Saturday, February 14, 2015

To Sound Smart, Go Negative

A relevant and disappointing article surfaced in WIRED recently - "A Sad Fact of Life: It’s Actually Smart to Be Mean Online"

Some excerpts:
She took a group of 55 students, roughly half men, half women, and showed them excerpts from two book reviews printed in an issue of The New York Times. The same reviewer wrote both, but Amabile anonymized them and tweaked the language to produce two versions of each—one positive, one negative. Then she asked the students to evaluate the reviewer's intelligence.
The verdict was clear: The students thought the negative author was smarter than the positive one—“by a lot,” Amabile tells me. Most said the nastier critic was “more competent.” Granted, being negative wasn't all upside—they also rated the harsh reviewer as “less warm and more cruel, not as nice,” she says. “But definitely smarter.”
[...]
Other studies show that when we seek to impress someone with our massive gray matter, we spout sour and negative opinions. In a follow-up experiment, Bryan Gibson, a psychologist at Central Michigan University, took a group of 117 students (about two-thirds female) and had them watch a short movie and write a review that they would then show to a partner. Gibson's team told some of the reviewers to try to make their partner feel warmly toward them; others were told to try to appear smart. You guessed it: Those who were trying to seem brainy went significantly more negative than those trying to be endearing.

There we have it.

Perhaps there is a physical reality that means it is more effort to be lucid and critical, so it would not be so bizarre that we find negativity to be more intelligent. More effort, more thinking must be involved. Right?

The downside is that on the internet, it's easy to have the appearance of credibility. If the reader is willing to share a few assumptions, it's simple enough to string sentences together in a semi-logical way and successfully preach to one choir or another. One does not even need to wear pants while assailing the world with their insight.

And there is no end to the issues that we should be concerned about. Climate change, vaccination rates, pollution, war, economic problems... a safe default is to be concerned all the time about all the things.

Except the train of all things terrible must eventually stop. Nothing can be perfect, but life in many aspects can be quite acceptable. Not every day in one's life can be an ordeal of harassment and destruction of one's civil rights.

Sadly, nobody wants to read about how great one's day was. Content creators have incentives to make every day the worst day. Moreover, "activists" face incentives to create drama and outrage out of ambiguous situations.  As Scott Alexander explains, animal rights groups like PETA will be attracted to create fireworks out of trivialities (pet ownership, perhaps?) rather than fix issues everyone seems to agree with. Similarly, contemporary "feminist" journalism may be condemned to always champion confusing antiheroes simply to court controversy.

There's writing polemic, pushing boundaries, and thinking critically - and then there is pseudo-intellectual trolling and activist delusions of grandeur.

It's fun to participate in all of the above, but maybe the lot of it is thoroughly stupid.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Feminism Likes Big Buts

The subject of campus rape remains a subject of concern, as it should, and Amanda Hess wrote a decent article in Slate on the subject of drunk sex.

An interesting disclaimer was put into the article:
And I’m not raising the specter of false accusations, the rare phenomenon in which a vengeful woman “cries rape” after engaging in consensual sex (or no sexual activity at all).

The article linked to is a piece by Cathy Young, describing a case where a xoJane commenter completely falsified a story about a musician. Amanda Hess' piece wishes to speak about cases where both parties are drunk and what that means as far as legal consent is concerned. It's interesting to consider that the latter not being in the same category of "false accusation", as for an allegation to be false it does not actually need to be a lie with malicious intent.

That is, perhaps Brian Williams actually believes most of the things he says - this does not change the fact that they are false allegations when viewed in the perspective of any reasonable person.

This "but I'm not talking about false allegations" to keep the pseudofeminist hivemind at bay was actually not the biggest but in feminism-related commentary this week -


Where to even begin.

It seems odd that, at a moment when we’re finally making headway on campus assault – with White House-backed initiatives, rape victims sharing their stories, and students mobilizing to make their campuses safer and more responsive to sexual violence – the response from some quarters is to worry for men’s futures rather than celebrate women’s potential safety.

It seems odd we are to celebrate the posturing by the administration and universities that ultimately has not been shown to have made any real changes. "Potential safety" could not be a more accurate portrayal of what has been going on.

No one wants to see innocent people accused of horrible crimes, but there is a distinct lack of evidence that young men on college campuses – even the ones who have raped women – are suffering any harm due to the increased focus on ending rape.

Here is the but that Valenti thought was good enough to highlight in a tweet. It's a long way of saying the ends justify the means. Valenti admits that someone is going to be smeared with little evidence, then bemoans how little evidence there is that enough punishment is happening. Evidence is apparently something that matters only sometimes.

Rape remains a chronically underreported crime, and only 2% of rapists ever spend a day in jail. On college campuses, only 10 to 25% of rapists are expelled,less than half are suspended and many are given university-mandated“punishments” like writing a research paper or an apology letter.

This paragraph is ridiculous for a number of reasons. First, the efforts by the White House and campus tribunals have never even attempted to put more people in prison nor do they have the power to do so. Valenti knows this, so why it appears as a criticism here is bizarre.

Second, watch this phrase:
"only 10 to 25% of rapists are expelled"
This statistic comes from this link. Which then redirects one to this NPR article, which includes the following:

Colleges almost never expel men who are found responsible for sexual assault
Reporters at CPI discovered a database of about 130 colleges and universities given federal grants because they wanted to do a better job dealing with sexual assault. But the database shows that even when men at those schools were found responsible for sexual assault, only 10 to 25 percent of them were expelled.
The Center for Public Integrity reports it as such:

Though limited in scope, the database offers a window into sanctioning by school administrations. It shows that colleges seldom expel men who are found “responsible” for sexual assault; indeed, these schools permanently kicked out only 10 to 25 percent of such students.

NPR reported the people as responsible for "sexual assault". Al-Jazeera included this as a subheading of "male college rapists". Valenti went with Al-Jazeera's subheading.

Does Valenti and Al-Jazeera not understand the difference between sexual assault and rape? Do we need to explain this?

Let's say a woman files a complaint with a university officials that a fellow student grabbed her bottom at a campus bar. This would, in the English language, qualify as a "sexual assault". However it is not a "rape" by any means. Imagine the man is brought before the university administration and the institution finds him absolutely culpable, as it should.

In Valenti's feminist utopia, (borrowing from Filipovic for a moment) what ought to happen then is the man should be forever exiled from campus -- as he is a rapist. The statistics say so!

I also believe that the disproportionate worry for accused rapists over their victims boils down to a fundamental distrust of women.
[...]

The rape truthers’ belief that any increasing efforts to stop rape and hold more accusers accountable will hurt innocent men is, at best, magical thinking. While multiple female rape victims at 89 different colleges have filed suits citing Title IX violations and unfair treatment by school administrators, there has not been one recent public case of a wrongly-accused male student who suffered significant, permanent legal harm at the hands of a malicious accuser. That hasn’t stopped people from trying to identify one, though.

Ah yes, Title IX complaints. "Look at the Title IX complaints, they matter!" After already destroying statistics (Charles Blow and nearly everyone else also get the numbers wrong) we're going to spend time counting Title IX complaints.

The thing about counting Title IX complaints is that it is a metric that will never change. It's safe to say that every sizable school will screw up something worthy of filing a complaint on an annual basis. All large academic institutions can be thought of as permanently under investigation, as the government will always be asked by concerned parties to do so.

Perhaps it's time to make a wager. If a single school of sufficient size can have a record clean of Title IX complaints for a span of three years, then it's a metric worth following. There is no evidence to suggest that Title IX complaints are not simply the new normal, as even if mistakes are not made complaints will still be filed.

Revisiting this sentence:
"there has not been one recent public case of a wrongly-accused male student who suffered significant, permanent legal harm at the hands of a malicious accuser."

Notice how the words "recent" and "legal" makes the word "harm" nearly meaningless. According to this sentence, the accused are only truly damaged within the confines of a court of law -- and only within some time span that Valenti does not disclose. Those are apparently the only true victims of false allegations. There is some level of irony here.

Later, Valenti points out:
"no school has ever had their funding taken away because of a Title IX violation."
Why would this be infuriating? The threat of a funding loss does not mean that a funding loss needs to happen. It's like threatening employees with dismissal - it's entirely possible that compliance is achieved without terminating people to set an example.

All this said, Valenti's biggest critic remains Valenti:

The tagline:
"Reporting, prosecution and incarceration haven’t eliminated intimate partner violence. Some new solutions offer women hope"
Quote:
But some advocates say that the focus of mainstream anti-violence organizations – relying on statistics, reporting assaults to police and putting offenders in prison – while well-meaning, may be part of the problem. Grassroots activists believe this broad brush approach is a mistake, and instead are working on alternative methods, from restorative justice to iPhone apps, to tackle violence from a community mindset.

Yes, Valenti wrote a piece about how prison is not always a fantastic idea just a few months before demanding that more men go to jail. Valenti thinks the public at large disagrees with her as there is a  "fundamental distrust of women". Maybe people just cannot follow the incoherence of contemporary "feminist" activism.

"Restorative justice is great, but..."

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Islamophobia and Chapel Hill

A man in North Carolina has killed three college students. The victims were two women and one man. All victims were muslim and of Arab descent.

It must be admitted that at least one person was reading early reports on Twitter with the morbid and regrettable hope that the suspect was not a man, not white and definitely not a secularist. If the murders could be branded just another "honor killing", it would be simpler to reconcile with certain worldviews.

The suspect is by many accounts a left-leaning, pro-choice, pro-LGBT secularist. Not a right-wing Christian nutjob, not a delirious escaped inmate, not a Brevik-like manifesto-wielding psychopath, but a seemingly regular guy that likes to read Richard Dawkins and watch Rachel Maddow.

It meets all the qualifications of a racist and Islamophobic hate crime like the shooting in Wisconsin.

Some may run to point out to claim that the inevitable comparison to the Charlie Hebdo shooting is a false equivalence. Others may point out that the shooter may have been motivated by a pitiful neighborhood parking dispute and not out of anti-theistic rage.

Regardless, what matters is that it's immensely disappointing, tragic, outrageous and unacceptable that secular folks are not better than such violence. It matters not whether the trigger was a hijab or a parking spot. If believing in a higher power makes one relax about parking spaces, then within modern life it is absolutely a moral obligation to take up monotheism.

This blog is decidedly "Islamophobic" and will remain so, if that word has any meaning. Islam is a terrifying dogma that too many confuse for a social, economic and legal policy. At the same time, hijabs should not be confused with threats and parking spaces should not be confused with things that are worth killing over.

There is another escape route to be closed for some on the secular left - it may be said the shooter was a "pro-gun nut", which would put him at odds with many "sensible" supporters of the grand secular conspiracy. While it's true that many of the secular left would not have armed this man, pointing this out is ultimately a derailment. If the man had not a gun, he would have victimized these youth with his fists and given well-read "progressive" secular "rationality" just as much to think about.

As everything is politics, many things recently said about Islam by secularists will be viewed with a sense of irony. It is the time to hear this criticism and be better for it.

It's difficult to find enough words to condemn this man's actions, but the search is meaningful.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Is Rape Complicated?

Recently Cathy Young published an article on The Daily Beast that included a lot of information from the perspective the accused rapist in allegations at Columbia University that have become a form of performance art.

Young's piece is straightforward to understand as it is largely simply reporting on the perspective of the accused - the accused denies the allegations and provides evidence he feels exonerates him. Much of the evidence happens to be recorded communications of the accuser(s) being friendly with him in Facebook chats and emails after the purported assaults occurred.

The accused seeks to show that the allegations are false by demonstrating that the accusers were absolutely cordial with him even though he's supposed to have terrorized their lives as far as to warrant his expulsion. The argument is that if they are being nice to the alleged perpetrator at the same time as plotting his demise, the chances they are lying out of insanity or jealousy increases.

"Feminists" rush out to loudly proclaim the simple fact that rape victims do not need their behavior policed - being polite does not mean someone has not been victimized.

It's absolutely true that victims do not have to fit a profile of behavior. Everyone deals with trauma differently. Perhaps most relevant to this story, victims cannot be expected to immediately verbally dress down their abuser in order for their claims to be taken seriously.

Yet there is something missing about this empathetic view of victims. Too often "activists" have already decided who the victim is - calculations about the victim's feelings are interesting only in that they paint the foregone conclusion in an ever more sympathetic light.

The mantra often repeated from accusers and their advocates is "Why would I lie?"

A potentially similar statement that often remains unvoiced is "Why would I rape?"

It's very black and white. The accuser is a complex character in a confusing situation, dealing with conflicting emotions and motivations.

Meanwhile, the accused is to be a simple sexual sadist. Blurred lines do not exist - the accused is a horny automaton that knowingly steamrolled consent. The only thing to do now is to exile the cancer from the community.

Easy, right? Perhaps one can be convinced after seeing manipulations of statistics pointing whichever way the author wants. Opinion pieces give us good reason to believe that rape is a complex subject. Bizarrely, this is said to be another reason why skepticism is a bad thing!

It seems the best course of action is to withhold judgment until more information is known. Yet there are elements that believe fact-finding and character witnesses are tools to be used in only one way, that is in support of the "survivor". "Believe survivors" is an ideological talking point repeated so early and often that it becomes a weapon to crush any hope that a transparent investigation into what exactly transpired will occur.

While it is not true that one person must be a rapist or the other is a liar, the topic is so poisonous that nobody is thinking at all about the possibility that neither party is actually a culpable and abusive evil. The choice narrows and lines are drawn.

But are "Why would I lie?" / "Why would I rape?" not questions with the same answer?

"Because you need help."

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Please Don't Give A Damn About My Bad Reputation

Once upon a time, a man wrote a story primarily about his ex-girlfriend - let's call her "Zoe Flynn". The story was filled of allegations against several parties. The story was one of betrayal, hypocrisy and even some insinuation that some sex-for-favors happened within the indie game industry.

It was a tale to be read many different ways, and one with several aspects disputed by Flynn. The details of this particular story are not relevant to repeat, as the crucial point is that the story was one of the catalysts of the drama that is "#GamerGate".

For many "feminist" activists, #GamerGate was not at all confusing. It was obvious - a sordid online misogynist pile-on trying to tear down women that loves to pretend to be anything else. #GamerGate was just all the people that hated Anita Sarkeesian deciding to also find the time to hate Flynn, gaming blogs, and feminism generally. Simple.

Long before any #GamerGate nonsense, social media had its tribes. Despite it being quite a source of controversy, we don't need to believe that #GamerGate is an event that fractured many communities. Chances are that all one's social media connections moved lock-step into a pro-#GamerGate, anti-#GamerGate, or ambivalent camp.

Two people that had little to do with gaming and each other are Milo Yiannopoulos and Shanley Kane. It's likely both of them spend more time in a word processor than a first-person shooter. That their relationship has anything at all to do with gaming drama is interesting.

To make a long story somewhat shorter, Shanley is an outspoken critic of the technology industry, is an advocate for women in tech and publishes a quarterly journal on the subject. Milo is a columnist. To be entirely reductionist, they have the same job - write something moderately interesting about the topic of the day.

Milo, from disagreement or dislike, decided his topic was Shanley. In December, Milo published a profile of Shanley - which everyone that knows Shanley knows she does not particularly enjoy. In January, Milo followed up with a more revealing story, in which it was alleged that Shanley dated a well known internet troll with which she shared racist humor and some sexually submissive inclinations.

Shanley later confirmed the relationship and problematic past opinions, but held that the troll in question was a manipulative liar that she broke up with - a claim that no reasonable person doubts as the poor character of her ex-boyfriend has been confirmed by many witnesses. Further, Shanley labelled the interest in this aspect of her life "kink shaming".

Shortly afterwards, Shanley blamed the Linux community for a doxxing that happened about the same time:

Last Thursday, I criticized the Linux community for continuing to support and center a leader with a years-long, documented history of unrepentant abusive behavior, someone who has actively and systematically nurtured a hostile, homogeneous technical community, and someone who has long actively chased people from marginalized groups out of open source. 
The retaliation has been terrifying.

Apparently the doxxer was not Milo writing the story, not the ex-boyfriend filling in the details, but people retaliating on behalf of "the Linux community". The Linux community is to be the part of the triune Godhead of harassment that was ultimately the source of the dox.

The timeline of events is Shanley apparently trash talked Linux on Thursday, posted Milo's phone number on Twitter on Friday, and Milo posted the account of her ex-boyfriend on Saturday.

It sounds like a game of Clue, except Shanley is here to tell us it was definitely Linus Torvalds with a candlestick in the conservatory. To dial up the weirdness, the same day Shanley fingered the Linux community, her former business partner and co-founder of Model View Culture posted an account of her own fallout with Shanley:

I left Model View Culture because working with Shanley felt like I was in an abusive relationship.
[...]
But as the business grew, my relationship with Shanley deteriorated. Each day I dreaded having to interact with her. I had trouble squaring that dread with how much I loved the work I was doing and the company’s vision, and for several months I tried everything to make it work. But eventually I was able to see many of the things I was experiencing - such as yelling, excuses that the yelling was just because she needed me so much, her demands that I isolate myself from my friends - as classic abuser tactics. I woke up one morning with the bone-deep realization that I could no longer work with her. 
Shanley has since erased me from Model View Culture’s history. Fighting erasure of work is a feminist issue, and also one that Shanley is aware of and has specifically addressed in the past. Yet the publication did not announce that I had left, and quietly took me off the about page, though it has continued to refer to itself as “we.” Shanley credits herself as “Founder” not “co-founder.” In telling the story of founding the company in press, she does not mention that I was there unless specifically asked about it.
[...]
I decided to write this disclosing my own experiences with Shanley because the feminist conversation about tech right now feels like “You’re either with Shanley or you’re with [Shanley's ex-boyfriend].” And I think there should be room for a third option: You support diversity in tech and the work Model View Culture has done, but you are allowed to have doubts about Shanley's sincerity or track record of abusive behavior.

Indeed, if the Model View Culture publication is good at anything, it is erasure. Not only did MVC erase a founder, but it unceremoniously erased the writings of a one Dana McCallum, once a feminist and transgender activist that is now most famous for pleading guilty to domestic violence charges. McCallum was once a listed Model View Culture author, but now no trace of McCallum exists on the site.

As bizarre and outrageous as all this nonsense is, it might not be the best drama of late.

For it turns out that another semi-famous social media personality, Holly Fisher, is facing her own critics. Fisher is famous for doing her very best to be the embodiment of everything American "progressives" are said to despise. Vocally pro-gun, pro-Bible, pro-abortion restrictions and anti-Obama, Fisher is perhaps what Sarah Palin would be if Palin had a lower profile and was more ready to engage random people on Twitter.

The source of drama in the Fisher story is her admission that she had an affair. The admission may have come after some relatively unknown idiot appeared to want to publish the details. The incident is particularly problematic in conservative circles, as her husband is a doubly sympathetic figure due to his service in the military - seems he was at one point deployed overseas. The other man in the picture is a Tea Party activist.

The steamy setting romance this pro-life advocate had, according to her traitorous conservative pals, was apparently a “Restoring the Dream” event, a "Faith & Freedom" conference, and on election night 2014. (No word yet on whether or not "Faith & Freedom" conferences have acceptable and inclusive harassment policies.)

Shanley Kane and Holly Fisher are two very different women, yet their response to their similar predicament can be summarized in the same phrase - "this is basically none of your business". One does not need to subscribe to any particular brand of feminist ideals to imagine that there may be a double standard in play - all the people revealing the embarrassing details are men, and the individuals embarrassed and scandalized are women. Just another example of misogynistic slut shaming.

Yet it isn't quite so simple. The men in these stories are not embarrassed as they were either invisible or already considered creepy. To speak of the men these two women chose to hook up with would be to first learn their names or give them an ounce of respect which they could forfeit. The men are nobodies.

In what version of reality does a feminist critic of a male-dominated tech industry think it's not the least bit relevant that she dated a particularly wicked internet troll? It is somewhat difficult to hold men accountable for "microaggressions" while dating a man that is a macro-asshole.

Similarly, what kind of booze is in the punchbowl at an adulterous "Faith & Freedom" conference? One may as well do lines of cocaine at a rehab clinic. Did the red hot rendezvous happen in a hotel room, or in the 15 minute break between the family values and abstinence-only education seminars?

Relationships matter. We know this as nobody is quite in the mood to discuss hiking the Appalachian trail or the meaning of "is". It turns out women are also capable of having a relationship built on secrets that when revealed undermines trust their followers held for them.

Luckily for some, the subject of women's preferences is a third rail for feminism. Speaking of any affinity a gender may have to even the most innocent of behaviors is quite taboo. Any realistic discussion about women's sexuality might lead to gender essentialism or "victim blaming" - both of which are tragedies to be avoided at all costs. We live in a world where Jian Ghomeshi can still find a date and Charles Manson can still find a wife but it remains not one's place to question the logic.

Consider the possibility that every woman activist that would like to see empowerment in the workplace may currently be dating a man that the very image of what it is to be a toxic, misogynist colleague. Also possible is that every self-identified fan of "personal responsibility" and our brave men in uniform may actually spend their free time being fed Plan B by buttoned-up political desk jockeys.

It's taken for granted that some number of the "men's rights" activists ranting and raving about child custody made at least a few relationship mistakes. Having a crazy ex-wife does not put one in a position to speak objectively about the merits of feminism.

It's simply time to take the same calculus that we apply to these "activist" men and apply them to our "activist" women. A safe assumption is that every popular social media personality is hypocritical, depressed and manipulative until proven otherwise. Taking their soap box seriously is a bad idea.

Human beings can be transparent, honest and consistent. The world's in trouble, there's no communication.

On the other hand, a girl can do what she wants to do and that's what I'm gonna do.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Debating Islam In Circles

It's happened again. A group of terrorists, Islamists, jihadis - whatever the preferred term is - has murdered a number of people. As always, the killings were sloppy, barbaric and indefensible.

However, in a morbid way one hopeful thing about these new Islamist murders is that they were somewhat specific. The primary targets were cartoonists that had insulted the prophet. The following hostage crisis was at a kosher supermarket.

It is a glimpse into the sadistic mind of the Islamic terrorist when they stray from the formula of an indiscriminate public transit bombing or beheading of the nearest journalist. When Islamists kill indiscriminately it can be construed by some as an attack on a citizens of a government involved in foreign wars. Some talking heads will try to tell the west that the building disappeared or the train exploded because of some foreign policy squabble.

But when the Islamists specifically reach out to murder the people they're most angry with - cartoonists and jews - it's clear that there is nothing resembling "rational" motives related to wars or poverty. It's clearly an ideological and personal bigotry against people who do not follow their brand of religion. A homicidal desire to make people who disrespect their dogma disappear.

What follows these attacks is typically an outpouring of anti-Islam sentiment. Much of it is not the most refined, compelling or educated critiques - Godwin's law is proven true several times.

Then comes the reaction to the reaction. For as much as people fear Islamist murders, people fear "Islamophobic" reprisal attacks. The type of person that appears most likely to make this fear a reality is the stereotypical American "nutjob". Too much ammunition, an incredible lack of mental health treatment, and a person perhaps dumb enough to believe there exists an al-Qaeda sleeper cell in a Sikh temple.

It is a rational fear - white men shoot up post offices and elementary schools, it is not a stretch of the imagination they're capable of flipping their lid and attacking a mosque.

But this fear is often tied to a massive false equivalency - the idea that the mostly-secular west is somehow due to go insane. Islamists are seen as a "safe" version of insane. The real worry is that everyone else is going to release pent up anger and something incredibly bad will happen. Some people actually do view global politics as if they were in a group therapy anger management session full of generally friendly people. It's the first world viewing itself in the lens of the most first world problems.

Shia Twelvers are a minority in Islam. They are often victims of the worst of Sunni Islamist violence.  It would be surprising to find any Shia muslims on the list of perpetrators of the attacks in France. One of the beliefs of the Twelvers is happens to be that the Madhi will return and make everything good again.

Regardless of the odds of any messianic story coming true, the lives of the majority of ordinary "muslims" in the west is more controlled by the belief that there is a chance that a neo-Timothy McVeigh or Anders Brevik will return and lay waste to everything they hold dear in this life. Nothing can be said to alleviate this concern, just as muslims themselves cannot say anything to assuage the fears of those worried about more Islamist violence.

The result is very cyclic and pointless discussion.

Muslims kill cartoonists, but not all muslims are terrorists.

Racists criticize Islam, but not all critics are racist.

Both statements can be understood to be true without much thought so it's confusing that each sentence is a rallying cry for entirely different perspectives.

Friends of Islam and critics of Islam. If one had to choose to be in one group or the other, it seems preferable to be in the group denying subtle racist tendencies than to be in the group defending a religion with a questionable history.

The "not all muslims are terrorists" red herring is to put Islam and muslims within a shield of low expectations. It's as if muslims can exist in modern society and be generally pleasant in every day conversation, they've won a seat at the table of modernity.

Compare this to how we treat every other ideology beholden to a deity. Mormons are on the cusp of being unfit for political office due to their unwavering opposition to gay marriage. For a number of "reasons", to mention their abuses most euphemistically, Catholics are not running very many schools anymore. Anglicans and other European churches define how comfort causes indifference and lack of vision. Evangelicals are evil incarnate - anti-choice, pro-gun, anti-poor, pro-Republican...

Hands off the ordinary muslim. He's got a job, minds his own business and does not drink. A model citizen of our times!

"He's religious and conservative, but it's alright - he's Arab/Persian/Pakistani/Indonesian/North African/etc... and you know how they are."

The condescension in some is that western college educated people are clever and responsible enough to have mutable religious beliefs. Bonus points in flexibility are awarded to wealthy peers and those that spent time in liberal arts programs. All the "underprivileged" are thought to be stuck. In fact, it appears some think it a "white privilege" to be clever enough to change one's mind.

Indeed, it is a white privilege to be an apostate. But not because white people are smarter than everyone else, but because privileged people support systems that make it difficult for nonwhites to be anything but a part of their religious and cultural track. Whites are thought to be the free agents of religion, everyone else is still on contract.

Recall that a lot western leaders for better or worse thought reservations for Native Americans was a decent idea. Further, many colonial adventures ended with borders that reflected a white man's conclusions of what made up a society and nation state.

Borders do not mean what they used to, but a certain population of concerned, self-appointed, entitled white people are still defining the parameters of interaction. White people, religious or not, are to be respectful of Muhammad. In return, muslims are to be on-side in matters concerning the battle these "enlightened" white people are fighting with what the white people define as their common enemies.

It fits to a formula. The more adherents and the less social success, the more secular people will feel a moral obligation to place absolutely outrageous behavior "in context". Respect will be paid to any ideology, either as a form of self-preservation, the firm belief that a "clash of civilizations" will meet a violent end or the wishful idea that everything popular must have some redeeming qualities.

Ultimately the conversation is one that wealthy secular people are having with themselves. Muslim majority societies are not all the same, but they generally sum to be an alien world that the rest of the humanity is not excited to be a part of. The debate is reduced to strategy about how to change it. Some people want to launch the photon torpedoes, others want to put the "noble savages" in a multicultural time capsule, others see the solution as coordinating a worldwide charm offensive.

In western cities many seem to believe muslims are a minority like any other, but this simply is not true. Regardless whether they share a smile or a frown, people wish for overtly religious people of all stripes to dial it down. It is bigotry to desire society to modify its skin color, gender or sexuality. The same rule cannot be made for religion. It is rather offensive to even pretend the concerns exist on the same plane.

Islam harbors one of the largest groups of people still believing in a medieval view of monotheism. More embarrassing is that the "progressive" wing of the faith makes the cultural norms of the Victorian era seem delightfully inspired and forward-looking.

Despite what many say to the contrary, Islam can be blamed for its bad apples. But the true failure of faith is that its best apples are not sweet. It should not be controversial to not like them apples.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Expensive Margaritas Will Stop Campus Rape

Imagine being a nineteen year old woman (currently those born in '95 do qualify) attending a university in the United States of America. You have a lot on your mind, but at the moment you're looking to unwind and have some fun.

Obviously alcohol is the answer - as using America's favorite drug in the company of friends has long been established as a decent way to create an enjoyable day.

There's a problem, however - consumption of alcohol at this age is not legal. Acquisition of the alcohol must happen illegally. Consumption of the alcohol must happen in an unsanctioned location. Fortunately these restrictions are not insurmountable, as all you need is a connection to someone a few years older than you that is also willing to break the law with you.

The stereotypical story is that those most eager to make this connection and take this risk have motives beyond a simple cash transaction. There simply is not a lot of people trying to make a quick profit by selling alcohol to underage drinkers out of the trunk of a car. More motivated are those that may desire the potential customer's affection more than their money.

It's so taken for granted that it's already a plot device in many films referencing college life in America - one or more eager heterosexual men will acquire amazing amounts of cheap beer in the hopes that women without inhibitions will later appear. It's the Field of Dreams scenario with much less work involved. It's also a scenario that shares elements with many accounts of campus rape.

It's easy to see where the problems arise. The authorities provide no oversight at any point. Quid pro quo transactions between intoxicated parties. House parties with private locked rooms mere steps away from the liquor. Alcohol acquisition and consumption exist as some sort of risque taboo, subject to "macho" contests - the most accessible extreme sport to an ever more sedentary population. There are many reasons to think that this environment created to break one law is entirely capable of breaking a few more. Further, those that do face assault at these venues are blamed for their own victimhood as they chose to attend what they knew was an illegal event.

The solution is simple. Let adult women go to the bar. 

You may vote, you may drive, you may star in porn films. It's probably the right time for one to be able to buy an overpriced cocktail at a nondescript pub. No more rumors about what is happening at what frat/sorority house, no more pleading with older men and women to sell you booze and then leave you alone.


Pictured: Freedom and equality before the law

Of course, this does not mean one does not face the threat of being a victim of a sexual assault as a student. There is not a lot of data to suggest that a licensed establishment is always a safer establishment, as there are not agencies that currently collect great data about campus events that try their best to not be recorded by the government.

In fact, it may increase the chances of being assaulted by greatly increasing the chances of being assaulted by someone who is not a student. In that case, "campus sexual assault" may be ended as a matter of category. If the offender is a high school dropout, what would compel them to be put in front of a campus sexual assault tribunal?

The solution then has the possibility of "working" in at least one of two ways:
  1. Changing incentives may reduce opportunities for perpetrators 
  2. The nature of perpetrators may change
Obviously the ideal is that the number of assaults decreases, however the plan also exposes the absurdity of the current approach to campus sexual assault. If more interactions can be pushed into extracurricular activities, then the universities can avoid more responsibility.

Is a university responsible for spring break? What oversight is given a student enrolled in online classes? What happens when internships become a larger part of education, as they should?

The fastest way to end campus rape is to end the campus. There is no reason that adult students need to be treated differently based on age. There is no reason that the student population needs to be insulated from humanity that exists off campus. There is no reason to run a campus as a special part of the city, governed by unintelligible faculty and incompetent student unions.

There would still exist room for universities to do the right thing - no victim should have to sit through a lecture opposite their student rapist. And faculty members should face a lot more scrutiny.

The greater point is the discussion extends far beyond campus. Perhaps we can discuss what happens to young adults that do not exist within the eye of contemporary progressive concern because they are not attending college to begin with.

As long as college remains a trumped-up boarding school for the moderately wealthy, we are always going to be subjected to concerned parents and imaginative graduates writing opinion pieces about the dangers of their young adult daycare.

Now, go get that margarita.

Blended, if you must.