Saturday, April 19, 2014

Gray Hat

I've never understood the insistence on the part of the United States government that we are attempting to be "honest brokers" in the "peace process" between the Israelis and Palestinians. It's always seemed pretty obvious to me that we've chosen a side.

America poses as an honest broker, but everywhere it is perceived as Israel’s lawyer. The American-sponsored “peace process” since 1991 has been a charade: all process and no peace while providing Israel with just the cover it needs to pursue its illegal and aggressive colonial project on the West Bank.
Avi Shlaim, Israel Needs to Learn Some Manners
But, as my father used to tell me, "obvious" is something that's so crystal-clear that you're the only person who sees it. (It is nice, through, that Mister Shlaim, and John Cassidy, over at The New Yorker also see it this way. It reduces the feeling that I'm missing something.) So I understand that there's a reasonable explanation for why people in the United States and Israel take the State Department and the White House at face value when they claim to be an unbiased third party.

What I'm not sure I understand is why it seems to be so difficult for us as a nation to understand why pretty much no-one else sees us that way. The United States has used its Security Council veto 42 times on Israel's behalf since 1978, and appears to take the public stance that Israel can do no wrong, and that international action against the Jewish state is always politically-motivated harassment, no matter how open the apparent violation of international law. The United States rarely considers such open support for an ally to be justified when other nations engage in it.

In its own eyes, the United States of America is self-evidently "the Good Guy." And we see this attitude in American dealings around the globe. Which is fine. But we don't seem to be able to get to the point where we understand that everyone else is the hero of their own story, too. And this allows us to think of our self-image as a reflection of an objective reality, rather than simply the result our perception of the world around us. And therefore, I think, the American mindset sees the world as a more hostile place than it would otherwise be.

One recurring attitude that I've encountered in a number of different facets of life is the idea that when you're doing things correctly, you will draw the unearned ire of people who have been, due to their own flawed characters, seduced into Doing It Wrong. And the common side-effect of this mindset is that the hostility that one engenders in those one doesn't like is proof of one's own correctness. This strikes me as dubious enough in personal relationships. I can't imagine that it's a viable way to conduct international diplomacy. Yet it appears to be the basis of American insistence that we're a neutral umpire, rather than a fan.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Without Representation

“I think this woman is wrong about something on the Internet. Clearly my best course of action is to threaten her with rape.”

That’s crazy talk, right? So why does it happen all the time?

Honest question, dudes.
Andy Khouri, “Fake Geek Guys: A Message to Men About Sexual Harassment
Honest answer - it's the nature of anonymous Internet. I know that it's unsatisfying, but that's the way it is. There is nothing especially evil about comic book fandom or other aspects of "geek culture." It's simply a diverse, and rather large, group of people. And - there is no group of people large enough to have entered the public consciousness that is small enough to not have any jackasses in it.
How do we fight this war? We stop enabling. We check ourselves and, when necessary, wreck ourselves.
Okay then. Want to win this war? Time to give up on the idea of Internet anonymity. Because as with most such things, the sexual harassment of women online (which isn't limited to geek subjects, of course) isn't really enabled by the silence of people other than harassers. It's enabled by the ability to commit a crime and not be held accountable because no-one knows who the perpetrator is, and they lack any means to find out. Mr. Khouri lays out a list of men who need to be "checked" for not being properly respectful of women, and, judging from the number of times that his piece has shown up in my social media feeds, he has a lot of the choir nodding their heads and calling out "Amen."

But it's one thing for fandom to stand up and applaud someone who tells us to take actions that, honestly, most of us will never need to take. It's another thing to stand up and decide that the problem is how we, as a society, pay for an anonymous Internet.

People like Janelle Asselin, Kate Leth and Heidi MacDonald, just to name a few of the people listed in Mr. Khouri's piece are paying the price for internet anonymity. We live in a society where the ability to say something, and not be known to have said it, is often considered an affirmative good. It makes it easier for people to shed light on the dark places and back rooms where things are going on that we really ought to know about. But what protects the whistle-blower and the journalist also protects the stalker and the bigot. And we accept that trade-off because it makes our lives easier. It's easier to trust people to speak anonymously than it is to protect them against those who would discredit or retaliate against them.

But it means that while we all can reap the benefits on anonymous internet, the costs are not even distributed. Some people pay more than others. There is a special tax placed on certain people. And we ask them to pay it because we find that more palatable than the alternative.

Monday, April 14, 2014


As long as I fear a life without fear, I do not have fear. Fear, instead, has me. It is the part of me without which I would not recognize myself, and I would be lost without it.

But when I no longer fear a life without fear, then I will have fear.

And what is truly mine can be cast aside.

And I will be serene.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

I See All Good People

Hey... It gets the point across, so let's go with it.
I'm not normally one for pithy sayings, mainly because I'm not very good at them. But earlier today I came across a web posting applauding a woman who was standing up to attempts to shame her - by attempting to publicly shame the perpetrators of the attempted shaming. Now, I'm not going to pretend to be shocked, shocked, by this turn of events, or become caught up in charges of hypocrisy, because I get it. And it was a fairly common argument, something along the lines of: "In attempting to devalue me for something that's not my fault, you've shown yourself to be a bad person." Or, more concisely - "I'm not the bad person - you are."

This sort of thing never struck me as very constructive, so I decided that, since this blog tends to be about Things Aaron Hates, it might make a good topic. But between going out an getting some exercise, soaking up the Seattle sunshine (I know, right?), and going grocery shopping, it occurred to me that, I could say everything I wanted to say in one sentence, instead of my usual long-winded pontificating. So, there it is.

With just a little pontification for good measure.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


While it's become something of an article of faith on the American left that their fellow Americans are scientifically illiterate, I have a feeling that the problem is actually somewhat different. To me the issue seems to be a combination of economic and/or religious illiteracy. I do not claim to be either an economist or a religious scholar. The closest I've come to a formal education in economics is a sibling, and while I do have a few years of Roman Catholic theology to my name, high school was a very long time ago. Be that as it may, I have come to the conclusion that science is "under attack" in the United States because there are certain constituencies who believe (incorrectly, in my view) that in order to hold on to the economic and/or religious positions that they have staked out, they have to disprove, or at least dispute, certain items that would otherwise be considered as close to ironclad scientific fact as we currently come.