Monday, August 29, 2016

University of Chicago Rejects Trigger Warnings/Safe Spaces

I'll let others comment on other aspects of the letter, but today I want to focus on one aspect of University of Chicago's recent letter to incoming students:
"Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called 'trigger warnings,' we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual 'safe spaces' where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own."
"So-called." Scare/sneer quotes. Presenting safe spaces as students seeking to be coddled from dissenting views as opposed to reasonable accommodations for people of varying backgrounds and experiences.

I'm not offended. But, I am contemptuous. Incoming students, or their parents, are about to drop $200,000+ on tuition alone (~$280,000 including room, board, and other fees) to earn a degree at this esteemed institution and the grown-ass Dean of Students and other administrators involved in this decision have stooped to lowering the discourse to such simplistic culture war talking points about what is actually a much more nuanced issue than they present.

This topic could have been presented in a way that evidenced that the administration of this institution thoroughly thought through and debated the issue. Instead, framing their statement in the exact way that anti-PC crusaders frame the issue does not lend the impression that such a debate happened or had any measurable impact on decision-makers. Even if a more robust debate did occur behind the scenes, if I were an incoming student any acknowledgement of nuance would not be apparent to me.

Going forward, it remains to be seen how this stalwart institutional champion of free speech reacts to those who use their free speech to share their dissenting opinions of the university's decision here, as well as to those who might want to use their own free speech to critique and protest objectionable speakers and content the University sanctions and allows.

For all the railing against "safe spaces," speech that is defined as free to be said, versus not, often still depends upon who holds power over the platform.  If you don't believe me, tell a bigoted administrator or professor that they're being bigoted and see how well they tolerate that "dissenting view."

Friday, August 26, 2016

Farmer Friday

Rush Limbaugh and the right-wing news sources who fawn over the likes of him have said some silly things about lesbian farmers this week.  Here he is, speaking on his show:
"So here comes the Obama Regime with a bunch of federal money and they’re waving it around, and all you gotta do to get it is be a lesbian and want to be a farmer and they’ll set you up."
*Looks up from flannel shirt I just finished buttoning*

Oh, he he. Really now, I have no idea what he's talking about. Absurdity!

*Kicks straw under my desk*

Ahem. Yes, well.

But seriously, I want in. Hook me up with the Lesbian Farm Money!  I will quit blogging, move to the country, and open up an organic guest ranch/farm in a state favorable to divorce, seeking to help queer women legally end their marriages to men more quickly than they are able to in their states of domicile.  Growing some soybeans and tomatoes to boot would be a nice supplement to the revenue stream. Might as well destroy some Real Marriages while I'm sucking the teat of Big Government!

Sneak Preview Of My New Life:

Thursday, August 25, 2016

App To Warn When You're an Internet Harasser

Here's an interesting concept:
"Rather than spend the summer developing new chips, Alexei Bastidas spent his internship at Intel teaching a computer how to spot harassment on the internet. 
The result is a web app, currently in testing, that tells people just how intimidating they are on Twitter, offering both a numerical rating as well as example tweets that could be seen as harassing."
The solution is interesting to me on two levels.

One, it purports to use a technology solution rather than human labor to address the issue of online harassment.

Two, the thinking seems to be that notifying people that they might be engaging in harassment might then change their behavior.  The assumption seems to be that at least some people engage in harassment without knowing they engage in harassment.



I just reckon that many people who harass others online know they're about to harass someone. That, in fact, is the point.

So, I wonder what the psychological basis behind this solution is. Is the app meant to address the behavior of those who are unaware that they are about to harass someone? I mean, I do suspect there are, also, some people who harass unintentionally or unknowingly. For such people, I think, an app could possibly deter harassment.

For intentional harassers, probably not so much?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Dear Diary

So I was scrolling through my archives and check out this HOT TAKE from me circa 2007:
"My voting strategy as of now. And this could change. First, I'm going to throw away my vote for Mike Gravel in the primaries. I refuse, on principle, to vote for any candidate whose support for LGBT rights is not clear, and frankly not correct- even if there's a woman running, and even if there's an African-American running. Because right now, this little-known and underexposed candidate is the ONLY one is in full support of marriage equality, who opposes the Defense of Marriage Act, AND opposes "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." (
And then Hillary will win the primaries. And I'll have to choose between (a) not voting at all (b) voting for "the lesser two-evils," neither of whom fully support gay rights and are more beholden to corporate interests than they are to the common citizen. Ahhh, the 'lessser of two evils,' that bane of the American voter's existence. 
But, since voting is one of the few meaningful ways for a non-millionaire average citizen to participate in our democracy, I'll choose to vote. 
And I'll vote for Hillary. Who will lose to Rudy Giuliani. Because when America's gut-checked, we'll find out we aren't quite ready for a woman president after all. 
I hope I'm wrong."
What the what? Who the fuck even was I back then? Who the hell is Mike Gravel? Why was I too lazy to use basic HTML to embed a URL? Was I a single-issue "gay rights" voter?

And damn, at least dudes regularly get paid for being wrong about politics.

I mean, it's like reading a journal of sorts, except way more embarrassing because other people can read it as well. (I know, oh woe is the blogger life).

Anyway, I guess my larger, more serious point here is that people's political opinions can and often do change over time.  I ended up voting for Obama in both the 2008 primary and general elections, which is a decision I still agree with. But, I supported the Greens in 2000 (yikes) - mostly because I was in college with little work experience, hadn't yet experienced gender discrimination, didn't fully appreciate that perhaps incremental change is the best way to make lasting change, and I felt powerless in the grand scheme of things and thus sympathized with "anti-establishment" sentiment.

The second point is that I'm also quite certain there are plenty of topics within my archives that I think differently about at present.  The challenge is if and how to address that now.  My thoughts are "out there" representing me, but I have changed over time, as many people are wont to do.

Sadly, neither political nor Internet "gotcha"/"callout" cultures allow for such change or concede that change can be genuine.  The demand is that people must have been perfect, however that is defined at the moment (which itself changes over time), from day one.  A person is painted as a flip-flopper at best or unchangeably rotten to the core at worst.

Hillary Clinton, for instance, is now sometimes critiqued for not fully supporting LGBT rights from the start of her political career. Now, however, I believe she is a sincere ally. I trust that now. I didn't in 2007.

I guess when I look for sincere change, I look for the reasons the person gives for changing. Have they listened? Have they learned? Have they apologized if they've done wrong?  And, looking at ourselves as the judge of someone else, what is our investment, if any, in painting another person a certain way?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Weapon of Mass Projection

Donald Trump is, because of his public attacks on others (and possibly for other reasons), abusive. Understand that emotionally-abusive people often engage in psychological projection.

Watch him describe Hillary Clinton:
"'She is a totally unhinged person,' Mr Trump said of his Democratic opponent at a rally on Saturday. 'She's unbalanced. And all you have to do is watch her, see her, read about her.'"
Then, watch what he claims about the election:
"The election, Mr Trump warns, could be nefariously tilted against him. 
'I'm telling you, November 8th, we'd better be careful because that election is going to be rigged,' he said in an interview last week. 'I hope the Republicans are watching closely, or it's going to be taken away from us.'"
I know from my own social media feeds that many Trump supporters legitimately believe that the polls are rigged. The media is rigged. The narratives are rigged. The electoral process is rigged. Everything is rigged against Trump.

It's a theme that started with the Bernie Sanders campaign, and now Trump has run away with it. First, the existence of super-delegates meant that the system was "rigged" against Sanders. But then, when he was resoundingly losing the popular vote, the elected delegates, and the majority of states, his campaign pondered trying to switch super-delegates to thwart the will of the voters.

It's not so much that people mind "rigged" systems. It's more that they mind when the systems are not or cannot be rigged in their own favor.

Which brings us back to Trump. If that man is claiming the election is going to be rigged, I think there's a decent chance he's the one trying to rig it.