No, it’s not terrorism

Whenever a white man is accused of, or commits, a crime, particularly a horrific and targeted one, our leftie-liberal response is always the same: why won’t the media call it “terrorism”?

“But that’s what it is!” we cry.

After all, “white guy does it” = “sad loner with mental health issues”, “brown guy does it” = “links to terrorism”. Whether the “terror” label applies or not has nothing to do with the nature of the crime. This is a pattern seen so frequently it hardly needs discussed or proven here. Even obvious cases of supposedly normal, everyday, run-of-the-mill murder, people might expect to investigate so-called “links with terror” if the perpetrator matches up to the wrong part of a Dulux colour chart. But if they don’t, we look the other way – probably blaming “mental illness” as if that sweeping generalisation was any more helpful than “terrorism” as an explanation of motive.

Our usual response is “why won’t the media call it what it is: terrorism”.

But I think there’s a better way of looking at it, namely, to ask “why does the media call it terrorism when it does?

On one level, it gets us the exact same answer. It tells us an event is called terrorism because of ethnic identity, or the tangential involvement of religion. Well, religion applies at least in today’s narrative. Back in the ’90s Timothy McVeigh or Ted Kaczysnky were the prototypical terrorist narratives: Paranoid lone bombers, high-intelligence/low-empathy psychopaths, anarchists or vaguely-right-wing separatists. Before that, in the ’80s, that narrative followed paramilitary organisations such as the IRA, organised groups with a specific goal that would birth the idea of “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” – since the rise of Daesh, our narrative is swinging slightly back toward this but the motivational focus now lies with religious, rather than national, identity.

On another level, asking it that way around reveals something about the word “terrorism”. It’s applied loosely, and only when the context of a crime fits the narrative, rather than the crime itself. It doesn’t really add new description. If I were to shoot someone in the face, calling it “terrorism” or not doesn’t change the fact I shot someone, nor does it change why. “Terrorism”, as a label takes what we would otherwise call “crime” (murder, bombing, threats, all of which are nicely illegal already without needing further legislation) and portion off a sub-group for special treatment for no real reason. Except perhaps political ones.

Make no mistake, I’d rather we never used the term “terrorist” at all.

We can pretend that when we label crimes as “terrorism”, it’s for good reasons. We can pretend those reasons make sense and aren’t, at the end of the day, arbitrary.

“Ah, but it means they use fear as a tactic!” pipes up one commenter. So? Are you saying a little old lady stuck in her house because there are kids loitering outside isn’t experiencing a strong element of fear? That victim of a burglary, or their neighbours who have realised they no longer live in a “safe” neighbourhood, aren’t experiencing fear? What about the mass campaigns by the media to make us fear paedophiles, are paedophiles now terrorists “by definition”?

“No, you don’t understand, terrorists are organised!” So Anonymous are organised? No, but terrorist “organisations” usually work as just separate groups operate, almost as emergent phenomena, from following an ideal rather than an obvious command structure. And would organised crime count? Organised crime and gangs have structures similar to terror cells, planned crime, pre-meditated in advance in secret, has all the trappings of a terror plot.

“But terrorists are influenced by radical religion!” shouts a neckbeard, desperately clutching to his copy of The God Delusion. Well, only since 9/11. Kaczynski and McVeigh had no links with religious fundamentalism, and the Troubles in Ireland are only religiously motivated if you sweep 95% of history under the rug and pretend it doesn’t exist Meanwhile (to bring it briefly back to the original, usual complaint) countless crimes are motivated by religion and aren’t labelled “terrorism”. Bombing abortion clinics? Shooting up churches? We need to remember that what terrorism “is”, is whatever the current narrative says it must be. Even when the narrative claims “religion”, it’s very selective with which religion counts.

But what use does the term have? Why have that narrative?

In short, “terrorism” is a word we use not to describe a crime, but to determine how we should react to it. And the reactions can be very different to mere “crime”.

The perpetrators need interrogated, often tortured, and that’s okay because they’re terrorists not criminals. Or we need special departments set up to tackle it that require more money and more funds and take much needed cash from other projects, and that’s okay because they’re not crime networks they’re terror networks. Or we treat the perpetrators differently and don’t give them fair trails as people, but that’s fine, we can throw out the basic tenets of our civilised democracy because it’s terrorism, which is different just because okay. Or we need to repeatedly punish and spy on the law-abiding, civilian population to protect them, because we’re stopping terrorism so the population feels safe. That last one holds so much more in America, where you’re forced to take your shoes off to board a plane but can buy all the guns you want without so much as a cursory “are you on the no-fly list?” background check. Such absurdities occur when you stop trying to prevent crime and start trying to prevent terrorism, and distinguish the two through a magical arbitrary method that falls foul of prejudice, misunderstanding and good old fashioned racism.

We can kid ourselves that it isn’t true, but with its constant changes of definition over the decades and its very selective application, it’s very clear “terrorism” as a term exists only to determine our reaction.

“Terrorism” is a term that adds no real descriptive value to any crime, but by heck we collectively shit our pants when we apply it to a crime, or an act of war, or a conspiracy.

So, instead of getting annoyed when the media refuses to label a white man’s crime as an act of terror, let’s look at when they do call it terrorism and demand to call that what it really is.

Context and Double-Standards

A few weeks ago, a handful of Muslim extremists killed 130 people in Paris. Many people were quick to condemn the attacks, while simultaneously defending mainstream, moderate (and liberal) Muslims. Of course, Islam had nothing to do with those attacks – they were the work of extremists who misinterpret the faith to justify violence.

Not long after, a Planned Parenthood clinic in the United States was attacked in an act of terrorism that left 3 people dead (the body count being the only tangible difference between this and Paris, frankly). In this case, liberal progressives were quick to point out the shooter’s Christian and right-wing political beliefs, asking if “moderate” conservatives and pro-lifers would condemn the attack and sort out their extremists.

Double standard?

A shallow analysis says “yes”.

Facebook has no shortage of memes and comments from Right Wing News and other pundits and politicians pointing this out exactly. “A week ago, religion had nothing to do with the attacks… this week, it has everything to do with it” points out one (though paraphrased, as I don’t care to type ‘libtard’ that many times).

And, in fact, I’d agree – with the caveats expressed in the bulk of this below – that we need to be very careful about cherry picking when we place blame on abstract entities like religion. I don’t think ‘Islam’, the abstract religious entity, has anything to do with the Paris attacks – and I don’t think ‘Christianity’, the abstract religious entity, has anything to do with the Planned Parenthood attack, either. Mere ‘religion’ simply isn’t that good a prediction of violent dickishness.

With billions upon billions of people adhering to a religion of some kind, if religion, the abstract entity, was to blame – and by blame I specifically mean it is the best predictor of said behaviour – for violence, we’d all be fucked way more than we are. If anyone wishes to disagree, I invite you to do the calculations that show P(violent|religious) is higher than any other factor we can look at. If it’s meaningfully higher than P(violent|breathes-oxygen) I’d be very impressed.

Anyway, with that said, why don’t I think the above alleged-contradiction is a double standard? Mostly because in order to be a double-standard, you have to contrast like with like. It is a double standard after all; it implies you’re measuring two suitably similar things differently for no real reason than Just Because.

So, in no particular order:

  • Following the Planned Parenthood shooting, we have not seen an increase in anti-Christian attacks on people.
  • We have not seen politicians say we should make Christians wear special badges to identify themselves.
  • Some people are so desperate to shake off the Planned Parenthood shooter’s association with the rhetoric of the Religious Right that they tried to say he was a liberal trans woman. I mean, what the actual fuck?
  • We don’t see states and countries close their borders to Christian refugees on the off-chance one of them is a terrorist despite a Christian having conducted an act of terror on behalf of the Religious Right.
  • If you’re a Christian and called ‘James’ in the United States, you’ll probably get a better job or have to work less-hard for it than if you’re Muslim and called ‘Muhammad’.
  • We don’t see the media make a big deal of the Planned Parenthood shooter’s religion as its first port of call. (in fact, I’m aware that I’ve used ‘Muslim extremist’ as a term twice in this very article, but not ‘Christian extremist’ even once – this meta-aside excluded, obviously)
  • So far there have been no serious calls for the ‘Christian Community’ to condemn and dissociate themselves from the attacks. By which, I mean a call apropos of the attack alone, rather than as a facetious response to the “white=not-a-terrorist, brown=terrorist” narrative.
  • Similarly, there are no serious calls for Christians to sort out their extremists. The calls that do are merely a response to the actual double-standard going on.
  • Christians who publicly endorse or celebrate the Planned Parenthood shooter aren’t vilified in the press – while Muslims are the baddies even if they don’t support Daesh or extremists. In fact, some of those assholes are celebrated in the right-wing press, whose increasing popularity is encroaching so much as to be the new mainstream. So, yes, mainstream pundits have celebrated a terrorist.
  • There’s no long history of treating Christians as terrorists in popular culture and fiction as the default of what ‘being a Christian’ means. Evil Muzzie-towelheads, though, are the fuel that award-winning television is made of.

Do I really need to go on with this? The list is practically endless. The surrounding background context makes these attacks very different, even though the only direct difference in the events is the number of people killed.

We’re not comparing like with like here. In order to be a hypocritical double-standard, making a big deal of religion (or not) would depend on whether those religions are viewed equally. And in the case of Christianity vs Islam, they’re definitely not. You’re sadly deluded if you feel that “the killer’s a Christian!” has the same social impact as “the killer’s a Muslim!”

So we live in a world where Muslim extremists can commit acts of terror and the entire faith of billions is vilified and thrown under the bus no matter the low levels of support those extremists have. Meanwhile fairly mainstream (in the United States) Christian politics are ‘pro-life’, and often use violent rhetoric to make their point – yet we’re met with hand-washing and denial from those people when someone takes their words literally. Now, to me, that sounds like a double standard on behalf of western culture and society.

Make no mistake, mere religion explains neither event – extreme political brainwashing does. But it seems like the majority are only happy to accept that in one case, not the other. That’s where the real double-standard lies. It’s seen as the default, The One And Only Way, and the norm. Any attempt to address that, by pointing in the direction of the Planned Parenthood shooter and saying “hey, look, Christian terrorist!” will be seen as an unbalanced view simply by its very nature of not conforming to the status quo.

And these Christian politicians, pundits and talk-show hosts, amongst countless commentators on message boards over the internet, may need it thrown in their face once or twice to see if they get the point.

Yes, You Are Allowed to Say Whatever You Want – You’re Asking For Something Else

Whenever something like Tim Hunt’s clusterderp happens in the world, there’s one phrase I can absolutely count on hearing almost immediately. It’s so unavoidable, so foreseeable and so inevitable that I can close my eyes, count down 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and hear the words…

“You’re just not allowed to say anything these days!”

This isn’t just some generic wry observation of Twitter. It isn’t some modern social media phenomenon by a long shot. I hear this from all corners, including from work colleagues while they sip their instant coffee and read the broadsheet-du-jour. It’s the most infuriating cliché – a close relative of “it’s political correctness gone mad”, although more likely to be found in natural verbal conversation, whereas the lesser-spotted Politicus correctnessgonemadius can be found limited only to the dry wilderness of right-wing tabloid letters sections.

What makes it so infuriating is that it’s simply not true. You are allowed to say anything in nearly every first-world democracy. If you’re American, it’s enshrined in constitutional law. If you’re British, it’s retained in a complex series of traditions and precedents. You absolutely can say whatever you want.

Where were the people who supposedly don’t allow you to say these things when Katie Hopkins said, in a national newspaper with a circulation of millions, that she’d happily gun down refugees in cold blood? Where were these Thought Police when Nigel Farage mouthed off at an audience, accusing them of being left-wing shills? Were they napping or looking the other way for the last decade or so of Jeremy Clarkson’s existence? And everyone remember when someone went up to David Starkey and said “nope, you can’t compare the Scottish Nationalist Party to the Nazis” with a gun against his head? Because reality certainly doesn’t.

For illustrative purposes only.

For illustrative purposes only.

The world absolutely agrees – you are allowed to say things.  Not “except for”. Not even “within reason”. You can say anything.

It’s what happens next that’s the free for all.

While the “political-correctness-gone-mad-lite” types bark about the long and prestigious tradition that western democracies have for freedom of speech, they resolutely ignore the equally long and prestigious tradition of people being held to account for what they say, for what they incite, and for what they tell others to do. I shouldn’t even have to raise the “shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre” test. Or point out that you can be convicted for murder even if you hire a someone else to do the killing – even though your orders are nothing more than an exchange of words. I shouldn’t have to tell you all about slander and libel laws, which hold people to account for their words – quite literally just their words, spoken or written. These are things you all, including the “you can’t say anything” crowd, should be fully aware of. We have a very grand tradition of policing words – it’s not a new thing.

You’re allowed to say what you like, you’re just not free from its consequences. If you incite violence through your speech, the law and society will punish you for it. If you slander and damage someone’s reputation through lies and deceit, law and society will punish you for it. And society does that because words aren’t just isolated things; they convey information and ideas, and they can cause actions to come about. They’re far from harmless, so society and law treats them appropriately. What might just be a newer phenomenon is that increasingly, although the law still rarely gets involved, if you start making life hell for people who have had enough of your shit – insert countless examples or misogyny, racism, homophobia… – society will now scrutinise you for it. Because we’re realising that words can have a knock-on effect and consequences far beyond the obvious of slander and libel. You might think that the odd off-hand comment here and there can’t hurt, but the layers upon layers of micro-bullshit add up to a real effect eventually. We all accept that lies and slander about an individual is something where speech should be held to account – and so should lies and slander, in the form of slurs and “jokes”, about groups of people. At last, the more progressive component of society have said “enough” – “e-fucking-nough” – and aren’t going to take it any more. We’re going to call it out and we’re going to make a fuss.

And why shouldn’t we? After all, we are allowed to say what we want. That’s a freedom that absolutely extends to telling people that they are full of shit. We reserve the right to say that, in reality, words cause real damage and people need to answer for the damage they cause – one might lament that the career of one 70-year-old Nobel Prize winner has been “destroyed” (insomuch that you can “destroy” a career at that stage), but what about the number of women who would have heard those comments and thought “nope, science isn’t for me, that University isn’t for me, that career isn’t for me”. What about their careers? Wait, are you saying we’re not allowed to stand up for them? Are they just the wrong kind of people? Are we not allowed to criticise outright idiotic misogyny to help encourage them (or at least counter the incessant discouragement), and to stop their careers from being truly destroyed before they begin?

Because when someone declares “you’re not allowed to say anything these days!” that’s exactly what they’re demanding. They’re asking for special immunity from criticism. They’re asking for other people to roll over and shut up about it. They want special treatment, and to be put in a nice padded box where their opinions can get out but no dissenting opinion can get in. They want to say whatever they like and get away with it.

Why do they want that? Ironically, Tim Hunt said it best – “when you criticise them, they cry”.

Digital Painting Advice

This will be slightly off-topic for this blog’s normal theme, not that it has one, so feel free to ignore. Here are some generic tips for digital painting that no-one asked for – as bullshit-free as I can get them.

1) Get your tutorials from CG Society, not DeviantART

You’d think that the idea of a tutorial would be to teach a technique to someone, and to raise their ability a certain degree. Oh, my sweet summer child how wrong you are! The real aim of a tutorial – and I do mean this with the utmost offence to those people who do it – is for the artist in question to show off how good they are! At least, this appears to be the point if you flip through DA’s tutorial section. Because, of course, “then add the shading” and “now I scribble in the detail” followed by “I hope you found this useful” means I should have the right to stab you in the eyeball with a stylus. Check out CG Society instead, it is literally meant for professionals.

2) Learn colour relativity

Colour theory is one thing artists like to bang on about because it makes it look as if they’ve actually learned to some something complicated and that it might just be science, or at least difficult. But it really is useful – no sarcasm, it really is. If you put down something that’s grey, and it looks really dark, it won’t look dark once you’ve put in every other area that’s dark – in fact, it’ll look like some washed out middling grey. The same goes for colours, things that will look blue might actually be purple, or a bit red, or green, or really de-saturated (particularly true with eyes). There’s no real trick to solving this, just be aware of it and correct as you go.

See that dark-brown square in the middle of the top face and the light-yellow square in the middle of the front face? Look again, closely…

3) The paint-in-black-and-white-first trick is bollocks, sort-of…

There’s a technique in digital painting where you paint entirely in monochrome first, and then you pop in another layer, set the blend mode to “colour” and then colourise it. The theory is that this way you can establish the value – the range of black to white – first and get it right. This is important because if the value is off, it just won’t look right. In my experience this sort of works, but does effectively double your workload and really screws with your choice of colour, keeping it a little flat as you end up colourising one whole area with one tone. To compensate for this, change the colour frequently to get a more varied hue… but then you end up effectively painting it all again anyway, so it’s arguably pointless.

4) Photoshop is kinda overrated, too

There’s no need to hand your hard earned cash to Adobe. Or even torrent the thing, to be honest. Unless you’re doing high-concept and slightly abstract art that requires the textured brushes, there’s no real need for Photoshop. Simpler programs like MyPaint don’t have textured or shaped brushes, but they’re really not essential – and even if you do, Krita is free/open-source and has them. But to be frank, once you play with something as stripped back as MyPaint you might just find all the excess tools Photoshop and other image-manipulation programs come with are just distractions that get in the way. Stripping it back to just the simple tools actually teaches you to paint.

Free, and with an installer under 10Mb – which gives you a lot of bang for your byte.

5) Flip the image

Seriously, mirror the image. There are two reasons for this. One, you can check that it looks okay. If you’re drawing a face, for example, it might look okay and then suddenly, in a mirror image, you scream “holy shit what is that monstrosity!” Drawing inverted refreshes your perspective and lets you check symmetry, and the final product will be much better for it. Secondly, it helps you draw curves better. If you’re, for example, right handed, you’ll draw a curve the way your wrist moves (the top left arc of a circle) easier than the opposite. Flipping the image lets you more easily work on curves. This isn’t entirely as lazy and absurd as it sounds, when drawing on paper people do this instinctively.

I'm spotting a few things I didn't catch first time on the flipped image...

I’m spotting a few things I didn’t catch first time on the flipped image…

6) You don’t really need expensive kit

I’ve basically used entry-level graphics tablets since I started digital painting. There’s really no need for expensive ones – ignore the people saying otherwise. This is especially true if you’re not getting paid daily for this. You need half decent pressure sensitivity and that’s it. You don’t need a large tablet area, your hand-eye coordination and muscle memory will adjust pretty quickly to all sizes, the touch and feel (whether the stylus is more scratchy or slippy) you’ll also adjust to, and you certainly don’t need to donate your life savings to Wacom. These things are tools, and while a better tool might make you feel a little better about yourself (and I won’t deny that I actually like my Bamboo), they won’t actually contribute any significant improvement.

7) Don’t be afraid to trace

Seriously, you’re working digital, you can add layers, just put your source image in the background and scribble over it. Purists might say it’s cheating, but I say there’s no point in wasting your time if it transpires that your actual aim is to replicate what you see.

8) Layers are not always your friend

Layers? Yes or no? To be frank they are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they’re great for keeping elements separate. On the other, they can get confusing – and if you’re not paying attention you will simply end up drawing into Layer A what you meant to put into Layer B and vice versa, and five minutes of that without noticing will leave you with a horrid mess and you have to go through to clean up. Generally I tend to keep to 3-4 layers these days: a background, just to keep it isolated from the subject as edges get tricky sometimes; the subject, for the same reason; any effects on top; and a sketchy outline on top of all that. Hair I tend to do in multiple layers but that’s for good reasons – see the CG Society tutorial on realistic hair for that.

9) Watch people

If I’m in a room with a strong light source, I have this weird tendency to watch how the light actually moves around the contours of their face. How it goes in a bit around the chin and lips, or over a slight ridge over their eyebrow… I’m not sure if it actually helps, and it might just make me come across as creepy when I’m really just doing research, but it’s certainly worth being aware of exactly what goes on with shadows and highlights and how they contour around people.

File:Low key Nina.jpg

Low-key lighting is good for picking out contours. Understanding that does require getting to grips with the concept of a three-light setup – do some 3D modelling or photography for that.

10) If you want realism, think shadows

The human mind and eye takes into account dozens of separate cues to build up a picture of the world around us and infer their 3D structure. Without that ability, we’d be pretty much incapable of surviving in the wild. As a result, if you want to do anything resembling a “trompe-l’œil” you don’t need pixel-perfect brush strokes nor an atomic level of detail, you need to figure out how things cast shadows and interact with each other. Suppose you’re drawing someone in a baseball cap, it might look staggeringly brilliant, but until you pen in the shadow the brim will cast across their face, there will be something wrong with it – and you might just not be able to figure out what unless you’re looking for it!

What we have here is a series of leather straps holding objects against a wall. Take a close look at where things are stuffed into the straps and how the shadow bows downward a bit where the strap is pulled from the wall. A less subtle version of this point can be found here.

11) Sample carefully

You’re working digitally, and you have an image that you want to use as a reference, clearly the best way to get the right colour is to take your colour picker and… well, yes and no. Certainly, it will be the fastest and most efficient way to get the colour you want to use, but be aware of the following two technical limitations:

  • Compression – if your sample image is a JPEG file, or any file with a “lossy” compression method, the colour you sample might not be the right one. When you zoom out of an image, you might see the right colour, but when you zoom in to the point where you can see individual pixels, you might see a grey-ish one there, a blue one here, a green one there, and then when you zoom out it’s orange. This is perfectly normal for image compression (and also as part of colour-relativity). There are a few ways around this. You could smudge/blend your source image to get rid of the compression and get the colour you want. You could sample more frequently. Or you could use the colour-picker to get an idea of what the colour is. I.e., select it, and drag the picker over the image in question, and watch the coordinates on your colour wheel or colour triangle (or which ever tool you have available) jump about. Then you’ll see what shades and tones are on the image, and can select accordingly.
  • If you have a brush tool that has a non-100% or pressure-sensitive opacity, or a blend function built into it, then the colour you put down will depend on the sample you picked and the existing colour underneath it. If that underlying colour is black or white, then the colour you draw will look washed out (see below). As a result, you might want to pick the colour, then from your colour wheel/tool add a slight and tasteful boost to the saturation of the colour in question.

Also keep in mind that colours are often the result of underlying texture – especially in skin and hair – so any samples you do take won’t look right until you put in the detail/texture. Sorry, there is no way around that, you’ll just have to put in the work!

What looks like one colour far away will look like something different close up - so you probably can't get away with just sampling single pixels with a tool to get the tone you want. It may require actual work.

What looks like one colour far away will look like something different close up – so you probably can’t get away with just sampling single pixels with a tool to get the tone you want. It may require actual work.

12) Don’t highlight with just white

If you’re using a digital brush with a slight blend or blur option built in, or something with a slightly lower opacity, the way it mixes with the underlying colour becomes quite important. Because the software has to interpolate between RGB or HSV values to mix your new “paint” with the “paint” below it, white will have a strong tendency to just blur out any of the hue. This is especially true if you’re highlighting over a dark object – the dark colour will have low saturation, and the software doesn’t know you want it to highlight straight to, say, red. It’ll just end up treating it as you highlighting something very nearly black with something that is simply very very light grey. So it’ll produce grey. Instead, if you need to, highlight sequentially through progressively lighter colours if you need to highlight from a much darker colour.

13) Just practice

Yeah, really, just do it more. Everyone has a set number of really crap drawings inside them, and the faster you get them out of the way the faster you can get to the good ones.

Are You A Mangina?

So you’ve been called a “mangina”? Okay, you may not have come across this term before, but never fear, this objective assessment will help you all out and let you know if their accusation had merit. Because, seriously, do not Google Images that term.

Please answer the following questions truthfully and honestly:

Are women principally sacks of meat?

a) Yes, absolutely bro.

b) Well, technically

c) No, of course not, they’re actual people. They have agency and feelings.

Boobs breads 01.jpg

Is your main goal in life to stick your penis in warm, moist things?

a) Yeah. Bitches are getting the D. *SELF-FIVE*

b) Like on American Pie?

c) No. That would be pretty sad. What about doing something meaningful for others?

Is the character Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother a positive role model?

a) Totally! The dude is swimming in the poon, dawg!

b) “Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaave you met Ted?”

c) Gods no… that’s the point! Do people actually think that?!?! Did they even watch the show?!?

Size 10. Discuss.

a) Ewww, gross dude! Never get up on a fattie.

b) What, in shoes?

c) Size 10 in the US is equivalent to size 14 in the United Kingdom and size 42 in the European Union. Clothing sizes developed in the late 1800s as commercialisation of clothing towards the masses began to take off, necessitating standardised sizing for those too poor to simply afford everything to be custom made. The supposedly standard sizes have, in fact, varied over time although their present measurements were set in 1958 under the standards regulation…

Do you like to use handcuffs in bed?

a) Yeah, stops the dumb bitches running away. Lol. No means yes! Yes means harder!

b) Why would you… never mind.

c) I’m open to it. But both partners’ consent to it is the most important thing.

Handcuffs by Armondikov

Anal?

a) No means yes! Yes means anal! Dude yeah!! Nice ‘n’ tight!

b) No matter how clean the house is, they’re still not satisfied.

c) Again, consent and safety. I mean, sure, some people actually like it. But it’s important to do it slowly at first, preferably with lubricant and constant communication between people.

You see a woman in a short dress walk down the street. What do you do?

a) Tap that bitch’s ass, dude! That’s what!

b) There are so many song lyrics stuck in my head right now.

c) Nothing. Why would I?

A close friend confesses that she’s been raped, what do you do?

a) Fuckin’ slut.

b) …no joke answers on this one.

c) Oh, oh gods, that’s hard. Support her. Definitely make sure she’s okay. Help her report it to the police, go with her if she wants. Keep her confidence, sure, so no going around just telling anyone. And ask if she wants anyone else to help get her through it.

How much sex do you actually get?

a) All the fucking time, dude. Ten times a night!! Yeah. Bitches be all over the D here!

b) Well, there’s Rosie Palm and her five daughters…

c) I think that’s between me and my steady partner, thanks.

No, really, how much sex do you actually get?

a) Okay, dude, quiet… look, there’s this little pill, right? And you just slip it in their diet coke like so…

b) I have much gold.

c) A few times a week and occasionally full-on sessions on a weekend, happy now? And the occasional orgy at the club. And the threesomes with her girlfirends. And this one cool time in a hot-tub where…

Adding up

Okay, so thanks for finishing the quiz. Now check over you answers.

  • If you answered mostly “a”, congratulations, you are definitely not a mangina. You may continue about your business. Just, not in front of anyone else, please.
  • If you answered mostly “b”, then perhaps we need to have a little chat about the birds and the bees before sending you off to college, okay?
  • If you at any point answered “c” to any of the questions, then I am sorry to inform you that you are a mangina. You are a beta mangina, thus say all us Alphas with our Game.

I hope this clears things up.

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.

We still need scientists on Question Time

Not too long ago, Martin Robbins of the Lay Scientist blog pointed out an interesting fact about the BBC’s Question Time programme: that since the 2010 general election, there have only been two scientists on the panel. Expected? Unusual? Compare it to 13 comedians over the same period, and 2 appearances by Katie Hopkins, whose only claim to fame is… erm… someone drop me a line in the comments; I have no fucking clue why Katie Hopkins is worthy of people listening to her.

But now, a few months after that, the observation has filtered its way into Points of View.

Though first, a quick jargon buster – UK readers can skip this:

  • Question Time – A BBC politics-themed panel show where a selection of public figures answer topical questions from an audience while David Dimbleby tries to keep order. Apart from the token “light-hearted” question that usually ends it, this show is Serious Business. It’s the show Simon Foster is prepping for at the beginning of In The Loop before Malcolm Tucker extremely politely informs him he’s no longer invited.
  • Points of View – The show where the BBC’s dirty laundry gets aired in public in the form of viewer comments (originally via letter, then telephone and now increasingly via email or video submission) that call out why the BBC are currently sucking at everything ever. Usually mundane and banal as all hell because these comments are quite literally a hair’s breadth above YouTube comments, but hey, few if any for-profit media will do this.

So the question of scientists was brought up on PoV, and the QT producers responded. The executive editor responded thusly (you may be able to catch it on iPlayer, luckily Question Time is the very first thing in the show.):

“Question Time” regularly bids for a number of prominent scientists and guests with a scientific background. However, many scientists do not wish to discuss issues outside their individual field, or express their political views. The nature of the programme also means we do not know which questions we will be discussing in advance so we can never guarantee to scientists that their area of expertise will come up in the programme.

Perhaps they have regularly looked for scientists and the scientists refused. However, I have to doubt that the producer tried very hard, or encouraged scientists, or made it the most accessible format for them. We absolutely have no shortage of public intellectuals in STEM fields willing to vent their spleen on politics. Dawkins has done the BBC’s HardTalk and Newsnight before and is prone to firing his mouth off (I’m not condoning him as an ideal candidate, just that he’s a candidate who clearly is interested in talking outside his field of expertise) and Cox has done a fair share of 10 O’Clock Live performances and causing stirs over Twitter.

Many scientists are very much into their politics and not without good reason. We’re embedded in politics daily, and will forever be stuck with political principles, laws and edicts whether we like them or not.

For a quick instance, the effects Scottish independence on research collaboration between a future independent Scotland and England, and its effect on higher education funding, is a massively complex issue. It’s also potentially devastating, yet something that not all politicians are in a position to discuss in detail… because few even realise it exists as an issue. Yet it is a core issue for those in EaStCHEM, some of whom I had a lengthy discussion with on this very topic a few months ago. As we approach the referendum on the subject, the odds of independence being broached on Question Time will approach certainty – and to not have someone with vested interest in higher education and inter-university collaboration there to put this forward would be just plain negligent towards the BBC’s duty to inform the public.

But why might scientists not, even if offered, choose to accept an invitation to sit on a panel?

Thanks to the general side-lining of their political opinions in the mainstream, scientists are akin to any other minority group – prone to being made uncomfortable and likely to not bother even trying purely because of the dominance and attitude of the majority. Our ability to interact with the political sphere is diminished both by the nature of science (being a all-consuming occupation) and the hostility generally held towards evidence-based approaches by mainstream politics and political media. Such political candidates and political journalists appearing are all ideologically lead, and potential science-based panellists need reassurance that taking an evidence-based approach isn’t going to be shouted down for saying something unpopular. Not that such views are unpopular; there is evidently a strong demand for such people from those at the intersection of science and politics (the BBC even saw fit to respond to it on Points of View, so evidently recognise it as legitimate criticism) and there are evidently scientists who are very politically savvy. Martin Robbins was one of a handful of scientists who assessed each main party for the Guardian in the run-up to the 2010 election and the result was one of the most informative pre-election pieces written.

We need more of a drive to get these experts heard in the mainstream political sphere and to give them the confidence to speak outside their area of expertise if needed. This is something that needs to come from producers who need to start clamouring harder for these people, rather than making half-hearted attempts to reach qualified scientists and then make a far bigger deal out of their celebrity-du-jour.

While the programme might not be able to control the exact questions asked – a format that is a double-edged sword favouring spontaneity and a degree of sincerity over thorough and informed answers – it’s still reasonable to at least predict the topics that might come up. Education is almost a certainty every time. Energy policies and environment can be predicted based on what is in the news that week. Had a natural disaster recently? Climate change will pop up. New policy introduced on higher education funding? Christ-on-a-jetbike that’s a sure thing!

Or you know what? Just fucking risk it.

See what insight they can give thanks to their backgrounds; after all, this is why journalists, authors, comedians, presenters or I-don’t-know-why-you’re-famous-types get invited on. This is what makes the second part of the response given on Points of View so galling: if you can’t guarantee the questions that are asked, then you’re really not getting in panellists because of their specific expertise, but because of the experience their background confers on them. In that case any scientist is going to have just as much to say as any MP. All Question Time panellists, by the nature of the format, are going to be out of their depth.

Perhaps scientists could offer a new evidence-based insight that would otherwise be lost in sea of table-banging rhetoric. Or give an opinion based on being actual university-level educators. So what if you have a chemist on there and nothing chemical gets brought up? So what if there’s an evolutionary biologist on there and they only discuss climate change? They invite Melanie Philips and Peter Hitchens on regularly and “how can you be an obnoxious right-wing twat?” is pretty much never asked.

Just get the scientists on there and let them be heard. We can fill in the details later.


Addendum: I’ve spotted the Change.org petition on this making the rounds on Facebook and whatnot. It’s a nice idea, but now pretty much redundant given the response shown on PoV. Merely asking for it again is, frankly, just  petulant. What we need to focus on is a) why the BBC should try harder to attract scientists, and b) suggestions about how this can be brought about.