Monday, 29 February 2016

The Rebuttal: Context 101

It's that time again - another round of The Rebuttal! I've had lots of content to pick through, but since I don't want every installment of The Rebuttal to be about me making fun of the same men's rights activist, we're going to shake it up just a little bit. In honour of #OscarsSoWhite, I present this little gem:


Hoo boy, I've got a few thoughts on this one. First of all, this feels like the sort of thing a white 16-year-old just starting to wrestle with the concepts of privilege and the disadvantaged might put together and then deeply regret in a few years when they start to get a better idea of how the world works. It's pretty emblematic of the mid-90s-to-late-2000s liberal ideal of "colour blindness", where us white, middle-class folks decided that racism was finally over and we can start focusing on other things. Naturally, the last few years have demonstrated very visibly that this was simply a wishful fantasy and that racism (and sexism for that matter) is still ingrained deeply within society at an institutional level, and until that is addressed, things won't get much better.

For my own part, growing up I thought that Nazis and literal racists were a thing of the past*. However, in just the last week I have encountered and sparred with an honest-to-God white supremacist. I have already documented some encounters with a self-described "humanist" with some decidedly toxic views on women, gays, trans-people and minorities. I see all sorts of modern misogyny and racism on We Hunted the Mammoth on a daily basis. Hell, one could make the very realistic argument that a white supremacist is the frontrunner for the Republican party this year. The progressive backlash has gotten louder and more visible in the last few years, and so now more than ever we need to identify it and try to treat this ideological cancer before it can gain any sort of social traction.


The other thing that's making me think that the person who made this is only around 16-years-old is because their examples are pretty freaking weak. I know they're attempting to establish a double-standard, but I don't see either of the given examples as being particularly sexist or racist. Maybe that's just me, but that just highlights one of the major issues with this image: both a lack of context, and a lack of understanding of context.

First of all, "you boys/girls are stupid" is not a sexist statement in itself, but the context is going to be really important if you want to make the argument that it is. Like, what caused the statement? Is it a blanket statement regarding the person's sex/race? Was their shitty opinion based on prejudice? Or are they just saying that they think that this particular individual is stupid based on some prior experiences? It's basically impossible to pass a judgement of sexism/racism on this situation without some real context.

Secondly, the authour has a severe lack of understanding of context. Let's just assume that the example statements did have a sexist/racist intent. In such a case then it is important to point out the prejudice in the person's statement because they're being much more than just a "big ol' meanie". If they're being a racist/sexist prick, then there is some sort of underlying prejudice which is causing them to formulate a negative, dehumanizing picture of people, and one which needs to be identified, addressed and eliminated from society. It's almost like the authour doesn't realize that this is the case, as if they think that racism/sexism is just a synonym for being mean which only applies to certain people.


Don't get me wrong though - being nice to everyone is ideal. I hope that at some point we can actually reach this state. However, the issue is that there are ingrained prejudices which make this obviously-ideal philosophy untenable in practice. Furthermore, much like humanism, egalitarianism, free speech and #GamerGate, this sort of ideal is co-opted by racists, sexists, homophobes and various other unsavoury groups which pollute the term and destroy any sort of attempt at using it as an actual platform for positive social change. It's a great individual philosophy to internalize and pass on to others, but the authour has to realize that you're targeting the wrong people - don't target the people pointing out inequalities, target the assholes in society who make things worse for all of us.

*This in spite of the fact that in one of my earliest years in school, a black kid had joined our class. When my mom asked me what I thought of him, I snarkily and defiantly declared "I don't like blacks." I was probably 6 or 7 years old and had never encountered a non-white person before. Suffice to say, the smack that I received from my mother was well-deserved, and it's easily one of my most shameful memories. However, it has been a source of some pondering for me - what caused me to be such a racist prick of a kid? I think it was down to "he's different, and I don't like things that are different", which makes me kind of concerned for all the people who grew up around me in a town which has been called "the whitest town in all of Ontario".

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

IC2S Playlist Update 24/02/2016


Seeing how we're just under 1 month away from the IC2S Playlist's first anniversary, I think I'm going to switch up the format of the update since they're basically the same boring stuff every week and, as a result, it can be pretty challenging to actually come up with anything meaningful to say. I'm going to try out a little more of an informal, blog-like structure which might actually be interesting to somebody to read, whether they're actually going to listen to the playlist or not.

So the Dairy Queen recently reopened for the season here in my home town, which prompted a couple co-workers and I to play a visit on our lunch break. One of the co-workers was trying to annoy the other and asked me to put on some of my "weird" music (read: not country or pop). She wanted me to put on some Brian "Head" Welch which would have been pretty funny for me, but I knew that that probably be too much, so I figured I'd go for something a little more low-key... and by that I mean Andrew W.K., because I am horrible at gauging an audience when it comes to music...

Anyway, that's how I discovered that some people apparently consider Andrew W.K. to be "screamo" music just because he yells on I Get Wet and The Wolf (never mind that his music is about partying and positivity, not angst and pessimism). I know that music taste is super-subjective, but I find it kind of incredible that someone around my age can be so musically-sheltered that they find Andrew-freaking-W.K. too extreme-sounding (let alone that he's on the listener-friendly end of my musical spectrum, far away from Impending Doom or Book of Black Earth). Then again, they probably think I'm crazy for not listening to country music, so what do I know?

In honour of this, enjoy some more of my "weird screamo" music, in the form of "Burn" (In This Moment, Blood) and "Through the Fire and the Flames" (DragonForce, Inhuman Rampage). I get the feeling that, if you listen to the playlist already, then these should be basically lullabies compared to some of the stuff I've put on there.


Wednesday, 17 February 2016

IC2S Playlist Update 17/02/2016


First up this week is "The Riddle" by Five For Fighting from the album Two Lights. There's a responsible driving PSA which plays on Metal Rock Radio all the time featuring Five For Fighting's lead singer, John Ondrasik. They play this song in the background of the PSA, and I recently started to want to hear the whole song. This led me on a hunt through most of Five For Fighting's discography trying to find the song. It took me quite a while to find "The Riddle", but it led me to the realization that I rather like Five For Fighting. Obviously I'm a person who skews more towards heavy music, but every once in a while I just feel like settling into something soft and hopeful. "The Riddle" is one of those songs which really fits that bill, it's very optimistic and cheerful.


...and then on the other end of the spectrum, we have "I See Demons" by Book of Black Earth from their album The Cold Testament. I came across this band as a total fluke while searching for Iron Maiden's awesome new album, The Book of Souls. While typing into the search bar, suddenly Spotify recommended Book of Black Earth. I was instantly intrigued, checked them out and was pretty impressed by what I heard. This experience underscores a couple lessons for me. First of all, free-listening music platforms, such as Spotify, have a ton of potential to introduce you to totally new music which you never would have come across via more conventional means (eg, the radio only plays a handful of genres and even internet radio doesn't branch too much). This seems to work for producers as well, because I actually went and purchased a copy of The Cold Testament to show my support. The second lesson I learned was that, despite some opinions to the contrary, cover art is still super important in the digital age. I mean seriously, look at the cover for The Cold Testament. It's freaking epic. As soon as I saw it I thought "this must be a really cool metal band" and was not disappointed.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

IC2S Playlist Update 10/02/2016


First up this week is "Killing Strangers" by Marilyn Manson from his newest album THE PALE EMPEROR. Basically the only reason I picked this song was because I had a pretty epic movie night double-feature with a friend with weekend which consisted of John Wick and Mad Max: Fury Road (probably my 2 favourite action movies of the past 7 years) back-to-back. As you can expect, it was an awesome night, but "Killing Strangers" was really sticking in my mind afterwards due to its main drum/bass rhythm.

This also got me thinking about my history with Marilyn Manson as an artist. As a kid growing up in an evangelical household, my only exposure to Manson was stories about how messed up he apparently was. For example, I heard that he took out a rib so that he could suck his own dick, and that he apparently tore up a puppy on stage once. As a result, I was under the impression that he was a satanist and that his music was vile, despite never having actually heard more than snippets of it. Of course, now that I'm older and wiser, I now realize that his strange persona and reputation was all tried and tested "shock rocker" marketing tactics, already perfected long before by Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper. Despite that, his shtick seems less cynical to me and more artistically genuine, as he put forth an interestingly androgynous look and his songs tend to have some impactful messages behind them. Having heard more of his music now, I wouldn't exactly call myself a fan, but I have enjoyed most of what I have heard.


Secondly we have "Raining Blood" by Slayer from their album Reign in Blood. Slayer's one of those essential metal bands which I find myself in the unfortunate position of not really liking all that much. Back in university I was really getting into Metallica and figured I'd expand further into thrash metal via Slayer. However, I soon found that I didn't really care for their music all that much, with their faux-blasphemous style not endearing them to me all that much either. I probably need to give them another chance, but as it stands their only song I really enjoy is by far their most popular track, "Raining Blood". This song used to be the bane of my existence in Guitar Hero III, which people seemed to always overlook in favour of the (admittedly brutal) "Through the Fire and the Flames" (which will probably be a future playlist pick).

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

IC2S Playlist Update 03/02/2016

We have a couple updates this week before we get into the playlist selections. First of all, Countless Thousands' Kickstarter is live and already funded. However, it got there through (at this point) only 36 backers, which is a crime considering how good this band is as far as I'm concerned. Check out their Kickstarter page, if only to read through it - a lot of love has obviously gone into crafting this campaign, and it shows because it is absolutely hilarious from start to finish.

Secondly, we're getting awfully close to a year of the IC2S Playlist now - we're now 11 weeks away from our 1 year anniversary, at which point I'm going to be making updates far more infrequent. We're also over the 7 hour point now, although I imagine I can get it over 9 or 10 by the time we hit the end (I've been eyeing a pair of 18 minute songs for a while now).


Anyway, onto this week's first selection, "Screwtape" by Living Sacrifice from the album Ghost Thief. I really enjoy the slow start to this song, it contrasts really well with Bruce Fitzhugh's thunderous vocals. If I'm being honest, I have no idea what this song is about, but it sounds really cool and has some great musicianship on display... and there's not much else to say but that. Enjoy it.


Next up we have "New Year's Day " by U2 from their album, War. The fact that I didn't use this song to kick off 2016 was a major missed opportunity on my part. My favourite U2 song has changed many times over the years, but lately it seems to have settled on this track from War. For many years, I had only heard the radio edit version, which cuts out a good minute and a half of great guitar work and reduces "New Year's Day" to a good, but unspectacular, song as far as I'm concerned. However, the full album version is just so much better, providing me with yet another reason why radio stations (particularly pop radio stations) suck.

Monday, 1 February 2016

The Rebuttal: #MinifigLivesMatter

Oh looky, it's time for another installment of The Rebuttal. What sort of dumbassery made its way into my Facebook feed this week? A friend of mine (we'll call him Johnny) has an MRA/egalitarian friend, who made a ridiculous post this weekend. Johnny passed this post on to another friend of mine (we'll call him Atlas), who then passed it on to me, knowing I'd enjoy it. Check it out:


Hoo boy... I'm not even going to bother going into his spurious claim that SJWs have "ruined" video games, STEM fields and have somehow destroyed every tech company... actually, wait, what the feth? Where the hell did he get that idea from? I assume that's some sort of MRA talking-point, but for those of us not drinking the same Kool-Aid, the idea that SJWs are destroying tech companies sounds absolutely ridiculous. I didn't really look into this very comprehensively, in part because it sounds like utter garbage, but the only site that I could find that was pushing this view was a damn pickup artist's blog. Considering that I was searching for "women destroying tech companies", you think that there would have been more results about women actually destroying the tech industry (in fact, most results showed how the tech industry is destroying itself via ridiculously long work hours... and by not hiring more women).


Anyway, getting back on track, I hadn't heard any sort of SJW-types complaining about lack of diversity in LEGO, so I was curious if this was yet another case where a handful of complaints are conflated into a whole movement's viewpoints. As a result, I came across this article which explains that LEGO decided to release their first wheelchair-bound minifig in an effort for more diversity. That is a fantastic move on LEGO's part which has made many kids very happy, and has generally gotten a very positive reception. How can you possibly see this as a bad thing?

Let's be charitable though. The original post alludes to Johnny's friend not knowing the details of the situation, but just being annoyed by SJWs ruining everything. We all make those sorts of declarations without the full story. I mean, he's not going to seriously advocate giving children with disabilities the middle finger, right...? Well, I wasn't expecting this, but Atlas decided to sent Johnny the news article, which prompted Johnny to grill his friend for being overly-dramatic. His friend, unfortunately, doubled-down on his comments:


Sigh... First of all, he is relying heavily on the slippery slope logical fallacy* to try to make this seem like such a bad thing, but even then he's on thin ice. So what if LEGO makes armless, trans (ooh, potential transphobia, nice!) or wolfkin minifigs? How is that going to "ruin" LEGO? Furthermore, it's not like people can't make armless, trans or even freaking literal werewolf LEGO characters already, so I'm not so sure that they'd even bother to acknowledge them. Either way though, this is the whole reason why LEGO is so amazing to begin with - it's a blank slate which promotes creativity. Giving a paraplegic child an avatar with which to live out his fantasies as a hero with a disability is both empowering and absolutely awesome. LEGO is all about giving people the ability to live out their fantasy worlds, and I say the more people we can bring in under that umbrella, the better.

As usual, the real issue is that Johnny's friend is deep in an ideological framework and the world is completely filtered through that lens (which is made worse by the fact that he subscribes to news sources which fuel this world view). He thinks that SJW-types have ruined all forms of entertainment (they simply haven't, full-stop), or that "not being a prick" is not only self-censorship, but a truly henious thing. For an idea of why he thinks this, it's worth mentioning that he is also seriously under the delusion that the disadvantaged have leveraged their status and supplanted white men as the real power within society.

Oh, and by the way, Johnny's friend considers himself to be an "egalitarian"... which should more-or-less put to bed the argument that "feminists should try being more egalitarian!" Egalitarianism as a movement has been co-opted by MRAs and various other hateful organizations which have become deluded enough to believe that they have become the truly disadvantaged group within society. From that particular mindset, this is a reasonable view, but to anyone else... well, egalitarianism my ass. To all those who are stuck in such a mindset, I can only hope that you can one day you acquire the ability to take a step back and maybe admit that you were wrong.


To finish up, I've been ignoring the Taken reference this whole time because it is just your typical Internet tough guy, dick-wagging bullshit. Oh, you're going to troll and debunk all of us SJW-types with your "egalitarian" knowledge? Well there's only one thing I can say to that...

Good luck.

Somehow I think it's going to work out better for me than it did for Marco from Tropoja though.

*Normally I hate throwing around accusations of logical fallacies when arguing with someone as they are often used the way "check your privilege" is, as a tactic to shut down an opponents' argument without actually having to address it. However, in our one previous confrontation, Johnny's friend was slinging logical fallacy accusations at me, so I figure that he more or less has it coming. Not to mention that his logical fallacy accusations were very strenuous (eg, he claimed that saying that I thought that most feminists would agree with me on something was a "No True Scotsman" claim, which it clearly is not, as I didn't say "those who disagree with me are not true feminists"... and then he claimed that Reddit MRAs are not true MRAs and tried to explain that such a view was not a No True Scotsman fallacy... yeah).