Monday, 29 December 2014

Is Free speech really in danger?

So it became half an issue when some students conspired to close down a debate on abortion in an Oxford college. All sorts of excruciatingly dishonest reasons were given as to why the debate should not happen - but one occasionally stated reason was that 2 men were debating the issue. Some feminists do not want men even expressing a view about abortion.

Anyways, one of the 2 men who were going to speak was Brendan O'Neill, and you can read his thoughts here - and also hear his discussion (I use the word loosely) with  the nightmare feminist from hell Harriet Brown, an Oxford post-grad who doesn't quite seem to have the knack of letting people talk uninterrupted for more than 5 seconds.

Ironically, one of the criticisms from student commenters was that free speech is actually no more than the freedom from government censorship or arrest for your views. So the shutting down of a debate wasn't a free-speech issue. This seemed worthy of some discussion, as it might sound at least plausible. 

So were a bunch of Spectator-reading, frothing-at-the-mouth right wingers getting upset over nothing?


Oh, the long answer...OK

I think it's important to think of “free speech” more broadly than as just about government censorship. Schools etc could exercise censorship, so it doesn't seem a great step to think of student bodies doing so.

More complex is the social pressure we exert on each other: queues, good manners, etc. These are restrictions on freedoms - no freedom is absolute, after all - and are necessary to society. But they needn’t affect calm debate on ANY issue, even if a student announces the issue closed or "passe".

I think free speech is under attack, from those who want to ban words like "fat" & "bossy", from those who dreamt up "hate speech" laws … and from the feminists who try to stop men talking about abortion, by shouting them down (podcast above), by closing down debate, or by claiming:

"I'm not sure that men should be allowed to be part of the debate about anything that happens before a child could be potentially viable. While it remains as much a part of the woman as her liver or her hair"


“The Pope’s beliefs about abortion will become relevant the day the Pope gets pregnant.”


“The idea that in a free society absolutely everything should be open to debate has a detrimental effect on marginalised groups”

I pulled those quotes at random. The censoring attitude is common enough - I've seen it many times myself.

Free speech means..

...well many things, for example letting idiots say whatever they lie, no matter how stupid you or I find it. As said, total freedom is hard to come by in everyday life (on the internet you can come close) or we'd go quite mad. What I want is for anyone who wants to stifle debate to have to give a bloody good reason why it shouldn't happen, and not the cringingly mendacious pretexts given by those who have disgraced Oxford University's good name

Here's the reason: if we didn't take free speech seriously, there is a plentiful supply of young people in every generation who think they know better than us what we should be doing, saying, and thinking. They tend to get so impatient that the idea of shutting up dissenters occurs to them as a really good idea. Any restriction on free speech will be manipulated by such people for their political purposes.

We have to go through this every generation or 2 because we're too stupid to learn from our mistakes. I'd love if we could wise up and not repeat the process.

Angry from Middlewhere

Monday, 24 November 2014

Feminism's dishonesty - pt 2: the pay-gap, and jobs in science and politics

The pay gap debate - lies, or just sins of ommission?

My previous post concerned #shirtstorm, which touched on the fact that there are fewer women working in science. Now I think the argument about women being or feeling excluded in scientific disciplines resembles that of the gender pay-gap. Men measured by a certain average, earn more money than women - just as there are currently more men in senior positions in science departments and, for that matter, political parties all over the world.

I think it's fair to say that feminists hate these facts, but they can't seem to argue a case consistently or at all honestly. With the pay gap, they will repeat the basic statistic, but not the more detailed work showing WHY the gap is there. There is a wealth of research showing that women work fewer hours than men, they choose different types of jobs, and make career choices for different reasons. They choose safer work, nearer to where they live, that doesn't interfere with their social lives, and they take a great deal of time off to have and raise children.

Thus there is no reason to suppose that discrimination lies behind the pay-gap. We have an excellent idea what lies behind it. So feminists can't say it's discrimination so easily. The problem is that they love to imply as much, or to carefully phrase things so that you might mistakenly conclude that discrimination was at work. 

The fact that anyone paying men and women different rates for the same work risks being prosecuted under the law is also swept under the carpet.

So many a time I've read or heard feminists mentioning that there is a pay-gap, and that this is a blatant injustice. But as said, the reasons for the pay-gap don't seem to be discrimination, but the results of women's own choices, so where is the injustice?

Feminists don't answer this, of course, but, like any politician, quickly move on to state that getting the numbers equal would be a desirable outcome. But it's pretty clear that if men are working more hours, doing more dangerous jobs, and taking less time off for children, then you've basically have to pay women more, or enforce quotas, or some such measure that would entail discrimination against men.

Not that feminists mind this part all that much

Jobs in science - same old same old...

Very similar considerations apply with the argument about fewer women working in scientific posts. There is less data, but there could be a number of reasons for this disparity. It may simply be that fewer women may be interested in these jobs in the first place - a heretical suggestion, but quite possible in reality. Then there is the small matter of the chunk taken out of one's life by having children.

...and there may be an issue with the atmosphere in the workplace. It's hard to say, and even if there were such an issue, why should we blame men? Science departments are very competitive places, socially and professionally - making a stressful work environment. It's quite likely that a female scientist might negotiate in a different way from a male, and be more likely to complain about an atmosphere.

And there will be considerable pressures to join a feminist organisation working for women in this field - after all they are a ready-made social network (or guild perhaps?), and you wouldn't want to make enemies of these people.

Lies, damned lies, statistics, and political debate

But my point is about dishonest political debate. Despite the difficulty in finding evidence for discrimination or a sexist atmosphere driving women away, Feminists

a) repeat the numerical discrepancy in scientists by gender - as though it were an obvious evil.
b) they forget to mention that fewer women apply for such posts
c) if this fact is mentioned, they imply dark forces of discrimination against schoolchildren, with no solid foundation in evidence,
d) they then claim - again with little evidence - that the reason for any women not succeeding brilliantly in science is not that there are fewer in the first place (again they often forget to mention this), but because of malign forces of sexism in the office.

So that's one set of evasions and baseless claims. But as with the pay-gap, feminists then seem to want to influence what is done about the gap. They claim that nothing short of 50/50 parity between the sexes is acceptable. But how on earth are we to achieve this if women make different choices? Well, feminists say either

a) that women should be encouraged to make different choices (possibly by incentives for women only to do science) or
b) that there must exist subtle underlying discrimination, and that the only way to battle this is by positive discrimination in recruitment.

So, based on no evidence, and starting from the premise that gender discrimination is evil,  they end up lobbying for discrimination in favour of women - which of course means AGAINST MEN. It's political genius, but also disgustingly dishonest and runs against any sort of fairness. It's one of the main reasons why I strongly oppose modern feminism.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Feminism's dishonesty - pt 1: Shirtstorm, or the day the earth went mad

The day and age we live in..

So, for those mysterious loons who don't get embroiled in internet furores, we'll start with the story of #shirtgate.

A team of scientists managed to land a space probe on a comet which was both hundreds of millions of miles away, and moving at 80,000 mph. That is quite a feat by any standards. I'd say even the moon-landings look tame by comparison. Something to make us feel good about ourselves, you might think.

Naturally there are press conferences surrounding this magnificent scientific achievement, and in one of these a prominent scientist from the project, Matt Taylor, was wearing a t-shirt with drawings of almost-but-not-quite-naked women.

...and this is where 21st century lunacy took over. These days we don't in reality have many facists, hardline communists (well a few, but not many Stalinists) or fundamentalist Christians (in the UK at least). We do have some rather fanatical Muslims, though. And we have feminism. Lot's and lot's of feminism.

That's so ostracizing!

The response to Taylor's shirt began in earnest, including angry tweets from Rose Eveleth of The Atlantic, and a piece in the Verge website entitled "I don't care if you landed a spacecraft on a comet, your shirt is sexist and ostracizing".

"Ostracising" is, I suppose, a gerundive, if I've remembered the term correctly, so it just about works grammatically, though it seems not to have flowed from the pen of a master wordsmith, if you ask me. This sort of language is also one of the tell-tale signs that you're reading one of the outraged victimhood-politics mob.

It's hard, isn't it, to see how a shirt can ostracise anyone. I'm not being funny here. This deliberate imprecision is sort of the topic for the day. For of course we are supposed to understand that they mean that the shirt is in some way related to behaviours that allegedly exclude women from working in science.

Let me quote from the Verge:

This is the sort of casual misogyny that stops women from entering certain scientific fields. They see a guy like that on TV and they don't feel welcome. They see a poster of greased up women in a colleague's office and they know they aren't respected. They hear comments about "bitches" while out at a bar with fellow science students, and they decide to change majors

It goes on a bit like this. Now firstly calling the shirt "casual misogyny" is not just exaggeration, it represents the ravings of someone in need of urgent help. Some modern feminists will call depiction of the naked female form on a shirt "misogyny" if a man wears it, and beautiful self-expression if a woman wears such a thing. In truth, they imagine misogyny everywhere they look. All this seething hatred must trouble them (if they are really stupid enough to believe in it - which they might be)

Secondly, we are once again being asked to believe in mysterious forces at play that are stopping women from pursuing science. Now I've worked in a university Science department and seen no such forces - though they may exist elsewhere, I guess.

What I did see was many men in senior positions, but many more of the up-and-coming students and academics were women in this particular field. The point is, far from men conspiring to impede women's progress, they actually very often want to see more female colleagues.

The slightly more serious politics of it

But the debate about women in science has many similarities with the very dishonest debate about the gender pay-gap, and I propose to discuss this in my next post. Suffice it to say that many women, including some prominent feminists, have said the shirt doesn't bother them, and does not seem like sexism to them. Even Julie Bindel is concerned at what feminism "might become".

I'll end by requoting the Verge:

I don't care if you landed a spacecraft on a comet, your shirt is sexist and ostracizing

And ask - do these people care about anything other than their very dubious beliefs - that they hold with such religious zeal? The scientific and engineering achievement will go down in history. But some feminists didn't give this a second thought, because they were obsessing about an unspecified "sexism" that might not even exist.

They couldn't see the brilliance right in front of them, all they could see was something that wasn't there..

Monday, 6 October 2014

Racism is all they can see..

I'm glad David Thompson's blog is once again touching on the subject of Racism Inc., because I had to listen to some parents at a kids' birthday party the other day going on about racism as though no other issue would ever exist again. Christ, I wanted to ruin their afternoon.

I wanted to say: surely it's human nature that if you encourage a group to look out for racism against themselves - they will learn to do just that. They will naturally see what is to be gained by claiming to be victims of racism. Even when the racism is doubtful - they will still get the sympathy, or the extra leeway.

They will also make mistakes. It's mundane human nature to misunderstand each other's motives. Sometimes we will ascribe very negative motives to someone who has simply had a bad day. I dare say some blacks or Muslims sometimes feel an unnecessary paranoia of racism. It surely exists, but can it be as prevalent as everyone is saying?

We need to be free to say 'actually perhaps that situation was not racism or xenophobia'. But I'm not sure we do feel free to say that. If we do, then members of victim groups threaten to get twice as angry, and 'progressive' do-gooders shout with fury. Of course, if you deny racism you must be one of the racists.

The result: we're encouraged to say that some situation has a racial element, and very much NOT encouraged to question it. So the show rumbles on, with seemingly unstoppable momentum.

Because it isn't just the victim group members, it's the white people who want to strike a pose by rejecting any faith in their own culture. Other whites, furthermore, who don't get that neutrality towards race is the ideal. These types think they are oh-so-worthy if they take sides against whites in some way.

...anyway my fellow party-goers didn't get to hear all that, so I had to write it all down in a hurry. It's not entertaining and not pretty - just primate social dynamics.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

RIP the Times of London

...once a monument, a national treasure. With pride I used to do some of the Times Crossword, used to look forward to what Bernard Levin et al had to say this week. In those days I trusted the Times (rightly or wrongly) and felt that there existed a moderate and moderately proud newspaper that stood for the values I believed in.

Nous avons changez tout cela, along with much else I valued. In order to appeal to a wider demographic, and, I suppose, to compete with TV and web-based news sources newspapers have - in a desperate struggle to avoid their certain doom - included "Lifestyle" sections.

We all know perfectly well that these sections are modelled on women's magazines for particular age-groups etc. The Guardian seem to direct their comments and Lifestyle sections at militant feminists. Amusingly, I think between 5 and 10 times as many women read the Daily Mail in the UK - a newspaper much hated by Guardianistas, a focus for all their fulminations against sexism, xenophobia etc

All good fun. It's interesting that the Times seem to be going the same way as the Guardian, and include more and more pieces where women complain about feeling victimised or excluded in some way because of their life choices. They feel society is against them because they have children/don't have children/are single/divorced/married/have a career/stay at home and look after kids... You name it, if it's a basic life choice then someone has written a whinge in a national newspaper about how unjustly they have been treated for making it. Society, we are told, has the wrong attitude about it, and needs correcting.

We arrive at the impetus for my rant: Janice Turner's recent piece on Mother's Day (£). She tells a lengthy anecdote before announcing

It struck me then that there has never been a worse time in history to be childless.

She then embarks upon a torrent of generalisations and unverifiable (not to say meaningless) claims. Here are some highlights.

In the absence of religious faith, we believe only in our own DNA and push around our household gods in Bugaboos. Parenthood is no longer a phase of everyday life, but a revered state. The world is not an adult domain into which children must learn to fit, but increasingly organised around childish needs. As [MP Rory] Stewart told Radio Times, babies are the new “opium of the masses”....As for motherhood being the hardest job in the world: really? Unless you have a disabled child and/or live in poverty, now we don’t wring cloth nappies through mangles or darn socks, it’s chiefly a test of patience and boredom threshold.

That last sentence seems to come from the Barbara Ellen charm school. The rest reads like hyperbole from a teenager's diary.

The comments section underneath the article is truly a thing of beauty. Comments range from inane agreement to things resembling "Nonsense, I have 5 kids and it never did me any harm". There are a few snarky remarks, less than half of them from men, and there is the obligatory side-swipe about the "anti-women" nature of "some of these comments" without specifying who, or why they are such misogynists. There's often a comment like that lurking under online journalism.

Finally there is a comment so deranged, and with such innovative punctuation, that I'm afraid to quote from it, lest I summon some creature of Cthulu from the depths. 

I shan't mince my words. Turner's piece is embarrassing rubbish, the commenters all belong in a special hospital unit of some kind. (Yes I commented). That is about all. Have a nice day :)

Friday, 10 January 2014

Wiki irony? Wiki deadpan?

Reading the Wiki page for the US/UK counterculture of the 1960s, we come across this item:

The availability of new and more effective forms of birth control was a key underpinning of the sexual revolution. The notion of "recreational sex" without the threat of unwanted pregnancy radically changed the social dynamic and permitted both women and men much greater freedom in the selection of sexual lifestyles outside the confines of traditional marriage. With this change in attitude, by the 1990s the ratio of children born out of wedlock rose from 5% to 25% for Whites and from 25% to 66% for African-Americans

Which does strike me as funny - intentionally or otherwise. I don't think the following precis is unfair:

Sex "without the threat of unwanted pregnancy" permitted people much greater freedom in the selection of lifestyles outside marriage. Thus the ratio of children born out of wedlock at least tripled.

Not sure how much more obvious I can make it.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Tony and Toni

My town has it's own bus company, that hasn't been subject (yet) to a takeover by one of the bigger operators. That's probably quite something in this day and age. A fellow I know called Tony worked there for most of his life.

I hadn't seen him for a while but he came to chat today as I busked - this is one of the reasons why I so love what I do,  surely one of the most pleasantly sociable jobs in the world. He'd worked with that same company for for 42 years - 42 years - most or maybe all of his working life. People used to do this sort of thing. He perhaps went to work there as a boy of 18 - maybe 16. Was his first job to make people tea, and endure the jokes of the older drivers? He himself was a driver for a while.

He was promoted, a step at a time, and worked in all areas. As a manager he seemed keen to muck in when someone was ill, or something needed doing. Once we phoned the company for news about one service and it was he who answered the phone "Yes" he said "we're running a service, if you can call it that"  Nowadays, we live in an age of cover-my-ass experts, but he was so gloriously tactless - saying things that noone would ever dare to say now. I like to think that the reason he got away with it was because he was what people are pleased to call a 'character'. Whenever I saw him there was always something going on around him - usually laughter.

I was rather pleased today, when he came to chat. "42 years" he said as he turned away, "so many memories" I watched him go, and wondered about this. I've never been able to stand even 10 years in one job. When I did I saw the depths of human small-mindedness. We were all so bored - yet here was a man who made the best of his work with one company for all those years.

As I watched him walk down the street with his wife, I wondered why more people couldn't be like Tony. But then I guess if they were, he wouldn't have been so special.


I tend to have coffee in town several times a week - sometimes as much to warm up as anything else. It's always a small latte and it's always in the same coffee shop, where Toni works. She's occasionally made my coffee for a few years now. She's pretty, of Italian ancestry (but speaks with no accent), and unfailingly friendly and kind.

I don't know about you, but that she stays so polite every day seemed like an achievement worthy of note to me.

Toni is leaving her place of employ tomorrow. I bought her some flowers - something I rarely do - with a note inside. I didn't tell her, in it, how much her kindness has meant to me. It wouldn't do, I think, to tell her how much I love her, and how I'll miss her.

I don't know what sort of love it is. At my age, perhaps one ought to. But there it is, and she's leaving. How I am going to find another person like this, I do not know. It's a feeling I'm accustomed to. Some people leave a big hole when they move on. I hope I see her again. Soon.