Monday, February 20, 2017

Public Discourse is a Civic Duty: Free Speech, Freedom of the Press, Freedom to Protest


I wonder if all these no-platforming proponents realize that that's the same thing as censorship. 


Not letting someone publish something because you find it *offensive* is censorship.


Canceling a television show or radio program because it's *offensive* is censorship.

Canceling a speaker from holding a public discourse is *censorship*.

Now, I'm not saying giving certain folks a platform isn't always a great idea (sometimes it's most definitely not).

Broadcasting pernicious, vile, and grotesque ideologies out into the world is always going to be problematic because there are always going to be pernicious, vile, and grotesque individuals which will latch onto those ideas as though they were scripture.

But the very concept of free discourse depends on the fair representation of both sides of an issue / position, whether wrong or right, and then we must allow for the best ideas to win through a thorough examination of their content.

If your idea isn't good enough to beat something terribly awful, then that may be a fault in rhetoric, and you'll have to do better. Otherwise, if your ideas are continually on the losing end, then you should pause to wonder whether or not these ideas are worthy of championing or whether you're just wasting yours and everyone else's time.

The problem with pernicious, vile, and grotesque people, however, is that they often see themselves as heroes, and when their ideas fail they make themselves into martyrs to resurrect such ideas again under another guise.

The discourse is neverending. In a world where freedom of speech is valued, we must always be vigilant to speak out against bad ideas. That's a civic duty whereby we continue to value free speech, freedom of the press, and the right to protest.

The idea that we can censure ourselves from bad ideas, however, by simply by telling pernicious, vile, and grotesque people to go away is underestimating the sensibility of pernicious, vile, and grotesque people.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

JLaw and her butt touched a rock incident (Repost from Facebook)


Imagine for a moment, a person who claims all rocks are sacred, and that sitting on one or otherwise touching your ass to it is offensive in the extreme. Additionally, if you incidentally do touch the rock in an way deemed uncouth by them, they demand you apologize.

Now, imagine I come along and say, no rocks are sacred, they're just rocks, and they're best for sitting on, scratching with, and generally touching your butt to is not only fine, it's your right to do so.

Good. Next, suppose a popular actress comes along and touches her butt to some rocks. Maybe she knocks a few of them over.

Still with me?

Okay.

So JLaw is called out for demeaning the sacred rocks of some Hawaiian people because they say she desecrated it with her woman butt.

They demand she apologize.

She does. Because, presumably, she's a nice person. Her actions seem to validate this assumption about her character.

Now, let me ask you this. Is all of Hawaii going to apologize to me for defying my beliefs with their nonsensical claims that all rocks are sacred when I in fact believe the exact opposite?

Not likely.

Because there is a double standard at play.

You see, I didn't cry. I didn't caterwaul. I didn't complain that my feelings got hurt for the arbitrary rules you failed to adhere to that I made up.

Some tribal folks (I'll allow for the double meaning) got upset. They complained. They cried big fat tears.

And everyone gobbled them up. The media most of all. Yummy, yummy, tears.

They...and here it is...became emotional.

Appeal to emotion.

Their *sacred* beliefs were attacked by JLaw's butt! Cue the waterworks!

They are sad. They are crying. Their feelings are hurt, goddammit!

Obviously, obviously JLaw has to apologize. She looks so vicious, so callous, so wrong to have offended. After all, real people with real feelings feel accosted.

Appeal to emotion.

You know who's not getting an apology, though?

Me.

Why?

Two reasons.

One, I didn't cry. I didn't get emotional. I didn't turn mole hills into mountains. And I didn't demand anyone coddle me.

Second, I never claimed rocks were sacred. Because they're not. They're just fucking not. Okay?

It's people who place value on things, it's people who must imbue inanimate objects, like rocks, with sacrosanctity. It's people who subjectively determine what will or won't offend them. They choose their limits. They draw the imaginary line.

I do not do these things, but my beliefs were equally trampled on and disregarded by the Hawaiian people.

But they got emotional. They made it about their sacred rights. They cried the loudest.
They got the apology.

Such an obvious double standard.

But that's not the worst of it.

It gets much worse.

Precisely because I didn't grow emotional or allow myself to be offended, my very real belief is devalued, considered less important than the Hawaiian people's.

It's not sacred, so what do I lose, right?

I have no emotional investment, how can I be affected?

This is about real people with real feelings, with real history, goddammit!

A history ripe with oppression and mistreatment by outsiders who didn't respect their beliefs. A history full of real abuses.

But that's not now. This is now. Not then.

So what has changed?

Cultural sensitivity, perhaps? Cultural awareness? Historical knowledge? Maybe all of it. But what does this recent trend in outrage and scapegoating say about society?

It says we place more value on emotional sentimentality than we do on equality of belief.
Your beliefs be damned if you don't get regularly worked up over someone not sharing them.

You see, that's how you get attention. By caterwauling. By demanding a high profile actress apologize for her young adult antics. Because you, by God, felt offended.

I don't. So I don't get an apology. Nor would I ever demand one for simply having a different belief. I don't believe in the sacred. I'm 100% a contrarian. Irreverent till the end.

But because I am this way, I don't appeal to your baser emotions. I can't get your reptilian brain flowing with rage at the mere idea of someone not abiding by the tribal laws.

But if you cry, those sympathetic enough, those who make their every judgment based on emotional pleas, will come rushing in to demand JLaw apologize for offending the absurd notion of sacred rocks.

And we love to see people eat crow. We, being emotional creatures, straight up love it. Seeing someone be forced to bow down and kowtow, to admit to the offense of whatever imaginary crime they have committed, to fess up and apologize, it makes us salivate.

We love it. Because, why would anyone cry if it wasn't a greater offense than spilled milk? Why would anyone feign feeling accosted? They wouldn't. They must genuinely feel that way. We must apologize to them. Make them feel better again. Make amends.

We must have justice!

Right?

FUCK THAT!

Getting justice implies a real moral wrong has been committed.

The only moral wrong I see is that JLaw was emotionally blackmailed into apologizing for some made up offense.

If you think I'm being crass, that I don't get it, that the beliefs really were sacred and deserving of everyone's veneration, then I'm afraid you've been bamboozled by the appeal to emotion here.

Let me make one thing clear. I will respect people 's reasonable requests. Don't scratch you ass on our sacred objects. Okay. But make it very clear what you mean by that prior to my actually doing it. Don't expect me to know hundreds and thousands of years of history completely unfamiliar, if not irrelevant, to me. Make yourself clear. Not after the fact. Before it.

That's your responsibility. If you want people to know something, you must teach them. You can't expect them to magically know what they don't know. That doesn't make a lick if sense.

By the way, as it turns out, it wasn't a sacred rock. Those don't exist. It wasn't even part of the burial grounds that JLaw disturbed. It was an umarked pile of rocks which may or may not have been related to the customary beliefs of the people. The damage was fixed and the rocks were put back exactly as they had been found, just in case.

Yet JLaw still was said to have committed a grave offense of butt to rock.


And just so you know exactly how topical I'm being with this blog post, here are some media outlets that have reported on it:

U.S. Weekly

People Magazine

E!News

Advocatus Atheist Ranked in the TOP 30 Atheist Blogs

According to the folks at Feedspot, a new web-venture media news blog, the Advocatus Atheist ranks in the top 30 of blogs based on, according to Feedspot, these criteria:


  • Google reputation and Google search ranking

  • Influence and popularity on Facebook, twitter and other social media sites

  • Quality and consistency of posts.

  • Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review 


I'm humbled and flattered to be included in these other fine blogs. And I'll put the badge on my site proudly. If anything, the analystics seem sound. And if we're going by raw numbers, well, that's good news for this blog which I've maintained for over a decade. Although I don't post nearly as much as I used to, I still get around to it once in a while. Once a month on average according to Feedspot, Alexa, and Google Analytics.

Here's to many more great posts!

Monday, November 21, 2016

My Final Thoughts on the Trump Election

This is my president? Try not to laugh. Impossible.

After the election I took a hiatus from social media and the Internet. I was too disturbed, disgusted, and disappointed to even gather a coherent thought let alone talk meaningfully about it. Now I feel I have regained some semblance of sanity and will share with you my final thoughts and opinions on the whole Trump election.

I wonder if anyone else has noticed Trump's plans always involve doing the opposite of what is reasonable,  prudent, or right.

According to Trump himself, he's going to quit social healthcare, regardless of who it affects. Very unwise.

He's going to quit the Asian Pacific Trade deal, never mind that it took decades to work out and it will benefit everyone involved. Very ill-advised.

He's going to get rid of Muslims and illegal aliens. Never mind that's racial profiling (evil) and doesn't make logistic sense on any rational scale. Very-xenophobic and racist.

He's going to ban reporters  from saying "mean" things about him even if they're true. Very fascist and totalitarian.

And he feels Global Warming isn't really real, so why bother, even though the science is in and it states that Global Warming is definitely real. Very ignorant.

And his lies are endless. People complained about Hillary lying all the time, but her lies were to cover things up. They were strategic. You may not have agreed with them, or liked her very much, but Trump's lying is far worse! All he knows how to do is lie.

First he's going to revoke the marriage equality thing, but then he's claiming he never said such things and that it's perfectly fine for gays to marry and he's not going to change the law but uphold it. But you can never really know what he's thinking, because he says one thing, then says another, then claims he said neither, and everyone is like, yeah, that's normal.

Yeesh.

In the words of Jon Oliver, "This is not normal."

And all I can wonder and be terribly impressed by are those who voted for him thinking that the things he says don't carry any moral weight, that they don't matter, that they aren't hurtful because, luckily, most those who voted for Trump are the white privileged, albeit sorely under-educated and morally retarded.

I use retarded in its literal sense of retardation. Not as an ad hominem. I don't think people are acting retarded, but their moral reasoning is clearly retarded, leaving them to make bad moral decisions. Concepts like altruism, fairness, kindness, virtue, compassion, empathy and the like are absent from their vocabularies. It's why Trump was so popular with them.

Yes, the fact of the matter is, I'm appalled and horrified by the anti-intellectual and morally vacant claims of Trump and his entire campaign.

But...I'm MORE appalled and terrified by the people who voted for him thinking he was the lesser of two evils or that he really would make America great again.

If I knew how to wage a war on all those who embrace blissful ignorance as if it was their God given right, then I wouldn't be so bothered by Trump and his crippling ignorance and vile rhetoric. But the fact that he feels it his duty to inflict his painful ignorance and debauched rhetoric on the rest of us, and his ignorant supporters gladly eat up his nonsensical propaganda like yummy, yummy candies, makes me very worried for my country.

Then there are the other type of Trump supporters who get mad at the so-called-justice warriors calling Trump out on all his BS. It's really strange how mad they get at honest and good people trying to criticize a not so honest and not so good person who they seem to idolize. Very strange. Can't really explain it apart from the blatant ignorance part and retardation of any moral sense a decent person might have.

But I digress. I've been ranting about social justice for over a decade in my writing, my books, on my five blogs, in numerous OpEds, on social media and elsewhere. And it's impacted about zero percent of the people who obviously voted for Trump.

I don't think many realize how disconcerting that is. I wasn't expecting to change millions of minds. But I was hoping that by speaking reason, by being virtuous, and living an ethical life and upholding high moral principles, people would read and say this makes more sense than what this right wing alt news site is claiming.

As disappointed as I felt after the election, I thought, I'm quitting Facebook. It obviously doesn't do any good. And it's true. There's no breaching the bubble. Everyone sets up their own social-political-global bio-dome and never come out of it.

I've been luckier than most too. I've traveled the world. Been to 14 countries. Been forced to open my mind. I've had to learn to understand other peoples and cultures. I've had to step outside my bio-dome. I've stood on the precipice of an entirely new worldview, terrified of what I might discover, but knowing there was no going back. Only going forward.

I sometimes take it for granted that most people have never had to face this very real crisis. They haven't had to grapple with reality in this way. They've been content to live in the blissful seclusion their bio-domes and internet safe-spaces can afford them.

They don't want to face reality. Hell, they don't have the skill set for it. Which is why, the things Trump says makes sense to them. He speaks their same language. The language of ignorance and fear. Of a person with a worldview so astonishingly narrow it could split the atom.

In the grander scheme of things, Trump is like a pimple. A redish-orange crusted whitehead just needing to be popped. His legacy will do some serious damage. How could it not? The gushing ooze of his loathsome ideas will ooze all over us like a cum-blasted-whore at an orgy, and his shameful level of ignorance and disgraceful lack of moral sense will make sure that everyone gets a taste. Those who voted for him will share in the culpability of the damage of his reprehensible actions and words and that which he blithely inflicts upon the nation he swears he wants to make great again.

But greatness doesn't come from tearing down others, and that's all Trump has really offered. His policies are bogus. His foreign policy is non-existent. He lacks all leadership qualifications. He's not dignified or skilled enough to handle diplomatic matters. He has no military service. His legacy is on fake, failed universities, slanderous abuse to women and minorities, and litany of crashed-and-burned business with heaps of bankruptcy. Those are facts. And people actually thought, well, this is better that voting for the status quo. This will at least bring some real change.

Maybe in this they are partially right. Maybe Trump will be the catalyst to usher along the change we need. The change that says, you fucking morons...you voted for this prick, now reap the benefits and suffer--and then, when you're screaming your safe-word through your mouth gag, then, that's when we'll begin to want real change and not the bad facsimile that Trump offers in false promises and hollow convictions.

Of course, after the clusterfuck the next four years will undoubtedly prove to be, others will be left to clean up his mess. And after the deforestation needed to produce enough tissues to get Trump's filth off us, we'll do the only thing we can do...move forward. Because there is no going back. Not after this.

And, moreover, there is no "Making America Great Again." If you bought into that lie, sorry, you're #DAF. There is no bygone time of perfect peace and prosperity. There is no point in time where America could lay claim to being the pinnacle of greatness everyone imagines it once was. That's always been an illusion. A pipe-dream. But that's the thing we need to chase. That's what will keep us moving forward. The pursuit to make America great, but full well realizing it will never be great again. The competition isn't with other countries or nations. The competition is with ourselves. Can we be greater than yesterday? Can I make the person I am today better than the person I was yesterday--you see, that's the real challenge. That's what the whole pursuit of becoming great again is about. It's about chasing the ideal--about pushing forward.

Trump's lie was sweet and tempting though. To slip back into some magical bygone era--where everything was flowers and sunshine. Yeah, right. Any level-headed person in touch with reality could see the lie for what it was. But so many bought into it, for whatever reasons. Maybe they were down on their luck, maybe the economy had kicked them in the nuts, maybe they were the disenfranchised. I doesn't matter. They bought into the lie, and they voted a vulgar imbecile into the highest office in the land. Because he promised them a cure to all their woes.

But after the election, there was the lingering sense of dread in all of us who were privy to the reality of the situation. Those of us who remained firmly disillusioned to the lies we were being fed. We felt sick to our stomachs after. Because that was the moment we realized all those sweet lies really only amounted to a mountain of arsenic.

It was devastating to say the least.

But like I said...

The only thing we can do is go forward.

Keep struggling to try to make America better than it was yesterday. But it will be a hard and long four years before America can ever lay claim to decency let alone greatness again. And the fact that this doesn't bother the nearly 60 million who voted for Trump sure as hell bothers me.

Because, the truth of the matter is, the people who bought into the lie will be trying to take two-steps back for every step forward the nation makes together. We'll lose some ground in the next four years, I practically guarantee it.

But what's the use of complaining, right? It doesn't do a lick of good. People are enjoying the psychedelic ride of the insane acid trip too much to care about reality right now. And snapping our fingers in front of their faces and shouting, "snap out of it," isn't going to do much good.

But I jot down these thoughts now; as a matter of record. As a way of trying to get past this undeniable trauma, and reminding myself, all we can do is move forward.

That's going to have to be good enough, because at the moment, that's the best any of us can hope to do.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Worst Part of Censorship is...



I write books for a living. Both fiction and nonfiction. And one thing that stick's in my craw is censorship. Whether it is censorship of an author or artist's artistic vision, I cannot tolerate censorial attitudes. Whether it is censorship of a live video of an author talking on YouTube about their craft, I think the urge to censor reveals a lot about the people wanting to censor others.

​Censorship is just something I cannot abide. And it's worth saying a few words on.

Censorship of ideas is a form of thought police. It limits free expression of ideas. It kills discourse dead. It interrupts the dialectic with the white noise of whiners and complainers who'd rather hear the sound of their own caterwauling than try to have a civil discussion.

​Like the image above, it leaves blanks spaces in our discourse. As the button says, the worst part of censorship is.... *message redacted.*
​It leaves you paranoid and wondering about what the information was. Was it important? Trivial? Was it dangerous? Or vital to our safety? You see, censorship changes our perception by deleting information that helps us evaluate or determine certain ideas. Perhaps worse still, is it leaves open a gap to be filled with Newspeak. That every overly politically correct dialog that is filtered through government bodies, regulated, and monitored. When governments begin to censor, things take a dangerous turn down a dark path. But it is no less disreputable when individual's try to censor one another either.

​I was recently censored by a fellow author in an online discussion because I called him on something he said that I perceived to be racist, and I may have used a curse word in my response. God forbid someone get angry at a racist comment and cuss at the person who said it. But, if you're wondering, I didn't use too harsh of language. Not really. Just told him to shove his puritanical white privilege where the sun don't shine.

​Now, after the fact, it's quite clear to me he didn't quite fully understand why his comment was racist. Institutional racism often goes unnoticed by those who have failed to check their white privilege. But it was basically a political directed comment about all the minorities and people complaining about the Trump election and the results of the presidential campaign. This person, although probably not intentionally trying to be racist, essentially made the unveiled comment that these people weren't true American's and they should get out.

​But it was in a public post, and the setting of the post was set to public, and I take that to mean the person has set up the discourse to be a public discourse. Instantly my post was removed and the author called me out to say he doesn't allow "bad" words.

​But he's fine with insinuating people of color and minorities should get out, because they can't accept the results of the election.

Way to stay classy.

What he neglected to do, however, was look at things from their perspective and maybe, just maybe, take the time to sympathize with their very real concerns. Instead, in condescending and dismissive fashion, he told them to get out.

​That's shirking responsibility and brushing your hands for dismissing an entire group of people--and that IS institutional racism. Instead of addressing their concerns, which may be genuine if not entirely valid, he wanted them to pack their opinions up, shut up, and leave. That won't solve anything. And quite frankly, it's rude as hell.

And I spoke out against what I perceived to be mistreatment of others.

And got censored for it.

​"My house, my rules," was the response I got.

And, well, it was on his blog, so he has the right to regulate content as he sees fit. But he chose to censor someone calling out institutional racism and who dared to challenge his point of view.

​And that's the problem, you see.

If you only want to retreat to the echo chamber of your own biases and prejudices, you'll never grow as an individual. Your imagination will suffer, because you will never expand your mind enough to make your art meaningful, your personality well rounded, or your worldview broad and all encompassing.

Your opinion will lack experience, knowledge, and will be restricted to all the other white noise of those with limited intellects, endless opinions on everything they know nothing about, and who seemingly have a never ending urges to speak their mind--as if their uneducated opinions meant anything to anyone with have a brain.

​But I won't sensor their opinions. Even the dumbass ones who say #DAF things like, "Trump was the lesser of two evils."

But I will shut down their racism.

​Because although I'm against censorship overall, there are two things I won't hesitate to censor. Racists. And sexist (often misogynistic) bigots.

Attack people of color, I shut you down.

Attack people for their gender or sexual orientation, I shut you down.

It may be your house, your rules, but why would I care about your rules if you're a sexist, racist, pig? Come on, I have a modicum of self respect, and acquiescence to bigotry is never noble.

What I will do, however, is shut you down.

That said, it is my humble opinion that restricting their views isn't technically censorship. Not really. Allow me to explain.

Censorship of hate doesn't limit how they can express their dissatisfaction. Not in the same way as limiting what words people can or cannot use. Shutting down their hate doesn't prevent them from stating in grown up words why they think or feel the way they do. But telling someone to stop complaining and get out does. And further, telling anyone who stands up for those people to shut up and then deleting their comments, is limiting in such a way that causes harm to the discourse.

So, you see, shutting down hate isn't censorship. It's getting rid of a cancer.

​Even so, I should point out that when it comes to racism and sexism that are parts of stories, characters, whether in books, television, or movies...I think that all of it should be allowed because it captures the climate of the time and preserves it for posterity. With perhaps the addendum that it's not propaganda unfairly singling out or targeting people to attack.

​But people who make direct attacks on others. I do not accept that as a fair form of expression. And I will always jump to the aid of the downtrodden, the abused, the underprivileged, the minority. And that you can count on.

Does that make me a keyboard justice warrior? Hardly. I don't seek out assholes trying to pick a fight. I just stand up to them when they're picking on others. Or when they're acting superior. Or when they are being dicks. And I'll call them on it.

Censor me if you'd like. But that says more about you than it does me.

​Anyway, I just wanted to vent. Sorry for the interruption. Now back to your regular scheduled programming.

Advocatus Atheist

Advocatus Atheist