Tag Archives: politics

Why every order should be questioned

I suggest reading this post to the end, then watching the videos and reading the links. -DM

“Think for yourself, question authority.”

These words are more than an anti-authoritarian exhortation from Timothy Leary and part of an excellent TOOL song. It’s a way of interacting with the world that helps guard against charlatans and others who would seek to manipulate you. Lately I’ve noticed more and more people saying things like, “You should always do what a police officer tells you,” or, “If he’d only followed orders everything would have been okay.” This line of thought ignores human nature when wielding authority, and it’s the sort of mindset that leads to excuses such as, “I was just following orders,” a phrase which has been used to justify some of the worst abuses in recorded history.

“The experiment requires that you go on.”

The average person will administer electric shocks to the point of killing or injuring another so long as someone in a lab coat–a perceived authority figure–encourages them using the quote above. This was shown in the early ’60s, roughly two decades after the end of World War II, when Stanley Milgram’s experiments showed that 26 out of 40 subjects would apply a 450 volt shock at the urging of someone in authority, possibly killing the other participant (who was an actor, a fact unknown to the subject administering the charge). One of the purposes of this experiment was to show why the average German citizen didn’t do more to oppose the Nazi party.

Think humanity has improved since? The experiment was repeated in the UK less than a decade ago with similar results.

Surely this is a reflection of British culture, right? Modern-day Americans are no better, as shown by NBC in 2010.


(Click here to watch the full episode on NBC’s website.)

Why is default trust of authority such a bad thing?

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. -Lord Acton

This phrase was uttered hundreds of years before the Stanford prison experiments showed that even seemingly normal people possess the capacity for great evil. We owe it to one another to ask questions and to demand accountability regardless of title or social standing. If you see someone doing wrong, do your best to oppose them. That’s how to make a difference. One person acting alone can affect change. All it takes is questioning orders you believe to be wrong, and not accepting easy answers intended to shut down that line of questioning. Freedom of speech and of the press are so important that they were included as some of the very first protections delineated in the Bill of Rights, yet in a video posted just days ago, a Detroit officer violates the first amendment rights of a journalist who’s covering a protest. His excuse? “I’m gonna enforce what my supervisors tell me what to do.” This officer could have made the choice to uphold what is unambiguously written in the constitution, but he did not.

Stated simply, it’s in humanity’s nature to obey authority. In the eyes of many asking questions is discouraged and standing out is anathema. When these attitudes combine it’s a recipe for long-term disaster, a world where saying, “I was simply following orders,” is praised until hindsight turns it to castigation. It’s a world where we spend more time talking about fictional lives endangered by the information given to Wikileaks by Chelsea Manning instead of the very real Collateral Murder video showing US forces firing on a reporter, those trying to help him, and children. It’s the type of world where police officers murder people, mostly minorities, again and again (and again and again and again and again and again) and seldom face a jury, while many excuse their actions and blame the victims.

It’s time to admit there’s an institutional problem with policing in America.

It’s a problem cameras won’t fix, because there are now several examples where cops murder or abuse people on camera, put conflicting information on an official report, but still are never charged with any crimes. How many times has this happened with no video evidence? More cameras won’t do any good if the cops can turn them off or “lose” the footage, and citizens recording the police doesn’t do much good if they turn off the camera as soon as a cop demands it. The problem goes far beyond cameras and viral Youtube videos though. Part of the problem is accepting when a local DA with close connections to the police department calls a sham Grand Jury–in which the DA defends the accused–and then pointing to the result and calling it “Justice”. Justice is a trial, a cross-examination before a jury who has been selected after the prosecutor and defense attorneys have had cause to interview and excuse them. That is why you hear protestors chanting, “No Justice, No Peace.” Another part of the problem is the media portrayal of police as heroes, when in fact they’re as fallible as you or I. Yet another facet is a police culture that glorifies violence and views every person as a potential perp, an attitude which enables departments to abuse its citizenry and then sell t-shirts joking about it or encourages a cop to wave to the camera minutes after choking a man to death because the man deprived the State of tax revenue.

So there’s nothing we can do, then?

No, there are many things we can do! Amidst all this seemingly abysmal news there is a positive takeaway: many of the people in the Milgram experiment (and subsequent offshoots) expressed distress at their actions. There are also examples of police speaking out against their own (although it does not usually end well). Most of us have some sort of conscience. Even people who don’t are usually observed by those who do. If you see something wrong, at the very least record it. Report it to anyone who will listen. Go to the media, post it online, stand on a street corner holding a sign if you have to. Hold authority figures accountable, and to higher standards than those who don’t wield the same power. If someone abuses their authority they should lose it, not be shielded from consequences. Get involved locally. Call police stations that abuse their citizenry and demand answers. Don’t rely on mass media for your information (because they often distort or outright misreport the facts); instead be the media (or network with those who are).

A healthy skepticism of those in authority helps ensure a free society. All it takes is asking, “Why?” It’s a good start, anyway.

The Shamosphere

I almost hesitate to link to these ridiculous losers, but I’ve recently stumbled across a group of people who call themselves wolves, real men, and refer to to their reality distortion bubble as “the manosphere”.

What is the manosphere, you ask? It’s like the blogosphere, but full of dicks.

The First Annual Manospehere Gathering

The First Annual Manospehere Gathering

This article, “The Manosphere For Dummies”, is an excellent primer. (I suggest they add “Is” to the middle of the title, just to clarify for newcomers.) The manosphere is populated by all sorts of acronyms: MRAs, MGTOWs, and PUAs, most of whom seem united in their belief that there is a repressed class in our society, and that repressed class is the heterosexual white male. And who, you may ask, is doing the oppressing? Why, females and minorities of course! Their proof? They point to things like affirmative action, feminism, and child support laws with shrill shouts of “MISANDRY!” In their narrative, heterosexual white males are majestic and mighty animals akin to wolves, and the rest of society (that is, anyone who doesn’t fall into lockstep with their positions and views) are nothing more than rabbits who hate them for their alleged power and success.

I am amused by this the most, as I’m almost certain that many of these guys would be considered mediocre at best by any reasonable metric of success. On their blogs and in their forums they shill their books to other “alphas”, create manifestos that enforce traditional gender roles (nine listed for men without a single mention of family, three listed for women that all include some mention of family), and write stories promising imminent success and exposure for their “movement”.

All of this ended up on my radar after a big bad wolf named Matt Forney wrote an absurd article about why Portland sucks for single men (hint: it doesn’t, unless you’re a whiny putz with a chip on his shoulder who thinks women owe him attention and sex). After the backlash, he wrote another article about how Alpha Males™ like him are wolves, and the beta misandrist feminist communist [insert other strawmen here] throng are haters and pathetic rabbits. Even ignoring Forney’s junk science regarding the amygdalae, the rest of his metaphor falls apart in a number of ways.

Rabbits breed like crazy, have no loyalty to their in-group (their relatives), and respond to danger by running away… just like leftists.

And like rabbits, leftists are herd creatures who think and act in lockstep.

Leftists breed like crazy? Let’s be honest: people breed like crazy, but at least those on the left tend to be strong advocates for birth control and family planning. Contrast this with people like the Duggars, religious conservatives who have popped out so many kids that family vacations must consist of a caravan of a half dozen cars, or the backwards conservative legislators who attempt to do away with funding for STI prevention and sex education. While I can’t speak for all “leftists”, I personally do not run away from danger. Sometimes life is difficult and painful. I know this at least as well as, if not better than, most. Running away does nothing to solve problems. Lastly, every movement or ideology has “me too” people in its ranks, it is not something unique to the left.

wolf-howling-full-moon

ARRROOOOOOOOO! I’m buying Forney this shirt for his birthday.

The entire article, along with Forney’s post whining about being single in Portland, reads like the bitter screed of a person who struggles to fit into society, and instead of using that as an opportunity for reflection and self-improvement has doubled down on his stupidity, beating his chest and declaring aloud how awesome he finds himself, and asserts that the blame rests with us– the rabbits to his wolf– rather than with his own childish attitude and unreasonable expectation that people treat him like a rockstar.

One of the complaints in his article about Portland dating was that no women he “cold approached” (a pick-up artist term meaning to strike up unbidden conversation with a woman in the hopes of getting laid) cared about his stories of ditch-digging and hitch-hiking across the country. What did he expect? “Oh, Matt, listening to your stories of manly shovel-handling and mooching rides from strangers makes me need your dick. Let’s go back to my place right now.” The reason people don’t think you’re interesting is because you’re not very interesting. I’ve done all kinds of awesome things, but I don’t use that as a blunt instrument with which to beat people over the head and demand they acknowledge my special snowflake-ness.

What’s funny is that I agree with some of Forney’s points. I’ve lived in Portland for almost two years. While it’s true that some people are nice on the surface but resistant to deeper connections, I’ve also met some great people here who have become close friends. It seems Matt’s problem is that his negativity, bitter outlook on women and society, and his over-inflated sense of self-importance are the primary things he brings to the table. As with most things in life, you get out what you put in.

Ultimately, the manosphere is a shamosphere. These people aren’t warriors, heroes, or wolves, they’re bloggers whining about whiners on the internet (sort of like me, except that I’m honest about it). They care about their ethos insomuch as it results in book sales and blog views, writing reviews for books written by other “manospherians” as a way to share the wealth– in a totally capitalistic way, of course!– offered by those who need to read a book to learn how to be the Alphaiest of Alpha Males™. Despite their loud protestations that they are independent, real men, they seem to swarm in defense of one another, shill books written by other manospherians, and all have the same bald head and goateed look of petulant, powerless Lex Luthor. But, hey, he must be cool, why else would he have his youtube videos start by fading in to show him with a glass of scotch and lighting a cigarette while sitting in a plush chair?

The Ideal Alpha Male: A Pissy Lex Luthor With A Youtube Channel

Checkmate, rabbits!

A rant about bootlickers

Inspired by this article and its comments.

It is absolutely terrifying to read an article about an American citizen being arrested for refusing to answer questions of dubious legality at a border patrol checkpoint that is not even at the border, and see responses that say things like, “Stop making such a fuss, just answer them the next time.”

Who the fuck are these people? These pathetic excuses for human beings that are so spineless and milquetoast that the idea of standing up for their rights is as foreign to them as an asteroid from the Oort cloud. You are not obligated to follow an unlawful command just because it comes from a law enforcement officer. You are not obligated to answer questions that have no legal standing. Grow a god damn backbone, you fucking invertebrates.

Record. Refuse. Resist.

And if you’re not capable of gaining guts, at the very least quit demanding that the rest of us act as meek and useless as you.

Election analysis from a red state citizen

This is a guest post from a friend of mine who lives in the heart of Mormon country. For the sake of his anonymity, we’ll refer to him as Joseph Johnson.

Now that the election is over, and people have calmed down some, I want to give my opinion on why Mitt Romney lost. Before I start, I want to state that I am an independent voter. Before I voted, I researched all the candidates, and voted for two republicans in local elections. I tend to lean liberal, but am by no means a democrat. I believe a two party system is not the optimal situation, but I am also a realist. Right now, a vote for a third party candidate is a wasted vote. While I may agree with a third party candidates views more than a Republican, or a Democrat, they have zero chance of winning a presidential election. I am glad that, on a local level, more and more third party candidates are winning. However, in a national election, a third party candidate just gives another party a better chance of winning. I would rather vote for either a Republican or Democrat that more closely resembles my viewpoint than allow a candidate that I totally disagree with to win. I voted for Barack Obama, but I do not believe that Mitt Romney is an evil person, or that he had some hidden agenda to destroy America. No candidate runs for office with the intent to do anything other than what he or she believes is right for this country. That being said, here is why I believe Mitt Romney lost the election. It all started with the Tea Party “grass roots movement.” Continue reading

An open letter to Ann Coulter

After Monday’s debate, perennial right-wing blowhard Ann Coulter offered this compelling analysis of a 90 minute foreign policy discussion:

Ann Coulter

Erudite criticism from one of the right’s most fair and intellectually honest pundits. Just kidding, it’s actually Ann Coulter being an asshole again.

Now, Coulter is widely considered to be the real-life manifestation of an internet troll, so we can hardly be shocked when she vomits nuggets like this. Even still, her words have touched a nerve. Many people responded to her comments, calling her out for using such vile and hurtful language. Continue reading

Pro-Lie

Protest Sign

I didn’t have any posterboard, so I had to improvise. Dry erase board covered in saran wrap, since it was raining (yay Portland!).

I happened upon an anti-abortion protest last week. There’s a Planned Parenthood across the street from the post office near my house. I have a PO box there, because I’m getting old and that’s what old people do.

These protesters had been there before, but for some reason I felt moved that day to show my disagreement with their message. I left the post office, went home, called Planned Parenthood and made a $10 donation. Then, I made the sign that you see to the right, and went back to stand right next to the demonstrators.

As I was walking up, one of the people holding a sign, a younger girl who looked to be in her 20s, turned and smiled at me. That smile disappeared little by little as she read each line, until she looked up at me and simply said, “Oh.”

I said hello, then stood about 10 feet to her left, so that the arrow would be pointing at her and the others standing at each corner of the intersection. We talked briefly, when I told her that I had to give them credit for having the dedication to stand out in the rain. “We get our power from the holy spirit,” she replied.

“Well, I’m an atheist, so I guess I’m just here because I feel like it,” I offered, trying very hard not to come off as sarcastic. I wonder if she thinks I’m here because of Satan, I thought, doing my best not to ask her. Abortion is a contentious subject, and I wanted to remain civil. Continue reading

Tagg, you’re it

Taggart Romney, who may or may not be named after the female protagonist of Atlas Shrugged, had this to say about the debate, after being asked what it’s like to sit there and listen to the President of the United States call your dad a liar:

“Well — jump out of your seat and you want to rush down to the debate stage and take a swing at him,” he replied. “But you know you can’t do that because, well, first there is a lot of Secret Service between you and him but also because this is the nature of the process, they’re going to do everything they can do to make my dad into someone he is not.”

While Tagg seems like a nice enough guy, and the crazy eyes aren’t as strong with him as some of the others in the Romney brood, it does seem like he isn’t the only one who was struggling to stifle his rage during the debates. Check out how angry Josh Romney looked while Obama was speaking… Continue reading

Dan Savage nails it

From today’s Savage Love:

Conservatives tend to change their positions on specific “controversial” social issues when “it” happens to them. Nancy Reagan came out for stem-cell research after her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Rush Limbaugh came out for treatment over incarceration for drug offenders after he got caught with his hand in the OxyContin jar, Dick Cheney came out for marriage equality after his daughter came out. Likewise, a lot of conservatives—male and female—are anti-choice until “it,” i.e., an unplanned pregnancy, happens to them. (Sometimes the cure doesn’t stick. Scott DesJarlais, for example, is a rabidly pro-life member of Congress from Tennessee. But back in 2000, when he was a doctor, he pressured his mistress, who was also his patient, to get an abortion. As a member of Congress, DesJarlais opposes abortion in all cases, without exception… unless “it,” i.e., an unplanned pregnancy, happens to him.)

This inability to empathize—this refusal to imagine what it might be like to have an ill relative or a drug problem or a gay child or an unplanned pregnancy—is a defining characteristic of modern conservatism.

I’ve been saying for years that many conservatives seem to have an inability to feel compassion for those they perceive as an “other” or differing from them in significant ways. It seems that they seek to restrict the autonomy of others but are more than willing to bend the rules to make exceptions for themselves.

I believe that we should try our best to understand what another person is going through. It’s why I support gay marriage and am pro-choice. I will never have to worry about not being able to marry someone I love, and I’ll never have to get an abortion. But I can imagine what it would be like to not be able to freely love someone, or to be struggling with life and be faced with an unplanned pregnancy. I think more people should try to understand where others are coming from. It would make our world a better place.

Binders full of sister wives

And not a single one is wearing underpants, magic or otherwise!

What a rousing debate last night! Unlike the snoozefest on October 3, there were actually a few times last night where I thought Romney and Obama might trade blows. Certainly a welcome change. As is tradition, here’s a link to the video and transcript, just in case you missed it.

We’re dealing with trying times as a nation. We face important issues, and I believe that our decisions about them will have a lasting impact for generations to come. We’re deciding how we want to handle immigration, healthcare, women’s rights, foreign policy, and education. There may be as many as 2-3 appointments to the Supreme Court within the next 4 years. All of these things have the potential to significantly impact our social contract. I believe that Obama, while not my first choice, is a much better candidate than Mitt Romney, mainly due to the inherent differences between conservatives and liberals regarding the role of business and government. Continue reading