Putting Britain First… well, fifth.

In which I thought it’d be clever to catalogue two-days of Britain First posts to see what they talk about – the answer won’t shock you.


 

If you’re like me (and I grant this isn’t entirely likely as the majority of the English-speaking internet is American), you’ve probably spent the last week concerned about two major events. They’re two events of extremely insular national self-interest.

  1. Almost the entire NHS is on strike over working contracts being imposed by the government.
  2. Some leaked documents confirm what we’ve always known – rich people avoid tax by parking it out of the country, and our Prime Minister is amongst them.

You may have also been following issues with the UK steel industry, and at this point I throw my hands in the air and say that’s just one of those things I haven’t had the brain-space for. I know it’s a thing, I know not the intimate details.

Anyway, these are stories of insular, national self-interest. So the US election and the rise (and, may the gods be willing, eventual fall) of Donald Trump and the on-going refugee crisis across Europe and whatever shit Daesh have done this time aren’t things I’m counting. Why? Because of a little quasi-political organisation known as Britain First.

They don’t need an introduction, really. We know what they’re like. At best, concerned citizens who are disheartened, disenfranchised and unfortunately misinformed; and at worst, violent, nasty, illiterate, “send-all-the-nig-nog-towelheads-back-to-bongo-bongo-land” hardcore racialists.

Anyway, in light of these 2-3 stories of, I reiterate, national self-interest, I wondered if Britain First did indeed, and as advertised, put Britain first?

Do they show interest in what is happening in this country? Do they show interest in our politics? Our leaders? Our health service? Our education?

At this point, you probably won’t express surprise that the answer is “do they fuck“. I went to their Facebook page, scrolled down, and started categorising fairly broadly. Here’s the post breakdown from the last 48 hours, April 7th and 8th:

BF-2

First observation: they post a lot. It works out as a post every half-hour or so.

Second observation: they mostly post about themselves and Muslims, and after that almost entirely about other countries. They want to take our country back; and while they seem to have plenty of idea who they want to take it back from, they aren’t too clear on where they want to take it back to.

A few explanations of the categories.

  • Self promotion: Britain First do a lot of this, as you can tell. They advertise their protests, put up vlogs by their figureheads, and post pictures about how you should vote for them in London. Buried in these stories might be things relevant to the United Kingdom, but it’s encapsulated and subsumed entirely within their brand.
  • Muslims: This includes any story about a Muslim that was posted only because they were Muslim. Man raped woman? Only counts if they were brown! White Muslim found? Well, that proves it’s not racist! You know, that sort of thing. Two of these posts could be considered “British” as they feature Winston Churchill.
  • European events: Indeed, their major source of news is stuff happening overseas. A lot of these were about the Dutch vote on the EU, and a lot were about Muslims in Europe – making it hard to distinguish between this category and the one above.
  • US Politics: Yes, the United States were a big thing due to a massive surge across one of these days (see below). They have quite literally said “VOTE TRUMP” more times than they’ve said “SAVE UK STEEL”. Because Britain should come first.
  • EU Referendum: And this is the first category that might be considered about Britain. As far as importance go, Britain seems to be fifth in line for their priorities.
  • ISIS: I originally had this as “middle east events” to make it as generic as the “European events” category – but, let’s be honest, these are their “brown people make big boomy bang-bangs in sandy faraway land” stories.
  • Im’grints: It was hard to split things between this and “the towelheads are coming”, but this is anything that’s a bit more general and aimed any migrants of any ethno-religious grouping.
  • Clickbait: Britain First are famous for this. They’ve put up misleading “donate to save the animals!” posters to attract attention, but in this sample they haven’t done much of it.

The rest are effectively “misc”. I will point out the “Fucking commies!” section. One of these stories is about Jeremy Corbyn getting The Morning Star delivered to him.

I broke it down by two days. This shows that their God Bless America fetish was a bit of a one-day spike, so perhaps not representative. As you can also see from this one, their posts about the Panama Papers came in day 2 (April 8th), and only in the last few hours – so they’re a little late to a party that’s been going on all week.

BF-1

Now, in fairness, they have actually used one of these Panama Papers posts to call for David Cameron to resign – in line with a lot of liberal thought on this.”Wait, Britain First and the UK left agreeing? Surely not!” I hear you cry. And you’d be right. Given the details of their posts on the EU referendum, a lot from the last day have objected to Cameron being on the pro-EU (the “in” campaign) side, and seek to punish him for it. After all, if anyone can sway the UK right to stay in the EU it will be Cameron, and it’s probably in our selfish interest to support him on that, rather than call for him to resign over something comparatively minor. You can also back through Britain First’s comments on the Panama papers, where many resort to the “but it’s legal” defence, suggesting they really aren’t too bothered about the wealthy fleecing them, but are happy to see a Left-wing Socialist Communist Liberal like David Cameron fall on his sword regardless.

Anyway… why, again?

Britain First is followed by over a million people, and are slowly becoming what counts as mainstream thought in the UK – regardless of what they claim about the ‘mainstream media’ they are not as far onto the fringes as they claim. They’ve grown from obscurity to having quite a voice amongst real, actual people, with actual voting powers.

And remember, this is 48 hours where the major events of national self-interest have been the NHS going on strike and the Prime Minister’s involvement in a tax scandal. These are not stories that only affect Guardianistas who are snorting their third line of avodaco, either – the entire country relies on the health service for emergency care, ambulances, accident and emergency, and most medical training. We rely on its scale and purchasing power to negotiate better rates for medical drugs and treatments. We rely on its doctors for cutting edge research. Meanwhile, tax avoidance by the wealthy accumulates into the Tax Gap, which is one of the largest government expenditures and a firm contributor to the government deficit – and it’s the working class, average person, not the millionaire, that gets punished in their attempt to close this gap. They are definitely important and, as I’ve said, very much within our insular national self-interest.

These are big things ignored in favour of posts about how all Pakistanis are rapists.

For anyone who really wants to put this country first, and put the people who live here first, these are major stories. For anyone who doesn’t care about those particular things, this is a country of 64 million people and so it can’t be hard to find some relevant news about us if we want to be selfish. Why is a page that puts Britain, supposedly, first, hardly talking about us? Why are they talking about a “foreign” religious group more than their own religion? Why are they talking about a non-EU county more than they’re talking about the upcoming EU referendum?

So it’s time to stop pretending this is even remotely about “patriotism”.

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One Last F**king Time – the Wage Gap Isn’t a Myth

There’s been a recent, sizeable traffic spike to this from Facebook – which means almost certainly some MRA idiot has posted it while flailing their arms around going ‘FLUERRURRFFILLUURRBBBAURRFEMINAZI!!’ or similar. Well, I dunno since I can’t search it publicly, but I’m playing the odds here, and the world has previous convictions for crimes against reading comprehension.

So, let’s go through this one more fucking time.

When you say “the wage gap is a myth” you’re almost certainly referring to the fact that if you take into account maternity leave,* hours worked, type of jobs worked, sector, time spent away from home, distance travelled, duration of employment, seniority and so on, then women earn only about 95% of what men earn, not the oft-touted 60-75% (depending on location).

Great. Have a prize. What you’ve just said is that once you take into account all the sources of sexism, misogyny and inequality; then sexism, misogyny and inequality don’t exist. That’s like saying “once you take into account the fact that it’s a hill, this mountain is actually quite flat”. It helps no-one and shows you’re not willing to discuss reality like a fucking adult.

We don’t need your ‘adjusted’ figures – not because that approach is invalid, and not because it’s mathematically incorrect, and not because it isn’t somehow interesting,** but because you’re not using those adjusted figures correctly.

‘Adjusted’ statistics are for when you know you’re not comparing like with like, so you need to iron out those problems to get a more reliable answer. If I’m working on kinetic studies of a new catalyst I know to be about five times faster than my previous one, I don’t ‘adjust’ for it by dividing its rates by five and declaring “Actually, the new catalyst being faster is a myth! Look, I even did the sums to prove it!” In the case of the wage gap, the on-average, over-all-women, unadjusted-and-unmolested data is appropriate because we are literally asking the question: do women, on average, earn less than men and why?

That’s the question, and that question isn’t answered by “taking into account” anything. Men and women are already like-with-like enough to get answers to that question. We’re not asking the question “well, if we take a lot of shit into account and ignore the sources of potential inequality do women earn less?” – and even when we do, the answer is still “yes”, for further interesting reasons.***

That, on average, women earn less is a fact that isn’t going to go away any time soon. And your pathetic attempts to sweep it under the rug and bang it down with a broom and pretend otherwise isn’t going to make that very real gap close any faster.

Now go away.


* It’s worth pointing out that the United States doesn’t have paid maternity leave like the civilised and developed First World does. So, by the coin-toss accident that says you’re the von Neumann machine responsible for propagating our species, you have to go a year of your life unpaid and perhaps never get that job back. So, Yanks, whenever you’re ready to grow up and join the rest of us, we’ll be waiting.
** Interesting because it can help point us towards things that we can fix to improve equality. Do we shove women into low-paying jobs, or do we pay less for jobs women are shoved into? It doesn’t unambiguously say we have equality. You can see the difference, right?
*** Namely, sub-conscious biases in the hiring process will start women on the lower end of an offered salary range, an effect that has been demonstrated in the lab and in the wild. This proves that even equal-pay-for-equal-work still isn’t 100% here. Now that really is interesting, dontcha think?

The Wage Gap “Myth” – A Stock Response

The wage gap is a myth!

Women don’t earn less than men!

The 77-cents-on-the-dollar stat is bullshit!

Thus begin countless posts, articles, comments, editorials and even infographics (some of which are illustrated here for your vomit-inducing enjoyment) that talk about the wage gap – written by people I might start referring to as “Wage Gap Mythers”. I’ve literally lost count of the number of times I’ve read this sort of thing in the last few months. Seemingly endless pages are devoted to dispelling the idea that women earn less than men. Every time someone brings up the wage gap, the Mythers drop by. They’ve been shared across Facebook groups, wikis, websites and comment sections so frequently that I really just want to get a stock response written down to them – it saves time.

Basically: “women earn less because the bigger companies don’t employ them.” This is, of course, totally fine and not an issue nor evidence of a problem at all.

The grand irony of all these Myther posts, though, is that while their titles and thesis statements say things like “the wage gap is a myth”, what they then go on to do is to demonstrate the exact opposite. It’s almost creationist-like thinking: start with the conclusion, and shoehorn that conclusion into any and all facts you can find. Even if the facts outright contradict the conclusion or the logic developing those facts doesn’t support it. I’ll demonstrate how this works by breaking the “myth” argument down into a little step-by-step:

  1. State that women don’t earn less than men (or don’t earn 3/4 of their average earnings) – this is our generic Wage Gap Myther thesis statement
  2. State that this is because women do different jobs and have different commitments and so can’t earn as much as men and generally demonstrate numerous reasons why women actually earn less than men
  3. Absolutely ignore that Point 2 directly contradicts Point 1

If there’s time, the next point is to conclude that the real “wage gap” is only a few percent once you’ve taken all the reasons stated in Point 2 into account. Which is like saying “well, if you take into account the slant and the wobbliness, this floor is perfectly flat”. Or “once you’ve subtracted all the people living there, the population of London is actually zero”. Or “once you’ve taken into account all the people in indentured servitude against their will, slavery doesn’t exist”. You get the picture – “if you ignore the potential sources of sexism, sexism doesn’t exist!”, which I think is the most concise summary of the Myther position possible.

Well, given that a lot of men treat women like shit in the workplace and make assumptions that only the men have important jobs while women make the tea… then yes, yes they are paying to surround themselves with cock.

I don’t know how best to summarise the problems with the Wage Gap Myth argument in a way that will get through to Mythers. Because if Mythers are united by one thing it’s the fact they’ve been tricked into thinking they’ve done something highly clever; they’ve delved into the data, they’ve reached their own conclusions, and everyone thinks that when you reveal something as a “myth” it must be a really skeptical, rational and intelligent thing to do… but they haven’t. No data that you can find actually dispels the notion that women, on average, earn less than men – often very significantly. About 20% less in the United Kingdom, about 23% in the United States (a place still stubbornly opposed to any sort of Equal Pay Act) and 16% across the European Union on average, with a massive variance across member states. The studies are there, the statistics are there, they’re not going away. The Myther thesis statement is just plain and simply wrong.

Women don’t do the higher paying jobs. Sexism? Yes. Yes it is. Women don’t do, aren’t allowed to do, are discouraged from, the higher paying jobs. This is the point. This is literally the point. This is not some hidden conspiracy, this is the actual point. You have got so close to the point yet have still managed to so spectacular miss it, it’s like you’ve made the Kessel Run in less than 0.001 parsecs.

So what does that leave you with if you’re a Myther and want to write something on the subject of a wage gap? Well, you can quibble that “on average” needs to be given context, because those statistics are over an entire population of men and women, and you can mention all the reasons that women earn less than men, and, well… that’s about it. Unless you’re a complete fucking idiot in which case you might say “well, this man earns less than this woman therefore…” but the less said about people who try that one the better.

So I’ll summarise why the Wage Gap Myth argument is bullshit, as best as possible in big letters and short words:

FINDING EXCUSES FOR SOMETHING IS NOT THE SAME AS PROVING IT DOESN’T EXIST

In fact, let’s just underscore the irony of these responses one more time: their premise is “the wage gap doesn’t exist” and “women don’t earn less than men” but because that’s a fact that simply is, these “myth” posts have to explicitly acknowledge the existence of a wage gap and then find excuses for it. The Myther argument is nothing but excuses: excuses that simply wouldn’t exist and wouldn’t need to be found if the wage gap was actually mythical.

Did I mention this is creationist-level logic, here? What part of “the wage gap is a myth” and “women don’t earn less than men” is supported by making excuses for the very existence of such a fact?

But anyway, let’s assume a hypothetical Myther accepts this, and they then accept that they are, in actual fact, just making excuses… sorry, finding reasons… for the gap. After all, women do, statistically speaking, do different jobs to men. They do, statistically speaking, take care of children more frequently. They do, really they do, take on more part-time and lower paid work. So yes, you’re right – whether you’re an MRA, a politician, some random blogger who thinks they’re smarter because they’ve stumbled upon this startling revelation – there are reasons women, on average, earn less than men.

We take a hard job that requires constant attention, dedication and a lot of training… and we pay more for the one that is traditionally male. A cynical interpretation? Yes. But unfortunately, the cynical interpretation sounds like it has a lot more explanatory value.

My laconic response to that? “Congratulations! Have a fucking prize!”

(Does the sarcasm come across in text, I’m never sure…)

Do you genuinely think this is news to people?

Do you really think that this somehow isn’t the point social progressives and feminists have been making for years?

Do you actually think that, somehow, this is an okay situation to be in?

Are you waiting for me to declare “Oh how wrong I’ve been! Women aren’t treated like shit in the world! They’re just… erm… treated like… shit! But that’s fine, there are Reasons!”

Let’s use the word “predicated” in a sentence: the Myther argument is predicated on a straw man interpretation that people complaining about the wage gap are under the impression that women get paid ~20% less for the exact same work. This isn’t true at all. Which you’d know if the average Myther had ever bothered reading anything written by a Social Justice Warrior Enthusiast any time in the last few decades. But I really don’t think the average Myther or MRAsshole or MGTOWer would ever be caught dead doing such a thing.

wage

Literally every article on the subject says “the wage gap is a myth” but then goes on to say “the wage gap is real it’s just… shutupshutupshutupshutupshutupshutupshutup!!” Sod it, this is worse than creationism.

The Reasons behind the wage gap really isn’t news to anyone. No one who has ploughed any thought into the existence of the wage gap needs to be informed of these reasons. Yes, women earn less because they work different hours at different pay rates because of various reasons. Thank you very much Captain Fucking Obvious. The difference between the progressive opinion and the “we more smarter than you because wage gap be myth” position is that we took it a little further – we asked one more “why?”

Why do women work these lower paid jobs? Could it be that society rail-roads us into particular careers? Could it be that men are told they should do one thing and women another?

Why do women disproportionately do more child-care than men? Surely, if we’re such an equal society that the wage gap is a “myth”, then this shouldn’t be an issue, right? Last I checked, it took two people to make a baby (this may be news to people with the emotional and intellectual maturity of the average Men’s Rights Activist, of course) and so why wouldn’t the responsibility be split nearly 50:50? Surely there should be nothing to take into account from this if there wasn’t a social discrepancy, right?

Or let’s take a more insidious twist on that first “why” – Why do we pay less for jobs that women do? Put another way: do we force women into lower paying jobs, or do we devalue jobs done by women? That dichotomy is the driving force that explains the existence of a wage gap – a fact that “Wage Gap Mythers” very explicitly admit to in their quest to find excuses – and neither option looks like it could let society off the hook.

The answers to those additional “why?” questions aren’t straightforward, nor are they easy to admit to, and certainly outside the scope of this post. But we try. We at least give it a shot, which is certainly an improvement on an argument that stops two logical steps previously and assumes the opposite conclusion.

And this is without getting into the research that demonstrates – in both controlled and real-world environments – that women tend to get offered lower starting salaries for identical qualifications (something replicated with ethnicity, and it gets worse there), get rejected at a higher rate and let’s not get started on the attitudes that they can and do face at work. None of that even comes close to supporting the Myther position.

In many respects, Mythers have their facts absolutely straight. They’ve thought about how society affects women and minorities, how it affects their eduction, their lifestyles, and leads to the fact they earn far less than their more privileged counterparts. It’s just fundamentally annoying that they’re so blinded by the presumed “myth” conclusion that they can’t see what these facts are outright screaming in their face.


You may now commence your incessant adolescent whining in the comments.

How To Be A Proper Fucking Scientist – A Short Quiz

Answers here, complaints about the answers can go here

Recently, this little quiz from Time Magazine has been doing the rounds. Reactions to it have mostly gone along the lines of – and I’ll paraphrase here – “Holy fucking shit how the fuck can people not answer these piss easy questions how fucking stupid are people?!?!?”

Yeah, yeah, whatever. You know stuff. Cool story, bro. But science education isn’t (read: shouldn’t be) about declarative knowledge. Memorising facts isn’t really science. For my students, I don’t really care if they can memorise the reactivity trends down the alkali metals and down the halogens – because you can simply deduce them by understanding the trends in electronegativity of the elements. And even the trends in electronegativity can be simply deduced by knowing atomic structure.

It’s safe to say that I’ve done pretty much minimal memorisation in my career so far, because you don’t need to “know” stuff (in the sense of rote-learning facts) to be a scientist. Well, I once thought about memorising the periodic table as an exercising in pegging and memory palaces, but – eugh – effort, and besides, I own this beautiful thing and have a caffeine addiction.

Instead, I propose the following exercise to test your real, actual factual, scientific know-how. Let’s see how pedantry over the number of planets helps you with this.

Question 1

A national newspaper prints a story on how an expert believes the chaya leaf will be a cure for cancer. What is the most important thing to look for in the story:

  • a) The expert’s qualifications
  • b) Which institution the expert comes from
  • c) The experiments they have done
  • d) Whether the reporter writing the story has a positive opinion on the subject
  • e) Whether your friends have tried the cure yet

Question 2

You are presented with the following graph:

What does this graph tell you?

  • a) Nothing in particular
  • b) That organic food causes autism
  • c) That autistic people eat more organic food
  • d) That there is a hidden third relationship at work
  • e) That the person making the graph is a shill for a pharmaceutical company

Question 3

A company is offering a programme to make you rich and successful in business. They say they take thousands of people each year on this course. To prove it works, they invite four people to speak about the benefits of the programme and how it transformed their lives. Of the following choices, which further evidence best indicates that the programme works as advertised?

  • a) At least three more speakers to make it statistically significant
  • b) Another testimony from an independent source
  • c) Nothing, the number of testimonies is sufficient
  • d) Interviews and testimonies from the people for whom the program didn’t work
  • e) Background information on the people offering testimony

Question 4

A shop has an automated alarm by the doors to test if people are walking out with stolen goods. The alarm sounds. Given that the alarm is guaranteed to catch 95% of all thieves, what is the probability that the person caught by the alarm is a thief?

  • a) 0%
  • b) Less than 95%
  • c) More than 95%
  • d) 100%
  • e) More information needed

Question 5

The following is a logical syllogism. The two premises lead to a conclusion:

  • Premise 1) Some doctors are tall
  • Premise 2) Some men are doctors
  • Conclusion) Some men are tall

The above syllogism is valid: true or false?

Question 6

A medical trial for a new drug to treat cold symptoms is undertaken. 20 people are placed in the control group and given a placebo pill. 40 people are put in the intervention group and given the drug, but 15 drop out over the course of the study. Does this:

  • a) Strengthen the study because the control and intervention groups are now nearly the same size
  • b) Weaken the study because we lose information on the drop outs
  • c) Weaken the study because the statistical significance is affected
  • d) Strengthen the study because people who the drug didn’t work on are weeded out
  • e) Have no effect on the study’s outcomes

Question 7

You are presented with the following graph on the news. It represents unemployment figures for two small groups of people in contrast to the previous year. The news report uses it to demonstrate a massive difference in the relative unemployment rate between the two groups.

graph

Why is the graph misleading?

  • a) It lacks a title on the Y axis saying that it’s a percentage
  • b) The data should be continuous, like a line chart
  • c) The graph doesn’t start from zero
  • d) “Group A” and “Group B” should be labelled better
  • e) The colour choice produces a sub-conscious bias in the viewer

Question 8

A new pre-screening test for breast cancer is announced in the news. The experts who made it claim a 99% success rate in detecting the condition early, an improvement on a previous test which had only an 65% success rate.  In the old test, 1 in 100 people would be falsely diagnosed, in the new test 1 in 50 would be falsely diagnosed. Which test is better?

  • a) The old test
  • b) The new test
  • c) They’re about the same
  • d) More data needed
  • e) It’s complicated

Question 9

All toupee’s look fake. How do you evaluate this statement?

  • a) Examine fake-looking hair
  • b) Examine real-looking hair
  • c) Examine hair whether it looks “fake” or not
  • d) You cannot evaluate this statement
  • e) The statement is true by definition

Question 10

A newspaper publishes a piece on the safety of a new vaccine given to combat the flu in people over 60. Their story centres around two people who died shortly after receiving the vaccine, and states that it should be recalled. What additional evidence is required to demonstrate that the vaccine is dangerous:

  • a) The rate of flu infections in people over 60
  • b) The rate of vaccine uptake in people over 60
  • c) The rate of flu mortality in people over 60
  • d) All of the above
  • e) Nothing, as the story is sufficient evidence to indicate a problem

Answers shortly. No cheating please.

You Literally Won’t Believe These Mind-Blowing Simple Statistics… And How Wrong People Are About Them

Getting a bit sick of this post, actually. I should really get around to re-writing it with some newer information and statistics rather than leaving it scattered around 20 different comment sections. Either way, the take-home point for MRAs sharing this sort of thing remains the same – quit your bullshit persecution complex and get over yourself you whiny self-entitled prick.


How d’you like my attempt at a click-bait headline? Cool, eh? *wink-wink*

Anyway, here are the statistics in question. They’re a specific formulation of something I’ve seen 4-5 times in different ways. It concerns how “hard done by” men actually are – and therefore is a complete and thorough deconstruction and destruction of feminism and women’s rights.

privilege

Fucking women… Bah!

Hopefully, it shouldn’t take a genius to figure out where this is going. The above is bullshit – not that the stats lie, but that their application is flawed. I’ll cover a general response first for brevity and then, for completeness, look at each one individually lest someone whines about missing a point. This is extensive, but that’s the issue with bullshit; it takes a long time to thoroughly dismantle to the point where you can begin to start correcting things. I won’t re-explain what “privilege” means, I’ll try to avoid even raising it as an issue so that anyone reading this won’t need to understand it.

Summary

Overall, none of these statistics (save one, just, see below) have anything to do with gender. Gender is not a causal factor in these cases.* That’s it, basically. If you cannot be bothered to read further (I won’t blame you for that) then that’s your take home message. Those stats above are not male issues or problems in the way that, say, breast cancer or being raped is a female problem.** No one is being targeted in these situations because they are male, and if you can’t spot that, I’ll reiterate how that works for each point below.

Secondly, most of the people who regurgitate these statistics – whom I refer to as MRAssholes, because “MRA” alone suggests that they’re both interested in rights and activism, but this isn’t the case – are simply not interested in addressing these statistics and the dependencies. This sort of thing is used exclusively as a whine – “look how bad us men have it!!” or “see, women are privileged too!” That’s all. No thought, no solutions, no progress; just whining.

These apparent “activists” have demonstrably no interest in addressing these issues, or real issues that actually arise from being male. A simple search for “Men United” (the prostate cancer awareness campaign ran by Prostate Cancer UK) amongst the usual suspects of Men’s Rights on the internet, even the UK-based ones, produces absolute nada as a result. If their interest was in helping men for problems arising because they were men, that sort of thing would be front page news. But no, they instead want to attack women, and blame women, for their own shortcomings, failures, and personal issues. More general searches for male health and well-being also produce precious few results – while I’m open to proof that the precious few are actual rules and aren’t exceptions, I’m not holding my breath (I did find one, which is linked to below, but the comments section suggests it wasn’t universally supported).

So overall; this is whining, and pointless whining at that, with no solutions for how to actually help men or solve wider social problems. The specifics are below.

*Clarification: 4 out of 5 are conflating factors rather than casual. But if you want an executive, take-home summary that summarises them all, then it’s that gender is not a factor in these statistics. Certainly in the 1 out of 5, the cases of suicide, most MRA groups are blinded to why it is a causal factor.

**Clarification 2: I saw this line criticised elsewhere (thanks for not enquiring in the comments where I would have answered this in a less annoyed tone rather than having to have it sent to me from a closed Facebook group) because it supposedly reads as me saying “men can’t get breast cancer” and “men are never raped”. Really? You think I’m that stupid? Do you think I’m not aware of the prevalence of those things? Take the common sense interpretation of this, please – there are issues that, for Reasons, affect women more often than men, and others issues, for Reasons, affect men more oftern than women. Of the former, breast cancer and sexual violence are two examples. It’s not to say that this is not a problem for men, just that these are statistically outlying problems, not core things to keep you up at night because it’s within reasonable chance that you would be affected.

Combat Deaths

The thing about combat deaths is that this is entirely due to exposure. That 97% of combat fatalities are male needs to be taken in the context that about 97% of all soldiers worldwide are male. Even in a (comparatively) progressive modern military such as the US Army, only approximately 15% of all occupations are held by women – a figure that drops way further when you look at frontline infantry, and in the US Marines it drops to a literal handful. This is something that has been fought against by women and feminists for a long time, who have been demanding the ability to enlist throughout most of the modern warfare era. The results of this campaigning have seen an exponential rise in the number of military positions that no longer exclude women by default, and female soldiers are now as prized and celebrated as their male counterparts.

Yet, it is primarily male soldiers, generals and social commentators who oppose this. And if it’s not male soldiers (I can disagree with, but actually respect their view on this), it’s male sofa-warriors with an internet connection and an addiction to increasingly identical First-Person Shooters.

Go on Internet Tough Guy, tear yourself away from shouting racist abuse on multi-player Call of Duty long enough tell them they’re not allowed to serve in combat because they’re physically weak. Go on. See what happens. I dare you.

The statistic on combat deaths is further misleading because it excludes civilian deaths. Effectively by definition this affects either both sexes/genders equally, or disproportionately to women as the men were off fighting (yes, that’s conjecture, so?). Civilian deaths in war, on average, are responsible for approximately 50% of all casualties across the board. Historically this has been through war-induced famine, and with significant increases in some modern warfare fields where civilian casualties can dominate – the second world war, for instance, is estimated to be as high as 70% civilian casualties. That’s a lot of women killed due to combat.

But as stated in the summary, this is not a male issue. This is a social issue; and the way to improve it is to oppose war, not to oppose feminism. Anti-war protests and campaigns are ten-a-penny, yet no significant contribution to them has been made by prominent “Men’s Rights” activists or movements – and when they are, they’re framed in this rather dishonest way as the fault of women for not dying enough. As Man Boobz has reported recently, some self-styled MRAs are literally saying that women should die in droves to combat the discrepancy. If that attitude strikes you as a reasonable response to a disparity in the gender of soldiers killed, you have some serious issues you need to address.

Homicide Victims

That the majority of homicide victims are male needs to be put in the much wider context of a more nuanced breakdown of the demographics – but first, the easy and cheap shot; the majority of homicide perpetrators are also male. What should that tell us? Well, frankly, nothing much more than the demographics of the victims tell us, but you don’t see that factoid being cherry-picked as an example of female privilege.

The statistic has come as a surprise to some people I’ve spoken to on this – who either thought that the split was closer to 50:50, or that life really does work like a police procedural where the victim is always a pretty girl found in a dumpster by the hard-nosed cop and her witty and implausibly quirky sidekick (Castle, I’m looking at you…). But no, the majority of murders (in US statistics, which are nicely summarised here, while the equivalent UK data is discussed here – since we’re all about the first-world-problems here) are gang-related or drugs related. That gang membership and drug-dealing is a predominantly male profession makes being male more of a confounding variable than a causal factor in this case. Presumably as more women begin working in gangs, female victims and perpetrators of homicide will increase accordingly.

Rejected Plot Idea No. 1: Castle and Beckett discover the body of gang member killed for dealing drugs on the wrong territory. It goes unsolved for the rest of the episode.

Now, there are some cases where gender could be a causal factor in homicide rather than merely a confounding variable. For this, we need to look at whether the victim is the victim primarily for being a certain way – for instance, hate crimes are perpetuated with the victim’s identity being a part contributor to the motive. And quite fittingly, the US crime statistics do summarise exactly this in the form of “intimate” or “domestic” violence – i.e., between partners, lovers or family members – or in sex related crimes including rape. In this, sex/gender is not just a confounding variable, but is in fact the exact reason a perpetrator and victim will be in the same place at the same time. And in this (the US statistics), we see a very different picture to the overall, gang-violence dominated, trend; the majority of victims are female and the perpetrators are male. 70% of victims in “intimate” violence are female, and just shy of 50% are victims in intra-family homicide, 80% in sex related crimes and again just shy of 50% in arson and poisoning.

In short, where gender is a causal factor, the majority of victims are female; where gender is not a factor at all (e.g., arson), the rate of victims is ~50:50; and the skew in the overall 75% male figure comes from gang and drug rates of 90+% male victims (and, as a matter of course, 90+% male perpetrators) where sex/gender is just a confounding variable caused by gang membership. So while overall your prior odds of being murdered are  in the region of 75% if you’re male, if you’re outside one of the major high-risk groups such as a gang member or drug user, your risks increase significantly more if you are female.

Again, no mention of how to actually solve this problem coming from MRAssholes. It’s just a whine. No campaigning to decrease the murder rate, or campaigns to keep young men away from gangs. Nothing. They seem to be treating it as if Germaine Greer spent 90% of The Female Eunuch declaringthat young boys should join gangs and deal drugs, rather than far weirder things like drinking menstrual blood.

Industrial Deaths and Accidents

This is pretty much ditto to the military combat deaths; it’s a question of exposure. High risk occupations, manual labour and industrial for instance, are primarily male dominated. The occupations are often seen as masculine, anti-feminine, and as a result women are actively discouraged from performing them. Challenging these ideas of specified gender roles is something that modern feminism looks to fight against – that being female shouldn’t stop you being a bricklayer if that’s what you feel you should do, and as a corollary, that being a secretary should be a fine enough occupation if you’re male.

Mmm… secretaries…

Far from it being an MRA position, it’s actually a very third-wave feminist position to say there should be more female accident victims because better representation of women in the high-risk workplace is a stated goal.

Well, it would be, except that unlike the position above that suggests we should kill women to “even out” the disparity in combat victims since the first world war, an actual liberal position would be to reduce the number of accidents in total. Because, naturally, the average liberal feminist doesn’t go around actively celebrating someone’s death as a sop to equality. A gender breakdown is effectively a meaningless statistic that tells us nothing about the nature of accidents, however, a more useful breakdown does show a meaningful decrease in workplace accidents.

The Orwellian Nightmare; Big Guv’mnt regulation leads to fewer people killing themselves on building sites.

The way to reduce accidents overall is not to blame women for not being in the right (or wrong) occupations, but to take personal safety seriously, not to glorify unnecessary risk, and effectively punish those that risk the lives of workers and those around them in the name of corner-cutting and profit. Yet, from bitter experience I know that MRAsshole attitudes have a very significant overlap with libertarian anti-regulation politics – and a further overlap with the kind of weird douchey behaviour that is obsessed with being Alpha-As-Fuck, which means Real Men don’t wear helmets on building sites or something like that. Either you accept regulation and oversight combined with liberal attitudes to gender roles, or you accept higher casualty rates selectively for the dominant demographic; you cannot have both.

Suicide Victims

Now this is serious fucking business. But it’s also complicated fucking business. Rates of suicide are tied into a myriad of factors. On the face of it, there’s depression and mental health – that much is obvious. There is a massive stigma surrounding mental health; and indeed more so if you’re male, where talking about problems and opening up about them is considered “unmanly” (talking to someone about your feelings is soooo beta, you horrible mangina, you…).

So in this particular issue, the prevalence of male victims is more than the confounding factor that it is in the above examples.

But with the MRAsshole crowd, which is inextricably linked to hyper-misogyny and pick-up-artistry, such a stigma is actively reinforced. A search for “mental health” on A Voice For Men quite literally produces fuck all in terms of help or guidance. A little bit of kowtowing to generic “men’s health”, but two posts in two years rounds down to zero in my humble opinion when it comes to such a serious issue. The stigma that you face as a man for having mental health issues is massive; and yet it’s really an intersectional feminism position to fight against it because that’s about dismantling the attitude that says it’s not okay to talk and be open if you’re male. As someone in possession of both a penis and a Y chromosome (because this is, of course, so damn important for some people…), this is something that actually affects me – but improving access to mental health care in general, as well as specifically fighting against the stigma of being a man with a problem, is the way to fight against this.

Today on Spherical Bullshit, we ask “why do all mental health stock photos look exactly the same?”

But there’s also access to the means of suicide. I don’t really want to de-rail this into gun control, but, it’s a pretty solid statistic that the majority of firearms deaths in the United States are by suicide, not homicide. Where access to firearms is limited, those deaths don’t occur. The theory is pretty simple; suicidal thoughts are transitory; and the ease with which someone can actually kill themselves correlates with an increased suicide rate. A temporary deterrent doesn’t lead someone to seek an option elsewhere, but delays them committing the act long enough for the suicidal thoughts to pass – this is something backed up by evidence from suicide barriers on bridges. The correlation between gun-ownership and perceived manliness is pretty much undeniable – as this particular advert for Bushmaster evidently shows. Combine all this together and you have a significant recipe for increased suicide rates. You have an easy and rapid access to an object that will kill you effectively, that you own because you’ve been encouraged to be “manly”, and thoughts that you refuse to share because you’ve been encouraged to be “manly”. That’s the theory, and evidence from suicide rates and methods demonstrate it fairly robustly.

In this case I did – shock of horrors – find something on this subject on A Voice for Men that might be constructive – but unfortunately a good-size chunk of the comments underline exactly the problem outlined in this entire post; they don’t care about speaking out on male issues or mental health issues, they just want to blame women for them.

Child Custody

Child custody is a another complex issue that has a lot of confounding variables attached to it. It’s really not as simple as you expecting a 50:50 split in outcomes. In fact, given other evidence we should expect anything but an equal custody split.

Now, some history. Back in the day, wrangling over child custody was a non-issue. It was never contested; it was the case that the father literally owned the children, and the mother had no rights to her own children at all. That was just The Way. In the case of a divorce, the children defaulted to the father. Check out any period drama for a good demonstration of how this works, it’s a plot point in most of them.

Elizabeth Foster, later Elizabeth Cavendisth, Duchess of Devonshire, had three children by John Thomas Foster. After they separated, he maintained sole custody and control of the children, and didn’t allow them to see their mother for 14 years. Elizabeth had no legal rights over them. And yes, I’m bringing up this particular example purely because I’ve seen The Duchess and Hayley Atwell in period dress makes me want to take up smoking.

While this fact about male-dominated pre-20th century society is well-known, it’s not often applied. It makes for very striking and vital context for discussing child custody settlements today. We’re talking about women going from absolutely zero rights in this field, to something of a slight advantage in a courtroom. I feel oppressed already…

So, along comes modern law-making that decided that “sanity” was better than “de facto” when it came to figuring out child custody. And so the law switched over, slowly over the course of the early/mid-20th century, from the father having automatic and uncontested custody, to courts making a decision based on the “most suitable parent”. In a way, MRAssholes are right on this; it’s largely thanks to feminism that this has been brought about. The earliest waves of feminism, dating back to the suffragettes and even earlier, focused on legal rights and representation for women; and this included child custody amongst other basic rights that we now take for granted – though emphatically do not mean that social equality has been reached (see, like, all of the above). So far, so history.

But… consider the homicide statistics quoted above and related non-fatal statistics on domestic violence. In the cases of intimate violence and domestic violence, the perpetrators are largely male and the victims female – although by no means a rule, this heavily stacks the statistical weighting of what we expect to see. What the courts conclude as “the most suitable parent” will be heavily biased towards the mother. If a large number of couples split due to violence, and the majority of violence is committed by men, a disparity here should be a no-brainer and highly expected. There’s a lot more that could be discussed on this, but I’ll leave it here for now.

I’m not going to discuss specific cases where there’s demonstrable vindictiveness that leads to unfair custody results – ex-couples dragging themselves through divorce courts are vindictive and bitter, film at 11 – but this is largely a problem for those specific cases, and isn’t proven to be a systematic problem by an overall statistical discrepancy between men and women and their respective victories in child custody battles. That alone doesn’t say anything about specific motives of why the disparity is the case. Of course, this could be a serious issue that self-styled MRAs could have a good point about and a positive contribution to make. Unfortunately they seem incapable of staying on focus long enough. Even the usually on-topic Fathers4Justice went completely off the rails with their most recent attack ads on mothers.

Further Summary

This was long, but hopefully thorough enough. So, in final conclusion, we’ve seen the statistics. We’ve seen more detailed breakdowns of the statistics. We’ve seen the context of them. We’ve seen reasons why the world is like that. We’ve seen ways we could fix it. We’ve seen reasons that most male “rights” enthusiasts largely miss the lessons we can conclude from these statistics

I deliberately haven’t tried demonstrating why treating these aren’t “female privilege” as some might put it; hopefully, I won’t have to.

7 (un)Surprising Signs That Astrology Is Total Bullshit (part 1)

A day or so ago, Matthew Currie posted an open letter to James Randi (and foundation) on BeliefNet.com, purporting to show how he was using unfair straw man arguments against astrology. Part 2 then arrived, where Currie goes through a JREF booklet page-by-page trying to show its errors. The only appropriate response is this:

I’m not even sorry, it really is that bad. It’s pages and pages of whining and moaning about either pedantic details or nothing at all. Currie even ends the article saying he’s not even going to go into:

…the false equivalency on Page 12, the deceptive test results on Page 13, the phony take-down based on The Forer Effect on page 14, the stunning irony of the invocation of Confirmation Bias on Page 15, and the ridiculous misuse of Sun Sign Forecasts on Page 16 and 17 and 18.

So yeah, seriously, Currie ends his “epic take-down” by saying he isn’t going to bother with the real meat of the skeptical opinion on astrology – the underlying psychology, the cognitive biases or the actual results data. As a result, responding to and refuting (in fact, merely even bothering to read) Currie’s article is what I would call “a complete fucking waste of my time”. But he did conclude by pointing readers in the direction of this piece. Considering the context, this should be the greatest evidence that astrology really works ever assembled, right? Yeah, you know exactly where this is going…

So, here are the first 4 of 7 supposedly surprising signs that astrology works.

Astrology & Your Love Life

astro_1

Jung was a bit of a mystic and flake, so has become the go-to person for astrologers and New Age types when they want a “reputable scientist” to back them up. Yet, he’s hardly the be-all and end-all of authority on psychology – indeed, how can he, considering he’s been dead for over fifty years? Criticism of Jung can, and has, filled countless pages, and is hardly new.

He once noted that “astrology represents the sum of all the psychological knowledge of antiquity” – while his spiritual influence are well known, it seems that some of his approaches were to explain astrology with psychology, not the other way around. He did play a part in developing the concept of “synchronicity“, which states that events may be connected by a common meaning that human experience gives to them. This relationship may not necessarily be causal, but entirely within the mind. As a result, Jung’s psychological theory – one that has little evidence or predictive value associated with it – has been widely criticised as simply being apophenia, aka, seeing meaning in random noise.

As for Jung’s study of married couples, there are quite literally no sources that I’ve found so far outside of astrology websites (sigh…) and many of them conflict on the details. As a result, it’s near impossible to criticise in a meaningful sense – yet is impossible to take seriously, too. However, a more intuitive explanation presents itself if we take the qualitative conclusion at face value; if people believe that birth charts affect their relationships and put stock in it, is it a surprise to find married couples matched by astrological “predictions”?

Astrology & Weather

astro_2

Astrology is known in skeptical jargon as a “protoscience” – something that, although it pre-dates the scientific method and methodological naturalism, still relied on some observational methodology to reach its conclusions. As a result, records kept by these protosciences can be of use; astrologers charted the position of planetary bodies, and alchemists recorded the first chemical reactions. However, this has no bearing on the supernatural predictions and assertions they make.

As for Sergey Tarasov and Alphee Lavoie, no link is given to this apparent study. After a few attempts at tracking it down, I kinda gave up. What I could figure out is that Lavoie and Tarasov sell astrology software aimed at market trading – little word on how effective it is, although it’s worth noting that “selling astrology software” is a common theme uniting many astrologers cited in this list. They do appear to be linked not to weather cycles, but predicting apparent tough economic times between 2012 and 2015. But considering these predictions were made about two years before, while planetary positions are known hundreds of thousands of years in advance (as the chaos caused by the n-body problem doesn’t kick in for a while), we can respond to this with “no shit, Sherlock”.

Astrology & Fertility

astro_3

There may be a good reason that female fertility follows patterns related to phases of the moon – the moon orbits once every 28 days, while the female reproductive cycle coincidentally happens to also follow 28 days. Fancy that. Wait, this isn’t news to people, right? Okay, just checking.

Actually, fuck it, just read the Skeptic’s Dictionary entry. Basically, Eugene Jonas merely stumbled upon just another variant of the “Rhythm Method”, which isn’t, as it may sound, a prog R&B band, but a birth control method preferred by the Catholic Church because it doesn’t involve evils such as condoms (often referred to as “Vatican Roulette”). We all know how effective that can be – a failure rate of ~10% or so based on even perfect use. So, by telling couples who want to avoid pregnancy to have less sex, and couples who want to conceive to have more sex, while not offering any guarantees despite a claim of “100%” effectiveness, Jonas had stumbled upon a remarkable discovery; being able to sell the bleeding obvious for good hard cash.

Astrology & Family Patterns

astro_4

Because this list insists on me looking things up myself, I found Bernadette Brady – an astrologer who says she has an MA in  Culture (sic) Astronomy and Astrology from Bath Spa University, UK. Now, I don’t want to disparage a distance-learning course provided by an ex-polytechnic college that kicked their cultural astrology programme out of their prospectus in 2008 shortly after it gained “proper” university status but… never mind, that’s beside the point. You can find this study, and “extensive research” here.

The first thing you notice reading this study is the sheer number of astrological alignments that can be made. At any one point in time you have seemingly thousands of confluences and positions to take into account – making it a discipline ripe for data mining (this isn’t limited to astrology). Secondly, you’ll see that there’s no test that gathers people together and tests the proposal about whether similar groups have similar astrological charts and groupings – certainly the test is blind or randomised or anything that would seriously back up the assertion made in BeliefNet’s puff-piece there.

In fact, the main worked example in Brady’s paper is about the Kennedy’s. Considering it was written in 1997, and JFK was assassinated in 1963, you can hardly say this is generating new information – the second example is older and even more esoteric, looking at the Dutch royal family in the 19th century. Confluences in astronomical bodies are known centuries in advance – where are the infallible predictions of the future, where you’re not just stating the obvious?

Anyway, this is getting a bit long now. I’ll shove the last three into another post for later.

UKIP is racially motivated – and here’s the maths to prove it

TL;DR, using Bayes’ theorem and UK demographic data, the odds that the United Kingdom Independence Party doesn’t have a racist agenda are 1 in 1.35 billion. Yes, I have that much of a life.

I know this is getting a bit old now, but it was brought up on the Mock The Week clip-show and I thought “what the hell, I haven’t totally over-laboured and nerded-out over a point in a while”.

Take a look at the United Kingdom Independence Party’s (UKIP) cover for its annual conference:

My eyes! The goggles do nothing!!

So, apart from the vomit-inducing design and colour scheme, much has been said about the complete lack of non-white faces on it (not least because of the implications of the headline). At least ones that weren’t photoshopped in by the Huffington Post.

But, but, but… says UKIP, that’s racist. Why should we care about what the colour of their skin is? They’re just people. Indeed, here’s Godfrey Bloom saying as much in such an eloquent manner:

Aw, bless, he thinks he’s being intelligent… anyway.

I’ve recently edited this because I noticed the original video was taken down. This current one also has Bloom’s “slut” comments at the beginning and him attempting to defend himself over it. I also just love how the woman on the right (I assume a UKIP special advisor?) seems to be fundamentally unaware of how language works. Like, seriously? You really aren’t aware of the common usage of the arbitrary-combination-of-vowels-and-consonants that looks like “slut”? Where have you been for the last… ever?

The average social justice nerd will say that this is important because it’s about visibility. If you hide a particular demographic, actively or by accident, you’re ignoring them, you’re pretending they don’t exist, and you’re actively excluding them from important discussions, political or otherwise. Hence why even small groups shown in stock photos are often implausibly diverse; out of a group of six you’ll expect at least two black guys, an Asian and someone in a wheelchair (though she’ll be white, as you can’t stack the under-privilege deck too much), while one will be gay and the last remaining white male will probably represent peanut allergies or something. This has been expressed better (and also far worse) by various others, it isn’t worth covering much further.

Personally, however, I’m more interested in something a bit harder (said the actress to the bishop…). You can argue the benefits of inclusion with idiots all day, but numbers don’t lie. So let’s take Godfrey Bloom at face value. His point is a common one; that if you talk about race, you’re a racist. Supposedly, racial equality should evolve organically without prodding and therefore the over-representation in small groups described above (“political correctness gone mad” as the Daily Heil might say) should cease to be. In theory, representation should then occur naturally through sufficiently large sample sizes. At least, that’s what I’d hope he thinks, since that’s the only non-racially-motivated interpretation I can think of for Bloom’s bizarre tirade above (it couldn’t possibly be that he has no idea what he’s talking about…).

Do we have a sufficiently large sample size to try this on? A UKIP related one? Hell yes we do! Right there, above, 17 headshots wide and 16 headshots deep, the front cover of UKIP’s conference booklet shows a whopping 272 gurning faces (well, 269 if you count the three chopped off at the corner, 265 if you count the big gold sticker covering a few).

Next, it takes all of two seconds to look up the demographic information for the United Kingdom. The punchline being that the country is 85% White British, or about 90% White Any, with 10% being composed of myriad ethnic minorities.

I’ve often wondered what would happen, if anything, if we actually split “white” into further categories since it makes sense to sub-divide your largest categories to make them more useful and considering the cultural diversity exhibited between rural and urban England – and come on, Yorkshire is totally an ethnicity – but I digress.

Back to the punchline, this means around 1 in 10 people in the UK are non-white. This will vary from place to place, of course. If you’re lucky enough to hail from the desolate wastes North of The Wall, this will be 1 in 100, while in London it is about 1 in 2. So your expectations will certainly change, and if you grow up in certain areas you might think absolutely nothing of a grid of 100 faces that are all-white. However, we are talking about the United Kingdom Independence Party here, not some regional separatist movement, and so the overall UK numbers are fit for purpose.

Anyway, taking Godfrey Bloom’s apparent take-home point at face value (“hey, we’re not racists, this is totally just random chance!”), this would give us an expectation value of 27 non-white faces on UKIP’s material (0.1 x 273, rounding off). But that’s an expectation value, if I roll 6D6 (that’s 6, six-sided dice, for the uninitiated) I should expect each number, 1 to 6, to come up once. But it’s not outside the realm of possibility to get three sixes pop up or two ones. If it wasn’t, Yahtzee would just suck. So instead we need to think of a distribution based on the odds of picking that many of a certain type of person. This is not an intuitive calculation, and I confess that before I popped the numbers into Google Calculator I didn’t expect to suddenly be talking orders of magnitude at this point.

So, what are the chances of UKIP making an all-white cover if they weren’t operating on some kind of racial prejudice? I.e., if they were completely motive-free and representing the United Kingdom as a whole. It’s simply a case of multiplying the 0.9 chance of picking a white person at random 272 times for each face. 0.9272, in fact. This works out as a staggering 3.5×10-13. In odds ratios this is 1 in 2.7×1012 – or 1 in 2.7 trillion. (in Northumberland, the equivalent calculation would produce 1 in 16, which is still low but not outside the realm of chance and might have produced a more interesting discussion below, while the London figures produce a “holy crap we’re talking number of particles in the universe” sort of figure – see what I mean about this being emphatically unintuitive?)

That’s the prior odds of this booklet cover happening by chance, and so we can say it’s pretty much beyond mere chance. If the party held a conference every day since the universe began, featuring random faces plucked from the UK’s ethnic make-up, we would expect to have seen this happen, by chance, about twice. So something else must be at work here, most likely UKIP’s internal racial demographic. But that does suggest that they don’t represent a significant chunk of the population, or actively go out of their way to not represent them. And that’s the point. Is it really a racist comment to question why a party allegedly representing the best interests of an entire country have zero representation, and apparently zero interest in such representation, of a tenth of its population?

More nerding-out below

1 in 2.7 trillion, however, is merely a prior probability of such a poster happening at random. Does it say “UKIP are a bunch of racist fucks”? No it doesn’t; it could just be chance, and strictly speaking it only represents a particular frequency of that chance and the rest is inference. We can, however, go one further and figure out what the odds are that UKIP are a bunch of racist fucks given that they produced a conference poster of nearly 300 all-white faces. That’s the question we want answered, and yeah, you know where this is going…

Bayes

Okay, so this is the cynical explanation.

To cut a long story short, P(A) is “the probability of [A] happening”, while P(A|B) is “the probability of [A] happening given that we know [B] is true”. Importantly, P(A|B) is not the same as P(B|A).

Here we do hit some hot water and have to do some handwaving. After all, the odds above are easy to calculate from demographic data and so P(B) is simply 1 in 2.7 trillion. But what are the prior odds that “UKIP are a bunch of racist fucks”? I’d say “pretty fucking high”, given that Godfrey Bloom was fired for calling women sluts, that their policies are firmly xenophobic, and that calling them “Diet BNP” is an insult to the concept of a diet/lite soft drink. They have questionable policies, and multiple prior convictions in the racism/xenophobia game. But let’s be generous and make it a true prior probability, given no other data, and say this value of P(A) is 1 in 1000 (not that it matters, it won’t be on the order of magnitude of trillions so it’s not going to mess with us too much).

It occurred to me a while after I originally wrote this that you could get an empirically informed value of P(A) by taking the total number of political parties in existence, and taking P(A) as the fraction of those that are considered, unambiguously, to be racially focused and motivated. Then I realised that doing this would probably mean P(A)>0.1, as opposed to P(A)=0.001. It doesn’t matter too much, you can ass-pull the priors as they also represent your personal prior biases – cf. The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, where this is discussed at great length. 

Secondly, what are the prior odds that “UKIP will produce an all-white conference poster given that they’re a bunch of racist fucks”. Probably pretty high, but there is a probability that they might cover themselves or not express it in this way, so it won’t be 1. Somewhere in the region of 0.5 sound good to you? People are welcome to find more robust ways of working that bit out, though I doubt they’ll do much to the result below.

A lack of rigour is a red herring here, though. This sort of calculation is very good at taking you biases into account – and if you iterate with new data, you should converge on the same answer regardless of your prior biases. The practicalities of this are best left to people who treat Bayesian maths as more of a religious lifestyle choice rather than a tool for facetious trolling, though.

To complete the little trick, we need to change P(B) into something more useful, using the law of total probability to change it into (P(B|A)xP(A)) + (P(B|C)xP(C)) – where P(C) is the complementary value of “not a bunch of racist fucks”, which is 999 in 1000 given our other prior probability, P(A), of 1 in 1000. It should be obvious that with no racial prejudices that P(B|C), “the odds of an all-white conference poster coming from a non-racist-fuck party” will tend towards P(B), as it’s the one-in-trillions value of doing it by accident. So P(B|C) = P(B) or there abouts. As I said, this is facetious trolling.

For anyone confused by the above, P(B|A)P(A) + P(B|C)P(C) totals up all the possible sources for our piece of evidence, P(B). It either comes from a “racist fuck, intentionally”, P(B|A), or from a “not-a-racist-fuck, unintentionally”, P(B|C). It’s a necessary step to stop the numerator being larger than the denominator and producing a P(A|B) greater than 1, which is, of course, even more absurd than the notion that Godfrey Bloom has a functioning nervous system capable of operating his mouth. With me? No, never mind… let’s just move on.

The final expression to work out is, therefore, (0.5 x 0.001) / (0.5 x 0.001 + 1-in-2.7-trillion x 0.999). Bung that into Google calculator and you reach the conclusion that the probability that UKIP are a bunch of racist fucks given their conference poster is 0.99999999926. The odds that they’re not racist fucktards then works out to be 1 in 1.35 billion.

Hey, I don’t make the rules, blame the universal wavefunction and the boundary conditions of the universe.