Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Posts Tagged ‘intellectual dishonesty

Taking my grandfather’s axe to the politically correct

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Among the many things that annoy me about the politically correct is their wide-spread inability to differentiate between word and concept/intent/meaning/…. At the same time, I have long been annoyed by the pseudo-paradox of the “grandfather’s axe”. Below I will discuss some related, partially overlapping, points.

One of the most popular “pop philosophy” questions/riddles/paradoxes is (with variations):

This axe belonged to my grandfather. The head has been replaced occasionally and so has the handle. Is it still the same axe?

At the same time, we have the old saying “you cannot cross the same river twice”. How then can it be that I have crossed the Rhine hundreds of times? (Not to mention many crossings of other individual rivers, including the Main and the Isar.)

In the first case, we have a question that simply cannot be resolved by logic, because it is ambiguously formulated; in the second, the apparent contradiction arises out of a very similar ambiguity:

The meaning of “same”* is not defined with sufficient precision, because “same” can be used to refer to several (possibly many) different concepts. When we say “same axe” or “same river” do we mean e.g. that it is the same basic entity, although changed over time, having some constant aspect of identity; or that it is identically the same without any change? Something in between? Looking at the axe example, it might actually be too unrefined to bring the point over, because it only has the two parts (with some reservations for the type of axe) and it might not be obvious that more than one interpretation is reasonable. Consider instead the same example using a T-Ford: Someone has an old T-Ford standing in a barn. His great-grand-parents bought it, and several generations have made sure that it has been kept running over the years, be it through sentimentality, interest in old cars, or hope for a future value increase. By now, every single part** of it has at some point been exchanged. Is it still the same car? If not, when did it cease to be the original car? Similarly, is this still the same hands I am typing with that I used seven years ago***? Fourteen years ago? That I was born with more than 42 years ago?

*Alternatively, the ambiguity could be seen to lie in “axe” and “river”, or a disagreement about what part of an entity carries the identity. In the case of river crossings this might even be the more productive point of attack.

**Assume, for the sake of argument, that this happened a single part at a time and that any part that might have been taken to carry the identity of the car was not changes as a whole in one go—if need be through intervention by a welder.

***Assuming that the common claim holds true that all cells are replaced within a space of seven years. (This is an over-simplification, but could conceivably be true specifically for a hand.)

As is obvious, understanding what someone means by a certain word, means understanding which concept is intended. Conversely, it is in our own best interest to avoid such ambiguities to the best of our abilities*, to be very careful before applying a word in manner that implies a different concept than is normally intended, and to prefer the use of new words when a new differentiation is needed.

*Doing so perfectly is a virtual impossibility.

To exemplify the last point: In today’s world, words like “man”, “woman”, “male”, and “female”, that used to have a clear meaning/make a differentiation in one dimension, can be used for at least two meanings/making a differentiation in one of two dimensions. It is no longer necessarily a matter of whether someone is physically, biologically a man or a woman—but often whether someone self-identifies as man or woman.* Now, this in it self is merely unfortunate and a cause of confusion—the second differentiation should have been done by adding new words. The real problems arise because some groups of politically correct insist** that the new*** meaning is the proper meaning; that other uses would be “sexist”, “discriminatory”, or similar; or, with a wider net, that the concept behind the new meaning is what should dictate discussion.

*For the sake of simplicity, I leave e.g. post-op transsexuals and unusual chromosome combinations out of the discussion.

**See the excursion on “Tolkningsföreträde” below.

***Whether “new” is a good phrasing can be discussed. A possible interpretation of events is that these potential concepts happened to coincide sufficiently in the past that there never was a need to differentiate. If so, which concept or word should be considered new and which old? There might well exist situations where this question cannot be fairly answered or the outcome is a tie. In this specific case, it seems highly plausible to me that e.g. a nineteenth century human would have taken the biological as the sole or very strongly predominant meaning; and the use of “new” seems reasonable. (However, the point is mostly interesting because it gives another example of how tricky word and meaning can be. No reversal of which meaning is old and which is new will change the problems discussed in the main text—on the outside a marginal shift of blame can take place.)

In many cases, words are redefined in such a grotesque manner that I am unable to assume good faith, instead tending towards intellectual dishonesty as the explanation. A prime example is a sometime use of “racism”* to include a strong aspect of having power—with the ensuing (highly disputable) conclusion that black people, as a matter of definition, cannot be racist… At extremes, this can be taken to the point that all white people are, !as a matter of definition!, racist. Similarly, some feminists redefine “rape” in a ridiculously manner, notably to arrive at exaggerated numbers for rape statistics in order to justify their world-view. At the farthest extreme, although thankfully very rarely, I have even seen the claim that if a woman consents today and changes her mind tomorrow (!!!) then she has been raped…

*Generally a very abused word, including e.g. being used as a blanket replacement for “racial” or as a blanket attack against anyone who even contemplates the possibility of racial differences.

Quite often lesser distortions take place (often driven by a general tendency in the overall population), including the artificial limitation of “discrimination” to mean e.g. unlawful or sexist/racist discrimination: Discrimination is generally something good and positive—there are only rare specific types of discrimination that are problematic. Hire someone with a doctorate over a high-school dropout and you have just discriminated—but in the vast majority of circumstances, no reasonable third-party will take offense.

Yet other cases go back to simply not understanding what a word means or through having been so overwhelmed by figurative use that objectively perfectly fine uses are unfairly condemned. There is nothing wrong, e.g., in calling a tribe that still lives in a stone-age society primitive—it is primitive. (In contrast, calling someone with a different set of ideas primitive is either an abuse of language or an insult, depending on preference.) This phenomenon is reflected in the concept of “euphemistic treadmills”, were one word is replaced by a second to avoid demeaning connotations (e.g. through school-yard use), then a third/fourth/fifth/… when the resp. previous word also develops demeaning connotations (or is perceived to have done so). The problem is, of course, not the word it self, or the connotations of the word, but the connotations of the concept—changing the word is a temporary band-aid, and in the end it does more harm than good. To cruel children, e.g., it will not matter whether that other kid is formally classified as a spastic, as a retard, as being “differently abled”—he still remains a freak to them. (Or not, irrespective of the word used.)

The last example brings us to the related issue of word and intent: There is, for instance, nothing inherently racist or otherwise “evil” in the word “Nigger”. The word might very well signal a racist intent (especially with its current stigma), but, if so, it is that intent that is problematic—not the word it self. That “nigger” is not an evil word is, in doubt, proved by its common use by black people without any negative intent, possibly even with a positive intent. Other uses can have yet other intents and implications, including (like here) the purposeful discussion of the word it self. Still, it is quite common that politically correct extremists want to, even are successful in, censoring this word it self in works written when its use was accepted or where its use reflects what a character would realistically have said—not just a negative intent, or even an “outdated stereotype”*, but the word it self. This to the point that similar attempts have been directed at the cognate Swedish word “neger”, which never had any of the implications or the stigma that “nigger” had, nor its historical background**—until some point in (possibly) the eighties where it suddenly grew more and more “offensive”. (No doubt under the direct influence of the, strictly speaking irrelevant, U.S. situation.) Similarly, “bitch”*** is not inherently sexist: There is nothing harmful in my referring to my dearest childhood friend, Liza, as a bitch—it is an objectively true and value-free statement****.

*I strongly disagree with any later interventions into literature, even children’s literature like “Tom Sawyer” or the various “Dr. Dolittle” books, considering them a fraud towards the readers and a crime against the original author. However, that is a different topic and censoring based merely on words is more obviously wrong with less room for personal opinion.

**In my strong impression, even “nigger” only took on its negative connotations over time: There does not seem to have been an original thought-process of “I hate those damn blackies and I want to demean them; ergo, I’ll call them `niggers’.”. Instead, as in an earlier paragraph, the word was in use, just like “lamp”, by people by a certain attitude, speaking with a certain intent, and that intent over time came to dominate the connotations. However, there was at least a somewhat rational and understandable process in the U.S.—in Sweden, it was just an arbitrary decision by some group of political propagandists.

***To boot, “bitch” (and many other words) do not necessarily fall into such categories, because they do not necessarily make statements about e.g. women in general. Often, they are simply sex (or whatnot) specific insults used to refer to an individual woman. Similarly, “son of a bitch” is usually simply a sex specific insult for men. A rare instance when “bitch” could be seen as sexist is when referring to a man as a bitch (“Stop crying, you little bitch!”), because this could be seen to express that his behavior is simultaneously negative and feminine (“only weak women cry—are you a woman?”).

****She was, after all, the family dog…

Excursion on “Tolkningsföreträde”: A very common problem in Sweden is the incessant assumption by groups of politically correct, feminists, …, that they have tolkningsföreträde—originally a legal term, assigning a certain entity the right of interpretation of e.g. a contract in case of disagreement. (I am not aware of a similar term in e.g. the U.S. legal system, but it might well exist. A similar metaphorical application does not appear to present, however, even if the same attitude often is.) Its their way or the high way: They decide what a word should mean. They decide what is sexism. They decide what is acceptable. Etc. Have the audacity to question this right, even by pointing to the possibility of another interpretation or by pointing out that their use does not match the established one, and what happens: You (!) are accused of demanding tolkningsföreträde… (And, yes, they appear to be entirely and utterly unaware of the hypocrisy in this—or possibly they use the claim as a deliberately intellectually dishonest means of undermining opponents: I sometimes find it hard to resist the thought of there being some form of commonly taken course or set of guide-lines for the politically correct in how to sabotage one’s opponents…)

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Written by michaeleriksson

September 10, 2017 at 9:09 pm

Reality disconnect

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I have often, including in some of my latest posts, written about a “reality disconnect”* among e.g. politicians, journalists, feminist propagandists, … where the things that they loudly claim** in public simply do not match reality. And, no, I am not saying that they simply see the world differently than I do (if I did, I might be the problem!): There are many points where main stream science says something very different; where actual statistics are incompatible with the claims; where the statistic might seem superficially compatible, but logically must be interpreted differently than they do***; etc. Not to mention the many cases where a certain set of data allows a handful of conclusions and they just jump to and stick with the one single conclusion that matches their world view, without even considering the possibility that one of the other conclusions could be true.

*I am not certain whether I have ever used this particular phrasing, however.

**What is genuine opinion and what attempts to manipulate the public is often hard or impossible to tell. In the case of high level politicians, I would tend towards manipulation attempts; in the case of journalists, feminists, and lower level party sympathizers (including many bloggers), genuine opinion could be more likely.

***Cf. e.g. the the “77 cents on the dollar” bullshit.

To date, I have been focused on issues relating to e.g. political correctness; however, there are many, many other instances where similar reality disconnects exist.

Take e.g. the issue of doping (in general) and anabolic steroids (in particular)*: The view painted in media and “public information” is invariably that this is a great evil, with numerous unavoidable and debilitating side-effects. The high use among e.g. gym goers is viewed as a major issue. If we look at actual experiences and data a much more nuanced picture arises, up to the point that the overall effect on someones life can be positive.

*Disclaimers: a) The intent is not to paint doping in a positive light, nor even to paint it in a more nuanced light (although I would see it as positive if some of the readers develop a more nuanced view). The purpose is rather to demonstrate the problems of reality disconnect, intellectual dishonesty, lack of critical thinking, etc. The apparent topic matter is just a very suitable example, especially since I would rather not write yet another piece on e.g. feminism. b) The only drugs I take myself are coffee (large quantities), alcohol (small quantities), and the odd aspirin/tylenol/whatnot. (However, I did originally look into the topic with an eye on a possible future use, to compensate for the effects of aging that will eventually manifest. I leave this option open for now.) c) No-one should ever take these types of drugs before knowing what he is doing. (Cf. e.g. item 1 below.)

Consider some common problems with reporting:

  1. Severe problems, let alone disastrous ones, usually go back to people taking drugs without doing the appropriate research (either not researching at all or going by what some guy in the gym said) or people simply being stupid.

    For instance, I once saw a YouTube video speak of a body-builder friend who, as a first time user, had taken a large shot of insulin* on an empty stomach and not eaten anything afterwards. He started to feel weak and, instead of now urgently eating something, went to bed to rest. He fell unconscious and hours of seizures and life in a wheel-chair followed. Notwithstanding that insulin is a drug that is generally considered dangerous, being a “lesser evil” even for actual diabetics, this shows a great degree of ignorance and stupidity: Even five minutes on the Internet would have taught him that it was vital to compensate with carbohydrates; indeed, an at least vague awareness of “insulin shocks” and similar in diabetics should be present in anyone who has even graduated junior high school, and that at least the potential for danger was there would follow immediately. To boot, chances are that a low blood-sugar level would have diminished the results he was hoping for, because one of the main ideas would be to increase the muscles uptake of glycogen, thereby making them larger**—but with low blood sugar…

    *Insulin is used by many (non-diabetic) body builders for the purpose of muscle growth.

    **Whether this actually works, I do not know—the line between science and “bro science” can be hard to detect on the Internet. It is notable, however, that body builders often go for size over strength. Glycogen can contribute to overall muscle size, but the actual “weight pulling” parts of the muscle remain unchanged.

    A common issue is failing to “cycle” (effectively, taking a break from drug use): This is basically the first thing to pick-up when even considering to use drugs—yet many fail to do so and see a health detriment with no off-setting benefit. Cycling has the dual benefit of a) giving the body time off to function normally and to at least partially restore it self from side-effects, and b) to diminish the “tolerance” towards the drug, so that a smaller dose is needed once the break is over: As with e.g. alcohol, the more the body is used to it, the more is needed to get the effect one is looking for—and the greater the damage to those parts of the body that cannot or are slower to adapt. Take a break and the effectiveness of a smaller dose increases again.

  2. Many reported cases go back to misrepresentations of the actual events.

    A particular notable case is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s heart surgery, which has been blamed on steroids. In reality, there is no proof of a connection whatsoever. More over, his version is that it was a congenital problem… (Schwarzenegger could, obviously, be lying, but there is no obvious reason for him to do so: He has already publicly admitted to drug use and what he did was, at the time, perfectly legal.)

    Another is Gregg Valentino and his “exploding arms”: This issue, including the invasive surgery needed, did not stem directly from use of any type of enhancer—it stemmed from being sloppy with injections, especially re-using dirty needles. This sloppiness led to a severe infection, the situation was made worse through amateurish attempts at self-surgery, and the professionals were forced to take drastic measures. With proper handling of injections (possibly even with a sufficiently early visit to a physician) this would not have happened; with such improper handling even medically legitimate injections (e.g. to treat diabetes) would have led to similar problems with equal probability. (With some reservations for where injections for what purpose take place.) To boot, one documentary that I saw claimed that “steroids” ruined his arms—which is not at all the case. What he injected was synthol, a type of oil which is used for localized, artificial optical improvements (often highly unsuccessfully…), which has nothing at all to do with steroids (or any other actual performance enhancer). We could equally claim “dieting ruined her breasts” when a looks obsessed woman suffers a breast-implant burst—a ridiculous non sequitur.

  3. Comparisons are usually made based on extremes. If e.g. a world-class body builder spends twenty years taking steroids, HGH, IGF-1, and whatnot in enormous doses, and develops some form of health problems, this does not automatically mean that an amateur who uses much more moderates doses of a single drug will immediately develop such problems—or necessarily even after twenty years.

    Similarly, much of the public perception on steroids (and PEDs in general) go back to the East-German (and other Eastern European) athletes from the 1980s, in particular the female athletes. What was seen there, however, does not necessarily have much importance for the average gym goer of today, including that we compare with world class athletes on a forced regimen—but also because the knowledge of how drugs work has grown and the drugs available has become more sophisticated. For a man, the partial comparison with women is also misleading, both because the physiological reactions can be different outright and because some effects considered negative for a woman need not be negative for a man. Some, e.g. a deeper voice, might even be seen as positive. (Of course, those that affect health, not just superficialities, are negatives for everyone.)

  4. Effects of various drugs are often conflated, especially through “steroid blaming” (e.g. with Gregg Valentino above). For instance, the so called “roid gut” appears to have little or nothing to do with steroids. Instead, it arises through growth hormones*, which simply make everything grow—including the internal organs. This to the point that some people appear to think that any and all PEDs are steroids.

    *Generally, I have the impression that growth hormones are considerably more problematic than steroids in terms of side-effects. This impression could be wrong, however.

  5. There seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to associate any health problem in a body builder or strength athlete with drugs in general or steroids in particular. However, a proper comparison must look at aggregates and not individual examples: There are plenty of non-drug users who have developed severe health problems, including e.g. the heart, at forty or fifty, even many who have died. The question is therefore not whether such cases occur among drug users—but whether* they are more common and/or more severe. However, this differentiation is not made: Instead it is X died at age 50, he took drugs; ergo, the drugs killed him.

    *The result of such an investigation can very well be that they are more common and/or severe—I am not saying that e.g. steroids are harmless. The matter at hand is one of scientific thinking and intellectual honesty, not the pros and cons of drugs.

    Similarly, there is often a blanket attribution of cause and effect whenever a potential cause is known—and this is not limited to e.g. PEDs. If x percent of the users of a certain drug has a certain problem, we cannot conclude that this drug caused the whole x. Instead, we have to make a comparison with an otherwise comparable control group. If we find that y percent of these have the same problem, then the drug, approximately/statistically speaking, caused x – y percentage points of the cases. Similarly, a smoker who dies of lung cancer did not necessarily develop lung cancer because he smoked: Chances are that he did, and smoking certainly did not help—but he could still be among those caught by another reason, e.g. air pollution. There simply is no guarantee that he would have lived, had he not smoked.

    Strictly speaking, we would also have to make more detailed comparisons in order to judge various issues, but this too is never done (at least outside of scientific research): How is a particular aspect of health influenced by spending hours a day training with weights? By eating twice, thrice, or even four times as much as ordinary people? By using a diet with unusual fat/carbohydrate/protein proportions? By repeatedly “bulking up” and then forcing the body fat down to just a few percent? By weighing a hundred pounds more than normally expected, even be it muscle instead of fat? What if there is some genetic link between an inborn increased ability to build muscle, as would be expected even in a drug-taking top body-builder, and some medical problem? …

  6. Side-effects are often overstated or misreported. For instance, hypogonadism is often cited as a negative side-effect of steroid use: “If you take steroids your testicles will shrink!” Now, this is at least potentially true; however, there is an important addendum that is virtually always left out: They will usually* bounce back again after the steroid use ceases. Not all steroids have the same strength of various side-effects. Some side-effects can be countered by other drugs**, notably where excess estrogen is concerned.

    *Depending on the state of research, where I lack the depth of knowledge, “usually” might be an unnecessary addendum or replaceable by “almost always”. The time frame and the probability will naturally depend on length of use and quantities used; as well as whether the user has “cycled”.

    **Whether this is a good idea, I leave unstated. It will likely depend on the specifics of the situation, notably what side-effects the second drug has. However, when viewed in light of some arguments against steroids, the possibility must be considered. To e.g. try to scare someone away from steroids with the threat of gynecomastia without mentioning potential counter-measures is just unethical.

  7. A particular nefarious issue is the constant phrasing with “abuse”: Basically, any and all use of e.g. steroids is called “abuse” in a blanket manner. Good journalism should be impartial and stick to the facts. This includes using value-neutral words like “use” and not value-loaded words like “abuse”—no matter the journalist’s own opinions.

Of course, a side-effect of such propaganda is that we no longer know what we can or cannot trust: Is this-or-that recreational drug as dangerous as claimed? It might or might not be—but we are robbed the opportunity to learn this without doing time consuming research, because what is said in the media simply cannot be trusted.

In the bigger picture, I suspect that at least part of the problem is that some people come to the conclusion that something is evil, and take it upon themselves to prevent others from coming to a different conclusion through deliberate distortion of facts, demonizing something or someone, irrational emotional arguments, whatnot—they believe* that they have the truth and fear that others are not smart enough to find this truth, if left to their own devices. Indeed, this explains very well the apparent paradox that the surest way to be censored on a feminist blog is to comment with a strong counter-argument, a link to statistics contrary to the point of the original post, or otherwise doing something that could bring other readers away from the (often outrageously untrue) “truth”.

*The twist is, of course, that these people, more often than not, are less intelligent, less informed and more prejudiced, and worse at critical thinking than many or most of the people they try to “protect”. Unsurprisingly, they are also often wrong…

A good example of this is a group of anti-tobacco campaigners who visited my school class when I was some 10 to 12 years old: They started off trying to disgust the pupils away from snus, by discussing the potash content* and how potash was gathered for snus production through doing something** to the contents of chamber pots***… Now, snus is a nicotine product, it is addictive, it can cause health problems: These are all things that could, conceivably should, be told to school children and/or the public in general. Putting forth an absurdly wrong story in order to convince children through a shock effect is simply unethical, intellectually dishonest, and likely does more harm than good: When adults lie about one thing, how can children trust them on another? Why should they believe that snus is addictive, that this is not just another lie to scare them away? Etc.

*I seem to vaguely recall that even this claim was outdated, potash once having been an ingredient, but no longer being so. I could be wrong, however.

**I am a little vague on the details, especially since they simply did not make sense to me even then. (And, of course, the claim had nothing to do with reality, starting with the simple fact that chamber pots barely existed in Sweden at that time.) The story was so preposterous that it can be safely assumed that they were neither ignorant nor stupid enough to believe this themselves—it had to be a deliberate lie told to children in order to manipulate them.

***Surprisingly, the implied pseudo-etymology works almost as well in English as in Swedish: potash -> pottaska, chamber pot -> potta

Another example, which depending on developments might result in a separate post, is the recent claims of the German SPD that women would earn 79 cents on the euro—and, oh my, how unfair! I contacted them per email to complain and the answer (among a number of naive statements) showed that they actually, indisputably knew that any true difference was far smaller at, on the outside*, 5–8 % (i.e. 92–95 cents on the euro)—even using their own numbers. They are deliberately lying to their voters! See also e.g. my discussion of the 77 cents on the dollar and note the similarity of numbers over geography and time—this is exactly the kind of similarity that tends to indicate a biological (rather than e.g. a cultural or societal) variation.**

*Contrary to the beliefs of the SPD, an unexplained difference of 5–8 % does not mean that we have a systematic wage discrimination of 5–8 %—this interval is just an upper limit on the maximal size of any wage discrimination. Using studies with more factors, there is no reason to expect more than at most a marginal variation to remain. Interestingly, they also claim that while the West-German difference was 23 % (i.e. exactly the U.S. 77 cents), the East-German was a mere 8, which ties in well with some thoughts in my previous post. Note especially, this the eastern parts of Germany are still worse off than the western part and that there are still plenty of educational choices made and careers started during the GDR era.

**However, two data points does not make for any degree of certainty.

Written by michaeleriksson

August 26, 2017 at 7:11 pm

Plastic bags, the environment, and dishonest companies

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There are many bad things in the world. Some large, some small. Some that we can ignore easily ignore, others that drive us up the wall—and it is not always the objectively large things that annoy or anger us the most.

One of my pet peeves is how store chain after store chain (in Germany) has started to charge for previously free plastic bags using the claim that it is “for the good of the environment”.

Now, I am very much in favour of “the environment” and if I actually believed these claims, I would possibly even welcome these charges. As is, considering developments, they are at best an attempt to protect businesses from a possible government intervention (it self based on dubious reasoning). More likely, they are an opportunity to earn another 20 cents on each purchase—while gaining in image among those to stupid to see through the charade. These customer-despising lies are what really tick me off.* How hollow the claims actually are is proved by my recent experiences with clothing retailer C&A: The charge came with a replacement of the earlier voluminous and thin-walled bags with smaller and far thicker bags, containing considerably more plastic and increasing the number of bags needed for a larger purchase. The environment is worse off, because in this manner more plastic is needed and (I strongly suspect) the new bags will be harder for trapped animals to escape from and take longer before they degrade in nature. At the same time, the increase in the number of sold bags drives the winnings up*. The redesign, if anything, is geared at giving an impression of higher quality (more bang for the buck) making it easier for the customers to swallow the extra cost—a public relations thing.

*I am not a friend of paying for plastic bags in general, due to the advertising issue discussed below. However, this much can be said in favour of those chains who have always charged for their bags, not just started doing so in the last one or two years: They have never pretended that they would be doing a public service. They have clearly portrayed the charge as a groat for tote—you give us a small amount of money for our benefit and we give you a disposable plastic bag for your benefit.

**Keep in mind that the cost of making one of these bags is extremely low. The main cost factors are in transportation and handling, and many of these will remain constant or vary sublinearly with the number of bags.

Let us look closer at some aspects of the general issue:

  1. Not one single of these chains has made any claims along the lines of “we give the proceeds to environmental organization X”. If they did give the money away, they would sure as hell brag about it. Since they don’t brag, I conclude that every single additional cent earned is kept by the respective chain.
  2. These bags are invariably (now and before) filled with advertising, with the company logo and colours being the absolute minimum. This alone makes the charge unethical: No-one should ever have to pay for walking around with advertising. If they want to charge for bags, they have to remove the advertising. End of discussion.
  3. The immediate effect of the bags (amount of plastic needed, energy costs, etc.) are a drop in the ocean compared to many other things and should not be a main priority when fighting for the environment. Even when factoring in the later recycling cost for properly recycled (cf. below) bags, we remain at a somewhat larger drop in the ocean. Basic rule of optimization: Optimize where it has the largest effects first. We do not even have to look at the big industrial and chemical companies to find worse problems—consider the cost and waste from sending out company prospects and other types of advertising, of the employees of these chains driving their cars to and from work every day, or the considerably greater amounts of packing material, much of it redundant, that is used for the individual items sold in a grocery store…
  4. If we focus on plastic bags, there are better ways to help the environment, through attacking the underlying problems. What about biodegradable bags? What about increased focus on bags that are reusable in the long term, instead of being disposable or only intended for two or three trips to the store? What about some form of deposit–refund system (give the chain two Euros for the bag, get them back when returning the bag, and the bag then being expertly recycled)? (Hint: While these would all have the potential to be better for the environment, there is also less profitability in them.)
  5. In my understanding, the main environmental problem of plastic bags results from incorrectly disposed bags that land in nature, the oceans, kill wild-life, slowly emit various substances, … Then we should not (necessarily) reduce the number of plastic bags—we should reduce the number of plastic bags that land in nature instead of the recycling plant. This should also be carefully born in mind when looking at naive environmental statistics. For instance, a commonly circulated number in Germany, including from several chains I have complained to, is an average of 71 plastic bags per year and person. Now we are supposed to have an image of 71 plastic bags per year and person lying around on the beach, in the forest, or floating in the ocean. This is simply not the case. Take me for instance: I use my plastic bags as garbage bags, saving the environmental impact of additional bags bought for that ad hoc purpose. If I have a surplus, I eventually through it away with the rest of my garbage, and (provided that other involved parties do their duties…) the bags end up in recycling. If there was a dedicated recycling canister for plastic (but there is not…), making the recycling more efficient, I would be more than happy to use it, even were it in a store instead of my back-yard.

    I stress that the above is not in anyway to deny that these incorrectly disposed plastic bags is an environmental issue worth addressing—that they are is well-established. It is a matter of intellectual honesty and presenting the facts as they actually are—not how they best fit a particular agenda. If something is bad, by all means present it as bad and do so in all its “glory”—but do not try to paint a picture that it is even worse by a magnitude. Either the true facts presented in a non-misleading manner gives sufficient support (and no manipulation is needed) or they do not (and manipulation is both unethical and harmful).

  6. Will a charge for plastic bags help with preventing bags from getting into nature? Not very much: The people who take their bags to the beach, to a pick-nick, whatnot, and then just leave them lying around (or otherwise are poor disposers), will keep doing so anyway. A pick-nick (and so on) is something sufficiently rare and different that the overall number of bags getting into nature through pick-nicks will decrease by far less than the overall number of bags, making all this a largely wasted effort. For that matter, I doubt that the impact on even the overall number of bags will be that impressive. For instance, if we take the 71 bags per year and person and a hypothetical 20 cent a bag, we have 14.20 Euro a year—not something that will be a true influence on decision making for most people in a country as rich as Germany. (At the same time, this is well over a billion Euro to be divided up among the chains, and here, in the profit making department, there is a very noticeable effect.)

Let me conclude by emphasizing that I have nothing against people simply prioritizing the environment higher or lower than I do, nor do I have anything against people prioritizing profit making higher or lower than I do. What I do have something against includes both dishonest claims and thinking that the man on the street is so utterly stupid that he will fall for any claim made assertively enough or repeated often enough. This type of contempt (and contempt relating to the rights of the individual) is extremely wide-spread among commercial companies, politicians, governmental institutions, and the like, and is not merely offensive but also increasingly a genuine pragmatic problem for society.

Written by michaeleriksson

June 29, 2016 at 9:51 pm

Fauxminism or irrational illwill towards men?

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Recently, I encountered a German blog giving an analysis of the argumentse in an (English) complaint against “fauxminists”e (men who, in the eyes of the feminist writer, are faux feminists).

(Why would I care whether a useful idiot is considered a feminist or a fauxminist? I do not. In fact, it is better that feminism is divided and internally squabbling than united and fighting the rest of the world. However, the text in question is an excellent example of the incorrect reasoning so often used by feminists and within gender studies. Notably, the author, Meg Milanese, is a “recent graduate” with a “BA in women’s studies”, which, in itself, raises more than one warning flag.)

Below, I will analyze this complaint from my own perspective, specifically the ten defining characteristics:

  1. He interrupts women that he speaks with.

    Melanese argues that this is rude, would show communicative incompetence, and that men interrupt women more than they do men.

    Interruptions can be rude, but they need not be. Indeed, they are often necessary and most interruptions that I have observed or been involved in (be it as the interrupter or the interrupted) have been legitimate. Further, the need to interrupt is often based on the communicative incompetence of the … interrupted: There are many people who simply do not observe the cues others send that they too have something to say, who monopolize the discussion, go on long contentless ramblings, spell out over two minutes what the counter-part understood in two seconds, whatnot.

    Indeed, these problematic people are (in my experiences so far) disproportionately common among women. (Which gives us some clues as to why women are interrupted more often…)

  2. He expects to be given leadership roles far before he’s ready for them.

    The text gives no real support for this claim, but describes something more akin to men (unsurprisingly) being more likely to take initiative than women. Furthermore, in as far as this claim would be true, there is nothing male about it: I have met plenty of women with exactly this mentality—often among those clearly unsuitable for leadership. Indeed, this type of entitlement-thinking is very common among Swedish women (and, in my second-hand impression, US women).

  3. He mansplains.

    The accusation of mansplaining (feminists’ favourite way of discrediting their opponents without actually having to provide any factual arguments) has been dealt with at length.

    The claim “A feminist man should be able to understand the difference between mansplaining and simply explaining something while simultaneously being a man.” is almost comical, seeing that this is a difference that feminist women seem unable to grasp—with far more accusations of mansplaining being raised because the explainer happens to be a (usually dissenting) man and the dissented a woman than for what feminists claim that “mansplaining” would imply.

  4. He insists that feminism must make equal time for men and men’s issues.

    I cannot judge this issue, in particular the frequency of the demand being made, within the feminist movement itself. However, many of the statements made by Melanese are detached from reality and demonstrate that her take on men’s issues is a very destructive and prejudiced one. Take “So yes, men have issues. However, in no way, shape, or form are they of the same caliber as the problems and oppression facing women.” (a bullshit statement, cf. e.g. [1], [2]) or the attempt to make men’s main problem to be … masculinity.

    In the end: As long as feminism remains about women’s issues, not equality, feminism will remain a force of evil. (It is refreshing, however, that a feminist admits this onesidedness so clearly.)

  5. He continues to partake in media or activities that objectify/degrade women.

    The whole issue of objectification and degradation is cheap rhetoric. Cf. e.g. parts of [3]. That Melanese irrationally finds e.g. porn to be degrading does not imply that men (feminist or otherwise) who use it are doing anything wrong—nor that the many women who also enjoy porn would be.

  6. He calls women he doesn’t agree with “bitches”, “whores” or other gender-based slurs.

    This particular item is specifically dealing with how this use by a feminist will affect the cause of feminism (i.e. that it is harmful). That part of the analysis is likely to be true; however, this has nothing to do with whether a man is a feminist or a fauxminist—unless we assume that these words would be anti-woman per se. (They are not: They make a statement about a particular woman—not women in general.)

    Further, I note that personal attacks and insults is very common from feminist women, which makes the item odd: Melanese’s efforts would be better spent attacking the “argumentation” methods of feminists in general.

  7. He feels entitled to the trust of the women he works with in feminist activism circles.

    The basic reasoning behind this item would be sound, but for two issues:

    Firstly, the problem of unwarranted and exaggerated distrust is treated to cavalierly.

    Secondly, it is based on a very distorted view of reality. Consider e.g. “[…]the daily normality of cat-calling and slut-shaming that women endure” or “the person who is distrustful is a member of a class that is disproportionately affected by harassment, violence and degradation and the person who is not being trusted is a member of the class that most often perpetrates that degradation”—not only cheap rhetoric, but also sexist, one-sided, and prejudiced bullshit.

    In addition, the claim “It could be rape, it could be domestic violence, it could be emotional abuse.” is likely equally off: Yes, this would be an understandable reason for distrust, even misplaced distrust. At the same time, rape is rare, women commit more domestic violence than men, and emotional abuse (from what I have seen so far) is much more common from women than from men—yet, the way the text reads, it sounds like this would something that women would be regularly exposed to and men not.

  8. He will not hold other self-proclaimed male-identified feminists accountable.

    The text does not really deal with the topic of the title; however, the statement “If a man cannot be expected to do this much [risk his social reputation/being called a mangina] while women are enduring sexual assault, violence, and verbal abuse for standing up for their rights, the mantle of feminism has been proven to be too much to bear for him and he is undeserving of the title.” should say enough. How often are women enduring sexual assualt and violence for standing up for their rights? Hardly ever and likely less often than men. Indeed, when I have heard of violence in the context of feminism it has usually been perpetrated by the … feminists. (Cf. e.g. [4]e.) Certainly, feminists commit far, far more verbal abuse than anti-feminists—indeed, they may possibly be the single greatest source of verbal abuse around.

  9. He uses the tone argument on you.

    Frankly, I am not certain that I understand this item. However, it does sound like something women do to men, rather than the other way around.

  10. He is pissed off by this article.

    The very predictable conclusion: As usual, the whole thing is setup with an illogical “damned if you do; damned if you don’t”—either you agree with me, or your disagreement proves my point. The same evil trick of pseudo-reasoning is regularly used e.g. with regard to the alleged male privilege (“Not having to admit privilege is a male privilege!”) and mansplaining (“Your criticism of the term ‘mansplaining’ is just mansplaining!”).

Generally, many of the items contain prejudice, belief in the “Patriarchy”, and a world-view (e.g. with regard to men’s and women’s situations) that does not match reality.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 24, 2011 at 9:02 am

Comment censorship

with 5 comments

I have repeatedly reported about censorship on the blog hypocritically named Aus Liebe zur Freiheite (“For/due to the love of freedom”)—indeed, I first became aware of that blog through discussing its destructive and uninformed comment policy. I was going to ignore the fact that two factual and highly relevant comments of mine had recently been censored, but I will not, seeing that another commenter just wrote the following eloquent complaint (my translation is suboptimal):

James T. Kirk:

Sehr geehrte Frau Schrupp,

ich fände es schön, wenn Sie mal auf meine Argumente eingehen. Warum haben Sie so große Probleme mit sachlicher Kritik?

Es ist sehr befremdlich, daß Sie so viele sachliche Kommentare löschen. Ist das die ideale Welt, die Sie sich vorstellen? Haben Sie Angst, sich sachlicher Kritik zu stellen?

Es ist mir persönlich schleierhaft, wie man solch ein Verhalten vor sich selbst rechtfertigen kann.

(Dear [highly formal version] Ms. Schrupp,

I would appreciate it, if you would spend some time on my arguments. Why do you have so great problems with factual criticism?

It is very strange that you delete so many factual comments. Is that the ideal world, that you imagine? Are you afraid to confront factual criticism?

I have problems comprehending how one can justify such a behaviour to oneself.)

Ms. Schrupp has indeed proved again and again that she has a very destructive take on comments—which she combines with enough arbitrariness that the poor souls who try to counter her many misstatements, misunderstandings, and misinterpretations are led to still comment in the hope that this particular comment will go through and provide at least some counter-weight to her pseudo-intellectual, uninformed, and one-sided prattle. (While I usually try to remain ad rem and show some degree of politeness, my patience with the feminist branch of intellectual dishonesty has been very sorely strained lately—and Ms. Schrupp is worst than most. When push comes to shove, the success of feminism is largely based on being able to build strawmen, spread factually faulty statements, perpetuate false or misinterpreted statistics, whatnot, without sufficient contradiction. It is relatively easy to convince people when they only see one side of the issue—it is very easy, when the one-sidedness is complemented by unprotested distortion of the truth.)

My two comments:

Diese drei Punkte stoßen bei mir auf Unverständnis—denn gerade hier ist ja die Debatte normalerweise zum Vorteil der Frauen gewinkelt. Dies vorallem bei 2., wo immer und immer wieder versucht wird, natürliche Geschlechterdifferenzen kategorisch auszuschliessen, um alle Verhaltensunterschiede mit „Strukturen“, „Patriarchat“, o.ä. zu erklären. Auch 1. und 3. sind jedoch sehr zweifelhaft—ist doch eine von den üblichsten Beschreibungen/Schlussfolgerungen, dass Männer etwas falsch machen und Frauen richtig, bzw. dass Frauen nur was Falsch machen wegen „Strukturen“, „Patriarchat“, … (das Thema kehrt wieder).

(Points out that the central claims of the post are strawmen or otherwise incorrect.)

Ich wollte gerade zu deinem letzten Kommentar einwenden, dass die Mehrheit dieser Punkte im Grunde Strawmankaraktär haben. Hierbei muss ich leider feststellen, dass mein voriger Kommentar, der sachlich eine ähnliche Observation zu deinem ursprunglichen Beitrag machte, ohne erkennbaren Grund zensiert worden ist—und dies auch nicht zum ersten Male.

Unabhängig von deinen Beweggründen sind diese Art von Eingriffen grob unethisch und die Debatte verzerrend. Widerspruch ist keine legitime Grund zur Zensur.

(Further statements are strawmen. My previous comment has been censored without a legitimate reason.)

For my part, I will stay away for the future—but I also publicly declare that Ms. Schrupp is narrow-minded, intellectually dishonest, and has far more to learn from her commenters than they from her. Her blogging brings a net damage to the world—and it is women like she who ensure that feminism remains a force of evil.

Written by michaeleriksson

June 19, 2011 at 6:48 pm

Abominable censorship/Domestic violence/Blogroll update

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Following up on what other people have written under the same tags as my last post, I landed on a blog entry spouting common and faulty propagandae, e.g. the claim that 85 % of DV victims would be women—something simply very far from the truth.

The comment I posted pointing this out was deleted within a quarter of an hour. The snotty reply of the author:

And how do you know this blogger’s source isn’t as credible if not more credible than your source?

Well, apart from her using anonymous numbers and my actually having and giving a source, in turn referencing hundreds of scientific investigations:

This type of numbers I have seen time and time again by feminists, the shelter industry, and similar—but neutral sources simply have different results. Apart from a severe problem with “statistics” that are simply invented or severely misinterpreted (cf. e.g. previous discussions on rape statistics or the 77 cents on the dollar fraud) in contexts like these, 85 % is roughly the type of number that tends to occur when police reports are counted—a method which is inherently misleading. Other claims of the post, e.g. that women would receive considerably harsher punishments for killing their spouses are exceedingly unlikely (I admit that I have never seen statistics on this specific point; however, the opposite problem of women being treated more leniently is otherwise prevalent). Consider the claim that DV would be shameful for women: The problem is the opposite that it is too shameful for men who are victims—not to mention that a non-trivial number of women raise false accusations when e.g. starting divorce proceedings.

Further, an author who does not counter criticism against her numbers by publishing a reference, but by censoring the criticism, sends a very clear signal about her own credibility as a source…

Exactly this occurs again and again: The comments that would prove of greatest value to undermine the faulty claims of feminists are the ones most likely to be censored. So e.g. on a recent DV post by a highly misguided authore, where the following comment was deleted:

More importantly, we should keep in mind that men’s violence against women is not a big problem compared to violence in general. Indeed, as modern research shows, men are somewhat more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators where DV is concerned (the reverse applies to women). Cf. http://www.csulb.edu/~mfiebert/assault.htm for hundreds of references. Further, men are significantly more likely to be victims of violence in general.

Let us work against the real enemy, violence, rather than creating undue fears and feeding prejudice against men by over-focusing on just one special case.

In response to these problems, I will update my blogroll to include http://www.csulb.edu/~mfiebert/assault.htme, the most thorough meta-source on the issue that I am aware of. By the FIFO principle, http://www.dudalibre.com/en/gnulinuxcountere is removed. That page was first discussed heree.

Written by michaeleriksson

May 5, 2011 at 10:58 pm

Equal Pay Day (censored comment)

with one comment

Unfortunately, I have to re-publish yet another censored comment here. The censore is a feminist whose intellectually dishonest and destructive take on censorship has already lead to several entries on my blog, including [1] and [2]. (The more annoying because her lack of insight and her pseudo-knowledge makes her someone who would truly benefit from listening to others.)

The censored comment (dealing with the Equal Pay Day and the myth of unequal pay for equal work; non-German readers can just follow the link):

Wie erfreulich es auch ist, eine Feministin zu sehen, die sich kritisch mit dem Thema auseinandersetzt, bleibt dennoch das selbe Hauptprobleme: Die Annahme, es gäbe eine Benachteiligung von Frauen. In der Wirklichkeit haben Männer und Frauen schon gleiches Gehalt für gleiche Arbeit erreicht. (S. z.B. https://michaeleriksson.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/the-%e2%80%9c77-cents-on-the-dollar%e2%80%9d-fraud/) In der Tat zeigen Untersuchungen, dass es mittlerweile einige Felder gibt, wo die Frauen im Durchschnitt mehr verdienen…

Lass uns also die irreführende Propaganda-aktion „Equal Pay Day“ in den Grab gehen.

Im Sonstigen: Die teilweise oben gemachten Generalisierungen über Verhalten der Männer und Frauen, samt die Einstellung „Verhalten der Frauen gut–Verhalten der Männer schlecht“ sind irreführend und eher sexistisch als konstruktiv.

Written by michaeleriksson

March 27, 2011 at 1:49 am