Bro, Do You Even Read?

I’m sure the take-home message from this will be “dude, stop following through your referrals so obsessively”, but what people say about me behind closed doors can be enlightening – like the time someone I work with tweeted a link, and I’m pretty sure they have no idea it’s me…

Anyway, look at this extract of an Disqus exchange I spent way too much time finding…


Besides the utter inanity of most internet discussion forums (I won’t judge, I was the same at 19) yep, you read that right: that’s someone trying to debunk the existence of a wage gap by linking to the essay I wrote on it.

3… 2… 1…

Did any of you fucks read it?

At all?

Even casually?

I thought I was pretty 120% a-fucking-bundantly clear that the wage gap is real. It is a thing. It is a statistical reality. In fact, that essay was rebuking exactly the sort of bullshit denialism represented by the CBS news article linked to just before it. Sure, mine is better. It’s better because it concludes the right thing rather than the wrong thing. And did person no.2 read it, either? As they decry BULLSHIT and link to a PolitiFact article that pretty much says the same thing I did – that the wage gap is real, and is an effect of society treating women like crap rather than unequal-pay-for-equal-work.

Did WordPress just register a click for the good of its health, or did you not even bother the server with the http request in the first place?

It’s not the only time this has happened. Fucking Encyclopedia Dramatica describes the formation of SJ Wiki (both sites that I’m not affiliated with and don’t particularly care much for, I should add) thusly:

It was created because the evil privileged cis white male Armondikov had the audacity to propose that perhaps RW should be about rationality, not social issues. [emphasis added, links removed because it’s fucking ED]

Really? The post in question literally says:

But social issues are ongoing, and they are still under debate, and still out there in a sense where they can be preached to a congregation. We don’t need to convince a fledgling skeptic that chiropractic medicine is a load of baloney, but we might need to convince them that the phrase “I don’t mind gay people so long as they don’t ram their sexuality down my throat” is an even bigger con. And one likely to cause just as much harm as cracking someone’s spine to cure cancer.

That extract is also quite close to the top of the post. You don’t need to scroll down hard to see it. In that post I quite literally argued that RationalWiki should tackle social issues. I said it should do so precisely because “rationality” to most of the internet involves “lol, creationists!!!111” for 22 hours a day and “lol, homeopaths!!!!!11” for the remaining two. So perhaps yes, I was arguing that RationalWiki should be about rationality – but that also social issues from rape culture to transmigoyny and beyond should be examined with the same critical eye as chiropractic medicine. I.e., that our goal as self-defined rationalists should be to make the world a better place (nuking ever last byte of ED would be a start, of course) and if we don’t, there wasn’t any point.

And let’s not get started on the strange leaps of persecution complex that leads you to thinking that this is an attack on Christianity in general, and God in general. You can ctrl-F your way through and satisfy that there’s no reference to “Christians” or “God” in there that says such a thing. In fact, I went out of my way very explicitly to describe everything as “wilful ignorance” – which is absolutely not the same as the standard model of “stupid” most people use – and I’ve often said I don’t care what you think, only why you believe it. And when the why is bullshit, I get annoyed.

I don’t get it. I really don’t. You’d think that “reading comprehension” would be one of those bare-minimum requirements you need to be able to write, but apparently not.

Now, I don’t demand that people read to the very end if they get bored. That’s okay. It’d be hypocritical of me to demand that given how prone I am to giving up – for instance, I read pop-science stories in the news by skipping to the last paragraph as it’s efficient, so sue me. And certainly, I won’t claim perfection, because I can find a few instances where I’ve skipped over some nuances. E.g., here, as Dawkins was, according to his fanboys, making a legal argument, not a moral one, which, of course changes… absolutely nothing at all, but still.

But the very least I double-check that I’m getting the damn gist right and don’t claim the fucking opposite of what was said.

So if you’re going to say something about what someone has written, use those allegedly-functioning neurons natural selection gifted to you and read what they actually said (something I’ve also covered before), and not what you think the headline means.


The Real Meaning of 1984

I don’t know what sparked off this thought, but I figured it might be worth writing down here anyway – I doubt I’m the only person to spot it, but I’m sure we’d be in the relative minority.

When people talk about Orwell’s 1984, it’s almost always about the surveillance state. And that seems to be the be-all and end-all of it. “Oh, Microsoft are taking telemetry data from your software and logging it! It’s like 1984!”, or “Another CCTV camera has gone up, Orwell was right!”, and “My phone knows where I am, we’re living in 1984 amirite‽‽”

To me, the more interesting part of 1984 is the doublethink and the reactions people have to news and facts presented to them. Because that is the actual end result of the surveillance or the impression of constant surveillance, and the thing we should be most weary of:

For the moment he had shut his ears to the remoter noises and was listening to the stuff that streamed out of the telescreen. It appeared that there had even been demonstrations to thank Big Brother for raising the chocolate ration to twenty grammes a week. And only yesterday, he reflected, it had been announced that the ration was to be reduced to twenty grammes a week. Was it possible that they could swallow that, after only twenty-four hours? Yes, they swallowed it. Parsons swallowed it easily, with the stupidity of an animal.

Quite literally, Big Brother tells the world “we’ve increased our choco-ration from 30 grammes to 20 grammes” and people cheer at the increase.

Isn’t this much more apt for what our world is like? One day a newspaper can tell us all that migrants will swarm the country, the next day they will demand that the government do something about this terrible refugee crisis. On page 2 they’ll complain about a child sex ring, on page 4 they’ll take a 14 year old girl and drool over her developing breasts. And people will swallow it – as Winston Smith notes – with the stupidity of an animal.

Or more pointedly – and relevant to the machinations of the Ministry of Plenty from the quote above – we know that the cost of food is going up, and we spend a bigger proportion of our income on it, and that in fact it causes a lot of stress for people. Yet the television can’t go 15 minutes without an advert for a supermarket, showing how it has slashed prices, and making things cheaper.

And we swallow that, too, shopping at a cheap megastore that’s just slashed the price of a tin of beans from 70p to 96p.