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Monday, June 27, 2022

Bullshit Argument 24- "American Lives" or "Won't Someone Think of the Children?"

You could probably get someone to throw a punch by pointing out the hypocrisy needed to pretend they literally are incapable of understanding a statement like "black lives matter" while holding onto a position like "America first" but of those two, only one of them is exclusionary, xenophobic, nationalistic, rooted in white supremacy, and trying to prioritize a group that is generally already at the top of the socio/economic hierarchy,  so it's not a perfect comparison—mostly just a way to point out "Oh so you actually DO get the concept."

For as long as I've been alive, "the children" have been used to weaponize every homophobic, transphobic, body-autonomy-crushing agenda the GOP sees fit to try and use as a wedge to fire up their Christian base right around an election. "American lives" has been used since early fall in 2001 to be the rallying cry to legitimize oppression, surveillance, torture, and an erosion of all the rights codified in amendments that aren't the second. 

And don't even get me started on how those "American lives" are ACTUALLY treated when things like veterans issues or homelessness are the topics on the table.

Not that I particularly want these arguments trotted out on the regular, given what they almost always defend, but gun advocates need to understand that if they do nothing while school shootings happen several times a year, they don't get to use these points anymore. They're going to start getting that same laugh that Trump got during the debates when he said that no one respects women more than he does. If they don't do something it becomes brazenly, unavoidably obvious that they do not actually care about human lives, American lives, or children's' lives.

I mean I hope that people start behaving in a way that takes into consideration things like "the children" who are being killed because they care about children who are being killed and not because they're worried that their breathtaking hypocrisy is going to get them eaten by irony demons or lose them political points, but it's worth pointing out.

Bullshit Rating- Perfect bullshit. 10/10. Would hypocrite again.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Bullshit Argument 23- The Slippery Slope

You know you're in bad argument territory when the argument people are non-ironically advancing has the same name as the fallacy that its poor thinking is named after. Like when people say: "We can't do that because it's a slippery slope," LITERALLY invoking the name of a logical fallacy to make their argument, you absolutely know that what you're about to hear is not going to be a good argument.

You want to know how I already know folks have a water's edge somewhere about what kinds of weapons civilians should have access to? Because they're not reading this from their armed M1 Abrams or their fully functional Apache attack helicopter. Because they might own a whole panic room full of assault style rifles, and maybe even a few M203 grenade launchers, but they probably don't have an M141 shoulder-mounted anti-structure weapon (or if they do, they know they could go to prison for having it—and not for a couple of days). They don't have a bunker buster they can launch from an A-10 Warthog. They likely don't have the howitzers that the Continental Army used against the British during the American Revolutionary War either. Or an Ironside ship with functional 24-pounder cannons.

Because we already HAVE a line in the sand. And we have always HAD a line in the sand. 

We already draw the line somewhere and say "Okay, there's no need for any citizen to own this weaponry. We want ordinance like this to be in the hands of carefully vetted people who use it only when absolutely appropriate (and not without some measure of oversight)." And for 240+ years, we've managed to have conversation about where that line should be, so acting like bump stocks simply MUST be legal or all liberals are coming for all guns is the worst kind of fallacy imaginable.

Not every conversation is intended to erode gun rights with the end goal of total banishment. I'm sure SOME liberals will keep going, but like most of the history of this country, most will lack the political momentum once there is an equilibrium.  One the compromise doesn't involve accepting dead children on the 6 o'clock a few times a year, there won't be momentum. Unless of course there can't BE a compromise….then the momentum becomes a buildup and the backlash a flood.

Sometimes we just need to talk about the fact that the line in the sand seems to be a little misplaced.


Bullshit rating: You didn't slip in the bullshit. You just pretended to so people wouldn't think you didn't notice it.


Monday, June 20, 2022

Bullshit Narrative 22- The Government Should Be Afraid of Its People

"Oh no! They have a rifle!"
The United States military is not afraid of your AR-15s. 

They have tanks and jets and body armor and artillery and drones that make firing a hellfire at a human considerably easier than beating the first level of Pole Position and they also have shit you haven't even heard of yet. And oh yeah, they have the most sophisticated air domination in the history of Earth that can effortlessly deploy weapons of mass destruction we haven't even seen. They are, in general, slowed down primarily by the political will of the folks back home––an issue they wouldn't be dealing with in any such scenario.

The only thing these little guns are going to do is maybe give a militia a few days standoff against the ATF or FBI because those organizations actually WILL go out of their way to avoid the optics of dead kids' bodies in the background on the six o'clock news. (Something the NRA could stand to learn.)

Okay, wait. I've seen that meme too. With the Viet Cong saying "Cool story bro" or whatever it is to tell you that yes indeedie a bunch of peoples with automatic rifles can totally defeat the US military.

So let me head the bullshit off at the pass.

1- Vietnam was half a century ago. Warfare has changed. Get over yourself.

2- The Viet Cong was not a militia with what would today be civilian grade weaponry. It was a MASSIVE political organization with its own army (and if you're enjoying irony today, no small amount of US-made weapons). I would need a FLOW CHART to explain fully the cavalcade of mistakes made in Vietnam that led to the loss. Suffice to say that the United States Military would never make those kinds of errors in the ONE place on Earth it has sufficient resources and deployment ability. Any political movement sufficiently large to play an analogue to the Viet Cong in the US could much more effectively work in non-violent ways. 

Unless there's a colonizer of the US that could directly intervene who I'm not aware of.

The counter-insurgency conflicts we are involved in today are similar. Your average soldier doing patrols might be concerned about an IED, but the government of the United States (very obviously) is not.

I am not saying that there is no scenario in which the citizenry of a nation with the most powerful military that has ever existed on the face of the Earth decides it's time to take up arms in a guerrilla war against its own government, but if even if that does happen, the U.S. government wouldn't be afraid of our small arms. They wouldn't be afraid of us at all unless we were (very) well supplied by another world power and our conflict was essentially a proxy war. The same could be said about any country with gun control and no monthly massacres, of course.

Even a marine rifleman who IS essentially carrying almost everything a civilian could acquire in our country is better trained by orders of magnitude, deployed with such weaponry ONLY in very specific theaters, monitored and kept in check by a sophisticated chain of command designed to prevent exactly the sort of things this series of articles is about.

There are situations where guns would be useful (if obviously escalating and violent and prone to accidents and mistakes). There are places where this argument touches something real. If there is some version of the brownshirts in the US—a proxy group given broad authority to enact domestic terrorism. If the police are abusing their authority in a potentially lethal way, they might hesitate if they know their target is armed. (A weirdly telling data point given how many police officers shoot and cite their fear for their lives when a target is NOT actually armed.) If people start disappearing in the night. If white supremacists start trying to take matters into their own hands. This is why there's the old phrase comes from: "If you go far enough left, you get your guns back" (and the reason I'm not against guns so much as the absurd arguments that civilians need semi-automatic long rifles or it's tyranny). But there are just an awful lot of ways to not trust, and even resist your government without taking up arms against it.

The idea of being The Wolverines is fun for a couple of hours while eating some popcorn, but that Hitler quote about disarming a nation is mostly not what people think it's about, and there's only been one uprising in the United States that even gave the government pause (dude named Bacon), and even back then, it was a whole shit load more than some armed civilians.


Bullshit Rating: This shit is from a bull/wolverine hybrid. You were so concerned with whether you could, you didn't stop to think about whether you should!

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Bullshit Narrative 21- If Guns Kill People, Pencils Misspell Words

This is (somehow) an even more ridiculous version of "Guns don't kill people, people kill people" Like just when you thought that narrative couldn't get ANY worse, someone brings out the misspelling pencils like they've just slam dunked a rhetorical point. Check and mate. Game, set, and match. 

Uh…no…

And yeah, the full version of this has a fatphobic thing about spoons making people fat, just in case these folks worried that they were in danger of making a point that was not demonstrative of how terrible they are as people.

The problems come early and often with this gem of a narrative. It is SO bad that even its logical structure as an analogy (W is to X as Y is to Z, like those SAT questions)  doesn't stand up because the primary function of a pencil is NOT to misspell words. Whereas the purpose of a gun is literally to kill. 

That is its intended function. It has no other.

I do understand a gun can be used to kill for food, to only injure someone, or possibly to intimidate someone. But the primary purpose of a gun is a lethal weapon. But in this preposterous analogy, a gun would have any number of artistic and technical functions and only sometimes be lethal (often unintentionally).

It's just a BAD argument. It's under the fallacy dictionary in false equivalency. 

But the real reason this narrative is beyond the ridiculous and obtuse enough that I'm actually having to get clever to avoid some serious ableism here is that people do not run around killing people with misspelled words (or in the case of the fat-phobic example, using spoons on OTHER PEOPLE). 

There is a major, fundamental, philosophical, moral, and ethical difference between mistakes we make that hurt no one (but maybe our English teacher's heart) and those that kill…as a primary functionality. Those that might affect us, and those that rip the life out of another.


Bullshit Rating: 7/5 Perfect bullshit. Would not respect again.


Monday, June 13, 2022

Bullshit Narrative 20- Victim Blaming

This is just really the worst sort of place to which humanity can descend. It's hard to even have a sarcastic quip about behavior this disgusting. 

I wasn't even going to mention it because lord knows not every extreme action of fringe groups should be held up as if it is being made by the mainstream folks on one side of an issue, but the leader of the Republican party, the president of the United States at the time, and the biggest politician beneficiary of the NRA decided to make it a TALKING POINT. 

And this isn't the first or only time.

This particular tweet refers to the Parkland students and just for the record, they FUCKING DID warn law enforcement, their teachers, even the tooth fairy that the shooter was dangerous. No one was listening. But why should that stop a good tweet that stigmatizes the mentally ill, right? We see this over and over again, often even when there absolutely IS a history of complaints and violence.

And then of course there was #walkup––an entire movement designed to overshadow and silence The March for Our Lives with the idea that high school kids have some level of responsibility for preventing their own murders.

Let's just set aside for the moment that these are—by and large—many of the exact same people who have, for the last decade, been saying, "fuck your feelings," as a matter of personal and political ideology to everyone with whom they don't agree. Now it seems they are literally advancing the idea that it is up to high school students to be nicer to violent, entitled young men–and particularly to women to never "spurn" them. (Read: "say no to an advance.")

This is to say nothing of the people so horrifically callous and depraved that they were making pictures of the survivors into targets. The survivors who, after watching their friends be murdered, had the unmitigated temerity to use their First Amendment rights to ask for some sensible gun legislation.

…Or the false flag conspiracy theorists who claim every shooting is just a bunch of actors trying to soften the ground for a gun purge. Each one willing to dismiss parents who have lost their children as crisis actors.

…Or the so called "incels" who cheer from their communities at the deaths of the "normies" when a woman rejecting a man is the impetus of his free will decision to commit mass murder.

…Or the mainstream media using the narrative framing of words like "provoked" and "spurned" to describe a young woman with the temerity to resist four months of harassment, who was then murdered for it.

Far from being fringe, these groups and narratives are repeatedly brought to the table and repeated by mainstream news and pundits....and also the leader the Republican party.


Bullshit rating: You would think that major players in would be above such bullshit. You would think that.


Friday, June 10, 2022

Privilege and Narcissism

Image credit:
Joking Hazard card game.
                                                                                      
When you’re familiar with both, at some point you might realize that narcissistic abuse and everyday oppression have a relationship to each other that is analogous to Newtonian physics. They are not exactly the same, but if you apply one to the understanding of the other, you will consistently get HIGHLY USEFUL RESULTS.  


Storytime:

Being a performance artist, Rhapsody often has to get out and make connections that, as a writer, I don’t have to make. All I need is my computer and a wifi connection, but she needs to go to places where people gather. Getting on the radar of a venue’s organizer. Making connections in the local, sex-positive, queer, non-monogamous, indie, music scene. Trying to collaborate with folks to cross-pollinate between fans. There’s a measure of social interaction and gatekeeping that I try to avoid but that is essential for live performance arts. 

Out in the wider social milieu, Rhapsody sort of expects to run into all types. But in the world she’s built around herself of queer, leftist types, there’s a lot more of a curated experience. It takes a certain type to cheer on a song about Mario and Luigi riding train on someone who likes “golden coin showers.” 

There was an artist. Let’s call him Brad. Brad was someone she looked up to. Someone she was excited to meet. Someone she hoped to work with. An artist who’d played the venue Rhapsody had dreamed of playing and worked hard to get to. And while they were chatting about possibly collaborating (another dream of Rhapsody’s), the conversation took a turn. 

Brad was telling Rhapsody that the venue made him change anti-sex-worker slurs (something he thought sacrificed his artistic integrity), and they wouldn’t let him sing a song about being a member of a doubly marginalized subset of the queer community if he wasn’t actually a member of the group in question (a position he found objectionable because he had friends in that community—some of his best, I’m sure). But he had no end of problem bloviating at length about Rhapsody’s own lyric to “peg the patriarchy.” Because that was an offensive concept to him. Suddenly Rhapsody was being mansplained about just how difficult it is nowadays to be a cishet, white guy.

“I’m public enemy number one!” he whined.

Of course, this sentiment isn’t exactly entirely inaccurate from a social justice context. (It’s a little absurd in general, so it certainly gives insight into what Brad thought about social justice.) But there are ways to phrase it that could have held space for that frustration while acknowledging the context in which it mattered: “Being at the top of the social hierarchy means I have a lot of unearned and often unexamined advantages; venues that work hard to be safe spaces aren’t likely to give me free rein to say whatever I want, and that can be frustrating.” This would, of course, also mean not framing what amounts to mild frustration like a whiny victim who is being censored—as if the reaction to oppression is somehow as bad or worse than the oppression itself. Or as if there aren’t people whose identity intersects with multiple forms of marginalization who experience silencing tactics far worse than having to pick a different song from their extensive library…for a given venue. Faux wokeness is nothing new in Rhapsody’s world. The world is full of cishet, white guys who think enlightenment is castigating the "drunk uncle” bigots and then proceeding with absolute identical treatment regardless of history, institutional levers of power, or the socio/political power differentials. Exactly the sort of people who think the “real” problem is that they can’t say whatever they want in other groups’ safe spaces. 

Dealing with the disappointment that an artistic and creative favorite turns out to be kind of a “dudebro” was hard, but the worst thing for Rhapsody was realizing that she had to be silent. She had to just “grey rock” this guy and let him blow up her phone with his “it’s tough to be a cishet, white guy” complaints…and then, without rebuttal, go about her day. 

She realized she couldn’t point out his behavior was pretty entitled. She couldn’t defend the position of the venue to keep things safe for marginalized communities. She couldn’t explain why a token friend who thought a song was okay might not be a the slambangingest judge for the whole community, nor their opinion a good criteria for allowing it at a venue . And as uncomfortable as that was, she realized that she had to be silent because anything she said was going to make the interaction get even worse. She had to be the bigger person. She had to not take it personally. She had to walk away and not talk about how she really felt.

Rhapsody has a history that makes her sensitive to abuse—particularly from narcissists. And in that moment, she realized that she was having the same reaction to Brad as she would from realizing someone was a narcissist. A deep, prevalent frustration that the best that could be achieved was walking away and “being the bigger person,” an unfortunate soft euphemism for ignoring all grievances because bringing them up will make things worse.

But the analogy between emotional abuse, particularly narcissistic abuse, and privilege is sort of a flash epiphany. Once you see it, it’s like the smudge on a movie theater screen—you probably won’t unsee it.


There could hardly be a more perfect parallel to the checklist of what characterizes a narcissist’s grandiose sense of self-importance (or the deep insecurity of covert narcissism) than can be seen in what we call privilege. Whether spoken aloud by the unapologetic racist/misogynist/transphobe/homophobe/etc…or denied vehemently while clung to in the form of hypocritical double standards, holding the worldview of superiority, entitlement, denial of empathy to some groups while demanding it for themselves, being exploitative of others while being hypersensitive to anything perceived as unfair regarding themselves, insisting all advantages have been earned despite clear evidence to the contrary, and presuming anyone who wants a fair playing field is merely envious of their success. 

We can even see more parallels of narcissistic things like wanting to be the center of attention when white men insist that any media that doesn’t feature them is a terrible trend of “forced diversity” (even though their ongoing hegemony is a simple matter of demonstrable fact). It shows up in haughty behaviors (often ostensibly linked to “culture” but somehow managing to target everyone who isn’t at the top of the social hierarchy regardless of their culture). All of these characterizations of narcissism are ubiquitous staples of privilege.

And then, of course, there’s the gaslighting. (“Oh, that wasn’t REALLY racism/sexism/transphobia.” “There isn’t a bigoted bone in our bodies—this is really about [adjacent issue]”) Everywhere you look, marginalized communities are being told they aren’t really marginalized and that every rock-solid piece of evidence they proffer up has some other explanation or is only ever the behavior of a few bad apples and not a systematic, systemic problem that should be actively confronted by those who benefit from it.


That didn't happen.

And if it did, it wasn't that bad.

And if it was, that's not a big deal.

And if it is, that's not my fault.

And if it was, I didn't mean it.

And if I did...

You deserved it.


This is a poem called “The Narcissist’s Prayer” (I’m trying to find attribution if you know it.) But it could just as easily be called “The Privilege Playbook”. This is the exact order of the scripts used when telling people that their lived experiences of oppression and marginalization aren’t real/that bad/anyone’s fault but their own. First, deny that privilege and marginalization even exist. Then, insist it's not really a big deal and that someone is just "looking for reasons to be offended." And then, deny complicity because "not all X." Then, fall back on their own pure and unbigoted intentions (over systemic and systematic impact). And if all that fails, blame the people for their own lack of progress because of the "tone" of how they express their injustice. "I might actually care about this if people would just protest more nicely/more quietly/more ignorably."

Also, these cishet, white dudes (clueless or deliberate) are constantly doing exactly the things they accuse others of doing. Indoctrinating youth into a paradigm where their narratives are unquestioned.  Silencing speech. Authoritarianism. Violence. Not to mention statistically being most likely to follow and support a political party that considers itself the victim of the very things it is actually doing (like destabilizing free and fair elections) and justifies all manner of bad behavior by somehow convincing itself that the other side would be even worse. Of course, the truth—by any fair and consistent rubric being applied—is that it is really these folks who are doing all these things, and those they accuse of it rarely are—or are only doing so on a much more limited scope and/or as a reaction to their own mistreatment (like safe spaces). What it brings to mind immediately is how a narcissist is so self-absorbed that they can’t help projecting, and everything they think is happening goes through the filter of what they themselves are doing. Or more succinctly: “Accusations from a narcissist are confessions.” Which seems to describe white dude indictments pretty accurately.

Obviously, it would be a profoundly damaging bit of ableist nonsense to say that every cishet, white male is a narcissist. But to notice that the way privilege behaves mirrors narcissism, and how the way it hurts mirrors narcissistic abuse is a highly useful observation. The way privilege reaches out and changes narratives, won’t accept blame, attacks anyone who points out that they are being hurt by its behaviors, accuses others of what it is doing, and cannot seem to muster empathy gives us a roadmap for what to expect. 

Unfortunately, this insight is not quite as useful on the macro level as it can be on the interpersonal one. We can use the D.E.E.P. method to keep ourselves safe from an individual. (Don’t Defend, don’t Engage, don’t Explain, and don’t Personalize—all these things only make the interaction worse.) It’s considerably harder to simply work around or “grey rock” the group that is running most of the institutions. We can’t go “no contact” on our own culture or grey rock our country. (Although, if you’re paying close attention, this is precisely what safe spaces are trying to do, why they’re so important, and why letting privileged people opine on the manner in which such spaces stay safe is such an epic shit-crumpet move.) And of course, a society can’t be diagnosed with a disorder in the sense that a trained psychologist [and ONLY a trained psychologist] can diagnose an individual with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

But in terms of how to contextualize what is happening, how to predict what will happen next, and how to deal with individuals who are not actively challenging their privilege every day, some basic understanding of the narcissist playbook will yield (time and time again) extremely useful results.


Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Bullshit Narrative 19—MOAR GUNS (Arm Teachers)

Updates needed for the more recent mass shootings 
in places that DID have armed guards.

You know the NRA doesn't allow guns at its conventions? Can you think of why that might be? But sure, more guns is probably the answer, so let's arm teachers. 

Know who this narrative benefits? 

People who want to sell guns.

Now.....remember who pulls the NRA's strings?

That's right. It's people who want to sell guns.

Connect the dots. Wait, no. There's only one. Connect the DOT. 

Nothing about the world of guns suggests that adding many many more of them into a landscape filled with minimally trained civilians would make people safer. In fact, every expert and every bit of evidence suggest that it would make things much MUCH more dangerous. 

Insurance companies have outright refused to cover schools that even consider this as a policy. Experts have said this is a bad idea. Even combat vets are unenthused.

What do they know that your average bad argument-maker doesn't?

They know that adding more guns isn't a deterrent as much as it is a recipe for disaster. Best possible case scenario, a shootout with lots of wayward bullets. Worst case? Accidents. Statistically speaking, as you add dangerous things to places with kids, you get accidents. It's why you barely have jungle gyms any more that aren't coated in soft foam and built over this spongy rubber mulch. Kids are (literally) not able to assess danger the way that adults do because that part of their brains hasn't formed yet. That's why they don't get the final word on how to live their lives until the age of majority.

Guns have already been left out by teachers, showed off to students in non-emergencies, found by students. And of course accidents are going to happen. And this bullshit policy hasn't even started yet! Every bellwether that exists says "This is a terrible, terrible idea.”

There's a reason the NRA won't allow guns at its conventions. 

Wait.

Stop.

Let me just say that again.

THE NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION—the pro gun group behind almost all of these bullshit arguments—does not allow guns at their conventions. 

There's a reason that soldiers have to check their weapons when they're not on a mission unless they're on a billet that requires it. There's a reason airports and federal buildings and government buildings don't allow them.

I'll give you a hint. It's not because ubiquitous guns make things so much safer. It's because these institutions know full well how fucking dangerous guns are. They know there's no way to ensure someone is a "good guy." They know that a firefight between a bunch of people who think they're the good guy would be a fucking disaster.

Set aside, for a minute, that these are the same teachers begging for textbooks and humanities funding, and counseling and the things that maybe actually COULD have helped before the shooting started: how long until some teacher kills a student because they felt threatened or just has a Blackboard Jungle moment. And even if we could somehow guarantee that every armed teacher were simply a paragon of gun safety and weapons training (patently absurd), there's basically no evidence that "good guys with guns" would act as a deterrent (see earlier arguments).


While most educators wouldn't want firearms on campus, the worst part of this narrative isn't that the idea is floated at all. (Hey, sometimes we throw spaghetti at the wall, and we all have different views on guns. Let's talk about solutions.) The worst part is that it is mic-dropped by people who actually don't want to address root causes and refuse to acknowledge that this spaghetti is NOT sticking. It's used as a fire and forget missile. It's the shutdown argument when the shooting happens on a school. "Arm teachers. Problem solved. Let's get a beer." and the objections and concerns and even logistics are basically ignored. ("Sorry. I can't hear you talk about background checks and toxic masculinity over the sound of me solving all the problems with a two word phrase.")

Bullshit rating: Adding more bullshit doesn't make it NOT bullshit. It just makes a bigger pile of bullshit.