ideatrash

Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

Newsflash: If you have to compare your actions to worse people, you are worse people.

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“But I’m not racist! I didn't do anything as bad as...”

And then comes the list of far worse things, which the person I’m talking to would never, ever do, nuh-uh, not them.


What they’re ignoring - either out of ignorance or on purpose - is that the standard for not being a bigot isn’t a fixed point.

This is kind of blindingly obvious if you think about it for a moment; “not racist” in 1800 in the United States is a whole lot more racist than “not racist” in 1920 which is a whole lot more racist than “not racist” in 1973, which is a whole lot more racist than “not racist” in 2015.

And it's true, things have (mostly) gotten better.

But that doesn’t mean the work is done.

Look, here's a simple example.

Farting at the dinner table is unpleasant. Taking a crap on the main course is a whole lot more unpleasant, yes, but that doesn’t suddenly make farting pleasant.

Let's spell out what they're actually saying: 

When someone says they're not "that bad" of a bigot, they're telling you they think some bigotry is just fine.

The whole argument is based around the idea that there’s a degree of bigotry that is acceptable, and that they or their actions (supposedly) haven’t crossed the line of acceptability.

And that is some fine bullshit.

We could make excuses for them.

But we won’t.

We will not be silent.

We are their guilty conscience.

We will speak up, and call them out, and make visible not only the obvious bigotry, but we will also make visible the structures and institutions that perpetuate inequality.

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The Brainwashing of My Uncle: A Review of The Brainwashing of My Dad

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I posted this on Facebook today:
I don't know what happened to my uncle. He used to be the most empathic person I knew. And now I see all this fear and anger.
Regardless, I am not okay with racists, Nazis, or those that enable them. I hope that some day the uncle I remember fondly will return.
And maybe that's not entirely true. Because a while ago, I backed - and later watched - the documentary "The Brainwashing of My Dad"  (Amazon link). 
Jen Senko, a documentary filmmaker, looks at the rise of right-wing media through the lens of her WWII vet father who changed from a life-long, nonpolitical Democrat to an angry, right-wing fanatic after his discovery of talk radio on a lengthened commute to work. In trying to understand how this happened, she not only finds this to be a phenomenon, but also uncovers some of the forces behind it.

Ms. Senko's experience kind of mirrors my own mystified experience with my uncle.  He went from running a new age store and strongly influencing me toward compassion, empathy, and non-violence to - at minimum - being a jingoistic militaristic presence providing a kind of vichy support for racism and fascism.  The straw that broke the camel's back? Back to back postings complaining about protesters not being more like MLK in the street, then complaining about Browns players protesting silently during the national anthem.  (If you can't see the hypocrisy in telling people that the only acceptable protest is nonviolent civil disobedience, then raging against nonviolent civil disobedience, then I can't help you.)

Because I don't see him that often, I don't know for certain what caused this change in the compassionate, kind man that I remember.

Ms. Senko's documentary (which I highly recommend) might hold the key.



But in the meantime, I miss the man I knew.  I miss the man who wouldn't get me a sword at Sea World, who encouraged me to play with action figures in a non-violent way, who did his level best to turn me toward empathy and caring about others.

I don't know who the man occupying his body is anymore.

I reject the toxic, selfish thing that has taken control of him.

I hope that the man I remember is still in there, somewhere.

I hope that one day that my uncle will return.

And for all those who have reached out to me with similar stories since I posted that on Facebook, I hope the same for you as well.

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An economic example of institutionalized inequality

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If you're trying to examine how institutional and systemic effects can perpetuate inequality, sometimes it's useful to get away from race and gender and sexual orientation and so on.
 
So here's a real-world, class-only example (though it doesn't take much to tie this to racism or other kinds of bigotry): 
 
Many agree that education is supposed to be the great leveler. Nearly all places fund education by property taxes. So that means that locations where property values are low are going to get fewer quality educational tools and fewer top quality teachers. 
 
(If you're not going to argue that salary matters, then let's discuss how CEOs don't deserve the high economic rents of their salary.) 
 
This means that the "great leveller" DOES NOT LEVEL a damn thing. While there are people who manage to excel despite crappy educational conditions, imagine HOW MUCH BETTER they'd be in a quality school!

So, all other things being equal, if you have a group of people who start in poverty, their kids are going to STAY in poverty because they will have a substandard education compared to those people who begin with wealth. (It's more complicated than that, but I'm trying to be clear here.)

This would allow people to say "but they could excel in school", and while that's technically true, it's realistically bullshit, even though no one person explicitly acted to make it so.

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The Cowardly Way To Address Racism (and other bigotry)

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I was recently told on Facebook that if I found a group or person that was actually bigoted1 that that person would stand by me... but until then I was on my own.

And this is the pernicious and horrible strength of institutional and structural bigotry.

You could start, if you were cowardly, with those people who are quietly bigoted. The people who may not march in the street or declare their bigotry in an Archie Bunker kind of way.

You could start, if you were cowardly, with the people who are "just joking" every time they're called on a bigoted statement. You could start with the people who make decisions based on their bigotry without even thinking about it because everyone knows "those people are like that".2

But that is easy. That is the coward's way out.

That is the coward's way of avoiding the bigotry that permeates the very institutions and structure of our society.

The far more courageous - and difficult - path is to examine institutional bigotry and structural discrimination.  It is to confront how bigotry is not explicit, but is implicit in "common sense" and "the way things are".

It is to examine how history has informed social, economic, and class differences in our society. It is to confront and demolish the ways that we do things that perpetuate inequality, without anyone involved actually thinking that they're personally being bigoted.

Racial profiling is often the perfect example.  If you stop a greater percentage of people of a specific type to search for contraband, you will find that more of your arrests come from that class of people.  It is a simple error of sample selection, but unlike a survey, it has real effects on real people's lives.

Everyone - including myself - has these bigoted prejudices taught to them by example, by explicit instruction, and just by absorbing the culture around us.

Everyone.

There is only one way to minimize the damage: that is to closely question the structures around us. To closely question the impact our actions have, regardless of our intentions or conscious motivations.


1 I'm paraphrasing slightly, including that they said "racist" instead of "bigoted", but the point applies. They apparently hadn't heard of the KKK.
2 I heard those statements just today. TODAY.

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It isn't how you screw up as a feminist. It's how you deal with screwing up.

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There's already a lot of digital ink being spilled about Joss Whedon's alleged infidelities while married to his ex-wife. The Mary Sue in particular has done a good job pointing out that the problems were not that Joss screwed other people, but then he used a position of power to do so and then lied about it.

This is not the first time that a man who has appeared to be a very strong feminist has turned out to behave in completely different ways. I'm certain that many of you reading this know of individuals who have behaved this way and not made the national stage like Louis CK and Joss Whedon.  They have made their careers (or at least reputation) around material that seems to be feminist and "woke".

And then it's revealed that they did something (or a lot of somethings) that were completely contrary to the ideals they espoused.

This is not the last time this is going to happen.

There is something I am not seeing in the writing about Joss Whedon or Louis C K. 

We live in a patriarchal culture, and sometimes that leaks out in bad behavior. 

That is not the important part. Even good intentioned people can act badly.

The important part is how bad behavior is treated and how the individuals in question react when one realizes - or has pointed out to them - the bad actions.

Louis CK apparently tried to silence and cover-up allegations about bad behavior on his part, and when he finally commented publicly a year later, it was a tepid statement at best. Joss Whedon tried to excuse himself privately ("It felt like I had a disease, like something from a Greek myth."  UGH.) and has been silent publicly.

Let me offer a counterexample in myself.

In the past, I behaved badly and in a way that shames me as a feminist.  I'm not going into details  at the request of the person that I hurt. I offered my mea culpa to her at the time and offered to post it publicly; she asked me to not publicly post it.

In private, however, I have admitted freely where I screwed up.  There are factors that led to me screwing up and hurting another, but those things explain, and they do not excuse. 

Unlike Joss Whedon, in his letter to his ex-wife, I have spent a lot of time examining those factors and working on myself so that I do not fall victim to them again. I have spent a lot of time working so that I can be a better person. So that I can be a better feminist.

I've used my story in private as an example of how even the best intentioned person can fail.  How we all need to be called on our bad behaviour.  How we need to be held accountable publicly and privately.  I've also repeatedly - in public and private - asked people to call me on it when my privilege blinds me to my actions.

No one is perfect. Living in our racist and sexist society, there are timebombs of cultural programming in all of us.  We are often blind to how we act as agents within this racist and sexist  system. It is to be expected that we fail, fuck up, offend, and misstep. We will hurt other people. We will fall short of our ideals.

It is more important for us to judge how people take responsibility for their actions and the damage that they cause. It is more important for us to see how people apologize when they fail.  It is more important for us to see how they ensure that they will move closer to their ideal self.

It is important to espouse public ideals and to encourage others to follow them. 

It is also important to publicly acknowledge your failings and demonstrate how to make them right.

And it is important to hold people accountable when they fail to do so.

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Take an hour long break and write with us this weekend! (attn: @WriterSymposium )

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Tired of politics? Or perhaps you're at GenCon and need to get away for an hour? Or even better, you've attended sessions at the GenCon Writer's Symposium, and want to put what you've learned to the test?

Then take an hour to write with us this weekend!
 
Several of us have started our own, self-hosted, flash fiction challenge over at a website we're calling Obsidian Flash.  It's on a forum behind a password, so that anything you write and submit is considered unpublished.  Registration is quick, free, and pretty painless.



Seriously, this thing is the perfect thing for you to do if you think writing is hard (or finding time for writing is hard), and especially if you haven't been writing for a while.  It's also great if you have problems with getting past ideas that "you suck" (every first draft sucks, face it) or self-doubt.  Here's why:

1. Challenges like this are great for stimulating creativity.
2. You're supposed to write for an hour (ish); you can make that time.
3. You don't have the time to critique yourself.
4. You'll get helpful feedback from published authors and editors like myself, Donna Munro, Anton Cancre, and more.
5. We are friendly, despite all appearances to the contrary.  :)



The next challenge is scheduled for THIS weekend.  The prompt will go up this Friday (THAT'S TODAY, FOLKS) at 8pm EST.  Dr. Q (a newcomer to the forum!) is our flashmaster!

Go sign up now at http://obsidianflash.com/forum and we'll see you writing this weekend!

Here are the rules:

1. All stories should be complete, written and posted within 24 hours of the prompt being posted, and can be anywhere from one sentence to 1,000 words in length.  Typically the prompt is posted by 8pm EST on Friday, and stories are posted by 8pm EST on Saturday.

2. You may choose to write your story in any genre.

3. Your story must be built around the restrictions—words, themes, photo prompts, word limits, etc.—provided by the Flashmaster at the beginning of the challenge.

4. Once the participants’ work is posted, the voting and comment session begins and continues until all votes are in. Time limit for voting will be determined on the spot, depending on how many people finish the challenge.  Typically this is within 24 hours of the end of the writing portion, or 8pm EST on Sunday.

5. The winner becomes Flashmaster and chooses the prompt(s) for the next contest.  Also, you get all the Internet Bragging Points you think you can get away with.

Don't wait - get going and register at http://obsidianflash.com/forum right now and join us!

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Your silence gives Nazis and other extremists strength

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I've seen a number of people post both that if you don't disavow Nazis then you must be supporting them ...and I've also seen people say that not supporting Nazis that it is the assumed default, and that you don't need to post about it.

Both are true. 

First, social media is not life. I am pretty active on social media and there have been entire controversies that I have missed or not commented upon.

Sometimes that's because other people have already said what I would have (and frequently done so more eloquently than I), sometimes that's because I'm simply too busy with my real life to comment on social media.

So I am not going to presume that people who don't explicitly say so must be supporting Nazis.

At the same time, we cannot assume that silence means disapproval of Nazis - and we definitely cannot assume that silence does not empower Nazis.

Those who are silent very well might disapprove of Nazis (though many of us have had nasty surprises last weekend).  More importantly, there are plenty of studies, from people who researched extremist groups like these for decades, that show that extremists believe that silence is approval. Extremists like Nazis and the KKK assume that not speaking up against them means that you are just quietly supporting them.

So I exhort you to say something. In real life. On social media. Whenever and wherever the opportunity arises.

They draw strength from your silence.

Because while I and your friends and family may know that you would never support Nazis, they are assuming that you do.

Nazis are nazis, no matter how they brand themselves.

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You are either against Nazis or you support them.  They do not allow a middle ground.

A few relevant notes:

From Patrick Tomlinson (on Twitter, lost the link):

"Because there's some confusion, fighting for civil rights, and fighting for genocide, are not morally or ethically equivalent positions."

Trump wanted (wants?) to focus counter-terrorism solely on Islam.






This isn't just about race. As Patrick Tomlinson articulately said about the Daily Stormer article about Heather Heyer (archive.org link, triggering):

Nazism isn't just about racism. It is also deeply misogynistic. It is about not just preserving white power, but male domination.

Just look at how these troglodytes talk about an innocent woman MURDERED by one of their number. Look at how they reduce her value to nothing more than the productivity of her womb. How they call her a slut for engaging in the simple joy of human sexuality while they themselves preen about their ficticious "conquests." Look at how they reduce her deliberate, calculated assassination by their compatriot to a mere "road rage" incident as if she'd refused to let him merge instead of being run down in a crowded street while on foot.

Look these people, in the face. See what they really are.

This is not a somewhere else problem. These are people who live among the rest of us. The scum who killed Heather Heyer is from Ohio. The author of that article is in Columbus. Two others photographed there are from Centerville, just down the road from me.


They live in your town.

While the ones photographed in Charlottesville are being identified, there are others who weren't there.

They might be quieter. They might offer false equivalencies or excuses.

But it is simple.

You are against Nazis - no matter how they rebrand themselves - or you are for them.

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Think writing is hard? THEN WRITE WITH US THIS WEEKEND ANYWAY.

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Several of us have started our own, self-hosted, flash fiction challenge over at a website we're calling Obsidian Flash.  It's on a forum behind a password, so that anything you write and submit is considered unpublished.  Registration is quick, free, and pretty painless.




Seriously, this thing is the perfect thing for you to do if you think writing is hard (or finding time for writing is hard), and especially if you haven't been writing for a while:

1. Challenges like this are great for stimulating creativity.
2. You're supposed to write for an hour (ish); you can make that time.
3. You don't have the time to critique yourself.
4. You'll get helpful feedback from published authors and editors like myself, Donna Munro, Anton Cancre, and more.
5. We are friendly, despite all appearances to the contrary. 


The next challenge is scheduled for THIS weekend.  The prompt will go up this Friday (THAT'S TODAY, FOLKS) at 8pm EST.  Author, and editor Sarah Hans is our flashmaster!

Go sign up now at http://obsidianflash.com/forum and we'll see you writing this weekend!

Here are the rules:

1. All stories should be complete, written and posted within 24 hours of the prompt being posted, and can be anywhere from one sentence to 1,000 words in length.  Typically the prompt is posted by 8pm EST on Friday, and stories are posted by 8pm EST on Saturday.

2. You may choose to write your story in any genre.

3. Your story must be built around the restrictions—words, themes, photo prompts, word limits, etc.—provided by the Flashmaster at the beginning of the challenge.

4. Once the participants’ work is posted, the voting and comment session begins and continues until all votes are in. Time limit for voting will be determined on the spot, depending on how many people finish the challenge.  Typically this is within 24 hours of the end of the writing portion, or 8pm EST on Sunday.

5. The winner becomes Flashmaster and chooses the prompt(s) for the next contest.  Also, you get all the Internet Bragging Points you think you can get away with.

Don't wait - get going and register at http://obsidianflash.com/forum right now and join us!

No comments :

Seeing red flags on reality TV in real time #BB19

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My amour has gotten me into Big Brother; and in this case, I'm particularly glad.

You don't need to know much about the show - other than that people get "evicted" after being nominated - in terms of setup for these two clips.  You absolutely need to know that Jessica and Cody (you'll know who they are right damn quick) formed a relationship early on this season.  They were both put up for eviction ("on the block") this week, and then Paul - the guy who put them up for eviction - tried to have a conversation with them.


If you can't watch the video, Cody totally got aggressive with Paul, far out of proportion to anything else that was going on. And then something ... interesting ... happened.




Jessica called Cody out on being overly aggressive.  She tried to lay out that his aggressive response not only messed up the work she'd done in the game, but also would be something she simply could not tolerate in the real world (they'd previously discussed dating after the show was over).

Cody's response:  Silence and a total lack of reaction, until he started to say how he wasn't good enough and couldn't say the right thing.  A total pity play.

This is required viewing for seeing a red flag being thrown in real-time, in real life (and just happening to be televised).  Cody never actually answers Jessica's concerns about his behavior, instead redirecting the entire conversation to be about how sad he is and trying to elicit her sympathy.

As two folks on Twitter put it:




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