Sunday, January 25, 2015

Conservatives Hate the Military

Now, I know what you're going to say.

You're going to say, "But Jack, I happen to know that a lot of people who identify as conservative willingly volunteer to serve in the military!  How can you say they hate the military if they volunteer for it?"

Yes, this is true, many people who consider themselves conservative do, in fact, volunteer to serve in the military.  For that, they have my respect and my thanks.  And most people, conservative and liberal alike, are supportive of our veterans and our active duty service personnel.

When I say that conservatives hate the military, I am once again talking about the so-called "corporate conservatives" I mentioned in my essay "This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things."  Corporate conservatives are seriously and chronically remiss in their care and support for American military personnel, both in terms of their own history of service in the military and in how they treat service members when they are in charge of the country.

Again, I know what you're going to say.  You're going to say, "But Jack, how can that be true?  Conservatives are always wearing shiny little flag pins and having their photos taken with soldiers and marines and sailors and they're constantly talking about supporting the troops in their election speeches!"

Yes, they do all those things.

Unfortunately, its all a lie.  They are all posers.

They're exploiting jimmied up, fake patriotism as a means to camouflage their true intentions. 

Now social conservatives (which I also talked about in "This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things") are true patriots who are willing to fight and die for their country when and if the time comes.  Corporate conservatives, on the other hand, are the worst sort of "show patriot," who make great public displays of mouthing all the right words to make people think they love their country.  But its all bullshit.  They aren't really patriots at all.

Unfortunately, it seems that most social conservatives haven't caught on to the fact that they are being bullshitted by their compatriots, or to the disservice, disrespect, and disdain that corporate conservatives regularly serve up to active duty personnel and to veterans.

Now, it is absolutely true that corporate conservatives support using (and abusing the hell out of) the troops.  They're willing to send the troops to die for various causes that only vaguely have anything to do with defending America.  Take Iraq, for example; when President George W. Bush ordered troops into Iraq, he did so in full knowledge that there was no need to.  Its just that Iraq was weak, and had oil reserves we wanted, and he assumed that the puppet government he installed after our troops wiped out Saddam Hussein would dance to the tune he called and that the people of Iraq would just idly sit by and let it all happen.  It was a case of schoolyard bullying (and we were the bully, folks) writ large, whose goal was to effectively steal another nation's natural resources.

The common theme is that conservatives are full of piss and vinegar.  No cool, patient diplomacy for them!  No Special Operations approach to belligerents.  Rather, its full on "shock and awe."  John Wayne style.

But then, what can you expect from a group of people who are so starry-eyed over spending billions of dollars on the latest weapons and attack systems, and who appropriate billions of dollars for them, even when the top generals are calling such systems boondoggles?  There is no end to how much of the taxpayer's money these corporate conservatives are willing to spend on military toys and on military adventurism, especially if such toys and adventurism allows the conservatives to funnel that self-same taxpayer funding into their own pockets.  And what fun is it to have a weapon system just sitting around!  They want to play with the toys, even if it means aggravating some situation somewhere in the world into a full blown shooting war.

So they are always eager to send "assets" (funny how they never call them "people) into harm's way.  But after the "fun" is over, when its time for the cleanup, corporate conservatives show their true colors.  When it comes to caring for and assisting wounded veterans, for providing psychological or financial assistance to the solders and their families who face tough times because of their experiences during combat, they suddenly become tighter than a gnat's ass.  When it comes to supporting the troops after the troops come home, these same people become so stingy with money that they won't even tip their hats.

Liberals, traditionally, are the exact opposite.  They are inherently weary of unchecked military spending.  They take Eisenhower's warning about the dangers of the "military-industrial complex" taking over our nation's foreign policy seriously.  They place heavy emphasis on diplomacy and negotiation in order to avoid armed conflict whenever possible.  They are reluctant to send human beings into the fire without overwhelming and important reasons to do so.  And they don't call them "assets" because they realize when they talk about the military, they are talking about real life human beings, a consideration that the corporate conservatives dismiss out of hand.

People who are sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, husbands, and wives.  For liberals, warfare is a last resort, not a first response as so often seems the case with conservatives.  When armed response finally seems unavoidable, liberals prefer intelligent and clear strategies, unlike the "roll in, shoot some guys, we win" attitude of conservatives that has been so painfully on display in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rather than "shock and awe," the preferred military tactics of liberals has always been surgical strikes:  do everything you can to keep your own people safe, try to minimize the trauma to the innocent local populace, and when you're done, you're done.  Bill Clinton's approach to the Kosovo War was a perfect example.  General Wesley Clark (a self-admitted liberal Democrat) oversaw NATO's strategic bombing to help end that war with zero American casualties.  Similarly, the Obama administration used careful intelligence gathering and surgical use of the Navy Seals to finally locate and eliminate Osama bin Ladin after eight years of the Bush administration's ham-handed floundering and blundering.  And once war is over, liberals move to assist service personnel and their families who need help, while conservatives suddenly decide that these "assets" are now "liabilities." and do their best to get rid of them.

For those of you reading this who are veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, please note that the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Association (IAVA) graded the members of Congress in terms of their support for veterans, with grades similar to those used to grade school papers.  These grades went from "A" for very supportive all the way to F for "no support at all."  92% of the D's and F's that were assigned were assigned to conservatives.  The truth is, if you are in the military, or have a son, daughter, mother, or father who is in the military, you should absolutely quaver in fear when a Republican becomes Commander-in-Chief.

Let's take a look at how things historically worked out for the troops and veterans when conservatives were in control:
  • 1777 to 1778:  Conservatives in the Continental Congress stiff General George Washington when it came to financial and material support.
  • 1922:  President Warren G. Harding vetoes the Veterans Bonus Bill, keeping hundreds of thousands of World War I veterans in poverty.
  • 1924:  President Calvin Coolidge tries to veto the re-admitted Veterans Bonus Bill.
  • 1932:  President Herbert Hoover orders the US Army to attack a camp of homeless World War I veterans.
  • 1959:  President Dwight D. Eisenhower rejects a proposed extension of the GI Bill that would aid millions of World War II veterans.
  • 1968:  Then Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon lies to the American people by running on a platform of ending the Vietnam War, while privately making a deal with the Communist leaders of North Vietnam to refuse all agreement proposals until after Nixon is in office.
  • 1983:  President Ronald Reagan American servicemen into harm's way with virtually no security into Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War, a war in which the United States has no stake, resulting in the deaths of over 200 US Marines.
  • 1983:  Primarily as a means to cover up his cowardly actions in Lebanon, President Ronald Reagan orders the invasion of the tiny island nation of Grenada.
  • 2002:  President George W. Bush sends American troops into not one, but two simultaneous, dubious wars.  In both operations, the conservatives ignore the advice of the consensus military opinion and send US troops into dual combat theaters with no clear overall objectives and absolutely no exit strategy, highly unrealistic expectations, and without proper preparation or intelligence regarding what the troops would encounter and how they would be received by the local populace.
  • 2008:  Congressional Republicans unsuccessfully try to block expansion of the GI Bill.
  • 2011:  Congressional Republicans unsuccessfully try to block VA payments to veterans affected by the use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
  • 2012:  Senate Republicans filibuster the Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012.
  • 2013:  House Republicans unsuccessfully seek to slash VA healthcare benefits for disabled veterans.
  • 2014:  House Republicans successfully block the Veterans' Bill.

By now the message of this essay should be quite clear.  If you are in the military, or have as family a member of the military, the last politicians you should be wanting in charge of military affairs are the conservatives.  The notion that they support you is one of the cruelest lies ever devised.  They will nickel-and-dime you to death.  They will use you, and once used will discard you like a soiled piece of toilet paper.  They'll send you off to be killed by a trumped up enemy while they rake in what their really after:  billions of dollars in war funding.  They will sacrifice you on the altar of their greed, all the while telling you to your face how brave and wonderful you are.  And sometimes, they'll turn you against your fellow service-members and veterans, because nothing is easier to conquer than an enemy in conflict with itself.

I cannot say it often enough.  If you are in the military, do not fall for conservative lies.  They are not your friends!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Bad Comedy: Conservatives and Small Government

Here is one solid truth that you can take to the bank:  No one with a lick of sense really wants a big, bloated, inefficient government that has been overrun with useless bureaucracy.

Nobody wants that, not even the liberals.

So the basic idea of a small, efficient government is a good one.  The thing is, when conservatives talk about "small government," and how they want to create one, they're basically lying to you.  They don't want a smaller government at all.  No, what both corporate and social conservatives really want is a big, big, BIG government that has its hands all over your life.

It's true.

Even though most literate conservatives (about 38% of the total number of conservatives in the US) are very wary of Thomas Jefferson and his ideals of personal freedom and liberty and the right of an individual to steer his own course, the conservatives have latched on to one Jefferson quote above all others and, if you listen to their rhetoric, made it into a religion:  "The government that governs least governs best."  Of course, Jefferson said that decades before he became president, realized that the idea of a small government was unrealistic, and went out and bought the Louisiana Territory from France without bothering to send Congress a note saying, "Hey, I've had an idea..."  Technically, Jefferson didn't have the authority to buy Louisiana on his own lookout, but you know what?  It doubled the size of the country and maybe quintupled the natural resources available to the still-infant United States.  It was a power-grab the likes of which we have only seen in the actions of the George W. Bush administration after the September 11 attacks.  And it was accompanied by the first really noteworthy enlargement of the government ever.

That's right, Mr. "Government that Governs Least" nearly tripled the size of the federal government overnight.

That was two hundred-some-odd years ago.  To this day, you'd be hard pressed to find a single American who would say that the Louisiana Purchase was a bad thing.  Even back then, when America was only a few hundred miles wide, had less than seven million citizens, enjoyed an economy smaller than the one enjoyed by the city of Cleveland, Ohio today, when "state-of-the-art weaponry" meant cast-iron artillery pieces, there was never a single hope of the United States having a small government.  It just wasn't possible.  There were too many things that needed looked after and managed.

So why would anyone think that the modern United States, whose territory spans a third of the diameter of the globe, with 300 million citizens, an economy worth trillions of dollars that is the clearly most dominant economic force in the world, with tens of thousands of corporations getting into trouble around the globe, with a military numbering in the millions of persons with state-of-the-art weapons the likes of which would have been considered science fiction even 40 years ago, could possibly be managed by a small government?

Seriously, anyone who really, truly believes that needs to report back to High School to attend a remedial civics lesson.

Or maybe needs to report to the nearest psychiatry clinic.

Of course, the only people who would believe that are either social conservatives or libertarians.  Both liberals and corporate conservatives know full well that "small government" is just another form of conservative deceit, just like the idea of a "free market."

Once upon a time, the rich and powerful loved government.  Of course, this was back in the days of feudalism, when the king was the benefactor of the nobility, who were allowed free reign over the serfs and peasants living on their lands.  This was when government and Big Religion were permanently intertwined.  The combined behemoth of political/military power and religious authority controlled every facet of a person's life.  But then, all sudden-like, this new and radically different sort of government popped its head out of the grass, and this new form of government was all aboutWe the People... and all men created equal... and certain inalienable rights and other ideas that threatened to utterly demolish the whole wonderful system of the upper crust having its way and the commoners having to just suck it up and suffer in silence.

A just democratic government stands for the people -- all of the people, not just the rich and powerful.  It stands for the minority against the might of the majority.  It protects all of the people, not just the treasured few.  This ought to be self-evidence for anyone who has the slightest clue as to what America is all about, but surprisingly sometimes those people are really thin on the ground.  It turns out that some Americans really don't much like the whole "democracy" thing, and would like to hijack it if they could in order to bring us back to the days of the rich ruling having ultimate power over the poor.

We call those people "conservatives."

And here I mean both the wealthy, powerful corporate conservatives and the sometimes-loveable, sometimes-not mush-for-brains self-delusional idiots known as social conservatives, who somehow have convinced themselves that their corporate colleagues on the right actually give a shit about them.

These conservatives see the government as "being in their way."  And so is born the idea of shrinking the government.  As tax-dodging felon and conservative cult leader Grover Norquist once said, "I want a government so small we can drown it in the bathtub."  But just like the "free market" that corporate conservatives proffer as the savior of the economy is actually a rigged market, so too the "small government" that the conservatives envision is actually a dragon hiding its true nature by disguising itself as a rosy-cheeked child.

Here is the truth.

What the conservatives really want to do is simultaneously strip the government of its means to protect the common man against the predation of the rich and powerful, while simultaneously maximizing the government's ability to control and coerce the common man.

Think about this:  conservatives have never once supported a budget which reduced military spending by a single penny.  The United States of America spends more than the rest of the world's military forces combined every year.  There are billions and billions of dollars that could be saved simply by removing the bloat from the military budget.  We could make it all more efficient by simply streamlining the process by which military production contracts are handled, and by eliminating overly-expensive and needless boondoggles.  But the conseratives won't accept a single copper penny being cut from the military's budget.  In addition, the conservatives cheerfully advocate and support military adventurism all over the globe.  After all, we've got this gigantic military toybox, we might as well play with the toys, right?

On what planet is this "small government?"

I ask, because this is Earth, where such a system requires a bloated government.

The military-industrial gravy train rolls on, year after year, decade after decade.  In addition, most American military adventurism is nothing more than the promotion of US business interests by way of violent force.  Hiding behind the clarion call to defend America against the boogeyman of fascism, communism, terrorism, or whatever the latest "ism" happens to be is the conservative desire to utterly control and dominate the world economically.  In the cases of the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the hatred of communism teamed up with a keen determination to protect and preserve American access to southeast Asian resources and trade markets.  American invasions of the Middle East are driven more by the desire to control the greatest single supply of petroleum in the world than it is the desire to "put a stop to terrorism."

Big business like this requires big government, if for no other reason than to settle the legal disputes the various corporations find themselves constantly engaged in with each other.  Beyond that, Big Business loves government regulations and red tape, because such things make it difficult for newcomers, small fry, and less-dexterous competitors to compete.  And of course, the more bloated and corrupt the government, the more Big Business is able to purchase people inside the government who will work toward the best interests of Big Business instead of the best interests of We the People...  

A small, lean government just wouldn't be able to serve these important functions at all.  A huge and complex governmental system crawling with paid lobbyists and bought politicians -- precisely what the average Joe would describe as "big government" - is absolutely ideal for corporate conservatives.  The average citizen has not a single lobbyist.  The oil industry alone employs thousands of them.

Meanwhile, some of the biggest schemes of the corporate conservatives involve the vast natural resources that are held in trust for We the People... by the federal government.  This land, this air, this water, these minerals, these trees, these animals, all belong to We the People... but Big Business wants and needs them.  A small, efficient government might effectively protect these precious resources.  A big, clumsy, corrupt government can hide all manner of shenanigans, allowing Big Business to get its claws on We the People's... property.  From Warren G. Harding's Teapot Dome scandal, to Ronald Reagan literally giving thousands of acres of old growth forest away to the lumber and paper industries for free, to George W. Bush's attempt to steal the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from We the People..., conservatives within the government are always looking for new, creative ways to steal natural resources from the public and transfer them to the hands of private corporations.

By the way, this includes the public airwaves that conservatives have used so effectively to dominate the media, as well as the internet, Medicade, and the Social Security fund.  They see these things as ripe fruit ready for picking.

So corporate conservatives want and need a big government in order to get away with robbing We the People... blind.  They need a pliant, easily manipulated and purchased government willing to follow directions.  When they wax eloquent about "small government," it's just code for wanting to dismantle all the elements of the government that stand in the way of their exploting the people and the natural resources of the United States.

The eventual goal of some of the more hardcore corporate conservatives is complete corporate control over society.  Anyone who has studied history knows there is a word for this goal.

That word is Fascism.

Pure and simple.  Fascism.  An end of government "of the people, for the people, and by the people" and a beginning of government "of the corporations, for the corporations, and by the corporations."  An end to America as we know it.  And while this seems far off, it really isn't.  Just take a good, long look at certain Supreme Court decisions.  You know, the ones that grant corporations status as a human being, and religious rights, and free speech rights.

Such a government isn't "coming."  Its already here.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

So Sorry, But No.

"fem-i-nism"  the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.  Which means, ever so politely, you are incorrect.  Your strong belief in the right to political, social, and economic equality between men and women makes you a feminist.  Deal with it.
~ Mark Curlee

Mark Curlee, who is a friend of mine, hit me with this today over on Facebook.

No.  Sorry, still not a feminist.

Just because I believe in gender equality does not mean I have some sort of automatic membership in a divisive and harmful political doctrine whose actions do not live up to its own dogma.

I find too much about modern organized feminism -- the so-called "third wave" feminism -- offensive to want to associate myself with them.  I dislike how they cherry-pick the obvious outrages, like workplace harassment and rape, and then imply that we, men that is, are in favor of such things if we do not immediately fall into complete lockstep with them in every single particular.  Or if we don't start waving the feminist flag and cheering on the women who are loudly denigrating all men, everywhere, every chance they get.  Or, in this case, refuse to have a label imposed on us by others.

I have been wary of both the word feminism and the movement it is attached to.  Not because I am anti-woman, but because I am anti-hysteria.  I am opposed to overbearing, extremist fanatics.

The loudest, most visible, and most influential feminists today are the ones who make public statements that all men are predators.  That we, as a gender, are dangerous animals that need to be leashed and controlled because otherwise, no one would be safe from us.  I'm sorry, but why would I ever want to wear a label that said those sorts of things about me?

And its not just how they treat men.  I object to how feminism treats women who choose to take on the "traditional" woman's role of raising a family full time, or who take secretarial jobs.  Or any of a hundred other "traditional roles" that can be just as fulfilling as other jobs.  These women are called traitors and sell-outs and closeted self-haters.

I thought part of the point of feminism was to allow women more choices.  Apparently its only to allow them choices the third-wave feminists approve of.  Who'd have guessed.

And this is not just me talking.  This is why you seldom see accomplished women rushing to declare themselves feminist anymore.  Several high profile women who are at the top of their profession have refused the label because they don't want to be associated with the fanatics either.

For a long time, feminism has been one-sided.  Despite the dictionary definition Mark is so proud of, feminism ignores -- BLATANTLY IGNORES -- the way gender bias harms men, too.

You never hear feminists talk about the fact that our schools are punishing our male children for the crime of acting like boys.  Or how college enrollment among men is only 30% what it is for women.  Or how men commit suicide more often, or suffer more workplace deaths, or are homeless to the tune of 485% of the female homeless population.

Worst of all, feminism is hypocritically guilty of prejudice itself.  Men are stereotyped as the problem.  We are violent sex-crazed predators who are a potential harm to society as a whole.  Do you really want your sons growing up being told that all the time?  That just because of their gender, they are a menace to society?

I sure don't.

Most men oppose gender bias and the abuse of women.  I certainly do.  But to say I have to go about calling myself a "feminist" because of it strikes me as horribly self-righteous and judgmental.

Sort of like feminism itself.  Self-righteous and judgmental, I mean.

So sorry, but no.  I am not a feminist.  And I won't ever be one.


And less than 24 hours afterward, and in response to my explaining why I refuse to wear the feminist label, I get this sort of response:

Thank you for making it abundantly clear to anyone reading that you're just an woman-hating MRA who has absolutely no qualms about propagating the Big Lie technique.

So once again, you cannot criticize feminism without being declared a huge misogynist.  Quelle surprise.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

This Is Why I Make Such A Big Deal About Women Who Rape Men

On Facebook, I shared a link to a news story entitled "The Hard Truth About Girl-on-Guy Rape" that not only talked about how much more common it is than anyone believes, but how men who are raped by women have almost nowhere to turn for help without getting ridiculed, or having their masculinity questioned.

Almost immediately after, I received the following as a Private Message on Facebook.  I quote it in full, without editing, with the express permission of the person who sent it to me.  When I thanked him for sharing his story with me, he said, "You are welcome to use it anonymously if you wish."  I asked him if he was sure about it, and he once again said I could share the story with other people.

This is why I make such a big deal about this subject, folks.  I make a big deal about because there are men out there who have gone through this trauma (and yes, it is a trauma) but who feel they can't come forward for one reason or another, and who nevertheless who need to talk about it with someone if only so they know that they are not alone.  That there are other men who have gone through this, and that there are people who understand and who care.  That he isn't weak.  That he is still a human being and that he still matters.

And if I only reach one of them, if what I do only helps one such man, then my job here is done.

So here it is.  His story.

Thanks for posting the link to the article on The Hard Truth About Girl-on-Guy Rape.
About 23 years ago I was taken advantage of by 2 women at a party when I was too drunk to defend myself. There was a group of people around as I called out no, and no one did anything. I have never felt I could do anything about it. I was not interested in either girl, and one was underage. The next day I confronted two friends that hosted the party (a married couple), and the two girls denied knowing anything about it, saying they were too drunk to remember anything.  
It is something I don't think about generally, but seeing the article at least made me feel less like "the only guy" to have that happen.
I haven't discussed it with anyone over the years. And would not be comfortable in public (though knowing FB is not very secure format), I never even told my ex-wife during the 14 years we were together.  (I had myself thoroughly tested for STD's after incident just in case).
I was stunned by the numbers quoted in the article.
Thank you for your bravery.

Friday, January 16, 2015

What If the United States Really Was a Christian Nation?

Let's pretend the United States really was the Christian nation that the fundamentalist social conservatives and religious rightists claim it is for just a moment.

Seriously, let's just take them at their word and assume that they're right:  the United States actually is a Christian nation.

So, does America the Christian Nation live up to its lofty religious beliefs?

America, as a sovereign nation, has never once in its history actually acted according to the teachings of Jesus Christ, as depicted in the Bible.  Not once.  Oh, sure, America as a nation sends a miniscule percentage of its vast and awesome wealth in aid to assist this or that third world country currently suffering from poverty, rampant disease, and natural disasters, but the very same fundamentalist conservatives who insist that this is a Christian nation want to put an end to that practice, and want to end it yesterday!

The truth is that the primary impulse from most funamentalist Christians in this country has been explotative selfishness, and this has been true since before we actually existed as the United States.

The first colonists from England had barely just arrived to the shores of the New World when they started stealing and murdering the indigenous inhabitants.  You know, that's pretty much the way the Hebrews acted when they entered the land of Canaan now that I think about it.  So perhaps we can call this behavior "biblical", but not "Christian."  Anyway, these English so-called Christian pilgrims quickly expanded their program of exploiting and subjugating the natives, promoting superstition and fear, murdering "witches" (a fad that they shared with a lot of fundamentalist Christians of their day) and establishing, via the Dutch, a lively trade with certain African warlords for that all-important commodity for their burgeoning empire:  cheap labor in the form of slaves.

And when they weren't murdering the natives, hanging and stoning people for being witches, or whipping their slaves into obedience, these enterprising "followers of Christ" were busily chopping down every tree they could find and shooting every animal they came across; both trees and animals were aspects of "nature" they believed they were given dominion over.  Again, we can see Old Testament style ruthlessness, but not a hint of the love promoted by Jesus Christ.

Adding to the problem is the fact that the rise of the corporations as a power bloc in America began almost as soon as the country was founded.  The very same folks that Jesus tossed out of the temple in Jerusalem, the people he warned had as much chance of getting into heaven as a camel had to passing through the eye of a needle, had already taken control of the government and were steering the brand new nation toward their own personal destination:  the Land of Eternal Greed.

This version of America is the same one that is still present today, what with its celebration of filthy rich celebrities who are famous for being filthy rich celebrities, its millionaire athletes, and its lineup of corporate titans who, despite having more money than they could ever hope to spend, drive themselves to acquire more and more and more.  Because enough is never really enough.  This nation is quite apart from any sort of Christian ideal.

The successful conquest of the United States by the corporations ended any concept of the American public concentrating en masse on thoughts of philosophy, art, science, love, or religious devotion.  These things would still be pursued by a few, but the overwhelming majority were lured into another way of living:  that of "consume consume consume."

Jesus said, "The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise." (That's Luke 3:10, just so you know.)  The corporations say, "If you've only got two tunics, you're worthless; what you need are a dozen of those things!  Get to a mall, now!"  Nothing is too childish, nothing is too silly, nothing is too meaningless to be obsessed over until you purchase it, at which point you'll be told that what you really need isn't what you just bought, but something you need to buy next.  And of course, while you're engaged in this endless cycle of purchase, purchase, purchase, your mind is far, far away from any sort of actual enlightening thought or activity.

Such is the real religion of the United States of America.

Currently, America is exporting some of the most dangerous products in the history of the world, including predatory business ideals, banking practices that highly resemble Mafia protection rackets, and industrial practices that are just short of criminal.  We send pesticides and herbicides oversees that are so toxic we've forbidden their use within the borders of the United States (apparently the rest of the world doesn't matter much).  This, too, is the product of the corporate domination of America.  And yet, we never hear a peep of protest from would-be Christians against this sort of "missionary work" as their so-called "Christian nation" deals evil to the rest of the world.

Meanwhile, the American military-industrial complex arose that has never seen a lethal weapon it didn't want to sell to the general public at wholesale prices.  This has had an interesting effect on how the timeline of history has been portrayed in American textbooks.  History actually comes across as a continual cycle of "prelude-to-war", "war,", and then "prelude to war" again.  In its entire 238 year history (as I write this), America the So-Called Christian Nation has only been "at peace" (by which I mean, not fighting anyone at all) for only about 10 years or so.

In only the last 75 years, the United States has carpet bombed Europe, dropped two nuclear weapons on inhabited cities, rained bombs and napalm and agent orange all over Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, invaded tiny nations like Grenada and Panama that had no hope of standing up to us, and then proceeded to dump "shock and awe" all over Iraq and Afghanistan.  The level of justification used for these actions varied from definitely necessary to not necessary whatsoever, but regardless of justification, "peace through warmongering" is the precise opposite of what Jesus taught.

It is clear, based on America's culture of consumption and endless military adventurism that America is about as far from being a Christian nation as it can be.  The only time that America ever strayed into the actual ideological territory championed by Jesus in the Bible was when it tries to take care of, and expand the rights and dignity of the disenfranchised and abused:  the poor, women, children, people of color, Native Americans, immigrants, gay, lesbian, and transgender people, the sick, the elderly, the disabled, the oppressed, and the hungry.  In other words, those outsiders that Jesus Christ said would eventually "inherit the earth."

America has a special term for such people.  We call them We the People...

Monday, January 12, 2015

My Problem With Anita Sarkeesian and Feminist Frequency, Part 2

So, Anita Sarkeesian...

One of my other problems with Anita Sarkeesian is that she used crowd-funding to generate almost $160,000 using Kickstarter, and then produced two videos about how female characters are treated in video games.

Within a week of posting the first of these videos, entitled "Damsels in Distress Part One:  Tropes vs. Video Games", on YouTube, she disabled all feedback systems on her videos.  She disabled comments, rating systems, and even public access to the video's statistics.  Apparently, Anita Sarkeesian has decided that we, the public, the people who donated money to support her project, are not allowed to have an opinion when it comes to the content and conclusions of that project.

Granted, her videos did generate the usual amount of trollish insults and nonsense, but all YouTube videos generate troll comments.  But -- and here is the point, boys and girls --  in this case, the comments that pointed out legitimate holes in her research, instances where her conclusions were based on threadbare "evidence" or that seemed to obviously misinterpret the evidence or weren't even supported by the evidence, outnumbered the troll comments to the tune of around eighteen to one.

That is, there were eighteen legitimate critical comments to every troll comment.

Rather than address such legitimate criticism, Sarkeesian decided to sweep it all under the rug and pretend it didn't exist.  And when that tactic didn't work and these same criticisms began appearing in blogs, vlogs, tweets, and Facebook posts, she pulled the misogynist card out of her deck and started hitting people who were being "mean" to her with it.

To put it bluntly, Sarkeesian refuses to address legitimate criticism, and loudly and forcefully claims that anyone who dares show that her "research" has problems isn't doing so because her "research" has problems.  No, they're being "mean" to her because they are irrational women-haters.  And when other people point out how she is dodging the question, and how if these issues with her research are not legitimate it should be easy for her to correct their impressions, she just makes more accusations of sexism and misogyny.

And now she's claiming that death threats were made to her.  This accusation came just as talk of an investigation into her possible embezzlement of the research funding has entered public awareness.

Oh, did you not hear about that?  Yeah, it seems those two videos only cost around $23,000 to make, and the rest of the money apparently vanished into the vapor.  She has refused all inquiries into the rest of the money, even as she opened up a new Kickstarter to help her fund more videos.  Now, as I said, she's refusing to answer questions about it, but people who are keeping an eye on Anita Sarkeesian have noted that her wardrobe has taken a noticeably uptick in quality, and she's driving a new $50,000 sports car these days and she's no longer living in a two-room walkup but rather has apparently bought herself a house.

I'm not saying she stole the money and is spending it on herself.  I've got no direct evidence of that.  I'm just saying that its amazingly convenient that just as the unused $135,000 disappeared, she started showing up in new clothes, driving a new car, and living in a new house.  And please make note, the moment people started asking her about where the money went if not into the videos it was intended for, she made several announcements on Twitter that she received death threats.

Thus successfully derailing the inquiry into what happened to the rest of the money.  You'll excuse me if this is something else I find amazingly convenient.

Anita Sarkeesian claims that her refusal to respond to legitimate critics is because there are no legitimate critics.  Only hateful misogynists engaged in online harassment.  Let us take a moment to make note of the response by the gaming community to other misinformed critics of gaming, shall we?

For instance, let's look at the late Roger Ebert, the film critic for the Chicago -Sun Times.  After he famously claimed that video games cannot and will never be considered "art", he received a large number of rather hateful responses, including death threats, rape threats (no, really) and comments questioning his sexuality and sexual tastes.  His Wikipedia page was vandalized (as was Sarkeesian's, I should note in the interest of fairness), and even today, there exists on the internet a subtle hatred for the man among the online gaming community.

So, how did Roger Ebert react to this explosion of hatred?

Actually, he not only ignored the empty trollish comments and threats that he knew were just "the angry ramblings of misbehaving children intent on throwing a tantrum" (his words to describe the people making the threats), he also went out of his way to respond, at length, to those people who responded to his statements with rational, well-thought-out criticism.  And after seeing rational counter-argument, Ebert was mature enough to admit that while he still didn't quite see video games as art, he could at least acknowledge that to some people, they might reach that level.  He also admitted that he might change his opinion after more personal research into the subject.

Anita Sarkeesian, on the other hand, has done the complete opposite.

Not only has she gone out of her way to block and ignore all legitimate criticism, she constantly itemizes and publicizes the "angry ramblings of misbehaving children intent on throwing a tantrum" and advertises it as much as she can.  Now, technically there isn't anything really wrong with this; Sarkeesian has the right to flaunt the fact that she has come under fire from internet trolls if that is what she wants.

However, her behavior does raise an ugly question:  if all this harassment really did put her in danger and made her afraid for her life, why didn't she contact the authorities?

Why did she save all this vitriol up until she was ready to pursue a publicity campaign that made her look like one of the "damsels in distress" she railed against in her video?

If it was so bad, then why weren't the authorities brought in until after the legitimate critics began to outnumber the trolls on her videos?

It has been noted elsewhere that her Kickstarter plea-for-funds video was the only video in which she did not disable comments.  Or rather, the comments were not disabled until her Kickstarter goals were reached.  Or, as one critic put it, only after the hate-mail she received could no longer be monetized.  That's right.  Anita Sarkeesian played the role of the poor helpless of victim of the terror-inducing evil men in order to generate sympathy, and Kickstarter dollars.

Her entire attitude toward this has been "I refuse to even acknowledge the legitimate critics of my work, but see how much I am a victim?  Woe is me!  Give me money!"

Something else that has bothered me about Sarkeesian and her project is the nature of the project itself.  Had video game critic Jack Thompson, or even Roger Ebert, made a series of videos commenting about how all video games reinforce sexist stereotypes about women, no one would have noticed, or reacted, to the overwhelming negative response such an ridiculous claim.  But since a well-known and vocal female pop-culture critic makes the same claim, and receives a negative reaction from the gaming community, she receives praise and a lot of sympathy donations to her Kickstarter.

The misogynistic treatment of women in the online gaming community and in gaming culture in general is legitimately a serious issue.  It needs to be addressed, and something needs to be done about it.  It bothers me to no end that Anita Sarkeesian is capitalizing on this issue to her own gain.  She has treated the entire subject as a means to enrich herself, to make herself famous outside of her usual YouTube haunts, and to turn herself from an unknown researcher whose scholarly claims are under legitimate fire into a famous "feminist icon" who is the victim of "the patriarchy".

She's taking a serious issue, and turning it into a con-game for her own benefit.

Nothing good has come out of this.  Nothing.

In fact, I'd say that Anita Sarkeesian and her actions have actually harmed the cause of gender equality and the better portrayal of women in video gaming.  Other critics have stated that by tossing about the term "misogyny" is a flippant manner, Sarkeesian has actually helped undermine the power of that word.  By attributing to "misogyny" what can better be explained by laziness, profit-mongering, and pandering to the core audience, the meaning of the word itself is undermined.

So... do I think there should be more and better portayals of female characters in gaming?

Yes.  Absolutely.

Do I think Anita Sarkeesian deserved being the target of internet trolls who served no purpose other than to give her ammunition for her claims of misogyny?

No.  No one deserves to be treated that way.

But do I think Anita Sarkeesian needs to stop playing the victim card and stop lumping her legitimate critics in with the internet trolls?

You'd better damn believe it.  She needs to come clean about her research methods, the lies she told her backers, and the fact that she's had enough time to produce the entire series by now, but seems stuck getting past the second video.

Her actions are not those of an honest researcher.  They are the actions of a con-man.