Ferguson thoughts

Over on Tumblr people are sharing tweets about how to donate to folks in Ferguson. A good cause to be sure, though I’ve not personally verified these folks are legitimate. (If anyone else can, let me know and I’ll take out that caveat.) I’ve already donated as much as I can afford just now so I’m afraid I’m not able to get involved with these specific people, but I was struck by the word choice in the way it was introduced on Tumblr.


At some level they are, or at least that’s how they were introduced to us who aren’t in that community. It’s more positive than looters (and as far as I can tell much more accurate), but it still seems wrong to me. Protesters to me calls to mind the people who have the luxury of not protesting, it’s a voluntary action. It’s people who are upset enough about what’s going on that they set aside their normal lives and go join a protest. And that’s often worth supporting (I baked brownies and bought wool socks for the Occupy protesters), but it seems different than what’s going on here.

These aren’t people who were outraged by something that happened (reasonably or otherwise) but had the luxury of protesting or not. If a person chose not to go out and march against the police brutality, they would still be stuck in that curfew. They’d still have to deal with the loss of wages, the schools being closed and what that does to a family’s food budget, the lack of supplies getting in and that driving up prices, the police curfews and lack of mobility and everything else. They’re also people who had something done to them. So heck yeah, a bunch of them are protesting, but that word doesn’t seem to carry the weight of the situation.

In a way they’re … refugees, maybe? Though they haven’t been forced to leave, the reality they depended on has been taken away from them. They’re people whose homes have been turned into an occupied zone, where the actions that make life seem like what we expect in America aren’t really possible right now. I’m not even sure I have a good word for that, and that seems telling somehow.

Richard Dawkins, rape being rape, and missing the point

Recently I was reading a piece on recent controversies surrounding Richard Dawkins, including the recent tweet on rape that got him into a bit of hot water, and it finally clicked for me just why I was so bothered by the comment.

For those who aren’t familiar, the tweet:

And a quote from the SoJo post, from philosopher Daniel Dennett expanding on why he agreed with the tweet and Dawkins’s subsequent defense of it:

“I thought Richard’s responses were right on target. If some radical feminists (and others) think that all rape is equally bad, do they think it is not quite as bad as murder? If so, are they condoning rape? And if they think rape and murder are equally bad, they really have lost their bearings and do not deserve our attention. Richard has been immensely important.

Now, I’m not against the idea that some rape is worse than other rapes, much less that murder is worse than rape. In principle, at least. We need to sort out what we mean by worse. Whether it’s some kind of harm done or the objective value of the thing destroyed or taken, or what exactly. I’m not convinced stranger-rape is more harmful than acquaintance-rape, because the second involves a sense of betrayal the first doesn’t which seems like it would be horrific. (Consider the psychological effects of domestic violence to, e.g., being mugged on the street.) And I can certainly imagine situations where a rape victim suffers more than a murder victim, perhaps even loses more potential for future happiness. But I’m not against saying some crimes and assaults are worse than others, either under the category of rape or more generally.

The thing is, that’s not really the point is it? Because I’m hard-pressed to think of anyone who would disagree with that. “Radical feminists (and others)” don’t say that all rapes are equally bad; they say that all rapes are equally rape. And while I’ve not always been overly impressed with Dawkins’s ability for clear and concise thought, Dennett is a philosopher. I’ve read his work, and I know he’s not prone to charging after strawmen. He can do better.

Imagine two people. Mary is a college student who has rufanol slipped into her drink at a party and wakes up with the world’s worst headache (but no memory) of the night before. She discovers semen stains on her clothes and works out she was probably raped, but has no specific memory of that night. Compare that to Jaime, a pickpocket who is gangraped while in prison. Jaime is fully aware of everyone who raped him, knows their names but cannot safely tell the authorities because he fears for his safety and what their friends will do to his family if he talks. Instead he spends the next six months sleeping in the same room with his abusers. He thinks it’s his fault because he was in jail in the first place, and because he climaxed during the rape he’s scared to death he might be gay. (Not that being gay is bad, but let’s assume Jaime thinks so.)

Now we could talk about which one of these people had it worse. My money would be on Jaime, going just off these facts, partly because he suffered greater physical harm and partly because he can’t get away from his rapists, but maybe not; Mary wouldn’t know who her rapists were so she may not feel safe, she might face much more psychological pressure to be extremely “safe” in everything she does. Which of course just isn’t possible. But here’s the thing: if one rape did more harm than the other, it’s something other than the rape itself that is causing the extra harm that makes one or the other worse. Mary and Jaime are both equally raped, their rapes are both equally horrible and inexcusable, and if one is worse than the other it’s because one caused more psychological trauma, more trust issues or nightmares over remembering the event, or because one would involve sizeable physical damage while the other wouldn’t, or because there are things about society or the person’s psychological makeup that makes what happened to them harder to bear up under, or something like that. Both were equally raped, both were equally violated.

Rape is rape, as they say. Not “All rape is equally harmful” or “All rapists should receive the same jail time,” but “Rape is rape” – the rape itself is equally bad (though that word hardly seems sufficient), whether you’re raped at knifepoint or by the ex-boyfriend you’re too in shock to knee in the groin and run away from.

To me at least, that distinction seems to make all the difference.

the problem with sex dolls

Over at The Atlantic, Julie Beck has an interesting piece on the history of sex dolls, “A (Straight, Male) History of Sex Dolls.” This wasn’t actually the article I thought I was sighing up to read at first. Not Ms. Beck’s fault; for some reason my eyes simply skimmed over the word “Sex” in the title, and I thought it would be about men who collected doll-dolls. You know, porcelain and the like. Still, it was very interesting and I thought it might be worth discussing a bit.

Also, I get that this isn’t a topic everyone cares to read. I don’t think it got explicit or anything, but to be on the safe side, I’ll put the rest of this behind a cut.


Dietrich Bonhoeffer (probably) fancied men. Should evangelicals be (more) bothered?

I recently found the time to read an RNS piece on a new biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The big bombshell, according to the RNS headline, is that Bonhoeffer may have been gay. Or, put in the more precise terms you get in the article itself, including in quotes from Charles Marsh, author of the biography, Bonhoeffer seemed to have a romantic attraction toward at least one man, his friend Eberhard Bethge, though as another Bonhoeffer biographer quoted in the piece put it, “there is almost no evidence at all that would suggest anything more than attraction.”

None of this is particular newsworthy.

I mean, I’ve overheard this conversation at more than one conference that Bonhoeffer was probably (in one case, “almost certainly”) attracted to Bethge. Marsh seems to have some interesting facts that I hadn’t heard of before, but the basic idea seems like one most academics at least more or less took for granted. The real shocker is that evangelicals aren’t more up in arms over this new book, apparently. Bonhoeffer’s one of those figures that is so well-thought of, pretty much everyone working in this area wants to have on their side. It’s like when Glenn Beck tried to argue that Martin Luther King would have been in favor of the Tea Party program a few years back. Everyone wants to baptize King into their cause. In theological circles that’s more or less how it works with Bonhoeffer. So the biographer was concerned, and the RNS [= the AP of the theological world] saw fit to write a piece on it, Because Bonhoeffer is a favorite son among more intellectual evangelicals (yes, they exist), wouldn’t they be upset if someone claimed Bonhoeffer was one of teh gayz?

Not so much, as it turns out. The RNS piece claims several reviews from evangelical professors and influential bloggers, and nary a pitchfork is in sight. A lot of the reviews go on about how Marsh shouldn’t focus too much on the sex. The concern seems to be part that it’s tabloid stuff and part that it’s unfair to impose modern concepts of sexual orientation on someone who’s not contemporary. I’m not so sure about that last concern; Bonhoeffer died during World War II and he was pretty young. The standard approach seems to be that Bonhoeffer may or may not have been gay but his biography (certainly this part of his biography) isn’t so important and we should stay focused on what he wrote.

Here’s what interested me about the piece, though. Dr. Marsh apparently thought evangelical Christians would be strongly against that bit about Bonhoeffer being sexually attracted to a man. Was he being overly cautious or maybe even trolling for a controversy to boost his book’s profile? Or was this a realistic concern? Should evangelicals have been concerned here?

On the surface level, absolutely not. Setting aside the fact that you can produce good theology (or philosophy, or political theory, or whatever else) even if your personal life is a mess, Bonhoeffer’s personal life wasn’t a mess by standard evangelical standards. I grew up with the very common idea that there’s nothing in standard Christian belief that says gay attraction is immoral, it’s the lying with a man as you’d lie with a woman that’s the problem. Say Marsh is right, and Bonhoeffer was pursuing a romantic relationship with Bethge, even desired him sexually. As long as we’re not crossing into adultery-in-my-heart territory, which I usually heard described as wilfully choosing to fantasize about having sex with another man, thinking that you would do it if you could get away with it, if you wouldn’t face the censure of your neighbors or God or whomever –as long as it’s just a kind of involuntary attraction, there’s nothing wrong with that. From what I’ve read and heard, there’s nothing that suggests Bonhoeffer had sex with anyone, and he himself claimed to be a virgin when the Nazis were getting ready to execute him. So at a surface level this isn’t just not problematic, it actually makes him into a kind of role-model for what it means to be a “good” gay (or man-attracted-to-men) Christian. Good for him! Etc.

The problem is that while a lot of the reviews aren’t upset about this, I think they are upset it’s dwelt upon. And I think this comes down to the fact that for a lot of evangelicals, while celibates being attracted to their gender may be okay in the sense that it’s avoiding actual sin there’s a limit to how compatible that is with being truly praiseworthy. Particularly with evangelicals who put so much emphasis on the importance of the heterosexual family, I think there’s a sense that a chaste life like that is somehow incomplete, it may be tolerable and the best we can do but you have to ask whether it’s the kind of thing that should be encouraged and praised. There’s also a sense that if you’re truly spiritual you won’t have to deal with “temptations” like this.

Which is why I think you see those evangelical reviewers who are okay with Bonhoeffer experiencing attraction to other men so long as we don’t talk about it. It’s an uncomfortable fact, this idea that a hero of the faith could experience this kind of attraction. It suggests that maybe contemporary gay people need to be listened to, may have something authentic to contribute to the conversations not just about sex and gender but all the other things worth discussing. And that’s uncomfortable for a lot of evangelicals, and more generally for any kind of people when they think a certain character trait is somehow shameful or disqualifying. This is a problem, but it’s a common problem in evangelical circles. Look at the arguments in evangelical circles for why it’s okay to consult books written by women but not be taught by women; it’s generally because their particular womanly traits are less obvious so you’re less conscious of being subjugated to a woman. I think there’s a very similar dynamic at work here: it’s okay to be taught by a homosexual but not as a homosexual person. Poor theologians, theologians of color, female theologians are all allowed to have a voice in theological things, but only so far as we can abstract those voices from those things that make them different from the white, upper-middle-class, straight, male vantage point that I think a lot of people coming from the majority identify with a universal human nature rather than their own unique starting position.

In this particular case, I think Bonhoeffer’s romantic attraction for Bethge is much more relevant than it might have been otherwise. Because Bonhoeffer was living in Nazi Germany, where being gay could get you sent to jail. And Nazi jail, not the cushy American equivalent; I’m no expert on the period, but I wouldn’t be surprised if people in jail for homosexuality in the period faced something pretty close to concentration camp conditions without the crematoria. So if Bonhoeffer’s plot to kill Hitler was driven by this personal threat, this intense angst (and I do mean that in the German sense) that people just like him were being put through that horrible treatment, that would seem to be relevant to people who think that event was more driven by abstract principles. I would think that how he, as a man who experienced gay attraction, was impacted by the criminalization of homosexuality, how we read his reaction or lack of reaction changes quite a bit when you realize he wasn’t as disinterested as you might think. In fact, I suspect that this detail that he could have been among the persecuted groups for his sexual attraction draws into doubt the whole idea that we could or should be disinterested here.

Finally, I found it interesting – hilarious, actually – that so many of the evangelical reviewers expressed concern about whether our modern sexual categories could be safely imposed on someone living less than a century ago. I bring this up because a major point of contention in theological circles today when it comes to homosexuality is that precise point: whether what the Biblical authors condemn as sin (“man lying with a man as he would a woman,” etc.) is the same thing as what we mean by homosexuality. There are translation concerns (I personally believe that what the New Testament passages typically translate as homosexuality is much more in line with pedophilia) but there’s also the historical question of whether what we mean by homosexuality, any sexual orientation, would even be the kind of thing the Biblical writers would have had the language framework to talk about at all. Evangelical theologians are usually first in line to insist that those verses used to condemn gay sex are talking about all sex between men and women, not just some particular cultural practice that’s miles away to my mind from the modern sexual practice. So it’s a bit interesting when they say in the case of Bonhoeffer: he lived 70-80 years ago, so it’s irresponsible to describe him using the terms we use today.

Anyway it’s an interesting discussion, I thought. I think Dr. Marsh may have been on to something when he wondered if evangelicals would be bothered by his book’s claim, though I’m not sure it’s so straightforward as thinking this would make Bonhoeffer a sinful or not suitably evangelical figure. It’s more complicated than that. No more excusable, in my book, but certainly there’s more to the question than just “would evangelicals consider same-sex attraction to be sinful.

There and Back Again?

Over at the American Conservative, Gracy Olmstead wrote an interesting piece on the value of getting lost, of actually enjoying the journey between points A and B and discovering a bit of the trip in between rather than being so focused on where we’re going. I can’t say I disagree. Actually, one of the most-used gifts I received when I finished my M.A. and came to New York was a stack of walking tours for different neighborhoods in the city. They point to the public transit that will take you to a certain neighborhood, describe the history and the spirit of the place, and point you to local landmarks that can be explored if you have maybe an hour or two to just wander around. Technically there’s a map and a list of places to go, but of course the publishers aren’t forcing you to do that.

My point starting all this was that I’m an adventurer and an explorer by nature. So I’m not averse to her basic point. But as with most technology, I don’t think the danger is so much the technology itself as it is how we use it. Let me start by quoting Ms. Olmstead’s concerns:

It is good to consider the effect GPS systems have had on our culture. They have greatly enhanced the ease of travel – the ability to get from point A to point B – but they also make it more difficult to “go somewhere ‘in-between,'” as Sturt and Nordstrom [MB: here] write. We journey, most often, on freeways that are disconnected from the social architectural fabric of passing communities. We are often too busy noting our estimated time of arrival and upcoming traffic patterns to enjoy passing landscapes. The GPS always promotes the most efficient route for drivers to take – but it doesn’t take note of scenic or historic routine. This is great when you’re in a rush, but can be potentially damaging for road trips, when we’re meant to see and savor, are disconnected from the social and architectural fabric of passing communities.

Here’s the thing. I’ve actually been on a road trip with a GPS. In a way of speaking I go on them every time I take one of my notecard days when I pluck another neighborhood out of the day and go explore Coney Island or SoHo or a certain bit of Williamsburg, and I’ve done it quite literally, both with the roadmaps and the actual electronic maps. And in both cases, the question that makes all the difference to my experience is: are you willing to say no? Those notecards list points of interest and give me a walking map where I can find them, but there’s a difference in hitting them like a checklist and using them as my starting point. Similarly with old-school maps and GPS alike: you can either let them dictate your trip, or your can let them guide it, be ready to fall back on it at need, but also be in charge of your own trip and be willing to take a detour.

That’s actually the really cool thing about GPS in particular, which I don’t think Ms. Olmstead really accounted for. It’s adaptive. I remember one particular tri up to Boston, not a road trip per se but my travel-companion and I were grad student so yay wanderlust!. We had stopped for gas and went the wrong direction out of the station, and the GPS started barking on us. But the way we went wasn’t back to the freeway but instead to a backroad and it looked interesting. We decided to turn it off and ended up having lunch at a lovely diner and chatting it up with people who lived in the area. Which is precisely the kind of in-between stop I think Ms. Olmstead is encouraging us to take. But the reason we felt free to take it was we knew the GPS would be there to get us out again when we needed to get going back toward Boston. We didn’t have to stay on the familiar path and didn’t have to know where we were going, and it was technology like GPS that let us do that. I don’t think we’d have dared or bothered if we were I know my own mini-adventures with those notecards probably would never have happened if I didn’t have the suggested itinerary and accompanying map to fall back on. I never would have gone beyond the neighborhoods I was more familiar with.

Ditto for that “estimated time of arrival” Ms. Olmstead warns us about. If you’re obsessively focusing on it, that’s one thing. But if you’re using this information to answer the question: do I have time to take this detour and still make it to my final destination on time, that’s quite another. Because those practical issues can matter in different situations, and that kind of information can either be a straightjacket or it can be a guardrail. I’m reminded of a psychological study I heard of ages ago (sorry, can’t find the reference :-S), where children on a fenced-in playground would go right up to the edge of the fence to play, whereas kids on a playground that wasn’t fenced in played much more close to the jungle gym. Knowing how far we can go safely lets us use all the space available to us, it’s empowering and freeing in its own way, particularly if we use it as a tool for making our own decisions rather than letting that information guide us.

Put more simply: knowing the anticipated arrival time doesn’t rule out adventures along the way. Sometimes it’s actually what makes them possible.

I found it quite interesting that, in making her case, Ms. Olmstead pointed to three stories: Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and Twain’s Huck Finn, but also Bilbo from The Hobbit. I have an almost Pavlovian reaction to any and all mention of Tolkien, so I’ll be honest, when she quoted “The Road Goes Ever On, I definitely felt my spidey-senses tingling a bit. Listen or read that poem and try not to be inspired to take the “new road or the secret-gate”; I’ve never been able to manage it.

But I’m not sure the story really helps Ms. Olmstead’s point, because neither Bilbo nor Frodo (who also recites the poem and goes on his own “there-and-back”) are engaging in side-trips. Both of them have the closest thing to GPS you’ll hope to find in Middle-earth. Bilbo’s chosen task is to be at a particular location far to the east at a very specific day and side-adventures like with the goblins in the Misty Mountains and with the Mirkwood Elves are treated very much (by Bilbo, if not by the author) as nuisances and dangers that must be navigated to get to our destination. With Frodo, the point is even more clear, I think: the company bemoans the loss of their guide, Gandalf, and Frodo and Sam are quite literally getting themselves turned around in circles until they find another guide who promises to show them how to get to their final destination. This is not a wandering focused on something other than the eventual destination, as with Huck or (I’m going to assume as I haven’t read it)

Now there are characters who take just-for-the-heck-of-it journeys. I thought immediately of Isengar Took, Bilbo’s uncle that “went off to sea” in his youth, and the many other Tooks that were enchanted to go off into the blue. Even Sam fits the bill at first, with his drive to go and see Elves, hardly part of the official itinerary. But with Bilbo and Frodo there’s a definite sense that these are not adventures of discovery or even just encountering the world for its own sake. Both hobbits want to get back home, but Fate seems to have other plans for them. Those in-between bits are probably the ones that have the biggest impact (indeed, Bilbo finds the Ring quite by accident in just one such moment), but I’d hardly hold them up as living or even wanting to live in those moments. If anything, the poem seems to be about the way the World seems to drag us to its own chosen destination, not the one we might have had in mind – but the destination, the place we’re being dragged off to, is still the important thing here.

Right, enough of me being a Tolkien nerd. My main point was that we definitely should experience those points along the way and not be so blinded by our five-year plans or the final destination we plug into our GPS. Speaking for myself, though, I’m not sure the GPS is really to blame – to paraphrase another bit of JRRT, there is in this technology no evil, unless a man bring it hither himself. Then let him beware!

thoughts on Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby

Sorry to disappear abruptly around here a while ago. I simply lost interest in blogging about much beyond fandom, which I try to do at LiveJournal and Tumblr where most people I know in those circles spend their time. But the “Hobby Lobby” case, or more precisely reactions I’d seen to it, sparked my interests. As promised over at FaceBook, here are my thoughts on the issues I see involved in this case.


World Vision and remembering the children

Today World Vision made an announcement that it’s changing how it handles LGBT employees, and IMO in a very good way. Previously, they required employees to either be in heterosexual marriages or to abstain from sexual activity. As I understand it, the old policy meant that if you were gay you couldn’t work there and be involved in even a long-term, monogamous relationship. (You still have to be married if you’re sexually active, even if you’re gay; it’s just that marriage isn’t restricted to heterosexual couples.) You couldn’t bring your spouse to the company picnic, for instance, and I’m assuming they wouldn’t be eligible for spousal health insurance or even to be listed as next of kin in a health emergency.

Some people are saying this is a really little thing and doesn’t deserve much praise, but I actually find it pretty courageous. It’s not a big change in a lot of ways, and I want to hear more about what they mean by marriage. For instance, do they mean sacramental marriage (which, to my knowledge, no church offers) or do alternate religious commitment services count? What about government marriage licenses or civil unions? It may well be this seems like a decent step when really it won’t be available to anyone. I’d also like to know how many gay people actually work at World Vision – if you’re not actually hiring them, then this seems like a progressive step when it’s really quite moot.

But I also find myself encouraged because, from a purely messaging level, World Vision made me feel particularly proud of them today. This decision sends the important message both to their employees and to gay people in the larger evangelical subculture that an authentic life is increasingly available to them in that culture, that they don’t have to choose between the common evangelical dream of family and a future together, meaningful work, a chance to effect the world for good — and who they know themselves to be. That’s a good thing in my opinion. It also tells them that there are expectations for how they live that life, too. That there’s a standard that’s meet-able, that doesn’t categorically exclude them from Christian virtue. That’s something many Christians really, really don’t do well with LGBT people. Myself included in the past, and probably to a certain extent todya, though I do hope I’m making progress there. Of course, it’s the nature of progress that you can only really see it in retrospect: if I saw I was wrong in any way now, I’d be changing my actions and thought-processes now.

Of course it’s usually two steps forward with people who take their beliefs as seriously as most people still opposed to homosexuality probably are. (more…)

Arguing Against the Defense of the Christian Private School Bubble

Over at ChristianityToday‘s Hermeneutics blog, Andrea Palpant Dilley wrote an interesting defense of her decision to put her kid in a private school. Her main point, and I think it’s usually a good one these days, is that we need to tone down the vitriol and actually see the complexity, the nuance in peoples’ situations.

To that end, Mrs. Dilley gives us some details about her own situation. She says she’s a good person, and as far as I can tell she actually is one. She’s involved in her community, cares about racial justice and equality and all the things those public school advocates apparently value so much. (In her words, “To public school advocates, I’m one of those people destroying the educational infrastructure of America, complicit in wrecking the hard-earned egalitarianism of a public classroom where kids of all creeds and colors can meet together in unity to learn about everything from planets to caterpillars.“) And yes, there’s a touch of seeing herself as put upon, maybe even a bit victimized, but that’s at least understandable. I think sometimes we underestimate a bit how hard it is to come from a position of privilege and want to work for a more just world where you’re not so privileged, but at the same time are fighting a very natural drive to do what’s best for the people you’re closest to. Your family, your kid, even your neighbors. I’m not saying this tension makes everything we do in the name of it okay; but I do see how you can look at people proclaiming form on high that all private-schoolers are selfish, elitist, etc. and think: if she just walked a day in my shoes, she’d see it just wasn’t so simple.

So I’m sympathetic to Mrs. Dilley’s position. I’ve been there, not with education but with other things, and like I said, I do agree with her central point that we need a more nuanced, merciful way of approaching public policy questions like to private school or not to private school. I’m also a proud beneficiary of private parochial school (grades 7-8 + the tail end of grade 6), and while I went to public universities most of my social life was anchored in the Campus Ministries building. So I get the value of Christian bubbles, the real value of them and also the pull of them psychologically. That’s what makes my reaction to Mrs. Dilley so frustrating. I agree with her conclusion, but I found the road she took to get there, pretty thoroughly muddled.


newsflash: not all Southerners are dumb hicks

Apparently ignorant people are saying idiotic things on the internet. In YouTube comments, no less. Stop the presses!

People in the South are trying to prove that snow is actually fake because it’s a government conspiracy

Normally I’d go on about the stuff I need to get through after taking most of yesterday and today off from getting things done. There’s just one problem: these particular ignorant people went online when the South was getting hammered by a snowstorm. Anomaly, the author of this piece, is sure they must be southerners because –I’m just guessing here– they all had screennames like ClemsonPride1978 or TheSouthDoneRiz or some other clever variation. Actually, to be fair, Anomaly says he reached this conclusion because Southerners “aren’t used to snow (I’m trying to help them find an excuse) so they have all suddenly become scientists, because they think it has to do with chemtrails and the government trying to push a climate change conspiracy, or something.”

That’s me, by the way; hello. Not the scientific illiteracy stuff by a longshot –I actually received a really top-notch education in science and maths, including a B.S. in maths from a state university– but the Southern part? Absolutely. That B.S. I mentioned? From the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I also had basic chemistry and physics so I know it’s possible for a frozen substance to be heated so quickly it vaporizes rather than melting into a liquid. I learned that in school, actually in an adjoining class to where I learned how to tritate and dissect (and, since we’re on the subject of science education, that the earth is most certainly more than 6,000 years old). Most people I knew were exposed to these kinds of things. Not all of them remembered it, but then again, a good number of the people I’ve tutored in Cleveland and taught in New York were similarly fuzzy on the details.

Speaking for myself, the science education I received in the Carolinas gives me a bit of ability in evaluating empirical claims. I like to test what I read, so much as the available evidence allows. That’s why I particularly appreciated Anomaly’s specific, quantified claims that I could verify. There are, after all, “tons of videos out there trying to disprove snow,” and a “lot of people think the snow that has hit the Southeast was “geo-engineered.”” So that answers my basic skepticism, I guess. I suppose it’s not at all possible that people in (say) Iowa or New Jersey were responding to a national story and used it as an opportunity to take a swipe at global warming. (Because, you know, national journalists like Iowa-born Steve Doocy are completely innocent on this topic.) Clearly this is enough to justify our outrage that these people can vote, as quite a few people can on that site. One particularly memorable comment refers to “snow ball goobers.”


As I said, ignorant people are saying idiotic things on the internet. Better save room above the fold for this one.

Here’s the truly frustrating thing about all this: Southerners are getting blamed as a group for this. For comparison, a news story recently popped up on my FB page talking about a correlation between high incidence of whooping-cough cases and high percentages of non-medical vaccination exemptions [that is, where people chose not to vaccinate their kids without a medical justification] in California. They said these overlapping areas “‘were associated with factors characteristic of high socioeconomic status such as lower population density, lower average family size, lower percentage of racial or ethnic minorities,’ higher incomes and other factors, the researchers wrote.” But I can’t imagine any news piece referring to silver-spoon granola flakes who (guess what) actual vote. That kind of generalization, denigration, and name-calling seems saved for white Southerners. I can’t even imagine a headline along the lines of “People in California are refusing to vaccinate their children, leading to whooping cough outbreaks.” You just don’t get that level of marking a few individuals’ reaction to a region-wide vice for any other area of the country. It might get attributed to anti-vaxxers or something similar, but that’s at least a group that more or less overlaps with the behavior being called out. Not true here.

And that, in case you’re wondering was the point I had to calmly leave the library, make my way to the bathroom, lock the stall door, and scream. Because sometimes? This shit just gets so, so old.

Mr. Moffat, your privilege is showing

I’m not going to use the word “misogyny” after this line right here. Other people have called him stronger things: sexist, homophobic, even racist. For a lot of people those terms have a tinge of intention to them (you can’t be, say, a sexist, without intentionally trying to push women down), and I’m honestly not sure that’s what’s going on here. But here’s the thing: you don’t have to go nearly that far to cross into what John Watson would call a bit not good.

In fact, I’ll go better: privilege is bad. And in my humble assessment, it’s at least one of Mr. Moffat’s biggest problems.

Let’s start with the obvious: Steven Moffat is a fanboy. If there’s any question on this point, consider his recent statement in a TOR piece on “The Sign of Three”:


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