The Cost of Isolationism

I recently watched Alt-Right: Age of Rage on Netflix. If you’re not really familiar with the alt-right and their connections with white supremacists (and holy shit, it’s 2019, you should be) then it’s a good primer. There’s a segment near the end though that has really gotten me thinking since I watched the documentary. During a montage there is a voice-over which goes on a conspiracy rant about how the alt-right is preparing society to accept mass genocides which are going to happen as a result of ecological and economic disasters. While I feel like the idea that this is the true intent of the alt-right, as if they’re being controlled by some shadowy puppet master, is a bit much, there are elements of this notion that ring true.

With the rise in nationalist movements, xenophobia has become a serious wedge issue which politicians are keen to latch onto. Governments which try to take a stand in favour of immigration seem to be on the brink of political collapse as populist movements push back, surged by xenophobic fervour. While there are certainly reasonable levels immigration restrictions (no one wants dangerous criminals in their country after all), the degree of xenophobia and straight-up racism which dominates this conversation now is deplorable. Syrian refugees are fleeing war? They must be hiding terrorists amongst them, or they’re going to become the majority and institute sharia law, so we can’t afford to let any in. We need merit-based immigration, the kind which most of our existing citizens couldn’t even qualify for! And hey, why can’t we get more immigrants from white countries instead of shit-holes? Ugh… Don’t even get me started on America’s disgusting campaign against illegal immigration, Dreamers and asylum seekers. It’s clear that the aim is to circle the wagons: keep the “right” people in the country and not let any more “others” in.

So what are these people so afraid of? How does it affect the average citizen at all for immigrants and refugees to get a slice of the American pie? Putting aside racism (which is a major factor), it comes down to the old parlance, “they’re stealing our jobs!” There’s this idea that if you let immigrants in, then they’re going to vacuum up money which could have gone to “real” citizens (you always get some idiot chiming in with something along the lines of “why aren’t you giving money to veterans instead of immigrants?”). Naturally, this ignores that immigrants are essential to a healthy economy, especially considering that our workforce is ageing and that the birth rate is declining. Regardless, there’s a notion that immigrants are a drain on our resources, one which is fuelled by disingenuous anti-immigration propaganda farms on social media. I’ve talked about it many times in the past, but this is a perfect example of the dangers of voter ignorance, where political activists are manipulating people into a frenzy in order to get them to vote the way that they want.

Like this bullshit right here.

As bad as the xenophobic trend is now, you also have to factor in the effects that climate change is going to have in the coming years. Climate change will affect everyone, but it’s going to be felt most keenly by poor people, especially in impoverished regions. This, in turn, is going to lead to even more refugees as time goes on and as people become displaced by rising sea levels and severe weather events. Make no mistake – this creates an environment in which people are going to be displaced and die en masse. Considering that industrialized nations have contributed to this environmental crisis and refuse to do anything serious to combat it, the notion that we can just wash our hands of the human impact of climate change is unacceptable. People will certainly die, but we can mitigate the death toll if we’re willing to allow refugees into our countries. If we refuse to act due to racial prejudice, this will be essentially genocide against anyone who isn’t one of “us”.

Perhaps the most depressing aspect of this to me is that evangelical Christians, the self-described “pro-life” types and the ones who believe that they are the moral bastion of society, are also the ones most likely to deny climate change and oppose immigration. This isolationist bent is, of course, in blatant opposition to The Bible that they claim to follow. Christians should be leading the charge to welcome refugees, to shelter Dreamers from ICE agents and denounce the disturbing trend towards fascism across the globe. Instead, I question whether they’ll even have the self-awareness to say “I didn’t know” when their apathy towards climate change and refusal to welcome immigrants leads to deaths across the globe.

Like I said at the start, I don’t believe that white supremacy is being trotted out once again in order to prepare us for this depressing future. I do, however, believe that if racism and anti-immigration sentiment continues, we’re not going to be able to do anything when there are people literally dying to find safety within our borders. Call me a bleeding-heart liberal, but we can’t call ourselves moral people if we’re going to stand by and allow people to suffer so that we can live just a little more comfortably.

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Five Finger Death Punch and the Machismo of Submission

For the past couple months I’ve been working on a follow-up to my album rankings of 2017 and one of the bands that is going to feature on that list is (spoiler alert) Five Finger Death Punch. I have really disliked Five Finger Death Punch since I first checked them out – they tend to have a few good songs per album but most of their music is utter trash. The main issue is their lyrics, which are usually toxically masculine, raging at the whole world, threatening to beat everyone up, swearing constantly, and which throw in casual misogyny and homophobia for good measure. For a band that is clearly aiming to be badass, their incessant whining makes them look like a bunch of children and this has turned me off of all but a handful of their songs.

For this year’s album rankings though I decided to look into Five Finger Death Punch a little bit closer though to see if my impression of the band was accurate. For the most part, yes I was pretty spot on. Most distressingly, the band’s nasty, misogynistic lyrics spill over into real life; lead singer Ivan Moody (seriously, that’s his actual last name) has been in legal trouble on at least two occasions for assault against women, in part due to alcoholism which he has apparently been trying to get a handle on. One thing you kind of have to give the band some credit on though is their unequivocal support of the military and police. The level to which this support goes might be questionable, but the respect that they show to the actual individuals is admirable and has likely contributed to the growth in their popularity.

Most of the band doesn’t seem to be openly political, with the major exception being guitarist Zoltan Bathory who has, err, opinions on Donald Trump, gun control and communism. He seems like a really odd character all on his own. In addition to Five Finger Death Punch, he claims to be a civilian combat instructor for the US military, although I feel like I need to add that I’ve seen comments from multiple soldiers while researching him who said that they had never heard of him and that they were skeptical of his claims. Considering that the article cited on his Wikipedia page which is meant to back up this claim also has Bathory claiming that the band has been shot at while performing for the troops in Iraq and Kuwait, I’m also somewhat skeptical (I certainly don’t doubt that he’s a skilled martial artist, but “one of the few civilians certified by the US Army as an L1 Modern Army Combatives Instructor – Close Quarter Combat”? Sorry Zoltan, I need a bit more proof than your word).

Zoltan also apparently writes for a magazine called Skillset. Skillset’s website states quite boldly that it’s all about “redefining the alpha lifestyle”, with features that “[spotlight] men and women with undeniable talents and abilities. We are VETERAN OWNED AND OPERATED and changing the face of ‘men’s interest’ magazines on newsstands.” The magazine boasts that it does so through articles on “rock stars, athletes, car builders and gun culture” and is plastered with ridiculously over-the-top images of men pointing guns at the camera. Basically it’s a douchey, redneck version of Playboy. Not all that surprising that a member of Five Finger Death Punch would be drawn to such a publication, although it sounds less like they’re “redefining” the alpha lifestyle than they are simply reinforcing traditional American machismo, although perhaps with some consideration that women can be badass too.

Finding out that Zoltan writes for Skillset really helped to crystalize my disparate feelings about Five Finger Death Punch, because I feel like it really is a great, unintentional illustration of the band’s philosophy. One could say that Skillset is all about people who are apparently better than the rest of us because they take control, the ways they present themselves, etc. Similarly, Five Finger Death Punch’s music is all about aggressive posturing, the constant threats about kicking peoples’ asses are meant to make them seem like badasses even though they end up making them seem like whiny, overcompensating pansies. This is just so obvious on songs like “Burn MF” where they unironically claim that the weight of the world is on their shoulders and then in the next verse rage that people fake that the world is on their shoulders. I’m not the only one who notices this either; in a review of their most recent album Michael Hann writes that Ivan Moody “reflects on his troubled past couple of years […] with a level of self-pity that wouldn’t disgrace a child who’d been bought Pro Evo instead of Fifa for Christmas: ‘Everybody seems like they’re waiting for me to die / Talk shit behind my back, can’t look me in the eye.’ When, on ‘It Doesn’t Matter’, he hollers ‘You’re so self-righteous, and you’re never going to change,’ you want to inquire if Mr Pot and Mr Kettle have made each other’s acquaintance.” It’s like they see the world in a hierarchical way, where their troubles are more legitimate than those of the people beneath them, in a manner not dissimilar to incels with their self-perception of being “inferior” beta males who are literally unloveable and worthless.

Is anyone surprised that Five Finger Death Punch fans are this pleasant? (Source)

This hierarchy also ties into the band’s support of the military and Zoltan’s support of Donald Trump. The way Five Finger Death Punch sees the military is not dissimilar from the manner many American nationalist/patriots are raised to – men who are braver and better than the rest of society and deserving of unquestioning respect. You can see this idealization pretty clearly in some of their songs, such as “Death Before Dishonour”, where they claim that everyone’s living a fake life except for the soldiers who die with their dignity. There’s a common trope amongst conservative types that soldiers are basically always right, from atheist professor variations, to God’s Not Dead 2 making a point of having the evil atheists kick a marine off the jury, to the portrayals of soldiers as morally and intellectually infallible in American Sniper and (especially) 13 Hours.

Soldiers obviously do deserve respect – they are serving their people and are often away from their families as a result of that, not to mention the inherent risk involved in the job. However, the level of lionization is just plain ridiculous sometimes and they even get used as a symbolic cudgel to beat down any sort of opposition to nationalism. Considering that no one in Five Finger Death Punch has actually served in the military, it’s a little bit odd that they fetishize them as much as they do. The band even goes so far as to collect dog tags from their fans to display behind them at concerts, almost as if they’re trying to gain that legitimacy through association. When you consider that, for conservative types, “the military is romanticized and portrayed as an institution of national pride [which] focuses on the prestige associated with enlisting in the Marines and serving one’s country”, it’s really not that surprising that you can have a band that punches down in their music and submits to authority because they fall in line when someone more powerful than them comes along.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with cultivating a military following with your music. Ivan Moody has a story he tells about a soldier who died in Iraq while listening to one of their songs, which is undeniably moving. Other bands, such as Disturbed, have written music with the expressed intent of encouraging the troops. I just find it really interesting that Five Finger Death Punch can rage uncontrolled at the whole world and posture like they’re ultimate badasses, but then make so much of a show about being submissive to authority. It seems to run counter to their message until you understand their ethos a little better.

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Quick Fix: Mandatory Voting

Hey everyone, I am pleased to announce that I became a father on the 29th of October! This is super exciting, but if my writing schedule becomes more inconsistent, that’s my excuse. I’ve actually got a lot of content underway, some of which will definitely be done by the end of the year, but I’m just a bit crunched for time as you can probably understand.

Anyway, with the midterm elections now on the books and the Democrats thankfully winning Congress, hopefully the signs are pointing towards this global fascist nightmare finally losing momentum. All of the voting talk was making me think about my many articles about voting and how I kind of wish that people had to earn the right to vote (if there was a way to make that notion not totally evil). Upon some reflection after seeing the midterm campaigns unfold, I occurs to me that this idea doesn’t really fit into the modern American democratic process very well (let alone the Canadian one). Part of the problem is the pervasiveness of fake news and propaganda on hyper-partisan media. If the truth wasn’t being actively obscured by malicious agents that would be one thing, but when we have one side skewing the truth so much that its adherents are basically living in an entirely different world, that makes them have a false sense of confidence that they know what the issues really are that they’re voting for. Plus, these malicious influencers are driving people to vote through outrage, meaning that the parties are incentivized to be political scum in order to have a chance to win. It’s just a race to the bottom due to the way that the system is set up.

But… what if it didn’t have to be that way? I saw the following Tweet while browsing voting threads and I found its argument extremely interesting:

Aussie here: one thing that is oft repeated by Australian commentators on the USA is that because USA lacks mandatory voting the Republicans must rely on churches to get people to vote. Which is why your Conservative party is a lot more right wing tha ours.

— A.Z.M.B (@Voodooqueen126) November 4, 2018

I definitely think that AZMB is hitting on some truth here, as the Republican party and most influential evangelical leaders have been inextricably, publically tied together since at least the time of the Moral Majority. This, of course, hits on what I said earlier – pander to voting blocs to overpower opposing parties’ numbers, because all that really matters is that you get into power when you’re in politics.

I don’t know how you would enforce it, but mandatory voting definitely does stymie some of these issues and incentivizes parties to actually serve the interests of the majority of the public, rather than just voting blocs. To make this more effective, the government would either make voting significantly easier for citizens, or make voting days into national holidays. As we saw in America, this is not the case, as it plays to the strengths of those in power (the major parties in America are in bed with corporate interests, so they don’t want their employees not working) and suppresses the poor, working class from engaging in politics. Simply put, the system as it works now is rigging the fact that less than 60% of the population is actually likely to vote by being very selective on the ones who actually will get a political voice.

Hell, while we’re at it, getting rid of a first past the post system would also serve the public greatly. Justin Trudeau flirted with the idea, promising it in his election campaign, but when the time came to act he backed down, making the excuse that it gives extremists a voice. Unless the majority of Canadians secretly harbour a preference for extremist parties, I don’t think that this would be the case. In fact, I’d think that proportional voting would incentivize less extremism, as the parties are going to want to appeal to more voters.

Basically, I just wish that politics were actually in the interests of the people, rather than corporate interests as they mainly are now. Steve Bannon is an evil piece of shit, but he kind of has a point regarding populism being the way of the future – however, his nationalist, xenophobic bent makes this unconscionable. However, populism in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, merely that it is often co-opted by people like Bannon. Bernie Sanders was kind of a proof of this, as he was a populist and a socialist. I don’t think that the winds of change have gone out of the sails of populism and if progressives want to survive this fascist nightmare then they would do well to harness it for good. A progressive, populist movement could do some serious good and would hopefully have some real value to voters.

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Conservatives and Pedophile Virtue Signalling

A few months ago I touched lightly upon the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, a historical mass hysteria which I find absolutely fascinating. The panic started from a single claim by a mother who insisted that her child was molested at a daycare facility, but quickly snowballed into hundreds of accusations across the world. As it turns out parents were so disturbed by the initial accusation that they worked themselves into a frenzy and coerced their children into saying that their daycare facilities were being run by pedophile satanists who had been secretly committing ritual murders and sexual assault for years. Of course, there wasn’t a shred of physical evidence to corroborate any of this, but lives, reputations and careers were destroyed without cause as a result of the twisted beliefs of the parents spreading the hysteria.

Now, let’s bring this back to the present. In the last month we’ve not only seen the unfolding of the James Gunn smear campaign by alt-right activists, but also the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy (followers of which believe that a high-ranking government official is leaking information about mass pedophile rings run by evil globalists) has reached the mainstream media. Indeed, if the last few weeks in news have brought anything to light, it’s that conservatives are obsessed with pedophilia. It’s not like this is a new thing either – everyone has those conservative friends and relatives who use their Facebook profiles to gleefully declare their desire to kill, castrate or prison-rape pedophiles. Furthermore, in the last few years we’ve had quite a few high profile examples of conservative activism which used the prevention of pedophilia as their primary justification:

  • Pizzagate was a loony conspiracy theory which claimed that Hillary Clinton was behind a (obviously non-existent) pedophile ring run out of a pizzeria. That theory would have been just a total joke to most of the world, until it began a harassment campaign against the pizzaria and its employees which climaxed when some utter moron burst into the pizzeria with an assault rifle, fired shots and demanded that the staff release all of the captive children. Bloody hell.
  • When the Ontario government updated the province’s sex education program, one of the main opposition points for social conservatives was that a man convicted for child pornography had been involved in drafting the curriculum. This, of course, led to some people claiming that he had designed the curriculum to enable easier grooming of future victims or that the references to masturbation or learning about proper terms for genitals were part of his sick jollies. Of course, social conservatives didn’t want those parts in the curriculum at all, but it made for a convenient scapegoat considering that they’re well aware that their own beliefs can’t be forced on society without some sort of flimsy excuse.
  • When trans rights were gaining more recognition within society just prior to the 2016 election, the big battleground for social conservatives involved which bathrooms that trans people would be allowed into. After all, they claimed, a pedophile can just claim that he identifies as a woman and then follow my daughter into the bathroom and stare at/or molest her! This is, of course, the sort of claim which has been levied at all groups gaining civil liberty, from blacks to homosexuals. It should hardly be surprising that it’s been dragged out again, along with violent transphobia.
  • And, on the funnier and smaller-scale side of things, concerned parents accused Pokemon Go of being a means for child predators to lure in victims, because at the time the news cycle was linking in everything with the game, so why not trot out their old favourite hysteria to go along with it?
Sigh… is anyone surprised that this was posted on a Facebook group called “Liberal Logic 101 aka Libtard Insanity V 2.0”?

It’s pretty clear that this is a topic that people on the right have been fixated on for decades now, but why is that the case? While this isn’t a problem in-and-of itself (obviously it’s a good thing to stand against child predators, no one is going to argue against that), why do they feel so willing to believe, once again, that there are cabals of child-rapists out there preying on children in the thousands? While I can’t claim to have the answer, I do have some thoughts and theories on this that I feel hold merit and are worth discussing.

One potential theory for why people on the right are so sensitive to pedophilia right now is that they are using it to unconsciously compensate for the blatant immorality of Trump and the alt-right. For what it’s worth, I don’t give this theory a ton of merit as I believe that it is rooted in an assumption that right-wingers don’t truly believe in the things they stand for (which sounds far too similar to me of the “there are no true atheists” fallacy in evangelical belief… seriously, click that link, it is infuriating), but it is worth bringing into the conversation at least as there are probably some grains of truth in the idea. I feel like it’s more accurate to say that, if there is any sort of moral compensation going on, then it would be for conservatives (particularly the sort which would be suckered into Pizzagate and QAnon) who view pedophiles as the “greater evil” and therefore anything Trump or the alt-right does to get rid of them is justified. We have seen this in the past few years, as anti-Islamic propaganda has shifted away from fear of immigrants spreading terrorism to fear of social and moral decay as they “invade”, supplant our culture and commit violence against our people* – therefore, so the argument goes, we must keep them out of our country. This is also paired with such colourfully hyperbolic language as “white genocide” or “rape gangs” to sell the idea. This was clearly one of the driving forces behind Brexit and we are seeing similar bouts of xenophobia all over Europe and North America. Your average right-winger will tell you that they don’t have an issue with Muslims, or homosexuals, or trans people – “but…” and so the other group’s civil freedom is curbed in the name of preventing a greater evil that they imagine will occur.

A far more compelling theory about why pedophilia is so prominent right now is, quite simply, that it is effective propaganda. As Emma Grey Ellis puts it:

“Alleging that your enemy preys upon children is an ancient propaganda tool that’s been used by everyone from medieval Catholics to the Soviet Union. It’s a powerful indictment because it trades on fundamental human fears. It’s designed to otherize the opposition and sabotage any sympathy you might have for them. It’s a ubiquitous tactic because it works. It’s easy to piece together how this strategy emerged: Someone figured out which crime their society viewed as most morally reprehensible and went with that—the unforgivable act that almost always involves kids.”

Honestly, this one is barely a theory and is more-or-less confirmed through multiple notable examples. Mike Cernovich seems to be the biggest fan of pedophilia out there: in addition to popularizing the Pizzagate conspiracy and dredging up the James Gunn tweets to get back at Gunn for anti-Trump sentiments, Cernovich also has been caught organizing falsified banners at protests to make it seem as if left-wing groups support pedophilia and NAMBLA, and then go viral with the misinformation campaign. Even more cynically, Cernovich made it seem as if they were protesting him by putting his name on the banner to drive even more traffic to himself, the stuck-up fuck. Of course, the average person who comes across one of these accusations isn’t going to know the source or the history of Cernovich, they will just see the propaganda. I would hope that they would be able to discern truth, clearly that is something that Cernovich preys upon with his frankly deplorable tactics.

Cernovich is not the end of it all though of course. As Jim Edwards put it, “my prediction is that we’re about to hear a lot more about fictitious ‘leftist pedophiles’ if Steve Bannon and Tommy Robinson are successful in setting up their international European far-right nationalist ‘Movement.’ What is less obvious is that the influential ultra-conservative pushers of this theory do not believe it themselves. They know it’s fake. They just like the outrage it causes.” Edwards also expounds upon the efforts of the alt-right to spread the idea that the end goal of leftists and identity politics is to make pedophilia socially acceptable, engaging in a slippery-slope fallacy to convince people to oppose social advance. A left-wing pedophile manifesto was also leaked onto the internet to considerable furor, until it turned out that it was another right-wing smear campaign meant to make conservatives outraged**. Oh, and let’s not forget that this isn’t all just innocent fun and games either – in addition to numerous harassment campaigns and at least one shooting linked to false pedophile ring accusations, someone has already committed murder because he believed that his father was one of these secret pedophiles. Bloody hell, people. Of course, Mike Cernovich, Alex Jones, and the rest of that lot continue to demonstrate their lack of any integrity by continuing to knowingly spread falsehoods regardless.

“Wait a second… Mr. Mime’s Pokemon #122, Sharpedo is #319… 1+2+2+3+1+9=18, the legal age of consent set down by God himself. It has been hiding in plain sight all this time, Pokemon are pedophiles. We should have known that a game about devilution and playing with your balls would be secretly grooming children! Pokemon Go? How about Pokemon, no!!!” -Alex Jones in the near future, probably, now that this image is on the Internet.

Clearly it makes sense for influencers and propagandists to spread false claim of pedophilia, but the question still remains – why does this topic resonate with the general right-wing audience so much? I mean, Mike Cernovich and his shitty contemporaries know what content is successful with their audiences, so the fact that they trot out knowingly false pedophilia accusations again and again suggests that they’re aware that their audience laps it up. Hell, even looking back at other examples in this article, the anti-pedophilia memes that conservative-types love have been being posted and shared for years without an organized effort behind them, and the Satanic Panic occurred organically, long before the Internet could allow people to even attempt to weaponize the movement. For this question, I have the following theory: social conservatives tend to be exceptionally prudish about sex, especially here in the west, and tend to focus on what they see as “degeneracy” in society. They also tend to advocate for the protection of their children from whatever they see as “corrupting influences”. With that in mind, it’s not hard to trace each of these back to a common “worst”: after all, pedophiles combine the worst sort of degeneracy along with abhorrent sex and the exploitation of children, so is it any wonder that they would be so sensitive to this topic? Furthermore, with groups such as homosexuals and trans people gaining acceptance and increasingly no longer being considered “degenerate”, the number of other targets that conservatives can acceptably go after are growing smaller.

It’s also fascinating to me how the Satanic Panic and the associated pedophilia hysteria occurred during the Reagan presidency, when America was undergoing a major conservative resurgence, coinciding with social changes which were clearly threatening to the concept of the family unit. Women were entering the workplace in greater numbers (look at Die Hard in that light and consider the perspectives of the writers and you’ll see how these social changes affected that story), divorce was up, religious adherence was dropping, etc. In some ways, the panic felt like a conservative backlash to the changes occurring in society. After all, daycares were the primary target, and they were only being used because mothers were no longer at home, and the Satanic element suggested a society which was being torn apart from the inside by anti-religious evil. Similarly, the modern, growing hysteria is growing off the back of comparable social change – gay rights, trans rights, expanding awareness of racism and identity politics, etc. If the pattern holds the same as last time, then this period that we’re in now is merely the backlash that comes before the tacit acceptance of the social issues of our time.

Naturally, there is a certain amount of partisan hypocrisy to this right-wing fixation. Roy Moore would be the most high-profile example, and while he did lose the election, it was bloody close. 48% of Alabamans who voted would rather have a sexual predator in office than a Democrat it seems. Trump himself has also been dogged with numerous examples of either purported or confirmed lurid behaviour towards underage girls, which doesn’t seem to phase his supporters in the slightest:

“An election year lawsuit, withdrawn at the end of 2016, alleged that he’d raped a 13-year-old girl at one of the ‘infamous sex parties held by billionaire and known pedophile Jeffrey Epstein,’ a longtime pal. A BBC documentary featured multiple people recalling his predatory attitude toward models as young as 17 during the 1980s and 1990s. Five women who had competed in the Miss Teen USA pageant said Trump walked into their dressing room unannounced while girls aged 15 and older were changing. His history of lecherous comments about his own daughter, Ivanka, are legendary — and he even allegedly asked if it was ‘wrong to be more sexually attracted to your own daughter than your wife’ when she was 13.”

Beyond these specific examples though, the things that conservatives stand for are often enabling an environment where children can be preyed upon. One criticism of the Ontario sex ed backlash was that not teaching your kids about proper consent will just make them ignorant and more easily exploited. Furthermore, as much as people like to harp on the mysterious stranger in a dark van or gangs of secret pedophiles, the truth is that the family itself is most often the place where a child predator operates. Religious institutions are also notorious for covering-up child sexual abuse – and I don’t just mean the Catholic church either. Part of the controversy with Josh Dugger’s sexual assaults was that his church helped to cover it up rather than take it to the authorities, which happens distressingly often. And then there’s the general hypocrisy of the right’s desire to see itself as the side which “defends the children”:

“Apart from standing idly by as kids are gunned down in underfunded public schools, the American right denies our youth their life-saving health care, and GOP administrations oversee higher infant mortality. Children are disproportionately at risk from the climate change that Republicans refuse to acknowledge and stand to inherit an inhospitable planet (if they get to exist at all). Every day, we see photos of children kidnapped and thrown in cages by the president’s beloved ICE, who feed them psychotropic drugs, and whose negligence may have killed a toddler this week. QAnon’s vision of an underground child slave economy mirrors what’s happening in plain sight, and that is no coincidence.”

If you’re looking for further hypocrisy, just one article ago I was reading comments by the anti-PC crowd who were bemoaning how SJWs took away their loli-porn.

As much as the right loves to throw around the term “virtue signalling“, how can I view this pedophilia obsession as anything other than that? Especially in light of all the hypocrisy I’ve listed and when nearly all of the causes that I’ve listed in this article, from James Gunn, to Pizzagate, to QAnon, to the pedophile’s manifesto, are literally fake news. At that point, it feels like the outrage is little more than virtue signalling to show how good the person sharing it is and how much better they are than the degenerates in society. Here’s a bit of news: no one is sticking up for child molesters***. At most, some people are trying to raise awareness that pedophilia is a treatable condition, but even then there isn’t any sympathy for the people who actually commit sexual assault against minors.

These are my thoughts and theories on why it seems like conservatives are so sensitive to pedophilia. Perhaps I’m missing the mark or overlooking some things, but I’m confident that I’m hitting on something close to the truth of the matter. As I said near the start of this article, ultimately there isn’t really anything wrong with conservatives being sensitive to this topic – obviously, it’s a serious issue and worthy of being given attention. However, my main concern is with how this sensitivity is becoming weaponized by people without a shred of integrity. I’ll end this article with a quote from Miles Klee, which sums up the worst case scenario I can see this weaponization going in:

“QAnon sets the stage for mass arrests leading directly into fascist rule. When one side is keeping kids in sex dungeons, the QAnon logic goes, they don’t deserve due process — and must be thwarted by any means necessary. Conversely, anyone convicted for child porn or sexual abuse of a minor is part of the conspiracy.”

*For the record, I saw the article here and it instantly resonated to me as bullshit – a thousand sexual assaults and the police didn’t do anything because they were “afraid of being called racists”? As far as I could see, this story was only being reported on in such colourful terms in right-wing tabloids such as the Sun and Daily Mail and I struggled to find anything of note from credible news sources. It’s almost as if, shocker, the xenophobic-types are churning out anti-Islamic propaganda.
**That link is actually quite interesting to see – you’ve got a lengthy original post by a conservative blogger breaking down how evil this pedophile manifesto is, and then at the end there are just a number of addendums as they come to realize that the document is fabricated, but they attempt to justify their outrage against liberals anyway. That just goes to show the power of both propaganda and hardline-partisanship.
***Unless they’re a Republican, heyo!!!

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Quick Fix: Beta Uprising

In the time period between #GamerGate (ugh) and the rise of Trump (BLEH), I started reading We Hunted the Mammoth to get an idea of the sorts of extreme sexism present in our society which people are largely unaware of. However, as the American election began to ramp up, these stories began to evolve. Small communities in the “manosphere” of men’s rights activists, incels and “red pillers” were becoming more extreme and latching onto other groups. More than a year before neo-nazis came back into the public conscious at Charlottesville, I was seeing how the manosphere was drawing people into the alt-right and neo-nazi beliefs through their insulated communities centered on little more than hatred. That’s why men’s rights activism is a total joke – men face real issues which could be fixed with a concerted effort. However, trying to organize an effort to combat these issues is like trying to throw a white pride parade – the people who latch onto that cause will steer the ship towards the people they hate and blame for their problems.

This brings me to the recent van attack in Toronto, in which 10 people have been killed (so far) and 16 injured. Initially, it appeared that this might be an organized terrorist attack of some sort, as it was clearly premeditated. However, it is now coming out that the perpetrator, Alek Minassian, was likely a member of the manosphere and alt-right, specifically an “incel”, who was radicalized by the group’s hateful rhetoric. To put it simply, this rhetoric has grown from, and appeals to, groups of insecure and sexually frustrated young men who are “involuntary celibates” (hence “incel”). In their version of reality, “Chads” are the successful men who horde all the sex with the “Staceys” (aka, “sluts”, because even in this version of reality, a woman is worthy of scorn if she has sex with somebody). They also have a very social-Darwinist view of the world, where the Chads are alpha males and the incels are all betas (if you ever hear an alt-right dumbass calling you a “beta cuck”, now you know exactly why to laugh at them). Even the name “involuntary celibate” belies a belief that they feel that men are entitled to sex and that it is women who are in the wrong for denying them this right, with some even going so far as to fantasize for a world in which men can force women to have sex with them.

If it seems odd that this might cause someone to go on a killing spree, you’d be right, but the hatred that brews within the alt-right is literally radicalizing people in a manner not unlike that of a more organized terrorist organization such as ISIS. Incels’ fantasies about a world where the betas get their revenge has led to further fantasies of a “beta uprising”, to the point where it has basically become a legend among incels (seriously, that is not hyperbole on my part, just Google beta uprising). To this end, we have had mass killers inspired by this rhetoric, most notably Elliot Rodger of the Isla Vista killings in 2014. Perhaps most disgustingly, some incels have latched onto Elliot Rodger as a hero who started the beta uprising.

Predictably, Alek Minassian is being hailed as a hero once again by some within the incel community. It’s actually kind of a funny situation, I wonder how many of these people would paint all of Islam with the same brush in this situation, but say “hey, not all incels celebrate mass murder” when the finger gets pointed at them. But I digress – as one of my friends put it yesterday, this isn’t a mental health issue, but it’s going to be painted as such because that’s easier than dealing with the serious issues that are funneling young men towards radicalization in our society. People will rail against political correctness and feminism, but sexism is still alive in our society and this attack in Toronto is, as it seems with the evidence we have right now, the sort of result that it leads to at its most extreme. We should remember that it isn’t religion that causes people to kill, as the common scape-goat goes, but deep-seated hatred, dehumanization and radicalization.

I’m going to end this Quick Fix with the words of David Futrelle in his comments on this latest tragedy:

“[…] It would be dishonest and dangerous to dismiss this as a ‘mental health’ issue. Incel is a poisonous and hateful ideology, not a form of mental illness, and killings carried out in its name should be considered deliberate terrorism just as ISIS bombings or KKK lynchings are. Misogyny is hate, just as racism and religious intolerance are. As I’ve been saying for some time, the incel movement is a real danger; it appeals to young men consumed by bitterness who don’t think they have much to lose. And instead of helping them solve their problems it radicalizes them and ratchets up both their bitterness and their ‘nothing to live for’ nihilism. It’s a movement that idolizes mass killers and that has only slightly ironically heralded Elliot Rodger as its patron ‘saint.'”

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Quick Fix: Cold War Two and Fake News

The recent poisoning of former Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with a deadly nerve agent is only the most recent of a long series of events that should remind us that the Cold War has never truly ended. In fact, it makes the plot of Skyfall, where the British Parliament claims that the use of field agents by MI6 is unnecessary, seem positively outdated. The story is still unfolding, but just this morning the UK, France, US and Germany have all condemned Russian and are promising retributive action, while Russia promises that they will retaliate in kind. I imagine that this will all end with some strong words and chest thumping before fading into the background, but I’m more interested about the dialogue surrounding this event and what that may mean.

The following image is a snapshot of the first comments on the CBC article I linked above at the time of writing. I’ve been checking CBC news throughout this story’s development and it is pretty indicative of the sort of comments which dominate these articles:

Articles about the poisoning tend to be filled with pro-Russian voices, mostly with the intention of sewing doubt (you can see one here about not believing that “Russian bots” are real, while another references CIA media manipulation; I have also seen comments elsewhere regarding the lack of proof for Russian involvement). It seems like the sort of thing which is well below the business of a government, but there is certainly evidence that Russia is actively involved in spreading low-level misinformation as part of their propaganda machine. It also isn’t even the first time that Russia has assassinated former agents on British soil since the end of the Cold War, which provides further evidence that they deserve the scrutiny being leveled at them now. Some Russian officials are claiming that this is a false-flag operation, which just sews even more doubt in particularly paranoid sorts of individuals. For those sorts, this is equivalent to 9/11 and the American invasion of Iraq, believing that (for some inexplicable reason) liberals want to go to war with Russia and will use this false flag operation to get the sheeple public on their side (this is a narrative which was being put forth during the American election, that warhawk Hillary was going to cause a war with Russia).

This whole situation is making the assertion that we live in a post-truth world more demonstrable to me. The funny thing about all of this is that I have to be very careful to crouch all of my words because there really is no actual proof that Russia is responsible for this attack, despite the likely evidence that they did. Didn’t it seem like Iraq had some part to play in the War on Terror, didn’t we have evidence of WMDs, back when they were invaded? With all the misinformation and, dare I say it, fake news that is getting sewn out there, it makes it incredibly difficult to determine what is true and what is not.

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Witch Hunts

Lately I have been reading Richard Beck’s We Believe the Children: A Moral Panic in the 1980s, a very interesting tale of the social and political attitudes which helped to foster the 1980s “Satanic Panic” regarding daycares being places of ritual satanic sexual abuse. Thankfully our society is so far beyond such ridiculous hysteria, but there is a through-line in the narrative which has been making me slightly uneasy about the way that #MeToo has been progressing, especially after the backlash faced by Margaret Atwood after she made a cautionary op-ed about the movement.

To put it simply, the title of We Believe the Children shows the philosophy which was circulating during the 1980s – historically, the stories of abuse done to children have not been believed, therefore it is imperative that we believe the children because they will be honest and are too innocent to lie about sexual violence. Now, obviously this isn’t a zero-sum game where you either believe the children or assume they always are lying, but there’s obviously a level of discernment which needs to be taken into account. The main issues in the case of these kids were that the parents essentially coerced their children into making up stories of abuse (thereby giving them actual traumas to deal with later in life), prosecutors would refuse to believe that the children were telling the truth when they said that they weren’t abused and would pressure them into giving a confession just so they would be allowed to leave, and the prevailing belief that children’s accounts should not be questioned*.

Now, before I get any further, don’t get me wrong – I think #MeToo is ultimately a good movement, and one which has been long overdue. However, in reading about how hysteria about child abuse overturned due process and led to grave injustices, I can’t help but get a bit uneasy about how #MeToo is progressing. In the article published on the Globe and Mail, Margaret Atwood calls for more transparency and cautions about “the historical dangers of ‘guilty because accused’ in which ‘the usual rules of evidence are bypassed.’ […] ‘Such things are always done in the name of ushering in a better world,’ she writes. ‘Sometimes they do usher one in, for a time anyway. Sometimes they are used as an excuse for new forms of oppression.'” The parallels to the witch hunts and Satanic Ritual Abuse of the past should be glaringly obvious just from that description. So what sort of response did Atwood’s words of caution receive?

Sigh. I get that Twitter isn’t exactly the place for reasoned discussion, and you can obviously make a real case about why Atwood’s argument is harmful, but bloody hell if this tweet isn’t the picture of the pigheadedness which typifies social justice types. Like, I disagree with the presentation of this tweet in basically every way. First, she calls for Atwood to stop warring with women, basically asking for there not to be a dialogue or any sort of gradiation within the #MeToo movement. Secondly, she talks about war on “younger, less powerful women”, which smacks of the highly flawed use of “check your privilege” to shout down contrary opinion. And third and perhaps most insultingly, she signs off with a call for Atwood to “start listening”… like, are you even aware of how that comes across? Does it sound like you’re listening to Atwood? Do you even think that she deserves to be listened to? Why should anyone give you any sort of respect if you aren’t going to give them respect in turn? And how dangerous is it that you seem to be arguing against fair and due process in a time when authoritarianism is on the rise? Is it only okay when it’s in the name of your own interests?

This controversy also happens to coincide with another public dialogue about how the name, shame and ostracize nature of #MeToo might be over-extending its reach, with an op-ed about allegations against Aziz Ansari dividing people on how far this movement should be reaching and whether there needs to be more thought given to control the damage it can cause. Is this more about educating people on proper consent and respect, or is it about naming and shaming for any sort of sexual grievance? Should we be comfortable with a situation where a public accusation can tank someone’s career and reputation with a presumption of guilt? This is very much the sort of questioning that Atwood was addressing and, if everyone is willing to listen, then such controversies might prove that “[#MeToo] is big enough to encompass another layer in the discussion”. These questions were not asked during the ritual abuse moral panic, and many innocent people suffered irreparable damage to their lives for it, including the children who were supposed to be being protected in the first place.

Now, there is one very obvious qualifier here which I must point out that differentiates #MeToo from the Satanic Panic, and that is that the accounts of women should probably be held to a higher level of reliability compared to that of children (who, as the Satanic Panic showed, were susceptible to coercion and coached statements). In addition to having the statistics to back up their stories, women who come out about sexual assault are almost always going to be subjected to uncomfortable levels of public scrutiny, leading to further harassment. And this is why I’m so uncomfortable about these developments in #MeToo – on the one hand, these accusations are statistically reliable and I can’t think of a high-profile case in this movement which I don’t actually believe to be true. However, on the other hand, we just saw how one false story can wipe away all good-will for a movement, with the story of the 11 year old Muslim girl who lied about being attacked as part of a hate crime. That whole embarrassment and the subsequent hatred it fostered could have been avoided entirely if some scrutiny was applied before it became a headline. That’s really what I’m concerned about in all of this – I want justice to be done for the women who have been abused, I would like guilty perpetrators to face that justice, I would like for the innocent to not be smeared unjustly and I would like to see attitudes towards sex and consent change for the best in the future. Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer on how best to achieve all of these goals, but I will just sit here watching #MeToo with some unease, watching to see if they compromise any one goal for the benefit of another.

*The obvious hypocrisy here being that the parents and the prosecutors, the people who are supposed to be defending the children, clearly did not believe childrens’ accounts when they said that they were not abused. They were under the impression that children will hide any abuse, which prompts them to force them into a confession, but that is just wildly irresponsible.

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Voter Ignorance, Part 2

These are truly abundant times for us amateur political bloggers. Case in point: this article was originally conceived from Trump’s reaction to the recent mass shooting in Orlando. I was skimming the news when I came across a very fitting quote regarding the situation that the US faces in the current election: “What Obama can’t say is [that] the presumptive Republican nominee is an embarrassment to his own party, and the ultimate IQ test for the American electorate, come November.” That alone was enough to trigger another round of speculation on the eligibility of the existing electorate… but then Brexit happened. Holy shit, if there was ever a time to make voter restrictions a public topic, this is the time.

Commenter #1: Maybe if there’s segregation/zero integration, but by the second generation I think you’d see a high percentage of immigrant children assimilating into our culture.
Commenter #2: Good thing we came in and civilized the shit out of them!

In general, I don’t believe that we should place important decisions in the hands of the uninformed (or misinformed) public, and Brexit was a clear example of how this can go spectacularly wrong. With the British pound being devalued to historic lows, the elderly swinging the vote in favour of their rose-tinted childhoods, and the realization that this referendum is not exactly going to bring about any immediate net gains (if any), it’s little wonder that many “Leave” voters have changed sides and admitted they didn’t know what they were voting for. In fact, a good portion of the “Leave” vote was just trying to “stick it to the man” rather than actually thinking about the impact that this will have on them – after all, they might be trying to screw over the “elites”, but they’ll weather any economic uncertainty far better than the average citizens who end up suffering from a devalued currency, shrinking job market and the scores of other issues that Brexit is going to bring about. It was also worth noting that “the Leave camp won support across a diverse subsection of voters, both politically and economically. The clearest factor seemed to be education: those with a university degree voted overwhelmingly to remain, while those without one did the opposite, according to the Guardian newspaper.”

Of course, should we even be putting this sort of important decision in the hands of anyone with a half-formed opinion? The “Leave” painted their side as some sort of pro-labourer position… somehow… even though the “evil elitists” were warning that the economic repercussions of a “Leave” win would put workers in a worse position. The “Leave” vote was also noted for emphasizing emotion (calls for “freedom” and revenge against “elitists”) while the “Stay” vote emphasized rationality and expert opinions. Such rhetoric is just another demonstration of “playing politics” to earn votes, the truth be damned. As I have written previously:

“politicians lie or, if we’re being super generous, stretch the truth because it has been proven that the system benefits the ones who do so. This isn’t how it has to be though. Politics are a system which we created and which we can reshape. Start rewarding politicians with real integrity, who treat you like an intelligent individual and not just some statistic on their voter demographics spectrum”

Something tells me that this meme was made by a misogynist who likes to say “cuck”. I’ll be honest though, it made me laugh.

This more or less gets to the crux of my worries about voter ignorance – should we allow just anyone to make important decisions, or should we allow those who actually understand what the hell they’re doing to make the call (depending on the complexity of the issue, ranging from demonstrably informed voters to certified experts)? For an analogy, I’d ask you to look to the trial by jury in the modern legal system. There are some questions on whether trial by jury is an effective method by which to determine guilt – from their personal biases, to their actual engagement, to their understanding of the law (although, to be fair, this is just one perspective and some studies find that juries do a decent job overall). It has been suggested that a more effective method would be to establish “professional juries” who actually understand the legal system and can be better-engaged in their responsibilities to provide (theoretically) more accurate results than a regular jury of peers could do. As far as I’m concerned, why not extend this idea towards voting as well, where those who are more qualified to make important decisions would be given the task? This would, ideally, turn politics into an actual, honest-to-goodness, debate instead of the emotional shit-slinging, rhetorical flourishes and misinformation that our current system relies on to swing votes.

That’s not to say that the general public should never have a say in anything. We live in an exciting age where a democratic government finally can and should be able to extend to the fingertips of every citizen in some form or another. I have an exciting, pie-in-the-sky picture of a future society where all citizens of a nation have their own government account, where they can engage in votes put up by lawmakers and can more-directly influence the decisions that affect the nation. At present, referendums are generally reserved for major policy shifts that affect all citizens, but my vision of a central, citizenship-based website would make such “small-scale” referendums much more feasible. The “O Canada” lyrics change, for example, was a prime example of the sort of purely opinion-based issue which should have been left up to Canadian citizens to decide rather than lawmakers, especially since it is in regards to a national symbol owned by all Canadians.

In addition to the obvious issues that come about when considering restricted voter eligibility which I covered in part 1, there is one other potentially critical issue I have begun to realize (and one which makes this already potentially-evil idea even shadier) – how do you prevent voter restrictions from turning into a revolutionary powderkeg? Terrorism grows from a sense of powerlessness, and if we suddenly tell an already-disenfranchised section of the population that their voices don’t even matter then they’ll start pulling off some ISIS-level shit to grab for power. Similarly to most of the really big issues with this whole idea, I don’t really have an effective answer on how to combat this potential drawback. Where do we even draw the line on what sort of issues are unacceptable without causing the ornery in society from flocking to it? Is “false freedom” necessary though to keep nutcases from feeling downtrodden and fighting back? Such a line of thought is incredibly unsettling… but then again, when we have a presidential candidate whose campaign seems to be basically designed around rallying white supremacists, it becomes easier to swallow.

We seem to be living in a time period where anti-establishment, counter-cultural movements are gaining a lot of traction in society. This is arguably most visibly demonstrated by the popularity of both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders during this election cycle, and the immediate fallout from Brexit has shown exactly what sort of chaotic effects such a position can have. Such movements tend to stem from emotional lashing out when a level head might provide us with a better way forward. In such times, I wish that more of us would listen to experts and get educated on the issues rather than just going with our guts or our friends’ opinions. I might never “figure out” how to make voter restriction into a working system without turning the nation into a pseudo-dictatorship in the process, but I do believe that the current system is horrifically broken and I have no faith in it.

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In All Thy Sons Command

So it’s looking very likely that the (English) Canadian national anthem is going to be changed to be “gender neutral”, much to the consternation of seemingly everyone willing to put their opinions out there. For those unversed, the English variation of the Canadian national anthem goes as follows:

O Canada!

Our home and native land!

True patriot love in all thy sons command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,

The True North strong and free!

From far and wide,

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

The proposed bill, put forth by a Liberal party MP dying of ALS (presumably as his final wish to improve his country), wishes to change “in all thy sons command” to “in all of us command”. As one could expect, this proposal has unleashed a shitstorm of fury from people calling the proposal a shame to every soldier who has died fighting under that anthem and that it’s just the “political correctness police” forcing us to change over nothing. Naturally, the dishonouring veterans argument is a common tactic amongst so-called “patriots” in any sort of national debate like this, although it isn’t particularly effective since the proposed changes are closer to the original lyrics (pre-1914) and “O Canada” didn’t even become our official anthem until 1980 (with the only major non-peace-keeping operation since that point being the Afghan War). On the other side, we have people claiming that those who don’t want the anthem changed are supporting sexism, which just reeks of attempting to shame people out of arguing with them*.

In general, people hate any sort of change, especially when it gets forced on them. I know that whenever a new program gets introduced at my office, people will grumble and cry out about having to learn a new system, even if it’s demonstrably more useful and efficient. This is also why the US is so ass-backwards in still using the imperial measurement systems, despite it costing them (and the rest of the world) time and money every year by keeping it – they’d rather be proficient at something inefficient rather than take the time to get good at something demonstrably better. On a similar note, I think we could convince most people that inclusivity is a good thing in principle, but when you take that into the real world and apply it to the national anthem, suddenly you’ve got about 3/4 of the population disagreeing with the sentiment. If this goes through, I’m just picturing how much trouble this is going to cause – I can see the singers at sporting events getting booed for going with the new lyrics, or Olympians refusing to take the podium, or a singer deciding to go with the old lyrics to make a statement. For something so small, this is probably going to be quite contentious for a few years.

That’s the thing though – this might piss people off significantly in the short term, but in the long term “in all of us command” is going to become the only “O Canada” that any of us knew. Kids will grow up singing it this way and maybe their old fashioned grandparents will complain about how the change was made, to which the kid will just wonder what the hell the big deal is. Again, the lyrics to “O Canada” have been changed twice in the past, and they likely will get changed again sooner or later. I kind of like the idea of a nation that isn’t shackled to outdated structures over time (unlike the US and all the insane culture that the Second Amendment has fostered). Adapting to the times is one way that nations actually survive in the long term, so this might just be part of Canada trailblazing into the future and making itself better (but then again, an anthem that can be changed might hold less importance than one that is immoveable – we shall have to see on that front).

That’s my take on the situation, but what about my actual opinion on the change? Well, for my part, I am kind of ambivalent about the change. If it gets changed then that’s cool by me, but on the other hand I don’t consider it a great crime if it remains the same – the current anthem is, in my opinion, only “sexist” if you really stretch the definition to anything that is not completely inclusionary. In fact, I wonder if changing it might be a mistake. I can see the change fostering a significant amount of animosity towards progressives and feminists in the public sphere, and I would be shocked if the Conservative party did not take this and turn it into a rallying cry to oust the Liberal party when their term is up. It also kind of cements my opinion that the Liberal party is largely the “white, middle-class” party, since this is basically the political equivalent of a “first world problem”. I like that Justin Trudeau is pushing more of a progressive angle for the Liberals in his leadership, but when they end up focusing their efforts on championing something like this, it feels like a strange set of priorities. In fact, I think the biggest issue is that they didn’t bother to call a referendum – “O Canada” is a song which is effectively owned by all Canadians, not something which our government has dictated upon us. Not giving us a say in this change is extremely strange and stands at odds with the Trudeau government’s commitment to open and inclusive government.

Bottom-line, I guess I’m against the change in a sense, but mainly because I don’t want to have to listen to the whining and slippery-slope seething which is inevitably going to result in its passing. That said, it looks like it’s likely to become law here soon enough, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a part 2 to this article at some point…

*By the way, assholes, if you wanted to label this sort of person as an “SJW”, then that would be a far more appropriate usage of the term than the current meaningless label it has become.

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Vengeance Is Mine

So I finally got around to seeing The Revenant last night. I enjoyed it, maybe not quite as much as Birdman though (that said, it was clearly intended to be more of a crowd-pleaser than Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s big Oscar winner). As I often do when I see an interesting film, I decided to Google it to see what sort of conversation was still on-going around it. The first entry on Google’s news feed really caught my eye though: The Revenant Calls for Critical Christian Response.

Having just watched the film, I find the notion of Christian critics considering The Revenant to be a very good film for Christian audiences to be a baffling notion. It’s about as pure an example of the revenge narrative as you can get, a concept which (while very popular amongst storytellers and audiences) is very much at odds with the Christian philosophy of radical enemy-love and “turning the other cheek”. The article agrees with me on this response, and also lists 10 films which are typically considered very “Christian” within the popular critical consensus:

  1. The Matrix
  2. The Tree of Life
  3. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
  4. American Beauty
  5. Fight Club
  6. The Lord of the Rings
  7. The Shawshank Redemption
  8. Magnolia
  9. Braveheart
  10. Saving Private Ryan

Now, aside from The Matrix, The Tree of Life and The Lord of the Rings, which are all bursting with Christian themes, many of these films seem like a stretch to me. I mean, The Shawshank Redemption is all about hope, but that’s hardly a theme that really resonates with damn near everyone (hence why it has been IMDb’s top rated film for close to a decade now). Saving Private Ryan is arguably a Christ metaphor if you twist it into a pretzel, but if for example I was asked to mark a paper based on this argument I’d have a hard time accepting the premise. And what the literal hell is Fight Club doing on this list? As much as I loved that film, it is far easier to argue that it is a Marxist film and/or satire of modern macho-masculinity than a Christian film. I have no idea where they even start that argument. I’m sure there are other films on there which are just as baffling (unfortunately, I haven’t seen (enough of) American Beauty, Magnolia or Braveheart to comment on them, but I have a hard time seeing Braveheart in particular as being a Christian narrative.

By the way, I should make it clear that I’m not exactly shitting on these films. I’m not so stupidly religious that I can’t enjoy a film on its own merits or outside of my convictions (hell, one of the more intriguing films I saw this year was The Witch, which is debatably Satanic). Again, I really liked The Revenant, but I’m not deluded enough to believe that my enjoyment of it should be a validation of my belief system, because within that context it was an incredibly ugly film. Are Christian critics arguing that it’s “Christian enough” because it has spiritual themes, a central character who “rises from the dead” and that the hero stays his hand at the end? That might actually be enough if the film didn’t completely subvert each of these criteria – the spiritual themes amount to ambigious visions of the hero’s deceased family, our “risen Christ” comes back to sow death and destruction upon the man who wronged him (which would arguably make him into an “anti-Christ”) and the stays his hand at the end, but in doing so not only doesn’t forgive his enemy, but hands him over to his other enemies, who proceed to scalp him alive. Yeah, some lesson learned there, eh?

Naturally, another part of the article that resonated with me was the authour’s questioning of the masculine-dominated Christian critical opinion. This is obviously coming into play with such selections as Fight Club, Saving Private Ryan and Braveheart, where violence and masculinity are the sources of power, rather than forgiveness and mercy (in fact, Upham’s big moment of character development in Saving Private Ryan comes when he guns down a German soldier after letting on live earlier in the film in the same scenario). This definitely seems to tie into the reception of The Revenant, which has absolutely no room for forgiveness in its heart and very much is a glorification of violence (again, not that I think this is necessarily a bad thing, I just don’t think it’s a Christian thing).

Of course, I also question where these “Christian critics” are coming from. It’s pretty well known that there’s a strong culture of violent retaliation amongst conservative Evangelicals in the US which we saw with the acceptance of the Iraq War, or the typical response whenever there’s a terrorist attack on the news (“let’s bomb those damned sand n*ggers back to the stone age!!!!”). Coincidentally, today is the 5th anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden, a day which saw people literally out in the streets celebrating. In hindsight, the celebration was premature and The War on Terror was only going to get worse (in fact, The War on Terror was in itself an escalating factor in creating terror), so his death solved little. I can remember my own reaction at the time upon hearing the news and seeing all of the people celebrating over the death – wasn’t that a little barbaric in itself? Weren’t we so angry to begin with because we thought they were celebrating over killing our own people? It especially rang true when, just a month later, Jackass star Ryan Dunn killed himself and a passenger in a drunk driving accident, but people were crying that you couldn’t speak ill of the dead – to which I quipped that you couldn’t criticize the guy unless he killed another 3000 people along with him.

Anyway, the point here is that we, as a society, are obsessed with violence. However, as they say, an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. If we perpetuate the cycle of violence, it only makes things worse – just look at the shitstorm that we created in Iraq and Syria for a current example. Revenge is fun on the big screen, but when it spills over into real life and begins to inform our belief systems, then it’s time for some introspection.

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Love the Sinner, Period.

I am 2 years late on this story, but my father told me about the Benham brothers, a real estate family-duo who had a reality TV show lined up with HGTV, but which was cancelled when it was revealed that one of the brothers was active in anti-LGBTQ protests. Someone had played a video about them at his Bible study, where he was saying they were pressured out of their TV deal by HGTV because they wouldn’t compromise on their faith. This sounded rather suspicious and obviously one-sided to me (plus it’s not like the world needed another shitty real estate reality TV show/60-minute home improvement commercial anyway), so I looked into it and it would seem that Right Wing Watch made some (arguably hyperbolic) statements about one of the brothers’ views on homosexuality and the “gay agenda”.

If you follow conservative evangelical circles, all the stuff they said is pretty much par for the course for that kind of worldview. This represented a rift between what was reported to me and what seems to have actually happened though – this was represented to me as the brothers being persecuted for being Christians and pressured to cave in to “The World”, whereas it seems like the show was actually cancelled because of shitty public statements that one of the brothers had made. Is this religious persecution? I think it would be hard to argue that it isn’t religious persecution in a sense, but do I feel sorry for him? Not really, because he’s being persecuted for not being able to persecute others (and if you believe that the show was cancelled due to persecution over being a Christian, then you’re basically saying that a core aspect of Christianity is the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people). If we simply looked at the brothers immediately after the HGTV cancellation then I’d be willing to potentially feel some sympathy for them, since they seemed to be just getting strung up for some statements made a few years earlier. However, that time is long past and they seem to be leveraging their persecution complex to get political attention. Naturally, they’re from North Carolina and have been showing up in the news lately saying stupid bullshit which is further solidifying the accusations that, hey, maybe these guys just don’t like gays.

Oh sure, the brothers will vehemently argue that “anyone who suggests that we hate homosexuals or people of other faiths is either misinformed or lying”, but they seem to think that only applies to individuals, since they also claim “homosexuality and its agenda […] is attacking the nation,” and that it “erodes the moral fabric of our society” and “threaten(s) future generations”. Do those sound like the statements of someone who isn’t hateful of gay people?

This, of course, is just the logical issue with the “love the sinner, hate the sin” approach to the so-called “gay problem” in the church. You’re really just deflecting the argument by trying to be loving, but when you consider a major aspect of the person’s identity to be abhorrent, you’re going to have a hard time making them feel loved. Similarly, my father echoed this sentiment when he told me the Benham brothers story: “I’m not anti-gay, I’m just pro-Bible.” I’m sorry, but bull-f–king-shit. You’re anti-gay because that’s what you think you faith has told you to become, but you’re worried about the stigma that such a label gives you. Seriously, stop shying away from your unsavoury aspects because you think they’ll make you look like the bad guy – because really, that’s what us Christians are being here. We are the assholes here, denying people equal rights and respect that the rest of us enjoy because we believe that is what God wants us to do. If that’s still what you believe then fine, but don’t try to turn yourself into a noble defender who isn’t even incidentally hating on anyone, because it’s making us all look like idiots.

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IC2S Playlist Update 06/04/2016

This week’s selections have some moderately interesting stories behind them. First of all, Andrew W.K. is back in the news again after he officially registered his own political party, called… The Party Party. Because of course he did. Most people are thinking this is some sort of political stunt, but regular readers will already know that Andrew W.K. is one of the main personalities on The Blaze. Considering that he is insisting that The Party Party is legit, then odds are that he really is serious about bringing the party to America. I love this little quote he made about his political support, which I can only imagine must have been some of his Blaze collaborators:

“[Andrew W.K.] said that though he did reach out to people from the political sphere for input or collaboration, his offers were denied and they said he his effort was dangerous and a counterproductive distraction. ‘We agreed to disagree and I didn’t attempt to involve any formal political organizations further,’ he said. ‘To be honest, I just don’t think they liked partying very much.'”

What else could I do in response to that but put “Party Hard” on this week’s playlist?

Our second choice for this week is in celebration of the home video release of The Force Awakens. To commemorate the event, I have chosen DUM’s “Come Away”, their Star Wars-inspired love song. There really isn’t much more reason behind it than that, aside from the fact that I haven’t featured a DUM song in ages, and that that is one of their better releases. Enjoy!

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IC2S Playlist Update 23/03/2016

Whenever I go on long periods where the blog is only updated with Playlist updates (like it is right now), I feel kind of bad. I’ve been quite busy lately though, juggling an increased workload due to taking on a new position and getting into exam time with an online course for my job. Even my leisure time is squeezing out writing opportunities as I had to paint up a couple dozen models in anticipation for a Warhammer 40,000 tournament, plus find time to play Rainbow Six Siege and Fire Emblem Fates. Blogging has just been a fairly low priority for me at the moment unfortunately, even though I’ve got about a half dozen things I wouldn’t mind writing about.

First of all is someone that I haven’t bothered to write about yet… making me pretty much the only person with a blog who hasn’t. That’d be Donald Trump in case you were still wondering. I never would have predicted that Trump would be a lock-in for the Republican leadership nomination, although I still think that the odds that he will win the presidency are close to impossible. However, I was thinking about Trump the other day and the ways that he has been identifying with his significant voter base. Aside from the obviously prickish white supremacists, sexists and assorted other crazies who simply like Trump’s more unsavory aspects, the bulk of Trump’s support seems to stem from his anti-establishment rhetoric. Basically, if the political system seems broken, then get an outlier to change it – kind of the opposite approach to the “if it ain’t broke” axiom. Unfortunately, this is a pretty enormous gamble by the public, placing the leadership of a world superpower in the hands of an untested and ideologically-unpleasant individual just because they feel that they lack representation in the current system*.

These thoughts have brought me back to the opinion article I penned during the Canadian election, that politics are a game, that the voter is being exploited and therefore we should have voter education for eligibility. Few “democracies” have a game more tried and tested than the American political system, so it’s little wonder that the Republican party has essentially imploded in such a manner as the voters turn on the establishment which has consistently shown contempt for their opinions. That said, considering that people have turn to Trump (whose own statements can legitimately and justly compare him to Hitler’s politics without any of the political bullshit that usually follows that sort of comparison), you have to question the merits of a system like this. I mean on the one hand, sure this is what “the people” seem to want, but that doesn’t always mean that it’s the “right” approach to take, especially in the long term. I’m very hesitant to say that I support a oligarchical system, but every time I look at democracy lately it just pushes me further and further in that direction.

Then again, I have an extremely morbid curiosity to see what a Trump Presidency would look like, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can continue to pull off his upsets at every turn. At least it’s not my country which will have to deal with it. USA! USA!

On a related topic, this morning I had a rather irritating conversation with my father. He was watching the Stingray Music Channel and a song by “Average White Band” came on, which prompted him to say “oh, you couldn’t name a band that anymore, everything has to be politically correct.” I said “eh, I figure you could get away with that without too much fuss.” He replied “you couldn’t name them ‘Average Black Band’, everything has to be politically correct.” Again, I said “I don’t figure that would cause much fuss,” to which he once again replied “everything these days has to be politically correct”. Attempting to argue with my father can be exasperating at times, but that’s besides the point** – is there anything “politically incorrect” about just mentioning race? As usual around these parts, it’s all about the context of course. If they called themselves “Average Black Band” and then made a bunch of songs about how stupid/awful black people are, then sure they’re definitely deserving of some scorn. However, it seems like these days there are more complaints about political correctness as an idea than there are actual cases of legitimately overzealous political correctness. In fact, from my experience (and that of my friends as well), those harping the anti-political correctness agenda the most just seem to be just assholes who are annoyed that they get called out for being homophobic/racist/etc. This seems to be coming to a head with Trump as well, as I know my father has said that the one thing he likes about Trump is that he’s not politically correct… as if that is something which should qualify someone for the presidency.

Of course, there will always be someone complaining about any sort of opinion – and not just from “those butthurt SJW-types”. If you get a massive group of people telling you to stop being an asshole though, then maybe at least give them a moment’s consideration to see if there might be something to what they’re saying. Think about what as you check out this week’s picks, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vidda” by Iron Butterfly and “December Flower” by Sleeping Romance.

(EDIT) Oh hey looked, Cracked sums me up perfectly once again!

*That said, I’ll take Trump over Cruz any day.
**In fact, after looking up “Average White Band”, plus “politically correct” and “offensive”, I found absolutely zero hits on the first pages of people complaining about the name.

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IC2S Playlist Update 09/03/2016

I’ve got to say, I have been looking forward to this playlist update for a while now. The reason for that is because I have REALLY gotten into Iron Maiden’s discography now and have been listening to their music pretty much every day lately. In fact, narrowing down to just one song from them this week was hard enough. In the end though, I decided to settle on the title track from arguably my favourite Maiden album, “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”. This album just exemplifies what I love so much about Iron Maiden, the sweeping epics, the tackling of simple (but deep) themes and some absolutely killer guitar solos. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son seems to get overlooked in favour of more of the “classic” Maiden albums (Piece of Mind, Killers, The Number of the Beast, Powerslave, etc), but for my money it’s criminally underrated. That said, it also demonstrates just how deep Iron Maiden’s discography is. Seriously, if you aren’t listening to them already, the damn well do it.

I also knew that I wanted to play some Showbread this week. I initially was going to go with “Dear John Piper”, but with all the insanity going on in the States at the moment due to the nomination process, another song really jumped out at me. “I’m Afraid That I’m Me” might be Showbread’s best song that encapsulates the political religiosity of American evangelicalism:

“Lately I have found frustration among the incongruence / a movement of peasants and pacifists drowning in patriotic affluence / I feel as though I should do something but I’m staggered by the ramifications / they’ve baptized the empire into the church and heralded its sanctification”

“‘Blessed are the meek’ succumbs to ‘might makes right’ / “turn the other cheek” succumbs to pre-emptive strike / “love your enemies” is fossilized beneath the frozen tundra / and ‘blessed are the poor in spirit’ is devoured by ‘God bless America’.

You file the children into the classrooms, make them stand and say an oath / and when we ask ‘should I love God or my country?’ / you smile and tell us ‘both.’ / We’ve hidden the God we claim we serve and driven him beneath the floorboards / but I can still hear this still, small voice / and I can’t take it anymore”

What else can I say? For all the political and religious commentary, it’s clearly a very deserving song to add to the IC2S Playlist.

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