinking ‘I’m really into hierarchy’ as much as they’re thinking ‘I don’t really want to go to college.'”)Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Ummm yeah i doubt people sit around chatting about how much they like hierarchies. Still some people crave structure and hierarchy and some people are not as hot in it. In fact there is an entire spectrum from love to hate about hierarchies. I know….i know…so controversial.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck says:

        So people’s behavior is actually just an expression of their preferences, even when those preferences are unstated and unexamined?

        Sounds like an Efficient Markets Hypothesis viewpoint, I’d say.Report

  13. Avatar KatherineMW says:

    (As I’ve seen it used, anyway. I’ve never seen it used against other faiths but it’s not like I’m marinating in any culture but a primarily Christian one with occasional visits to atheistic/antitheist ones.)

    I’ve seen it used as such once recently. There was a news article on CBC about a Québec judge throwing a woman’s case out of court because she (the woman) was wearing a hijab and the judge deemed that to qualify as being “inappropriately dressed”. In the comments, there were people saying that if she had the right to wear a hijab, people could show up in court wearing a colander on their head and invoke FSM to claim freedom of religion.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Ooooh. Interesting.

      I know that this is a question that you probably don’t have an answer to but… did you get the sense that Pastafarians were making those statements or was it Christian types?Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW says:

        Athiests/pastafarians was the sense that I got. Laïcisme (the idea that not only should religion be separate from government/policy, people, shouldn’t even be allowed to be visibly religious in public places likes schools/universities/hospitals/government offices) is strong in Québec, and probably stronger in Canada overall than in the US.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW says:

        For context, a huge issue in Québec’s most recent provincial election was whether public servants (government employees, including nurses, doctors, teachers, etc.) should be banned from wearing any kind of religious dress (hijab, turban, etc.) People who did not comply would be given a period of time to decide and, if they still refused to comply, would be fired. To me, that’s an obvious and blantant violation of freedom of religion. To supporters, it’s basic separation of church and state.

        Fortunately, the party that was pushing for the charter (the nationalist/separatist Parti Québecois) lost the election.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        My memory is telling me that Quebec is a very Catholic province (like OVERWHELMINGLY).

        Saying “nobody gets to display religious stuff” reminds me quite strongly of evangelicals saying “Fine, no marriages recognized by the government then!” at the beginning of the SSM debate.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW says:

        It’s culturally Catholic, but I don’t think observance is especially high, and it’s been extremely secular since the 1960s. France has similar restrictions and attitudes, and their support for an extremely strong idea of secularism originates from anti-clerical attitudes in the 1800s.

        The Quebec Charter of Values’ rules about religious displays apply to Christian symbols as well (e.g., large or gaudy crucifixes). It would also have removed the tax exemption for religious organizations, which would have a major impact on churches.

        So it’s not about Catholics having religious-expression rights and other people not having them; it’s about nobody having them. Though there’s certainly a level of xenophobia as well, particularly towards Muslims, in both Quebec and France.

        (Also, all the people who I’ve heard advocate that the government should get out of recognizing marriage entirely tended to be small-government, non-religious, and secularist.)Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        I thought that the “Everybody should have access to civil unions and only churches should solemnize!” movement was a little bigger than that (though, of course, disingenuous).

        That’s not the main point, though.

        The whole otherizing people who are a growing segment, but still small, by demanding nobody gets to be “weird’ is usually defined by the culturally “normal”.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC says:

      @katherinemw
      There was a news article on CBC about a Québec judge throwing a woman’s case out of court because she (the woman) was wearing a hijab and the judge deemed that to qualify as being “inappropriately dressed”.

      Isn’t justice supposed to be…you know…blind?

      I mean, we know it’s not actually, that if you show up dressed a certain way (and wearing the correct color skin) things go better for you, but that’s due to jury prejudices, and is a *bad thing*.

      The *judge* isn’t supposed to just throw out the case because he doesn’t like how you look.

      Now, this didn’t happen in the US, but if it was the US…forget about the like 1st amendment issues. It doesn’t even get that far! This is a basic due process violation! People should be able to proceed in a court case if they show in a life preserver worn over a pair of pajama, topped by a sombrero.

      I’m not exactly sure what the Canada equivalent of due process is, but this is nonsense.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW says:

        The judge cited Article 13 of the regulations of the Court of Quebec, which states “Any person appearing before the court must be suitably dressed.”

        I’m pretty certain that’s not what the article is meant for (figured it was so people didn’t show up in court shirtless or something), and that it can’t constitutionally be applied to forbid religious dress, from from a US perspective even the fact that the article exists may seem egregious.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC says:

        As far as I can tell reading any sort of articles about this, it appears that question that is generally under discussion in Canada is whether or not people can *testify* with their faces covered, which is, admittedly, a somewhat legitimate-ish question.

        This, OTOH, is pure nonsense. She was not testifying. She was attempting to get a court order to have her car returned to her. And she wasn’t covering her face anyway, just her hair!

        I’m pretty certain that’s not what the article is meant for (figured it was so people didn’t show up in court shirtless or something),

        If that was a law *in the US*, ‘suitable dressed’ would almost certainly be interpreted as a minimum level. Adding things to it would not make you less suitably dressed.

        The judge seems to be asserting that sunglasses and scarves would not be allowed under that rule…but sunglasses are not even items of clothing, and thus have nothing to do with how you are ‘dressed’! (At least, in the US.)

        and that it can’t constitutionally be applied to forbid religious dress, from from a US perspective even the fact that the article exists may seem egregious.

        Yes. Americans get pretty pissy at government-imposed dress codes. Our laws about indecent exposure have to get pretty explicit about what parts of the body, specifically, cannot be show, and it is, in theory, entirely legal to show everything except that.

        There are jurisdictions in the US that utterly ban any sort of exotic dancing, and thus public indecently laws apply 100% even in ‘strip clubs’…and courts have held that dancers can get down to, essentially, tiny nipple covers and thongs, and aren’t in violation of the indecency law. (And there’s a few jurisdictions that have held that indecency laws can’t discriminate based on gender, and either everyone has to wear shirts or no one does.)Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW says:

        And there’s a few jurisdictions that have held that indecency laws can’t discriminate based on gender, and either everyone has to wear shirts or no one does.

        True in some parts of Canada as well. I’ve heard that the British Columbia Supreme Court has ruled that it’s unconstitutional for municipalities to ban toplessness for women.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        I’ve mentioned before, I have a friend who persists in hooping topless in Portland and environs. She’s been arrested for it dozens of times. But it’s not against the law; they always release her, and yet the PD continues to arrest her. If they’d stop, my guess is that she’d stop hooping bare chested, wouldn’t be fun anymore.Report