Insincere bigotry

The Liar Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, appeared on CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday morning.

I refer to the Liar Tony Perkins as “the Liar Tony Perkins” because the Liar Tony Perkins lies. A lot. He lies professionally in order to convince the fearfully credulous to send him more money.

And that, of course, is what the Liar Tony Perkins was doing Sunday morning on Face the Nation. He was lying.

The delicious thing on this particular Sunday morning — unlike the Sunday mornings on which the Liar Tony Perkins is, inexplicably, allowed to attend church as though a member in good standing — he was called on it.

David Boies didn’t just accuse the Liar Tony Perkins of lying, he pointed out that the lies of the Liar Tony Perkins had been laughed out of court. (Steve Benen provides a transcript, John Cole the video). Here is what Boies said as the Liar Tony Perkins blinked and squinted and shook his head:

It’s easy to sit around and debate and throw around opinions –
appeal to people’s fear and prejudice, cite studies that either don’t
exist or don’t say what you say they do. In a court of law you’ve got to
come in and you’ve got to support those opinions. You’ve got to stand
up under oath and cross-examination. And what we saw at trial is that
it’s very easy for the people who want to deprive gay and lesbian
citizens the right to vote, to make all sorts of statements in campaign
literature or in debates where they can’t be cross-examined.

But when they come into court and they have to support those
opinions and they have to defend those opinions under oath and
cross-examination, those opinions just melt away. And that’s what
happened here. There simply wasn’t any evidence. There weren’t any of
those studies. There weren’t any empirical studies. That’s just made up.
That’s junk science.

… A witness stand is a
lonely place to lie. And when you come into court, you can’t do that.
And that’s what we proved. We put fear and prejudice on trial, and fear
and prejudice lost.

In response, the Liar Tony Perkins, unable to support his assertions because they were not true, simply reasserted them. To any reasonable observer, this was not credible and the Liar Tony Perkins was exposed, yet again, as the Liar Tony Perkins.

But reasonable observers are not the Liar Tony Perkins’ target audience. “You can fool some of the people all of the time …” Abraham Lincoln said, and the Liar Tony Perkins never stuck around to hear the rest. He had found his calling.

There’s an interesting moral distinction to be examined here and I’m still struggling to figure out whether it matters or how it matters if it does.

The lies of the Liar Tony Perkins are hateful and harmful. His lies have victims. Two sets of victims, actually.

First there are the direct victims — the people about whom the Liar Tony Perkins is lying. Quite often, those direct victims are homosexuals, whom the Liar Tony Perkins accuses of all manner of nastiness. These lies are hurtful — not just because they create a din of incessant harassment, but because they alter the cultural environment in which GLBT persons must live. The Liar Tony Perkins is, intentionally, creating a hostile environment for our GLBT neighbors. That hostility can become tangible — hindering the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of those neighbors, restricting their freedoms, their ability to make a living, to find housing, to pursue relationships, to live unmolested. This hostility and harassment can have a particularly forceful impact on young people, harming self-esteem, identity, health and happiness and leading, in extreme but by no means rare cases, to a host of problems including suicide. The unending hostility sown by the lies of the Liar Tony Perkins can also inspire actual violence, leading to physical injury to the neighbors his lies are slandering.

So that’s bad.

The second set of victims, the indirect victims of the Liar Tony Perkins’ lies, are those naive or foolish or fearful enough to believe him. These victims are doubly victimized. First they suffer financially by responding to the Liar Tony Perkins’ incessant appeals for contributions. Collecting money under the pretext that it will provide imaginary protection from an imaginary threat is, of course, fraud. And the victims of this fraud are being deprived of their hard-earned money.

But these believers in the Liar Tony Perkins are also victims in a second, more pernicious way. Their character is being corroded and poisoned by the steady diet of lies fed to them by the Liar Tony Perkins. Their capacity for love, for tolerance, magnanimity, citizenship, mutuality, honor, kindness, responsibility, hope, hospitality, generosity and neighborliness is being diminished. When you are deceived into believing hateful and stupid things you become yourself more hateful and stupid. This is not good for you.

Now, as David Boies pointed out, it is clear that the Liar Tony Perkins is lying. When he cites “numerous studies” showing that homosexuals are a danger to children and a menace to society we know that he is familiar with those studies and that therefore he knows that they do not say what he says they say or show what he says they show. Some of the studies do not exist at all. The Liar Tony Perkins simply made them up (that’s the “research” part of “Family Research Council”). Presumably, therefore, he knows he made them up.

So we know he’s lying. It may be that he has chosen to tell this particular set of profitably toxic lies because he dislikes his direct victims and enjoys harming them. It may be, in other words, that the Liar Tony Perkins is a bigot telling lies to spread that bigotry.

But it’s also altogether possible that the Liar Tony Perkins doesn’t actually harbor any personal dislike for the GLBT neighbors about whom he is telling such hateful, absurd lies. It may be that these neighbors are simply an especially profitable target of convenience.

For a demagogue in search of a subject for his demagoguery, our GLBT neighbors must seem an easy target. They are in the minority, and they are different from the majority, and therefore they are doubly vulnerable. Plus, to some devoutly religious believers — the pool from which the Liar Tony Perkins fishes for fearful, foolish donors — GLBT persons are also viewed as sinners, and that can be exploited to provide pseudo-spiritual cover for all manner of bigotry and slander.

We should note here that this religious cover is a sham, a non-sequitur. It does not follow. One cannot logically proceed from the belief that same-gender sex is a sin to the conclusion that homosexuals ought therefore to be denied full access to civil rights.

Many of the conservative Baptists among whom I grew up believe that dancing is a sin. I have never heard any of them suggest that weddings are invalid if there is dancing at the reception. Nor did any of them argue that professional dancers ought to be relegated to second-class citizenship — forbidden to marry, to adopt children, to serve openly in the military. They didn’t argue such things because it wouldn’t have made sense. The leap from “dancing is a sin” to “dancers are subhuman and should not have rights” is illogical and it’s bad theology by their own standards. The belief in a religious prohibition against homosexuality can be exploited by demagogues to produce and nurture bigotry among those who are prone to bigotry, but that religious prohibition is not, in itself, the cause or the source of that bigotry.

The question I am puzzling over here is does it matter whether or not the Liar Tony Perkins is, himself, a sincere bigot? Is there any sense in drawing a distinction between an actual bigot promoting and profiting from a bigotry he truly believes and a con-artist demagogue performing the exact same actions and saying the exact same things despite not actually believing the bigoted lies he’s selling?

The net effect on others is the same in either case. Both make the world a crueler, more brutal, less hospitable place. Both increase the aggregate stupidity, diminish freedom, manufacture unhappiness and produce tangible harm for their direct and indirect victims. We could do nicely without either one.

So from the perspective of the rest of the world, I don’t think it matters at all whether a demagogue promoting bigotry is sincere or insincere. But for the demagogue himself I think it does matter. I think it matters for — for lack of a better word — his soul.

The soul of a sincere bigot is a sad, shriveled, broken thing in need of what all such broken souls require — repentance, forgiveness and liberation. The sincere bigot requires the liberation that comes from repentance and forgiveness because he — like all of his followers — is a prisoner of the lies he is spreading. He is deceived, but the truth could set him free.

The insincere demagogue is less a prisoner than a jailer. Or maybe a corrupt trusty. He has the keys to his own cell door but chooses not to leave so long as he can profit from inducing others to accept the bondage he’s selling. He knows the truth, but he refuses to allow it to set him free. He has, willingly, exchanged his soul for money.

Jesus himself said that was always an option. “What profit is it,” Jesus asked, “if you gain the whole world and lose your soul?”

What profit?” the insincere bigot says. “You just said you gain the whole world. There’s your profit right there.”

So for the rest of us, it probably doesn’t make any difference whether or not the Liar Tony Perkins or the Liar Glenn Beck or the big, fat freaking Liar Rush Limbaugh are sincere in their bigotry or not. I don’t think any of them is sincere. And I think, for each of them individually, that makes matters much, much worse than if they were.

 

  • http://profile.typepad.com/mmy mmy

    part of the concept of heteronormativity is the problem many people have with understanding any relationship that can’t be mapped onto a male/female one. People think of one member of a SS relationship as being the guy, the other the girl.
    It is the step beyond what Pius and Will are talking about. You can look back way into Greek history and see how SS relationships tended to be between older and younger men — the older man being the guy the young the girl.
    And in Rome the biggest issue was about who entered whom. If you penetrated you were a guy if you were penetrated you were unmanned.*
    *and much Latin obscenity centers around this.

  • MaryKaye

    “Heteronormativity” to me is like assuming everyone’s white until you meet them. That’s not necessarily racism in any active sense, but it’s a blinder on your view of the world, and worth getting rid of. However, it’s a very minor blinder in comparison to what I hear from homophobes.
    I really wish we could find another word, because the problem with “homophobia” is that accurate criticism of someone’s behavior gets sidetracked into useless argument about (a) their motives, which we can’t know, and (b) the appropriateness of this term. It’s problematic that people are afraid of gays, but it is almost infinitely more problematic that people abuse them, and that’s the part of the package we can actually work to make less acceptable. And if someone abuses gays who is in no way afraid of them–who picked them as targets because s/he sees them as politically weak, for example, or because it will sell to a particular audience–that’s no less culpable than abuse drive by fear. Probably more culpable, actually.

  • MercuryBlue

    So Romans never heard of switch-hitting either?

  • http://profile.typepad.com/spectralphoenix Count Zero Interrupt

    I really wish we could find another word, because the problem with “homophobia” is that accurate criticism of someone’s behavior gets sidetracked into useless argument about (a) their motives, which we can’t know, and (b) the appropriateness of this term. It’s problematic that people are afraid of gays, but it is almost infinitely more problematic that people abuse them, and that’s the part of the package we can actually work to make less acceptable. And if someone abuses gays who is in no way afraid of them–who picked them as targets because s/he sees them as politically weak, for example, or because it will sell to a particular audience–that’s no less culpable than abuse drive by fear. Probably more culpable, actually.
    If we could, could we get something that ends in “-ism?” Preferably that would roll of the tongue with “racism,” “sexism,” and other isms that even most people who practice them can’t admit to publically. Homophobia just doesn’t sound enough like a bad thing. It’s almost victim-y – look at the poor straight guy whose scared of all those scary gay people!

  • MercuryBlue

    As long as we’re trying to rework English vocab, I vote tossing out ‘heterosexual’ and ‘homosexual’ in favor of ‘gynosexual’ and ‘androsexual’. Gynosexuals are attracted primarily or exclusively to women, androsexuals to men, none of this same and other nonsense. The terms ‘bisexual’ and ‘asexual’, still being useful for both and neither, would remain.

  • renniejoy

    MercuryBlue – you get my vote!

  • http://profile.typepad.com/mmy mmy

    @MercuryBlue: So Romans never heard of switch-hitting either?
    Well, you know what said about Julius Caesar “the husband to every wife and the wife to every husband.”

  • Tonio

    That doesn’t cover all the people who insist that there’s no such thing as a naturally gay person and it’s all just deviance and rebellion against God.

    Some commenter at YouTube claimed that half of the gay population were brainwashed into homosexuality. The WTF I had at that moment would dwarf galaxies.

  • Bobby

    There are many cases in which I consider English words more appropiate than the German equivalent. (or simply just like them better for reasons I can’t define myself *grin*)
    But it’s the other way around with a lot of the “-phobia” words. The German suffix would be “-feindlichkeit” – “hositility toward…”. Spot on!

  • MercuryBlue

    If I could figure out how to pronounce that, Bobby, I’d plant the English flag on it. Language, not country. We already made off with ‘schadenfreude’ and it’s proved remarkably useful, even though I can’t pronounce that either.

  • Bobby

    Hmm, MercuryBlue I’ll attempt to explain pronounciation ;). The two “ei” are the easy part: pronunced just like English “I”- The “ch” : just imagine a really p*ssed off cat hissing and the German “i” would be similar to “ee” as in “see” but a shorter sound :D
    And I would strongly recomend English speakers to use “schadenfreude” only in writing.I once heard it pronounced by an American in some embedded YouTube clip and was only able to understand what he had been saying when I read the transcript ;)

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

    The resistance of the mentally ill to getting treatment is one of the most frequent points of conflict in the relationship between the mentally ill and their friends and family. Its difficult for outsiders who have never experienced it, and even for those who have, to empathize.
    This, I agree with. A lot depends on the disease, both its nature and its intensity, and a certain amount on the sufferer – though mental illness can end up eating your original personality. And if the sufferer isn’t getting treatment, the burden falls on those around them, and a person with mental illness can, through no fault of their own, be a complete nightmare to be around.
    …You see a ‘but’ coming, right?
    But, I think that once again, societal supports are a crucial issue. After all, you complain, legitimately, that Google has a dearth of information on how the friends and family of someone sick can cope. That’s an absence of information in society; it’s an absence of support for those affected by mental illness at second hand.
    Carers in general tend to be rather invisible and lack the support they need, so I don’t think this is an issue specific to mental illness. But I think one reason why people are so scared to talk about how difficult it can be to care for someone mentally ill is, you’ve guessed it, the stigma. It’s very hard to say, ‘So-and-so is being impossible and I don’t know how much longer we can cope,’ when there’s an excellent chance listeners will respond by saying, ‘Well, tell them to snap out of it,’ or something equally ignorant. People dealing with someone mentally ill need help, but just as a patient needs to ask for help to get it, so does a carer – and it’s very hard to ask for help in a society that discriminates against the person you’re supporting. People often keep quiet out of loyalty, because they can’t trust the world around them not to make things worse.
    And a lot of this is because it’s hard for uninformed people to grasp that when someone is mentally ill, you can’t judge their behaviour by normal standards. If you say, ‘We need a ramp up to the library because I can’t push So-and-so’s wheelchair up the stairs,’ nobody is going to assume that So-and-so is just being lazy and stubborn and refusing to walk. But if you say, ‘So-and-so throws accusations at me every day’ – well, what proportion of people are going to respond with anything other than, ‘So stop hanging around them!’ – which in practice can translate into ‘So leave them to die!’ Which you can’t do, or at least you don’t feel able to, at least in part because without you, there’s no societal safety net to keep the sufferer alive.
    I completely agree that more information and support for carers is an important part of the process. Like I said about student friendships, the bulk of support work for mentally ill people falls on kith and kin, and it can drag the kith and kin down. (I know more than one person, for example, who contracted a case of depression largely because of the stress of looking after a depressed partner.) I just think that the stigma against mental illness is a big block to such people demanding the help they need.
    Which is why I was talking about emphasis before. It’s very hard to talk about patient resistance without sounding like you’re blaming them, and any suggestion of blame is likely to push carers into retreat because they know, among other things, that someone who blames is not someone who can help. Acknowledging that a mentally ill friend or relation can be hard on the people around them is an important part of getting the whole picture, but it needs to be done very carefully if it’s not going to do more harm than good.

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    …shah – den – FROY – duh?

  • MercuryBlue

    If you say, ‘We need a ramp up to the library because I can’t push So-and-so’s wheelchair up the stairs,’ nobody is going to assume that So-and-so is just being lazy and stubborn and refusing to walk.
    On the flip side, I know someone who uses a wheelchair (or a cane, but it’s increasingly a wheelchair), and she has far too many stories of people asking to borrow her assistive tech in order to preboard the plane or jump the roller coaster line. I know somebody else who uses a wheelchair who does not have such stories (she’s visibly paralyzed), but she does have stories about people at her church thinking it’s no hardship for her to go in the door that’s accessible (that is, the side door, the door by which the priest is not standing to greet people) because said people find it no hardship to use the side door when they choose. And there’s the infamous restaurant where the accessible bathroom was downstairs in a building with no elevator. People can be fucking stupid about disability.

  • K. Chen

    Which is why I was talking about emphasis before. It’s very hard to talk about patient resistance without sounding like you’re blaming them, and any suggestion of blame is likely to push carers into retreat because they know, among other things, that someone who blames is not someone who can help. Acknowledging that a mentally ill friend or relation can be hard on the people around them is an important part of getting the whole picture, but it needs to be done very carefully if it’s not going to do more harm than good.

    I had a very lengthy reply, but reading through it, I doubt there was much chance it would be understood in the spirit offered, in part because I wasn’t entirely sure where I was going with it myself. So, I’ll go with this:
    1. I’m much, much more overtly empathetic and the like outside of forums. Part of it is the medium, part of it is a conscious choice, and I don’t want anyone to think I was advocating my apparent coldness in actual situations of dealing one on one with the mentally ill.
    2. I think there is such thing as too much caution when it comes to choosing your words, because a real cost of choosing your words carefully, is that you can become so terrified of saying the wrong thing, you say nothing at all. I’m not sure if I agree with you that it can be worse to say something badly than to say nothing at all, but even if I did, the costs of silence are so great, that it might be worth the risk anyway. There needs to be less silence about mental illness.
    3. In any real human interaction, be it an e-mail exchange, or a casual conversation at airport, or whatever, a lot of things will mitigate the risks of incautious speech. If you’re a decent human being, it generally comes through. If you’re not, people are going to have their shields up, so to speak, and the amount you can harm them goes down. Conversely, if you’re an elected official, media personality, celebrity or such, your risks of saying the right thing the wrong way and harming people increases dramatically.
    Basically, I agree that there are risks to incautious speech, but I think I’d rather encourage people to speak with the risk of hurting or offended someone, than to run the risk of them being silent all together. That might be a false dichotomy logically, but I think its the actual trade off presented in modern society.

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

    People can be fucking stupid about disability.
    See? Able-bodied privilege on my part. My apologies if I seemed to undervalue the problems people with disabilities face. And my sympathies to your friends, because that’s some outrageous crap they’re dealing with.

    Basically, I agree that there are risks to incautious speech, but I think I’d rather encourage people to speak with the risk of hurting or offended someone, than to run the risk of them being silent all together.
    I feel you’re imputing something to me unfairly. I’m in no way suggesting people remain silent, and suggesting that people weigh their words is not suggesting that they shut up. All I was suggesting was that you got a bad reaction to your posts because of how you phrased them. The fact that I’m discussing the issue with you at all surely suggests that I’m in favour of speech rather than silence.
    Honestly? Saying ‘You’re silencing people by asking them to think about what they say’ is something we hear an awful lot more from the hard Right than from anywhere else. I’m sure you know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of it, so please don’t direct it at me.

  • MercuryBlue

    Your point’s valid, Kit. Just not in all cases.

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

    Thanks, MercuryBlue – I didn’t think you were having a go at me or anything. You were just making a fair point that I probably should have acknowledged better than I did, and one that it’s good to be reminded of. :-)

  • ajay

    …shah – den – FROY – duh?
    Clearly MercuryBlue needs to get to “Avenue Q” as soon as possible.
    -D’ja ever clap when a waitress falls and drops a tray of glasses?
    -Yeah…
    -And ain’t it fun to watch figure skaters falling on their asses?
    -Sure!
    -And don’tcha feel all warm and cozy,
    Watching people out in the rain!
    -You bet!
    -That’s…
    -Schadenfreude!
    -People taking pleasure in your pain!
    - Oh, Schadenfreude, huh? What’s that, some kinda Nazi word?
    -Yup! It’s German for “happiness at the misfortune of others!”
    -”Happiness at the misfortune of others” …That is German!

  • K. Chen

    I feel you’re imputing something to me unfairly. I’m in no way suggesting people remain silent, and suggesting that people weigh their words is not suggesting that they shut up. All I was suggesting was that you got a bad reaction to your posts because of how you phrased them. The fact that I’m discussing the issue with you at all surely suggests that I’m in favour of speech rather than silence.

    The issue is not whether you have as a goal, silence, but whether your promote a scheme that has as a predicted outcome, silence. I’m sure that you, as an individual, have gold-standard wants, and I mean that seriously. You seem like a swell person. Your desired outcome, obviously, is to have cautious speech, or such seems to be a running theme on this thread, as well as others. I’m saying as a byproduct of encouraging cautious speech, you (general you) get increased silence – because plenty of people who subsequently choose to weigh their words more carefully will come to the conclusion that they fall short. (Conversly, encouraging people to speak without worrying too much about saying the wrong thing inevitably leads to people in fact, saying the wrong thing.) Sometimes, this is a good thing – more people being cautious about say, racial slurs or giving out legal advice leads to preferable outcomes. For the reasons outlined in my previous post, I think with mental illness, the balance swings the other way.
    So, while its obviously fact that incautious speech about mental illness causes harm, I think it causes less harm than the profusion of silence in our society about it, so as a practical matter, I think the advice implied in “Acknowledging that a mentally ill friend or relation can be hard on the people around them is an important part of getting the whole picture, but it needs to be done very carefully if it’s not going to do more harm than good” isn’t good for most people, most of the time.

  • Fitcher’s Bird

    @K.Chen I think my basic problem with your argument is that I see all three issues (knowledge, stigma and resistence to treatment) as so substantially interelated that they can’t be split out to the extent you are doing. I understand your basic premise; I just don’t get how you can claim that that resistance to treatment by the mentally ill is substantially greater than the other. I’m not saying that it isn’t, but that I question your certainty in the matter.
    As to your latest post, you appear to be forgetting that incautious speech can also be silencing. There have been a number of occasions on this very site where I have been put off by posting by Islamophobic speech (isolated incidents and not reflective of the community as a whole, but still my immediate emotional reaction was that I could not post here).
    In addition while we need more speech around mental illness, the quality and accuracy of the speech is just as important. The stigma is not caused solely by silence, but by the promulgation of harmful myths.

  • K. Chen

    I understand your basic premise; I just don’t get how you can claim that that resistance to treatment by the mentally ill is substantially greater than the other

    I don’t think I can honestly answer that I have a bullet proof reason for why that one thing is greater than the other, but I have a number of lesser reasons that form up to a solid conviction on the matter.
    I think the simplest one is the gatekeeper (for lack of a better word) function of mental illness. All inputs and outputs are filtered through the mind – a mind that is, under our premise, ill. The mentally ill are with their mental illness 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, especially if their sleep is effected by their illness. Knowledge about mental illness is filtered through an ill mind – social pressures are filtered through an ill mind, and the prospects of treatment are filtered through an ill mind. It colors, or at least has the potential to color everything they do, directly. Indirectly, by simply being a mentally ill person constantly, that is a powerful influence on who you are.
    I hate to come to this again, but mental illness is a medical condition. It is something that asserts its reality without our collective assent. Religion does not – it exists because we collectively allow it to exist. Race exists more as a construct than as an feature of inherent reality. The same argument can be made for gender, or childhood, to varying degrees of truth. That changes the game, and it changes the game a lot.
    The physically disabled, say the wheel chair bound population in specific, suffer from a lot of problems. Society has done better, but still isn’t very good, at making our world a place where the wheelchair bound can get around and interact, and get at things placed inconveniently in the supermarket. (Like food they need to eat). They also suffer from the inability to leave their wheelchairs. This seems to be their primary problem.
    Physical disabilities however, tend to be obvious. You can point at them , the issues are overt – mental illness on the other hand, is covert: the reality of mental illness constantly reasserts itself on the mentally ill, but out of sight of others. Thus, it seems, we are well suited by people pointing at these behaviors, and narrating them.

    As to your latest post, you appear to be forgetting that incautious speech can also be silencing. There have been a number of occasions on this very site where I have been put off by posting by Islamophobic speech (isolated incidents and not reflective of the community as a whole, but still my immediate emotional reaction was that I could not post here)

    It can, but I’m not as worried about it. First off, incautious speech that is silencing, especially with this audience, is likely to be met with shouts and derision and otherwise counteracted exuberantly. Too exuberantly for my tastes, but that’s a battle for another life time, if then. Second, its been my experience that the average person suffers from an abundance of caution, rather than the opposite, especially vis-a-vis medical issues.
    Third, and maybe I’m being Pollyanna here, but people are generally decent so I tend not to worry too much about accidental offense or its cousins. Off the internet, we’re way more likely to stumble our way through apologies and grope our way towards mutual understanding than well, what we do here.

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

    The issue is not whether you have as a goal, silence, but whether your promote a scheme that has as a predicted outcome, silence.
    But if we’re talking about probable outcomes, the whole reason this discussion blew up was that most people here felt that, whatever your intentions – which I’m sure were honourable too – the things you were saying were likely to reinforce prejudice against the mentally ill. Your probable outcome was what people had a problem with too.
    If someone’s saying something that reinforces prejudice even if they don’t mean to, sorry, but I’m going to call them on it. I believe that if they have something important to say and they’re capable of saying it in a non-harm-causing way, being called on it will encourage them to do that and thus get a better outcome. And if they can’t say what they mean without producing a harmful result, then let’s think results.
    I reckon people who have stuff to say will say it whether I question their phrasing or not. It’s an issue people care about, and it takes a lot more than me to shut anyone up. (It certainly didn’t silence you, after all, nor should it have.) Calling someone on their phrasing seems to me less likely to shut down the debate than to keep it up to a decent standard.
    If I say something that sounds silencing, come back and me and we can thrash it out. We can counter speech with speech. But silencing remarks like ‘Dude, that thing you said sounded like you were blaming mentally ill people’ isn’t a good idea either. We can keep talking, and questioning what each other say is part of that.

  • K. Chen

    But if we’re talking about probable outcomes, the whole reason this discussion blew up was that most people here felt that, whatever your intentions – which I’m sure were honourable too – the things you were saying were likely to reinforce prejudice against the mentally ill. Your probable outcome was what people had a problem with too.

    And many, many pages later we’ve had a lengthy conversation where many facts were discussed and narratives told. Now, I don’t know if I hadn’t said anything no one would’ve brought up the point in a responsible manner more unlikley to encourage prejudice, but I am saying that a schema that encourages cautious speech is going to take some people, who were perfectly capable of doing that, and not say it.
    And as I’ve argued previously, there are a lot of good reasons to predict that I am highly unlikely to encourage here anyone to be prejudiced against the mentally ill, considering the forum, the audience, and my distinct lack of influence here and in general.

    If I say something that sounds silencing, come back and me and we can thrash it out. We can counter speech with speech. But silencing remarks like ‘Dude, that thing you said sounded like you were blaming mentally ill people’ isn’t a good idea either. We can keep talking, and questioning what each other say is part of that.

    That only happens when you hit the right combination of people and questions. It could have vary easily devolved into something more like this.
    Me: the largest disincentive for the mentally ill getting treatment is mentally ill
    Someone else: what the hell is wrong with you? You’re supporting prejudice against the mentally ill! You obviously don’t care about them, and you’re not worth listening to.
    Me: alright then, see you next week.
    OR
    Me: Hey, fuck you, I work with the mentally ill every day, I understand them, and you don’t.
    OR
    Me: Oh, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything.
    OR:
    Me: No, what I said was perfectly valid, its because you’re hypersensitive that you’re imagining prejudice where there isn’t any.
    None of which seem to lead to fruitful discussion, and all of which are common responses to being accused of spreading prejudice.
    I suppose a natural counter argument would be that I easily could’ve had some foresight and avoided saying something that people found potentially offensive, pre-empting the problem, but I think that just brings us right back where we started – that extra caution has the cost of reducing the amount of speech.
    Everytime someone brings up prejudice, especially with this audience, the person on the other side is encouraged to go on the defensive. Its the difference between “your wrong because your idea is stupid” and “your wrong because your idea is evil.”
    Wow, this is getting really meta.

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

    It could have vary easily devolved into something more like this.
    It could have turned into anything. So what? It didn’t. Scenarios about what didn’t happen don’t tell us anything.
    I’m going to be honest, K. Chen: I think the problem with your posts was that you didn’t put them skilfully, and blaming everyone else on the board is misplacing the responsibility. When I talked about the need to be cautious in phrasing, I was trying to make that point without having too much of a go at you. But it seems to be turning into something more meta than it needs to, so I’ll just stick to the basics: I think you said some things clumsily and you would have gotten a better response if you’d said them less clumsily.
    Personally I don’t think that the expectation of saying things in a reasonable way is an unfair burden of silence. I think on an Internet discussion board where we know nothing about anyone except what they choose to disclose, their words are all we have to go on. But I haven’t the energy to be any more abstract than that.

  • Flying sardines

    Well said. Very well said. And thankyou for saying it.
    Posted by: Flying sardines | Aug 16, 2010 at 04:06 AM

    That was for Fred Clark’s original opening post here – I probably should have clarified that to begin with.

  • K. Chen

    It could have turned into anything. So what? It didn’t. Scenarios about what didn’t happen don’t tell us anything.

    No, but in this case, they were meant as illustrations of likely reactions of those similarly situated that don’t lead to productive cycles of speech and counter speech.

    I’m going to be honest, K. Chen: I think the problem with your posts was that you didn’t put them skilfully, and blaming everyone else on the board is misplacing the responsibility. When I talked about the need to be cautious in phrasing, I was trying to make that point without having too much of a go at you. But it seems to be turning into something more meta than it needs to, so I’ll just stick to the basics: I think you said some things clumsily and you would have gotten a better response if you’d said them less clumsily.

    Well, thanks for the generosity and the conversation that for a while, was blessedly neither about me nor you.
    Fuck the response. Now, if you’re telling me that people will be more convinced of the factual veracity of what I say, then thanks, but dole out some specific phrasings and the occasional supporting argument, because that would be useful, and serve a cause apparently near and dear to both of us better. But if you’re concerned about the emotional response in and of itself, who the hell cares? By saying you were patronizing, and that I respond badly to that, does that get us anywhere? Or is it a gigantic distraction from anything that could possibly matter.

    Personally I don’t think that the expectation of saying things in a reasonable way is an unfair burden of silence. I think on an Internet discussion board where we know nothing about anyone except what they choose to disclose, their words are all we have to go on.

    Neither is being charitable in argumentation, eschewing zingers for serious talk, generous with ambiguity, and, by God, the mutual assumption of Good Faith.
    We’ve been dancing around this point for a while, if I could’ve said what I said, better, how should I have said it? Exactly, how?

  • Flying sardines

    @LE | Aug 16, 2010 at 09:42 AM :
    @Flying Sardines : “The fundamental Islamic ideology /religion is deeply sexist and intolerant in practice today. In a related issue, I really fail to see how any female or GBLTQ individual would *want* to support islam in word or deed ever.”
    You get why this is offensive, right?

    Well, no I don’t I’m afraid. I don’t see how making this simple observation of fact is offensive unless the fact that the “truth hurts” somehow means that the truth should be suppressed for fear of causing pain or offense.
    Islam – the “modern” fundamentalist variety *is* deeply misogynist & woman-hating – look at how women are foreced into burkas and made second class citizens, not allowed to drive in many nations, stoned to death for consensual sex, segregated and hidden away and discriminated against and repressed.
    Islam *is* immensely homophobic – look at how gays are executed and reviled in, say, Iran. Oh wait, there aren’t any gays in Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said so – yeah we have to believe him right? Look at how Muslim Malaysia charged one of its former political leaders, Anwar Ibrahim, with sodomy and jailed and oppressed him for that.
    Islam *does* incite terorism in a way and on a scale that other religions do not. Jihad is encouraged, Muslim leaders cheer on homicide-suicide bombers, the Muslim world is awash with Judaeophobic anti-Semitism. Other faiths have their extremists sure – you get the occassional anti-abortion clinic murderer or the IRA or the Tamil Tigers or the likes of Fred Phelps but these pale into insignificance compared with the number of such murderous hate-fillled individuals and groups in and effectively *sanctioned by* Islam. Look at all the organised Islamic terror groups around the world and the support they get on the Arab street, the frequently preached hate-sermons and praise of those who seek to murder Jews for being Jewish and Westerners for being Westerners.
    Most Christians have come a long way from the Crusades and the idea of going to heaven for waging religious war incl. butchering innocents. Most Muslims, it seems to me, either think “Jihad” is acceptable or at least are too scared to speak out against it. We don’t hear nearly enough Muslim voices condemning Hamas or Al Quaida or the Saudi or Iranian regimes, speaking out against stoning women and hanging gays as part of Sharia law do we?
    It seems to be the trend to speak up in favour of Islamic groups because their “poor oppressed minority Muslims” forgetting the fact that what thees people are beleiving, advocating and striving for is a medieval worldview that would oppress and harm everyone who isn’t Muslim – and kill anyone who converts from Islam to anything else.
    I support civil rights for individuals – the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
    Islam denies such most individual rights and insists on stomping its boot-heels on the burka clad faces of women and gays and non-Muslims.
    Do you really want to support people like that? Do you?
    Even if I accept that Islam as a religion is sexist (based on my fairly ignorant opinion – reading the Koran as literature in College and watching the news doesn’t exactly give me a wide perspective on it’s practice for modern USian Muslims) so is the religion I was raised in. Islam is nowhere near being alone in that regard.
    I’m not saying Islam is alone – but there are degrees of sexism.
    Catholics, for example, don’t allow women to be Popes or to use contraceptives or abort. That’s sexist and I disagree with them strongly – but Catholics don’t say its okay to murder women who sleep around or even just *suspected* of sleeping around, they don’t insist women wear burkas hiding their entire bodies because – shock, horror – that might incite male lust and the man would inevitably then lose control of his carnal desires and rape her and that would be the *womans* fault for showing the world more than her eyes.
    Catholicism no longer teaches that violence is an acceptable road to conducting political goals or winning religious converts – it no longer (if it ever) says you can’t write an anti-catholic satire or draw a nasty cartoon of the Pope. Christians certainly don’t believe murder-suicider bombers will be rewarded with an endless orgy in heaven for murdering innocent civilians of the “wrong” religion. But Islam *does* -and yes this worries and angers me. I won’t support people who believe in such things, I’ll oppose them. How about you?
    Yet I can’t imagine this kind of national out-cry because someone wanted to put a Catholic Charities office in lower Manhattan.
    Catholics didn’t fly aircraft loaded with innocent hostages into lower manhatten killing 3,000 innocent people.
    Nor did Jews or Sikhs or Baptists. Mulims did,. The Muslims in whose name this atrocity was conducted *do* have to take some accountability & responsibility for that. Never mind us apologising to them for the Crusades what about them apologising for 9-11?
    None of that matters though – I don’t support Islam, I support Muslims, and I respect their right to practice whatever religion they choose. I support people, other citizens and residents of my country, whose rights are being trampled on. Having civil rights doesn’t mean much if we can’t exercise them.
    True. I respect any individuals right to be a Muslim but I *wish* they didn’t make that choice and chose better instead. I don’t agree with their choice of religion for the reasons I’ve outlined above. I can’t and won’t stop them practicing their faith but I will say *why* I think their fath is a very nasty, negative and backwards one that hurts lots of people. Because I have the right to express my opinions too.
    I’m not going to get involved in the discussion of the wars (time limited -need to get some actual work done today) except to say this – IMO even if you accept that the Afganistan war was necessary or justified (and that’s debatable, even if the war was inevitable), we kinda lost all our street cred when we invaded Iraq. There was no justification for that (in addition to being tactically and strategically stupid) and all the post hoc rationalization in the world isn’t going to justify it.
    Well, that’s easy to say *now*. Saddam Hussein paid the family members of suicide bombers – so he did support terrorism. Hussein was a nasty dictator who murdered many people and presented a real threat to regional peace and stability. Just ask the Kurds or the thousands of Shiites he oppressed. A lot of errors *were* made, the Iraq war didn’t go as planned or have the outcome we hoped it would have. No argument there. But, we didn’t know that at the time. It’s not necessarily as clear-cut an issue as it seems in retrospect.

  • Flying sardines

    I’ll just add for extra clarity here – I’m in favour of giving Muslim *individuals*, Muslim people, the same inalienable rights and respect and sympathy that is owed to all human beings.
    But Islam itself isn’t a person but an *idea* – & in my view a very bad one.
    Ideologies don’t have the same rights that living breathing loving human individuals do & I oppose Islam because like some other very negative philosophies it does (I think) an awful lot of harm to the world.

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

    K. Chen: you seem to be losing your temper. Sorry if you don’t like what I’ve said, but there’s enough aggro on the other thread and if there’s going to be cussin, I’m too tired to respond right now. Sorry.

  • Flying sardines

    @The Amazing Kim | Aug 16, 2010 at 07:16 AM :
    “No way could we let Osama bin Laden get away.”
    Well it’s good that happened then, otherwise the whole thing would have been a complete waste of time.

    I see your point there & I agree. Bush should have got bin Laden first and that was a huge mistake. I don’t think it was for lack of trying although I’ll agree that invading Iraq didn’t help there.
    But failure to accomplish a goal doesn’t mean the goal isn’t worth striving for or doesn’t provide good reason to make the attempt to succeed at it.
    In hindsight, not going for removing Saddam at the end of the first Gulf war – over Kuwait – in 1991 was a huge mistake too.
    I wish we had captured or killed Bin laden. Doing so would be a huge blow to the Jihadists that are, y’know, trying to kill us and destroy our way of life. I think and hope this happens soon.
    I also think the goal of making Iraq a free democracy & a good example to the Middle East is a worthy one. Our intentions were good and that does, I think, count for something. We weren’t out to conquor these nations but stop them attacking us and others. The fact that we’re withdrawing now & thatwe handed tehse nations backtotheir citizens as soon as we possibly could is strong evidence of that. The USA is not, for all the hate and accusations it gets of it, a colonialist, imperialist power.
    I really don’t fall for the facile line that invading Iraq was all done for gaining oil or money or, worst of all, done at the behest of teh ebul Joooozzss as popular Muslim world conspiracy theory would have it. I think that is far too cynical and I just don’t accept that sort of conspiracy nonsense. Plenty of nations have oil and we don’t invade them. We have our own oil too. remebr the Gulf of Mexico oil or the controverys over mining for it in Alaska? There are plenty of places that need reconstruction work. You can dislike and disagree with the former Bush-Cheney administration – & I do – but thinking they are cartoon villains doing evil pretty much for the sake of it is, well, rather silly to say the least. They didn’t and wouldn’t have gone to war just because they felt like it.

  • P J Evans

    @ Flying sardines
    But Islam itself isn’t a person but an *idea* – & in my view a very bad one.
    I’d like to point out that the exact same thing can (and maybe should) be said about Christianity as an idea, as it has, in practice, killed many people simply for not being the right kind of Christian, as well as for not being Christian at all.
    You want to rethink what you’re saying about people?

  • Lori

    I’m going to try not to be rude here.

    Islam *does* incite terorism in a way and on a scale that other religions do not. Jihad is encouraged, Muslim leaders cheer on homicide-suicide bombers, the Muslim world is awash with Judaeophobic anti-Semitism. Other faiths have their extremists sure – you get the occassional anti-abortion clinic murderer or the IRA or the Tamil Tigers or the likes of Fred Phelps but these pale into insignificance compared with the number of such murderous hate-fillled individuals and groups in and effectively *sanctioned by* Islam. Look at all the organised Islamic terror groups around the world and the support they get on the Arab street, the frequently preached hate-sermons and praise of those who seek to murder Jews for being Jewish and Westerners for being Westerners.

    What do you know about the average Muslim? Based on your comments my guess is that everything you know about the average Muslim you learned from American media, probably the more right-leaning sector of American media at that. To say that the picture you have is incomplete would be a huge understatement.
    The concept of Jihad and how it should be lived out by Muslims is a hotly debated topic in Islam. Most Muslims don’t favor seeing it as an armed struggle. This is similar to the debate in Christianity about whether to not it’s right to blow up abortion clinics or kill abortion providers. Coverage of clinic bombings and murders rarely includes statements from anti-choice Christians strongly denouncing those tactics. Does that mean that the rest of us should assume that the majority of anti-choice Christians approve of those actions? If you don’t think so then you might want to ask yourself why it’s OK to apply such a different standard of evidence to Muslims than you do to Christians.
    Many of the violent Islamist groups you’re talking about are fundamentally political in nature. They use religion as a rallying point and a justification. Religion is a way to create an advantageous Us vs Them situation. Sort of the way the Right in the US uses Christianity. Do you believe that Christianity is in fact synonymous with Republican and that it is therefore OK to hold all Christians responsible for GOP policies? And for that matter to hold the GOP responsible for everything any Christian leader says? If you don’t think so then you might want to ask yourself why it’s OK to apply such a different standard of evidence to groups using Islam than you do to groups using Christianity.

    Most Christians have come a long way from the Crusades and the idea of going to heaven for waging religious war incl. butchering innocents. Most Muslims, it seems to me, either think “Jihad” is acceptable or at least are too scared to speak out against it. We don’t hear nearly enough Muslim voices condemning Hamas or Al Quaida or the Saudi or Iranian regimes, speaking out against stoning women and hanging gays as part of Sharia law do we?

    Please allow me to introduce you to the charming folks at the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property and their invitation to Catholic boys to relive “the glories of Christian civilization”, i.e. The Crusades.
    A Call to Chivalry Summer Camps
    What’s that you say? They’re a fringe group of total nutters and therefore not your responsibility? Yeah, they are. Think about that.
    I’m going to leave it at that because beyond this I’ll lose my manners.

  • Lori

    I see your point there & I agree. Bush should have got bin Laden first and that was a huge mistake. I don’t think it was for lack of trying although I’ll agree that invading Iraq didn’t help there.

    No, our failure to kill or capture OBL wasn’t for lack of trying. It was for lack of making it the priority. He escaped because BushCo prioritized (ill-conceived) political goals over getting him. Bush most definitely doesn’t deserve some sort of A for effort on that. He totally blew it and as a result we’re now mired in the longest shooting war in US history. One that is accomplishing nothing and has no end in sight.

    In hindsight, not going for removing Saddam at the end of the first Gulf war – over Kuwait – in 1991 was a huge mistake too.

    No, it wasn’t a mistake. It was Bush I demonstrating a closer relationship with reality than his offspring. We didn’t attempt to remove Saddam in Gulf War I because the people then in charge knew it would be a total disaster. Gulf War II pretty much proved them right.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I wish we had captured or killed Bin laden. Doing so would be a huge blow to the Jihadists that are, y’know, trying to kill us and destroy our way of life. I think and hope this happens soon.

    Yeah, because a prominent leader of their movement dying gloriously in the name of his cause would totally discourage them and not at all rally them or make them lust for revenge. It’s not like we’re talking about a movement that glorifies martyrdom or anything.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/spectralphoenix Count Zero Interrupt

    I also think the goal of making Iraq a free democracy & a good example to the Middle East is a worthy one. Our intentions were good and that does, I think, count for something. We weren’t out to conquor these nations but stop them attacking us and others. The fact that we’re withdrawing now & thatwe handed tehse nations backtotheir citizens as soon as we possibly could is strong evidence of that. The USA is not, for all the hate and accusations it gets of it, a colonialist, imperialist power.
    It would have been one thing if Bush had stood up before Congress and asked them to invade because Saddam oppressed people and was a bad person. But he didn’t. He got up and told the world that Saddam had WMDs and was passing them to terrorists to attack America. Congress didn’t vote to invade Iraq to install a democracy, they voted to invade Iraq to prevent terrorists from nuking American cities.
    It doesn’t matter what Bush’s reasons were – they weren’t the ones he sold the war on.

  • Will Wildman

    The concept of Jihad and how it should be lived out by Muslims is a hotly debated topic in Islam. Most Muslims don’t favor seeing it as an armed struggle. This is similar to the debate in Christianity about whether to not it’s right to blow up abortion clinics or kill abortion providers. Coverage of clinic bombings and murders rarely includes statements from anti-choice Christians strongly denouncing those tactics. Does that mean that the rest of us should assume that the majority of anti-choice Christians approve of those actions? If you don’t think so then you might want to ask yourself why it’s OK to apply such a different standard of evidence to Muslims than you do to Christians.

    I was fortunate that I knew almost nothing about Islam until a Muslim woman – just someone who lived in our neighbourhood, I believe, not any particular spokesperson – came to my Asia-Pacific Studies class to tell us about it. I had heard the word ‘jihad’ before, described only as ‘holy war’, but she stated that the correct translation was ‘struggle’, namely the struggle to live as a true and devoted Muslim in a world that constantly prodded you to betray your faith. It sounded no different from some Christians talking about how the Devil is always out to push you off the true path – and actually, this woman seemed a lot less paranoid and a lot more composed about her personal struggle.
    Of course, I was a 16-year-old geek at the time, so I was far more intrigued by the information that by Islamic definitions, angels are beings composed of living light, and djinn are beings composed of smokeless fire. But in later years it was the jihad bit that stuck with me most.
    So yeah, strongly seconding the notion that, if you’re going to make an incredibly broad statement like ‘Islam is a bad idea’, you had better know a @#$%ton about its history, its scriptures, the modern interpretations of those scriptures, and the day-to-day life of Muslims in various societies.
    And, as the only person I know who really liked the West Wing episode Isaac and Ishmael, I reference Toby Ziegler: Islamic extremists are to Islam as _______ is to Christianity. (Someone calls out ‘televangelists’.) Toby fills in the blank: KKK. “It’s the Klan!”

    Yeah, because a prominent leader of their movement dying gloriously in the name of his cause would totally discourage them and not at all rally them or make them lust for revenge. It’s not like we’re talking about a movement that glorifies martyrdom or anything.

    Every once in a while I dust off the theory that they did kill him and are working really hard to not let it get out, because they realised the effects would be worse.

  • MercuryBlue

    the wheel chair bound population
    *cough* wheelchair users

  • K. Chen

    the wheel chair bound population
    *cough* wheelchair users

    I wasn’t trying to use the general class of people who use wheelchairs, but trying to restrict my example to those well, bound to them. Fastened, generally. Full time users with extremely limited mobility. That is, those who do not use canes, walkers, or crutches, but the wheelchair as their exclusive mobility aid.
    If wheelchair bound isn’t acceptable, what *is* the right term?

    And, as the only person I know who really liked the West Wing episode Isaac and Ishmael, I reference Toby Ziegler: Islamic extremists are to Islam as _______ is to Christianity. (Someone calls out ‘televangelists’.) Toby fills in the blank: KKK. “It’s the Klan!”

    +1

    K. Chen: you seem to be losing your temper. Sorry if you don’t like what I’ve said, but there’s enough aggro on the other thread and if there’s going to be cussin, I’m too tired to respond right now. Sorry.

    If you’re too tired to respond right now, I’d like an answer on a specific formulation you’d prefer. If you’re unwilling to in general, thats fine to, but your post implies a response forthcoming.
    And the cussin’ is not a sign of me losing my temper.

  • phantomreader42

    Flying Sardines, most of what you’ve said about extremist islam is equally true of extremist christianity. Both are intolerant, homophobic, mysogynistic, theocratic, dishonest, hypocritical, and oppressive (of both outsiders and their own members). Both attempt to silence their critics, both engage in acts of terrorism, and both have been known to murder people in cold blood simply for not worshiping their preferred version of the invisible tyrant in the sky. Further, both advocate never-ending torture for those who disagree with them, and ridiculously disproportionate reward for those who aid their cause. Both islam and christianity promote the hateful and morally bankrupt dogma that nonbelievers deserve to be eternally burned alive, and in many cases display a sick desire to watch. I fail to see why any person with a shred of human decency would support this. And yet I don’t call for denying either group equal rights and equal protection under law as a result of this.
    Would you support the same restrictions on the rights of christianity that you call for for islam? Or not? If not, why not? There are both muslim and christian terrorists. Why should all muslims be treated as terrorists when all christians are not? Why should the ones with political clout get a free pass? Isn’t it actually christian doctrine that those who hold themselves up as holy should be held to a HIGHER standard? That those who have greater advantages also have greater responsibilities?
    As I mentioned before, I’ll consider the possibility that people demanding no mosques be built within hundreds of miles of the site of 9/11 are arguing in good faith once they’ve begun tearing down every single christian church in the state of Georgia due to the Centennial Olympic Park bombing by christian terrorist Eric Robert Rudolph (and said bombing is merely the most high-profile of his terrorist acts in the area). Of course, I know they’d never do that, because they’re quite obviously motivated by pure bigotry and fearmongering rather than anything approaching a rational argument.

  • Anon

    “Many of the conservative Baptists among whom I grew up believe that dancing is a sin. I have never heard any of them suggest that weddings are invalid if there is dancing at the reception. Nor did any of them argue that professional dancers ought to be relegated to second-class citizenship — forbidden to marry, to adopt children, to serve openly in the military. They didn’t argue such things because it wouldn’t have made sense. The leap from “dancing is a sin” to “dancers are subhuman and should not have rights” is illogical and it’s bad theology by their own standards. The belief in a religious prohibition against homosexuality can be exploited by demagogues to produce and nurture bigotry among those who are prone to bigotry, but that religious prohibition is not, in itself, the cause or the source of that bigotry.”
    I read that and I thought “holy crap… that’s an amazing analogy.” It also gets to the underlying cause and basically says that religion is the excuse for the intolerance. Props to you good sir.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/femgeek1 Melle

    mmy: Well, you know what said about Julius Caesar “the husband to every wife and the wife to every husband.”
    You know, I took Latin for six years, and somehow this was never mentioned by any of my teachers. I’d have paid a lot more attention if it had been!

  • http://profile.typepad.com/mmy mmy

    @Melle: I took Latin for six years, and somehow this was never mentioned by any of my teachers. I’d have paid a lot more attention if it had been! a
    Seriously, Julius Caesar was probably what we would call today a bisexual. Of course discussion of sexuality in Ancient Rome has to be translated through the lens of their concern with who was active and who was passive in the relationship. It was being the passive partner that was shocking (if you were a free born Roman man).
    My mother, who passionately loved history and had no use for the idea of bowdlerizing, would entertain me with stories of historical characters as we did housework together. She told me about the rumours about Richard the Lionhearted and the King of France, she told me about the rumours that surrounded Julius Caesar, we discussed the exploits of Henry of Navarre, we debated just how virgin the virgin queen actually was. We argued about Henry the Eighth’s divorces and marriages. We imagined what it must have been for Henry the Seventh’s wife to marry and have children with the man who might have ordered the death of her brothers. We had opinions about Mary, Queen of Scots.
    She told me that when she went to Hampton Court Palace she stood in the kitchen and listened very hard — and down through the centuries she heard the whispers of servants gossiping about Henry’s queens. “You know, she hasn’t a flux of blood for the longest time, perhaps?” “Well, if she is it has nothing to do with him.”
    And when I went there, myself, years later I could hear the same echoes.
    Modern gossip pages have nothing on the stuff you find in history.

  • Winter

    @ Melle: It’s in Suetonius’s biography. I’ve always described it as what you’d get if you took the Starr Report, Clinton’s press secretary, and a random tabloid and threw them into a blender.

  • Steve Morrison

    Specifically, it’s here at the end of paragraph #52. It will help if you still remember your Latin, of course…

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

    If you’re too tired to respond right now, I’d like an answer on a specific formulation you’d prefer. If you’re unwilling to in general, thats fine to, but your post implies a response forthcoming.
    Honestly? It looks like a long, complicated and above all potentially emotional question. Given that I’m a few days at most off having a baby and the midwives are already doing stuff to hurry the birth along, I don’t think it would be sensible for me to promise anything when I could go into labour at any minute, and I’d like to stay out of emotionally heated situations because they’ll kick my adrenal glands and that can arrest labour – or at least slow it down, and the more slowed down it gets, the more at risk I am for inductions, Caesareans and other scary stuff. Being a week overdue, I feel the need to be rather careful just now.
    So I hope you don’t mind if I basically take some maternity leave on question. Under other circumstances I’d be happy to, but from here on I think I need to keep to peaceful discussions. Okay if we just shake hands and call it a day?

  • K. Chen

    So I hope you don’t mind if I basically take some maternity leave on question. Under other circumstances I’d be happy to, but from here on I think I need to keep to peaceful discussions. Okay if we just shake hands and call it a day?

    Of course. Good luck, and if you don’t mind, I’ll keep you in my prayers.

  • ako

    Full time users with extremely limited mobility. That is, those who do not use canes, walkers, or crutches, but the wheelchair as their exclusive mobility aid.
    If wheelchair bound isn’t acceptable, what *is* the right term?

    Generally, “full-time wheelchair user” or something along those lines. I’ve known a few people who push “wheelchair rider” and would probably consider themselves “full-time wheelchair riders”, but it doesn’t seem to be catching on generally, and I don’t know anyone who’s actually offended by “wheelchair user”.

  • Josh

    Damn: if Kit’s on leave, who’s gonna offer sardines evidence to counter hir “most Muslims” nonsense (the problem with preventive war against a country that hasn’t attacked you or your allies has already been addressed)?

  • http://profile.typepad.com/femgeek1 Melle

    mmy: Modern gossip pages have nothing on the stuff you find in history.
    So, so true. And yet so many history teachers (at least in secondary school) seem intent on completely ignoring all that in favour of dates and dry “facts only,” apparently oblivious to the fact that the common thread tying all of history together is people and that people’s motivations are surely every bit as important and as their actions, if we’re to learn from history as well as simply learning it.
    … Sorry, was I ranting? How did I get up on this soapbox? Where are my trousers?
    (Love history, loathe all but one of my history teachers. History should never be boring, FFS!)
    Winter: It’s in Suetonius’s biography. I’ve always described it as what you’d get if you took the Starr Report, Clinton’s press secretary, and a random tabloid and threw them into a blender.
    Ooh, might have to put that on the To Read list, then. My personal favourite is Rubicon by tom Holland, which I’ve been known to describe as “The last decade(s) of the Roman Republic, as described by a gossip columnist”. In addition to sharing a lot of salacious gossip, he also starts one chapter with (paraphrased) “While Cicero was whinging away in Rome,” which almost made up for my having had to spend fifth year reading nothing but said whinger’s speeches.
    (Seriously, C., put a sock in it, God. Give me Cato any day.)
    Steve Morrison: Specifically, it’s here at the end of paragraph #52. It will help if you still remember your Latin, of course…
    That … might be a problem, given that less than two months after graduation, I visited Rome and came to the depressing realisation that I could read perhaps one word in fifthy on any of the inscriptions there. That was twelve years ago, and the most I’ve done with it since then was make up sperlls for my friends’s Harry Potter fanfics. (Somewhere, my Latin teacher is sobbing.)
    So, translation it is, then! :D


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