Please do not feed the Mail.

The Daily Mail thrives on stirring up a mass of indignation and ridicule from a tiny pool of actual facts, sort of like the journalistic equivalent of homoeopathy, diluting the truth with so much rhetoric that it ceases to exist at all, while people still listen to it as if it’s working. Everybody knows bullshit has memory! It’s good at this at the best of times, but every so often, somebody in The Establishment has a brain fart and actually does something incredibly stupid that it completely validates the vat of bollocks that had been building in anticipation.  

It happens all the time. Political correctness is essentially a good thing. It is institutionalised politeness, and a noble aim. It wouldn’t even be a problem if it restricted its mandate to preventing people using the word ‘fag’ about gay people or ticking off somebody saying ‘paki’ in an office, but thanks to the aforementioned neural flatulence, its name is instead sullied by thick people.

The thick people in this case are the government, a body of people typical known for their clarity of thought and perceptiveness (snork). Government lawyers are planning to argue in the European Court of Human Rights that Christians are not allowed to wear crosses at work as they are not an “essential component of Christianity”. I’ll pause and let you ponder that for a second. It turns out that rather than being the universally accepted symbol for the religion, and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that beardy chap who lent his name to the whole thing, the cross is in fact an added extra to the faith, like not working on a Sunday, praying every night, or homophobia.  

Now let’s move past that giant blob of stupid for a moment, lest it restrict our mental eye-line on the second, equally huge blob of stupid lurking behind it. The real question is, why the hell shouldn’t a Christian wear a cross at work, even if it is merely a peripheral of the religion? Presuming it isn’t hewn from an ancient oak tree and brought in on the backs of slaves, it is essentially harmless and often barely noticeable. The idea being perpetuated by the Daily Fail is that it’s a sacrifice ‘on the altar of PC madness!?!?!?!?’ (one of their favourite phrases; I think  Hitchens probably has a stamp with it on), and you know what? I can’t think what the hell else it would be. Because here’s the problem…sometimes political correctness IS stupid. 

This is what I mean by not feeding the trolls that lurk under the bridge of Right Minds. This story fuels both the “political correctness is stupid!” and the “Christianity is under attack!” bandwagons. The thing is, “it’s not” and “it’s not”, and rampant silliness such as this will do nothing to dispel the myth.

Homophobia and football

I lasted a few days without saying anything controversial, but fuck it, it’s who I am baby.

There are no openly gay men in the football league. This is a Bad Thing. There has been plenty of (completely legitimate) soul searching about the apparently homophobic atmosphere on the terraces and in the dressing room, but that’s not what I want to talk about. There’s a second, less commented upon reason that young gay men don’t find themselves playing professional football - or don’t admit it when they do.

If you’re a young man who is unsure about his sexuality, or sure of it but unsure of the way people would react or how you would show it, you will look for role models. Who are the most famous gay role models in our society? You have Alan Carr. You have Graham Norton. You have Gok Wan. If you asked any of them about their favourite football team, they’d giggle girlishly and tell you that they never bothered with that at school, darling.

That’s not me perpetuating stereotypes of homosexuals. That’s THEM. They exist in the role of the effeminate, slightly lewd, cackling gay men. If they are who a young man will look up to for inspiration when confronting and accepting his sexuality, what conclusions will he reach? He certainly wouldn’t feel he should be playing football. Alan Carr has been known to joke that he didn’t like football, but enjoyed the changing rooms. Our young man, then, must not only dislike football, he must be a pervert, a stereotype that homophobes take great glee in attacking. He must like fashion. He must speak in an exaggerated voice. 

Now I know why they live these roles. That’s their job. Every celebrity fills some sort of colourless niche. Just as Alan Carr is a flaming gay man, Simon Cowell is the ice-cold bastard. Perhaps neither are really true. But if there is no legitimate and REAL gay role models in wider society - and I mean REALLY wide society, the sort that kids will be exposed to, I accept there are wonderful and inspiring gay men everywhere if you look hard enough, but kids tend not to - then there should be no surprise when young gay men don’t feel confident or acceptable in playing football. And that’s not just football’s fault.

Being taken out of context makes me angry.

I’m currently weathering a storm of tweets from strangers who are under the sorely mistaken impression that I think rape is comparable to abortion. Disgraceful. It was a line taken out of context, and a line which I will now justify.

I questioned why a lack of direct experience should prevent debate, with relation to abortion, and was told it was about infringing upon a woman’s bodily autonomy.

I replied that we have a justice system which is in the habit of infringing upon the autonomy of strangers all the time. Why, I asked, is abortion different?

I was told that laws are not made specifically to target the way that different genders use their body. I disagreed, and was prompted to give an example.

An example of the way that the law targets a specific gender, and its ability to use its body with impunity, is rape. If you agree that rape should be criminalised, which it goes without saying you all do, then you also agree that there are occasions that we may infringe upon the autonomy of one gender specifically, even if we are not part of it.

Read that back to yourself. That is REASONABLE. That is not condoning rape. That is not saying there is any practical, ethical, emotional connection between rape and abortion. It is saying that there ARE occasions that allow us to make judgements upon the autonomy of another, even if that specific exercise of autonomy is gender specific.

All very upsetting. Thanks for reading.

edit: I was wrong about rape being male only. My research misled me. The principle, however, stands: “there ARE occasions that allow us to make judgements upon the autonomy of another, even if that specific exercise of autonomy is gender specific” which is the important bit. Other examples would include past laws on gay and bisexual men donating blood (thankfully now repealed). 

edit2: there seems to be some confusion about the example on other grounds. People are complaining that rape is similar to other violent crime in that it is using one’s autonomy to attack another, whereas abortion is solely a personal thing.

Now, the original argument is about the right that anti-abortion people have to condemn it. I was using the rape example NOT because of the manner or practicality of it (eg whether it was or wasn’t against another individual) but because it was, I believed, in the eyes of the law, something ONLY DONE BY MEN. That was the point of comparison. That it was gender specific. If I was right, and it was gender specific, then under the grounds of the opposing argument it could not be condemned. Hope that’s clearer.

Abortion and Women’s rights: a response.

My earlier entry about the above issue prompted a response from one of the writers at Shrillblog, which I’ll link at the bottom, as well as the original, since I’m not sure how to embed links. Here is my response to the response.

I hope this isn’t too long for people. I do sum it up succinctly in the last couple of paragraphs if you get bogged down. I just felt the need to confront a couple of things before I explained the conclusion.

It begins with the well-worn and depressing suggestion that “there is a significant problem with men offering opinions on the specific issue of another person’s bodily autonomy”. The idea that there should be a problem with somebody offering an opinion upon the way somebody else uses their body is ridiculous. Is our societal condemnation of murder not offering an opinion upon another person’s bodily autonomy? By all accounts, it seems we should allow them to murder as they please, for fear of crossing the boundary into expressing a view as to the limits upon their actions. 

We do not, alas, live in a libertarian utopia. We must draw judgements upon the way that others exercise their liberty. We have laws. We have police. A lack of uterine empathy does not disqualify me from an opinion, nor does it in any way reduce the validity of it. 

I hope I can be forgiven for what will be a blunt and shocking example. The vast proportion of rapists are men. Most if not all women will never empathise with a rapist. It is not possible. Partly for practical reasons that I hope can be avoided, but partly because it is an action driven by a wholly male, testosterone fuelled, violent power complex. It is an act that is created and enacted as a brutal and disgusting expression of male sexuality. Every woman would, however, feel completely within their rights to totally and passionately disagree with the way in which a rapist uses his personal autonomy to damage the autonomy of others. 

Now let me be very clear. I am not saying that aborting an embryo is ethically comparable to a rape. I am saying that it is comparable in the way in which we may have opinions upon something that our gender could not possibly allow us to empathise with or understand. For the sake of clarity: abortion is similar to rape only in the sense that it is something done by one gender that the other cannot  understand, and yet may (and should) still have opinions upon.

I must stress this. I am not comparing rape to abortion on an ethical level, and I would utterly reject any insinuations as such. I do not want to be criticised on the grounds that I have made a comparison that is somehow abhorrent and unfair. Please bear completely in mind the context and content of the comparison. I hope that it is understood that the example illustrates only that the train of logic that follows from “men may not comment upon female autonomy” eventually arrives at the station of women being unable to disapprove of rape, which is a horrific destination.

Finally, the body and crux of the debate. The response suggests a number of ways in which abortion *does* infringe upon the right of the individual, and indeed causes many individuals no small amount of harm. The anti-abortion campaigner knows this. Of course they do. If they don’t, then the fault is their own ignorance, not the view they subscribe to. The key point, however, of the whole thing, is not that anti-abortion people don’t infringe upon the rights of the individual, necessarily, it is that the rights of the individual are superseded by the perceived greater right of the unborn person.  Nobody denies that preventing abortion is an infringement upon the rights of the woman, the claim is only that it is a lesser infringement than that of the woman on the embryo.


"But", I hear you cry, "it isn’t a lesser infringement! The woman’s rights are far greater than the embryo! After all, it’s only potential life!". Now, an important point, and one that needs to be shouted loudly and clearly. When we talk about potential life, and the ending thereof, it is not a simple matter. An acorn has the potential to be an oak tree. It also has the potential to be a park bench. The former is a potential that, in the natural, uninterrupted order of things, will be fulfilled. The latter requires some kind of causal intervention. This is the crucial difference between the loss of an egg or sperm, and between the loss of a fertilised embryo.

A fertilised embryo has active potential. It will, barring abortion, accident or illness, reach it’s human destination, as surely as that acorn will become an oak tree. A gamete has passive potential. It is not on the path to humanity. It is waiting; inactive. It is for this reason that the response’s comment “Yes, it’s a potential person, but I’ve got a whole army of potential people in my egg-laden loins, and no-one sheds a tear when I get my period” is false. There is a vital, incontestable difference between the potential life of a fertilised embryo, and the potential life of a gamete, and one that it would do the abortion debate good to realise. The glib dismissal of the value of potential life is too often wrongly accepted.

And so while the response is incorrect in denying the significance of potential life, it is also incorrect in suggesting that it is physical constraints that give something the right to life. As has been notoriously suggested, both by Peter Singer and more recently, a newborn can no more survive on its own then a 13 week foetus. It does not have a sense of identity. It does not have abstract thought. If we are drawing lines based on physical and developmental grounds as to whether something should be awarded a right to life, then organ development and physical size is an incredibly arbitrary place to start. Does a growing body only deserve to live once it has formed fingernails? Once it has opened its eyes? Once it first recognises itself in the mirror?

My dismissal of the response’s rejection of an embryo’s right to life is not a fully-formed counterargument as such. It is merely casting doubt upon the certainty with which people approach an incredibly complicated and possibly unsolvable issue. The criticism of anti-abortion is based on a flawed notion that a woman’s rights definitely supersede an embryo’s. There is no definite here. There is no definite on the other side either, of course. An anti-abortion person can say with no greater certainty that an embryo’s rights are more important. My point, then, in the light of this, was not that an embryo has greater rights, but that those who think it does are not intending to deprive a woman of hers. We cannot know for certain if the balance is more weighted on the rights of one side or the other, and so all we are left with is motivation and intention

It is the criticism of this motivation and intention that I confronted. I argued that based on their beliefs, anti-abortion people are not depriving women of their rights. In making it into an actual debate about the balance of rights, the response wholly missed my point. It was a rebuttal of the rhetoric often employed by pro-abortion people. I wasn’t interested in arguing the answer, only in defending the intention of anti-abortioners, something which I believe I successfully did. Everything after that is misunderstanding.

http://shrillblog.co.uk/2012/abortion-response-jantacular/

http://jantacular.tumblr.com/post/19274342025/opposing-abortion-means-denying-a-womans-right-over

Comparing abortion to the holocaust.

Oh look, it’s another in my series of ‘needlessly inflammatory posts’! The beef this time happened on Twitter. Somebody posted an angry comment about a woman who had compared abortion to the holocaust. Here’s why I think it’s a fair comparison…with a certain proviso.

There are many shades of grey, so I won’t be too flippant, but the gist of my argument is that IF you believe that abortion is the taking of a life that is on a similar level or identical to that of an adult person, then it’s a fair comparison. Obviously that’s a gigantic ‘if’. When we are considering the justification of a person making such a claim as the holocaust one, and are making judgements upon their character, as the person on Twitter did, you have to consider the side that the claimant is coming from. This isn’t about whether you think abortion is murder. It is about deciding: if somebody DOES think that, are they reasonable in equating it with genocide?

The answer is manifestly yes. If you believe abortion is murder, then the scale of death is astronomic. It is killing on a scale never repeated throughout human history, and it is ongoing and accepted as okay. The motivation is, of course different. It is not a killing based on the view that a group is ethnically inferior. It is a killing based on the view that a group *isn’t a person at all*. It should be immediately evident that to someone who believes abortion is murder, it should be considered one of the greatest and most horrific crimes in human history.

Now. Obviously this is all dependent on that big, hanging ‘if’, but that doesn’t matter. The original problem on Twitter was someone making a personal attack upon someone for daring to make the comparison. You can attack their logical basis for believing abortion is murder, and people will, all day long, but their emotional reaction to it, based on their belief, is untouchable.

n.b. I am neutral as always. The description was deliberately emotive to try and convey the genuine passion that an anti-abortioner may feel about the practice.

Once Upon a Time in the Midlands

Birmingham gave me a crunching headache, but I forgive it, because it’s really quite nice. Here are some thoughts.

  • New Street station is the only building I’ve ever seen in which depression condenses. If you go and lick the walls you’ll know what Jeremy Clarkson’s soul tastes like. They also have no benches, only a tiny, grotty “waiting area”. Waiting, presumably, to die. It forces you to either lean against a post somewhere, avoiding getting permanently glued to it by the web of chewing gum left by some sort of demented Brummie spider, or stand in the flow of fat people and nutters, trying not to touch anything. 
  • Almost every other building in the city that I saw however was awesome. Huge modern towering blocks, old red-brick pubs, and massive stone banks that look like one of Minas Tirith’s lower sections. It’s like they grabbed together all the best architects they could find, gave them a dump-truck full of money, and just said “Go nuts. Really. We don’t care. Spunk this truck away and we’ll give you two more”. 
  • They also have a very relaxed attitude to topography. Most places attempt to get around difficult terrain and hills. Birmingham decided, fuck it. We want layers. Give us LOTS of layers. We want you to go up three flights of stairs and end up lower than you started. There is no such thing as a sense of direction in Birmingham. I half expected to go through a shopping centre and come out in Kabul.
  • Everybody is always in a rush somewhere. Buses tear round corners, pinstriped businessmen speed-walk past angry looking women, dragging 7 children behind. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the city also DIDN’T HAVE ANY FUCKING BENCHES. You’ve no choice but to zoom around everywhere. It’s like the city hates legs.
  • It’s also creepily clean, despite there being hardly any bins. They seem to have made the same mistake as I always do on Rollercoater Tycoon. Never forget the bins and benches! They did not, however, forget the food shops. I suppose if I ran around as much as the Birmingham residents, I’d need to fucking eat all the time as well.
  • Creepily clean…except for the homeless people. Now, in most cities, homeless people are ignored by people going past. That’s just how it is. However, to ignore someone, you have to acknowledge they exist, and in Birmingham, nobody even did that. The idea of a grubby, bearded tramp in their perfect streets was so awful to consider that they just don’t bother. I did, however, lose a bit of sympathy when one was waiting outside the hotel and decided he wanted to harass me. I patted my jeans to say I had no money (or even a wallet) but he clearly assumed it meant “come on over here for some money!”. I was clearly giving out mixed signals. I’m such a slut.
  • I was about to be abusive about a massive hipster I saw, who had hair taller than the rest of him combined, until I realised it was just an Asian guy, and Asian guys always look super-cool anyway. That may be lazy stereotyping, but fuck you, it’s also true.
  • Everybody in Birmingham drives like a cunt.
  • It is one of the most ethnically diverse cities I’ve ever been in as well. After living in York for so long, it’s nice walking down the street and not feeling like you’ve accidentally stepped back in time 80 years. There’s times when you want to live in a place with cobbled streets, old churches and poky coffee shops, but I think you could get fed up with it. There’s something a bit more exciting about being in a massive city.
  • EVERYBODY in Birmingham drives like a cunt.

-end-

'Opposing abortion means denying a woman's right over her own body'. Nope.

This is ill-advised, at best, but of all the arguments that appear in what is going to be an essentially never-ending debate, this is one that particularly bugs me. It is false to say that pro-lifers (or people who disagree with abortion, pro-life is as loaded a term as pro-choice) wish to take away the individual rights of women. Here’s why.

To make a broadly correct generalisation, those who disagree with abortion do so on the basis that whatever is growing inside the woman is a being with rights, and these rights make it unethical to end its existence. Can we accept that as okay? Now, following on from this, the suggestion that to oppose this existence being terminmted is an infringement upon the rights of the individual is wrong because it’s not just the individual we are talking about anymore. If, and obviously this is the vital if, you believe in the essential right to life and personhood of an embryo, a foetus, then the woman’s right to her own body become *challenged* by the rights of this new being. It is not a matter of “women do not have a right to their own body”. It is a matter of “women do not have a right oversomebody else’s body”. 

All of this is conditional upon the premise that there is another person involved, and that’s fine. That’s something that people may legitimately disagree upon. But it’s incorrect to label anti-abortion people with such an authoritarian, anti-freedom ethos. To generalise once more, these people may hold beliefs on personal liberty as strongly as anybody else. The difference is they believe there is more than one person involved, and it is onthat basis, not any percieved hatred of women’s rights, that they make the claims they do.

With all that in mind, would people stop referring to anti-abortion as “those who don’t think women have a right over their own bodies”? Cos it’s bullshit. I saw it in the Guardian today. Anti-abortion don’t believe women, or anybody for that matter, has a right over somebody else’s body. Which, whether you agree this other person has personal rights or not, is not that fucking irrational or hard to understand.

MKET stupid article rebuttal.

http://www.yorkvision.co.uk/comment/high-time-we-stopped/

Rebuttal.

Right.

1. Ketamine (which I presume you’re talking about in the first paragraph) is not just horse tranquilizer. It is used in hospitals on the young and the elderly, because it is relatively gentle.

2. “exceptionally dangerous and addictive drug” fancy backing this up? There are no reports of addiction, and even reports of danger have come from idiots taking an unknown drug, at an unknown dose, in a club, while drunk. Yes, you, anonymous contributors. You’re fools.

3. “My basic understanding of human biology tells me snorting or swallowing a chemical labelled “not fit for human consumption”, does not sound like it’s going to produce the best effects” you should probably review your understanding of human biology. Either method just functions as a method to get the chemical into the bloodstream, either absorption through the mucous membrane or the usual way. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with this. Also, the “not for human consumption” is a vague attempt to deflect any legal issues the supplier would get into. THEY DON’T REALLY MEAN IT.

4. “some of worst side effects include horrific teeth grinding, nausea, heart palpitations and, yes, even a risk of death” there is no confirmed risk of death. Some people died very recently with MXE reportedly in the vicinity. They may have taken LOADS. It may not have been MXE. It may have been a bad batch. They may have been on medication. Stop scaremongering. Also, nausea?! Oh no! I’d better have a drink to calm my fears.

I’d also like to see evidence of the heart palpitations as being directly caused by MXE. Teeth grinding happens with MDMA and MCAT, and a number of others. It can be avoided by taking magnesium, and is hardly “horrific”.

5. “A quick Google search yields little but information on how to purchase MKET” this is an outright lie.

http://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/showwiki.php?title=Methoxetamine
http://www.erowid.org/chemicals/methoxetamine/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methoxetamine

All of these links are honest, informative, and verifiable. They are also very easy to Google.

6. “Dosage requirements and health warnings are near impossible to find” once again, lies, damn lies.

7. “Whilst we wait with baited breath for reports of the first attributed deaths” so you admit there haven’t been any, despite RISK OF DEATH?!?!?!

8. “not fulfilling their duty of informing people of its inherent dangers” - my irony detector just exploded, and I’m charging you for the shrapnel in my face. After this article, and the other one, YOU have the cheek to berate the world for misinformation? Holy hell.

Elf n Safety

People that read the Daily Mail are stupid. That’s a given, but there’s more to it than that. Among the DM based causes, one of them is the term coined by Richard Littlejohn, “Health and Safety Gone Mad”. Now the problem here isn’t the apparently fascist, monstrous, and ridiculous businesses/councils. It’s the great unwashed and generally greedy public that are forcing such organisations into restrictive regulations with the litigious culture they have created. There would be no need for such ludicrously specific rules if there weren’t morons out there that felt the need to attempt to claim a lifetime’s wages for stubbing their sense of injustice on a protruding nail.

Trolololegislation.

To begin in a suitably pseudo-intellectual manner, there is a well worn quote usually attributed to Voltaire which goes: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” As it happens, someone with nothing better to do tracked down the true root of the quote, and it wasn’t anybody remotely French or philosophical, but it still carries a powerful meaning - free speech is universal, not just handed out like cakes to those deemed worthy of it. That brings us to the recent prosecution of Sean Duffy. Mr Duffy had decided to use his metaphorical freedom-cake to smear over the face(book)s of grieving parents. He was subsequently charged under the Malicious Communications Act, in which the condition of guilt is the conveyance of a message which is “indecent or grossly offensive” that subsequently does indeed offend the intended recipient. That’s it really. 


Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words…ah….

Never mind.

Now, the internet is hardly a super-fun happy land of love and kittens, it’s full of people such as Mr Duffy (and there’s something vaguely satisfying about an Anonymous troll being a chubby 25 year old with Asperger’s), and he will surely not be the last person to say something awful across Facebook. The nature of his crime means that I suspect very few members of the public would have any issue with his conviction, but it is the nature of his offence which has been brought into the mad staring eyes of the great unwashed. Many pieces of legislation are ambiguous, and this ambiguity allows those within the courts to use their common sense and the individual factors involved to reach a fair judgement. By the same token, the conditions of an offence must not be so restrictively specific as to allow people to escape justice.

Now. A lot of things are offensive to a lot of people. One man’s RSPCA advert is another man’s pornography. The act only states that the message should be offensive and that the intended offence should be caused. It may well be that a fundamentalist Islamist would be more offended by a depiction of Muhammed than a grieving parent about comments derogatorily aimed at their deceased offspring. Who knows? Certainly should someone be jailed for the former, the uproar would be rather louder than for the latter. The point I am nudging towards is a fairly well worn and unhelpful one, that of the inherent subjectivity of every perception of crime and justice.

The solution should be attempt to eliminate this subjectivity as much as possible, and the way is to have further specificity without overcomplicating the issue. Sounds difficult but, hell, it’s their job. Just tack a clause on at the end saying that it must be considered offensive by the greater public (democracy in action!) and have the decision made on that basis. That’s a hasty example, so don’t take me apart on it too much, but the point stands. It should be possible to have a safe middle ground between ambiguity and over-specificity. 

It is of course fair to say that he shouldn’t have been charged at all, with the free speech element in mind, but with a shade of hypocrisy and more than a shade of cowardly practicality, I wouldn’t complain too much if acts such as the one mentioned were further refined without losing their original principle: that of the vulnerable being protected from attack from sad little men like Duffy. It’s a noble enough aim, even if, in some cases, it results in the sad withdrawal of the glorious, glorious freedom cake. 

Civil rights have never been so tasty.


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