Sunday, February 11, 2018

Someone actually wrote this: Presenting the latest manufactured outrage

In Stand Up, which is apparently a competitor to Everyday Feminism, Steph Farnsworth writes about the word "sapiosexual," which means "a person who finds intelligence sexually attractive or arousing." While I find the word annoying, it seems to unhinge Farnsworth:
Labels are good. Forget all of the dismissive things you’ve earned [sic] about them; labels help give people power. The widening names that we have for different identities can make people feel empowered by finally having words to describe themselves. Labels never go too far, except, perhaps, in one case. Sapiosexual is possibly the worst term ever created.
This is the one and only bad label. It's so bad, in fact, that it's the worst term ever created, certainly worse than all of the bigoted slurs that people have used throughout history.
A sapiosexual is someone who finds intelligence sexually attractive. The whole concept is completely ableist.
Any preference for a potential partner is going to be -ist somehow.
Everyone can have types, but to build a label around it suggests an element of exclusivity when sapiosexuals face no oppression.
You don't get to have any self-description that doesn't get you at least a bronze in the Oppression Olympics.
Sapiosexuals don’t need a label. The fact it’s got a sexuality label and therefore is so similar to bisexuality, homosexuality, asexuality, and pansexuality is risking appropriation of the queer community.
Stop telling me when to be offended, especially by something that is unlikely to happen.
Let’s drop the pretentiousness. Sapiosexuality is the worst label that could have been created.
I'll grant that some people who identify as sapiosexual can be insufferably pretentious, but it's still not the worst label that could have been created. By the way, where is the corresponding outrage over people who prefer less intelligent partners?

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Lord of the Flies

I have just finished reading Lord of the Flies because progressives often hold it up as a counterweight to Atlas Shrugged, with the added advantage of being an order of magnitude shorter. A plane crash that kills the adults strands a group of preteen British boys on an island, leaving the boys to work out how to govern themselves. The boys' descent into savagery on the island supposedly shows people's need for rules. To me, however, it says more about preteen boys' need for rules.

The book also illustrates an issue that I have yet to see advocates of bigger government address. The boys on the island are left to their own devices to enact and enforce the very rules that they need in order to behave properly and are thus stuck with the paradox of democratic statism that I noted earlier elsewhere, namely, that the same people who cannot run their own lives must somehow run one another's. In-universe, the boys can hope for grownups to arrive on the island and make the needed rules, but in the real world, we cannot.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Some thoughts on Trump derangement syndrome

As you may have noticed, I am no fan of Donald Trump. Nonetheless, I think that one reason why so many people succumb to Trump derangement syndrome is the cognitive dissonance. The very idea that Trump could be President can cause them to doubt so many things that, for them, have to be true: that people vote rationally, that government is self-regulating as a result, and that when a government office acquires power, whoever ends up occupying that office can be trusted to use that power in the way they want.

Also, many people refuse to say his name. Are we back in an age in which people believed that names had magic powers?

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Book review: Fantasyland

I have just finished Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History, whose title could use a few more colons. The thesis is that "what’s happening in our country today—this post-factual, 'fake news' moment we’re all living through—is not something new, but rather the ultimate expression of our national character."

The author mostly at least goes through the motions of being evenhanded, and he gives the academic left a good shellacking, but he does show biases now and then. For example, he describes the rise of suburbia without mentioning the role of the federal government in promoting either suburban sprawl or suburban racial segregation. Similarly, he discusses the fantasy aspects of new sports stadiums designed to look old and of Disneyfied urban neighborhoods but never even mentions the pervasive fantasy that government financing of such things makes economic sense. Also, some views, particularly on religion, have always been untenable for reasons little better than "because I say so." I find that grating even on subjects on which I otherwise agree with him.

Still, it's true that the post-fact world is nothing new; anyone who has tried to argue with I-feel-it-in-my-heart politically correct people can tell you that. He also says something that I've been saying for ages, namely, that postmodernists and their ilk were useful idiots for creationists and their ilk.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Someone actually wrote this: Gay people and gun control

In The Advocate, Kevin Hertzog, cofounder of Gays Against Guns, writes,
On Sunday in Las Vegas, someone with a stockpile of guns and ammunition set out to inflict the maximum amount of damage on the greatest number of people. His motive is much less important than is the fact that there were very few roadblocks in his way. The gun laws in Nevada are among the most lax in our country. We should not be surprised that this happens so often. We should be surprised that it doesn’t happen more often.
Yes, we should be surprised whenever reality departs from the narrative. As for the laxity of Nevada's gun laws, has Mr. Hertzog seen this?
There’s virtually nothing stopping anyone from doing the exact same thing.
Yet most people don't. It's almost as though there were something stopping most people from doing the exact same thing; what could that be?
Gay people are uniquely qualified to attack government inaction, apathy, and complicity because we’ve seen it before and we know the price of silence.
Hey, you big, bad government, we're going to stand up to you by demanding that you take away more of our freedoms. It's not as though gay people had anything to fear from increased government power.
Massacres like the one that just happened get the most media attention, but they are not, in fact, the way that most victims of gun violence die. Suicide is responsible for almost two-thirds of gun deaths.
Bait and switch much? Suicide (what you do to yourself) and mass murder (what you do to lots of other people) are morally different.
We urge you to “come out” as a gun violence prevention advocate. We’ve been bullied into polite silence by the NRA and its trolls for far too long. Many people feel intimidated to argue with those who vehemently advocate for the Second Amendment.
In which alternate universe are LGBT people shy about supporting gun control? Also, how dare anyone advocate for a Constitutional right!

Friday, September 29, 2017

The major parties' heartfelt principles

The New York Times reports that Republicans have abandoned one of their favorite talking points, namely, the deficit:
“It’s a great talking point when you have an administration that’s Democrat-led,” said Representative Mark Walker, Republican of North Carolina and the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a group of about 150 conservative House members. “It’s a little different now that Republicans have both houses and the administration.”
This should surprise no one. The Republican Party is a mystery cult; when I was a College Republican, I did not get too far into it before hearing Maryland's Republican leaders admit that they did not mean what they said about smaller government.

I will not let the Democratic Party off the hook either. I once said to a Maryland Democratic activist that his party's politicians said exactly the opposite things to voters on opposite sides of the state. He not only admitted it but tried to argue that that was a good thing because Team Blue could cover all bases. In short, party prevails over principle.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Someone actually wrote this: We need to nationalise Google, Facebook and Amazon.

In The Guardian, Nick Srnicek writes,
Ello’s rapid rise and fall is symptomatic of our contemporary digital world and the monopoly-style power accruing to the 21st century’s new “platform” companies, such as Facebook, Google and Amazon. Their business model lets them siphon off revenues and data at an incredible pace, and consolidate themselves as the new masters of the economy.
That's pretty much what people said about AOL, which has not been called a master of the economy in a while.
Monday brought another giant leap as Amazon raised the prospect of an international grocery price war by slashing prices on its first day in charge of the organic retailer Whole Foods.
No, please, anything but cheaper groceries! The horror! The horror!
None of them focuses on making things in the way that traditional companies once did. Instead, Facebook connects users, advertisers, and developers; Uber, riders and drivers; Amazon, buyers and sellers.
I'm not sure that the author quite gets how Amazon works.
Reaching a critical mass of users is what makes these businesses successful: the more users, the more useful to users – and the more entrenched – they become. Ello’s rapid downfall occurred because it never reached the critical mass of users required to prompt an exodus from Facebook – whose dominance means that even if you’re frustrated by its advertising and tracking of your data, it’s still likely to be your first choice because that’s where everyone is, and that’s the point of a social network.
And that's why we all still use Myspace.
Facebook is a master at using all sorts of behavioural techniques to foster addictions to its service: how many of us scroll absentmindedly through Facebook, barely aware of it?
I don't know; how many people do that?
What’s the answer? We’ve only begun to grasp the problem, but in the past, natural monopolies like utilities and railways that enjoy huge economies of scale and serve the common good have been prime candidates for public ownership. The solution to our newfangled monopoly problem lies in this sort of age-old fix, updated for our digital age.
Yes, let's have government take over such important facilities of information distribution. Given the importance of U.S. companies to this sector of the economy, "government" to a significant extent means the Trump administration. What could possibly go wrong?
It would mean taking back control over the internet and our digital infrastructure, instead of allowing them to be run in the pursuit of profit and power.
Nothing says, "We're not doing this in the pursuit of power" like a government takeover.