Why Elliot Rodger’s misogyny matters

Must-read on the Isla Vista terrorist.

we hunted the mammoth

A chart posted by Elliot Rodger, giving his chilling spin on a manosphere meme depicting supposed female "hypergamy" A chart posted by Elliot Rodger, giving his chilling spin on a manosphere meme depicting supposed female “hypergamy”

When a white supremacist murders blacks or Jews, no one doubts that his murders are driven by his hateful, bigoted ideology. When homophobes attack a gay youth, we rightly label this a hate crime.

But when a man filled to overflowing with hatred of women acts upon this hatred and launches a killing spree targeting women, many people find it hard to accept that his violence has anything to do with his misogyny. They’re quick to blame it on practically anything else they can think of – guns, video games, mental illness – though none of these things in themselves would explain why a killer would target women.

In the case of Elliot Rodger, who set out on Friday night aiming, as he put it in a chilling video, to…

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#auspol On Bill Heffernan’s total non-hoax with a totally fake bomb

SCENE

INTERIOR, SMALL PLAIN MEETING ROOM IN AUST PARLIAMENT HOUSE; SECURITY STAFF ARE ALL IN THOSE SHITTY BROWN MOULDED PLASTIC SCHOOL CHAIRS; ENTER SECURITY BOSS WITH CLIPBOARD AND IMPRESSIVE MOUSTACHE

BOSS
Thanks for coming everyone – I’m sure you’re aware of the need for this emergency meeting on P-House security procedures, so I’ll skip the usual business and go straight the motions tabled. Motion 1: that we keep that embarrassing unhinged geriatric liability Bill Heffernan the fuck away from this place forever, until he dies, or at least implement the requirement that he be wheeled around on a sack-truck like Hannibal Lecter and fed with a straw.

SECURITY STAFF
(in perfect unison)
FUCKING SECONDED!

_FIN_

Frankly, some people simply don’t deserve to speak

Over at Why Evolution is True, Professor Jerry Coyne implicitly compares the Rutger University student body’s protests against Condoleeza Rice being invited to speak at their commencement (and her eventual withdrawal) to Brandeis College’s recent withdrawal of a speaking invitation and honorary doctorate to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, well-known atheist activist, author and critic of Islamic oppression, in response to pressure from an Islamic lobby group. Towards the end, Prof Coyne states:

I’m no conservative, but these Commencement Police frighten me, and paint students as self-entitled, fragile beings who can’t countenance dissent—unless it’s their own.

Now, I’m not sure what the deal is in US universities and how important commencement or graduation addresses and speakers actually are, but I think listing Rice’s withdrawal from a speaking engagement in the face of student and faculty protests along with Brandeis’ shameful behaviour in response to Islamic censors is something of a false comparison. I think that students and staff should have the right to object to a prospective speaker and I commented thusly (with edits marked):


The administration Rice was part of was a shameful era in US [and global] politics. She enabled and participated in some of the most egregious illegality and brutal imperialism that country’s ever engaged in. It’s gratifying that people of a younger generation realised that and let their school know that they did not want to hear from her on such a significant day – that they did not consider her an aspirational figure, someone to be emulated, someone to be looked up to, someone with an honourable legacy.

I can understand the “forget her politics and let her speak” point of view, but that’s hard to do. It’s not like her politics are some mere abstract difference of opinion – her politics enabled her to rise to her position in the GOP and the Bush administration; her politics informed her decisions and actions while she was there. Rice’s “politics” had real, measurable and tragic consequences for untold numbers of innocent people – it’s not “PC gone mad!!1” to point this out and object to it, it’s completely justifiable. Also, considering the extreme unlikelihood of Rice (or any of her co-conspirators) ever being held to account in court for their crimes while in office, having students successfully object to you speaking at their event is a miniscule price to pay. [I’m sure a conservative heroine like Rice has more than enough invitations to sort through.]

And I’m afraid I can’t accept this student protest as anything approaching equivalency with Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s disinvitation by Brandeis [I don’t know anything about the other people on the list in the OP so I’ll not comment]. Students objecting en masse to the presence of a speaker who participated in a demonstrable breach of international law is not comparable to a college board withdrawing an invitation in response to pressure from a typically thin-skinned Islamic lobby group (also, Brandeis have censored Ali’s film “Honour Diaries” in which she documents Islamic oppression, on the grounds that it would offend Muslims). Brandeis are far more guilty of censorship and “PC gone mad” than are the student body of Rutgers – it’s their day and they expressed their opinion of a speaker.

Finally, I would only consider Obama speaking instead (for example) as a minor improvement on Rice. He’s expanded the drone-murders and the illegal domestic surveillance, kept Gitmo open, kept the PATRIOT Act and more or less kept or expanded all of the Bush era’s anti-human policies and it was his government that rewarded the banks responsible for the financial meltdown of 2008 with a $700 billion bailout. He’s no lefty by any means, he’s centrist at best and corporatist all the way through.

An interesting post-script to this is that the LA Times piece Prof Coyne links to doesn’t just mention Rice’s withdrawal in the face of protests, it lists a few other notables who’ve been protested against after being named as speakers:

Comedian Ben Stein [is] among the small group to see their invitations revoked after protests.

Stein had been tapped to speak at the University of Vermont commencement in 2009, but his denunciation of the theory of evolution caused concern among the community.

Now, Stein hasn’t been seen around much since his hateful, paranoid lie-fest of a propaganda piece, 2008’s “Expelled” (which was rife with dishonesty even before it started filming, the producers going to the lengths of lying to people like PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins about its title and content to secure their involvement), but I’ve covered him before. Stein didn’t just “denounce the theory of evolution” either, he flat-out lied about what it says, what it doesn’t say and more or less blamed it for the Jewish Holocaust, saying on a Christian TV show on the Trinity Broadcasting System: “Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place, and science leads you to killing people.”

I don’t recall Prof Coyne or anyone else objecting to the protests against Stein; indeed, in this piece here he takes a swipe at infamous creationist attack-gerbil and Discovery Institute lawyer-not-scientist Casey Luskin for sticking up for Stein. Casey had written that by revoking Stein’s invitation to speak, the University of Morris was “discriminating against scholars who hold a minority scientific viewpoint.” Prof Coyne responded thusly:

Let’s be clear: creationism is not a “minority scientific viewpoint.” It is not a scientific viewpoint at all. Protesting creeping creationism is not suppression, it is our duty as scientists.

So protesting against a known liar and propagandist against science is a matter of duty, but protesting against a known liar, propagandist and violator of human rights and international law is a case of overbearing political correctness? Protesting creeping creationism is a moral obligation and protesting the validation of neo-conservative murder and human rights violations is just, what, ideological whinging? Stein’s demonisation of science was a blatant falsehood aimed at existing true believers and which had little impact outside the bubble of US Christian creationism; the rapacious neo-conservatism of 2001-2008 actually did lead to killing people.

Invoking “Commencement Police” and calling Rutgers’ student body (and faculty, in the case of Rice) “fragile beings who can’t countenance dissent – unless it’s their own” misses the mark, I think. These are people – not just bright-eyed ideological kids, but staff and professors – taking a stand against validating, even rewarding a person whose public record of words and behaviour is orders of magnitude more damaging than those of Ben Stein. We should be applauding them and lauding their strength, not assigning them epithets and accusing them of fragility.

Schisms and protests and sects, oh my!

Recently I decided to ask the internet machine how many Christian denominations there were – I can’t recall the precise impetus for the inquiry; nonetheless I encountered a Wiki page listing a number around about 40,000. Which is a lot of schisming in the 1600-odd years since the first Council of Nicaea.

My intergoobling also took me to a blog article from a couple of years ago addressing the same question, which I duly read (because it was short) and found interesting (because it was). The main lessons I took from this post were that many thousands of Christian sects did not equate to many thousands of disparate beliefs; that Christians should concentrate more on what they have in common that on what separates them and that critics of Christianity probably shouldn’t latch too tightly to the vast number of Christian organisations as an argument in and of itself against faith. The writer, unkleE, concludes thusly:

The denominations measured in [the quoted reports] are not indicators of separate belief, and quoting them as such is a mis-statement of the data. Due to the large number of independent churches, it is impossible to know how much christian belief varies beyond that defined by the 40 or so groups listed in Wikipedia.

My personal view is that christians divide and give themselves denominational-type names too easily. Jesus said his followers should be “one”, and many of these separate organisations are the result of serious divisions. It would be better if we emphasised what we have in common more, and worried less about these divisions.

Nevertheless, critics of christianity have work to do before they can realistically define the degree of division.

I agreed and then I commented, just as thusly:

There probably is a meaningful distinction to be made between 40,000 different Christian organisations as opposed to 40,000 different sets of beliefs, especially when criticising Christianity or the communication skills of its deity. When a religion – or any idea, philosophy, artistic style or cultural practice – spreads across nations and continents, you will always see subtle differences emerge; the differences become less subtle the further from the point of origin you go.

However, my contention has always been that it isn’t necessary to point out the vast numbers of Christianity’s sects if you’re using schisms as a point against its veracity [or, for that matter, the unwillingness of its deity to settle any differences – H]; the mere fact that there are just two opposing sects is a good enough starting point. The fact that the main sects of Catholicism and Protestantism have been at odds – and, not just historically but within living memory, often at literal, bloody, bitter war – with each other, is more than enough to make an argument against the communication skills of, if not God himself then at the very least the early church fathers. When the argument is over the ultimate question of who gets to Heaven and how, even a subtle difference can, has and does lead to violent disagreement. The fact that schisms have occurred more than once in the history of Christianity also calls into question the nature of the doctrine itself – if kings or theologians or scholars can simply declare certain dogmas no longer applicable, whence the infallibility of scripture? Why should any one part of it be compelling at all if any other part of it can be declared arbitrarily invalid?

It isn’t just Christianity that has this problem, either. Sectarian strife within Judaism isn’t well-publicised, but it happens and has historically led to demonstrable harm and the Sunni-Shia split in Islam has seen, most recently in post-invasion Iraq, decades of sectarian tensions suddenly explode into bloodlust and revenge. When a non-religious person looks upon the gleeful destruction of what should be someone’s brother in the faith, it’s little wonder when they raise an eyebrow and wonder how either side can possibly justify their claim to the actual truth.

Sectarianism and schisms aren’t just an unfortunate fact of religious history, they’re a serious point against the veracity of the faith itself. It might seem trite or flippant to criticise God’s communication skills, but it would make sense that something so important as how to attain post-mortem paradise (and, perhaps more importantly to some, avoid the endless torture promised by Jesus in his Testament) should be unequivocal, unambiguous and not so open to interpretation that people will willingly go to war or dispossess, torture and destroy others over differing conclusions drawn from the same source.

@masterchefau – “protein”? Let’s call a spork a spork, yeah?

So, watching Chef Idol’s Got Talent (yeah yeah, reality TV is an oxymoron and it’s all bunk and feeding our one-hour photo instant-oatmeal quick-fix plastic-fantastic Madison Avenue narcissism; whatever – I like food and I’m grownup enough to be able to metaphorically eat around the worst of the contrivances), and someone asks a chef, “What protein are you using?” in reference to a pork chop (no doubt under direction from someone off-camera wearing a headset – they’ve done this not-mentioning of the war, so to speak, for years). 

 

Protein. Why the euphemism? It’s meat. Call it meat. It’s not like there’s ever any ambiguity – contestants are hardly rocking out on tofurkey burgers or Quorn mince. Is the implication of the usage of “meat” – that the original source was once happily gambolling around a field (or more likely, shut up in a stall) – thought to be a bit much for delicate viewers? Is it a case of that old, usually entirely fabricated nemesis, “political correctness gone mad?” 

 

Come on, Mastertubbyoldblokes, let’s call a splade a splade. We’re not idiots, nor are we sitting here weeping over a slice of poor Peppa Pig with caramelised shallots and an apple and cinnamon reduction.

The Deficit Delusion #budget #auspol

It takes a special combination of delusion, wishful thinking and simple, perhaps willful ignorance of empirical facts to argue that this country was in a dire enough financial situation to warrant the kind of one-sided, upper-class savagery witnessed yesterday.

Post-GFC, we were one of the planet’s top performers, which was not only no mean feat at the time but something that any conservative would’ve thrown straight on their C.V. in 14-point bold. Far from acknowledging our good position and building on it, this administration has chosen instead to at best inflate, at worst cut from whole cloth an impending economic disaster and place the bulk of the responsibility of mitigating it on those least-equipped to do so.

The brutal cuts to support for pensioners, students, the unemployed, to health, education, to renewable energy and to foreign aid and simultaneous expansion of corporate welfare by rewarding & protecting polluters as well as spending further billions on summarily and indefinitely imprisoning people offshore in third-world conditions without charges, let alone trials, all goes far beyond the usual “politicians break promises” trope. There is something profoundly rotten, something festeringly inhumane at the core of current conservative politics; if the first eight months of the Coalition’s reign didn’t illustrate that then last night’s fiscal fistfuck certainly did.