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June 9, 2007

“Is this justice served?”
Posted by Patrick at 07:20 AM * 277 comments

The aim, conscious or otherwise, is to make sorting out what is actually taking place in the country more difficult by encouraging a facile and undemanding (and perhaps temporarily cathartic) outrage against a Paris Hilton or some other such figure. The population is intended to feel, falsely, that its cause has been served and blows have been delivered against the rich and powerful, when all that’s happened is a young woman guilty of a misdemeanor has gone to jail for a month or more.
The World Socialist Web Site argues that Paris Hilton is a screwed-up young person who’s been pretty much fitted up for the role of Designated Hate Object, and that her recent misadventures have served largely as an opportunity for politicians who routinely countenance the insupportable to pose as champions of equal justice.

Well, yeah. Good points, World Socialist Web Site.

(Via Will Shetterly.)

Comments on "Is this justice served?":
#1 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 07:47 AM:

In other words: when They[*] tell you "look over there", the correct response is not "where?" but "why?"


[*] For values of "they" that correspond to "the folks with the megaphones and the money."

#2 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 07:55 AM:

Well, without throwing off my chains or anything, I find I'm not excited by Paris Hilton and her jail problem one way or another.

On the one hand, she was convicted of driving without a license and was clearly willfully stupid regarding the orders of the court. A wake-up call would be useful.

On the other, the LA County Sherriff's department says that most non-violent first time offenders serve about 10% of their sentences, and Hilton served 5 days of 45 due to massive overcrowding of the people that we'd all really like to keep from being released early.

So, yeah, she got re-jailed due to her celebrity, sucks for her. It sucks worse for us if a murderer gets out a month early to make room for Paris Hilton. If I have to pick which sentence to reduce, I'd pick Paris over a violent offender almost every time.

If people want to get outraged, they should get outraged that the War on Collective Nouns, "Drugs" Front, has filled up jails and prisons to the point where there's no room for Paris and there's not enough staff to properly supervise our vast collection of prisoners to keep Paris safe.

#3 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 08:08 AM:

A better punishment for her would be something like 200 hours of public service in a hospital, caring for victims of drunk drivers, especially if there's no room for nonviolent offenders in the jail.

#4 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 08:15 AM:

The point isn't "Paris Hilton and her jail problem". Indeed, to the extent that this conversation continues to about Paris Hilton, we're doing the bidding of the powerful every bit as much as the people who lap up the tabloid stories.

#5 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 08:42 AM:

Michael, the reason Paris is in prison for driving without a license is that her license was pulled for DUI. DUI is a provably dangerous activity that has a strong correlation with killing and maiming bystanders. We tend to treat homicide with undue leniency when the weapon is an automobile -- maybe this shows a fundamental disconnect in our priorities?

Put it another way: if this was the second time she'd been arrested for wandering around town drunk in charge of an AK-47 or a grenade launcher -- tools that inject a number of kilojoules per unit area into a target object that is roughly the same as the energy transfer from a 40mph vehicular impact -- we'd probably be boggling at the leniency of her gaol sentence. And you certainly wouldn't be complaining about early release for murderers -- who, one presumes, wouldn't be eligible for release if the parole board considered there was a significant probability of them re-offending.

(This in no way detracts from Patrick's point about the puppet show and the unseen hands of the puppeteers. It's just that cars, like guns, are potentially lethal tools, and this idiot has repeatedly demonstrated that she couldn't give a shit about other people's safety, and I am extremely fed up with the poor-butterfly-broken-on-the-wheel subtext of public discourse on the affair.)

#6 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 09:02 AM:

John L @ 3: I've heard suggestions like that often. I think it would be a very bad idea to put people who've already shown a fundamental lack of criticial thinking skills or consideration for fellow human beings--and who, in addition, probably have no medical skills--to work caring for the injured. The victims deserve better than that.

#7 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 09:07 AM:

What I can't understand is why anyone cares.

I am not being facetious, here - I just seem to have born without the "why 'celebrities' are so very important" gene. Why does this sort of misdirection work at all?

My conjecture is that it has to do with the way U.S. politics is personality based (rather than ideology- or party-based). We've all become conditioned to look for the interesting person in what may once have been a wide range of interesting features. However, the range of what 'interesting' means seems to have been flattened to include "pretty, rich, famous" by such phenomena as shortening attention spans and consolidation of media ownership.

Which leads me to wonder idly about desirable anti-trust actions for media concentration. How big can an attention-holder get before they sell not information but circuses?

#8 ::: Jim Kiley ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 09:13 AM:

Life is weird when the World Socialist Website makes a point that every libertarian I know agrees with.

#9 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 09:18 AM:

If you're talking about figurative 'shiny silver objects', then Paris Hilton qualifies, along with 'Ameican Idol' and 'Survivor' and all the dead-or-missing white women of the last several years.

(Yes, people with DUIs do routinely get early release from the LA county jail. In this case, the judge told the sheriff not to do it without permission from the court. And the sheriff did it anyway.)

#10 ::: Stephan Zielinski ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 09:32 AM:

Ah, yes, "The aim, conscious or otherwise". Allegations of unconscious motivations: such a convenient way to accuse someone else of acting in pursuit of goals any sane person would find repugnant.

As economics professors say, you don't have to like what an understanding of the market implies, but pretending the market is not a powerful force is extremely unwise. Gossip sells; more people are interested in gossip than in nuanced analysis about world events. There is no need for anyone to have any particular goal, benevolent or malevolent, to explain why high production cost media (such as regionally-distributed television) tend to be trite and gossipy; that accursed Invisible Hand drives the more complex things with less universal appeal into cheaper media. (Traditionally newspapers. The New York Times may not be buying as many barrels of ink these days as it used to, but it's still producing text next to advertising, and people are still reading the articles.)

Noam Chomsky beats this (and similar) points to death in Manufacturing Consent. Worth reading-- because he also discusses how even the cheaper media converge towards a reality-divorced consensus, still without there being any particular malevolence at work. (I argue this is a far more worrisome thing than the masses consuming mass entertainment when they want to be entertained.)

Finally, I must admit I rather enjoyed reading the article at the World Socialist web site. With the mood set by Putin rattling a nuclear saber from Eastern Europe towards the West, it was charmingly retro to read things like "the Paris Hilton celebrity phenomenon was a product of the foul media-entertainment apparatus in the US and a generally diseased social climate." How I miss the clear-eyed ascetic Leninist earnests of my adolesence!

#11 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 10:39 AM:

Michael at 2 -
So, yeah, she got re-jailed due to her celebrity, sucks for her. It sucks worse for us if a murderer gets out a month early to make room for Paris Hilton. If I have to pick which sentence to reduce, I'd pick Paris over a violent offender almost every time.

It would be extremely unlikely that a convicted murderer would be released to make room for Paris - afaict, she's going to jail, not prison, and even if headed to prison, it would be a minimum security facility, not a Max or Super-Max.

This is not to say that I necessarily agree - or disagree - with the continued incarceration of Ms. Hilton - that she's a spoiled rich socialite brat with an under-developed sense of empathy, and way too few active braincells to be worthy of any sort of respect seems obvious, which fuels a sort of schadenfreudal frisson at her being stuck in a jail cell for the next month for doing an amazingly stupid thing for no good reason*, but schadenfreude is not a good reason for running a criminal justice system, and I am concerned at the "pay no attention to the man behind the screen" aspects of this - whether or not it's deliberate, inadvertent, or simply fueled by the desire for ratings.

*I could - almost - sympathize if she were a working-class woman with mouths to feed, who needed a car to get to work or something. But Paris Hilton will probably never lack money to get food delivered, to hire limo services or drivers, etc. There is no reason other than an extreme crisis - a real one, not "we're out of Bollingers" why she would ever need to drive on a suspended license.

#12 ::: LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 10:45 AM:

A lot of things are colliding in my head on this one, and it's setting off something like a squick reaction in me.

A relative of mine was in exactly her shoes once -- drinking problem, multiple DUIs, didn't show up to a court date, etc. He finally turned himself in, and served his time, and they gave him half time off for good behavior -- but he still had to spend nearly weeks in jail. So I agree with the notion that her sentence needs to be proportional and fair.

But it's appalling how she is being put on public display in such a humiliating way. There is a kind of bloodlust, a feeding frenzy. It's as if she's become a symbol, not a person. She has become an object, a lightning rod -- a target for all our class envy and rage. She is standing in for Marie Antoinette.

I think she has made some incredibly stupid decisions, in her life -- but I never like seeing a human reduced to a slab of meat for entertainment. And that's what this has become. She is taking the heat for a whole host of horrible things done by many, many people of her rarefied class. Most of them with a lot more power and evil intent than she. And that's both not really fair to her -- she shouldn't have to atone for the sins of her entire class -- furthermore, as Patrick points out, it's also a total red herring.

I feel manipulated, and I agree with Patrick that this whole drama has a very bread-and-circuses smell to it.

#13 ::: Jon Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 10:53 AM:

Monsieur Stross #5:

DUI is a provably dangerous activity that has a strong correlation with killing and maiming bystanders.

Yep. But it's not perceived this way by most Los Angelenos. In Canada, in the last thirty years, drunk driving has gone from "socially acceptable" to "instant pariah"; this hasn't happened in L.A. yet. I've been repeatedly shocked by how many otherwise thoughtful and intelligent Angelenos regularly drink (or smoke other intoxicants) and drive.

This has something to do with the geography of L.A. - people drive everywhere, including to parties and bars, and then they have to drive home again, and many people have decided, consciously or not, they'd rather drive drunk than not go out and drink at all. A DUI is seen as an obstacle to avoid/overcome, not as a moral stain.

(For the record, I like Los Angeles.)

I speculate (on anecdotal data, mind) that drinking and driving is in general far more socially acceptable in the USA than in Canada or Europe.

#14 ::: LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 11:08 AM:

Here is a great post by Amanda Marcotte that gets at yet another point: the intrinsic misogyny that is also playing a role in the PH spectacle:

http://pandagon.net/2007/06/08/mainstream-media-al-gore-paris-hilton/

#15 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 11:21 AM:

I'm rather in Charlie's camp here. I do think Paris IS getting what she deserves, legally speaking, as she violated the terms of her probation in three ways: she failed to enroll in an educational course within three weeks of her court date, she received further citations for driving after her license was suspended, and on the final time, she was arrested for driving 70 in a 35 with her lights out after dark. And while that media circus is insane, it's also a little hard for me to summon up sympathy for her when I know that she's used some of those very news outlets to try and shame or discredit ex-friends of hers. (That I know this much about Paris Hilton could certainly be an argument that the bread and circuses are working. "Hoist by her own petard" has a powerful appeal to it. On the other hand, I do read plenty of other news sources and blogs that don't focus on celebrities. I would like to say that it's a fallacy that one issue would distract me from other more important issues, but by myself, I guess that would be anecdotal evidence rather than statistical.)

Now the fact that it's breaking news on CNN and every other news channel is certainly giving off that whiff of bread and circuses. (And I'm almost certain that there is no functional difference for CNN's "top" stories and "most popular" stories, despite the fact that they have two different tabs.) Definitely part of me is going, so what happened at the G8 (or didn't happen) that we're not supposed to pay attention to. (I know Bush got his photo op with Putin.)

I do remember when Martha Stewart went to jail, it was about the time the Enron boys were supposed to be getting their own dispensation of justice. There was some discussion at the time that Martha was the then-designated-Hate-Object, the hand waving designed to distract the nation that Kenny was scooting along under the justicial radar.

#16 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 11:43 AM:

Paris had a cell all to herself. Which, given the normal overcrowding, even at the women's jail, is royal treatment.

Not many people in LA had any sympathy for her being released that early. A lot of us would rather see her get the same treatment Jane Doe would in the same circumstances. (Tolerance for DUI isn't that high here, either. Whether alcohol, drugs, or cellphones, why make traffic worse than it already is?)

#17 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 11:44 AM:

ok I don't know anything about her but why is she " a spoiled rich socialite brat with an under-developed sense of empathy"
i can understand that she is a spoiled rich socialite brat, but the under-developed sense of empath? Did she publicly announce at some point that she liked to watch bums hold knife fights for baked beans?

#18 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 11:50 AM:

I don't like to jump on the "blame the media" bandwagon--the media have been behaving like idiots over this story, but they do this sort of thing at least partly because We the People buy into it--but did anyone catch the bit of tape Jay Leno ran in his opening monologue last night? MSNBC, I think--wall to wall Paris covered, breathless "Paris is about to come out of her house now" commentary--then we break away for ten seconds to announce that Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has been fired because his confirmation hearts would be "too divisive."

Then back to Paris. Uh--excuse me?

#19 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 11:52 AM:

Of, for--"wall to wall Paris COVERAGE," and "confirmation HEARINGS." Can we tell who hasn't had her coffee yet?

#20 ::: Barry ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 11:53 AM:

Stephan: "As economics professors say, you don't have to like what an understanding of the market implies, but pretending the market is not a powerful force is extremely unwise. Gossip sells; more people are interested in gossip than in nuanced analysis about world events. There is no need for anyone to have any particular goal, benevolent or malevolent, to explain why high production cost media (such as regionally-distributed television) tend to be trite and gossipy; that accursed Invisible Hand drives the more complex things with less universal appeal into cheaper media. (Traditionally newspapers. The New York Times may not be buying as many barrels of ink these days as it used to, but it's still producing text next to advertising, and people are still reading the articles.)"

I remember seeing some elite MSM talking heads suddenly decide that the MSM had been way too harsh on the president, and that they should tone their coverage down.

After Bush had been elected.

There are market forces, I agree. But the past 15 years have shown that there are other forces.

I expect to see some elite MSM talking heads suddenly decide that the MSM had been way too soft on the president, and that they should harsh their coverage up.

After the 2008 election.

#21 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 11:54 AM:

Oh, for--"wall to wall Paris coverage and "Confirmation hearings. Can we tell who hasn't had her coffee this morning yet?

#22 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 12:00 PM:

Bush just fired the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, for (according to rumor) putting up resistance to plans to bomb Iran.

AG Gonzales has been caught in another round of perjury in Congressional testimony.

Look! Over there! Paris Hilton's in Jail!


#23 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 12:08 PM:

Bryan @ 17: The short list of Paris's classy traits: She casually uses the N-word, she has publically made fun of fat people and poor people, she uses tabloids to leak stories on people who used to be her friends, she paid a homeless guy to dump soda on himself, she hangs out with misogynist pricks like Brandon Davis and Joe Francis (a quick googling will confirm what class acts they are), she had her boyfriend at the time push a rival down some stairs (battery case pending), and oh, yeah, something about driving drunk....and this is off the top of my head filtered in from stuff that gets posted to blogs I read, or CNN, as I don't watch TV.

#24 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 12:08 PM:

I wonder if the "look over there!" has to do with the revelation of the U.S. practice (and apparent policy) of torturing children in the presence of their parents.

#25 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 12:17 PM:

Dena (#7): In the US, we're not supposed to hate the rich; that's "class warfare." But we are allowed to hate celebrities. So a clueless kid who wants to be famous because in the US, *everyone* is supposed to be rich and famous, makes a convenient scapegoat.

Jim (#8): Every socialist I've met is a libertarian. We're just not capitalist libertarians.

#26 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 12:28 PM:

The fark.com Paris Hilton thread has mentioned "schadenfreude" a half-dozen times so far. On the other hand, Making Light is the place I'd go to looking for an "An die Schadenfreude" parody, starring Paris Hilton as the Daughter of Elysium. heh.

#27 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 01:09 PM:

Like Dena Shunra (@7), I find I was born without the "celebrities matter" gene. I tend to ignore large chunks of the "society" news, as well as the majority of the tabloid magazines, for this very reason. Like Charlie Stross (@5) and PiscusFische (@15), I do think she deserves what she's getting - she's done the crime, she needs to do the time, and hopefully learn that she's part of the same society as everyone else. However, I doubt this last will happen, because she isn't and she is trying her level best to ensure she never will be.

What I don't agree with is the amount of newsprint, radio time, webspace, and other such media that this one woman is getting, simply by virtue of her supposed "celebrity". In her case, the celebrity is mainly because she is young, wealthy by inheritance, female and has a media-baiting habit of behaving irresponsibly in public. I'd rather hear about things which are happening in *my* country on the ABC (.au's national government-sponsored broadcast network) and read about things which are relevant to *me* in the local newspaper. Why should I have to read about the temper tantrums of an overgrown two year old in the United States? Why should this be important to me (someone living in Australia, and therefore not likely to be directly affected by Ms Hilton's poor driving)?

Why is this "news"? More particularly, why is this "news" here? What makes it more "newsworthy" than any other conviction for drunken driving in the US, or indeed, any other conviction for drunken driving in Western Australia? What got shuffled off the page to fit this idiocy on? What got left out of the broadcasts so I could hear this, or see the live video footage? Those are the questions I have about it. I doubt I'll hear the answers to them, or even find out what my options were with regard to what I could have seen/heard/read instead. It's irritating.

#28 ::: Doug Faunt ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 01:10 PM:

Note that her "home release" was to a mansion with a staff. If her home was a four room flat, with contact only with her relatives, then that would be relatively equal treatment.

And she wasn't sentenced for DUI, but for violating her probation, which shows certain contempt for society. As a role model for a segment of that society, she should be an example in all things.

#29 ::: Nomie ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 01:58 PM:

Cleolinda Jones has a really good post on why so many people are gleeful over Paris's incarceration at her Livejournal.

#30 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 02:06 PM:

But what made Paris Hilton a role model?

Considering some of the stories that come out of the US about the various prison systems, even to the point of apparent wilful neglect of clear medical issues leading to the death of a prisoner, it seems quite likely that whatever mental health she still has is going to be ruined. Or she could be faking the whole thing.

Note that I said systems, plural. I don't think she's been shoved into a prison-rape environment. Though the tone of sniggering approval I've come across in some circles seems to forget that the prisoners seen as deserving victims are the most likely to be the rapists.

#31 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 02:39 PM:

Celebrity gossip is ever with us. It may have started with the aristocracy, extending wider with the growth of the middle class, mass media, etc., but it dates back at least as far as Helen of Troy. I grew up in the era of Liz Taylor and her multiple hubbies, so Paris H. seems like a whiny kid by comparison. Still, the only way to avoid mentions of her and her ilk is probably to read only the strictest political or religious mags/blogs -- unless they're taking her as an example of all things decadent.

At least this doesn't seem to be a Republican-engineered Distract the Masses exercise. I'm not so sure about the foiled airport bombing plot, and it looks like the Idiot-in-Chief is attempting to repair his image with vague gestures toward the center on immigration, global warming, AIDS, etc.

Actually, the state of the world seems so rotten, I can understand the appeal of schadenfreude as a little time-out from angst. (Though it's more fun to look for cool science stories on the web -- archaeological finds, weird new species, etc.)

#32 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 02:54 PM:

Charlie Stross #1: You are channelling my wife.

#33 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 02:58 PM:

Faren @ #31 makes a good point. I don't know when Photoplay and Modern Screen magazines were first published, but I suspect it was in the 1940s if not earlier. The public attitude toward celebrity seems to be ravenous. My grocery check-out stand's newsracks used to be the purview of The Star and National Enquirer; now I find Us and People there, with content only slightly upgraded from what the tabloids provided.

Paris Hilton is a train wreck, but the media continues to grease the tracks. I got two "breaking news" e-mail alerts from my local TV station on successive days about her, one when she got out and one when she got sent back in. It annoyed me.

#34 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 02:58 PM:

Dave Bell,

The public (and media-approved) attitude of the general US public towards prisons and prisoners has become rather vicious in the last couple of decades, at the same time that a larger and larger percentage of the prison population, especially in the Federal prison system have been POWs in the War on Some Substances. More and more I've been hearing that "they deserve to be where they are at risk of being raped and/or killed". And as more and more reports of serious abuse by the staff become public, I've been sensing less and less outrage and concern about it.

Now that might be just my perception, but I doubt it. It makes sense as an outcome of the increased use of "hard on crime" as a political position to use in election campaigns. After all, convicted felons don't vote in most states.

#35 ::: Laurie D. T. Mann ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 03:03 PM:

What Charlie and Beth said.

There are two separate issues here:

Is the media making a circus over the whole Paris thing? Absolutely. On some LiveJournal somewhere, I saw a clip from CNN from the other day that broke into the Joint Chief not being renewed by Paris! This was nuts. I avoided watching TV news all day yesterday because I just didn't want it in my face the way it apparently was.

Is Paris getting what she deserves. Absolutely. It was something like a third strike - she was already on probation. There are already way too many stories of rich/famous folks in LA getting away with it. She's got to take some responsibility for her behavior. Throwing a tantrum and getting out of jail early was outrageous. The judge was appalled and I don't blame him.

#36 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 03:10 PM:

Will Shetterly @ 25

Every socialist I've met is a libertarian. We're just not capitalist libertarians.

Sure. The two political schools of thought have a common intellectual underpinning, and a common interest in protecting individuals from collective power*.

I was raised by socialists** and, when I fell among libertarians in the 1980's it was a very familiar environment. Most of what makes up the popular view of both groups in the US is fairly distorted; you really need to meet a few and talk to them to make your own evaluation.

* One of the places they differ is of course in the determination of what dangers require the most vigilance.

** They kidnapped me as a baby from the wolves who bore me.

#37 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 03:11 PM:

Earl Cooley III #26:

Thou radiance sprung from CNN,
Thou daughter of tabloids and Fox,
We know well that thou art no maidén
But truly art the one that rocks.
The beauties of the simple life
Are made more lovely by thy touch;
So in the world of war and strife
We learn that you just are too much!

#38 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 03:38 PM:

Patrick@ 4

If you say so. Should we be having a discussion of why everyone who isn't Paris Hilton who gets thrown in jail for nonviolent offenses in LA County serves an average of 10% of their sentence?

I brought that up and nobody's risen to the bait yet. They're probably all still distracted by the mainstream dialectic of celebrity love/hate...

#39 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 03:54 PM:

Michael @ 38

Short answer: jail overcrowding.
The sheriff can, and does, release non-violent offenders early. IN THIS CASE (pardon the shouting, but I want you to pay attention), he was told by the judge in the case that he would not be permitted to give her early release. (FWIW, I think the judge wanted her to get the message.)

This is in addition to the Mel Gibson thing (where they let him go, and drove him to the lot to pick up his car - treatment that no average person would get - and some messy stuff involving sheriff's 'special' IDs and people who misused them.

#40 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 03:57 PM:

Faren Miller @ 31

Idiot-in-Chief is attempting to repair his image with vague gestures toward the center on immigration, global warming, AIDS, etc.

I read the global warming strategy differently. It seems to me he's trying something that worked for him before: get out in front of the parade and lead it down a dark alley to get mugged. He's saying we need to have a bunch of meetings before we can decide what to do. And there's no reason to believe that he won't pull all sorts of delaying tactics while insisting that we can't start until everyone agrees, and that in any case all agreements have to be voluntary, no mandatory goals will be acceptable to the US.

With a little work he can keep anything at all from happening until he leaves office. With luck he can sow a little discord between, say, Brittain and the rest of the EU and slow things down even after he's gone.

#41 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 04:00 PM:

oops. My apologies for misspelling Britain.

#42 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 04:02 PM:

Bruce: I don't think he's going to succeed if that's what he's up to. (Climate change is a big political issue over here -- has been for years.)

#43 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 04:25 PM:

The definitive remark on the topic of news distraction came from one Jo Moore, some kind of assistant to Tony Blair, who on hearing the news on Spetember 11, 2001, e-mailed colleagues "It's now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury."

So, indeed, look for what's behind the smoke and mirrors: what stories did we miss while watching vital, dynamic, cutting-edge live coverage of a black-and-white driving along a highway? [said police car containing Paris H, of course]

#44 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 04:27 PM:

I did my bit to support decent treatment for Paris Hilton.

That being said, I think driving 70 mph in a 35 mph zone with one's headlights off is probably more serious than drunk driving.

#45 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 04:48 PM:

That comment by Blair's assistant gave me a thought. What if the media has an agreement to create news story arcs on a semi-regular schedule, somewhat like the way new threads are started on Making Light. And every once in a while there's a kind of open thread. Fox or CNN sends out the word, "Outs in free on Wednesday, we're turning the spit Paris Hilton is on to roast her other side." and everyone in on the deal knows that Wednesday is the day to invade that pesky Middle Eastern country that's been such a pain to you lately.

So anyone know what's been happening in Darfur or Serbia during the Burning of Paris? And speaking of coverage*, I've heard that Pace's replacement for the JCS is a big fan of an Iran adventure. And he's Navy, which means he's the goto guy for a bombardment campaign, with minimal or no ground component.

* Notice that cover means "to report on" and it also means to "conceal from view".

#46 ::: Stephan Zielinski ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 05:25 PM:

Holy jamoke! I just checked my newspaper! Coverage of Paris Hilton on page one has sucked all the ink off the other pages! I'm blind! I'm blind!

#47 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 06:20 PM:
  • Ch. 24. The Killing of the Divine King
    • 1. The Mortality of the Gods
    • 2. Kings killed when their Strength fails
    • 3. Kings killed at the End of a Fixed Term
  • Ch. 25. Temporary Kings
  • Ch. 26. Sacrifice of the King’s Son

Which I mean only as a comment on why it works so well, not as on who encourages it, or towards what ends.

#48 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 06:45 PM:

Gotta love the CBC.ca site. Open the main page and the headline is riots over Bush's visit to Vatican.

#49 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 07:22 PM:

Meg @ 27: I'm guessing you didn't read the article. There's this bit about whether she's done her time:

>>“In fact,” Geragos noted, “she did about double to triple what anybody else would have done ... I’ve had one [client] within the last week who literally turned themselves in, took the bus ride and were released right from county jail onto the electronic monitoring and then was released from that in six days ... So when people say Paris was getting special treatment, I say, yes. She got double or triple what everybody else in LA County gets.”

Michael @ 38: An awful lot of the people here believe the drug war is insane. But right now, we're just more interested in the media circus, political shell games, and the way people see the rich.

#50 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 07:32 PM:

Those riots haven't hit WHYY (Philadelphia NPR) yet--the report at 5 on Bush visiting the Pope was just about what they said to each other.

ABC.go.com just has anti-G8 riots in Germany.

#51 ::: CaseyL ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 07:42 PM:

Totally off-topic, but y'all ought to know John Scalzi has promised to go to the Creation Museum (it's in his neighborhood, poor fellow) if his blogreaders will raise at least $250, all proceeds to be given to Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

If $1000 is raised, he'll write an "appropriately-themed" short fiction piece about his visit.

We're hoping, if we raise enough money, he'll have his picture taken on the saddled Triceratops.

If you'd like to be part of this worthy endeavor, go to scalzi.com/whatever.

/OT

#52 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 08:53 PM:

will @ 49

Geragos is a celebrity lawyer, in both senses.

Yes, most people get out early for this sort of crime. But the judge told them not to do it for her. (ISTR the stories saying that she'd missed or was late for a hearing, along with it being the third offense.)

#53 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 09:04 PM:

CaseyL @ 51

Given how little he wants to go*, I'm not tempted to push him into it. He'll probably have a lousy time and the snark factor won't make up for that.


* at least that's what he wrote on his blog recently.

#54 ::: lightning ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 09:06 PM:

#45 -- Hmm. Hypothesis -- Natalie Holloway is in a secret CIA prison, with a store of other Attractive Young White Females.

I love playing Paranoid Conspiracy!

#55 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 09:25 PM:

Perhaps this emphasis on how depraved the rich are is supposed to make us believe our own poverty is virtuous and therefore preferable. People happy with their place don't ask hard questions about economics and distribution of wealth and use words like "reform."

#56 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 01:18 AM:

Aconite #55: See also "The American Dream" and "Money Can't Buy Happiness."

#57 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 01:53 AM:

"Though the tone of sniggering approval I've come across in some circles seems to forget that the prisoners seen as deserving victims are the most likely to be the rapists."

yeah, I remember reading some people joking in this way about Mike Tyson.

#58 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 02:08 AM:

"Yes, most people get out early for this sort of crime. But the judge told them not to do it for her."

what would the reasons be for that?


1. The judge sitting in judgment realizes this family is messed up and has given this girl a sense of entitlement and a belief that she can run amock, typical spoiled brat. Therefore, as the parents will not do their job I will do it for them?

2. The judge thinks, hmm, if she gets out as quickly as most people do from our system it will cause a media shitstorm with people saying that the rich get off too quickly, and I will look like a prick for not sentencing her harshly. I better tell them to make her do the full time.

3. The Judge thinks: This is my moment to shine.

I suppose that the judge sees her as having contempt for the court, judges hate that. Of course one could make the argument that the judge taking this into consideration is the same as a cop getting pissed off if you're rude to them in the commission of their duties and then using the power of the nightstick to teach you manners, but nobody ever seems to do so.

Deciding how you slice and dice the story it still comes out she is doing more time than most would for the same offense. So it seems somewhat unfair. Not a big heap of unfair and I could see the unfairness in some ways as actually being karma.

#59 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 03:15 AM:

Aconite, #6: Perhaps a better suggestion would be to let them spend that community-service time being janitors in the ER. No danger to patients then, and having to do Nasty Menial Work might actually make the lesson sink in. Not to mention that if they're as careless about their own safety as they are about that of others, they might come down with something even nastier.

Bruce, #36: I have had the dubious pleasure of spending about 8 years in an online forum in which Libertarians were prevalent. I've participated in discussions about Libertarian ideology that went on for weeks at a time. The net result was to push me from thinking that Libertarianism sounded like a good idea to complete and total distrust of anyone who professes it. They have NO sense of proportion whatsoever; the phrase "throwing the baby out with the bathwater" was a recurring theme. So was "completely unconnected with reality."

#61 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 07:10 AM:

Has anyone else here wondered What Might Have Been W. Bush had been as thoroughly punished on his drunk driving charge?

#62 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 07:39 AM:

Dave Bell@60: Another winner from Steven Moffat. Though I did wonder what'll happen when that light bulb burns out.

#63 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 07:56 AM:

Charles Stross: "I am extremely fed up with the poor-butterfly-broken-on-the-wheel subtext of public discourse on the affair."

I guess this depends on where you are and what you've been reading. Most of the "public discourse" I've seen has been on the order of Hang-Her-High.

Stephan Zielinski: "I must admit I rather enjoyed reading the article at the World Socialist web site. With the mood set by Putin rattling a nuclear saber from Eastern Europe towards the West, it was charmingly retro to read things like "the Paris Hilton celebrity phenomenon was a product of the foul media-entertainment apparatus in the US and a generally diseased social climate." How I miss the clear-eyed ascetic Leninist earnests of my adolescence!"

Well, except that, of course, we do in fact have a "generally diseased social climate," and also a "media-entertainment apparatus" whose fundamental morality and behavior is reasonably described as "foul." The fact that (often) Trots R Silly doesn't mean these observations are false.

Will Shetterly: "Every socialist I've met is a libertarian."

Evidently you've met a statistically-unlikely sampling of socialists.

#64 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 08:44 AM:

Re: #62: A long abandoned house with the electrical utilities still running? (who's paying the bill?). Still, I'm split-minded enough to ignore that and go with the story.

#65 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 09:31 AM:

Bryan @ 58

There's also

4. The judge is concerned that, because of her celebrity, the officials running the jail may give her benefits not normally given to ordinary prisoners. The judge is also concerned that she may use her wealth to manipulate the jail system for her benefit (such as being able to hire private doctors to say she's too sick to stay in jail, or perhaps even try to bribe for better treatment.) So the judge takes steps to supervise so that any favoritism is limited.

#66 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 10:58 AM:

"4. The judge is concerned that, because of her celebrity, the officials running the jail may give her benefits not normally given to ordinary prisoners. The judge is also concerned that she may use her wealth to manipulate the jail system for her benefit (such as being able to hire private doctors to say she's too sick to stay in jail, or perhaps even try to bribe for better treatment.) So the judge takes steps to supervise so that any favoritism is limited."

hmm, so in order not to put tempation in the way of the sheriff to break the law, and not to put temptation in her way to break the law he adds another stricture to make it more difficult for her to break the law, that also makes her stay longer than it would be for other people?
I'd suppose I would expect most judges to do the following if they thought it a possibility:
explain to her in court that doing any of these things would be a crime and get her in a lot of trouble.

if she got out early order an investigation if it seemed she had gotten out earlier than is the case with the average nonviolent defendant in L.A.

If the investigation uncovered any of the things you said she would definitely get a good long time, and so would all the people getting bribed.

Also, how does she bribe her way out? I realize that America is a banana republic were any cop is likely to be crooked but I would suppose most cops are also smart enough to realize that turning her in for bribery gets them a nice raise, talkshows and maybe a book deal! I don't think that is gonna work.


#67 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 11:00 AM:

You don't need a fixed schedule for new stories--the media companies look for them for their own reasons. You need to be ready with bad news, so you can break it right before the big story catches fire. But I suspect it matters whether it's big serious news or big frivolous news. You probably distract a different set of people. And to the extent that the current nine days' wonder is getting people to watch CNN or buy a paper, there's the chance that they'll get more exposure to news--waiting around for the latest Paris Hilton news, they may happen to hear about the Joint Chiefs story.

The frivolous celebrity news thing just happens every so often, and it dominates news because that's where the viewers/readers are. It's usually possible to avoid that crap if you're selective about your news sources--NPR doesn't seem to be doing a lot of coverage of it, and I doubt the next issue of _The Economist_ will have much Paris coverage.

The TV news coverage of this stuff reminds me of the thing in econ 101, where you talk about why the only two gas stations in town are across the street from one another. Assuming most customers choose a gas station for closeness/convenience, once the first store is established, it makes sense to put the second (competing) store as close as possible to the first, since that maximizes the amount of the town that's closer to the new store than the old store. That's what's happening with TV news, which is almost all trying to occupy the same spot in terms of content. (Assume I flip over to CNN, and if they're not talking about Paris right now, I skip forward to Fox, MSNBC, etc. Magically, those three channels will find that they don't ever want to go long without some more discussion of Paris.)

#68 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 11:37 AM:

Scene II - a fashionable L.A cafe

Enter Paris Hilton and Brandon Davis

Brandon: Whoaaa legs, what time is it?
Paris: GAA, you're like so doped, drunked, and drugged out all the time, and done up by doing the wild thing, overeating and oversweating I could so totally seeing you forget the time. Anyway why do you want to know the time? You don't know anything else. What about the Iran war and 7/11? Did you think about any of that huhn?

Paris flounces herself petulantly down in the nearest white chair, and starts nibbling a biscotti.

Brandon: Shit, what crawled up your ass and died, Lindsey Lohan? You know when you inherit you won't be a bitch no more!

Paris: No more?

Brandon: Hell Nooooo, damn you will be sooo rich I will be your bitch.
Paris: how's that, fat elvis?
Brandon: You light my sky with burning love, not like that skanky Lohan, she lights my ass with burning glove...woooo.
Paris: snorfle. huck huck.
Brandon: firecrotch gone wiilllld.
Paris: staaawwwwp it.


#69 ::: Sarah M ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 12:00 PM:

I work as a reporter for a metro paper and nearly every week we write up some tragic story about someone who was killed by a drunk driver. Last week, it was about the trial of a college student who killed a 30 year old woman. Her father testified. Apparently, the woman's older brother -- her only sibling -- had been killed 10 years prior by another drunk driver.

And yet, 50% of each night's arrests are for DUI, many of them habitual offenders driving on suspended or revoked licenses. I only wish those people (and, yes, Paris) would have to spend their time in jail reading through a book of the obituaries written each year for those killed by drunk drivers.

#70 ::: MR. Bill ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 12:19 PM:

I keep thinking an orthodox Marxist (or Christian) would see in the Hilton story a teaching moment, on the way great wealth can coarsen people and not ennoble them. (I went to a certain prestigious school on scholarship, and the very wealthy I knew tended to come to bad ends...I know at least 3 Republican junkies).
This woman is Scooter Libby and George W Bush, Mary Cheney and Robert Downey JR...A living object lesson in irresponsibility and vast misused power with a stunted potential, famous for nothing but wealth and fame.

But no orthodox Marxists are available in this country, or heard seemingly. And the last Christian was the one they crucified.

#71 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 12:19 PM:

Dave Bell @ 60

Not a bad bit of flash work; not too long, makes the point and stops*. But what really makes me like the designers of that page is that there's a sound-off button. I am so sick of having to frantically pull down my volume slider to shut down some loud sound when it's late or I'm at work and would bother other people, and then forgetting it's off for three or four days and not getting (because not normally expecting) any music or sound effects. I think that's very considerate of the Beeb.


* Not a common characteristic of web graphics these days, unfortunately.

#72 ::: j m mcdermott ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 12:29 PM:

i saw a picture of paris hilton in the museum of photography as part of a comic/satiric photographer... can't remember the name of the fellow, but he's renowned enough that i should remember him.

paris, in the photograph, was topless in her grandmother's elegant living room, wearing a fur coat, holding alcohol and cigarettes and her little dog and flipping off the camera.

in another room of the museum, war correspondents were featured. in another room, portraits of celebrities. also, helmut newton.

what's really sad, to me, is that i can remember the pictures of celebrities better than the images of african wars. and my momma raised me better then that.

as for the dui discussions, i'm of the opinion that the system is frakked if fifty percent of the arrests are for one thing. instead of clamping down on the crime, we ought to look at how we can change the system that creates the criminals in the first place. if i had a bar an easy walk from my apartment, i wouldn't have to drive to the spot zoned for it miles away, and i wouldn't have to drive home. but we can't - for the love of our children - allow alcohol establishments near homes and schools, because every bar is a biker bar and every bar is loud and every bar is dangerous. right.

as for paris hilton's little little dui? if the work of art in the museum was an adequate presentation of her true self, then maybe prison would be good for her. like johnny cash's father said, and i am now misquoting badly from memory, "now you don't have to try so hard to pretend to be a criminal."

#73 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 12:35 PM:

Rob Rusick @ 64

I once lived next door to a house that was owned by a woman who got ownership in a divorce. The house was very small, although the lot was large for that block. She already had a much better house, so she rented the little one. Unfortunately, she had no clue how to screen tenants. Several decamped with everything not nailed down and rent in arrears, and the last one was a drug dealer* who the neighborhood got the cops to bust**.

Finally the owner got pissed off and just left the house standing, with the power, gas, and water turned on. She did that for several years until one December a major ice storm froze the water inlet pipe and it burst, flooding our house, which was just downslope. Took the water emergency crew an hour to find the shutoff valve: the plants on top of it had been left to grow into a jungle.

And sometime between when it ceased to be occupied and after the icestorm when she finally sold it, there were homeless people staying in it. They were careful to never let us see them, but they don't pick very carefully. Could have been a Tardis passing through for all we knew. My suspicion is that the owner was hoping that some transient would light a fire and the gas would explode, so she could collect the insurance.

* a real slime; he took payment in trade from any teenage girl younger than 17 or so.

** Not easy, then & there. It was a quiet neighborhood just inside the city limits, and the cops didn't want to deal with it on the assumption that no crime there could be very serious.

#74 ::: MR. Bill ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 12:39 PM:

And maybe the best thing about the Paris story is that it might keep the corpse of Anna Nichol and her retinue off the air for a bit.

The news papers used to talk about the summer, when 'nothing' is happening, as the silly season, where the trivial and inconsequential fill the news hole of the paper.

It's all silly season, seemingly.

I keep thinking a rigorously reality and News based operation (like CNN promised to be)the excluded the tabloid/celebrity shtick would actually be a commercial success, with the right marketing...Ted Turner, you screwed up!

#75 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 12:56 PM:

Lee @ 59

*snork* You'll notice that I didn't say I was a socialist or a libertarian*. IMO your description applies to most members of both groups**. Both socialism and libterarianism have many intriguing ideas; unfortunately most non-mainstream political groups*** attract people who easily become zealots.

I spent a while in the late 80's working with a young mathematician who was brilliant in his field†. He was also a devout free-market libertarian. Somehow the rigor he used in math, to go from result to result by logical proof did not translate to similar methods in political analysis for him. But I had fun baiting him.


* My view of politics is similar to my view of religion: if you find yourself heading in the same direction as a lot of other people, you're probably going wrong (Law of Mobs, Lemma 1). I'd be an anarchist if I could convince myself it would work.

** With lots of exceptions; to be trite, politics makes strange befellows. Except in gender politics, where bedfellows make strange politics.

*** non-mainstream with respect to the polity they are, of course. Communists in the Soviet Union were a very different animal from communists in the US or the UK at the time.

† Algorithms for representing curves and surfaces. It was my job to take his algorithm and turn it into code. I tried starting from the prototype code he'd written, but, as I said, he was a mathematician, not a programmer. *shudder*

#76 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 01:01 PM:

bryan @ 66
if she got out early order an investigation if it seemed she had gotten out earlier than is the case with the average nonviolent defendant in L.A.

But why would the judge prefer post facto investigation, which would cost the county thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars, to simply being alerted when something potentially out of the way happened and being able to squash it with a half hour in court, costing a few hundred?

#77 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 01:08 PM:

"But why would the judge prefer post facto investigation,which would cost the county thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars, to simply being alerted when something potentially out of the way happened and being able to squash it with a half hour in court, costing a few hundred?"

uh, he asked to be alerted if she was let out as opposed to saying don't let her out, make her do the full time?

Anyway I don't know enough about L.A rules, just what I've read in the last two days. It seems there this is the kind of thing that you get out of quickly (due to overcrowding), whereas in most of the U.S it is the kind of thing you do some time on.

#78 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 01:14 PM:

MR. Bill @ 70

But no orthodox Marxists are available in this country, or heard seemingly.

Orthodox Marxists are seriously overhunted, making them an endangered species. A friend of mine is a professor of economics, and a professed Marxist. He's been under tremendous pressure for years, because the school administration does not want a Marxist around, it looks bad. What's saved him is 1) tenure, 2) the previous administration dissolved in a tremendous shitstorm over $1.0 E7 that the president somehow appropriated for himself, and 3) the Chinese and South Korean governments both think well enough of him that he's been consulting for them for more than 10 years, involving at least two trips to each country every year.

#79 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 01:36 PM:
The news papers used to talk about the summer, when 'nothing' is happening, as the silly season, where the trivial and inconsequential fill the news hole of the paper.

It's all silly season, seemingly.

This spreading of the silly season is one of the effects of global warming, obviously.

#80 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 01:40 PM:

Evidently you've met a statistically-unlikely sampling of socialists.

I don't doubt that. I started to write "Most socialists in the US are libertarians," decided I didn't know if that was so, then considered "many" and remembered people always quibble with the vagueness of "many" and finally decided to go with what I knew. Maybe I should've said, "Every socialist I've talked with," 'cause I may've met some socialists who kept quiet about their anti-libertarian streak.

#81 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 01:52 PM:

Mr Bill @ 70, I'm a socialist and a christian. As a socialist, I pity her; in her way, she's as much a victim of our class system as any of us. As a christian, I forgive her; Jesus said plenty about how very hard it is for the rich to find the heaven that's within us all. The solution to the problem of Paris Hilton isn't jail time. It's building a new society.

#82 ::: MR. Bill ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 01:58 PM:

I'm actually with you, Will shetterly, but the Nietzsche line was too good not to use.

#83 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 02:15 PM:

Mr. Bill, it is a great line, and when I look at the most prominent figures in christianity, I'm tempted to agree with it. Then I think about people like Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King, and I think Nietzche was just having a bad day.

#84 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 03:16 PM:

Paris Hilton is a screwed-up young person who’s been pretty much fitted up for the role of Designated Hate Object

but, you know, so are a lot of poor kids serving grossly disproportionate sentences.

The problem with the counternarrative on this, to my mind, is this:

whatever the press may be making of this, and keeping in mind that Ms. Hilton has made a point of including the press in most of her looka-me-mommy-I-pooped behavior and earns seven million dollars a year on the strength of it

she was arrested for driving with a suspended license for the second time

When she was arrested, she had a piece of paper in her glove compartment acknowledging that her license was suspended and she wasn't supposed to drive.

She claimed that she never reads anything she signs

she had no idea that when the nice judge told her not to drive it meant that she wasn't supposed to drive

she had poor Elliot Mintz (who must miss John and Yoko particularly desperately right now) publicly apologize to her at a press conference for not explaining to her in a way that she was capable of understanding that the piece of paper she signed acknowledging that she understood what the nice judge told her about not being able to drive meant that she didn't get to drive

and then she fired him for letting her down like that

Judges tend not to like it when defendants hold press conferences refusing to take responsibility for their second parole violation.

Are the press going nuts? Yeah. Are an awful lot of people enjoying this in a manner and to an extent that are gorge-lofting? Also yeah.

Should she be serving every day of her sentence, and would her behavior have gotten her a much heavier sentence if there were no expensive lawyers in the courtroom? I'm guessing so.

I frequently see interesting stories in WSWS, and I completely agree that this is one of the circuses we're getting instead of bread, but given that it took the (elected) Sheriff's department all of three days to defy the judge and release her, I'd say this is a story that should be covered, if only to ask why.

I find all the elaborate revenge fantasies revolting too, but I think that perhaps this all should be a wakeup call to 'the public' about exactly what we've accepted that we're sentencing people to.

The jails aren't just not a place for Paris Hilton. They're not a place for anyone who wasn't sentenced to being raped or brutalized or having the odds of their kids offending increased exponentially or dying of AIDS. Maybe this'll make folks think about whether Jill Dimebag deserves many times the sentence on a first offense.

#85 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 03:16 PM:

bryan @ 77

It seems there this is the kind of thing that you get out of quickly (due to overcrowding), whereas in most of the U.S it is the kind of thing you do some time on.

Not sure that's true. At least here in Portland I know that at least two of the three Oregon counties* that are part of the Metropolitan Portland area have seriously overcrowded jails, and routinely just discharge non-violent prisoners early or not incarcerate them at all.

* the fourth metropolitan county is in Washington State.

#86 ::: Owlmirror ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 03:47 PM:

I've seen the line about Paris Hilton's real crime being that "she makes rich people look bad". Yet she also makes her gender look bad. Heck, she makes her species look bad.

Actually, she makes herself look bad.

It's not just her wealth that people are fixated on, I think. It's the utter and blatant disregard for consequences; the complete irresponsibility.

There's an underlying sense that with great power (i.e., wealth) should come great responsibility; or at least moderate responsibility. And at the very least, those who are irresponsible should show some regret for their actions.

Paris Hilton flaunts her irresponsibility; her overwhelming sense of entitlement. Her money and fame can get her out of any trouble. And she's not weeping and distraught because she regrets a single thing she's ever done. She got caught breaking the rules, flaunting her breaking of the rules, and expressing her contempt for the whole system of rules — and she's broken and weeping because her money and fame didn't stop her from being caught and punished; or from being punished only lightly.

I suppose that for some, Paris-hatred does tie in to misogyny or class warfare. But I don't think that that's the main reason for the outrage.

Or at least so it seems to me.

#87 ::: Owlmirror ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 03:58 PM:

And addressing the main point:

It would be nice if there were some other algorithm that "what pulls public eyeballs" to determine what media focuses on. Some way to determine that some particular event will actually have the greatest impact on the greatest number of people, and media outlets would focus only on the highest ranking events.

But currently, it's all ad-hoc, and the current ad-hoc ranking is based on how much of spectacle it is. "If it bleeds, it leads." And so on.

#88 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 04:10 PM:

Owlmirror, there's something kicking at the back of my mind that I don't want to write about because it's so big: class, race, and gender in the legal troubles of Paris Hilton and O.J. Simpson. Over at The Angry Black Woman, there's a lot of delight in seeing a rich white woman being held accountable (or more than accountable) by the legal system. Many people elsewhere seem to hate Hilton because of her casual attitude toward sex--she is a "bad woman" who is finally getting what she deserves. Heck, I suspect there are conservatives who blame her for being a liberal (if she is) or a consequence of our liberal society (if it is one). I do understand the public fascination: she's an intersection of so many of our society's obsessions.

And yet the people who are fascinated don't want to acknowledge why they're fascinated. They just want to think that she's bad, and now she's getting what she deserves.

#89 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 04:52 PM:

Bruce @ 85, wasn't asserting it as true, rather mean t to imply that most of the anecdotal statements about this class of crime seems to be that she is getting off lightly because others do time on similar offences. So there are some parts of the US where if the crime is not actually likely to lead to greater time the impression is in fact in place that it will.

However in the case of Portland, Urban and liberal.

In Salt Lake City at one time in the late 80s the county jail multiple times faced contempt charges for overcrowding and refusing to let inmates out.

#90 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 05:17 PM:

will shetterly @ 88

I suspect that one of the common cores of the fascination for Paris Hilton, an aspect that's common to everybody is that she's a train wreck. It's that same fascination that makes drivers slow down to get a longer look at an accident site, or causes crowds to assemble around train derailments and building fires. And some of the other reasons that people give for being fascinated by Paris Hilton are part of a denial that the fascination with wrecks is important to them.

How many other people in the public eye can you name have so thoroughly screwed up so many aspects of their lives, so publicly?

#91 ::: Owlmirror ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 05:54 PM:

@#90:

How many other people in the public eye can you name have so thoroughly screwed up so many aspects of their lives, so publicly?

Hm.

Michael Jackson, for one?

I don't know if I'm really that fascinated by train wrecks. I'm more interested in why people are interested in train wrecks, and why they become train wrecks.

Of course, I could be in denial about my fascination with the train wreck itself. But I have so far managed to avoid being too fascinated, I think. I've mostly been following links from here & Will's blog, and not been searching out too much more than that.

#92 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 06:00 PM:

will shetterly @ 88, it's the public fascination that fascinates me, rather than the media obsession. While it's possible to blame the media for causing public fascination, it seems to me that the situation is more interestingly looked at from the other way around: why this rich young blonde celebrity and not any number of others? Why now and not later, or sooner? The conspiracy theorists among us would blame the media and those manipulating the media, but I suspect that the discussion really ought to be more complex.

And it's also worth remembering that while the "distraction" provided by such non-news-stories as Paris Hilton does sometimes prevent us from paying attention to more important matters, there is no guarantee that we would pay attention if we weren't so distracted. I spent a good portion of the summer of OJ's Trial of the Century in a small town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan; we had minimal television capability. This was, in some ways, a blessing: the major "sports related" story covered by the local station, for weeks on end, was that the women's volleyball coach at the local university was taking a job in Kansas. I'm not kidding--the story dominated at least twenty minutes of each news half hour. Now, the network news still mentioned OJ occasionally, when we bothered to watch it; the people with cable probably were getting the wall-to-wall OJ coverage of the rest of the country . . . but we were spared. It was lovely, so lovely that it took me years to realize that --and neither I nor anyone else in the area was paying any attention to anything beyond local and immediate concerns.

On the other hand, it still beat wall-to-wall OJ.

#93 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 06:05 PM:

Owlmirror @ 91: Yup. Me, too. Bread and circuses works, that's the fascinating thing--but why does it work? Why do people care?

#94 ::: Dave Hutchinson ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 06:32 PM:

Actually, I'm finding the whole thing rather funny. In a terrible not-funny sort of way.

#95 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 06:34 PM:

Bruce, even her train wreck is political: those who love the idea of being richer and more famous than everyone else say, "See what she did with the American dream!" But the rest of say, "See what the American dream did to her!"

#96 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 06:45 PM:

Owlmirror @ 91

I don't think everyone is fascinated by train wrecks, though it does seem to be a very common interest. I'm not particularly interested myself, except from a sort of engineering point of view; I like to read post-incident failure analyses because I'm fascinated by the many ways that systems can fail. But I'd rather drive by an accident on the road than slow down to gawk; too many rubberneckers have caused additional accidents in my experience. I think part of my lack of interest comes from seeing the fascination early on, in an aunt, and being revolted by her glee in other people's misery.

But, yes, where the fascination comes from, and why it is so absorbing to so many people are interesting questions. I wonder if anyone has tried to study the question scientifically, say by functional brain imaging while the subject views photos of accidents.

#97 ::: Jennyanydots ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 06:54 PM:

I think wealth, perceived at second-hand, has an intoxicating flavour to some people that others are unable to detect. Like cats and catnip.

[apocryphal]
F. Scott Fitzgerald: "The very rich are different from you and me".

Hemingway: "Yes, they have more money".

On the other hand it doesn't explain why some wealthy people attract this kind of fascination more than others.

#98 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 06:57 PM:

will shetterly @ 95

Maybe Paris Hilton gives us a view of how politics actually functions that could be useful. Most of the political analysis that I see in the media or on the net comes from one of two perspectives: either a sort of sports commentator view in which politics is a spectator sport and all that's interesting is who will win, and what tactics will be used, or a partisan view in which all that's important is the advancement of a particular ideology. I'm interested in how politics works in a democracy like ours: what is it that people think of when they vote, how do they view issues and what issues do they consider important, and so on.

It's been clear to me for a long time that US voters are not the ideal Enlightenment citizens that the Founders hoped for, but I'm curious what they really are. I don't think they're the sheep that political operatives like to believe, but they're not rational and self-interested economic agents either.

#99 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 07:04 PM:

Okay, I'll drop this soon, honest. But--

Mary Frances, sometimes perfect symbols occur. For example, the gunfight at the OK Corral is the old west versus the new, the north versus the south, the country versus the city, the Democrats versus the Republicans, gun freedom versus gun control, and far more (with the Earps representing the latter and the cowboys representing the former in every case).

Paris Hilton has a perfect name. She's doing the same stupid things that thousands of clueless twenty-somethings do every day, but she's doing it at the intersection of so many kinds of attention. Originally, I was as bored by this as anyone: rich spoiled, ignorant brat--who cares?

But now everyone who takes the time to say her troubles makes them glad makes me think her case means much more than I'd suspected.

#100 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 07:44 PM:

will shetterly @ 99: Don't drop it for my sake, Will. I'm actually enjoying it.

Good point. You've put into words something I'd been thinking about, sort of vaguely--that Paris Hilton is famous for being famous, more or less. By that I mean that she isn't a singer or actor or athlete or comic or whatever who imploded and became a train wreck; she's the daughter of a well-known family with lots and lots of money and that's about the only reason she is in the public eye at all. This gives her a certain plasticity as a symbol--if that word makes sense? I mean that any number of people can look at her and "read" her in any number of different (and sometimes at least mildly contradictory) ways.

I think the OJ case had something of that, too. People were obsessed, but they saw different things when they looked at him. So the "perfect symbol" you are talking about is one with multiple interpretations, and the audience gets wider and more and more fascinated . . . maybe?

#101 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 08:16 PM:

Mary Frances, one small quibble with the "multiple interpretations": they're almost all valid. Do the Venn diagram of America's obsessions, and Paris Hilton is in the area of greatest overlap. It's not plasticity in the sense that you can shape her into representing what you're looking for. They're all part of her identity: rich, famous, white, hedonistic, young, etc.

#102 ::: Laurie D. T. Mann ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 08:29 PM:

Hey, just wait until Lindsay Lohan gets out of rehab... ;->

I absolutely agree with Julia, who quoted:
Paris Hilton is a screwed-up young person who’s been pretty much fitted up for the role of Designated Hate Object

and then said:

but, you know, so are a lot of poor kids serving grossly disproportionate sentences.

AND she'll wind up serving way less than 45 days - let's be real. If she were a poor person who had broken probation (remember, most people have to worry about "three strikes and you're out") there's no way she would have been back serving mansion...err house arrest after three days of bad behavior.

#103 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 08:41 PM:

On the other hand, we now have a much more interesting campaign for sheriff to look forward to, next year. I'm betting that Paris Hilton and Mel Gibson will be featured in at least one ad by the challenger.

#104 ::: David T. Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 08:46 PM:

Laurie (#102): As someone who lives in Los Angeles, you're wrong on this particular count. The L.A. jails are so overcrowded with felons, particularly violent felons, that virtually everyone with lesser offenses serves 10% of their sentence or less. Many people serve no time at all; they are often released right after they are booked because there is no room for them.

Hilton is useless, but she's actually serving more time than she would have served if she were a nobody. Three strikes and you're out isn't an issue here because she was arrested for a misdemeanor not a felony.

Yes, this is taking up headspace that should be used for more important things. No, I don't think it's being engineered by anyone for nefarious purposes. Ratings go up, networks make money, networks show more of it.

On the other hand, I thought that we gave part of the broadcast spectrum to the broadcast networks in return for serving the public good. This clearly isn't.

#105 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 08:50 PM:

On the other hand, I thought that we gave part of the broadcast spectrum to the broadcast networks in return for serving the public good.

God, where have you been? Next you'll tell me copyright's there to encourage innovation.

#106 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 08:56 PM:

P J Evans @ 103

Paris Hilton and Mel Gibson will be featured in at least one ad

Hmm ... could there be a secret romance here for the tabloids to ferret out?

But on a far more serious note, here's the story being pushed aside by Paris that I find the scariest: Turkish Troops Mass Near Northern Iraq Border

There's at least one report of Turkish troops going making raids into Iraq and returning to Turkey. AFAICT the US is looking the other way in hopes that any Turkish incursion will be brief, and that Sunnis and Shi'ites won't care much about what happens to the Kurds. The fact that the Kurds, who up to now have been the US' biggest supporters in Iraq, will care quite a bit doesn't seem to have penetrated.

#107 ::: Clark E. Myers ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 08:57 PM:

#98 they're not rational and self-interested economic agents either Sure they are, given the weight of one vote playing it for entertainment rather than effort is rational. Mary Kay Kare now that much effort and interest is irrational. Likely that's part of why the Founding Fathers took such an interest in limiting the franchise.

#99 Quite agree with point but I'd think about reversing north and south in
the north versus the south
(with the Earps representing the latter and the cowboys representing the former in every case). The north wasn't Democrats and the south wasn't Republicans for almost another hundred years.

Taking the original query “Is this justice served?” I'm not real sure what justice is but my observation is that the system on average is fair - half the people get half what they deserve and the other half get twice.

#108 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 08:59 PM:

j.m. mcdermott, #72: Nitpick -- if she was wearing a fur coat, she wasn't topless by definition. Perhaps you meant to say "bare-breasted"?

Bruce, #75: I was responding to this:
Most of what makes up the popular view of [Libertarians and Socialists] in the US is fairly distorted; you really need to meet a few and talk to them to make your own evaluation.

by pointing out that this is exactly what I have done -- at least for Libertarians; I haven't met many socialists. I wasn't intending to imply that you were a member of either population. Glad my response amused you, though. :-)

NelC, #79: *snork*

Will, #81: Well said. Even in the midst of our schadenfreude, we should remember that she is not the ONLY one to blame for the way she's turned out. (I'd feel differently about this if she were older -- but she hasn't had much adulthood in which to learn better yet, either.)

Owlmirror, #86: Also very well said.

To all and sundry: I'm finding this entire meta-discussion much more interesting than I do anything about Paris Hilton herself. Thank you all.

#109 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 09:13 PM:

will shetterly,@ 101: Thanks. That clarifies what I've been sort of mulling over. "Plasticity" is the wrong word, only I don't know the right one yet. If there is a right one. Nothing's being shaped, exactly--it's just (I think) that the differing perceptions of the object being perceived overlap and create a larger significance than would be present if the object had only one possible Identity. Of course, all human beings have multiple identities . . .

Trying to draw a Venn diagram of the situation does help. I am fascinated by the "overlapping" of public obsessions, for some reason, and how one seems to feed off of or (perhaps) reinforce the others, and so on.

Weird. This is a lot more interesting than Paris Hilton.

#110 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 09:18 PM:

Clark @ 107: Thanks for catching that! The Earps were definitely Union; at least two of the older boys were in the war between the states, but Wyatt was too young.

Lee @ 108: I do cut her a lot of slack because she's young. If she was the CEO of Halliburton, both pity and forgiveness would be a whole lot harder for me.

#111 ::: sara ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 09:54 PM:

Polysemic.

Entire Cultural Studies dissertations are probably being written about Paris Hilton.

#112 ::: Sarah M ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 10:13 PM:

Quoting Owlmirror at #87: "It would be nice if there were some other algorithm that "what pulls public eyeballs" to determine what media focuses on. Some way to determine that some particular event will actually have the greatest impact on the greatest number of people, and media outlets would focus only on the highest ranking events."

Yes, and as a working reporter, trust me, most people in the non-TMZ/Gawker/Murdoch world feel the same way. But have you read about the struggles of the Tribune Co., the Dow Jones Co. and the death of Knight Ridder? It's not that the media focuses on what pulls eyeballs because we find that fascinating -- it's that pulling those eyeballs, those ratings or audited circulation numbers lets newspapers sell the advertising that bankrolls the cost of operating foreign bureaus or the salary of the reporter who writes about community water board meetings.

Fewer and fewer people each day read the Times' coverage of Iraq, and yet that paper spends millions each year paying for its own secure office in the country. Why? Because they think it's important. Writing about things like Paris Hilton lets smaller papers like the Rocky Mountain News spend a huge amount of money printing up a special full-color section to print Jim Sheeler's Pulitzer-winning piece on the Marines who alert families to the death of their relatives in Iraq.

I don't know if the situation in TV news is as financially dire, but I don't think local news channels are raking it in. Why Americans care about celebrity, I can't imagine, but the media covers it because it sells, and because, somewhere, there are editors that want to be able to afford the salaries of their City Hall staff.

#113 ::: LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 10:24 PM:

I've come to believe that part of the fascination with her is more than that she is simply famous for being famous, though there is truth in that. She is the archetype of the gorgeous well-off blonde, beautiful, alpha teenie-bopper/ cheerleader/ prima donna/ narcissistic bitch everyone knew in high school, who made everyone's else lives such a living hell.

It's an archetype, not a real person, but she stands in for that type of person, based on her behavior as reported by the press. The laceratingly cruel wit, the social bully who made you conscious at every turn of your inferiority to her. Who could break every rule with impunity, because the teachers and the principle were all on her side.

Shades of Veronica Mars.

It's class, race, and gender all rolled up into a fabulous trainwreck of a package.

#114 ::: mds ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 11:11 PM:

Would it be callous of me to wonder if this would make invocation of Ms. Hilton more useful as pushback in the attempts to permanently abolish the estate tax? (Answer: Yes. But it's so tempting.)

Stephan Zielinski @ 10:
How I miss the clear-eyed ascetic Leninist earnests of my adolesence!

How I miss the conflation of Leninism / Stalinism / Pol Pot with socialism. Oh, wait, no I don't.

will shetterly @ 25, Patrick Nielsen Hayden @ 63:
Every socialist I've met is a libertarian. We're just not capitalist libertarians.

Evidently you've met a statistically-unlikely sampling of socialists.

Alternatively, perhaps he's encountered actual democratic socialists. Noisy, irritating young people in Che T-shirts don't really count.

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToMangers) @ 75:
I'd be an anarchist if I could convince myself it would work.

Now there, but for possible length limitations, is a grand bumper sticker. I might have known you'd be skeptical of anarchism, preferring to go your own way. Ooh, now my head hurts again.

Lee @ 108:
Nitpick -- if she was wearing a fur coat, she wasn't topless by definition. Perhaps you meant to say "bare-breasted"?

Depending on the fur, she might in fact have been bear-breasted.

#115 ::: mds ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 11:27 PM:

How I miss the conflation of Leninism / Stalinism / Pol Pot with socialism.

To be slightly less petty and unfair to Mr. Zielinski, all this is in the context of the World Socialist Web Site of the ICFI. And they are a bunch of Trotskyist running dogs*. (Then again, they've opposed the Iraq invasion and the California recall election sideshow. Something about a stopped clock comes to mind... Perhaps it's "Support your local clock repairman.")

*No, they're not really the running dogs of Trotskyists, but are themselves Trotskyists. It was just impossible to resist using the expression, considering.

#116 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 05:57 AM:

MDS @115, my problem with Trotskyism is that since 1989 it's become impossible to tell what it means. Take the neocons, for example, or this bunch -- the British Revolutionary Communist Party, who by a process of incremental change have turned themselves into a libertarian think-tank feeding policy initiatives to Tony Blair that would have had Margaret Thatcher thinking they were going a bit far.

The ICFI seem to know where they stand, at least, but once you start down the path labeled "Permanent Revolution This Way!" you can end up in some very strange places indeed, with only a map that consists of an arrow labeled "forward" to help you figure out where you took a wrong turn.

#117 ::: Laurie D. T. Mann ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 08:24 AM:

David B:

So three strikes and you're out no longer applies in California? It seems like I keep hearing that's very much in effect for the poor repeat offender.

#118 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 10:14 AM:

Approximate quotation from this morning's CBC radio show The Current:

Scientists have reported making a video showing the motion of a single electron, a feat previously considered impossible.

At least three major American networks have licensed the technology for use in their coverage of Paris Hilton.

#119 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 10:17 AM:

#113: It's class, race, and gender all rolled up into a fabulous trainwreck of a package.

No, please. "Class" is not synonymous with "rich". "Class" should represent a social, not economic, distinction in which characteristics such as intelligence, culture, style, grace and courtesy are valued higher than lack of same. Poor people can be, and are, high-class (perhaps one sees this more in Europe than in the US).

Paris H is stupidly rich but seems to have no class at all.

#120 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 11:20 AM:

John Stanning, words don't just have implications; they have denotations, too. You may argue that "class" suggests certain things, but, historically, those are things that the lower classes were not supposed to have or appreciate. If you throw away the meaning of "class," where do you stop? Do you think we should be able to say of anyone who acts in ways we approve, "That's mighty white of you?

In the American Heritage Dictionary, you'll find the social definition of class listed as #3.

Part of the fascination with Paris Hilton is that she acts in ways that are very typical of her class. An ancient observation of the classes is that the middle class tends to be obsessed with "acting classy" while the upper class tends to do whatever it feels like.

#121 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 12:06 PM:

Stanning, 119:

any other use of "class" other than as a economic signifier is pointless, especially in political discussion. Economic classes can be quantified, cultural/social classes are dependent on what you yourself think you are/would like to be.

On Paris Hilton in general: she may be used as a distraction or a safe person to hate and serve as a lightning rod, but boy does she makes a great rolemodel for reinstating proper estate taxes!

#122 ::: LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 01:26 PM:

JoelP @ 118: LMAO!

JohnS @ 119: what Will said.

#123 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 02:07 PM:

Speaking of rolemodels, all is not lost, if a DNA sample from Paris Hilton is preserved due to her jail stay: That sample could be used to create Bladerunner-style basic pleasure model replicants to support out troops in future patriotic wars off planet.

#124 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 02:41 PM:

#120, #121, #122: OK.

#125 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 04:00 PM:

IMO, Paris Hilton is acting like a 4 year old throwing a temper tantrum.

The fascination hinges on the fact that she's a Brand Name Baby who is stuck in a time warp. Her parents can't/won't see to her good behavior and education so others are.

I really don't understand the fascination with this topic, either. Train Wreck Attractions aside, it's just a child who never grew up testing her limits. I've seen a lot of Paris Hiltons, and it's not a class thing or a society thing. Name Brands just get better media billing.

#126 ::: John ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 04:03 PM:

#123: Gah, no thanks. Paris Hilton is hardly my ideal of what a pleasure girl ought to look like; she might do well as an example of what a skanky woman resembles when you put a lot of makeup on her, but that's about it IMO.

#127 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 04:45 PM:

earl cooley,

that was really gross. i know from past threads that i don't really "get" your sense of humour, but please can we not dehumanize a real person to that extent on this thread.

& john in the comment following: i guess i ought to be grateful that here at making light we made it to 120+ comments before playing "is she hot or not." all other blogs i've seen barely got to ten. but still....

#128 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 04:47 PM:

ergh, i meant john in the comment responding to earl's, not john stanning.

#129 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 05:32 PM:

Earl, #123: XthreadX: This is a good example of the attitude that women are viewed as legitimate prey. The fact that you're alluding to the hypothetical clone-slaves and not their progenitor doesn't change it.

I also don't buy the notion that "our troops fighting in patriotic wars" are entitled to the sexual services of enslaved comfort women. If it was wrong for the Japanese, it's wrong for us.

#130 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 05:37 PM:

Please compare and contrast Ms. Hilton's problems with those of Genarlow Wilson.

#131 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 06:43 PM:

Jim, coming up with a long list of the failures of the criminal justice system is easy. The Angry Black Woman has another excellent example: Jonathan Magbie.

But the conversation hasn't been about all the people who are shafted, or even about the rich folk whose lawyers get them off. I think it's been about this: Why the delight in the troubles of a young alcoholic?

Uh, changing subjects is cool, of course.

#132 ::: j m mcdermott ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 07:53 PM:

the nitpicker attacks me unjustly. a "coat" is not a "top", even though it is worn in the same general area. for example, a nude in an overcoat is not considered dressed. tops and coats are different categories of clothing entirely.

also, i laughed at the bear-breasted joke. very nice.

the real point is, however, whether i like it or not, i can remember this kind of imagery along with the celebrity protraits better than the horrific war correspondents elsewhere in the museum. i wish it wasn't so, but there it is.

we can call our neighbors evil foolsfor having this celebrity focus. we can fume like socialist evangelists over it. Or, we can call ourselves human and move on to other ares in the debate, like how come fifty percent of all arrests are dui and no one thinks that maybe the urban system rewards criminal choices instead of responsible ones.

if the prisons are overcrowded, do we build larger prisons, or do we try to change the system that creates criminals?

it's certainly easier to moralize about the demorality of others. if i had any solutions, i would certainly not be posting here. i'd be busy implementing.

#133 ::: John S. Quarterman ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 10:56 PM:

It would be the case that market forces would be enough to explain all Paris all the time, if there were actually a free market in news in the U.S.:

http://www.corporations.org/media/

Since there isn't, it's necessary also to consider politics.

-jsq

#134 ::: RedMolly ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 01:32 AM:

John Stanning, will shetterly et al.: There was an article in (yesterday's?) NYT about the intersection of both definitions of "class" under discussion here. The Class-Consciousness Raiser profiles Ruby Payne, a woman who's parlayed her self-published book on the cultural differences between lower-, middle- and upper-class families into a multi-million dollar empire. She now tours the country sharing her insights with educators; her presentations include such pearls of wisdom as "rich people don't eat casseroles" and "poor people play the TV too loud." Fascinating read, and it forced to reflect a little on my own middle-class assumptions of how the world is supposed to be. (Polite. Tidily dressed. Unostentatious. Bourgeois notions, all.)

Paris Hilton, OTOH, seems to personify my (dirt-farmer's daughter) Grammy's maxim: "All the money in the world can't buy you a lick of taste."

#135 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 01:54 AM:

Lee, #129: What makes you think that I was seriously advocating the mistreatment of android comfort women in future patriotic wars off planet?

Does Making Light have a standard way to flag a sarcastic comment as such and not one to be taken literally? It's sad that people are so quick to judge me as an objectifying mongster worthy of nothing but defenestration.

#136 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 02:24 AM:

Two years ago the New York Times did a whole series on class in the U.S.

It includes an interactive guide to class. It includes occupations ranked by prestige (top 5: doctors, judges, DBAs, sysadmins, and astronomers. I'm guessing the sysadmins at the polling company had a say.)

They summarize the series:
"The series does not purport to be all-inclusive or the last word on class. It offers no nifty formulas for pigeonholing people or decoding folkways and manners. Instead, it represents an inquiry into class as Americans encounter it: indistinct, ambiguous, the half-seen hand that upon closer examination holds some Americans down while giving others a boost."

#137 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 03:16 AM:

Earl @135, I think we all understood that it was a joke, but it was a pretty offensive joke.

#138 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 04:21 AM:

Amen, Avram.

#139 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 07:30 AM:

John S. Quarterman @ 133: Mmhmm. According to Wikipedia (FWIW), William Hearst's tabloids likely never made any money (shortfalls were covered by his substantial timber and mining concerns). Given the extent to which his empire is single-handedly responsible for the tabloidization (jingoism and all) of American media, it's worth asking why he did it,* or at least why it is that everyone else has kept doing it ever since.

The "The news is dominated by celebrity nipple-slips/drunk driving arrests because the stupid, pig-ignorant public demands it" explanation has always struck me as pretty insulting, frankly. And the explosion of the blogosphere, especially on the left, ought to put paid to that idea. Clearly the globally and politically-aware segment of the market was being pretty under-served. Why was that?

*I think that the historical reason for this was to put one to Pulitzer, his one-time mentor and rival.

#140 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 09:34 AM:

#139 Heresiarch:

It's insulting, yes, but is it true? Consider: There are news sources that don't cater to the Paris Hilton/OJ trial/Menedez brothers/cute blonde chick murdered and raped in the Carribean/etc. How are their ratings, compared to those of the news sources that do cater to that stuff?

We're mainly talking about TV news, especially 24 hour TV news. IMO, the thing everyone ignores is that watching 24 hour news isn't about being better informed--95% of what appears on such shows isn't worth knowing, and most of the remaining 5% is wrong or out of context. 24 hour news is about not having to be alone with yourself in a hotel room, restaurant, bar, whatever. You can pretend that important stuff is happening and you're being informed. But you're mostly being entertained by the appearance of important stuff.

If you had never heard of Paris Hilton or OJ Simpson or Mel Gibson's drunken anti-semetic rant or the Great Imus Nappy-Haired controversy or the Menedez Brothers' early inheritance scheme or about that blonde high-school girl who disappeared in the Carribean, you would be no less well-informed. You probably already knew about drunks, murderous jealous ex-husbands, closet racists, creepy amoral would-be heirs, and the existence of bad people who will rape and murder some woman, if they can get away with it. Finding examples of such might be interesting if someone were doing a case study or something, but not for breathless coverage on CNN.

24 hour news is junk food for the mind. Paris Hilton is sugar and trans-fat and extra salt that makes it tastier.

#141 ::: BigHank53 ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 10:01 AM:

About ten years ago, there was a foofarah over an LA TV station that interreupted its afternoon children's programming to carry live coverage of suicidal person on a freeway. Broadcast footage included the man shooting himself in the head. The following week, Diane Rehm had the news director on her radio show talking about the decisions he had made. He closed the show with a statement I've been unable to forget, saying(more or less): "If the American people didn't want to see what I put on the air, I'd be unemployed in a week."

This statement bugged me for days, until I realized that it's the same arguement used by drug dealers and pornographers.

Remember how the TV market works? Your eyeballs are what they sell. Whatever keeps your eyeballs stuck to the tube is what they will broadcast. Titillation and arousal are both reliable and cheap.

#142 ::: Steven Brust ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 10:08 AM:

The World Socialist Web Site has been receiving letters on this too, and there is a followup article:
http://wsws.org/articles/2007/jun2007/hilt-j12.shtml

#143 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 11:12 AM:

albatross @ 140: "How are their ratings, compared to those of the news sources that do cater to that stuff?"

How many people do you know who don't even watch TV at all, because they find it so utterly useless?

I don't think it is a wonder that entertainment is more popular than education. I'll grant that that has always been true. But why is it that even our news, which has the ostensible purpose of informing us, has also become entertainment? I think there's room for both on our airwaves, but somehow entertainment factor creeps into everything.

And it isn't a universal trend. I'm not terribly widely travelled, but I get the impression that European media is substantially better than the American media.* Al Jazeera, too, seems to do a fair bit of actual reporting on actually important stuff. Why is the Amercian media so singularly bad? I don't think it's because we are so singularly stupid.

*What does the international contingent think of this assertion?

#144 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 12:42 PM:
"If the American people didn't want to see what I put on the air, I'd be unemployed in a week."

This statement bugged me for days, until I realized that it's the same arguement used by drug dealers and pornographers.


True. And in all three cases, it's popular to target the middlemen, but doesn't actually accomplish anything.

I was about to say that bad news coverage is actually harmful, unlike recreational drugs and porn, but on second thought, I'm not so sure. The naive view is that bad news coverage[*] is harmful because it displaces good news coverage, but how many of the audience would pay any attention to the good news coverage if it existed? Darn few, I suspect (grumpy and cynical as that view may be).

Good news coverage may be one of those public goods that not enough people are willing to pay for to keep it alive. (Or, how many people on this thread have contributed to NPR lately? PBS? If not us, then who?) Once you start relying on advertising as the source of funds that keep your station/network running then you *have* to pander to bigger audiences at the expense of quality. And if the advertisers start trying to influence your selection of content, it's going to be hard to say no.


[*] By which I primarily mean trivia and gossip in place of serious news. Actively malicious deception is another beast altogether (naming no names to reduce the risk of flamewar), but short of a Ministry of Truth I see no more effective way to combat it than to get several different viewpoints out there and hope enough people can tell truth from lies when presented with both. If they can't, democracy is hopeless anyway and we might as well start looking for a good candidate for benevolent tyrant.

#145 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 01:00 PM:

#143 Heresiarch:

Well, I'm one. I don't know how typical I am, though.

One thing I've noticed that both CNN and Fox do in their news broadcasts is to add needless cognitive complexity to watching the news. Fast-paced music, quickly-changing graphics, several channels of information on the screen at once--all these make it harder to concentrate on what's being said in the main window. The painful thing is, they dumb down the material being reported. But then they add needless complexity to watching it. It's almost Harrison Bergeron-esque--I'm suprised they don't include sudden piercing noises and visual disturbances onscreen.

I assume this is done to make the experience of watching it feel more interesting and exciting. Alternatively, maybe it's useful for the providers of TV news to have their viewers only able to bring 80% of their mental capacity to the task of understanding what's in the main window, or to have their viewers always able to find something comfortable to distract themselves with, when an unappealing story is happening in the main window.

IMO, other than news that's breaking right now, TV news is worthless. CNN-HN used to be pretty good about at least giving you the big story breaking right now, but the last few times I've wanted to see coverage of some big thing that was happening right then, I've felt like CNN and Fox were playing some kind of keep-away game with me--30 second teasers about the really important story every couple minutes, but keep me waiting for 15 minutes to hear the "full" three-minute story, with no new content from what they had an hour ago.

#146 ::: Jim Henry ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 01:29 PM:

Mark Twain wrote an essay, "Does the Race of Man Love a Lord?", on this tendency we have to obsess over celebrities.

At any time, on any day, in any part of America, you can confer a happiness upon any passing stranger by calling his attention to any other passing stranger and saying:

"Do you see that gentleman going along there? It is Mr. Rockefeller."

Watch his eye. It is a combination of power and conspicuousness which the man understands.


#147 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 03:34 PM:

albatross @ 145

I've just about given up on any TV news, except that I occasionally watch The World on PBS or the BBC World News, just to get a different set of stories. I gave up on PBS in general, and the MacNeil-Lehrer whateveritis in particular some time back. They have these "indepth interviews" in which they let arbitrary talking heads and shills for various malignant organisms say pretty much what they like, without getting called on their bullshit. Disheartening, says I.

Our local news here in Portland, is, almost of course, much worse. There's one station that we call the "Pervert News" because they invariably start each broadcast with 2 or 3 minutes of news about allegations of child abuse by teachers, coaches, and such, followed by attempted child abductions, and an occasional softnews piece about the sex offenders moving into YOUR neighborhood.

I"ve become convinced that the most common tactic the local stations use to get and keep eyeballs* is to try to scare the bejeezus out of everybody so they'll be glued to the screen trying to find out about the next threat.

* Such a pleasant image.

#148 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 04:03 PM:

Bruce @147,

Did you ever read SatireWire?

Best business/dotcom humor site ever. They stopped in 2002 and then published their " Economy of Errors", a collection of articles from BusinessMonth Weekly.

In it they covered the growth of GreatHeadHunters.com when that company expanded to WeDeliverEyeballs.com (article only in the book).

#149 ::: Bernard Yeh ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 04:15 PM:

Re: #143
News as Entertainment.

There was a scene in the lamentably short-lived 1980's TV show Max Headroom that struck me as insightful then when I was an impressionable teenager and prescient* now in our era of high-trivia 24-hour news.

(paraphrased loosely based on 20-year-old memories. A DVD collection is way overdue...)

[Scene: The lead character, Edison Carter, a TV reporter in the near future**, is complaining to his producer about how his story was edited/cut.]

Edison Carter: Since when has news been entertainment?
His producer: What are you talking about? News has always been entertainment.

This is not to absolve the current state of affairs, but just to note that the observation of the conflation and cross-purposes of news and entertainment has been around for quite some time. You can go back to the time of W.R. Hearst, or further back to pre-American Civil War newspapers, or even further back to bards singing the news at every village stop, and still run into this tension between news as useful information medium and news as entertainment.


* I'm not certain that's the right word to use in this context... Need a better word or phrase that combines a sense of foreshadowing with deja vu. "avenir vu"?***
** Twenty minutes into it, to be precise.
*** Pardon my French, but my nominal skill at it is also 20 years old and almost never used...

#150 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 04:23 PM:

Kathryn from Sunnyvale @ 148

Never heard of it before, but it looks very funny. The headline 'HEADHUNTING FIRM DECAPITATES 250" is pretty good.

I don't always have time to read the stories, but I've put The Onion's headline feed on my Google home page, so I can at least get a giggle at heads like "Shaking Off Amnesia, Gonzales Remembers He's Actually Pool Salesman From Tulsa" and "NASA Announces Plan To Launch $700 Million Into Space".

#151 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 04:24 PM:

Heresiarch @139: According to Wikipedia (FWIW), William Hearst's tabloids likely never made any money (shortfalls were covered by his substantial timber and mining concerns). Given the extent to which his empire is single-handedly responsible for the tabloidization (jingoism and all) of American media, it's worth asking why he did it, or at least why it is that everyone else has kept doing it ever since.

Because owning newspapers gave Hearst a way to influence popular opinion, which in turn gave him a handle on political power he could use to advance his financial interests. Nicaraguan president Zelaya threatened the financial well-being of American mining and lumber companies extracting resources from Central America, so Hearst drummed up popular opinion against Zelaya, who was removed from power in a US-backed revolution in 1909.

Why do they keep doing it? Same reason. Different parts of the world, different resources, but the same damned reason.

#152 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 04:33 PM:

Earl, #135: "But I was just making a joke! Where's your sense of humor?" That's the free space on every bingo card.

It's sad that people are so quick to judge me as an objectifying monster worthy of nothing but defenestration.

I call bullshit. Nobody said any such thing about you except you -- by implication or otherwise.

One of the ways that the cultural attitude of women being acceptable prey perpetuates itself is by people making the concept into entertainment. I pointed out that you had just made such a joke, and you responded with (1) the canonical bully's excuse and (2) an attempt to twist my words into something that makes YOU a martyr. This is not helping your position.

#153 ::: BigHank53 ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 05:31 PM:

albatross @ 145

I've gotten rid of my TV, and don't really miss it much. There's stuff I'd like to see, but not enough to invite that enormous time-suck back into my house.

The visual noise of the CNN screen is designed to draw attention. Turn it on and look at something 90 degrees away--all that fidgeting stuff like the news crawl and the embedded window are an irritant in your peripheral vision, so you'll turn and look.

chris @ 144

I haven't given any money to WVTF because I don't think they're a very good radio station. I will probably donate directly to the programs whose production I care about. Morning Edition and All Things Considered have taken a considerable slide in the past couple of years.

bruce @ 147

A friend of mine was the news director for a local TV station in Flagstaff. She quit not too long after getting a phone call about an accident on the Interstate and her first question was, "Any fatalities?" She didn't care for the person she was turning into.

#154 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 06:20 PM:

Got rid of the microwave 6 years ago. Got rid of the cable TV service 5 years ago; got rid of the TV itself a year ago. Got rid of the car last month.

I half expect an agent from the Committee on UnAmerican Activities to show up on my doorstep...

#155 ::: Jennyanydots ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 07:10 PM:

Earl Cooley III @ #135 and Lee @#152:
Sarcastic, transgressive humour is best IMO when it has the bite of real satire behind it. '[well-known, brainless young woman] is a whore who should be raped by many men' isn't such an impressive thought to have behind your joke: or did I miss the point?

----
x-thread: 'but what does that mean?'

#156 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 09:56 PM:

Lee @ 152: But, you see, it's not my position at all. Where that riff came from was me attempting to channel the results of a conservative think tank that had just seen the film Bladerunner for the first time and thought it was cool for all the wrong reasons (I had recently read about the group of SF writers that was advising Homeland Security). There's no way you could have known that, of course.

By the way, I spelled it "mongster" on purpose because that's how someone I knew from my college years pronounced it.

#157 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 09:59 PM:

albatross @145: One thing I've noticed that both CNN and Fox do in their news broadcasts is to add needless cognitive complexity to watching the news. Fast-paced music, quickly-changing graphics, several channels of information on the screen at once--all these make it harder to concentrate on what's being said in the main window.

BigHank53 @153: The visual noise of the CNN screen is designed to draw attention. Turn it on and look at something 90 degrees away--all that fidgeting stuff like the news crawl and the embedded window are an irritant in your peripheral vision, so you'll turn and look.

While the concept of subliminal advertising has been largely discredited*, I wonder about the effect of competing streams of visible information. It is an ongoing joke how Fox News captions the video of many of their stories with misleading or flat wrong information.

Watching a Larry King interview with Bill Maher some time back, I was struck how all stories in the news crawl were all about sex crimes. Is this meant to color the public opinion of Bill Maher?


* A 50s study proving the effect of 'Buy Coke' and 'Buy Popcorn' subliminal ads inserted into movies, turned out to have been published by the company interested in selling the equipment to create these ads.

#158 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 10:19 PM:

Rob:

That's an interesting question. I know there's research on "priming," in which I can influence all kinds of weird stuff about your behavior by putting the right things in your head just before you make some decision. It would be really interesting to see some statistics on how the priming is done on CNN or Fox in terms of both the surrounding information / news crawl, and the immediately preceding and succeeding stories.

#159 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 10:37 PM:

#157: As I recall, the effectiveness of subliminal advertising is often described as discredited, but simply has never been studied in an academic environment or in publicly available marketing data. That's kind of weird, given that other kinds of subliminal effects and priming have been studied by psychologists and found to have fairly powerful effects. Yet every educated person "knows" that subliminal advertising is ineffective.

I know I read recently about some psychology study done on rotating ad banners - you know, those things you never pay attention to on a website. It found they were able to induce significant positive feelings towards a completely fictitious brand of camera in study participants, and there didn't seem to be a trailing-off effect - the more such banners you had seen-but-not-noticed flashing past you, the better you thought this nonexistent brand would probably be.

Things that make you go "Hmmm...."

#160 ::: Jennyanydots ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 10:39 PM:

# 156: I see, there was a further object of satire, but I didn't realise from context what it was.

Thinking imaginary futures are cool for all the wrong reasons: when Conservapedia was first mentioned on Making Light, I went over and pressed the 'random' button a few times and got the entry for The Handmaid's Tale. It read, in its entirety:

'The Handmaid's Tale' is a novel set in the near future in which conservative Christianity has achieved ascendancy over the United States of America. Though often thought of as a dystopia, the novel contains many positive aspects, such as the outlawing of abortion, and the abolishion of the separation of church and state.

They've changed it now (it's still in the history), but, aargh!


#161 ::: Jennyanydots ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 10:43 PM:

PS: abolishion [sic].

#162 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 01:51 AM:

Earl, #156: Hmmm... and now that I think of it, I don't recall seeing you posting at all in the "male privilege" discussion which sprang from the "honor killing" thread -- so there was a reference on my side that you wouldn't have known about either.

Okay, I apologize for getting hot under the collar with you. However, my objection to the original joke stands, for the reasons I've given.

#163 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 02:21 AM:

Chris @ 144: Good news coverage may be one of those public goods that not enough people are willing to pay for to keep it alive."

I feel that reasonably accurate news coverage is at least as important for our nation's health as reasonably good roads and a reasonably good school system (and a reasonably good public health care system, but that's for another day). I don't think I'm alone here--I have a feeling that, were we to allow people to choose what percent of their taxes were spent on what, NPR would receive considerably more funding than it does now. Most of the people I know who are upset with public radio are upset because they think it's too much like corporate news, not that it's not enough.

Avram @ 151: "Nicaraguan president Zelaya threatened the financial well-being of American mining and lumber companies extracting resources from Central America, so Hearst drummed up popular opinion against Zelaya, who was removed from power in a US-backed revolution in 1909."

Interesting. I'd known that Hearst had played a major role in demonizing hemp because it was threatening his lumber and paper-making concerns, but I hadn't heard about the Latin American connection. It all pushes me further towards the belief that the current state of American media can't be blamed on the audience alone. The people in power profit a great deal from the ignorance of the American people, especially regarding international matters.

#164 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 03:10 AM:

albatross @ 158

FWIW, I was visiting my son and daughter-in-law a few months ago; wanting to show me the amenities of U of L Baton Rouge, where they've just started working, they took me a Psych Dept. seminar about priming. At the reception after the seminar they spent some time debunking the presentation. Reminded me of me when I hear some of the nonsense that passes for reporting about computer engineering.

Anyway, their take was that there wasn't a lot of good experimental data to support the notion of priming because the effects are relatively small, signal-to-noise ratios are also small, and the experiments are devilishly hard to design well.

#165 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 06:12 AM:

Lee #162: I expect I'll likely reserve future comments that are as extreme as my original post to venues like fark.com. It would probably have been more palatable had I presented it as a The Smoking Gun-styled leaked transcript from a brainstorming session at that hypothetical conservative think tank. Or, not at all.

p.s.: You're not going to trick me into supporting "honor killing," you know....

#166 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 10:42 AM:

Bending the discussion back on itself, to the point of origin, I just came upon this (in Leah Garchik's column from today's Chron): Meanwhile, Will Durst's theory is that being annoyed with Hilton is a substitute for rage at the president, a public figure with a smirk as obvious as hers. We "are kicking this poor poodle of a person as a presidential proxy," e-mails Durst. Alliterative wisdom?

#167 ::: Jennyanydots ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 11:04 AM:

Earl Cooley III: there seems to be a lot of contextual misunderstanding here! 'The honour killing thread' is the thread on Making Light entitled 'the sky isn't evil: try looking up'. It started with a link to a post by Joss Whedon about a young woman who was murdered by her family, and has now reached epic lengths, discussing almost every aspect of gender you could think of, plus various digressions about Firefly etc. So, mentioning honour killings isn't a trick designed to slander you, it's a description of the thread Lee is referring to.

The discussion that Lee refers to about 'invisible male privilege' in society kicked off for real around about post 600, I think, though it was mentioned earlier in the thread as well.

#168 ::: Jennyanydots ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 11:17 AM:

Hmm, re-reading that, I wish I'd punctuated it differently. The quotation marks around 'invisible male privilege' are meant to indicate that this was the term used in the discussion, not that I think it's a fiction.

I think almost everyone who posted in 'the sky isn't evil' agreed that subtle forms of discrimination against women did really exist, though there was a lot of heated discussion about whether framing this as 'male privilege' was helpful or harmful.

now, I will cease spilling that thread over into this one! I just wanted to clarify what I meant.

#169 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 02:15 PM:

Interesting factoid *about Paris Hilton: she didn't feel she was inheriting enough money to live as she wished, so she decided to go out and make that level of wealth, and she has done so.

She has a job, and the job is 'being appalling'. Whether that's better or worse than being an heiress, with a hobby of 'being appalling', I will not speculate on at this time.

As for her getting different treatment than the average inmate? Someone said once [I don't remember where- could have been Pee-Wee Herman- but it stuck with me,] "They're going to be an example, either way. The only question is, what sort of example do we want to make them?"

Either celebrities can be an example of "fame buying leniency" or "fame buying severity."

* I think I read it once, and have not re-researched it.

#170 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 02:16 PM:

Interesting factoid *about Paris Hilton: she didn't feel she was inheriting enough money to live as she wished, so she decided to go out and make that level of wealth, and she has done so.

She has a job, and the job is 'being appalling'. Whether that's better or worse than being an heiress, with a hobby of 'being appalling', I will not speculate on at this time.

As for her getting different treatment than the average inmate? Someone said once [I don't remember where- could have been Pee-Wee Herman- but it stuck with me,] "They're going to be an example, either way. The only question is, what sort of example do we want to make them?"

Either celebrities can be an example of "fame buying leniency" or "fame buying severity."

* I think I read it once, and have not re-researched it.

#171 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 02:19 PM:

Wow, I'm really on a roll here. If anyone else wants to misinterpret anything I say as willful, cynical evil, they're just going to have to take a number and wait their turn. I think I'd best cut my losses and exit the thread.

#172 ::: Jennyanydots ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 02:41 PM:

aargh!
Earl Cooley III: I'm sorry if my butting in at #167 was rude. I wasn't saying you were wilful, cynical evil, I was trying to explain what I thought was a genuine misunderstanding between you and Lee about 'honour killing', since I thought you might not realise it referred to an actual thread on Making Light.

If you mean my post at #155, I didn't get the context of your joke till you explained it. I did ask if I'd missed the point.

But maybe I should have left Lee to speak for herself in reply to your post; if I've generally worsened this discussion, I apologise to you, Lee, also.

Pax?

#173 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 03:01 PM:

Earl @171
Oh, skip the self-martyrdom; it's as tiresome as the joke defense. Comment 123 was as rude a thing to say in this community as your average crack about narcolepsy.

You may not have known that when you made the comment, but enough people have explained it to you since, along with apologising for getting angry. Now, if you really wanted to do your part in a civilised conversation, you'd do the equivalent, rather than stalking off in a huff. You know, apologise for making such a tasteless comment, even as a joke.

I don't think you're being wilfully and cynically evil. I just think you're being a jerk right now*. Prove me wrong - apologise.

-----
* Although I'm sure you're perfectly charming in other circumstances.

#174 ::: Jennyanydots ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 03:25 PM:

This is like a little test tube universe of the gender thread. I took the remark at #156 that he didn't intend his joke to be offensive as sincere. But no-one has used the epithets 'monster' and 'wilful, cynical evil' in this thread except Earl.

#175 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 03:32 PM:

I really thought my #123 would be interpreted as a dig against the war in Iraq. I don't remember making any cracks about narcolepsy, though. I wasn't so much planning to stalk off in a huff as slink away with my tail between my legs, justly whacked by a rolled-up newspaper by my betters.

I no longer trust that any apology I might make here would be interpreted as anything but disingenuous dissembling. I might go so far as to risk an "expression of regret" but expect that it would be savaged as not going far enough.

Would a moderator please disemvowel my #123 (since I can't delete it) so that future generations may easily avoid being offended by it (with a notation, if possible, that it was disemvoweled at my request)?

#176 ::: Jennyanydots ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 03:36 PM:

@ 175 I no longer trust that any apology I might make here would be interpreted as anything but disingenuous dissembling.

@ 174 'I took the remark at #156 that he didn't intend his joke to be offensive as sincere'

clearly, I have just invented invisible type. Is there a commercial use for it?

#177 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 03:38 PM:

Earl, #165: Why would you think I was trying to "trick you into supporting honor killing"?

You offered a context for your original statement that I wouldn't have been aware of, and that made me realize that there was a context for my response that you wouldn't have been aware of. As Jennyanydots noted, the title of the thread in which the discussion occurred is "The sky isn't evil, try looking up," and the discussion itself starts at comment #602. If you want to take the time to skim thru it, you may get a better handle on where my head was in my first response to you.

#178 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 03:42 PM:

Earl,

The narcolepsy point was an analogy.

Speaking personally, I would take an apology - a genuine expression that you crossed a line, that it was wrong, and that you and regret it - at face value. I bet everyone who was offended by a comment that struck that particular nerve would.

(Assuming, of course, that you do feel sorry for having said it.)

#179 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 05:27 PM:

Earl, next time you turn a woman into a replicant, make her a combat model, as in Roy Batty. The issue isn't that replicants are slaves and therefore morally repugnanat, or that the endless off-planet wars you mention are morally unjustifiable, it's that you made her into a prostitute, which is sexist.

#180 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 05:35 PM:

Greg London @ 179: Would you mind explaining what you mean by that, please? I'd hate to misinterpret it as a poke at feminists if it's not.

#181 ::: Owlmirror ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 06:57 PM:

Hm.

It might be helpful to signal that one is being facetious and satirical by prefixing an obviously outrageous idea that one does not actually support, even in jest, with the phrase "A modest proposal:", or something similar somewhere in the text.

This being a highly literate audience, the obvious reference will be signaled, and the correct inference thus easier to draw, and one will not have to spend several dozen posts explaining that no, one does not in fact support eating the infants of the poorer classes, or similar.

Or so I might modestly propose.

#182 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 07:37 PM:

#181: Alternatively, or in addition, readers might bear in mind that sarcasm is common and sometimes difficult to detect on the Internet, and that posts that appear to be advocating, e.g., slavery, might not be intended seriously, even if no explicit disclaimer is present.

However, in this case I don't think it would have helped; some people apparently knew it wasn't intended seriously, but were offended by it anyway. What we have here is (apparently) *not* a failure to communicate; it's disapproval by some parties of the content of Earl's communication.

#174, 175, 176: Looking at the timestamps, it appears that what you have discovered is the ability to post while someone else is composing/editing his own post. Thus the later post is made while the poster is unaware of the existence of the (slightly) earlier post. This used to happen all the time on USENET, with propagation times sometimes measured in days; on the Web it's rarer but can still happen sometimes.

#183 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 07:48 PM:

Chris @ 182: However, in this case I don't think it would have helped; some people apparently knew it wasn't intended seriously, but were offended by it anyway.

Some context, for people who haven't been following both threads: Over in the "The Sky Isn't Evil" thread, we've been having a long and detailed discussion that includes how one way of keeping the social order that keeps women "in their place" is to implicitly or explicitly remove what social protections a "good" woman may have from those women who step out of line. "Bad girls get raped" is one of the ways that plays out. And then on this thread popped up a joke about a bad girl who is raped as punishment.

#184 ::: Jennyanydots ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 08:06 PM:

probably shouldn't jump back in here, but...

Greg's post, saying it wouldn't be offensive if P.H. was cast as a soldier replicant, just made me realise why (I think) this conversation all went pear-shaped.
It's not that anybody thought Earl was serious re the desirability of off-planet wars, slave replicants etc.
It's that the nub of the joke was around this ambiguity: is suggesting that P.H. would make a suitable whore a satire of people who objectify women, or is it supposed to give rise to a knowing smirk in the reader?
IMO the 'knowing smirk' interpretation was at least dangerously possible from the joke (indeed I think it might be what makes it 'funny'). I'm still more persuaded of this because the first response to the joke concerned her undesirability as a whore: 'skanky woman in make-up' etc.

But I don't know what Earl's intentions were: he says he did not mean to give offence, humour is a funny thing to parse, and he may have meant it purely as satire of people who think that way about women. In other words I may be talking through my hat.

P.S. it occurs to me that Earl may actually not have had time to see my post at #174 before he posted, so I take back the accusation that he was deliberately ignoring me, though he hasn't responded directly to my apology/explanation earlier upthread @#172.

#185 ::: Jennyanydots ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 08:12 PM:

... as Chris said, in fact, @182. OK, it was definitely people posting at the same time. I'll look out for the time-stamps in future.

#186 ::: Ben Engelsberg ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 08:29 PM:

I've been a reader here for a long time, and I've seldom felt the need to post, as much brighter and more articulate folks than I have usually said anything that I might, and done so much more thoroughly than I could. That said, I've always valued the open and thoughtful discussion this forum has presented, and I am rather galled by the treatment Earl is receiving.

People have objected to his joke (and clearly a joke, unless I missed the memo about successful human cloning), and rather than discussing it, and the merits and flaws on which their objection rest, have instead repeatedly castigated Earl in an attempt to cow him (and, as a second order effect, anyone who does not agree that his joke was somehow reprehensible) and to enforce through bullying rather than through debate, their views, mores and preferences.

I for one find some interesting parallels between our current cultural obsession with what I can only call "sexual celebrity", being mostly composed of young people behaving badly before a national audience, and Dicks metaphor of the "basic pleasure model" as demonstration of dehumanization via his replicant meme.

As for the humor value of the joke itself, to Earl, I can say only one thing: "I knew Daryl Hannah. Daryl Hannah was a fantasy of mine. Earl, Paris is no Daryl Hannah."

#187 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 09:40 PM:

Ben, do you make jokes about ethnicities?

#188 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 09:53 PM:

Whew, what a relief, now it's Ben's turn to be grilled on the hot seat. heh.

I've been trying to work up my apology as a double dactyl, but it's been slow going so far, as I'm not as clever in that department as many of the posters here.

#189 ::: Jennyanydots ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 09:56 PM:

Ben Engelsberg:
people have repeatedly castigated Earl in an attempt to cow him (and, as a second order effect, anyone who does not agree that his joke was somehow reprehensible) and to enforce through bullying rather than through debate, their views, mores and preferences.

Hmmm, how to get over this impasse? When one person (or group) says something that another person (or group) takes offense at, both sides can end up with the perception that they have been bullied, one because they are silenced, and the other because they feel disturbed by what was said. Then it seems terribly hard to make peace afterwards.

Earl Cooley III, if you are still reading this: I believe you when you say that you weren’t intending for the joke to give offense, and that you intended it in the context of satire on the war in Iraq. My post @184 was an attempt to work out why I was still rather bothered by the joke, even once you’d explained the context that you meant it in. It’s up to the individual reader to decide whether the unease that I feel about it is legitimate. And I’m not casting aspersions on your character in general, because heavens, I wouldn’t like to be judged purely on one thing I said on one thread in Making Light. (Especially since I deeply respect this place and have a great fear of making a fool of myself here!)

Ben may be right, also, that there's a dogpile effect going on. I will try to un-dogpile things somewhat by leaving this thread for a bit, as I've posted a lot here, and have said more or less everything I had to say.

#190 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 10:27 PM:

Aconite@180: Would you mind explaining what you mean by that, please?

Soitenly. I'll do my best. Note that what follows is all my experience of this interaction, my opinion, my personal belief, etc. I'm not going to put "I think" or "It seems to me that" in front of every sentence just because, but you can assume a blanket "It is my humble opinion that ..." applies to everything here. Onward.

Earl is not the first person here to perform the textual equivalent of turning some public figure into a voodoo doll, and verbally poking them with a pin in an attempt to get a laugh.

I think it is safe to say that at some point we've all wished some form of tragedy upon someone whom we did not like. It relieves frustration, it vents steam, it's a bit of comerarderie. (I read somewhere that humor evolved as a social integration mechanism to reinforce bonds, but that's another discussion)

But verbally wishing ill on some annoying public figure isn't the problem here. Think of who's in the White House and the rest of the knuckleheads who've been in the administration for the last few years, and tell me you didn't have a thought about something bad happening to them.

It isn't like anyone here who writes such things actually intends to go through with them.

Now, given all that, why the hell are some people pissed off?

It wasn't that someone verbally wished for somethign bad to happen to Paris. It was that the bad thing involved rape. Turning, not Paris, but a non existent fictional replicant based on her DNA, into a comfort woman forced to have sex with military men.

The thing is that, of all the replicants in Blade Runner, in my opinion, Roy is in at least as bad of a position as Pris, if not worse. He's a combat model. He was born and enslaved into a life of killing or being killed. We can argue the relative moral consequences of murder and being murdered versus rape some other time, but I'm pretty sure that the absolute worst thing you could wish on someone would be to be placed in Roy's position. (If you recall, some people on the "Sky isn't evil" thread said they'd rather be raped than have to live with killing someone.)

But fantasizing about Paris being in at least as bad, if not worse, of a situation, i.e. being a combat model replicant, wouldn't get the howls of protest that wishing her DNA be used to create sex objects.

It isn't for any absolute moral reason that this level of trouble was directed at Earl. He could have wished far worse on Paris's future DNA as a combat replicant, and no one would have said a peep.

It is because the "voodoo doll" in this particular case was a woman, and the "pin" in this particular case was rape, which then plugs into certain people's sensitivities for possible sexism.

Was Earl being sexist? I don't know. I don't really care so much what his intent was. I suggested a change to his behaviour that might avoid a similar problem in the future. And being the pragmatic bastard that I am, that is all I care about.

It had come up on the "Sky isn't evil" thread a couple of times about how men shouldn't tell women how to tell men not to be sexist. I had suggested to Nicole something that probably would help her if a similar situation to the train came up again, and people chastized me for telling her, not telling the other guys, even though they weren't there. And here I am, telling Earl. So, if anyone has any doubts as to whether I was making women responsible, or whether I'd step up man to man, hopefully this settles it for you.

So, Earl, I don't know if you realized it or not, but you did the gender equivalent of wishing a lynching on a public figure who is black. Wishing rape on a woman is sort of the same thing. You may not have intended it that way, but people who've spent their lives dealing with sexism, and have become sensitive to its patterns, could have a hard time telling if your comment was "harmless" voodoo dolling, or if it was reflecting a sexist view.

Even if you did non intend any sexist meaning whatsoever, someone who did have a sexist worldview might make the exact same comment intending to enforce a sexist worldview. Therefore, your comment has set off alarms in several people reading it.

In an almost weirdly perverted way, you could have talked about using Paris's DNA for a combat model replicant in a Blade Runner style world, which would be just as bad (or worse) of a thing to happen to Paris, and it would have been "OK", because it wouldn't have set off the "possible subtle sexism" alarms on some people.

In either case, people know you aren't planning on acting out using her DNA for any kind of replicant thingy. It's that one particular replicant choice happens to also line up with an attitude conveyed by men attempting to maintain their dominance over women.

That is my experience of what happened: Earl wrote one sentence, trying to make a voodoo doll out of Paris for a quick laugh, which is not unusual social behaivour. And then several people responded because it set off their "sexist remark" alarm.

Personally, I don't think Earl's remark qualifies as sexist. Or, at least, I don't think that by itself there's enough information to declare it with any certainty to be sexist. Whether he intended it that way, consciously, or whether he was portraying some subconscious latent sexist view, I don't know. And frankly I'm too damn pragmatic to care.

And Earl, even if you were completely free of any sexist intent with your statement, the fact of the matter is that there may be some people who take such a comment as possibly sexist and question your intent. It isn't that anyone thought you sticking a pin in a paris hilton voodoo doll meant you were seriously advocating the mistreatment of women (see #135). But it's one of those topics that some people have hair triggers about, and you just set it off whether you wanted to or not. if you want to make a voodoo doll comment in the future, if it involves a woman, don't use rape as the "pin" if you want to avoid this sort of shtstorm in the future.

Aconite, does that answer everythign for you?

#191 ::: Ben Engelsberg ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 01:08 AM:

Marilee @ 187...

Yes, yes I do, if they're funny and I'm not talking to someone who I know is sensitive about such things (or someone who is sensitive about such things, and who I think needs to be gently desensitized). That being said, I try not to be mean-spirited about it, and I generally find that jokes about racists are easier and funnier than jokes about ethnicities... but I won't let someone elses mores about racism and PC treatment of ethnicities greatly encumber my freedom of expression.

Now, since you've asked, you get my personal favorite "ethnic" joke. Remember, before the fruit throwing starts, you brought this on yourself. ;)

"Do you know the difference between karate and judo?"

"No, what's the difference between karate and judo?"

"Karate's a dangerous martial art... and jew-dough's what bagels are made of!"

#192 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 02:02 AM:

Greg London @ 190: "And Earl, even if you were completely free of any sexist intent with your statement, the fact of the matter is that there may be some people who take such a comment as possibly sexist and question your intent."

Actually, I think the problem with his statement, even were he completely free of any sexist intent, is that there are people who will take such a comment as unambiguously sexist and say "Hell yeah!" It's not that he might accidentally offend some feminists. It's that he might accidentally bolster and encourage some sexists.

#193 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 03:43 AM:

heresiarch,

Actually, I think the problem with his statement, even were he completely free of any sexist intent, is that there are people who will take such a comment as unambiguously sexist and say "Hell yeah!"

a present danger, given that two responses to the joke were "naw! she's not hot enough to be my sex slave!"

(while none of the responses were "dude, great evocation of some neocons seeing bladerunner for the first time & liking it for all the wrong reasons!")

#194 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 09:36 AM:

Greg London @ 190: Yes, thank you. That helps me understand your meaning.

I strongly disagree with your assertion that people here wouldn't have objected if the joke had been about turning a person into cloned combat units, given the many discussions on this board about human rights, including rights of prisoners. But yes, insomuch as that joke reinforced the "bad girls get raped" meme (as well as the "I have the right to rate the sexual attractiveness of any female" meme, as miriam beetle mentioned), for some people, it was going to carry extra distastefulness regardless of the intent behind it.


Ben Engelsberg @ 191: I'm curious. Why do you feel it's your place to decide who needs to be "desensitized" to racist/ethnic jokes? Being respectful of other people's boundaries isn't PC (where did that phrase acquire its bad reputation, anyway? Is it like "liberal"?), but simple politeness.

#195 ::: Ben Engelsberg ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 10:48 AM:

Aconite @ 194

In regards to my own speech and behavior, do you have a recommendation for some other individual or organization who should be making the decision about who needs to be desensitized for me?

In regards to PC vs politeness, I'm not sure there's any real semantic differences other than the direction of the spin on the words. I suspect that it picked up it's negative spin sometime in the 60's or the 80's. At any rate, it was spun that way when I found it. Regardless, I will not let someone elses mores about whether something is impolite or impolitic greatly encumber my freedom of expression.

Also, if you mean to suggest by implication that by using the term PC in this context, I'm somehow counter-liberal, you'd be badly misintepretting my political, social,and ethical stance.

#196 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 10:57 AM:

Aconite #194 and others:

It seems like there's a functional difference between politeness and PC, on two fronts:

a. Politeness is about trying to minimize the wear-and-tear on the people around you of the things you say and do. You try not to give offense needlessly.

b. PC is about some ideas being off limits, even by implication. (This is usually talked about by people on the Right, but it's certainly present in most political movements. Talking about the need for more troops or the inability of Iraq to be converted to a liberal democracy was very up-PC in the Bush cabinet and the Rumsfeld Defense Department.) PC is probably as old as people, certainly a lot older than any existing political movement. I think it's basically a mechanism by which group mores are enforced. Much of the tension you see about PC is in places where there are differences between people, about what the group mores should be.

It seems to me that a difference here is how people define violations, and how people react to them. If your concern is politeness, you tend to give people the benefit of the doubt--if his statement could have been meant in a polite way, it was probably what he was trying to do. If your concern is with enforcing mores, you tend to look for things that could be violations of the mores, and jump on them. Enforcement of rules of politeness tend to be concerned with politeness--taking someone aside and telling them what they're doing wrong. Enforcement of mores tends to be about power, publically calling someone down for saying or implying unacceptable things, even punishing them for it.

These two are related, but they're not the same thing. It's possible to have a polite discussion with deep and important disagreements on both sides, but I don't think that's possible when you're dealing with enforcement of group mores of belief. Group mores are almost beyond argument, and when you try, people often get very upset.

In a community where there are widely diverging beliefs, enforcement of group mores gets really hard, right? It's a source of conflict, of one group trying to impose its beliefs on another, of silencing some points of view because they're too yucky or upsetting to contemplate. Some of that is necessary to have a community, I think, but it's better if it's done sparingly.

How was the old internet saying, again? Send conservatively, receive liberally? That's kind of what you need for discussion with widely-differing people/viewpoints/cultures. Send politely, receive with a filter that tries to interpret things in as inoffensive light as possible.

All IMO.

#197 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 10:59 AM:

I think the reason PC has a negative connotation for me is that it's an awkward euphemism. Saying, "Hey, that's not politically correct" actually means "Hey, you're being a racist fuck!" or "Hey, you're a misogynist pig!" or...etc. Unfortunately, I'm not convinced that's why it has a negative connotation for a lot of other people.

#198 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 11:03 AM:

Heresiarch@192: even were he completely free of any sexist intent, is that there are people who will take such a comment as unambiguously sexist and say "Hell yeah!"

The responses were far too visceral for that level of abstraction. They were "ick" and "gross", and some conveyed anger. You might be able to add that as a second level of motivation after the fact, but what was communicated on this thread seemed much more of triggering someone's personal alarm than of some hypothetical concern that one joke would somehow spark a sexist revolution.

And then, there's something about getting mad at Earl-of-the-best-intent at the potential for someone else to misread it and do something sexist, that sets off my "collective punishment" alarm. And yelling at Earl now for what someone else might do in the future, especially given how unlikely that would really happen based on it being a throw away line, a joke, and the forum it was said in, seems like it isn't about that, more than it's about people's own personal alarms going off.

Aconite@194: I strongly disagree with your assertion that people here wouldn't have objected if the joke had been about turning a person into cloned combat units

Oh, probably, but it would have been different people, with different sensitivities, different alarms going off saying "Possible human rights violation". And they would probably have responded in an equally visceral way, and because Earl doesn't have those same alarms, their reaction wouldn't make any sense to him either.

Personally, Earl's comments didn't set of my "Possible sexist comment" and it didn't set of my "Someone might read this as justifying their sexist behaviour" alarm either. It didn't set off any of my alarms. But seeing the visceral reaction that communicated "ick" and anger more than anything else, and seeing Earl's response to all that was clear that he didn't have the same alarm bells, I was trying to explain it in a way that Earl could understand why some people were angry at him, because the people who were angry or disgusted weren't explaining it in a way that someone without the same alarm setting would understand.

#199 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 11:17 AM:

Greg @198:

yelling at Earl now for what someone else might do in the future, especially given how unlikely that would really happen based on it being a throw away line, a joke, and the forum it was said in, seems like it isn't about that, more than it's about people's own personal alarms going off.

Well, on the one hand, I have seen this happen. At me. One well-meaning guy makes a bunch of jokes, and because I know he doesn't mean them, I put up with it. Lots of "typical female" comments.

Then the creep who works with him says exactly the same things, and I've robbed myself of the right to object. "You let him say them, you humourless bitch!" (Word for word quote.)

So now I react badly to comments in jest, too. Even when it's not the joker's fault that someone else made my life hell.

On the other hand, I got angrier than Earl deserved. I'm sorry, Earl. And I'm sorry, everyone, for ratcheting up the tension.

#200 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 11:29 AM:

Ben Engelsberg, I believe the strong implication was that you were behaving impolitely.

#201 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 11:31 AM:

Ben Engelsberg @ 195: In regards to my own speech and behavior, do you have a recommendation for some other individual or organization who should be making the decision about who needs to be desensitized for me?

Perhaps it should be left to the individual to decide if they need to be desensitized?

I'm of slight build, look much younger than I am, and am female. This means that, frequently, people treat me as if they know what's best for me better than I do, and set out implement those things. This never goes over well.

Deciding some people are "too sensitive" and need to be toughened up has a long and loaded history of abuse, particularly when directed at people who are part of groups that have experienced a fair amount of discrimination and have had their concerns and sensibilities brushed aside. When I talk to someone who shows high sensitivity around a particular area, I tend to assume there's a lot of pain locked up there, and it's not my place to decide for them that they need to be less sensitive about it. I may discuss the topic with them, if they feel like it, and express that I have a different point of view, but I wouldn't try to deprogram someone because I thought they should be less sensitive, because I positively loathe it when people try to do that to me.

#202 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 11:39 AM:

Ben, 195, said: In regards to my own speech and behavior, do you have a recommendation for some other individual or organization who should be making the decision about who needs to be desensitized for me?

Who the hell are you to decide that anyone needs "desensitizing"?

#203 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 11:42 AM:

JESR @ 200: That wasn't my conscious intention, although re-reading it, I see the implication. I'm struggling to evolve a way to discuss two separate but related ideas, and not having much luck getting a clear head today. I'm in pain and sleep-deprived, and engaging in intelligent conversation that keeps my mind occupied distracts me from the pain, but things that seem clear when I first write them end up not expressing what I intended when I go back over them and try to tease out the connections I thought I was making. I apologize for confusion this may cause.

#204 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 11:47 AM:

Aconite, 203: Even in pain, you're more polite than I am.

Ben, I was rude to you, for which I apologize. But I still want to know why you think that racism and sexism are OK.

#205 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 12:02 PM:

PC (where did that phrase acquire its bad reputation, anyway? Is it like "liberal"?),

"politically correct" refers to the party doctrine. And because of that, I think the term "PC" was intended to be perjortive from the beginning, used to reframe racial and gender equality into something evil handed down from above.

There was a hilarious article I read somewhere about how the South really was going to come around to end slavery and endorse racial equality, but they had that whole "civil war" thing because they didn't want the North to tell them what to do, even if what they agreed with what they were telling to do, and even if they were going to implement it themselves. They just didn't like those "uppity northerners" telling them what to do.

Taking issues of racial or gender equality and reframing it as "political correct" speech, casts the entire thing as something handed down from on high, it's a party line, it's dogmatic, it's political tyranny, it's censorship.

Personally, I think if anyone supports any of the various forms of progressive movements regarding equality, they'd be far better served never using the phrase "politically correct" ever again. It frames something you support into the negative light of some tyrannical political machine. Since when is equality a "political" concept?

I think about the worst thing a person could do is see someone behaving reprehensibly in some sexist or racist or whatever way, and try and address the behaviour by telling the person they're being "politically incorrect". It puts the entire thing in the light of "someone very high up has decided we should all do this, and you're not doing this, so you're behaving badly." Which only reinforces the negative frame of "political correctness", i.e. someone telling you what to do.

#206 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 12:07 PM:

Aconite 194

The reason why so many hate PC is because like all ideology calling cards extremists and just plain jerks have overused it to the point of thought police on things that have nothing to do with fighting the assorted isms.
Also a lot of folks just use PC as a shortcut for I just don't like what your saying and can't cope with it, disguising their thin skin with an attempt to make the other person feel like they are crossing into forbid words your are a horrible human being that needs to be punished territory.
For me the political in PC tells what it's really about and has little to do with courteous mindful speech.

#207 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 12:30 PM:

Greg London @ 198: "The responses were far too visceral for that level of abstraction."

I think you grossly underestimate the potential for emotional viscerality of even semmingly quite abstract topics. You'd be amazed at how infuriated I can get when I hear Republicans making yet another insincere fucking argument, that they just pulled out of their asses, on national television, and no one calls them on it. Really, it's quite dry, logical fallacies and all that, and yet the anger is tangible.

"You might be able to add that as a second level of motivation after the fact, but what was communicated on this thread seemed much more of triggering someone's personal alarm than of some hypothetical concern that one joke would somehow spark a sexist revolution."

That's funny because (a) the idea of sexists needing a revolution (as if they aren't already on top) is quite droll, and also (b) why do you think people have 'personal alarms' in the first place? So they can get meaninglessly offended when people make innocent jokes? I posit that they might feel they have good reason for taking even casually sexist comments seriously.

Re: "PC" - Out of curiosity, has anyone ever heard anyone use the phrase "politically correct" in a non-ironic/non-derogatory manner? I mostly hear it myself from people protesting that they're being censored by the "thought police"--usually when they are being called on some bullshit behavior or comment. It would explain why it has a negative connotation--it's never been used in a positive sense, ever.

#208 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 12:36 PM:

Interesting... I tend to use "politically correct" to refer to situations that are actually political (not necessarily pertaining to government, but pertaining to one's position of authority over a group of people.) For example, I moderate/oversee several message boards, and have the tendency to refer to the inhabitants as "my kids." Which, while not intended to be offensive (I'm extremely fond of them,) would not be a phrase I would use in front of them, because it would be unlikely to help maintain my standing as a figure of authority. Therefore, that phrase is distinctly politically incorrect.

Hum, maybe I'm just more literal-minded than most people.

#209 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 12:43 PM:

Greg London @190,

Thank you for the explanation. My first response to your previous comment was "What, another snide comment about feminism?" I appreciate the time and expansion of the remark I misread.

And sometimes a joke's just in bad taste. "I find this woman annoying. Ha ha! She should be enslaved and raped! Except she's not even pretty enough that I'd want to rape her!" bothers me. And so does "This customer has highly demanding, and a scammer. I wish he'd get a hideous form of cancer and die slowly in pain! Wouldn't that be funny!" bothers me too. (And, yes, that's one that I've run into multiple times.) I may have a damaged sense of humor, because I don't find wishing harm on actual living people all that funny.

(I'm still fine with humor about harm to fictional people who aren't standing in as scapegoat for an entire group. It's only a mostly damaged sense of humor.)

#210 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 12:44 PM:

Hesiarch, when I first heard "politically correct" it was from a red-haired Staliinist who was attacking the Stampers, in Sometimes a Great Notion as "boss class exploiters." That was a very long time ago at The Evergreen State College a couple of years after it opened.

Most of my life, I've heard it used in the "you can't take a joke" sense. It's one of the patterns which have led me, over the years, to formulate the distinction between being sensitive and being touchy. Sensitive people are as able to accept the hurt perceived by other people as they are their own. Touchy people are mostly aware of the pain they, themselves, perceive.

#211 ::: Ben Engelsberg ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 12:58 PM:

TexAnne @ 204...

We're discussing a highly emotionally charged and I believe very important topic. I'm more than willing to suck up a little abuse to further that discussion. Further, if anyone feels that they have been directly insulted by anything I've said, please e-mail me and let me know. I'll be more than happy to apologize, as (other than giving Aconite a baiting reply to a baiting question in regards to whether it is my place to make decisions about my speech and behavior) I hope I haven't offered anyone insult.

I do hope that you don't honestly believe that I think that either sexism or racism are acceptable. Let me state that I do not. I think that biased treatment of individuals based on broad categories such as gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, dietary preference (with the exception of those who dislike chocolate), choice of unit of measure, or any other issue not individually and directly related to the depth, quality, and nature of their character, is incredibly detrimental to both myself as an individual, to the culture of which I am a part and to society as a whole.

However, I do not believe that undue caution in ones speech or actions, so as to try to ensure that one does not give offense to another, is beneficial to these causes. Rather, I believe that it suppresses discussion, debate, analysis, education and communication about such important topics. Take, for instance, the recent discussion about UK schools dropping the topics of the holocaust and the crusades from their curriculum, in order to prevent offense which may be given to Muslim students.

I do differentiate unencumbered speech from deliberatly or negligently causing someone harm or traumatic distress. The benefits of unencumbered speech to the public discourse are quickly cancelled when it causes actual harm or trauma. However, I believe that it is important for the individual to learn to judge when this is the case, and that group chastisement, the enforcement of group mores, and the public calling into question of an individuals character are not beneficial to that learning.

Also, Albatross @ 196... Remember that thing I said up in my original post about brighter and more articulate folks saying things more throroughly than I can? Just like that. Thank you.

Also, also, Aconite @ 201... I was tempted to give a very bluff answer to "Perhaps it should be left to the individual to decide if they need to be desensitized?", but I've realized that there is actually a fairly deep question about the ethics of right action tied up in whether I should make that kind of judgement in action about another, if I should, how I should, and if it can be any other way. I'll have a response for you, but I want to give it some time to percolate, first.

#212 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 01:14 PM:

Ben, 211: I now believe that you don't think sexism and racism are acceptable. I did not believe that when you first mentioned "desensitizing" people, for exactly the reasons put forth by Aconite.

I disagree that "enforcement of group mores" isn't beneficial to people who need to learn how not to hurt people. Certainly we shouldn't insult people. But how else are individuals to learn what is unacceptable to the groups they live in? And do I not have the right to explain why sexism hurts me?

#213 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 01:31 PM:

I've begun to suspect that "PC" has lately become a relative of "pretentious": a largely meaning-free word used by folks who want to come off as edgy to express their disapproval of some philosophy or aesthetic they dislike.

As evidence, check out this brief exchange I participated in yesterday, featuring M. John Harrison using "PC" as a term of disparagement in the same paragraph he accuses someone of ageism.

#214 ::: Ben Engelsberg ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 01:42 PM:

TexAnne @ 212...

You absolutely have the right to explain why sexism, or anything else for that matter, hurts or distresses you. In fact, I would almost say you have an obligation to do so, or at least I would say that it is not only in your best interest, but also in the best interest of any group (or culture, or society) that you are a part of, for you to do so. I believe that discussion and debate, especially informed by emotion, are key ways that groups grow and evolve.

There is probably a very interesting debate on the positive and negative values of group mores to be had. I'm rather eager to engage in it, but I'm worried that it may derail the current topic. Let me say that I differentiate between "enforcing" group mores and "discussing" or "explaining" group mores. I don't believe that enforcement of mores is effective or educational. Discussion and explanation can be both, depending on the individuals and methods involved.

#215 ::: Ben Engelsberg ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 02:00 PM:

A note on the "PC" question I inadvertantly raised. I certainly meant it as a subclass of overall "correctness". Looking at the qualifier "political", I meant it with no internal clarity of intent, in some combination of its meanings of "Prudent", "Diplomatic", and "Derived from policy". All three senses ring true with me for my original statement...

I won't let someone elses mores about what is "prudently correct", "diplomatically correct" or "correct in terms of policy" in regards to the treatment of ethnicities greatly encumber my freedom of expression.

That does imply, however, that I expect others to trust that my own mores on those types of correctness are sufficient to civil discourse, at least until discourse or action proves or disproves that to be the case... and I'm not sure how that works in large new groups. It may be an unreasonable expectation on my part.

#216 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 03:46 PM:

My recollection from *mumble* years ago is that "politically correct" started life on the left, and referred to opinions that toed the party line (with the implication that some might object to them, but would go along for the good of the party).

It reappeared a few decades ago on the right (at least one source seems to think it was brought over to the right by the ex-leftists who founded neoconservatism), and meant "(leftist) opinions that no sane person could hold except for partisan political reasons."

I doubt it's been used other than in a pejorative (or at minimum sarcastic) sense since the demise of the Nazi-Soviet Pact.

The most common usage I hear is, "it wouldn't be politically correct," in reference to actions or complaints or ideas that Upper Management wouldn't like. In that case the intent is Dilbertian.

#217 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 05:02 PM:

Ben Engelsberg #211: wrote "The benefits of unencumbered speech to the public discourse are quickly cancelled when it causes actual harm or trauma. However, I believe that it is important for the individual to learn to judge when this is the case, and that group chastisement, the enforcement of group mores, and the public calling into question of an individuals character are not beneficial to that learning."

It has been my experience that persons who insist that others be desensitised to racist and sexist slights need their characters called into question.

#218 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 05:08 PM:

Greg, #190: I can't speak for Aconite, but I thought that was an excellent analysis. The only point you didn't address was the one about how jokes using rape for "entertainment value" feed into and reinforce the cultural attitudes that produce rape and other gender-related atrocities. So Earl's comment that in future he'll simply take such jokes to other venues where they'll be more welcome is still frustrating, because it means something important got lost in the explanation -- but trying to make that point would have been well outside the purview of this thread.

Ethan, #197: I almost never hear someone say, "That's not PC," or anything equivalent to it. What I do hear, and I hear it a LOT, is people saying something to the effect of, "I don't do PC, so don't you try to tell me what to say!"

And I've noticed that very often (1) this happens when someone has been called on obvious rudeness, and (2) it's code for, "I have the unquestioned right to be as nasty and hurtful as I like, and no one else gets any say in the matter, least of all those I'm being nasty and hurtful to." The term PC has become an important part of the bullies' arsenal, and that's why it has a negative connotation for me.

DaveL, #216: I tend to use "ideologically correct" to express that concept. For example, the reason the Administration is continuing to push abstinence-only sex ed, in the teeth of the large and growing body of evidence that not only does it NOT work, but that other approaches DO work, is because those other approaches are not ideologically correct for the Republican Party. Similarly, something that can't be broached because upper management would go apeshit is ideologically incorrect for that company.

Ben... a gentle reminder about the First Rule Of Holes.

#219 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 05:37 PM:

Lee says:

almost never hear someone say, "That's not PC," or anything equivalent to it. What I do hear, and I hear it a LOT, is people saying something to the effect of, "I don't do PC, so don't you try to tell me what to say!"

And I've noticed that very often (1) this happens when someone has been called on obvious rudeness, and (2) it's code for, "I have the unquestioned right to be as nasty and hurtful as I like, and no one else gets any say in the matter, least of all those I'm being nasty and hurtful to." The term PC has become an important part of the bullies' arsenal, and that's why it has a negative connotation for me.

And I stand by in rapt admiration, for being so precisely correct and yet polite. I've been trying and failing all day to formulate expression for that idea.

#220 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 05:45 PM:

greg,

And yelling at Earl now for what someone else might do in the future, especially given how unlikely that would really happen based on it being a throw away line, a joke, and the forum it was said in,

maybe i said "gross" with intention & forethought. maybe i thought of how best to make my argument, & thought "gross" would really serve my purpose better than "sexist" or "mean," say.

"gross", i think, brought it into the realm of the personal. i was telling him that he made me feel really uncomfortable with his alleged joke, & if it was not his intention to do that, maybe he should look at his joke & think about why. "sexist" was perhaps too dogmatic or extreme ("shrill," you know) to get him thinking about his actions rather than mounting a defense. "mean" is too mild, & given that we were talking about a person whom most of us disapprove of (me as well), might not even register as a complaint.

i don't think earl was seriously advocating for cloned sex slaves. i do think he making a joke that played into "bad girls get raped" (thanks, aconite), & i do think his joke, if left uncommented on, would be the thing that opened a door to further sexism (further sexist remarks in this thread, ok, not a "hypothetical sexist revolution").

& i think i was vindicated in that. as i pointed out, the response before mine to earl's joke was to insult the woman in question's personal appearance & by extension her fitness as a sex slave. & ben, thinking we were being too hard on earl & didn't want his expression fettered by how others felt about him, later went the exact same place.

read any comment thread about p.h.'s jail sentence on any other blog, even the lefty (& some of the feminist) ones. they all have a big contingent of (if they have not totally devolved into) ways-i'd-like-to-see-her-raped, ways-i'd-like-to-f***-her, she's-so-hot, no-she's-not posts. apparently you can make the cruelest, most dehumanizing, most terrifying remarks about a person as long as she has made ignorant remarks & had sex on video.

you think that wouldn't happen here? maybe not. this is the most freaking awesome place on the web for actually having discussions with non-like-minded people. but as we see time & again, only the regulars & the dedicted lurkers really know that. people who swing by casually think it's a liberal blog or a sci-fi blog, & they can say anything as long as they make clear that they voted against bush (ben above made the odd-but-familiar defense of "i'm not a conservative!" when he was called on his behaviour).

i thought i would do my part not to see this thread turn into the is-she-hot-or-not game (maybe a mild form of dehumanization, but i would have had to leave the forum if it happened), & i did it. i didn't join in the pile-on after, cause i had already said what i needed to say.

#221 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 05:46 PM:

#218 Lee:

That's a good example.

I think the PC meme comes up when there's a difference in values that gets involved in the whole enforcement of social mores thing. You've lived with this *way* more than I have, by virtue of being pagan in a mostly Christian country.

And there seems to me to be something about the whole social more enforcement bit that encourages playing a sort of "gotcha!" game. The result is that you get people feeling like they have to self-censor, not just in the realm of deeply felt beliefs, but also in the realm of casual, silly comments and jokes, misstatements, etc.

Both sides of this have an impact. On the side of deeply held beliefs, super-aggressive enforcement of the community's ideas and beliefs makes for a very uniform environment. There's probably not a big gay and lesbian students' association at Liberty University, and the Dawkins Reading Club is probably not much bigger. That has consequences for the richness of the intellectual environment. Now, I definitely understand the desire for a certain amount of intellectual uniformity, (I'm not real interested in discussing holocaust revisionism, say, regardless of how polite the coversation is.). But a little of that goes a long way, I think.

On the side of trivial comments and "gotcha!", the problem is that people spend a lot of extra mental energy doing this extraneous task of checking to see if their comments are going to expose them to attack. That makes them dumber, in the literal sense that they are too busy doing this secondary thing to think as clearly. Watch any presidential debate for the extreme end of this. I think this side of PC/social more enforcement/whatever is pure loss, entirely destructive. It invites pile-ons and makes people feel less safe and more smug.

My rule of thumb for this, which I don't claim generalizes to other people, is that if I'm writing some response to someone, and recognize a certain feeling of righteous indignation in myself, I'll put it aside a day or so and see if I'm really responding for the right reasons.

All IMO.

#222 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 05:50 PM:

I hereby admit that through this entire discussion on mores, I've been visualizing that wonderful farside cartoon about social morays. And thinking about the Callahans story filk to the tune of "that's amore."

When you do
what you do
though no one
tells you to
thats a more

Arggh!

#223 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 06:02 PM:
And I've noticed that very often (1) this happens when someone has been called on obvious rudeness, and (2) it's code for, "I have the unquestioned right to be as nasty and hurtful as I like, and no one else gets any say in the matter, least of all those I'm being nasty and hurtful to."
I've noticed that people who unintentionally give offense, or whose intentions are unclear, are often treated as if they had intentionally given offense (at which point they feel that they are being treated unjustly, and get defensive, and arguments may ensue). I think that (a) this has happened several times on this thread already, and (b) it is in general a bad idea.

Bob's statement is offensive to me.
Bob knew his statement would be offensive to me.
Bob meant to offend me.

Those are three very different statements. I don't think it's a good idea to jump from one to another without the proper evidence about Bob's knowledge and motivations.

Something that is "obvious rudeness" to one person may not be obvious, or rude at all, to another.

Unintentional (or possibly unintentional) offense rates, at most, "Would you mind not saying things like that because [reason]", IMO. Saving the rhetorical big guns for the malicious few who deserve them helps prevent a misstep from escalating into a flamewar.

#224 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 06:11 PM:

Chris, the problem, as I see it, is that all too often "Bob's statement is offensive to me" is met by a long tirade from Bob about why no one should find his statement offensive because it was just a joke and it wasn't intended as offensive and anyway everyones' sense of humor has been destroyed by political correctness.

Instead of "I'm sorry, I'll keep that in mind." which is what my grandmother taught me to say when I hurt someone's feelings with a thoughtless or inappropriate word.

#225 ::: Ben Engelsberg ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 08:20 PM:

Lee @ 218: I appreciate the gentle reminder, and if I do feel I'm in a hole, I'll certainly stop digging.

I do understand that I am advocating what seems to be an unpopular position for some, namely that individuals need to be personally responsible for their statements and actions, and that if others find their statements or actions to be objectionable / hurtful / wrongheaded / incorrect, that the response should not be chastisement, social shunning, or character attacks, but rather should involve engagement in meaningful discussion with that person, hopefully resulting in the evolution of the group ideal.

Miriam @ 220 (and others... I don't mean to single Miriam out)... If you feel that my behavior requires "calling out", please do so directly, I'll discuss it with you at whatever length is appropriate, in as civil and polite a tone as you choose to set. I've been a "lurker" here for many years, and I have a great deal of respect for the folks here. If my behavior has been inappropriate, I'm interested in discussing it and making adjustments as appropriate. I'll leave it to you to decide if that should be a public or private conversation, or if the conversation should happen at all.

#226 ::: Ben Engelsberg ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 08:34 PM:

Fragano @ 218...

"It has been my experience that persons who insist that others be desensitised to racist and sexist slights need their characters called into question."

A clever turn of phrase, but I am unclear: Are you implying (or stating directly) that I "insist that others be desensitised to racist and sexist slights", or was that not actually directed at me? If it was not, I appologize, and will wear the "paranoid" hat for 10 minutes.

#227 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 09:54 PM:

all too often "Bob's statement is offensive to me" is met by a long tirade from Bob about why no one should find his statement offensive because it was just a joke and it wasn't intended as offensive and anyway everyones' sense of humor has been destroyed by political correctness.

But, that's not what happened to Bob, I mean, Earl. The first response to Earl was "gross, could we please not dehumanize a real person" and the second response was "This is a good example of the attitude that women are viewed as legitimate prey."

That isn't "Your comment was offensive to me." It's closer to "Your comment was offensive" (or gross, or dehumanizing, or viewing women as prey).

So, whether or not the generalization that saying "your comment was offensive to me" is met by a long tirade is true or false, I don't know. This thread neither confirms nor denies it, since that isn't what happened here.

In my post at 190, I tried to separate out Earl's possible intent from how other people experienced it, to recognize the possibilty that Earl might not have had any sexist intent, but that some people might experience it as potentially sexist. (because, I honestly don't think the one sentence at 123 is enough to call "sexist") Once that's established, the idea then being to say that if you didn't intend this, you might want to change your choice of words next time.

That's where "Your comment was offensive to me" actually has some power, because it treats the person as an adult, lays out what was said, versus how it landed, and lets them choose. If they did not intend for it to land the way it did, they'll make pains to address the issue.

#228 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 11:11 PM:

Miriam, #220: apparently you can make the cruelest, most dehumanizing, most terrifying remarks about a person as long as she has made ignorant remarks & had sex on video

Make that "as long as she's female and posts online," and you'll be closer to the mark. Wasn't it just a few weeks ago that we had the whole discussion about the dehumanizing, threatening shit that happened to Kathy Sierra? And some of the same people (mostly elsewhere, to be sure) who were outraged about that are now defending their right to make skanky cracks about Paris Hilton. What makes it wrong about doing something to one person and okay about doing the exact same thing to another?

albatross, #221: The result is that you get people feeling like they have to self-censor, not just in the realm of deeply felt beliefs, but also in the realm of casual, silly comments and jokes, misstatements, etc.

But that's no different from what we (well, most people) ordinarily do. We routinely tailor our speech to our circumstances -- in a "friends and family" setting, we'll say things we wouldn't mention in a work environment, nor yet in a public discussion. I might tell an ethnic joke in a group of people who know me well enough to know that I'm laughing at the stereotype, not because I think the stereotype is valid. I don't tell such jokes* when there are people around who don't know me well enough to be sure of that... and in any online venue, there are bound to be some of those.

What I think we're discussing here is the issue of where the bar should be set for casual conversation in a public environment. It's really not hard to develop the habit of not saying things that might reasonably be expected to offend other people, any more than it's hard to develop the habit of avoiding other socially-risky behaviors. But for some reason there's an unusual amount of resistance to the idea of changing this particular habit, and I'm not sure why.

About online self-censorship... you have no idea how many times I look at a comment and say to myself, "I think I'll wait and see what other folks have to say about that," and come back a few hours later to find that I don't need to say anything at all. Among other things, it keeps me from becoming a comment-hog. :-)

JESR, #224: Yes, exactly. Which is kind of hard not to read as what I was talking about in #218.

Ben, #225: Please point out what you read as "chastisement, social shunning, or character attacks" in the responses to Earl's joke.

* Or I'll reframe it so that it's not an ethnic joke. "ESU football players" comes in very handy, thank you Tank McNamara!

#229 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 01:09 AM:

Ben, #191, I'd be walking away if this was in person. I think jokes that insult people or types of people are not funny and show a lack of creativity. And yes, I'm not fond of chocolate (I know, it's a coincidence!).

As to politically correct and polite, my neurologist recently wanted me to stop two of another doctor's meds. I said something like "shouldn't you talk this over with her?" and she said she would write the note with me and send a copy to the other doctor. At the end, she snarkily asked me if it was politically correct and I told her I thought it was polite. She's a fabulous neurologist, but I know why she has trouble keeping patients. As it happens, she was half-right about the meds. Her new med did do away with the need for one of the other doctor's meds but not for the other one. And because of another brain seizure Monday and my blood phenobarb level being 8.4mcg/ml yesterday, I get to take more of the phenobarb.

#230 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 02:57 AM:

Ben Enselberg @ : "if others find their statements or actions to be objectionable / hurtful / wrongheaded / incorrect, that the response should not be chastisement, social shunning, or character attacks, but rather should involve engagement in meaningful discussion with that person, hopefully resulting in the evolution of the group ideal."

Forgive me if I'm being dense, but in what way is that not what just happened here? I think a little bit of thread history is in order:

#123: Earl drops his little bon mot.

#126: John chimes in with a little not-hot-enough-for-me casual objectification.

#127, 128: miriam responds to Earl's joke, saying "that was really gross. i know from past threads that i don't really "get" your sense of humour, but please can we not dehumanize a real person to that extent on this thread." Personal reaction plus qualifier. Then miram notes how this little bit of sexism has already (!) spawned others.

#129: Lee adds her own perspective, that "This is a good example of the attitude that women are viewed as legitimate prey." I still haven't seen the "chastisement, social shunning, or character attacks" yet.

#135: Earl says "It's sad that people are so quick to judge me as an objectifying mongster worthy of nothing but defenestration." Funny, I didn't see anyone saying that. Speaking of reading more into things than there really is.

#137, 138: Avram and abi both confirm that people generally understand that it is a joke, and still think it's inappropriate.

#152, 155: Lee, then Jennyanydots call bullshit on Earl.

#156: Earl disowns his bon mot. See, he says, I was just pretending to be someone else and forgot to give context!

#160, 162: Lee and Jennyanydots accept his explanation.

#165: Earl digs.

#167: Jennyanydots hands Earl a ladder.

#171: Earl accepts ladder, uses as shovel.

#173, 174: abi and Jennyanydots calls bullshit on Earl's faux martyrdom.

#175: Earl digs.

#174, 177: Lee and Jennyanydots point out that contrary to Earl's avowed expectations of merciless hounding, they've already taken his explanation at face value and are done with it.

#178: abi also seems quite willing to accept an apology.

#188: Earl, against all reason, doesn't simply apologize, and keeps digging.

...And then it degenerates into an argument about whether or not Earl was hounded unfairly for y'know, just being kinda inappropriate. This is a stupid argument for two reasons:

1. Earl, by his own admission, failed to give the proper context that would have shown that he was being sexist in a parody of other, sexist people, and not in his own voice.

2. It simply didn't happen that way. Earl said something dumb, and people pointed out, in quite reasonable tones of voice, that they had a problem with it. When Earl gave the missing context, they even apologized to him. But by then Earl had donned the mantle of martyrdom and refused to take it off. That's what happened. The only opression that is going on here is that in your own mind.

#231 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 03:35 AM:

Speaking not as a person making a fashion statement by wearing a mantle of martyrdom, but as a curmudgeon who will lose points against his journeyman certification, I apologise unreservedly. I deeply regret any distress my comments may have caused members of the Making Light community, and I hereby undertake not to repeat any similar comments at any time in the future here at Making Light. My respect for that community is too great to make any lesser commitment.

#232 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 03:47 AM:

Yes, I was paraphrasing the apology scene from "A Fish Called Wanda". No, I did not do so with any intent to diminish the strength of my apology. If anyone thinks that I just dug myself a little deeper as a result, well, there's not much I can do about that any more.

#233 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 05:52 AM:

They've done studies, apparently, about what sort of apologies are the most convincing. I heard about one such study in wake of the Clinton impeachment, arguing that his apology was more or less perfect. He said, very simply, I made a mistake, and I'm sorry. That's it. Nothing fancy, nothing ornate. Just: I'm sorry. I've always felt that that was a good model to emulate.

This isn't to make light of your apology, Earl. Just to explain why your earlier attempts may have fallen a little flat.

#234 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 06:20 AM:

My recollection of the history of the term "political correctness" is that it originated (as JESR@210 said) with the Communists, got adopted in a joking way by leftists (I saw it used that way in the '80s, in the pages of the East Bay Express) and then became popular in the right wing after a speech by President George H.W. Bush. The Wikipedia entry has a "History" section that is a tad sketchy, but in accord with my experience.

#235 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 08:29 AM:

Earl @232:
I am reminded of something Lord Peter Wimsey says in Busman's Honeymoon.

"How can I find words? Poets have taken them all, and left me with nothing to say..."

There is no shame in quoting, if the sentiment is there. For my part, your apology is accepted.

#236 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 09:30 AM:

#227

That isn't "Your comment was offensive to me." It's closer to "Your comment was offensive" (or gross, or dehumanizing, or viewing women as prey).

Is it just me, or does this way of phrasing it (disconnecting the offensiveness from the person offended) assume a One True Standard of Offensiveness that everyone ought to know and pay allegiance (or at least obedience) to?

I don't think that assumption bears much scrutiny.

Explaining why you are offended by something is fine, but don't assume that everyone else is, or should be, offended by everything that *you* are offended by. (Not addressed at any particular "you", but at self-appointed morality enforcers in general.)

The owners of a blog have a right to establish a standard for that blog that everyone else can adhere to or leave. J. Random Commenter does not.

#230:

#129: Lee adds her own perspective, that "This is a good example of the attitude that women are viewed as legitimate prey." I still haven't seen the "chastisement, social shunning, or character attacks" yet.

You don't consider attributing that attitude to another person a "character attack"? Wow. I sure would, especially if I were the target.

I think Earl's joke was unfortunate (although not malicious). But I'm still disturbed by the dogpile that resulted, because I think it could have happened to anyone, unwittingly stepping across someone else's personal line that they didn't realize was even there.

#237 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 10:22 AM:

Chris @236:
I think Earl's joke was unfortunate (although not malicious). But I'm still disturbed by the dogpile that resulted, because I think it could have happened to anyone, unwittingly stepping across someone else's personal line that they didn't realize was even there.

I think the dogpile happened, not because Earl made the joke, but because he stood by it rather than apologise when it became clear that it was offending other people in the conversation. Me, for instance, for reasons that I later explained (vide comment 199).

Jokes fall flat all the time. Rightly or wrongly, sometimes we all say things that hurt other people's feelings. It shouldn't offend anyone's high principles of freedom of speech to apologise when we do. Apologies - manners - are a sign that you care for the other people in the conversation. That's what makes a blog a community: the sense that we care for one another.

I'm kind of missing that on Making Light these days.

#238 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 10:58 AM:

There are a number of acceptable responses to the revelation of unwittingly stepping across someone else's personal line; almost all of them, however, are variations on "Oh god, I'm so sorry, that was stupid and thoughtless of me." Responses that place the burden of adjustment on the offended party are not on the list.

This may not seem fair if you didn't mean to cause offense. But, as has been established in a number of conversations hereabouts, one of the marks of adulthood is accepting responsibility for the unintended consequences of one's actions. It's also how multicultural communities avoid collapsing into exchanged volleys of meanness.

#239 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 11:23 AM:

Chris: :But I'm still disturbed by the dogpile that resulted.

There was an interesting psychological experiment I read about that I think applies. experimenter takes some young child, shows them a ball that's white on one half, black on the other, and then sets it up so that the white side is facing the kid, black side facing the experimenter. The experimenter then asks the child, "What color do I see?" Up to a certain age, kids will answer "white". After a certain age, they answer "black".

Until you can put yourself in someone else's position, you'll assume their experience is exactly the same as yours. You can't see it any other way. Once you have that epiphany where you can see one thing from someone else's position, you spend the rest of your life finding all the other places where you assume everyone has exactly the same perspective as you, and it isn't true.

Earl made a comment, which from his perspective, was nothing more than a harmless joke.

Some people read the comment, and from their perspective, it was obviously sexist. They then extended that perspective back onto Earl, because only a sexist would make such a sexist remark.

Earl saw the response, and from his perspective, he had made a joke and the response from some people was to call him gross, inappropriate, sexist, and similar labels. But people weren't telling them "My perspective is different", to him it looked like they were saying "You're bad and wrong for making a joke".

From Earl's perspective, it was just a joke. From the perspective of those upset with him, it was all manner of inapproriateness.

So, both sides were not communicating because they were speaking from their perspective, which was completely different than the perspective of the person they were talking to. Earl thought people had no sense of humor, others thought he was being outright sexist. Not surprisingly, earl didn't apologize for making a joke, which from his perspective, was fine, and others continued to make Earl flat out wrong, rather than explain how their perspective is different than his.

Miscommunication continued, and escalations occurred. People got nasty towards Earl, and Earl felt wrongly persecuted. Drama happened on several counts.

Often, people can communicate without specifically referencing their perspective, because the perspective isn't that important to whatever is being communicated. But if an argument suddenly blossoms and escalates, the first thing to look for is whether or not people on both sides have completely different perspectives but don't realize it and aren't communicating it.

Then do your best to try and point out that different perspectives are at play, and while there's a lot of talking, no one is understanding what the other side is saying. Sometimes, you'll run into folks who can't get that any other perspective could possibly exist, and their perspective is not only "right" but exclusive of all others. Not much you can do about it at that point. But usually, once its pointed out, people can see the other side's point of view, and emotions can dissapate, and real communication, a real meeting of the minds, can happen.

But it's part of being human to not see everyone else's perspective every second of the day. I don't think it's possible to hold that many different perspsectives simultaneously. So, when you're talking in a forum with a lot of different people, with a lot of different persectives, misunderstandigns are going to happen.

#240 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 12:30 PM:

Chris @ 236: "You don't consider attributing that attitude to another person a "character attack"?"

Well, given that it's a pretty accurate summary of the comment, and is fairly dry and analytic one at that, no, I don't. It failed to include the "...which means that you, of course, are a terrible human being for saying it" part which would have made it a character attack. It addressed the text, not the author.

"But I'm still disturbed by the dogpile that resulted, because I think it could have happened to anyone, unwittingly stepping across someone else's personal line that they didn't realize was even there."

Well, here's a tip: Don't step over a bunch of different people's 'personal lines' all at once.

Greg London @ 239: "Earl made a comment, which from his perspective, was nothing more than a harmless joke.

Some people read the comment, and from their perspective, it was obviously sexist. They then extended that perspective back onto Earl, because only a sexist would make such a sexist remark."

Interesting thought experiment, but unfortunately, that's not what happened. Earl's joke WAS sexist, he admitted it himself. He meant it to be from the point of view of of a stupid conservative pig, which would have made its satirical nature much clearer. He neglected to say that, which made thinking that it was Earl's own opinion being expressed a painfully easy mistake.

Notice how once the context was made clear, most everyone backed off on the sexist comment. Notice, please, that the fight that kept going wasn't about the comment at all, but about Earl's ongoing histrionics.

This isn't a free speech issue. This isn't a communication issue. This is a story about how someone got off-balance verbally, and had trouble recovering. He's caught his balance now, and this whole issue would be happily settled and done with if you and Ben and Chris weren't so deadset on making it into something it's NOT. ARGH

#241 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 12:56 PM:

#133: John S. Quarterman reads this blog? Wow.

I read The Matrix (1989) to figure out as much as I could about all the different computer networks, and where they were headed. It helped quite a bit.

At the time, I thought this subject might become important.

#242 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 01:48 PM:

Ben Engelsberg #226: I was reflecting on my experience, which has been quite extensive I assure you.

#243 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 02:42 PM:

Greg London @ 239: "Earl made a comment, which from his perspective, was nothing more than a harmless joke.

Heresiarch @ 240: Interesting thought experiment, but unfortunately, that's not what happened. Earl's joke WAS sexist, he admitted it himself.

Y sm t fl t grsp wht "jk" s. It was clear to me, at least, from the begining that he was taking on the personna of an exagerated and fictional neocon, hawk, whatever, when he mentioned the "patriotic off planet wars" in post 123.

Did you seriously think he was forwarding the perspective of "patriotic" wars? Of raising an army of slave replicants for war and sex?

Probably not. But that's the point of that kind of joke: it isn't really advocating enslaving an army of clones to fight an endless series of "patriotic" wars.

But Earl made the mistake of making a woman-as-sex-object reference as part of the whole comment, and people got upset because that comment, from some people's perspectives, sounded a little too close to being real. It set off their alarms.

Nobody seriously thought he was a cigar chomping caricature of a militant, replicant growing, off-planet war mongerer, even though that was part of the act that was the joke. It was the other perspective of women-as-sex-object that triggered the angry response.

And it was a matter of different perspectives. It still is. You, apparently, think this is "settled" and that I am somehow unsettling it by trying to make it into something other than how you view it. I don't even know how you're viewing how things went down, but you obviously have a different perspective than mine.

And that's no "thought experiment", either. Because it's clear you have a perspective on how this all went down, and you most certainly don't like something about how I perceived what happened.

If I had to guess, I'd guess that you want to blame Earl for everything somehow. Apparently because he didn't clearly demarcate "What you are about to read is a joke." before he said what he said. Therefore, his post is sexist, and you have successfully removed any possibility of different perspectives at play. It's no longer about a misunderstanding. It's no longer that Earl percieved his comment as a joke. And others percieved his comment as really forwarding the notion of sexism. And miscommunication ensued.

Except people did misunderstand Earl's intent. They thought he might be seriously advocating sexist beliefs. And people have since apologized for reacting a bit too harshly to Earl. What is that other than a misunderstanding of the other person's perspective?

Then again, I'm noticing I'm starting to get the perspective that every time I post something, you're there to disagree with me. On the "sky isn't evil" post, I gave up trying to get you to agree with me on anything, and instead posted twice asking you if we could simply "agree to disagree". And to those posts, you never actually replied. So, if you disagree with something I've said here, I won't be surprised, and I don't know what to tell you other than, you're perspective is far different than mine, and neither perspective must be wrong.

#244 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 03:56 PM:

Chris, #236: Actually, I made the exact same mistake that Earl did: there was extra context for my response which I failed to include in my original remarks. If you read a bit further down the thread, you'll see where I expanded on that context after Earl had expanded on his.

Earl, your apology is unconditionally accepted. Thank you.

#245 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 04:08 PM:

abi @ 237

I'm kind of missing that on Making Light these days.

Please don't dwell too much on the discussions in this thread and "The Sky Isn't Evil". There's been a great deal of caring and support on other threads lately. These two, I think, have gotten stuck in debate mode, which makes people argumentative and ornery. The response I've chosen to that is to ignore the debate as much as possible and continue to contribute to the original topic.*

* I'll admit I've lost it a couple of times, but I try not to compound the error by continuing to respond in that mode.

#246 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 05:38 PM:

Greg #239: Well said, and pretty much what I was trying to get at with my "unwittingly stepping across someone else's personal line that they didn't realize was even there" idea. Only clearer.

I would only add that because misunderstandings are so common, it's a good idea to start your (using a generic "you" here, not aimed at any particular person) interpretation of someone else's remark with the ideas that (a) you might be misunderstanding it, and (b) they might have based it on a misunderstanding of something you or someone else said. Only if those hypotheses can be ruled out (keeping in mind what a wide variety of perspectives there are on the Internet) should you start thinking in terms of hostility or intent to offend/oppress/censor etc.

Unfortunately it's common (and I don't except myself from this) to unconsciously assume that your own interpretation of the statement is the natural one that everyone else is going to apply too (or that the person who made the statement had in mind) and/or that your own standards of civility, offensiveness etc. are the right ones that everyone should be following (and they know it, too, they're just rudely refusing to follow them). This can create trouble where none was intended and make bad situations worse.


#245: Fair point. So, what do you think the Vast Media Conspiracy *is* trying to distract us from? Just Libby, Gonzalez, war, torture, illegal spying, the failure of all that war and torture and illegal spying to produce any results, growing economic inequality, possibly rigged elections and politicization of public service offices (including the ones who decline to investigate possibly rigged elections, creating a neat little catch-22), or is there something more going on?

#247 ::: Jennyanydots ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 06:02 PM:

Earl, apology accepted, and I apologise also if my words had an accusatory tone or implied bad things about you as a person rather than just remarking on the one comment.

Greg, your post @ 190, I thought, was a really stellar example of explaining what was going on in people's heads.

#248 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2007, 03:40 AM:

Greg London @ 243: "You seem to fail to grasp what a "joke" is. It was clear to me, at least, from the begining that he was taking on the personna of an exagerated and fictional neocon, hawk, whatever, when he mentioned the "patriotic off planet wars" in post 123."

Accusing me of having no sense of humor--what a way to start things out with a sense of comity! But to echo Avram @ #137, everyone has understood from the beginning it was a joke. The question was, who's expense was the joke at? Neocons indulging in sexist sf fantasies, or Paris Hilton? As clear as you may have been that Earl was riffing on stupid sexist neo-cons as of #123, a substantial number of other people only figured that out when he clarified @ #156.

Now, this is a significant point: if he's parodying the views of sexist neo-cons then, well, yeah, he's got them dead to rights. Go Earl! If he's stating his own beliefs, than he needs to be called on it now. Which of these was the case was not clear until #156.

(What I was saying before was that Earl's comment @ #123 without proper context is by his own admission sexist. It was a parody of a sexist joke that a sexist neocon would make--but he forgot to make that clear. If I say "We're winning the war in Iraq!", I'm just misinformed. If I have Bush say it, I'm making fun of Bush for being misinformed. It's a pretty substantial difference, and one that Earl left unclear.)

Once he made it clear that it was the former, everyone backed down. Since that post at #156, not a singly person has criticized Earl for his joke. This is important: no one, now that they understand the context, is still saying the joke is inappropriate. What has been the issue ever since that moment of understanding is Earl's meolodramatic response to being criticized. You keep focusing on the joke itself as being the trigger for the pile-on. What you are missing, despite having it explained several different times, is that the majorly offensive thing that Earl did wasn't make a poor joke, it's that when criticized, he behaved like a fool. That is what got Earl dogpiled.

"You, apparently, think this is "settled" and that I am somehow unsettling it by trying to make it into something other than how you view it."

You're making it into a pile-on for a sexist comment, which is manifestly not what it is. So in the sense that your point of view is factually incorrect, it is indeed other than how I view it.

"Then again, I'm noticing I'm starting to get the perspective that every time I post something, you're there to disagree with me."

Really, you mean that you get that feeling too?

#249 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2007, 10:52 AM:

You know, I just can’t get over how stereotypically gendered this whole conversation is. Think about it: a man is criticized, and gets offended all out of proportion to the severity of the critique. He simultaneously plays down the inappropriateness of his alleged transgression (it was just a joke!*) and exaggerates the intensity of the critique (You’re calling me a willfully cynical and evil mongster worthy only of defenestration!). This while at the very same time, people are discussing how the “Geez, don’t get all PC on me, it’s just a joke” retort is part and parcel of bullying bigotry.

Of course the hearty feminist crew 'round these parts was putting up with none of this, smacking down every attempt at self-martyrdom. But then, in a moment that couldn’t have been more archetypically patriarchal had it been choreographed, a bunch of men show up to tell everyone that the real problem is that them feminists were just being too mean with all their criticisms, and that the way to avoid this in the future is to be sure to preface their criticisms with the most simpering “It feels to me like…” bullshit qualifications. As if daring to actually state straight out your objections to someone else’s behavior is somehow unfairly critical. As if no one can be expected to take frank and forthright criticism.

When someone says something you find inappropriate, your only obligation is to make your objections clearly. There is no standard of politeness to which you must adhere to make your objections worthy of consideration. Your objection is no more or less valid because you said "fuck." To demand more of feminists criticizing sexist behavior is to play directly into sexist stereotypes that require women to soften and defang anything bad they say. In the patriarchy, it's always the women's job to make sure everyone (i.e. the men) feels good. Not anymore.

Tangent: It’s a standard gripe of the Washington insider clique that their critics among the blogs are just too terribly uncivil to be taken seriously. Go read Digby, or Atrios, or The Poorman Institute if you don’t believe me.

Steve Gilliard was an early warrior against this meme:

Second, civility? You mean like Michelle Malkin's justification of the reprehensible internment of the Japanese, Jonah Goldberg attacking Juan Cole, only to get his dick smacked, and Frei Republik, which routinely calls for murder of people they disagree with. ...DO NOT BE FOOLED. Civility is a club to beat you over the head with. Jim Inhofe is as civil as a dog. Ann Coulter uses the word treason like Alton Brown uses Kosher Salt. …
They want to call us unamerican traitors and we're supposed to remain civil. Well, that dog don't hunt. They no longer get a free hand. They stopped being civil a long time ago. So don't be fooled by this argument, because it's really bullshit.

There’s nothing said right there regarding the right wing's insistence on 'civility' from the left that isn’t just as true regarding sexism. It's not my job to make sure that my criticism of your behavior doesn't wound your fragile ego. Buck up and take your criticism like a woman.

*Which, to be fair, is somewhat true. It also isn’t an issue of contention much beyond the point where that becomes obvious. It’s the exaggeration that really gets him into trouble.

(Apologies to Earl, who if he’s still reading this thread is a brave, brave man for listening to me constantly reiterate what he did wrong. I’m really not trying to rub your face in this, really I’m not!)

#250 ::: Ben Engelsberg ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2007, 12:47 PM:

Lee @ 228

In regards to what I read as chastisement, social shunning, and character attacks, below are some examples. Do note, however, that I refer to those actions not as the specific domain of this group or forum, but rather as part of the general social reaction unfortunately inherent in most individuals and groups:

Earl was put into the role of a “dehumanizer” by a perfunct statement without discussion of his intention, context, or opinion. Not to mention “really gross”, which, while obviously subjective, and therefore opinion, is so highly negatively spun that I believe it qualifies as implicit chastisement.

Lee, you yourself say that Earls joke is a good example of the “attitude that women are viewed as legitimate prey”, imputing by attribution that attitude to Earl, when he has done nothing to express it. This certainly qualifies as a character attack, and attempts to place Earl into such a reprehensible social category that it seems to implicitly request shunning. You do the exact same thing again, with an even greater reach on Earls implied intentions and attitudes by trying to attribute to him, via his joke, that he believes that soldiers are entitled to comfort women.

Again, later, when Earl calls into question your attacks on his character, you discount his complaint that attitudes and opinions are being attributed to him that are unfair, by saying “That's the free space on every bingo card.” And “I call bullshit. Nobody said any such thing about you except you -- by implication or otherwise” when you, by implication, did precisely that, whether it was your intent to do so or not.

You also call him a bully and an attempted martyr… which is chastisement in my book.

Folks also try to impute pretty damning meaning to Earls joke, such as implying that what he really meant was “I find this woman annoying. Ha ha! She should be enslaved and raped! Except she's not even pretty enough that I'd want to rape her!" Which is pretty damn unfair to Earl, and seems to try to make his character out to be something both awful and unlikely.

#251 ::: Ben Engelsberg ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2007, 12:54 PM:

Fragano,

I believe we are now re-enacting Shakespeare...

B (in the role of Abraham): Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?
F (in the role of Sampson): I do bite my thumb, sir.

I think we should let that drop before Benvolio shows up... As I recall, that scene doesn't end well.

#252 ::: Ben Engelsberg ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2007, 01:18 PM:

Marilee @ 229...
I'd be walking, myself, if I didn't feel that there's important discussion happening under all the heat being thrown off. I tend to agree. Jokes which insult groups are almost invariably less funny than they could/should be, because defaulting to stereotyping, especially in humor, is lazy shortcutting, and results in poor quality discourse (or jokes, as appropriate).

Jokes which insult with intent to harm, denigrate, or belittle, are worse, be they aimed at individuals or groups. You have my sympathy on your inability to enjoy chocolate. Can I have yours? ;)

Heresiarch @ 230...

That is what is happening here, largely, and increasingly, as time goes on. It did not seem to be, when I first posted, however. See my previous post for details.

#253 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2007, 01:32 PM:

Ben: No. Earl made a context-free statement. People expressed discomfort. He gave us context for the joke. People said, "oh! never mind." Apologies and peacemaking all round.

No one has jumped on Earl since he told us that it was a joke. Please stop acting as if we have.

#254 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2007, 05:52 PM:

(Because this thread has had too many misunderstandings already, I'm trying to be as clear as possible, even at the expense of brevity.)
#249:

When someone says something you find inappropriate, your only obligation is to make your objections clearly. There is no standard of politeness to which you must adhere to make your objections worthy of consideration.

Really? You don't have an obligation to, say, remain within the same boundaries you are accusing the other person of violating? An objection to someone else's conduct trumps all rules that would otherwise apply to your own conduct, simply because you are not the first offender? (Not trying to strawman, this is honestly the best sense I can make out of your post.)

the real problem is that them feminists were just being too mean with all their criticisms, and that the way to avoid this in the future is to be sure to preface their criticisms with the most simpering “It feels to me like…” bullshit qualifications. As if daring to actually state straight out your objections to someone else’s behavior is somehow unfairly critical.
I think you have just demonstrated that you completely missed my point.

My point is that your criticisms are *your* criticisms, not the universe's or humanity's in general; it is a recognition that other people may have different opinions than yours. Not simpering, but simple recognition of your own status as a fallible human being who does not speak for everyone, and may make mistakes at any time.

As a humanist, I apply these same standards to all human beings of whatever gender - or at least I try, to the extent my human flaws and imperfections permit. There's certainly no shortage of men who fail to live up to them, but that doesn't excuse the women who also fail to live up to them. I thought that feminists would generally agree.

This is not a concern of form. It is a concern of substance. The forthrightness of the criticism is not the problem. The arrogance of disconnecting the opinion from the opiner to imply that everyone thinks that way, or if they don't, they certainly should, is the problem. In my opinion. *That* was my point about the difference between "That is offensive to me" and "That is offensive". The latter is a judgment without a judge.

It's not my job to make sure that my criticism of your behavior doesn't wound your fragile ego.
But it *is* Earl's job to make sure his behavior doesn't wound your fragile... what? I really don't get this. It looks (to me) exactly like a double standard: rudeness is ok when I do it, but when Earl does it I can call him an evil oppressor without even waiting around to ascertain his motives. (Again, if that's not what you mean, please explain what you *do* mean. I don't want to argue with a caricature.)

Obviously if everyone *had* waited to ascertain his motives or asked for clarification before jumping to conclusions, we wouldn't be having this conversation; Earl would have had nothing to react, or overreact, to. It was the combination of misstep, then conclusion-jumping, then defensiveness that produced the explosion. Only two of those errors were committed by Earl - even from a perspective not inclined to forgive defensiveness by the unjustly accused.


For the record, I'm objecting to the content of the comments, not their form (i.e. I don't consider calling him a fucking sexist pig, if it had happened, particularly worse than just calling him a sexist); and I really couldn't care less what gender the dogpile victim is, or the dogpilers. (Even if I could tell, which on the Internet is far from guaranteed.)

Accusing someone of bad behavior based on too little evidence gets my goat regardless of the genders of anyone involved - even if the accusers turn out to be right they should have waited for proof, and in this case they didn't even turn out to be right.

#255 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 12:59 AM:

Heresiarch, #250: (Apologies to Earl, who if he’s still reading this thread is a brave, brave man for listening to me constantly reiterate what he did wrong. I’m really not trying to rub your face in this, really I’m not!)

No shit. The phrase "with friends like these, who needs enemies?" is looking more and more apropos.

And with that in mind... Ben, I'm going to let you have the last word. Not because I think you're right, and not because I couldn't drag back all the way through the whole shebang yet again and present an analysis of the places where I think you're in error -- but out of courtesy to Earl, who does not deserve what you and a few other guys are putting him through. And at this point, it IS the men who just won't let it drop -- who are apparently determined to treat this as a competition, which can be won by grinding the women down until we either agree or give up in disgust.

I'm not playing that game any more. Not when innocent people are getting caught in the crossfire.

#256 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 01:05 AM:

Having finally caught up with the thread at current, I want to comment on two things, which turned out to be weirdly related.

#1 - Lee said, of the term "politically correct," the following: "And I've noticed that very often (1) this happens when someone has been called on obvious rudeness, and (2) it's code for, "I have the unquestioned right to be as nasty and hurtful as I like, and no one else gets any say in the matter, least of all those I'm being nasty and hurtful to." The term PC has become an important part of the bullies' arsenal, and that's why it has a negative connotation for me."

There's another element of this particular bully rhetoric that totally makes me see red. When the bully's response to me calling him out is to say, "Oh, I know everyone tries to be all politically correct these days, but not me!"

It's an insult. To me. Or whoever's calling him out.

First, it's a self-congratulatory insult - "I'm so edgy! I'm such an iconoclast! I'm such a free thinker--unlike you!"

And second, it's an insult to my honesty. (A veiled, between the lines, tangential to the subject insult. Which makes it hard to address in the flow of conversation.) The bully isn't just telling me "I won't be politically correct," he's telling me, "You are telling me to be politically correct." Implying, "The only reason you have to tell me to be polite is political correctness." What, really? So when I say it's about consideration of others' feelings and precision of language, I'm really lying, because really all I'm doing is toeing the party line? <sarcasm> Oh, such a good thing you called me out! </sarcasm>

So that's my screed about that.


#2 - Coincidentally, Ben, provides a perfect example of all of these insults by saying the following: I do understand that I am advocating what seems to be an unpopular position for some, namely that individuals need to be personally responsible for their statements and actions....

In abstract: "Ah, I am getting called out for actually doing something good and brave which happens not to be popular/politically correct. I am well used to such slings and arrows."

Self-congratulatory? Check! Personal responsibility! He can has it! Unlike the other kittehs who are all like DO NOT WANT! He iz morally superior kitteh!

Insulting others' moral integrity by insinuating that those opposed to his point of view are really motivated by opposition to personal responsibility, rather than by their stated motives? Check!


It's like, Here's your lesson, and here's your for-example. Very instructive!


*stalks off grumbling*

#257 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 01:20 AM:

Ben Engelsberg @ 250: "Lee, you yourself say that Earls joke is a good example of the “attitude that women are viewed as legitimate prey”, imputing by attribution that attitude to Earl, when he has done nothing to express it."

See, that's strange. Because Lee's actual turn of phrase, "this is a good example of the attitude that women are viewed as legitimate prey" is notable for the extent to which it avoids referring to the author and the author's intent at all. The only thing that she is talking about are the words as they appear on the screen.

This strikes me as especially odd because you've been arguing for the past several days that all of Earl’s critics have an obligation to interpret Earl's statement in the most conservative and generous way possible. Yet you feel perfectly comfortable holding Lee and miriam accountable for the very worst possible interpretations of their statements? In what conceivable way is this not a double standard?

Chris @ 254: "Really? You don't have an obligation to, say, remain within the same boundaries you are accusing the other person of violating? An objection to someone else's conduct trumps all rules that would otherwise apply to your own conduct, simply because you are not the first offender?"

For the record, Earl wasn't being accused of being rude, he was accused of being sexist. So even were his critics unfairly rude to him (which I do not grant), they wouldn't have been violating "the same boundaries [they were] accusing the other person of violating."

Of course community standards of discourse still apply. However, there's no way you can argue that any of Earl's critics stepped outside the bounds of acceptable behavior on Making Light—not unless you argue that acts of criticism in particular are so inherently rude that they require delicacy above and beyond what is usually expected. This is what you seem to be arguing, and I disagree.

"My point is that your criticisms are *your* criticisms, not the universe's or humanity's in general; it is a recognition that other people may have different opinions than yours. Not simpering, but simple recognition of your own status as a fallible human being who does not speak for everyone, and may make mistakes at any time."

You know, I think it is one of the most patently obvious and universal truths that we are all of us stuck inside our own skulls, forever, and that everything we say is utterly dependent on our particular perspective. Everyone ought to keep that fact in mind whenever they read anything. If they fail to do so, it’s not the author’s fault. It’s the reader’s failure of perspective.

All a writer can do is express their intent as clearly and completely as possible. The first thing they teach you in persuasive writing is to avoid using "I think" and "I feel" statements, because they make your arguments sound weak. It's the rhetorical equivalent of fighting with one arm tied behind your back. Saying that you must never make criticisms without numerous and self-defeating qualifications is tantamount to saying that you must never make effective, powerful criticisms at all. It's saying the only criticisms you're allowed to make are weak, easily-dismissed ones. You know, girly ones.

"I really don't get this. It looks (to me) exactly like a double standard: rudeness is ok when I do it..."

There’s a big, big difference between being rude and being sexist. Earl's comment at 123 didn't concern people because it was rude. It concerned people because it worked to reinforce the systematic and widespread disenfranchisement of women.* It's apples and oranges—of course I have different standards for sexism than I do for rudeness.

"...but when Earl does it I can call him an evil oppressor without even waiting around to ascertain his motives."

Strawmanfeminist! No one called Earl evil, or an oppressor, except in his (and your) own mind. What people did is point out behavior they found unacceptable, and why. It was Earl (and you) who decided that this constituted an attack on Earl's general fitness as a human being. You read far more into it than there actually was (which is interestly enough exactly what you accuse Earl’s critics of). But making people feel bad is manifestly not the goal of feminist critique. To quote:

"what we mean is not “stop doing this immediately, it’s the wrongest thing since rugrats pr0n”, it’s “analyse what the fuck you’re doing so that you’re not complicit in the society wide abuse of women.” ...you have a bunch of people who get that zen-style self examination, and when they are criticised, will first of all examine, then act however they feel is appropriate, and a bunch of people who are so blinded by the neo-cons’ “DO AS YOU’RE TOLD” face that they react to any criticism as though the terms patriarchal or anti-feminist were equivalent to dog-rapist - a bland ad hominem attack against some behavior."

Being called a sexist is not being called inhuman. If you insist on interpreting it as such, you're missing the point.

*And can we please stop pretending as if this fact isn't settled beyond all doubt? The comment at 123 was, as it was written, unambiguously sexist. We know this for two reasons (beyond the "it pissed off some feminists" reason, which is CLEARLY irrelevant): Earl fucking admitted as much @ 156. He thought the satirical p.o.v. would be beyond obvious, equivalent to saying, "But wait, I thought the war in Iraq was going swell!" This speaks well of him, actually, but unfortunately he was wrong. We know that the satire wasn't sufficiently obvious (again, beyond the fact that it pissed of some feminists) because the comment brought out two sexist "Hot or Not" responses. As miriam has repeatedly pointed out, the danger it posed for reinforcing the patriarchy wasn't hypothetical—we all watched it happen. Fact: comment #123 was sexist.

#258 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 01:28 AM:

Ben, #252, I'm afraid someone is waaaaaaaay ahead of you on the chocolate. I was at dinner with our book group tonight and one of the teens who came with us to dinner was speechless at the idea that I don't like tiramisu because I don't like coffee or chocolate. Chocolate is not so bad if it's wrapped around something like caramel, though.

#259 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 04:05 PM:

Greg, I've only gotten as far as #190, but I want thank you for doing important work, for putting your money where your mouth is or whatever the term should be here, by trying to explain to Earl the mechanics of what he did and how it worked (or, in this case, didn't).

#260 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 04:11 PM:

Rodney Lolking Speaks

#261 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 04:25 PM:

Greg@198: Heresiarch@192: even were he completely free of any sexist intent, is that there are people who will take such a comment as unambiguously sexist and say "Hell yeah!"

The responses were far too visceral for that level of abstraction. They were "ick" and "gross", and some conveyed anger. You might be able to add that as a second level of motivation after the fact, but what was communicated on this thread seemed much more of triggering someone's personal alarm than of some hypothetical concern that one joke would somehow spark a sexist revolution.

Friendly amendment: for "somehow spark a sexist revolution," substitute "support and encourage sexism already in progress"?

Which a gazillion people may have already said, and now I shall go be good and read the rest of the thread before posting anything else, which would be sensible and smart and all of those good things.

#262 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 05:28 PM:

Heresiarch@230:

Am tempted to say, "Marry me?"

Either that, or just to lie here in admiration and delight of an almost LOLcatzian hue.

#263 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 08:57 PM:

Hosannas, rains of manna, and the ears and tail are hereby awarded to Heresiarch for comment no. 230. Comments nos. 230, 240, 248, and 249 are also particularly commended to the reader's attention, along with the rest of Heresiarch's remarks; as are those of (among others) Jennyanydots, Kathryn from Sunnydale, Nicole LeBoeuf-Little, and Lee.

Fragano deserves some kind of award for resisting the temptation to drop that 600-ton anvil on Ben.

Chris Byler, I strongly suggest you stop digging now, and re-read comment 230. Greg, it wouldn't hurt you to do the same.

Lee (255), I understand your frustration, but Ben doesn't get the last word.

Ben Engelsberg, I've seen you post good comments in other discussions. You'll be a long time living down your participation in this one. I nevertheless acknowledge that the problems in this thread are my fault: I should have curbed you clear back at comment #186, when you said:

"People have objected to his joke (and clearly a joke, unless I missed the memo about successful human cloning), and rather than discussing it, and the merits and flaws on which their objection rest, have instead repeatedly castigated Earl in an attempt to cow him (and, as a second order effect, anyone who does not agree that his joke was somehow reprehensible) and to enforce through bullying rather than through debate, their views, mores and preferences."
That was a load of codswallop. Earl himself said the context of his joke was unclear, and you badly misrepresented what went on in the subsequent discussion. Note: I'm not saying I disagree with your descriptions of other commenters and their arguments. I'm saying your descriptions were wrong, as in factually incorrect. It was as though you'd imported them from some other argument.

Your later remarks were in the same vein: condescending, inaccurate, and weirdly dissociated from the actual message thread to which they intended to reply. When I consider such highlights as your "desensitization" remark (191), your "unencumbered speech" formulation (211), and comment 225 in general, I can't think you were mistreated.

My apologies to everyone whose contributions went unappreciated in the chaos and unpleasantness that followed.

Earl Cooley, none of us can choose the people who defend us. However, while I sympathize with your later misfortunes, you did go badly astray in comments 135-171. If I may give you some editorial advice:

1. When writing doesn't work, the writer is assumed to be the guilty party. This goes double if he or she is trying for irony, parody, or sarcasm.

2. When one's writing gets an unexpected response from a knowledgeable and sympathetic audience, it's useless to complain that their reaction is unfair. The only thing to do is take it as diagnostic information about what went wrong.

3. If you're trying to decide whether a particular conceit belongs in Fark or Making Light, the default answer is that it belongs in Fark.

4. Other writers know their own writing as sheep know their lambs. You'll never get anywhere in an argument with them unless you can accurately describe their own remarks back to them. Otherwise, they'll dismiss your reactions on the grounds that if you didn't understand what they said, they don't care what you thought about it.

#264 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 06:18 AM:

TNH @ 263: Thank goodness. I was really starting to feel like I was going insane.

On the other hand, maybe I was, a bit. I've been thinking about what Lee said at 255, and I think she's right: this has become a contest about who can be more righterer, and roughly as productive as beating my head against a wall. Aconite said once that you can either be right or you can learn something, and I don't think I'm learning much of anything at this point. Just saying the same damn things over and again. Time for me to step out.

Thanks to everyone who gets it, though. (And that was damn brilliant at 256, Nicole. Bravo!)

#265 ::: Ben Engelsberg ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 12:58 PM:

Nicole @ 256(.2)...

Awww... nuts. You're absolutely right. I can't believe I let myself use that kind of strawman statement. I suppose this discussion wouldn't be so compelling to me if I wasn't prone to the type of rhetorical mis-steps I've been talking about, myself. While I feel that bulk apologies are insufficient, I am sorry if my strawman at 255 offended anyone, and I apologize. If anyone would like a more sincere individual apology, just let me know.

#266 ::: Ben Engelsberg ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 01:01 PM:

Wooops... now I'm all flustered... my strawman at 225! Not 255!

#267 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 06:33 PM:

Earl, #260: *snork!* Very apt.

Ben, #265: Hey, typos happen.:-)

The statement Nicole called you out on didn't exactly offend me, but it did trip two red flags, which are best described as follows:

1) This is someone who likes to think of himself as The Only Adult (or one of an elite few adults) In A World Full Of Children. There's no point in trying to engage with one of these folks; since you're automatically starting from the one-down position of "virtual child," the odds of actual communication occurring are slim to none.

2) Strong correlation to the possibility that this person is a Libertarian... which in turn trips an entire parade's worth of related flags.*

Given that you've apologized for, and retracted, the statement in question, those flags are reset now. And I can't speak for anyone else, but I thought it might be useful to you to know how that kind of statement may be interpreted by another person.

* Too many years spent in fruitless argument with Libertarian types on Usenet. At this point, my default response to someone claiming that label is, "loon until proven otherwise".

#268 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 08:24 PM:

1) This is someone who likes to think of himself as The Only Adult (or one of an elite few adults) In A World Full Of Children. There's no point in trying to engage with one of these folks; since you're automatically starting from the one-down position of "virtual child," the odds of actual communication occurring are slim to none.

Bingo.

For this conversation-bullying dynamic in action elsewhere, see "Tim of Angle"'s first comment on this Whatever post. He even starts by saying, "*sigh* I gather that it's my turn to be the grownup. Very well." He portrays himself as entering the discussion--no, being resigned to the necessity of entering the discussion--because all these children need to be in their place.

It pinged less of my alarm bells than Ben's, though, because it made its "I know better/am more moral than everyone else here" claim as a claim, rather than as a sneaky, underhanded, between-the-lines framing device.

Given that you've apologized for, and retracted, the statement in question, those flags are reset now.

What Lee says goes ditto for me. Thank you, Ben.

#269 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 08:39 PM:

*catching up in reverse order*

Heresiarch, thank you for the kind words.

Teresa, ditto. And I'm totally stealing your #1 (of your brilliant "when writing provokes unexpected reactions" responsibility checklist) for my website's quote randomizer.

Um. Unless you object, of course.

And just in case my first was too perfunctory to sound sincere: Ben, your apology is accepted and warmly appreciated. And goodness knows I've had my own "aw, nuts" foot-in-mouth moments too. At the very least, they provide valuable specimens for study.

#270 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 02:22 AM:

Nicole, #268: I think I just had a "small world" moment. Y'see, I used to know a guy whose real, legal name was Tim of Angle -- I met him when I was going to SCA events in Mynydd Seren.

But the Tim I knew would NEVER have said something that bigoted and dismissive about someone else's civil rights. So if it is him... I don't think I want to know him any more. What a creep.

#271 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 09:57 AM:
The first thing they teach you in persuasive writing is to avoid using "I think" and "I feel" statements, because they make your arguments sound weak.
That's why "persuasive writing" is a dark art. In a matter of facts, if you're telling the truth you don't need to make your arguments sound strong - they ARE strong, because they have facts behind them. Persuasive writing is the art of pushing a statement that the audience wouldn't accept if they stopped and thought about it. That's why it's essential to advertising, sales and politics, where you want someone else to accept a raw deal and think it's good for them. (But don't believe it just because I said so.)

This, of course, isn't an argument of facts (or it would have been settled long ago). It's a matter of opinions and interpretations where it's nearly impossible to even define what most of the statements even mean, let alone try to determine if they're true or false. That, IMO, makes it much more important to make it clear whose point of view is whose, and to keep people from accidentally confusing their own opinions with Absolute Truth. (In that context, persausive writing is often an attempt to convince your audience to confuse your opinions with Absolute Truth.) When five posters look at a comment and have six opinions about what it means, what does it mean to say that one of those opinions is righter than the others?

#257:

No one called Earl evil, or an oppressor, except in his (and your) own mind. What people did is point out behavior they found unacceptable, and why. It was Earl (and you) who decided that this constituted an attack on Earl's general fitness as a human being. You read far more into it than there actually was (which is interestly enough exactly what you accuse Earl’s critics of).

...Interestingly enough, you're exactly right. I sit corrected. I did indeed over-interpret the comments directed at Earl (or at Earl's behavior, which is not quite the same thing).

From long and sometimes bitter experience, I put myself in the place of the person whose comment was interpreted as meaning something he hadn't actually meant, and overreacted on his behalf to comments that may not actually have been intended as personal attacks.

I hereby apologize to all and sundry for being thin-skinned and overdefensive on Earl's behalf. And for failing to perceive the beam in my own eye, too.

As restitution, I offer the following lesson learned the hard way, in the hope that it may be useful to others: If you think that it's time for cooler heads to prevail, sometimes, one of the heads that needs cooling may be your own.

#272 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 01:58 PM:

#271 Chris:

"If you think that it's time for cooler heads to prevail, sometimes, one of the heads that needs cooling may be your own."

Let the choir say "Amen!"

#273 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 08:28 PM:

Amen!

I like all these apologies going around. I also apologize, mostly for not having anything to apologize for on this thread.

#274 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 02:53 AM:

Lee, I very much hope it isn't the same Tim that you knew. Of all the ways to lose good relations with a friend or former acquaintance, -{finding them years later only to find out via a blog comment that they've turned into someone you don't want to know}- isn't the absolute worst, but it's down there.

-{Weird bracketing added for clarity.}-

#275 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2007, 12:11 PM:

Brust @ 142:

The followup article which you posted is superb and deserves underscoring.

The Paris Hilton case serves one useful purpose, which is that it has brought to the spotlight the completely non-functional nature of the penal system (at least in LA). The idea that someone--anyone--driving drunk at high speeds with a suspended license--would spend five or fewer days in prison should apall anyone. But the noise festivals surrounding this information, and the culturally patterned two-minute hates, are perhaps even worse.

#276 ::: DM SHERWOOD ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2007, 10:08 AM:

Well to repeat what has been said better by others PARIS HILTON's confinement is no more a solid victory for justice than all the spankings handed out to snooty society bitches in 40's pulp fiction were a blow for social equalitarianism.
The establishment throws a victim to the wolves now and then hard on the victim -don't actually believe Paris will be terminally traumatised by a month of roughing it but then it won't do her any good either- and the game goes on as usual.
I'll start taking it seriously if Rupert Murdoch cops 5 years hard and George W loses his citizenship for bringing the USA into disrepute.

#277 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2007, 10:33 AM:

And Paris did more jail time than Scooter is ever going to see.

Driving with a suspended license being so much worse than obstruction of justice and perjury, y'know.

Darned good thing Scooter Libby's license was in order. Pity Paris didn't just lie under oath.

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