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October 26, 2010

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I'm sure I'll be mad at him again tomorrow. But not tonight.

Thanks, Jacob.

A truly Presidential use of the bully pulpit. Thank you Mr. President. (and Jacob)

Now I remember why I was so thrilled to have this man elected President of the United States of America.

I liked it enough to post it to Facebook October 22 at 1:37pm. :-)

Wonderful statement.

Plus what Oyster Tea said.

I'm sure most folks are aware of the It Gets Better Project, but probably someone hasn't heard of it, so there you go.

Several friends of mine have participated in various group videos. Probably some of yours have, or you have, as well!

I have no documentary evidence to prove this, but I'm guessing this is saving some lives.

Well done.

As an aside, I know that gay people still deal with a undeserved ration of crap more days than not, especially young folks, but when I think of how things have changed from when I was young until now, it's sort of amazing.

People change. It takes work, but they change.

Thanks for this Jacob.

"As an aside, I know that gay people still deal with a undeserved ration of crap more days than not, especially young folks, but when I think of how things have changed from when I was young until now, it's sort of amazing."

I'm less impressed because, for one thing, I often play multiplayer online computer games, specifically such as the very popular-with-adolescents-and-teens Modern Warfare 2.

The way the latter works, in short, if you're not so involved as to have other friends to Invite to play with you, or are in a guild/team, you get herded randomly into a group of random players.

Did I mention that anyone who wants to can use their mike to speak to all the other players? That many gamers engage in a constant stream of commentary? That many trash talk?

Bottom line short is that to play is to hear endless streams of racial and other epithets, and most particularly, all the variants of the classic you faggot.

Fortunately, you can mute players, and quit games, but the previous system that allowed people to run their own servers, and thus ban racist and homophobic language, was far superior. I don't want to drag this thread off track into details of online gaming, but my point is that shortly when I want to relax for a bit I will likely try a bit of MW2, and if I play at all long -- it might take all of ten seconds -- I'm going to hear a string of comments from teens to whom everything bad is "gay" and that's the nicest part of their language.

That's an experience that always just seconds away from me when I click on the icon to start up the game.

I'll believe things are really better for gay kids when I quit hearing "you faggot" used as one of the most common insults by kids.

I'll believe it when I can game without hearing a stream of that language every time.

But, sure, yes, things are better every year for gay people, and more or less have been since Stonewall. Absolutely. And increasingly dramatically so in the last few years.

But there's still so very far to go.

Today's kids, when they're grandparents, will still have been people who acted out in homophobic ways as kids. When will that truly become rare?

That's when I'll know we've gotten better, not just that it gets better for individual kids.

But there's still so very far to go.

No argument.

I'll believe things are really better for gay kids when I quit hearing "you faggot" used as one of the most common insults by kids.

As a recovering MW2 addict and longtime gamer, I can attest that hearing this sort of crap is all too common.

With that said, I'm betting that there's a nontrivial number of them for whom "fag" and "gay" are simply words. They know they're bad because that's what they've been taught, but they don't actually understand what they mean--their usage does not necessarily map directly onto personal animus towards homosexuality. I know that when I was 12, 13 years old, I used those words in near-total ignorance of their actual meaning.

Perhaps I'm projecting a bit, but I wouldn't read /too/ much into the prevalence of those slurs in online gaming. Sure, there are plenty of adults using them--but even for them, there are many who habitually call things "gay" but who don't actually have anything against gay people.

That doesn't make it okay, and it's still hurtful. But we can still reach them, and I'm not sure it really stands as a strong counterpoint to how far we've come for gay rights.

And yeah, I'm looking forward to dedicated servers too. I really miss some of the outstanding Counterstrike servers that used to exist.

Interestingly enough, I'm in a World of Warcraft guild where every time I hear that kind of thing on vent, I say "No, gay people would have done fine, that is so straight". It has actually gotten to the point where people screw up and say "that is so straight" which I find mildly fun. It is only about 30 people. But still.

On a different note, I'm REALLY irritated with Congressional Democrats on Don't Ask Don't Tell. They had more than 60 votes in the Senate to finish it, and then [email protected]#[email protected]#%$ing Harry Reid bundled it with some controversial immigration rule changes, knowing full well that the Republicans wouldn't vote for those. He allowed the immigration amendments even while denying Republican amendments, so WTF was he thinking? Seriously it looks like he intentionally spiked it. Is there another legitimate explanation?

How much political courage does it take when 70% of the public thinks the policy should go? Seriously?!?!

I'd kvell to find someone I know to play Modern Warfare II against, by the way. "Know" is defined as "you have read this."

I'm very bad, too. The kids just slaughter me. You can come get out all your aggression against me by shooting me, knifing me, blowing me up! You know you want to do it!

Anyone? Bueller? Catsy?

I've decided my birthday present is MW:Black Ops.

Sebastian, I frequently just say "I won't play with racists or homophobes," and quit out of that game.

For a while I played under the name of DieRacistHomophobes, but there is a disadvantage to having a long name, as you do wear it over your head, so shorter names to tend to help you die a little less.

I love your solution. I'll give it a try.

MW: Black Ops, the new iteration that comes out next week, will allow dedicated servers again, so that should make much of the problem go away for that game if one is choosy about servers, so yay.

With that said, I'm betting that there's a nontrivial number of them for whom "fag" and "gay" are simply words. They know they're bad because that's what they've been taught, but they don't actually understand what they mean

A high school teacher friend of mine reports overhearing some year 7 boys talking in their first dance class: "What?! They can't make us dance with girls! That's gay!"

"It is only about 30 people."

Of course, there's the difference: I play with random people each time, so there's no repetitive effect.

They had more than 60 votes in the Senate to finish it, and then [email protected]#[email protected]#%$ing Harry Reid bundled it with some controversial immigration rule changes

Not to take this further OT, but for the life of me I can't figure out how Harry Reid ended up as Senate majority leader.

He's the best they could do? Was there, like, a raffle, with Senate majority leader as the prize, and it was Reid's lucky day?

Also Seb, I totally like your approach to schooling the bigot wannabes.

Reid is a horrible 'leader'. and i will not be sad if he loses next week. (i know that makes me a bad Democrat)

Growing up, "that's so gay" literally meant "that's so lame." Nice? No. Deliberate attack on homosexuals? No. Callous indifference to how it might make another person feel? Hell yes. It's a cultural thing that I hope goes the way of the dodo.

I've cut it out myself, because eventually I thought it though and went "huh? wait, what?" I'm not anti-gay, so wtf was I using gay that way for? Immersion in a culture that uses it that way, and no other reason. So I stopped it.

So, while I agree our culture has a LONG way to go on the issue, take some comfort that the average teenager is probably not actively homophobic and many of them will probably figure out how to speak like reasonably respectful people as they age.

Sure, there are plenty of adults using them--but even for them, there are many who habitually call things "gay" but who don't actually have anything against gay people.

I listen to a lot of underground, hardcore metal stuff. Within "rocker" or metalhead circles, it's very common to hear music that isn't sufficiently heavy or aggressive or just plain cool described as being "gay." It has absolutely nothing to do with at-the-moment homophobia.

I do it myself sometimes, to be totally honest, when I get into that social context. It's a thoughtlessly habitual thing that goes all the way back to my adolescence. That doesn't excuse it, but, since I don't regularly spend my days discussing metal, it's a hard habit to break, paradoxically, because it's now only occassional thing and I can't regularly practice not doing it. I'd need to stop and think to myself, "I'm talking to one of my rocker friends about music now, so I must continually remind myself not to use the word 'gay.'" Maybe the act of typing this out will help. "Corny" might make for a good substitute. (No offense to Nebraskans, mind you.)

Gay was such a better word when it meant happy or light hearted. My four definitely non-homophobic children all use it casually, I cringe and occasionally object. They look at me like I have two heads and assure me that there gay friends also use it in context.

Of course, I am too old to conclude they are right/wrong and my gay friends are not as sanguine as theirs are purported to be.

It is a large step from the unthinking casual use to the kind of purposeful bullying the President addresses.

"He's the best they could do? Was there, like, a raffle, with Senate majority leader as the prize, and it was Reid's lucky day?"

The quick and dirty answer to that is to point out that the Senate Majority Leader has relatively little power these days over Senators. It's not as if the Leader can fire them, you know. Senators elect their leader, not vice versa.

Who, specifically, would they be voting for otherwise? And then would anyone like to explain why Chuck Schumer is going to be thrillingly better?

This is a mug's game. It has nothing to do with personalities, and everything to do with structure. Change the Senate Rules, and you'll get a different result. Change the leader as many times as you like, without changing the rules, and nothing significant will ever happen differently.

"It has absolutely nothing to do with at-the-moment homophobia."

This is a bridge too far. What, it's just a wacky coincidence that "gay" is what kids call each other to insult each other and everything else? It has absolutely nothing to do with homophobia?

Where is the usage derived from, then?

Marty: "Gay was such a better word when it meant happy or light hearted."

I know perfectly well you mean this only nicely, but if you stop and think about what you're saying, Marty, you might notice that many people, gay or not, will quite reasonably understand you to mean that "gay" became a much "worse" word when it became applied primarily to homosexual people.

How would that make you feel if you were gay?

"My four definitely non-homophobic children"

Is there a test?

Personally, I'm a little homophobic, and I've had sexual experience with men. I'm a little racist, and I've had experience with people of all sorts of ethnic background. I'm at least a little sexist; I constantly catch myself at it. I have endless bits of other prejudices I sporadically catch myself affecting my thinking.

I am not a god-like being, who is never prone to bits of prejudice, let alone all the bits I don't catch, which have to be the majority. I have never succeeded in being mentally unaffected by my entire culture.

I find that the best I can do is try to be self-aware about my thinking, and try to be self-aware as much as I can, every day.

And I actively try to educate myself as to how things look from the point of view of those not like me; I learn something new at least every week, if not every day, that reveals some weird bit of ignorance or odd assumption on my part, about some kind of folks, as a rule.

Are you and your kids different, the same way most Americans believe that, somehow, they are completely free of all prejudices?

"Change the Senate Rules, and you'll get a different result. Change the leader as many times as you like, without changing the rules, and nothing significant will ever happen differently."

In some general sense, maybe. But in the specific case of DADT, Reid specifically didn't have to add the immigration issues. He knew they were controversial, he knew that it would lose Republican votes, he knew that he barely had 60 at the time. It just doesn't make sense from the point of view of DADT being an important Democratic party agenda item. And even if you don't think DADT is an important Democratic party agenda item (I tend to be suspicious that it is much more like abortion for Republicans in that they'd rather be able to continue using it to get you to vote for them than actually do anything about it) it still doesn't make sense to add the immigration issue and risk killing it when he had to know that it was going to kill it.

The only things that make sense is that he somehow didn't realize that the amendment would kill it (which is to say INCREDIBLE lack of political sense and ENORMOUS stupidity) or that he actually wanted to kill it for some reason.

But why? It seriously risks the repeal not happening at all, as Democratic control is pretty much going to slip. And passing it was very unlikely to cost votes in play, because repealing DADT is so popular (70% of the population wants to get rid of it, so you can pretty much insure that if people are voting on the issue at all, you're gaining more than you're losing).

So seriously, WTF?

"I know perfectly well you mean this only nicely, but if you stop and think about what you're saying, Marty, you might notice that many people, gay or not, will quite reasonably understand you to mean that "gay" became a much "worse" word when it became applied primarily to homosexual people."

Not worse, just more complicated, point taken though.


"is there a test?"

Well, perfection isn't the yardstick I use and since homophobis is used interchangeably for a number of different feelings/emotions/points of view/prejudices then I am comfortable defining them as not prejudiced, to pick one definition. I believe that the active part that LGBT people play in their day to day social lives, their activism in LGBT issues, the fact that two have had LGBT roommates for a more than temporary amount of time(years) is enough to establish their prejudices as being minimal.

And as a parent I certainly believe each is perfect......

It has absolutely nothing to do with homophobia?

Gary, I can only imagine the rant you would pull if someone ignored a relevant modifier in one of your statements. I purposely used "at-the-moment" to allow for the derivation of the word, you know, on purpose, like, for a reason. I'm saying that when rocker dudes are harshing on music by using the word "gay," they aren't at all thinking about homosexuals at the moment, despite the derivation of the word they are using.

I'll believe things are really better for gay kids when I quit hearing "you faggot" used as one of the most common insults by kids.

Your point is well taken, Gary. And I would imagine that for most gay kids in most parts of the country things at the day-to-day level of peer interactions haven't gotten that much better. But on the level of public discourse, the difference is enormous.

When I was going through adolescence in the late 70s, gay characters were just starting to show up on TV...always accompanied by enormous controversy, letter-writing campaigns and boycotts from the fine folks at our Catholic church, and lots of tut-tutting from my parents over what the world was coming to.

Now, the haters are still hating, of course, but the counter-discourse that's represented by the IGBP -- "You can live out, proud and happy, and we are the living proof" -- was not just nonexistent in my formative years, but unthinkable.

It isn't necessarily going to help the kid who's getting the sh*t beat out of him today to know that in another 5 years, if he just hangs on, life could get better. But unless and until people start taking bullying more seriously than just "something kids do," it's better than nothing.

I'm a little racist, and I've had experience with people of all sorts of ethnic background.

Well, you know what they say...

Damn, I should have remembered Avenue Q.

I have to apologize to everyone, because I cruised by with several strongly worded sentiments, in which in some cases I definitely was over-stating for rhetorical state, and now I'm apologizing because I really shouldn't have posted those when I don't have the time to respond at the moment, and really amn't sure when I will, although I should be able to squeeze in some in the next day or so, or maybe even just later today.

But my bad for engaging in a small iteration of a primary sin of the internet: hitting "post" before thinking through the consequences.

I strongly agree that racism, like homophobia, sexism, excellence, funniness, and most other qualities, is best viewed as being on a spectrum rather than as an either-or proposition.

a primary sin component of the internet: hitting "post" before thinking through the consequences.

Fixed.


I am going to go slightly off the point. First, however:

I agree with this campaign. I think Dan Savage deserves some sort of medal for starting it. And I agree with the President's message. It's heartfelt and true. But (and you saw this coming) ....

I must dissent from the notion that bullying is not "just a part of growing up." The President is wrong, there. Bullying isn't just a part of growing up, it's a part of life. It's a part of being human. It's 90% of what passes for blogs. We all play, at times, the bullied and the bullee'd. We all, at times, issue "strongly worded sentiments," to misuse Gary's phrase, and only a handful of us are knowing enough to reconsider. (I, admittedly, am not among that handful frequently enough.)

If there is one thing that still causes me to put a "classic" before my "liberal" lapel, it is the fact that many modern liberals -- in this video, Obama* -- still think that they can "fix" people. That they can, somehow, expel bullying. Or other, baser human instincts. We should fight such things, of course, but we should never expect to win.

I realize that y'all may not trust me on this point, so, if you don't mind, I'll invoke the Whedonverse in support: That way lies dropping Pax into an air supply. And we all know where that leads. It seldom results in hugs and puppydogs, quaking in their stylish yet affordable boots.

*Although my gut tells me that Obama might agree with me in private conversation.

von,

Do you limit your pessimism to bullying specifically, or does your doubt that human nature can change extend to other human habits?

Or does "bullying" by definition comprehend all those distasteful aspects of human nature that can't be changed?

It seems to me that superstition, for instance, is a somewhat smaller component of human nature, nowadays, than it used to be once upon a time. I mean that in both the EXtensive and the INtensive sense: fewer individuals are superstitious; individuals are less superstitious.

I could be wrong, of course. But if I'm right, then I claim do-gooders had SOMETHING to do with that change in human nature.

--TP

I tend to agree with von's doubts and for me they extend to pretty much the full range of basic human behavior. You can try to limit the most negative aspects of certain human behaviors, but changing them full out is a much harder task.

As far as superstitions go, I think that people just call them different things. There are fewer people specifically superstitious about God/god, demons or evil spirits. But in my view the superstitious/trying to control the world through weird behaviors thing has just branched out into various manias, obsessions and the like. (Could anorexia be considered a replacement control mechanism that might have previously been fulfilled by weird charm fetishes for example?)

When a book like The Secret can sell millions upon millions of copies, and have its ideas promulgated by the most popular and influential television host in history to her audience of millions, I don't think we're in a position to surmise that people are less superstitious than they used to be.

von,

You say we should fight the good fight, but not expect to win (completely). I agree. Fighting that good fight, however, can have positive effects. Will there still be bullying? Sure. Might it be less common, less tolerated and therefore less harmful? I think that's entirely possible. This isn't black & white.

There is no dropping vox into the air supply here.

Now you've got me looking for a way to work "I aim to misbehave" into a post.

If there is one thing that still causes me to put a "classic" before my "liberal" lapel, it is the fact that many modern liberals -- in this video, Obama* -- still think that they can "fix" people. That they can, somehow, expel bullying. Or other, baser human instincts. We should fight such things, of course, but we should never expect to win.

our history is full of expelled baser instincts: slavery, genocide, dueling, child labor, sexual abuse, overt racism, religious persecution*, etc..

--

* yes, many "conservatives" would love to bring this back.

If there is one thing that still causes me to put a "classic" before my "liberal" lapel, it is the fact that many modern liberals -- in this video, Obama* -- still think that they can "fix" people. That they can, somehow, expel bullying. Or other, baser human instincts. We should fight such things, of course, but we should never expect to win.

I actually agree with this, which is a large part of why I self-identify as "lefty" rather than "liberal".

What I'd propose to you, von, is that, under the heading of "we should fight such things", the well-meaning liberal approach is not such a bad idea.

It's better, frex, for the President to say "bullying is not acceptable" than for him to suggest that folks who are sick and tired of taking a ration of crap to go buy baseball bats and respond in kind.

Malcolm X's approach to justice was, IMVHO, as reasonable as King's was. The advantage of King's is that, if we're very very lucky, we all get to be friends when the dust settles.

I agree with your assessement of Obama. I doubt he thinks his little speech is going to magically transform human nature. IMO, however, in his position it's better that he take the nice liberal approach than that he say "If I were gay, I'd kick straight @ss until they get the message".

I remember reading an interview with William Burroughs, in which his first opening remarks were a demand for a gay state, whose borders would be patrolled night and day by gays carrying AK47's.

It's an approach. Net/net, Obama's is probably preferable.

The liberal ideal of a social nirvana is, after all, just a dream, but it's a better one than most others.

Should I bother writing a comment about legalizing murder, armed robbery, rape, assault, burglary and theft? I mean, some people will continue to do these things, regardless of our attempts to stop them. (I feel so trite.)

Over here (esp. East Germany) there have been examples of little children insulting other children as 'Jews' with both parties knowing that this is among the basest insults in the book but neither having any idea what a Jew actually is (and there are very few in that part of the country in the first place).
As far as 'gay' is concerned, an editor of the paper I read wrote a squib some time ago about a discussion with his son. Youngsters change their slang on a regular base and especially the terms for 'good' and 'bad'. At the time he wrote it had just changed to 'schwul' (gay) for bad and 'porno' (porn) for good (neither with any sexual implication. The editor observed a general tendency that the terms chosen invert the 'adult' views, i.e. the term for good must be something the adults disapprove of while the opposite must be something 'one cannot be against' (anymore at least). He concluded that he will see the time when 'pedophile' becomes the word of highest approval. Btw, the current favorite insult among young Turks in Germany is 'you German potato'.

@Hartmut, when i was 11 or 12, the slang around our school somehow evolved so that "weak" was a synonym for what today's "awesome", usually used as an exclamation:

"Look at this new BB gun I got for my birthday!"
"Weak!"

Ugh, I had completely forgotten about The Secret. It was very popular for about a year at my last job. Yikes. Superstition in action indeed.

I'd kvell to find someone I know to play Modern Warfare II against, by the way. "Know" is defined as "you have read this."

I'm very bad, too. The kids just slaughter me. You can come get out all your aggression against me by shooting me, knifing me, blowing me up! You know you want to do it!

Anyone? Bueller? Catsy?

To be honest, I haven't opened the game in months. Too many hackers and douchebags, no sense of community, and it was sucking my soul anyway despite all of those flaws. Made it to, I think, 3rd Prestige? Something like that, I forget.

But if you ever see "800lb Guerilla" on Steam, that's me. That was me in Counterstrike too, if anyone remembers that sort of antediluvian history.

One of my best friends is still playing, though. 10th Prestige player who goes by MajorWeaksauce. He's usually a sniper, so I made this custom minifig of his favorite kit as a random gift.

I've decided my birthday present is MW:Black Ops.

I'm still thinking about it. Partially because I want to see what bugs there are on launch. Partially because I just got Fallout: New Vegas and it is currently eating my soul. But mainly because I have so many building projects on my plate, including a big diorama for a contest with an end-of-the-year deadline, and I need a new addictive multiplayer game like I need invasive brain surgery.

I just accidentally erased a comment in which I praised President Obama, appreciated Von's comment, and agreed with Russell.

I pondered my schizophrenic liberal nature over the years, the nature of the current bullies running for office, and whether a Mister Rogers approach or the Howard Beale approach or the Joe Pesci approach should be the antidote to bullying.

I came down on the side of Martin Luther King, but thought holding Malcolm X in reserve (like Alvey Singer having Marshall McLuhan behind a potted plant) might be a good strategy in the current, ummm, environment.

Then I read this:

http://www.balloon-juice.com/2010/10/28/arkansas-school-board-official-disapproves-of-purple-fag-day/

For the moment, I think a liberal Joe Pesci should be in the ascendancy, so have a nice day all.

John Boehner, Mike Pence and other bullies recently:

"We will not compromise after the election."

Joe Pesci:

"Scuse me, whad dyou say? Maybe I dint heah dat right. Somethin wrong with youh tongue all of a sudden? Let's take a look at it. C'mon, stick it out. Let me examine it with my effing knife."

Von's right. You can't change some people.

Obama should have said "go out there and kick some straight @ss until they get the message."

Bullying isn't just a part of growing up, it's a part of life. It's a part of being human. It's 90% of what passes for blogs.

No, sorry. There is a qualitative distinction between having to read someone saying something mean about you on a blog, and being beaten up. (Or, for that matter, being verbally assaulted in real time and space by people with the potential to do you physical harm.) Conflating the two is distinctly unhelpful, and frankly more than a little offensive.

If there is one thing that still causes me to put a "classic" before my "liberal" lapel, it is the fact that many modern liberals -- in this video, Obama* -- still think that they can "fix" people. That they can, somehow, expel bullying.

Who said anything about "fixing" bullies? How about "We won't tolerate behavior among children that, among adults, would be considered grounds for criminal prosecution?" In the adult world you don't get to shove someone's head in a toilet because you don't like their face, or because you think they look "gay," and have the authorities shrug and say "Well, human beings are like that." Why should school be any different? And yet a recurring theme in the recent spate of suicides has been exactly that: Adults in a position of authority were aware of the situation, and failed to act. And this is what needs to change.

And while I'm at it: may I ask who these "modern liberals" are who believe we can "fix people" in such a way as to eliminate bullying? Does Obama actually say that in his statement? Does Dan Savage? Does anyone else? How much of this is reality and how much straw?

Yeah, I like Dan Savage's approach here.

But in his column, he has a rhetorical Joe Pesci ready to go at any moment.

UK, well said.

Pretty hard to imagine that sneering bully George W. Bush pulling this off, eh?

I remain disgusted with Obama's presidency, but appreciate this chance to put that aside for a moment, and feel genuine respect and admiration.

Re: The Secret

I tend to stay out of the self-help section, not because such things are useless, but because I have this tendency to believe, for short periods of time, that if I know something about myself, that knowledge is going to be helpful in some effortless, automatic sense. But then I have some cool revelations, and observe my life cruising along, mostly unchanged in response.

But Women are from Venus! Know Your Erroneous Zones! Put a Fire In The Belly! Take The Road Less Traveled!

It's not so much that changing the way that you think is useless, it's that changing the way you think in some usefully consistent and implementable way is very, very difficult. It takes work.

And certainly it's bald superstition to think that just because you have this new & shiny superdelicious picture of a slimmer and wealthier you, that weight will simply drop off and money will attach itself to your bank account. It certainly isn't out of the question, though, to suggest that part of what keeps us (contrary to our superficial wants & desires) fat and poor just might be lack of constructive (or presence of habitually counterproductive) thought patterns.

Of course the installation of some Right Thinking module isn't anywhere near the whole story, but that bit of information doesn't sell books.

No, sorry. There is a qualitative distinction between having to read someone saying something mean about you on a blog, and being beaten up. (Or, for that matter, being verbally assaulted in real time and space by people with the potential to do you physical harm.) Conflating the two is distinctly unhelpful, and frankly more than a little offensive.

UK, I think you and Von are closer than you think. You are approaching the bully issue from the perspective of a victim, and of course, having someone say something nasty on the internet in no way relates to getting the crap beaten out of you by one or more monsters. Von's point of view is that of identifying bullies: they come in all shapes, sizes and places. Bullies are on the school ground, at the office and on blogs. Physical force, economic duress or verbal abuse all stem from the same general defect, which perhaps the psychologists explain, because I can't.

"Physical force, economic duress, or verbal abuse all stem from the same general defect, which perhaps the psychologists explain, because I can't."

Neither can I.

But combine all three into a business plan, sell it as gummint/private partnership, and it might be good to go:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130833741

We'd better hurry up and defund the fascist bullies at NPR

Did they really write "Erroneous" instead of "Erogenous?"

McKT, you seem to be implying that Von's point of view that bullying comes in all shapes and sizes was opposed by UK. UK did not object to the claim that bullying takes many forms. He objected to the equivalency that he saw Von making between all the different kinds of bullying, when in fact some forms of bullying are not only more damaging, but tacitly condoned by some schools. I am confident that UK would agree with the banal observation that bullying comes in many forms.

The question of whether all kinds of coercion and abuse have a common origin psychological origin is interesting but a bit beside the point. UK was specifically addressing the fact that kids who are abused for being perceived as gay sometimes (I am eschewing exact qualitative modifiers because I have no data) do not have recourse to protection by their in loco parentis, because some teachers and institutions don't care about gay or -seen-as-gay kids.

If I've misunderstood you I apologize, but I don't really see what you were getting at.

Yes, Your Erroneous Zones is a real book.

I get it now.

Speaking as a gamer for a minute, I can vouch for the intense homophobia among gamers. It's pretty awful - especially in MMOs. I think it comes from socially ostracized people feeling the need to find someone 'less acceptable' than they are so as to feel more socially powerful. Gamers tend to be pretty looked down on - and having a group that's 'worse' than they are is one of the ways you cope with being in a shitty social group.

That said, I take pretty strong issue with the claim that words like 'gay' are inherently homophobic. You can say what you want, but I hang out with an entire social circle of gay men (I've been at parties of 50+ people where I was literally the only straight guy, and a significant number of my close friends are gay men) - and 'gay' just doesn't have any punch anymore, it seems to me.

Even the college students I know throw it around like it's nothing - That's so gay, you're so gay, I can't believe how gay he is. It means a lot of stuff - a 'gay' guy is a guy who acts really typically gay - acting gay is acting lame or whatever - something gay happening is something weird happening in a way it shouldn't have.

By the same token, I'd NEVER tolerate someone using the word gay as an insult to a gay person. If someone ever walked up to a friend of mine and said "you're a fucking faggot!" I'd get pissed and defend my friend.

But if a guy playing a game remarks "man that was gay!" when an ability with a 1% chance of working works 5 times in a row and kills him, is that REALLY the same thing?

I think context is really important, and I think that making the blanket claim that words are bad isn't necessarily good - The context is important. If you want to make the personal choice to not use a specific word, that's your right. But I think it's really unrealistic, not to mention kind of shitty, to make the claim that all people who use that word are 'a little bit homophobic'.

I wonder what will get us first, the methane produced by Republican Party mouth flatulence, or this:

http://www.helium.com/items/1882339-how-bp-gulf-disaster-may-have-triggered-a-world-killing-event

If I've misunderstood you I apologize, but I don't really see what you were getting at.

It's not a major issue: my take on Von was that he was noting that bullies are many places and manifest in a variety of ways. I took UK to understand Von as conflating physical violence with harsh words on the internet. I don't think Von was conflating the two: rather, Von was discussing bullies, where to find them and how they manifest. I don't think for a moment Von was equating or conflating physical abuse with verbal abuse.

Not for the first time on this blog, Jsmooth has a useful contribution to the discussion:

http://www.illdoctrine.com/2008/07/how_to_tell_people_they_sound.html

Replace "racist" with "homophobic," rinse, repeat.

Regarding who isn't homophobic, I would set the bar lower and say that using the word "gay" as a synonym for "lame" is a homophobic act. It's milder than "[email protected]#$t" (not sure what if that word sets off filters) but still not good. What is and is not insensitive is dependent upon the sensitivities of groups, which are composed of many individuals, whose sensitivities can change, etc etc.

When you use "gay" as a synonym for "bad," even if you have no personal animus towards gay people, you are partaking of and propagating a usage of the word which has longstanding and still extant homophobic origins. This is a bit like waving a handgun to try and catch a taxi; you might not be intending to use it like a handgun but it is not going to come across that way.

Balloon Juice comments contain debunking of the methane bubble.

The one in the Gulf, not the one arriving November 2.

http://www.balloon-juice.com/2010/10/28/world-killing-event-the-bp-disaster-may-end-life-on-earth/

Balloon Juice comments contain debunking of the methane bubble.

Well, I know some deep-sea iceworms who are going to be very disappointed by that news.

That said, I take pretty strong issue with the claim that words like 'gay' are inherently homophobic

The word "gay" is not inherently homophobic, and its usage does not necessarily indicate that the speaker is homophobic.

The usage of the word "gay" as a pejorative term for something that is "lame" may or may not reflect homophobia on the part of the speaker, but it is inarguably insulting towards gay people, in much the same way that talking about "jewing" someone is offensive to Jews regardless of whether the speaker is anti-semitic or intended it that way.

This is because this usage derives its negative connotations not from anything inherent to the word's previous meaning, but solely from regarding being gay as a bad thing. The speaker need not be aware of the term's origins for this to be the case.

A few concrete examples:

The phrase "[to] jew [someone down]"--meaning to aggressively haggle or negotiate as far as possible--derives not from the definition of the word "Jew", but from negative stereotypes of Jews as money-grubbing hustlers.

The phrase "n*gger knocking"--meaning to knock or ring a doorbell and then run away--derives not from any trait factually inherent to black people, but to the use of the n-word as a pejorative compound term, combined with any number of other terms to form an insulting phrase similar to the way we tack "-ass" and other expletives onto things in English.

Counterexamples to illustrate the point:

Demanding of someone, "are you blind/deaf?" as a reaction to their failure to pay attention to something the speaker perceives as obvious. While the terms "blind" and "deaf" are used pejoratively here, they derive their insulting quality not from any perception that visually- or hearing-impaired people are bad, but from the implication that the listener is not thusly impaired and has no excuse for their inattentiveness. It derives directly from the actual meaning of the words.

Similarly, the usage of "retarded" as a pejorative--referring to an action, event or person that is so incomprehensible as to constitute evidence of someone's mental impairment--actually /does/ derive directly from the non-pejorative meaning of "retarded". This may be controversial, as a number of people /do/ find this usage offensive, but it is linguistically distinct from insults like "gay" or "jewing"--which derive their insulting quality solely from the perception that there is something bad about being gay or black. Similar to the above example of "blind" and "deaf", it is a metaphorical application of the actual impairment described by the word.

I took UK to understand Von as conflating physical violence with harsh words on the internet. I don't think Von was conflating the two: rather, Von was discussing bullies, where to find them and how they manifest. I don't think for a moment Von was equating or conflating physical abuse with verbal abuse.

If that's the case, than my objection is moot. But I still think von could have made his case without the obligatory punching of the straw-hippie who imagines that we can somehow "eliminate" bullying.

Regarding who isn't homophobic, I would set the bar lower and say that using the word "gay" as a synonym for "lame" is a homophobic act.

In my (almost entirely white) high school it was fairly common for someone asking for a favor to say "Oh c'mon -- be white." Pretty much the same dynamic at work, if you ask me.

Catsy said that pretty well. Maybe better than pretty well.

Bullying isn't just a part of growing up, it's a part of life. It's a part of being human. It's 90% of what passes for blogs. We all play, at times, the bullied and the bullee'd. We all, at times, issue "strongly worded sentiments," to misuse Gary's phrase, and only a handful of us are knowing enough to reconsider.

I think you are very confused about what bullying is. Bullying is not what happens when someone critiques your blog comments or when a judge yells at you for shoddy reasoning in a brief. It is not what happens when people in a sports bar in Boston notice you cheering for the Yankees. Bullying is not synonymous with people expressing disapproval of you.

Bullying is a systemic pervasive pattern of abuse that you can't escape from. Children can't avoid going to school, and while there they can't avoid spending time with bullies. Adults have a lot more freedom. They can choose to change jobs or groups or move away altogether. They can choose not to watch the game at that sports bar. Now, there are some adults who are subject to bullying, but we're talking about a much much smaller number of people than children. If nothing else, adults have the emotional resources to processes humiliation and alienation far better than children.

von, have you ever been bullied in your entire life? I mean, seriously, if you think that someone writing a comment that critiques a poorly reasoned blog post constitutes bullying, I don't know how you could have possibly made it through law school. To be honest, your comment reads like something written from a position of tremendous unexamined privilege.


I don't know why I'm bothering to write this comment though; we all know how this is going to go. von has done his drive-by commenting and in all probability, he won't be responding to anyone else's comments.

In my (almost entirely white) high school it was fairly common for someone asking for a favor to say "Oh c'mon -- be white." Pretty much the same dynamic at work, if you ask me.

Very similarly: when I was growing up it was not uncommon to hear the phrase "that's mighty white of you", said with the same veneer of sarcasm as "well, how thoughtful/decent of you" when you mean exactly the opposite and want to imply something to the effect that they're not exactly clearing a high bar or doing you any favors.

It took a long time before I completely parsed that phrase and understood just how racist it was. It requires understanding that the phrase implicitly equates being "white" with being "decent" or some other positive trait, thereby implying that you are not being "white" if you are behaving in an inappropriate way.

Just realized I should correct this:

but it is linguistically distinct from insults like "gay" or "jewing"--which derive their insulting quality solely from the perception that there is something bad about being gay or black Jewish.

The perils of editing a sentence mid-thought.

Bullying is a systemic pervasive pattern of abuse that you can't escape from.

It can be, but it can be a lot of other things too. Systematic, pervasive abuse is the grotesque form of bullying, and even there it can be parsed from extreme to murder.

Most of us have been on the hard end of meanness. As a navy brat, I changed schools every two years and was not physically imposing. So, I had more than my share of fights with bullies. I hated it, even when I won, which wasn't often. Bullies never pick fights they don't expect to win walking walking away.

Consequently, I don't have much use for bullies. But some are worse than others, and just because they can be avoided doesn't mean they aren't there.

Actually, linguistically 'bully' is pretty interesting, especially when you think that Obama was using 'the bully pulpit' to address the problems of 'bullying'. In fact, bully went thru precisely the same process as has been mentioned above and bully ('bully for you!') originally meant 'sweetheart'.

As someone who was bullied in a fairly systematic and long term way, I'm not sure I agree with you, Turbulence.

You are describing the most serious form of bullying, but not all of them.

A judge yelling at you for your brief can be, but isn't always bullying.

Someone repeatedly saying groundless and nasty things in blog comments can be, but isn't always bullying.

I haven't thought about it deeply, but I think that there is something about the perception of being beyond reprisal that is inherent in bullying. Some judges really are bullies to lawyers, because they know that you can't fight back. A bully who chases you out of your sports bar because he thinks you are too decent or weak to actually fight him physically is still a bully even if you could stay at home instead. The secretary who can make it difficult for you to communicate with his boss, may still be a bully if he exercises that power capriciously and to cause problems for you.

Schoolyard bullying is an especially intense form of bullying because it is more difficult to escape. But von is right, bullying exists everywhere.

I haven't thought about it deeply, but I think that there is something about the perception of being beyond reprisal that is inherent in bullying. Some judges really are bullies to lawyers, because they know that you can't fight back.

Feel free to google former US District Judge Sam Kent, formerly sitting in the Southern District of Texas, Galveston Division. I watched that MF make a female lawyer break down in tears in front of a courtroom packed with lawyers. He delighted in humiliating attorneys except those who, for some odd reason, could not lose a bench trial in his court. Sometimes, bullies do eventually get the chop.

Apologies: many good comments to respond to, but I did get 8 boxes shipped out today, and so many more to go.

Meanwhile, Arkansas School Board Member Wants ‘Fags’ To ‘Commit Suicide’ And To ‘Give Each Other AIDS And Die’.

Catsy, there's this two-player-only stuff in MW2 I've never been able to do with anyone. :-)

Setting aside just private matches one on one or whatever. But it's presumably true that when I get MW: Black Ops (Steam), odds are high I may not go back to MW II, just like I didn't go back to 1.

I'm paused at Level 70 of 4th Prestige, trying to run up weapon badges, and other odd badges, more or less, just playing cuz it relaxes me when it doesn't frustrate me. Anyway, no ob. If you ever feel like it might be fun, drop me an email.

On average, I'm killed by a ratio of 2-1 for every kill I make, in most games, though sometimes I do much better, and sometimes much worse. But the official average is that I suck.

Jeez, so many other good comments here, and no time/energy/priority, and little mind.

Did I mention I've already lost my new phone? It's gotta be here somewhere after it flew out of my hands when I was trying to see if it would fit in the protective carrying cases I already own.

Oh, whoops, Countme? already covered the previous link with the Balloon Juice link. Sorry about that!

"That said, I take pretty strong issue with the claim that words like 'gay' are inherently homophobic."

Could you cite the post someone wrote that in? I'm skimming so fast through the comments that I've missed it, and that would be a bizarre thing for anyone to say.

First of all what does "words like 'gay'" mean? I have no idea what class of words is being referred to.

Secondly, er, the word "gay" isn't "homophobic," because words have no agency. Only people can be homophobic, or engage in homophobic acts and speech.

Thirdly, that words can be used both pejoratively and non-pejoratively is both obvious and common: again, who are you arguing with?

But if a guy playing a game remarks "man that was gay!" when an ability with a 1% chance of working works 5 times in a row and kills him, is that REALLY the same thing?"
No. Who are you arguing with?

Using "gay" as a pejorative is no different than using words such as "Jew," "Christian," "straight," "male," "American," or any other category you'd like to think of as a pejorative equivalent of the word "bad" or "sucks" or "is teh worst," save that pejoratives have their effect in proportion to the amount of genuine persecution and fear there is among the members of the category.

"But I think it's really unrealistic, not to mention kind of shitty, to make the claim that all people who use that word are 'a little bit homophobic'."

No, no, no. All people are a little bit prejudiced in most ways. Have you listened to this song/performance, as Uncle Kvetch reminded me of?

It's AVENUE Q - 'Everybody's a Little Racist,' Broadway Cast.

If you're responding to me, Kyle, this is what I wrote:

[...] Personally, I'm a little homophobic, and I've had sexual experience with men. I'm a little racist, and I've had experience with people of all sorts of ethnic background. I'm at least a little sexist; I constantly catch myself at it. I have endless bits of other prejudices I sporadically catch myself affecting my thinking.

I am not a god-like being, who is never prone to bits of prejudice, let alone all the bits I don't catch, which have to be the majority. I have never succeeded in being mentally unaffected by my entire culture.

I find that the best I can do is try to be self-aware about my thinking, and try to be self-aware as much as I can, every day.

And I actively try to educate myself as to how things look from the point of view of those not like me; I learn something new at least every week, if not every day, that reveals some weird bit of ignorance or odd assumption on my part, about some kind of folks, as a rule.

If you can possibly explain how you get get from all those "I" statements to anything resembling what you're writing about, I'd like to read about how you could manage that, but I assume this can't be the case, and you must be referring to someone else's comment; could you link to it, or quote it or otherwise ID it, please?

Thanks.

I think context is really important, and I think that making the blanket claim that words are bad isn't necessarily good - The context is important.
It would be very difficult to edit peole's writing without an understanding of context.
If you want to make the personal choice to not use a specific word, that's your right. But I think it's really unrealistic, not to mention kind of shitty, to make the claim that all people who use that word are 'a little bit homophobic'.
Who, specifically, are you accusing of "sh*tty" behavior, and based on which comment, please?

Who, specifically, has made "the claim that all people who use that word are 'a little bit homophobic'"?

Please link to the comment. Thanks.

Catsy,

Small point but, your counter examples leave me with the nagging question as to whether you would see using gay as a pejorative for someone who one thinks is acting, well, gay, would be somehow less bad since it is using the word in its initial meaning?

Small point but, your counter examples leave me with the nagging question as to whether you would see using gay as a pejorative for someone who one thinks is acting, well, gay, would be somehow less bad since it is using the word in its initial meaning?
Marty, every word has its own sets of meanings. "Homosexual" and "gay" can be synonymous (and be inclusive or exclusive of "lesbian"), but "effeminacy" isn't the same thing as homosexuality.

I can imagine various interpretations of what "someone who one thinks is acting, well, gay" means to you, but I'd just be guessing.

Your sentence and question is in need of rewriting for clarity.

Since I've made time to respond this much, I owe at least some quick hits on the earlier stuff.

Sebastian:

[...] In some general sense, maybe. But in the specific case of DADT, Reid specifically didn't have to add the immigration issues. He knew they were controversial, he knew that it would lose Republican votes, he knew that he barely had 60 at the time. It just doesn't make sense from the point of view of DADT being an important Democratic party agenda item.
I'll let it go that in short I agree with you more than not. Reid is in, as you know, strong danger of losing his seat, and he put immigration up as a move that he hoped would help himself personally, as well as some others. But ending DADT, was clearly in process prior to the current judicial situation. I could say a lot more in abstract, but I'll leave it at that.

hairshirthedonist:

[...] It has absolutely nothing to do with at-the-moment homophobia.
I owe you a longer reply than I have to spare on, still.


Gary,

the meaning is not the point, it would be the meaning of the person using the term just as "are you retarded" would have a meaning to the person saying it. Parsing what I might mean loses the point that "It derives directly from the actual meaning of the words."


Marty,

Not unless it was said with malicious intent; i.e., said with the understanding that it was a bad thing. Jess and I will sometimes turn to each other, grin, and say, "wasn't he /fabulous/?", which is basically another way of saying he was "acting [stereotypically] gay". In our case, we're referring to it with respect and appreciation, because we think it's amusing when someone is really flaming it up. There's no contempt or value judgement in it.

The difference is that there /is/ something intrinsically wrong with being blind, deaf, or (choose your preferred term here for) retarded. Not wrong in a moral or judgmental sense, but wrong in the sense that they are all disabilities, impairments of some fashion that one would generally prefer not to have if given the choice. All of the idiomatic uses of those terms derive their negativity from a comparison to the undesirability and detrimental effects of the impairment, not any kind of valuation of any people afflicted by it.

There is no such intrinsic disability or dysfunction in being gay, or black, or Jewish. To use "gay" as a pejorative is to make the implication that there is something bad about that, even if you don't mean it that way--that's simply the logical implication of the comparison you're making.

Hopefully the distinction is clear.

Catsy: "The difference is that there /is/ something intrinsically wrong with being blind, deaf"

I'm not going into it further here and now, but there are blind and deaf people, and some who are not, who disagree and make an argument.

Marty, I'm afraid I'm not making sense of your last two comments. But with apologies, I'm attempting to bow out again; I'm afraid I don't have much time to spare for ObWi conversation this week; sorry.

Sigh; backing and forthing to make a correction, I wound up accidentally posting the above on this thread instead of the appropriate one. Jacob, if you notice and want to bother, please feel free to delete the previous comment and this one.

Frak! That comment at 10:44 wound up on the wrong thread, too! Motherfrak!

And that's because the original comment never posted at all. Ok, giving up now for the night, if not the month.

No, here it is, drat it.

I'm not going into it further here and now, but there are blind and deaf people, and some who are not, who disagree and make an argument.

I've spent some time around deaf culture over the years and have heard that argument before--it's feel-good stuff that's completely divorced from reality. It's one thing to make the (perfectly sensible) argument that having a disability has no bearing on one's worth as an individual, and to refuse to allow that impairment to define your life. But it's pure self-delusion to try to argue that it's not a disability at all, or that you're better off that way. If you're blind, it's because your eyesight doesn't work correctly. If you're deaf, it's because your hearing doesn't work correctly. And if you have a mental impairment, it's because there is something in your brain that is not wired correctly.

I'm sorry, but pretty much by definition there is something objectively wrong about those conditions--they are impairments to the normal functioning of the human body, just as surely as are my nearsightedness or tennis elbow. There's no personal value judgment in acknowledging the simple fact that these are functional impairments, it's just reality.

Meanwhile, Arkansas School Board Member Wants ‘Fags’ To ‘Commit Suicide’ And To ‘Give Each Other AIDS And Die’.

The hits just keep coming, don't they?

WI GOPer Apologizes For Comparing Gay Marriage To Bestiality Or Marrying A Table

But she said she's sorry, so it's cool.

Catsy: "I've spent some time around deaf culture over the years and have heard that argument before--it's feel-good stuff that's completely divorced from reality."

I didn't say I agreed with it; I simply wished to observe that some in those communities do disagree.

I didn't say I agreed with it; I simply wished to observe that some in those communities do disagree.

I guess I was unclear on whether or not there was a point driving that observation, or if it was merely a data point--because as a data point alone it doesn't really say much. People agree or disagree about all sorts of things--but some of those things aren't a matter of opinion or disagreement; either they're true or they aren't.


Sorry I've been away - travel and work.

Tony P. -

Do you limit your pessimism to bullying specifically, or does your doubt that human nature can change extend to other human habits?

It extends to a great deal more -- not everything, but a great deal. In the case of bullying, it feeds into the old human dynamic about wanting power. I don't have a cite handy, but, iirc, many folks bully out of a position of powerlessness; bullying is a way to exercise control and power. I don't think good intentions and sensitivity training sessions are going to change such a basic attribute of humanity.


No, sorry. There is a qualitative distinction between having to read someone saying something mean about you on a blog, and being beaten up. (Or, for that matter, being verbally assaulted in real time and space by people with the potential to do you physical harm.) Conflating the two is distinctly unhelpful, and frankly more than a little offensive.

Obviously, UK. But my post doesn't contain the confusion that you ascribe to it.

We certainly can convince people not to behave violently by, umm, threatening them with more violence.* (Necessary, state-sanctioned violence in the case of a law, but violence nontheless.) It's the softer, passive-aggressive side of bullying that we'll never be rid of. Or bullies will just find new targets in whatever new "out" group exists in ten years.

*I would consider forcible confinement, i.e., in prison or jail, as a form of violence. Again, necessary violence if we want to have a society of laws, but still violence.

People are brutal. We can tame it and channel it, but we can't eliminate it.

Last comment for the early morning:

von, have you ever been bullied in your entire life? I mean, seriously, if you think that someone writing a comment that critiques a poorly reasoned blog post constitutes bullying, I don't know how you could have possibly made it through law school. To be honest, your comment reads like something written from a position of tremendous unexamined privilege.

Has anyone not been bullied? Yes, I have.

And I regret including the line about how blogs are filled with bullying. I was trying to illustrate a larger point about how people will use whatever power they have at the moment to advance their position. I didn't think that folks would read that line and interpret it to mean that I equate a comment on a blog with physical violence.

Also, I wasn't talking about critiques of "poorly-written blog posts", or even poorly-written critiques of well-written blog posts. Argument is not bullying. Bullying occurs when, for whatever reason, argument is not possible.

To correct some sloppiness on my part, I shoudl correct that last line in my 6:24 am post to read:

Bullying can only occur when, for whatever reason, argument is not possible. Obviously, bullying doesn't occur whenever argument is not possible.

ABC News is having Andrew Breitbart provide "analysis" on Tuesday's election night.

See Steve Benen.

I couldn't decide whether to mention this on the "bullying" thread or the "pig ignorant" thread.

No word if a former ACORN rep is invited as counterweight.

Well, no ACORN operative was available. They are all busy stealing the election. The whole defund-and-disband was just a charade to allow them to go underground (where moles and rodents belong) after true Americans uncovered their heinous deeds.

Go its own way, just referring to someone else..

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