False Witnesses 2

“If you want to look thin, you hang out with fat people.”
– Thornton Melon

Commenters on the previous post about this rumor were right to argue that I overstated the case in saying that there could be no “innocent dupes” involved in its spread. That’s too categorical. But those few who may have been innocently duped by such an unbelievable tale — the very young, the very old, the very insular — weren’t also among those most active in spreading the rumor. They heard it, and they may have believed it, but believing false witness and bearing false witness are not the same thing. It is those bearers of false witness I’m interested in here.

Those spreading this rumor can be divided into two categories: Those who know it to be false, but spread it anyway, and those who suspect it might be false, but spread it anyway. The latter may be dupes, but they are not innocent. We might think of them as complicit dupes. The former group, the deliberate liars, are making an explicit choice to spread what they know to be lies. The complicit dupes are making a subtler choice — choosing to ignore their suspicion that this story just doesn’t add up and then choosing to pass it along anyway because confirming that it’s not true would be somehow disappointing and would prevent them from passing it along without explicitly becoming deliberate liars, which would make them uncomfortable.

What I want to explore here is why anyone would make either of those choices. In both cases, the spreading of this rumor seems less an attempt to deceive others than a kind of invitation to participate in deception. The enduring popularity of this rumor shows that many people see this invitation as something attractive and choose to accept it, so I also want to explore why anyone would choose to do that.

To briefly review the details of this absurd rumor, the claim was that some nameless CEO of Procter & Gamble appeared on some daytime talk show and declared his allegiance to Satan. This unidentified and unidentifiable Fortune 100 executive told Donahue/Oprah/Sally Jesse that he belonged to a Church of Satan, and that a portion of the company’s profits — every dollar collected from the sale of Tide and Dawn and Crest — went to support its evil agenda.

The origin and organization of this slanderous tale seems to trace back to P&G’s would-be rivals in a cult-like multi-level marketing scheme that coveted the Cincinnati-based company’s market share. That’s a sleazy tactic — marketing by smear campaign — and it betrays a lack of confidence in the quality of the rival product line, but one can appreciate the perverse logic at work. There was money at stake. If the rivals could create a negative association with P&G’s product line, then it would make their own products seem more attractive by contrast.

Such whisper campaigns needn’t be terribly plausible. They work by connotation and association. For every possible X number of people who actually come to believe that P&G supports the work of Satan there will be 3X people who come away with some dim, unexplored sense that the company is “controversial” or vaguely associated with something unsavory (think “Swift Boat”).

The motive of this small core-group of rumor-mongers is thus not terribly complicated or difficult to understand. It’s not even terribly interesting. They were lying for the sake of money. Nothing novel or remarkable about that.

Far more interesting than those greedy sleazeballs, though, are the members of the much larger group of gossips who enthusiastically spread this malicious and obviously false story. This larger group has no financial interest at stake, so what’s in it for them? What motivates someone to accept the invitation to participate in deception, to accept an obvious lie and then to voluntarily tie their own credibility to something so incredible?

To try to understand these cheerful gossips, I’d like to turn to an equally strange, if less malicious, group of enthusiasts — the Anti Kitten-Burning Coalition.

Every once in a while, I am sorry to say, some sick bastard sets fire to a kitten. This is something that happens. Like all crimes, it shouldn’t happen, but it does. And like most crimes, it makes the paper. The effects of this appalling cruelty are not far-reaching, but the incidents are reported in the papers because the cruelty is so flagrant and acute that it seems newsworthy.

The response to such reports is horror and indignation, which is both natural and appropriate. But the expression of that horror and indignation also produces something strange.

A few years ago there was a particularly horrifying kitten-burning incident involving a barbecue grill and, astonishingly, a video camera. That sordid episode took place far from the place where I work, yet the paper’s editorial board nonetheless felt compelled to editorialize on the subject. They were, happily, against it. Unambiguously so. It’s one of the very few instances I recall when that timidly Broderian bunch took an unambiguous stance without their habitual on-the-other-hand qualifications.

I agreed with that stance, of course. Who doesn’t? But despite agreeing with the side they took, I couldn’t help but be amused by the editorial’s inordinately proud pose of courageous truth-telling. The lowest common denominator of minimal morality was being held up as though it were a prophetic example of speaking truth to power.

That same posturing resurfaced in a big way earlier this year when the kitten-burners struck again, much closer to home. A group of disturbed and disturbing children doused a kitten with lighter fluid and set it on fire just a few miles from the paper’s offices.

The paper covered the story, of course, and our readers ate it up.

People loved that story. It became one of the most-read and most-e-mailed stories on our Web site. Online readers left dozens of comments and we got letters to the editor on the subject for months afterward.

Those letters and comments were uniformly and universally opposed to kitten-burning. Opinon on that question was unanimous and vehement.

But here was the weird part: Most of the commenters and letter-writers didn’t seem to notice that they were expressing a unanimous and noncontroversial sentiment. Their comments and letters were contentious and sort of aggressively defensive. Or maybe defensively aggressive. They were angry, and that anger didn’t seem to be directed only at the kitten-burners, but also at some larger group of others whom they imagined must condone this sort of thing.

If you jumped into the comments thread and started reading at any random point in the middle, you’d get the impression that the comments immediately preceding must have offered a vigorous defense of kitten-burning. No such comments offering any such defense existed, and yet reader after reader seemed to be responding to or anticipating this phantom kitten-burning advocacy group.

One came away from that comment thread with the unsurprising but reassuring sense that the good people reading the paper’s Web site did not approve of burning kittens alive. Kitten-burning, they all insisted, was just plain wrong.

But one also came away from reading that thread with the sense that people seemed to think this ultra-minimal moral stance made them exceptional and exceptionally righteous. Like the earlier editorial writers, they seemed to think they were exhibiting courage by taking a bold position on a matter of great controversy. Whatever comfort might be gleaned from the reaffirmation that most people were right about this non-issue issue was overshadowed by the discomfiting realization that so many people also seemed to want or need most others to be wrong.

The kitten-burners seem to fulfill some urgent need. They give us someone we can clearly and correctly say we’re better than. Their extravagant cruelty makes us feel better about ourselves because we know that we would never do what they have done. They thus function as signposts of depravity, reassuring the rest of us that we’re Not As Bad As them, and thus letting us tell ourselves that this is the same thing as us being good.

Kitten-burners are particularly useful in this role because their atrocious behavior seems wholly alien and without any discernible motive that we might recognize in ourselves. We’re all at least dimly aware of our own potential capacity for the seven deadlies, so crimes motivated by lust, greed, gluttony, etc. — even when those crimes are particularly extreme — still contain the seed of something recognizable. People like Ken Lay or Hugh Hefner don’t work as signposts of depravity because we’re capable, on some level, of envying them for their greed and their hedonism. But we’re not the least bit jealous of the kitten-burners. Their cruelty seems both arbitrary and unrewarding, allowing us to condemn it without reservation.

Again, I whole-heartedly agree that kitten-burning is really, really bad. But the leap from “that’s bad” to “I’m not that bad” is dangerous and corrosive. I like to call this Thornton Melon morality. Melon was the character played by Rodney Dangerfield in the movie Back to School, the wealthy owner of a chain of “Tall & Fat” clothing stores whose motto was “If you want to look thin, you hang out with fat people.” That approach — finding people we can compare-down to — might make us feel a little better about ourselves, but it doesn’t change who or what we really are. The Thornton Melon approach might make us look thin, but it won’t help us become so. Melon morality is never anything more than an optical illusion.

This comparing-down is ultimately corrosive because it bases our sense of morality in pride rather than in love — in the cardinal vice instead of the cardinal virtue. And to fuel that pride, we end up looking for ever-more extreme and exotically awful people to compare ourselves favorably against, people whose freakish cruelty makes our own mediocrity show more goodly and attract more eyes than that which hath no foil to set it off.

Melon morality is why if the kitten-burners didn’t already exist, we would have to invent them.

And, of course, we do invent them. After a while the buzz of pride we get from comparing ourselves to the kitten-burners begins to fade and we start looking for a stronger drug. Who could possibly be even worse than the kitten-burners?

How about Satan-worshippers?

In the first post on this topic, I mentioned that the Church of Satan aspect of the Procter & Gamble rumor seemed a bit too outrageous and over-the-top. But while that outrageousness makes the story less plausible, it’s also what makes it so compelling. The pride that fuels Melon morality is an addictive drug, and the mythological Satan-worshippers of the P&G rumor offer that drug in its purest form.

Whether or not there actually is any such thing as the or a Church of Satan needn’t concern us here. This story has nothing to do with any actual religion or cult or the actual doctrines espoused by Anton LaVey or any other publicity-seeking character who has claimed the name of Satanism. This story isn’t about that. It’s about the idea of Satanism — the lore and legends of this enduringly popular bogeyman.

That lore does not arise from or relate to any actual belief system or actual believers. It is, rather, the stuff of legend as recounted in a hundred Jack Chick tracts and heavy metal album covers, in urban legends and campfire stories, in the flim-flammery of Mike Warnke and Bob Larson, and in low-budget Z-movies like the classic Satan’s Cheerleaders.

From sources like those, you already know the basic outlines of “Satanist” lore. Black robes, candles, pentagrams and strangely shaped knives feature prominently. Those knives, of course, are used for ritual human sacrifice.

The very idea of ritual human sacrifice is shocking and horrifying, which is why it tends to be included in stories told by people seeking to shock and horrify. When that is your aim as a storyteller the tendency is to constantly up the ante. What could be more shocking and horrifying than ritual human sacrifice? How about the torturous ritual sacrifice of children? And what could be even worse than that? The sacrifice of babies.

This is what “Satanist” signifies in the P&G rumor. It means people who kill babies — sweet, innocent, adorable little babies. Here, from the article linked above, is an excerpt from a 1991 fundraising letter from the Anti-Satanist “ministry” of con artist Bob Larson:

I watched them rip apart a newborn baby and take the heart while it was still beating. I can’t forget the screams. I still hear them every night!

That’s supposedly eyewitness testimony from someone saved out of the depraved Church of Satan thanks to the ministry of Bob Larson. It reads more like something out of a horror story than like something out of a fundraising solicitation for a Christian ministry. It’s not quite a horror story, but it works in a similar way.

Satanist stories, much like stories about ghosts or vampires, tap into big mythic fears – the sense that there is real evil in the world, that the innocent often suffer, that we may be powerless against the powerful. We tell such stories because we are afraid — reasonably afraid — of powerful, unnameable things. These stories give those fears a shape and a name and a horrifying face, and somehow that can be more reassuring than allowing such fears to remain amorphous and existential.

And just like vampire and ghost stories, Satanist stories have their own sets of rules, details and basic outlines with which we’re all familiar. These give the stories their own kind of reality. (Ask most people, “Do you believe in vampires?” and they will answer No. But ask those same people if vampires can be killed with a wooden stake and they’ll tell you Yes.)

None of these stories work as stories if we undercut their impact by acknowledging that there’s no such thing as ghosts or vampires or Satanic detergent executives. To tell these stories well, we have to pretend these things are real. To hear these stories well, our readers have to agree to go along. This is a familiar, but dramatically necessary, convention in horror stories from Sleepy Hollow to Amityville. This conceit usually involves only the willing suspension of disbelief, but for those who really get caught up in them — those particularly afraid already — that storytelling suspension of disbelief can turn into the expulsion of disbelief, the abandonment of skepticism in real life. The fearful and the fear-prone come to almost believe that the ghost stories and urban legends are really true. They come to almost really believe that someone out there is really killing the innocent little babies. (Almost.)

So maybe that’s all we’re dealing with when it comes to the P&G rumor — the same mixture of storytelling and suspension of disbelief, with the usual subset of listeners/readers who fail to make that distinction. Maybe the people passing along this rumor are no more malicious than that gullible friend of yours who still thinks The Blair Witch Project was a documentary.

Maybe. Maybe for some few of them. But the problem with this horror-story explanation is that the P&G rumor isn’t told the way we tell horror stories and ghost stories. It’s told in well-lit supermarkets and Sunday schools, not in dark rooms just before or just after bedtime. And it isn’t really told as a story at all. It’s presented, instead, as more of an argument or a lecture, the way someone might tell you, for example, why you shouldn’t eat foie gras.

In it’s usual forms, the P&G rumor is told and retold without any of the flair or artful detail that we expect from storytelling. I’m not sure it even qualifies to be grouped in with urban legends. Compare it to any of the stories we usually think of as urban legends — the subcutaneous spider-eggs story or the missing-kidneys and bathtub-of-ice story — and it just doesn’t measure up. Those stories are retold, in part, because you don’t have to believe them to appreciate that they’re good stories. The P&G rumor, by contrast, is implausible and unforgivably dull. It’s just not a very good story.

But while the P&G rumor can’t really be considered a horror story, it is clearly about horror or, at least, about fear. Consider, for example, the variation of the rumor that Snopes provides on their page debunking it. Try to count all the things the author of this particular lie is afraid of:

PLEASE MAKE A DIFFERENCE

The President of Procter & gamble appeared on the Phil Donahue Show on March 1, 1994. He announced that due to the openness of our society, he was coming out of the closet about his association with the church of Satan. He stated that a large portion of his profits from Procter & Gamble Products goes to support this satanic church. When asked by Donahue if stating this on t.v. would hurt his business, he replied, “THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH CHRISTIANS IN THE UNITED STATES TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE.”

That’s as pure a distillation as you will ever find of the nightmares and bogeymen that terrify the religious right, complete with the attempt to justify those fears because those people are really Satan-worshipping baby-killers.

Perhaps the deepest fear lurking in that e-mail has to do with the persecution complex of American evangelicals we’ve often discussed here before. The fear here is not that Christians in America might face persecution, but rather the fear of what it might mean that they don’t. The supposed effort to prove that there are ENOUGH CHRISTIANS … TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE is an expression of the fear — or the recognition — that the people sending and resending this e-mail are not CHRISTIAN ENOUGH TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE. They’re shouting because they’re frightened — truly frightened of the truth about themselves, which is always far more frightening than any fear of what might be lurking outside ourselves in the dark.

The response to that fear is a desperate grasping at Melon morality in the most extreme form they can imagine — trying to prove to themselves that they are different enough to MAKE A DIFFERENCE by contrasting themselves with baby-killing Satan-worshippers. With baby-killing Satan-worshippers that they know are purely imaginary.

That requires more self-deception than any of us is capable of on our own. That degree of self-deception requires a group.

This is why the rumor doesn’t really need to be plausible or believable. It isn’t intended to deceive others. It’s intended to invite others to participate with you in deception.

Are you afraid you might be a coward? Join us in pretending to believe this lie and you can pretend to feel brave. Are you afraid that your life is meaningless? Join us in pretending to believe this lie and you can pretend your life has purpose. Are you afraid you’re mired in mediocrity? Join us in pretending to believe this lie and you can pretend to feel exceptional. Are you worried that you won’t be able to forget that you’re just pretending and that all those good feelings will thus seem hollow and empty? Join us and we will pretend it’s true for you if you will pretend it’s true for us. We need each other.

You can’t be doing well if it seems like an improvement to base your life and your sense of self on a demonizing slander that you know is only a fantasy. To challenge that fantasy, to identify it as nothing more than that, is to threaten to send them back to whatever their lives were like before they latched onto this desperate alternative.

That suggests to me that if we are to have any hope of disabusing them of their fantasies, then we will need to recommend some third alternative, something other than the lie or the reality that had seemed even worse.

  • hapax

    Here’s the thing, Geds. I actually have ready several answers to that question with links to pictures ‘n’ all, at the tips of my typing fingers.
    But I looked at ‘em and said, “Nah. Nobody’s gonna buy the Rikki-Tikki-Tavi excuse. Even if it’s true.”
    So instead, I’ll point out that you don’t have to live in California to help fight Prop. Hate.
    (Link definitely safe for work. And makes the world a little safer, too.)

  • Izzy

    Geds: Hee, thanks. At the moment, I’m extremely available for comment on anything ever, because I’m at a conference and there’s nothing on TV. (And when did this happen, exactly? When I was a kid and didn’t have cable at home, hotel cable was a world of thrills and excitement!)
    I had a conversation once about how guns and swords are penis substitutes, so, therefore, what would weapons look like if the men had womens’ bodies. Fortunately, I’ve pretty much forgotten what the conclusions were.
    Sounds like one of those late-night everyone-might-be-stoned conversations. Good stuff, there.
    I think guns and swords are probably designed for maximum efficiency more than anything else. You want a weapon that puts hard lethal bits into the enemy as quickly as possible and from as far away as possible, but one you can still carry around. This, notably, hasn’t stopped many, many porn writers from using them as euphemisms for cock–Victorian porn also uses “mighty engine of love” and “Mr. Priapus,” which I find inexplicably awesome–so hey.

  • hapax

    @Izzy: You want a weapon that puts hard lethal bits into the enemy as quickly as possible
    Or, as I believe Gary Paulsen said, “Weapons are tools designed to put holes in bodies so that the life leaks out.”

  • hapax

    “Mr. Priapus,” which I find inexplicably awesome
    Really? Because I always thought it sounded like a great name for a hybrid electricity-fueled housecat.

  • Izzy

    Well, by “inexplicably awesome,” I mean “makes me giggle like a schoolgirl,” so we may be on the same page here.
    Man. Why aren’t I asleep?

  • thirstygirl

    Mr Priapus, of course- because we wouldn’t want to be Too Familiar, we haven’t been formally introduced yet.

  • Julian Elson

    The funny thing is, as far as kitten burning goes… well, P&G doesn’t do that, but they do do things pretty much tantamount to that on a massive scale. (Maybe not to kittens, but certainly to dogs, mice, rabbits, etc.) If kitten burning and Satanism are close in terms of the self-righteous moral outrage they evoke, and the sorts of things that P&G really does do are a moral approximation of kitten-burning, the vendors of the multilevel-marketing-company-which-shall-not-be-named really needn’t have made up a bunch of crazy lies to attack P&G.
    Regarding infant sacrifice, one thing I find interesting, historically, is that Carthaginian Baalism’s demands for infant sacrifice were apparently regarded even by most average Carthaginians as repugnant. It seems that most Carthaginians probably had a sense of morality not so different from that of most of us — yet in the name of their faith, they locked that morality in a dark closet so that they could burn babies in bronze tophets in honor of their god.
    On a milder scale, I wonder if there might be some analogy to the LeHaye & Jenkins PMD set. Obviously, they don’t sacrifice infants, but you’ve remarked about how Left Behind is full of instances where moral choices are presented, and L&J seem to be siding against doing what’s right in favor of doing what PMD doctrine tells them.
    This is something that also strikes me as remarkable about the Bhagavad-Gita. I think Arjuna basically had the right idea to begin with, and he makes a compelling case — war and violence are bad, and this battle really isn’t going to solve anything — and then the whole rest of the Bhagavad-Gita is dedicated to showing that Arjuna’s eminently reasonable and moral view is wrong, coming from the mouth of a divine avatar, because a higher morality based on knowledge of the ephemerality of this world as we know it and the permanence of a truer world overrides Arjuna’s common-sensical morality.
    Anyway, maybe I’m imagining connections between disparite subjects where there really aren’t any. It’s interesting, though, to think of whole societies with religions we would frankly consider blatantly evil on a level that goes way beyond critiques of, say, Islam’s respect for women’s rights, like the Huitzilopochtli-worshipping Aztecs. Were ordinary people in such societies depraved in some sense that we might attribute depravity to kitten-burning Satanists? Or did the priesthood have to wage a constant battle against real morality so that they could continue their atrocities?
    L&J seem to acknowledge the more common sensical morality most people might hold, in characters like Chloe Steele (haven’t read the series, but I read LB Fridays), but their objective seems to be to show that Chloe is wrong (until she adopts their viewpoint). Is this a characteristic feature of evil religions?
    I’ve been thinking about this because I wonder how to portray evil faiths like Bane or Hextor worship in my D&D games. But at least I’m not a furry or anime fan. (J/K)

  • Julian Elson

    The funny thing is, as far as kitten burning goes… well, P&G doesn’t do that, but they do do things pretty much tantamount to that on a massive scale. (Maybe not to kittens, but certainly to dogs, mice, rabbits, etc.) If kitten burning and Satanism are close in terms of the self-righteous moral outrage they evoke, and the sorts of things that P&G really does do are a moral approximation of kitten-burning, the vendors of the multilevel-marketing-company-which-shall-not-be-named really needn’t have made up a bunch of crazy lies to attack P&G.
    Regarding infant sacrifice, one thing I find interesting, historically, is that Carthaginian Baalism’s demands for infant sacrifice were apparently regarded even by most average Carthaginians as repugnant. It seems that most Carthaginians probably had a sense of morality not so different from that of most of us — yet in the name of their faith, they locked that morality in a dark closet so that they could burn babies in bronze tophets in honor of their god.
    On a milder scale, I wonder if there might be some analogy to the LeHaye & Jenkins PMD set. Obviously, they don’t sacrifice infants, but you’ve remarked about how Left Behind is full of instances where moral choices are presented, and L&J seem to be siding against doing what’s right in favor of doing what PMD doctrine tells them.
    This is something that also strikes me as remarkable about the Bhagavad-Gita. I think Arjuna basically had the right idea to begin with, and he makes a compelling case — war and violence are bad, and this battle really isn’t going to solve anything — and then the whole rest of the Bhagavad-Gita is dedicated to showing that Arjuna’s eminently reasonable and moral view is wrong, coming from the mouth of a divine avatar, because a higher morality based on knowledge of the ephemerality of this world as we know it and the permanence of a truer world overrides Arjuna’s common-sensical morality.
    Anyway, maybe I’m imagining connections between disparite subjects where there really aren’t any. It’s interesting, though, to think of whole societies with religions we would frankly consider blatantly evil on a level that goes way beyond critiques of, say, Islam’s respect for women’s rights, like the Huitzilopochtli-worshipping Aztecs. Were ordinary people in such societies depraved in some sense that we might attribute depravity to kitten-burning Satanists? Or did the priesthood have to wage a constant battle against real morality so that they could continue their atrocities?
    L&J seem to acknowledge the more common sensical morality most people might hold, in characters like Chloe Steele (haven’t read the series, but I read LB Fridays), but their objective seems to be to show that Chloe is wrong (until she adopts their viewpoint). Is this a characteristic feature of evil religions?
    I’ve been thinking about this because I wonder how to portray evil faiths like Bane or Hextor worship in my D&D games. But at least I’m not a furry or anime fan. (J/K)

  • hagsrus

    Well, it’s by no means a solution to the loss of preview, but Firefox users: install the Taboo extension and add the current page when you’ve finished reading it. It should then open again in the same place when you want to resume.
    Will it work tomorrow? Or will Typepad have come up with a way to frustrate it?

  • hagsrus

    Well, it’s by no means a solution to the loss of preview, but Firefox users: install the Taboo extension and add the current page when you’ve finished reading it. It should then open again in the same place when you want to resume.
    Will it work tomorrow? Or will Typepad have come up with a way to frustrate it?

  • SchrodingersDuck

    I think guns and swords are probably designed for maximum efficiency more than anything else.
    The same can be said about most things that people accuse of being penis extensions – skyscrapers, cars, rockets, etc. Yes, it’s true that some of the “our skyscraper is bigger than yours” posturing is led by this idea of phallic substitutes (the Burj Dubai being a prime example of this), but at heart, the skyscraper is just an effective way of getting the maximum floor space from the minimum area. It just so happens that the idea of having 1 long side and 2 much shorter ones is the most efficient shape for a lot of principles. The missile for instance isn’t phallic because the designer had an inferiority complex, but because it’s a very aerodynamic shape that nevertheless allows the rocket to carry lots of fuel, and while a lot of people buy sports cars for the perceived manhood enhancement, the cars aren’t actually designed to be phallic, they’re designed to be fast, powerful and streamlined – the Freudian interpretation of that notwithstanding!
    Really, it’s not so much the case that phallic objects are penis shaped at all, but that penises happen to be phallic – evolution shaped it that way because it was the most efficient shape for the role.

  • SchrodingersDuck

    I think guns and swords are probably designed for maximum efficiency more than anything else.
    The same can be said about most things that people accuse of being penis extensions – skyscrapers, cars, rockets, etc. Yes, it’s true that some of the “our skyscraper is bigger than yours” posturing is led by this idea of phallic substitutes (the Burj Dubai being a prime example of this), but at heart, the skyscraper is just an effective way of getting the maximum floor space from the minimum area. It just so happens that the idea of having 1 long side and 2 much shorter ones is the most efficient shape for a lot of principles. The missile for instance isn’t phallic because the designer had an inferiority complex, but because it’s a very aerodynamic shape that nevertheless allows the rocket to carry lots of fuel, and while a lot of people buy sports cars for the perceived manhood enhancement, the cars aren’t actually designed to be phallic, they’re designed to be fast, powerful and streamlined – the Freudian interpretation of that notwithstanding!
    Really, it’s not so much the case that phallic objects are penis shaped at all, but that penises happen to be phallic – evolution shaped it that way because it was the most efficient shape for the role.

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Kit Whitfield

    Schools will be required to teach pwecious widdle kiddies that same-sex marriage is as good as opposite-sex marriage;
    Am I the only one who thinks that schools bloody well should teach this?
    By the way, an exhaustive search for your book on the B&N and Borders website reveals that it’s really tough to find in Chicago. I’m becoming vaguely annoyed, but I’m still too lazy to do anything about it. Just thought you might like to know, in case you have any pull with the people in charge of midwestern distribution…
    Oh no, falling sales! Quick, everyone make everyone buy copies!
    I don’t have any pull, I’m afraid; I’m just a foreign mid-lister. Amazon might be your best bet, or else asking your local store to order it. The latter might make the book sound cool and fashionable and lead to more orders, so I’d favour that.
    Speaking of the good/evil and altruism thing … To my mind, it’s possible to get extremely silly about altruism – ‘You got some self-esteem out of doing the right thing! You selfish bastard!!!’ Human actions aren’t binary: there’s a sliding scale of selfish and unselfish, and anyone with any sense can tell the difference between a primarily selfish act, like stealing someone’s wallet, and a primarily unselfish one, like finding someone’s wallet and handing it in. The problem isn’t getting a bit of satisfaction out of doing the right thing, it’s about becoming excessively concerned about your own satisfaction to the exclusion of everyone else’s. That can manifest both in criminal behaviour – basic selfishness – and in foisting unwanted favours on unwilling recipients so that you can feel good about yourself even while you’re getting on their nerves or, in some cases, actually damaging them (Satanic-Abuse-obsessed case workers who insist that children say they were abused when they weren’t so that the case workers can feel like saviours come to mind) – quasi-altruistic selfishness. A little common sense goes further than a lot of analysis in these cases.
    Picturing someone who doesn’t get any feelings of satisfaction out of doing the right thing – well, I think we’re talking about psychopaths here. That’s part of the problem: someone psychopathic has an unusually flat emotional experience, being unable to take any satisfaction in a healthy emotional connection with others and also having a lowered fear level that means consequences aren’t so scary. And yes, such people are immoral. They have no emotional motivation to be otherwise.
    The natural conclusion, I’d say, is that it’s entirely necessary that we feel some personal satisfaction in doing the right thing; if we didn’t, we probably wouldn’t do it. Therefore, the pleasure we feel in our own good behaviour, as long as it’s proportional and realistic, should be praised as a wonderful device that keeps everyone happy, rather than attacked as ‘selfishness’.
    I think the altruism-is-selfish model comes from a zero-sum view of morality: either you lose and someone else gains, or the other way round, and only the former is moral. But gratification in having done the right thing is a win-win, and that’s a good thing.
    As to the whole furries thing … what puzzles me is why people bother to talk about it. Offline I don’t really move in geek circles – I have some geeky friends, but apart from hanging around the internet and writing science fiction books, most geek hobbies aren’t my cup of tea – so possibly I’m missing something here. But reading this thread and listening to people talk about furries, something occurs to me: if people are trying to dissassociate themselves from such people, then spending a lot of time explaining why They’re different from Us or getting annoyed with them is not a very good method. From the outside, it smacks of protesting too much.
    I mean, there are plenty of hobbies that I don’t see the point of. Train-spotting. Cryptic crossword solving. Photographing dogs in cute little outfits. If I met someone who was totally obsessive about them, I might be a bit bewildered. (Then again, my neighbour is completely smitten with cactus-growing and his whole front garden is given over to them; when I paused to compliment him on his unusual display, he spent an enthusiastic five minutes telling me all about it, and I found the whole thing rather charming. Cacti aren’t my favourite plant or anything, but he was a nice man and I was glad he was happy with his collection.) But I don’t feel any particular motive to decry any of these hobbies – and probably part of this is because they’re nothing to do with me. If somebody says, ‘Crosswords? That’s a freaky subculture, isn’t it?’*, I just shrug. If people want to spend their time solving crosswords, I don’t really care. I might get fed up if they bend my ear too hard about crosswords, but my annoyance would be directed at People With Bad Manners rather than People Who Solve Crosswords.
    How come people who go to conventions that include furries don’t do the same? Hanging out in the same places doesn’t mean you’re associated; I passed a group of train-spotters in a station once, anoraks, clipboards and all, but I’m fairly sure nobody was going to mistake me for one. Why bother to slag them off? Why not just shrug and say, ‘Meh, takes all sorts’?
    If people don’t feel similar to furries, why bother to get worked up about them? And if they’re frightened of being tarred with the same brush … well, comparing yourself to another group invites others to do the same, not necessarily as favourably as you, because you’ve put yourself in the same category. I was thrilled when a reviewer compared me unfavourably to Margaret Atwood, because it put me in the same class, even if I was sitting lower down the ranks. More thrilled, in fact, than when I’ve been compared favourably to bad writers. What you’re being compared to in the first place is a big indicator – and choosing to compare yourself to people you look down on seems like a bad move.
    Loving on Hapax…
    *I have no idea if crossword-loving is a freaky subculture. My first assumption was that it wasn’t, but I know that if I said ‘Crossword solvers aren’t freaky’, five people would start telling me things I’d really rather not know…

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Kit Whitfield

    Schools will be required to teach pwecious widdle kiddies that same-sex marriage is as good as opposite-sex marriage;
    Am I the only one who thinks that schools bloody well should teach this?
    By the way, an exhaustive search for your book on the B&N and Borders website reveals that it’s really tough to find in Chicago. I’m becoming vaguely annoyed, but I’m still too lazy to do anything about it. Just thought you might like to know, in case you have any pull with the people in charge of midwestern distribution…
    Oh no, falling sales! Quick, everyone make everyone buy copies!
    I don’t have any pull, I’m afraid; I’m just a foreign mid-lister. Amazon might be your best bet, or else asking your local store to order it. The latter might make the book sound cool and fashionable and lead to more orders, so I’d favour that.
    Speaking of the good/evil and altruism thing … To my mind, it’s possible to get extremely silly about altruism – ‘You got some self-esteem out of doing the right thing! You selfish bastard!!!’ Human actions aren’t binary: there’s a sliding scale of selfish and unselfish, and anyone with any sense can tell the difference between a primarily selfish act, like stealing someone’s wallet, and a primarily unselfish one, like finding someone’s wallet and handing it in. The problem isn’t getting a bit of satisfaction out of doing the right thing, it’s about becoming excessively concerned about your own satisfaction to the exclusion of everyone else’s. That can manifest both in criminal behaviour – basic selfishness – and in foisting unwanted favours on unwilling recipients so that you can feel good about yourself even while you’re getting on their nerves or, in some cases, actually damaging them (Satanic-Abuse-obsessed case workers who insist that children say they were abused when they weren’t so that the case workers can feel like saviours come to mind) – quasi-altruistic selfishness. A little common sense goes further than a lot of analysis in these cases.
    Picturing someone who doesn’t get any feelings of satisfaction out of doing the right thing – well, I think we’re talking about psychopaths here. That’s part of the problem: someone psychopathic has an unusually flat emotional experience, being unable to take any satisfaction in a healthy emotional connection with others and also having a lowered fear level that means consequences aren’t so scary. And yes, such people are immoral. They have no emotional motivation to be otherwise.
    The natural conclusion, I’d say, is that it’s entirely necessary that we feel some personal satisfaction in doing the right thing; if we didn’t, we probably wouldn’t do it. Therefore, the pleasure we feel in our own good behaviour, as long as it’s proportional and realistic, should be praised as a wonderful device that keeps everyone happy, rather than attacked as ‘selfishness’.
    I think the altruism-is-selfish model comes from a zero-sum view of morality: either you lose and someone else gains, or the other way round, and only the former is moral. But gratification in having done the right thing is a win-win, and that’s a good thing.
    As to the whole furries thing … what puzzles me is why people bother to talk about it. Offline I don’t really move in geek circles – I have some geeky friends, but apart from hanging around the internet and writing science fiction books, most geek hobbies aren’t my cup of tea – so possibly I’m missing something here. But reading this thread and listening to people talk about furries, something occurs to me: if people are trying to dissassociate themselves from such people, then spending a lot of time explaining why They’re different from Us or getting annoyed with them is not a very good method. From the outside, it smacks of protesting too much.
    I mean, there are plenty of hobbies that I don’t see the point of. Train-spotting. Cryptic crossword solving. Photographing dogs in cute little outfits. If I met someone who was totally obsessive about them, I might be a bit bewildered. (Then again, my neighbour is completely smitten with cactus-growing and his whole front garden is given over to them; when I paused to compliment him on his unusual display, he spent an enthusiastic five minutes telling me all about it, and I found the whole thing rather charming. Cacti aren’t my favourite plant or anything, but he was a nice man and I was glad he was happy with his collection.) But I don’t feel any particular motive to decry any of these hobbies – and probably part of this is because they’re nothing to do with me. If somebody says, ‘Crosswords? That’s a freaky subculture, isn’t it?’*, I just shrug. If people want to spend their time solving crosswords, I don’t really care. I might get fed up if they bend my ear too hard about crosswords, but my annoyance would be directed at People With Bad Manners rather than People Who Solve Crosswords.
    How come people who go to conventions that include furries don’t do the same? Hanging out in the same places doesn’t mean you’re associated; I passed a group of train-spotters in a station once, anoraks, clipboards and all, but I’m fairly sure nobody was going to mistake me for one. Why bother to slag them off? Why not just shrug and say, ‘Meh, takes all sorts’?
    If people don’t feel similar to furries, why bother to get worked up about them? And if they’re frightened of being tarred with the same brush … well, comparing yourself to another group invites others to do the same, not necessarily as favourably as you, because you’ve put yourself in the same category. I was thrilled when a reviewer compared me unfavourably to Margaret Atwood, because it put me in the same class, even if I was sitting lower down the ranks. More thrilled, in fact, than when I’ve been compared favourably to bad writers. What you’re being compared to in the first place is a big indicator – and choosing to compare yourself to people you look down on seems like a bad move.
    Loving on Hapax…
    *I have no idea if crossword-loving is a freaky subculture. My first assumption was that it wasn’t, but I know that if I said ‘Crossword solvers aren’t freaky’, five people would start telling me things I’d really rather not know…

  • http://kadrin.livejournal.com Patrick Phelan

    but I know that if I said ‘Crossword solvers aren’t freaky’, five people would start telling me things I’d really rather not know…
    Over one thousand crossword enthusiasts every year are mauled to death by snow leopards they have attempted to “solve”. And that’s just the start.

  • http://kadrin.livejournal.com Patrick Phelan

    but I know that if I said ‘Crossword solvers aren’t freaky’, five people would start telling me things I’d really rather not know…
    Over one thousand crossword enthusiasts every year are mauled to death by snow leopards they have attempted to “solve”. And that’s just the start.

  • Izzy

    Kit: I don’t know about anyone else. For me, it’s the same reason I watch and blog about bad books or movies, or read fandom_wank, or whatever: pointing and laughing is fun. When I do it, it often comes across as somewhat irked and snarky, mainly ’cause that’s how I like it–my LJ handle is “funwithrage” for a reason–but it’s still mostly fun.
    Not the noblest of motives, but hey, not everyone can be Mother Teresa. And at least I’m not burning kittens. ;)

  • Izzy

    Kit: I don’t know about anyone else. For me, it’s the same reason I watch and blog about bad books or movies, or read fandom_wank, or whatever: pointing and laughing is fun. When I do it, it often comes across as somewhat irked and snarky, mainly ’cause that’s how I like it–my LJ handle is “funwithrage” for a reason–but it’s still mostly fun.
    Not the noblest of motives, but hey, not everyone can be Mother Teresa. And at least I’m not burning kittens. ;)

  • Anonymous

    Big, big word to most of Izzy’s comments.
    Geeks can of course be creepy, icky, passive-aggressive, violent, misogynistic, etc. But so can everybody else, and geeks are 1. Overall slightly less likely to be in a position of power, at least socially, and thereby force others to put up with them, and 2. More likely to have an opinion about Tom Bombadil’s true identity, so even at their worst more likely to interest or amuse me than jocks or business majors with the same personal failings.

  • Anonymous

    Big, big word to most of Izzy’s comments.
    Geeks can of course be creepy, icky, passive-aggressive, violent, misogynistic, etc. But so can everybody else, and geeks are 1. Overall slightly less likely to be in a position of power, at least socially, and thereby force others to put up with them, and 2. More likely to have an opinion about Tom Bombadil’s true identity, so even at their worst more likely to interest or amuse me than jocks or business majors with the same personal failings.

  • indifferent children

    Diss on gamer funk all you like, but leave the funky furries alone. You try licking yourself clean and see how far you get.

  • indifferent children

    Diss on gamer funk all you like, but leave the funky furries alone. You try licking yourself clean and see how far you get.

  • Anonymous

    A topic for a thread of its own – in six paragraphs or less, explain what the nature of fandom illustrates in microcosm about the human condition.
    Schools will be required to teach pwecious widdle kiddies that same-sex marriage is as good as opposite-sex marriage;
    When those fearmongers complain about schools “teaching homosexuality,” are they saying that schools are teaching that it’s normal or that schools are teaching students to be gay? Or are they saying that the former automatically leads to the latter? How would one teach students to be gay – have them do book reports on Star Trek slashfic?
    Really, it’s not so much the case that phallic objects are penis shaped at all, but that penises happen to be phallic – evolution shaped it that way because it was the most efficient shape for the role.
    My joke wasn’t intended to say that everything that had such a shape was necessarily a substitute. I was commenting how things are used as substitutes. That use is simply more obvious (and funnier) with phallic objects that have that shape for simple efficiency. Any one of us could name several grown-up non-phallic toys that are used as substitutes. Now I have Pete Townsend’s “Rough Boys” in my head…

  • Anonymous

    A topic for a thread of its own – in six paragraphs or less, explain what the nature of fandom illustrates in microcosm about the human condition.
    Schools will be required to teach pwecious widdle kiddies that same-sex marriage is as good as opposite-sex marriage;
    When those fearmongers complain about schools “teaching homosexuality,” are they saying that schools are teaching that it’s normal or that schools are teaching students to be gay? Or are they saying that the former automatically leads to the latter? How would one teach students to be gay – have them do book reports on Star Trek slashfic?
    Really, it’s not so much the case that phallic objects are penis shaped at all, but that penises happen to be phallic – evolution shaped it that way because it was the most efficient shape for the role.
    My joke wasn’t intended to say that everything that had such a shape was necessarily a substitute. I was commenting how things are used as substitutes. That use is simply more obvious (and funnier) with phallic objects that have that shape for simple efficiency. Any one of us could name several grown-up non-phallic toys that are used as substitutes. Now I have Pete Townsend’s “Rough Boys” in my head…

  • http://www.dylanwolf.com/ Dylan

    Oh, fuck, yes. Frankly? If I ever run a con–which I won’t, because my head would explode–I’d get a couple of those drug-sniffing dogs and retrain them for unwashed-gamer funk. If they go crazy around you, you get kicked out. No refund.
    At the last con we attended, I had a friend who suggested they should hand out little bars of soap and deodorant along with some of the “swag” you get at the registration booth.
    I don’t see that working, because I imagine people would take that as an insult. Even then ones for whom it’s a valid criticism.

  • http://www.dylanwolf.com/ Dylan

    Oh, fuck, yes. Frankly? If I ever run a con–which I won’t, because my head would explode–I’d get a couple of those drug-sniffing dogs and retrain them for unwashed-gamer funk. If they go crazy around you, you get kicked out. No refund.
    At the last con we attended, I had a friend who suggested they should hand out little bars of soap and deodorant along with some of the “swag” you get at the registration booth.
    I don’t see that working, because I imagine people would take that as an insult. Even then ones for whom it’s a valid criticism.

  • Cowboy Diva

    When those fearmongers complain about schools “teaching homosexuality,” are they saying that schools are teaching that it’s normal or that schools are teaching students to be gay? Or are they saying that the former automatically leads to the latter? How would one teach students to be gay – have them do book reports on Star Trek slashfic?

    I would say for said fearmongers any exposure to “teh other” is grounds for causing it to happen, because after all if my children don’t know gay people exist, then they would never become gay, right? Right?
    Just like sex education; if my children don’t know what a condom is, they will never have cause to use one and will therefore never have sex until marriage.
    Logic!

  • Cowboy Diva

    When those fearmongers complain about schools “teaching homosexuality,” are they saying that schools are teaching that it’s normal or that schools are teaching students to be gay? Or are they saying that the former automatically leads to the latter? How would one teach students to be gay – have them do book reports on Star Trek slashfic?

    I would say for said fearmongers any exposure to “teh other” is grounds for causing it to happen, because after all if my children don’t know gay people exist, then they would never become gay, right? Right?
    Just like sex education; if my children don’t know what a condom is, they will never have cause to use one and will therefore never have sex until marriage.
    Logic!

  • Tonio

    Left Behind is full of instances where moral choices are presented, and L&J seem to be siding against doing what’s right in favor of doing what PMD doctrine tells them.
    More than anything else, that is why the books are so repugnant. Authoritarianism in any realm is anti-morality.

  • Tonio

    Left Behind is full of instances where moral choices are presented, and L&J seem to be siding against doing what’s right in favor of doing what PMD doctrine tells them.
    More than anything else, that is why the books are so repugnant. Authoritarianism in any realm is anti-morality.

  • Cowboy Diva

    by the way, let me just say I am sorry I felt the need to sleep last night rather than read this thread. You people made the morning worth it.

  • Cowboy Diva

    by the way, let me just say I am sorry I felt the need to sleep last night rather than read this thread. You people made the morning worth it.

  • Izzy

    Dylan: Alas, yes. Or they’d go off on some quasi-hippie “body odor that could stun a goat is NAAAATURAL, MAAAAAN!” thing, in which case I’d tell them to go off and get eaten by a damn lion, then, since that’s *also* natural, and to give me their computers while they’re at it, and that would go well for nobody. Except maybe me, because I can imagine it being a whole lot of fun.
    Tonio: How would one teach students to be gay – have them do book reports on Star Trek slashfic?
    I’m seeing something like the Sex Ed sequence in Meaning of Life, only with a dude. “Why don’t you give him a kiss? You don’t always have to skip straight to the buttsex!”
    …come to think of it, that sounds like some rants I’ve heard about (bad) slashfic. It’s like the Circle of Life here this morning.

  • Izzy

    Dylan: Alas, yes. Or they’d go off on some quasi-hippie “body odor that could stun a goat is NAAAATURAL, MAAAAAN!” thing, in which case I’d tell them to go off and get eaten by a damn lion, then, since that’s *also* natural, and to give me their computers while they’re at it, and that would go well for nobody. Except maybe me, because I can imagine it being a whole lot of fun.
    Tonio: How would one teach students to be gay – have them do book reports on Star Trek slashfic?
    I’m seeing something like the Sex Ed sequence in Meaning of Life, only with a dude. “Why don’t you give him a kiss? You don’t always have to skip straight to the buttsex!”
    …come to think of it, that sounds like some rants I’ve heard about (bad) slashfic. It’s like the Circle of Life here this morning.

  • Tonio

    because after all if my children don’t know gay people exist, then they would never become gay, right? Right?
    The end of your sentence put the Supertramp song in my head…
    The implication of that “logic” is that homosexuality is a temptation. Some of them state that explicitly, describing it as an addiction. Others don’t seem to realize the implications of the “other” treatment. Either way, they should explain what would be tempting about homosexuality for a straight person.

  • Tonio

    because after all if my children don’t know gay people exist, then they would never become gay, right? Right?
    The end of your sentence put the Supertramp song in my head…
    The implication of that “logic” is that homosexuality is a temptation. Some of them state that explicitly, describing it as an addiction. Others don’t seem to realize the implications of the “other” treatment. Either way, they should explain what would be tempting about homosexuality for a straight person.

  • http://mikailborg.livejournal.com/ MikhailBorg

    Why bother to slag them off? Why not just shrug and say, ‘Meh, takes all sorts’?
    It’s amazing how liberating that attitude can be. “Hey, look, here’s a bunch of judicial baggage I don’t have to carry around any more!” (Though, as I write ‘judicial baggage’, I am suddenly imagining a Discworld novel about Ankh-Morpork’s court system.) The day that I realized that I no longer cared to worry myself about whether the next fan preferred Deep Space Nine or Babylon Five was a step into a larger world. And, like the conversation with your cactus-grower, I got to enjoy some amusing moments with people I’d not have given the time of day before.
    Also, Ankh-Morpork is hard to spell this early in the morning without a reference before me.

  • http://mikailborg.livejournal.com/ MikhailBorg

    Why bother to slag them off? Why not just shrug and say, ‘Meh, takes all sorts’?
    It’s amazing how liberating that attitude can be. “Hey, look, here’s a bunch of judicial baggage I don’t have to carry around any more!” (Though, as I write ‘judicial baggage’, I am suddenly imagining a Discworld novel about Ankh-Morpork’s court system.) The day that I realized that I no longer cared to worry myself about whether the next fan preferred Deep Space Nine or Babylon Five was a step into a larger world. And, like the conversation with your cactus-grower, I got to enjoy some amusing moments with people I’d not have given the time of day before.
    Also, Ankh-Morpork is hard to spell this early in the morning without a reference before me.

  • http://accidental-historian.blogspot.com/ Geds

    What you’re being compared to in the first place is a big indicator – and choosing to compare yourself to people you look down on seems like a bad move.
    Damn skippy. At least from a writer’s perspective I’d much rather read F. Scott Fitzgerald, Craig Ferguson, Anne Ursu, Lawrence Weschler, or Dave Eggers and say, “Why can’t I write like that?” and then try to go and make myself better than read, say, Left Behind and say, “I’m a better writer than that,” and go take a nap. I understand that it’s easier to appeal to the lowest common denominator when deciding whether or not we’re worthwhile people, but it doesn’t so much require any work.
    Hmmm. Maybe it’s an issue of the values we place on ourselves and others. Hypothetical:
    Let’s say that I meet an attractive, intelligent, single woman who is interested in me and we start dating. I’m not entirely sure why this wonderful human being is even willing to talk to me, let alone seems to think highly enough of me that she’d want a relationship with me. Then I find out that her previous boyfriends were all pretty much jerks who treated her like crap.
    I now have the option to simply try to be a better boyfriend than the last guy. But if I do that what does it say about me and, more importantly, what does it say about my opinion of others, especially this microcosm of the other who I think is a completely wonderful human being?
    Is, “I only have to be better than this guy I’m already better than,” and, “I only care enough about you to do the minimum work necessary,” really something to strive for? Moreover, if you say you value someone then follow up with that line of reasoning, do you really value them at all?

  • http://accidental-historian.blogspot.com/ Geds

    What you’re being compared to in the first place is a big indicator – and choosing to compare yourself to people you look down on seems like a bad move.
    Damn skippy. At least from a writer’s perspective I’d much rather read F. Scott Fitzgerald, Craig Ferguson, Anne Ursu, Lawrence Weschler, or Dave Eggers and say, “Why can’t I write like that?” and then try to go and make myself better than read, say, Left Behind and say, “I’m a better writer than that,” and go take a nap. I understand that it’s easier to appeal to the lowest common denominator when deciding whether or not we’re worthwhile people, but it doesn’t so much require any work.
    Hmmm. Maybe it’s an issue of the values we place on ourselves and others. Hypothetical:
    Let’s say that I meet an attractive, intelligent, single woman who is interested in me and we start dating. I’m not entirely sure why this wonderful human being is even willing to talk to me, let alone seems to think highly enough of me that she’d want a relationship with me. Then I find out that her previous boyfriends were all pretty much jerks who treated her like crap.
    I now have the option to simply try to be a better boyfriend than the last guy. But if I do that what does it say about me and, more importantly, what does it say about my opinion of others, especially this microcosm of the other who I think is a completely wonderful human being?
    Is, “I only have to be better than this guy I’m already better than,” and, “I only care enough about you to do the minimum work necessary,” really something to strive for? Moreover, if you say you value someone then follow up with that line of reasoning, do you really value them at all?

  • The Amazing Kim

    Really, it’s not so much the case that phallic objects are penis shaped at all, but that penises happen to be phallic
    I’ve heard the theory that people suggesting that something vaguely elongated-shaped is phallic is a reinforcement of male dominance in the listener’s mind, thus creating a culture where phallic objects are ubiquitous.
    I think it’s about stories. Like Praline says, we’re social critters, and people who tell the best stories (or, in celebrity culture, who are the best stories), get the social status. The plot of “Big Bad is overcome by a team of plucky little adventurers with special quality X” is a pretty universal one.
    I know I’d rather be in an interesting story than a boring one, and if you have enough time on your hands, it’s pretty easy to tell yourself that you’re living in a narrative. This way, cognitive dissonance isn’t a problem. They’re all just different stories.
    People sewing meat to themselves, Izzy? I learn something new every time I visit Slacktivist…

  • The Amazing Kim

    Really, it’s not so much the case that phallic objects are penis shaped at all, but that penises happen to be phallic
    I’ve heard the theory that people suggesting that something vaguely elongated-shaped is phallic is a reinforcement of male dominance in the listener’s mind, thus creating a culture where phallic objects are ubiquitous.
    I think it’s about stories. Like Praline says, we’re social critters, and people who tell the best stories (or, in celebrity culture, who are the best stories), get the social status. The plot of “Big Bad is overcome by a team of plucky little adventurers with special quality X” is a pretty universal one.
    I know I’d rather be in an interesting story than a boring one, and if you have enough time on your hands, it’s pretty easy to tell yourself that you’re living in a narrative. This way, cognitive dissonance isn’t a problem. They’re all just different stories.
    People sewing meat to themselves, Izzy? I learn something new every time I visit Slacktivist…

  • Tonio

    The day that I realized that I no longer cared to worry myself about whether the next fan preferred Deep Space Nine or Babylon Five was a step into a larger world.
    In high school I can remember slagging certain pop groups, but I don’t remember ever slagging the people who liked those groups. I know someone who criticizes people based on their entertainment preferences, which I find disrespectful to say the least.

  • Tonio

    The day that I realized that I no longer cared to worry myself about whether the next fan preferred Deep Space Nine or Babylon Five was a step into a larger world.
    In high school I can remember slagging certain pop groups, but I don’t remember ever slagging the people who liked those groups. I know someone who criticizes people based on their entertainment preferences, which I find disrespectful to say the least.

  • Izzy

    Yeah, I can’t say I much care what entertainment people like. (I mean, if you’re into the Turner diaries or the Gor books, that’s a whole different story, because that’s a repugnant-philosophy thing.) I don’t know that I could seriously respect anyone who seriously thought Twilight or Britney or Dan Brown was *good*, but we all have something that we enjoy because it’s trashy fun, and there’s no point getting all Harold Bloom about it. I mean, I read the Merry Gentry books, so.
    Not that I didn’t give the boyfriend some heckling about how we paid people good money to move *eleven Robert Jordan books*, seriously, what the hell, I am now hiding these behind other books so that innocent people won’t be exposed to ‘em, and so forth…but I’m still dating the guy. ;)

  • Izzy

    Yeah, I can’t say I much care what entertainment people like. (I mean, if you’re into the Turner diaries or the Gor books, that’s a whole different story, because that’s a repugnant-philosophy thing.) I don’t know that I could seriously respect anyone who seriously thought Twilight or Britney or Dan Brown was *good*, but we all have something that we enjoy because it’s trashy fun, and there’s no point getting all Harold Bloom about it. I mean, I read the Merry Gentry books, so.
    Not that I didn’t give the boyfriend some heckling about how we paid people good money to move *eleven Robert Jordan books*, seriously, what the hell, I am now hiding these behind other books so that innocent people won’t be exposed to ‘em, and so forth…but I’m still dating the guy. ;)

  • Izzy

    Kim: Glad to, um, enlighten. That one showed up on one of the wank communities or other a little while back–someone protesting that it was a totally fine and awesome thing to do. Which, no.

  • Izzy

    Kim: Glad to, um, enlighten. That one showed up on one of the wank communities or other a little while back–someone protesting that it was a totally fine and awesome thing to do. Which, no.

  • Tonio

    I’ve heard the theory that people suggesting that something vaguely elongated-shaped is phallic is a reinforcement of male dominance in the listener’s mind, thus creating a culture where phallic objects are ubiquitous.
    I don’t understand that at all. Would you explain? I don’t automatically equate phallic with male dominance. If anything, I equate it with pointless, adolescent, immature posturing – some males delude themselves into thinking that women are impressed by it, but they’re really trying to impress other men.

  • Tonio

    I’ve heard the theory that people suggesting that something vaguely elongated-shaped is phallic is a reinforcement of male dominance in the listener’s mind, thus creating a culture where phallic objects are ubiquitous.
    I don’t understand that at all. Would you explain? I don’t automatically equate phallic with male dominance. If anything, I equate it with pointless, adolescent, immature posturing – some males delude themselves into thinking that women are impressed by it, but they’re really trying to impress other men.


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