A Parable…

“Oh no, my car is drifting off to the right… shit, if I keep going like this I’m going to crash. I better turn left.”

“Whoa there, buddy. What about the right?”

“What about it? I need to turn left to get the car back on track.”

“But for that you need the steering wheel to be straight, right?”

“Yes, but I’m currently drifting right.”

“You obviously hate right. You should be turning left and right equally.”

“But if I keep straight on this current course, I’ll crash.”

“How do you intend to go straight if you’re turning left? Why favour left so much if you’re in favour of going straight?”

“Because we’re currently drifting to the right!”

“And how is that going to be solved if you turn left? You just hate right.”

“…what?”

I’ll leave the interpretation to you.

We’re Offended?

There’s a word I’ve seen thrown around a lot in recent years. That word is “offended”.

I’m sure this word used to mean something. I’m sure if we run to the dictionary we can find the original archaic definitions, and think “ah, that’s what it means!”

But those meanings hardly reflect reality as it is now. A one-line definition in a dictionary isn’t much use when a word represents a concept, and that concept is underpinned by culture, and context, and society and millions of people using it every day in countless situations.

Meaning-is-use, as Wittgenstein might say if pressed for a sound-bite – so how is it used?

If you see “offended” written down anywhere on the internet in 2015, its usage and context more likely mean:

“You there, shut up. You shouldn’t have a voice in this! Stop challenging me!”

Because rarely, if ever, does the phrase “you’re just offended” actually mean that the targeted person possesses the property of “offence”.

Let me illustrate, and boil it down to the simplest of examples.

Person A: “Fucking trannie-fags, amiright? What’s’ with them? Grown men pretending to be chicks. Eugh.”

Person B: “You know, that’s really demeaning to trans/trans* people for no other reason than they’re different to you. You really shouldn’t say that sort of thing since it makes their lives worse.”

Person A: “Oh, MY GOD! What is it with you people being OFFENDED ALL THE TIME?!”

And that’s without getting into the “it was just a joke” defence; an equally insipid defence used by idiots to justify themselves. It’s strange that the “ha-ha-bonk” attributes of someone’s speech are only ever brought up after the fact, but there you go. “Have a sense of humour!”, and “It was a joke!” usually come as a knee-jerk response (shame it rarely works both ways). The “just a joke” defence usually fits the pattern, but a more thorough treatment of that is also something for another time.

Further to the pattern, if this kind of exchange goes on long enough, you’re bound to see the following quote (mined) from Stephen Fry. You’ll see this, sure as day follows night, sure as eggs is eggs, sure as every odd-numbered Star Trek movie is shit:

It’s now very common to hear people say, “I’m rather offended by that,” as if that gives them certain rights. It’s no more than a whine. It has no meaning, it has no purpose, it has no reason to be repsected as a phrase. “I’m offended by that.” Well, so fucking what?

Given that, at the time, Stephen Fry’s quote on “offence” was in the context of anti-blasphemy laws in Ireland, freedom of speech with the background context of religious persecution, and also given that Stephen Fry is openly gay, and also openly battling mental illness, it’s pretty clear that he isn’t talking about defending your right to be an utter prick to people for no other reason than because you can.

As much as I am a fan of Stephen Fry, the national treasure that he is, that quote out-of-context has done way more harm than its in-context poignancy ever did any good. At worst, I could accuse him of utter hypocrisy as he’s usually the first to throw a wobbly and leave Twitter, never to return, upon hearing any slight against him. But this is getting beside the point.

The o-word is simply trotted out to shut people up – it just dismisses someone’s views as “offence” and therefore, as Stephen Fry said, “so fucking what?”

To me, that’s just plain lazy thinking. It’s an excuse to avoid thinking about and self-reflecting on one’s own beliefs, ideas and speech – as if to say “You’re just offended, so I’m not going to bother understanding your criticism”, and it says it regardless of the validity of that criticism. Self-reflecting on whether the words you say contribute to a wider stigma, or whether your behaviour is making the world worse, is a vital part of growing up. And you don’t do that simply by dismissing your critics as merely “offended” by your position.

“You’re just offended” skips whether the only thing at stake is if someone is merely “offended”. It discards the actual opinion and goes straight towards “but you shouldn’t have any special rights for feeling that way” and “I therefore won’t pay attention to you”. And that’s really the core problem – in skeptic jargon you can call it a “straw man” argument. It boils down quite a complicated series of objections to a simple, and unrealistic, version that is easy to knock down.

(Of course, it’s very good to phrase it with skeptic jargon, as self-defined skeptics do this frequently when they refuse to engage with active social issues and instead want to simply debunk homeopathy for the millionth time. “Oh you’re just offended” comes from those with self-declared intelligence as it does from the more-broadly ignorant.)

Mostly, however, no. Stephen Fry is quite factually wrong in his quote – as are the people who bring it up as they build their dismissive straw man. It’s not all that common to hear people say “I’m rather offended by that” – or anything remotely similar. Very rarely is anyone ever actually just offended by uncouth and unthinking remarks.

Do you even recognise what “offence” is?

Did you bother to check if someone was actually offended, first?

Or are you using it just for the connotations of “offence”, so that you can dismiss a view without further question?

Let’s put it another way:

  • Am I offended that rape victims get treated like shit, and told that they deserved what they got for dressing the wrong way? Fuck no – I am fucking livid that this is a thing.
  • Am I offended that Britain First gets away with treating Muslims like shit and want to boot them out of the country? Nope, I think it’s an affront to human intelligence that such people are supposed to get respect for their idiot opinions.
  • Am I offended that someone says “cockfag” and uses “gay” to mean “bad”? Christ no. I think you actively equating a demographic of people with negativity causes actual factual harm to people, and that should be enough to curb that behaviour because we all should make the world better, not worse.
  • Am I offended that you shoved your able-bodied ass into a disabled parking space? No, I think you’ve just made life worse for someone who can barely walk who will be along in ten minutes for no other reason than because you’re a self-indulgent asshole.
  • Am I merely offended by… well, anything that has been cast as “offence”?

No, I’m not. In fact, I think it’s pretty difficult to offend me. If I – and countless others – tell someone that they’re talking out of their arse, it won’t be due to mere offence.

The reality is that “offended” means nothing today. It’s simply a cheap and easy way for people to dismiss the valid opinions of others, to continue to unthinkingly treat Others like shit. When we want to finally say “enough, e-fucking-nough!” to this, it’s trotted out to dismiss the complaint. It’s an excuse to continue on with an unthinking lack of self-awareness. It’s a quick, thought-terminating cliché that absolves you from taking criticism seriously.

Maybe someone believes that I feel offended by what they say and think. So I’ll end this with a far more accurate word, as language can have some power when it’s laconic. It’s not offence, it’s more like pity.

I’m not offended that you think that, I pity you for it.

“Females”

A quick, short, and slightly stupid point…

The WordPress statistics say that this search term recently sent traffic here:

do females like the damsel in distress trope

Now… “Females” is a perfectly cromulent word. It has a meaning, a use, and conveys the right image for what you need to describe. Namely, the biologically female sex. Nothing more, nothing less. Overall it’s pretty neutral in the feelings it provokes. “Look at this female penguin waddling about”. See, nothing to it… you know what it means, and there are no additional connotations, neither positive, nor negative. With the exception of the edge-cases, it’s pretty brute-force in its pure functionality as a piece of jargon within the English language.

But then it gets said in a vaguely Men’s Rights Activist context, and it’s suddenly…

femalesEugh…. I need to go take a fucking shower.



Addendum: Like, seriously, ewww….

females_2

No, Scientists Didn’t Do The Thing

I threatened to write this a few posts back, and after I Fucking Don’t Understand Science’s last clusterfuck, I’m going to. So next time a major science story gets reported in the popular press, this is the generic response:


No, despite what you have read, Scientists did not do the Thing that has been widely reported in the media yesterday.

You might have heard that scientists did a Thing. This Thing was pretty world-changing. Certainly, if you were to do the Thing, there would be several Nobel Prizes involved. However, you should note that the Thing is, in fact, so far removed from reality that the universe would probably implode with contradictions if the Thing was indeed true.

What was widely reported as “scientists”, plural, with connections to some big science-y organisation you probably have heard of thanks to a Brian Cox documentary, actually just came from one lone scientist, Scientist. As you can probably tell from a quick Google search of their name, this is not the first time Scientist has done something like this.

In fact, they are prone to talking about doing the Thing quite frequently, which was debunked the last time this blog mentioned Scientist.

Scientist has never so far reported doing the Thing in a peer reviewed, decent journal. In fact, the Thing was originally just a conference poster, presented to five people in Ass-end, Nowhere. They then emailed this to Journalist, who started the ball rolling as every other “journalist” just copy-pasted the press release, word for word, about the Thing. Of course, journalists have no expertise in the Thing, so we can’t quite expect them to know that the Thing overturns almost everything experts in the Thing already know as actual facts.

But spotting a few glaring inconsistencies with Scientist’s insistence that they did the Thing isn’t hard. You will note it was never published in a decent journal. You’ll note that their paper doesn’t even begin to prove that the Thing was done, nor happened, nor even is a thing to start with. Their communication about the Thing is devoid of any experimental details of how they came about the Thing, making replication difficult, and where Scientist did give us information on the Thing, it turned out to be severely lacking.

So, in conclusions, the Thing is not real. Scientists did not do the Thing. Can we please have a bit more fucking skepticism and less clickbait next time, please, is that too much to ask?

“We Have Enough Porn”, Declares Internet

The last porn movie ever was uploaded to the internet Monday afternoon, after being shot and edited that morning.

Wikimedia Commons has recently had to declare “no more dicks” after the site became saturated with penis selfies.

The amount of porn – in a wide variety of media including HD video, SD video, shot-on-a-potato video, still images, cartoons, interactive manga, CG shots made with Daz Studio and “Other” – on the internet is estimated to be in the region of 865 exabytes. Experts believe that this number is so large that it outstrips pictures of cats, food, and duckface-selfies combined by several orders of magnitude. This has lead to the internet suddenly and unanimously declaring “that’s enough, we don’t really need any more now” as there is now simply enough porn to satisfy all philosophically possible demand.

Ben Stiffwood, of Splaton-on-Cum, Essex, explains his involvement in the declaration: “It was some time during my 6th tug of the evening, while the wife was off in the shower… ” he says “…when I suddenly realised something profound: I could watch these movies all night, for every single day of my entire life, and still not see the same girl take the same load in her filthy, slutty face twice. And that’s just in the Japanese / Afro-Mongolian interracial section. It was at that moment I decided to stick with what was there, and not bother with anything new.”

“There’s a whole world of smut to sexplore.” Stiffwood added, before laughing maniacally over his own pun.

“We were expecting this.” Says Prof. Steven Rimjob of the American National Association of Lubricated-activities. “It’s a phenomenon we identified in the mid-1980s as ‘Peak Fap’. But most were skeptical that it would ever be reached before the entropic heat death of the universe. Back then, though, all we had to go on was the effects of Betamax vs VHS – it was a more naive, and more innocent, time. No one could have predicted the effect broadband internet and online video streaming would have had in accelerating the process exponentially.”

Madison Ivy - 2013 AVN Expo Photos Las Vegas (8416900288).jpg

Experts were first alerted “Peak Fap” when Nintendo Gangbang XXX was met with lukewarm reviews, with industry magazine The Daily Uuggh dismissing it as “derivative”.

Prof. Rimjob did his best to settle worries that the decision to cease production of all pornography was too hasty, adding that “all possible combinations of smut have been committed to video and compressed into a handy MPEG format… yes, including that. There’s, like, an entire conglomerate of websites dedicated to that.”

The last porn flick uploaded to the Internet was College Girls With Heterochromia Get Nasty vol.29. It was a British production, although due to stricter government guidelines on what is and isn’t allowed on the internet it was filmed with both participants hidden under a white sheet, speaking in code to each other, and will be preceded by an 18 minute legal disclaimer and heath-and-safety warning. Pornstar Max Stallion called the end of the production “a tearful moment” adding “not least because I accidentally twanged my banjo string lining up for the anal bit. Christ what a way to end it.”

His veteran co-star Steamy Devon had been preparing for the arrival of Peak Fap since her career started 4 months ago. “I’ve already converted my Instagram account from pictures of my boobs to shots of old buildings accompanied by explanations of their architectural significance, I’m currently doing a series on surviving Tudor structures in Yorkshire, and their juxtaposition with modern life.” she says, but admits the transition has been hard, “It’s been difficult, you know. It takes a while to get used to being treated like a person again.”

The Predictability of Science Churnalism + Bonus Sweary Rant

Ca. 20 hours ago, I dropped the following comment on Facebook:

Currently trending is that the Philae lander has perhaps found life on a comet… yeah, if that turns out to be verified and not just media mis-reporting of one lone nut with an incredibly tenuous association with NASA I will physically eat my shorts.

Now, I should reiterate that as I wrote that I had read absolutely nothing about the story on the Philae lander. I had no idea about the specific claims made. All I knew was the phrase “Trending: Philae: Comet That Spacecraft Landed on Could Have Alien Life, Scientists Say”. That’s all.

How much of it did I get right without even looking? Well, it’s obvious innit?

The pattern has become so predictable it was possible to get pretty much all of it right from seeing the mere fact that the story was trending. “Found alien life”? No. Just no. “Scientists say”? Nope, it was one lone nut, namely Chandra Wickramasinghe. “Evidence”? Smevidence.

The only thing I didn’t get right was “tenuous association with NASA” – not surprisingly, Philae is an ESA project, not a NASA one (idiot – though perhaps I just had the EmDrive on the brain). Still, that tends to fit the pattern; since it employs nearly 20,000 people and is associated with countless others, it’s not hard to have a connection with NASA, and “NASA claims” makes a pretty headline no matter the article content.

Still, the story trended anyway.

ALIEN LIFE? Astronomers say there are signs of possible alien life on Comet 67P, after studying data from the European Space Agency’s Philae Lander.

….ABC7 News said.

Philae’s comet may host alien ‘life’: astronomers

….Some other guy said.

Scientists have spotted what some believe to be evidence of life on the Philae comet.

….I Don’t Fucking Understand the First Thing About Science said.

….

…said the Daily Mail because for the last few months I’ve set AdBlock to kill anything from that site and my life has been so much better ever since. Although I’m told their article was on form.

Mere hours later, the refutation articles finally caught up. Bullshit, called Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy (in a near-identical reflex-action to mine). Nope nope nope said Rachel Feltman in the Washington Post. What a croquembouche of solidified emu excrement declared… well, pretty much anyone who knows even the first thing about the subject.

Why do we even bother with the refutation articles? The pattern is quite literally that predictable. Why not just write the generic post – titled “No, Scientists Didn’t Do The Thing You Read About” – and point to it? We can have a few set phrases like “It turns out that the evidence they presented has a more simple, parsimonious and perfectly expected explanation” and “No, the scientist in question wasn’t actually associated with the research project” and absolutely certainly “The claims weren’t published, they were just mouthed off in an email to the press desk” and words to that effect.

It would save so much time.

— Note, profanity begins here —

Mainstream popular science right now is a fucking shambolic piece of cunting horse bollocks. We thought it was bad before, but it hasn’t got much fucking better. The rise of the internet and – buzzword alert – social media has given us easier and more ready access to experts than ever before, but still these fucking fucktarded fucking newspapers, sites and the people who read them still gobble up any old shite guffed up by fucking moron that tells them something.

Lone Nut: “Hey, I’ve got a fucking PhD, kind-of, doesn’t matter that I’ve spent the years since plucking shit-covered morsels of Wrong out of my hairy anus and flinging them at the fucking internet, I have a crank theory for you to post!”

Shitty Newspaper: “Oh, sweet, dude, just what we needed! We haven’t undermined the public’s trust in science for fucking ages!”

Lone Nut: “Yeah, you take that sweaty morsel of shit I just told you!”

Shitty Newspapers: “Yes, sir, please feed me more of your shit! I love it because I’m a filthy fucking whore!”

That’s basically what happens. Each. And. Every. Fucking. Time.

It has been over a decade since Andrew Fucking Wakefield shat all over our collective consciousness with his outright fucking fraudulent claims about autism and measles jabs – and now people are starting to fucking die because of it – and the shitting papers still haven’t learned their fucking lesson about basic fucking fact-checking before jumping to publish some trumped up fucking dingo’s kidneys coming from some twat-mouthed cockwomble.

Just fucking admit it you cunts – you’re not fucking writing science articles, not even fucking popular science articles. You’re writing fucking clickbait for shit’s sake! Or worse, you’re trying to fuck about with peoples’ perceptions of what science even fucking is so that when you publish your own fucking horseshit like “vaccines cause AIDS” and “climate change isn’t real” people will believe your version of events because “Hey, scientists thought there was life on a comet! What idiots!”

Something needs to fucking change. Fucking pronto.

A Graphical Explanation of Consent

Apparently, explaining basic issues like “consent” to the internet is like explaining “descent with modification” to Duane Gish. Except Gish is dead, so at least you’ll have his corpse’s undivided attention.

asking for it

So there we have it. Any questions? No? Good. It’s 20-fucking-15 already, why in the unholy fuck is this conversation still apparently necessary?