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Brownstone drops the ball / Follow-up: Why would trans-mania be an attack on women?

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A few days ago, I wrote a text on trans-mania vs. women ([1]) with the central issue:

Opponents of the trans-mania often criticize it for being “an attack on women” or some other thing relating specifically to women.

Why on women? Why not on men?

Today, I encountered an excellent example of this mis-characterization—and to boot one from Brownstone, which features on my current blogroll for its fight for COVID-sanity, but which repeatedly, as now, has included irrational and/or Leftist nonsense.* In this case, it is a massive case of Feminist propaganda and distortion, often trying to blame men for what women have done or the trans-movement for what Feminism has done (and which the trans-movement has merely continued and/or co-opted.) It is also, for the most part, extremely confused, poorly reasoned, and irrational drivel, which pretends to be non-Leftist, but manifestly shares too much of Leftist values and intellectual limits to be credible as such.

*Indeed, I have an almost completed text, intended as either a private email or an open letter to Brownstone, on this issue. To date, I have refrained from completing and sending/publishing it, because it seemed too finicky (for want of a better word) and “glass one-quarter empty” to me, but I might have to reconsider this in light of the below atrocity.

Specifically, Preferred Pronouns Lit the Path to Covid Science Denialism is chock-full of Feminist or quasi-Feminist propaganda (and contains few arguments to support its title*). To boot, it describes exactly the type of hypocrisy that I address in an excursion to [1] (which I repeat towards the end, due to its high relevance). To look at some portions of the text:**

*Indeed, while a more general idea (that various Leftist, PC, Woke, and or Feminist attacks on science, reason, language, whatnot might have lit the path) has some plausibility, reducing this to just “Preferred Pronouns”, or the trans-mania overall, is nonsensical and indicates either a gross ignorance of what has gone before, for decades, or a deliberate attempt to distort history.

**Some formatting changed for technical reasons. Various oddities were present in the original.

The no-limit trans spectrum seems to run from genuine gender confusion to fetishism, perversion, paedophilia, child abuse, misogyny and denial of female same-sex attraction in the insistence that lesbians who refuse to have sex with trans-males are transphobic and gender-critical lesbians are TERFS.

Note how “misogyny” is included, but not “misandry”; how lesbians are included, but not gays; and how “gender-critical lesbians” are singled out over both “gender-critical gays” and those gender-critical in general. Extreme and extremely irrational reactions to the gender-critical is not limited by sex or sexual preference. To paint it as such is intellectually dishonest and misleads the readers. The best that can be said in defense of the author is that “TERF” is the only actual label that I recall. Moreover, these reactions are only variations of the types of reactions that Feminists have shown against their critics for decades, until the trans-movement took over as a more successful user. Indeed, the trans-movement is in many ways just an off-shot of the Feminist and/or LGB movement.*

*Note the difference between being an L, G, or B and being a part of the LGB movement. I have nothing against the former, but little more than contempt for the latter (in its modern incarnation; the state in the days of Harvey Milk, e.g., might have been very different). Ditto being T vs. being part of the T-movement. (The same applies to women vs. Feminists, of course, but far fewer run the risk of conflating the two.)

As to the specific claim “lesbians who refuse to have sex with trans-males* are [denounced as] transphobic”: It is unclear how often this situation would naturally arise, and whether it is a legitimate problem, as there is no need for anyone to give a reason to refuse sex with a non-partner. Instead of saying, e.g., “I’m not having sex with a man! Yuck!” just go with some of the usual reasons or excuses that a straight woman might use towards a straight man (and, I suspect, a lesbian woman towards another lesbian woman). Yes, issues of “it’s you; not me” do happen in the wake of failed sexual approaches—many straight men, me included, have at some point been called “gay” (or similar) for turning a woman down. Firstly, however, not so often that it is truly a reason for complaint.** Secondly, as can be seen, there is nothing male or trans about such accusations.

*Which I contextually take to imply men-who-want-to-be-women, as the sentence becomes quite odd if the gender-maniacs preferred women-who-want-to-be-men-and-therefore-ARE-men is applied. (I strongly favor the men-who-want-to-be-women meaning myself. No PC group has the right to co-opt existing words to distort language. If they want a word for a new concept, they should pick a new word—not an old word already associated with an old concept.)

**An interesting difference between women and men, as well as, m.m., between “grievance” groups and others, is that women often make a storm in a teacup over something that men tend to shrug off. Similarly, women seem to often attribute motivations and whatnots in an unwarranted manner. For instance, if male driver A steals a parking spot from driver B, a male B would typically react with “Asshole!”, while a female B (or “Feminist female B”?) might well land at “He is a misogynistic pig, who only stole that parking spot because I am a woman and he thinks that women don’t count!”.

As an aside, I have long speculated that it is only a matter of time before straight men who do not want to have sex with gay men are condemned as homophobic. I am not aware of any such case to date, but the idea of calling lesbians transphobic in the corresponding scenario seems like nothing more than a natural evolution of the LBG movements. In many ways, here and elsewhere, a traditional group of aggressors is finding itself on the receiving end and does not like this dose of its own medicine. (Also see excursion.)

Many of us are still trying to puzzle out with Covid just what happened. How did we ignore science and reject data to get to where we are? Well, before Covid, the trans movement was the single most successful drive to displace science and data with ideological dogma, at least in the West.

No. The most successful drive to displace science and data with ideological dogma was, is, and remains Feminism! (Cf. any number of older texts.)

This quote is followed by a list of examples, beginning with “Elevation of feelings above facts, dogma over data”—which has been a core issue with Feminists for decades before the trans-movement took off (and with e.g. many Post-Modernists, PC social “scientist”, Leftists, whatnot; as well as with many women in general). The same applies to most other entries in this list, be it directly or after adjusting for details. Consider e.g. “The laws then being used to coerce citizens into compliance”, “Shame being used as a key psychological tool of emotional manipulation” and “The partnership with Big Tech to ‘fact-check,’ censor and disappear contrary viewpoints”. (See the original text for the full list.)

What Peterson asserted as his freedom of speech [regarding use of pronouns] was denounced by opponents as hate speech.

Again, something that is extremely common with e.g. Feminists, although the exact denunciation can vary (e.g. “misogyny” instead of “hate speech”). The trans-movement is just one of many Leftist movements that uses such intellectually dishonest denunciations, sloganeering, and similar in lieu of factual arguments and on a large scale.

Language matters, for it controls the narrative. The war against women’s identity, rights, privacy and dignity is lost once you accept the science fiction of addressing a 6’6’ bearded man with a functioning male organ which he will proudly display in a woman’s spa, regardless of how embarrassed and offended the Korean-American girls and women in there might feel, as ’she/her.’

Yes, language matters.* However, the rest is cheap Feminist rhetoric. What war against women’s this-and-that? There is no such war. This is nothing more than Feminist nonsense. Indeed, if (!) there is a war on either of the sexes today, men would have the greater claim of being the victims, as natural male norms and behaviors are increasingly condemned, school and college is increasingly geared towards women, as women receive many an artificial leg up at the cost of men, etc. The frequency of misleading and sexist unwords like “mansplaining” and “toxic masculinity” alone should be enough to set off the alarm bells. Also note how the author gives an example of a man in a woman’s setting, but fails to give a woman in a man’s setting. (A few minutes before reading the text under discussion, I encountered an article on a girl in the boys’ locker room and how a man was being punished for daring to object.)

*In fact, I have an own text in the pipeline, using examples like “gender-assigned at birth” and the risk that the eventual conclusion, if and when this type of thinking has become the norm through such language distortion, is “stop assigning gender at birth”.

Big headline of Feminist sloganeering with no support through actual arguments:

Men Erasing Women

Then:

The idea behind the move to preferred pronouns is that everyone’s own conception of their* gender identity deserves the protection of law. The unintended and perverse yet entirely predictable consequence is that the wilful suspension of biological reality with pretend facts is a threat to women.

*Note how the author implicitly and hypocritically supports similar PC ideas by abusing “their”. This is an example of “gender-neutral” language, which the author (cf. below) claims to reject.

The author neither establishes that this is a threat to women, nor is any hint given as to why men would not be equally threatened, if a threat exists. (See [1] for more on this.)

There is good reason to create women-only safe spaces in toilets, changerooms, refuges, crisis services, prisons and sports*.

*As “changerooms” is a separate item, I take this to imply that men and women should remain in different competitive classifications, e.g. in that there are separate medals for men and women at the Olympics. If the intention is something else, adjustment of my text might be needed.

Maybe there is in some cases, but (barring sports) the same applies to men—I do not want some strange woman ogling me when I am naked, for example. Refuges and crisis services seem a disputable example, one of the many cases where Feminists have driven a hard and defamatory line of “women need protection from evil men”, where men’s services are much more limited, and despite the fact that women are slightly more likely to perpetrate domestic violence than men, the fact that men are much more likely to be victims of male violence than women, etc. The use of the borderline shibboleth “safe spaces” might be an indication that the author has a flawed Leftist worldview and/or has grown up in an over-coddling environment.

Efforts to use the full force of the law to coerce and compel everyone to genuflect to biologically false facts is reminiscent of communist totalitarian systems where people must show obeisance to party diktats or risk the public humiliation of show trials, confession of errors and spells in re-education camps.

This is a typical Leftist/Feminist/whatnot tactic, which has nothing to do with specifically the trans-movement. (Except that we might sometimes have to replace “biologically” with the more generic “scientifically”.)

Their intolerant and belligerent demand amounts to: pay us the respect due to us men as self-identifying women, or we will make you pay for your lack of respect.

And again.

The “preferred pronouns” culture feeds into and enables abusive men while silencing their victims. Irish teacher Enoch Burke has preferred to go to prison rather than address a trans-male student as “they” instead of “he.” J K Rowling mocks bearded males defining what a woman is.

What abusive men?!? What victims?!? This screams of Feminist hate propaganda. The pronoun nonsense has been driven by women from the beginning, while the few who have taken a stand against it have disproportionately been men, like I or the aforementioned Peterson. Indeed, the author gives yet another man, Enoch Burke, as an example of a victim—likely in the mistaken impression that he was a woman.* Bearded men do not (try to re-)define what a woman is—a general, non-sex specific, trans-movement does. To try to shove this onto specifically men is idiotic. The repeated references to bearded men have a light of the absurd, as if emphasizing a traditional male attribute would have any bearing on the discussion, and as if the typical man-who-wants-to-be-a-woman is paradoxically wearing a beard instead of shaving as closely as he can.

*To make certain, as names can sometimes be misleading, I have checked on Wikipedia ([2]).

Too many have been cowed into silence and go along meekly with the claim that “penis holders” are really women, men can become pregnant, doctors, nurses and midwives must be trained to help men give birth, trans-males committing rapes must be documented as women rapists, and males self-identifying as women must be allowed to compete in women’s competitive sports despite decisive biological advantages in size, strength and stamina.

While not wrong, this paragraph shows the incoherence and lack of reasoning of the author: the idea that men can become pregnant/give birth is based on women-wanting-to-be-men being classified as men, which under no circumstances can be seen as an argument for the author’s ideas.

In effect men are once again deciding all the core rights about women. On the one hand, none of this would be possible without first denying that sex is a biological fact that cannot be subsumed under gender as a social construct. On the other, once the preferred pronoun movement is appeased in law, what defence is left against its extreme claims?

And more hateful Feminism. How the HELL are men deciding core rights of women, when a woman-driven off-shot of a woman-driven Feminist/PC movement redefines language? The idea that men would do so again is another sign of Feminist propaganda and a hateful and horrifyingly distorted Feminist worldview. Gender as a social construct, etc.? Again, just an application of Feminist, Post-Modern, whatnot reality distortion to another area—for which women carry a greater or far greater responsibility than men.

“Gender-neutral” language is neither neutral nor inclusive but anti-woman. It erases more than half of humanity as a distinct category and excludes their rights to safety, dignity and privacy.

And yet more Feminist bullshit. Why would it be anti-woman instead of or in addition to anti-man?!? Why would “half of humanity” (implied: women) be erased and not the other half?!? And, again, note that “gender-neutral” language is something created by and forced onto society by Feminists, not the trans-movement. I was, myself, complaining about “gender-neutral” language, maybe, fifteen years ago.

By the way, remember that old-fashioned “manly” virtue? Unconsciously, the wokerati have confirmed the point by putting on a play at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre no less, that portrays Joan of Arc as a trans — because no woman could have been that brave and soldierly — with accompanying “they/them” pronouns. As the (fictional) Titania McGrath tweeted: “A female Joan of Arc would have been too busy knitting, gossiping and shopping for shoes to fight the English.” To coin a phrase, this is “literally violence” against English language and literature. But the same theatre has also done this to Elizabeth 1, one of England’s greatest queens.

So, we have one or two decades of men being replaced by women in traditionally male roles in fiction, often including recasts of long-established-as-male characters, not to mention a similar “Black washing” of White characters and artificial introduction of homo- or bisexuality to heterosexual characters,* and suddenly one single instance of a woman being moved from regular woman to trans is worthy of criticism—while Feminists have kept quiet or outright lauded the earlier distortions. The claim in the text is, of course, entirely invalidated by these prior distortions, as the 100-pound teenage girl who beats up 200-pound adult men is bordering on a cliche by now.

*“Doctor Who” will shortly be an example of all three, as a bisexual, a woman, and a black man. I seem to recall Feminists being ecstatic over the casting of Jodie Whittaker. And, yes, I have seen calls for the next Bond to be a woman.

Another good example of an unintended consequence comes from Scotland. A 66-year old male blood donor Leslie Sinclair, who has given blood for nearly 50 years, was turned away this year because he refused to answer a pre-donation question on his pregnancy status.

And what sex is now being erased, the male or the female? If a man cannot turn down a question that has a self-evident answer for any man, then that is a far stronger sign of the male sex being erased than anything the author provided to support the idea that the female sex would be erased.

Excursion on the sex of the author:
In an almost comical twist, I have to raise some doubts as to the sex of the author. Going by the style of writing, the weak reasoning, the Feminist propaganda, etc., I took it for granted that the text was written by a woman—and I doubt that many men would and could have written a text like this. Nevertheless, when I hit the byline, the author was given as “Ramesh Thakur”, with “Ramesh” being a man’s name. What is behind this, I do not know, but it certainly makes an exceptionally odd text even odder.

Excursion on female hypocrisy and censorship:
In [1], I had an excursion on female hypocrisy and censorship, which I, in light of the above, repeat here:

An interesting phenomenon over the last few years is that women, even Feminists, who have remained conspicuously silent, or even positive, whenever men have been victim of Feminist censorship and cancellation attempts, suddenly speak out for freedom of speech and object against censorship—now that women and/or Feminists are increasingly on the receiving end from other PC groups. (Note e.g. the debates around J.K. Rowling.) To these, I say: You did not speak up when first they came—and now they have come for you. Enjoy a dose of your own medicine and learn your lesson.

Excursion on fake men-who-want-to-be-women:
Some of the examples given in the text, if taken at face value, could point to non-trans individuals who abuse the possibilities that the trans-movement has opened. For instance, if we do find a bearded man waving his penis in the women’s locker room, chances are that he is not trans to begin with, and only uses the claim to get into the locker room. While this is a bad thing, it is only indirectly related to the trans-movement, and care should be taken when assigning blame.

Excursion on other factors than male/female:
A further complication from a man’s point of view is that many of the problems that Feminists ascribe to men, period,* are actually caused by smaller subgroups of men. For instance, in the U.S. the relative rate of rapists is much higher among Black men than among White men—something that goes carefully unmentioned in Feminist propaganda and, in turn, often creates the impression of “White men are rapists”, when the brunt of the responsibility actually rests with Black men.**/*** The increase of rapes in Sweden due to extensive immigration was long used by Feminists to decry how men were being meaner and meaner towards women, but to mention the actual cause was to ask for excommunication. I have never seen any racial (or other) statistic on bearded penis-wavers, but it would be entirely unsurprising if something similar applies, and, if so, complainers should direct their complaints where they belong, not raise blanket accusations against a far larger group.

*For instance, I grew up hearing Feminist claims like “all men are rapists”, which is extremely contrafactual. (Also note that many alleged problems are gross misrepresentations to begin with, as with e.g. the 77-cents-on-the-dollar bullshit, or considerably exaggerated, as with e.g. the frequency of rape.)

**But, of course, even among Black men, rapists are a minority—just a larger minority than for White men. Even in the subset of specifically Black men, the Feminist defamatory propaganda does not hold.

***Also note the extreme aversion that the press in many countries has against mentioning the ethnicity/race/whatnot of non-White perpetrators, and how keen they are on mentioning the ethnicity/race/whatnot of non-White victims.

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Written by michaeleriksson

October 28, 2022 at 8:55 am

Why would trans-mania be an attack on women?

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Opponents of the trans-mania often criticize it for being “an attack on women” or some other thing relating specifically to women.

Why on women? Why not on men?

When we look at specifically sports and the attempt to force biological men into women’s competitions then, yes, I can see the point. But what about all other areas? How, e.g., would women be worse off career-wise through some male colleagues suddenly manifesting as men-who-want-to-be-women than men would be from female colleagues manifesting as women-who-want-to-be-men? Barring the possibility that women lose an artificial advantage* of being hired/promoted for being women to these men-who-want-to-be-women or that transgenders/-sexuals would have a greater artificial advantage, there is no obvious reason for a difference. (This assuming, of course, that such a manifestation would be negative for anyone—and, outside the possibility of pro-trans** discrimination, I see no obvious reason why such negativity should manifest.) Forget the office and look at science, politics, literature, music, art, and whatnot: Where is the actual female disadvantage? (Unless, again, we assume that women would simply lose an artificial advantage over men.)

*You believe that women actually have an artificial disadvantage? Then you are blind to the world or a victim of Feminist lies—but even if you were right, it would only strengthen my case.

**You find anti-trans discrimination more likely? Based on what I have seen so far, I would tend to disagree—but even if you were right, it would, again, only strengthen my case.

Men-who-want-to-be-women gathering honors that rightfully should be women’s, like most successful female Jeopardy participant or first woman to X? Well, outside of sports, this argument would backfire severely, because it is based on the assumption that men, at least at the top, are better at this-and-that than women, or else there would be no need for women to fear the new male competition over the old female competition. In as far as men are better, on the other hand, the disadvantage would only arise through prior special treatment of women, which is now weakened, just as if male and female athletes were to compete together as a matter of course. In sports, such a division might be justified,* but why should it be present elsewhere? Why e.g. would someone who is simultaneously the first woman and the tenth human to accomplish something be rated above the ninth, let alone second, man and human to do the same thing?** And why is being the first woman more important than being, e.g., the first Swede, the first red-head, the first teenager, the first Aspie, the first whatnot?

*Boxers and wrestlers have weight classes. Junior athletes have different competitions from full-grown men. Human runners do not compete against horses. Etc. Separate competitions and whatnot for men and women is nothing remarkable in this context.

**While I have not kept an example, I have seen several cases on Wikipedia where an entire paragraph is spent describing that some woman was the first woman to X—and a single sentence follows describing how some man, years or decades earlier, was the first human. This effectively rates a female late-comer above even the first human. A sane encyclopedia would give the first human the paragraph and the precedent in the text. The first woman would only warrant such attention if she actually were the first human.

Would transitioners somehow diminish the nature of womanhood? If they do, why would it not equally diminish the nature of manhood? (And is being a woman, as opposed to e.g. a human, a Brit, a teacher, a parent of two, that important to begin with? That seems like an unhealthy attitude to me. Also see excursion.)

There are more male transitioners than female? The statistics and more informal claims that I have seen so far* have been inconsistent, but overall it seems to me that the largest demographic of transitioners and those contemplating a transition is found among teenage girls.

*Admittedly, not much, as I have not had an interest in this sub-issue.

Does a sex-change operation destroy individual women by removing their womanhood and future ability to reproduce? Maybe it does destroy, maybe it does not—but if “does”, how is that different from what happens to a man who undergoes a sex-change operation? (Here, admittedly, a preponderance of teenage girls might have some relevance, but as they are not forced at gun point, the “attack on women” angle is still very hard to argue.)

All in all, if (!) we consider trans-this-and-that an attack on either sex, then I have yet to see a reason why it would be an attack on one sex and not both.

Excursion on being a man, woman, non-binary, whatnot first:
I am, frankly, a bit puzzled by the whole non-binary thing and the obsession with the difference between being X, Y, and Z. I cannot speak for the sum of humanity, of course, but I do not go around thinking “I am a man!” any more than “I am right-handed!”, and the consciousness of being a man only rarely has an effect on my behavior and my decisions. It does/did not govern what I do with my spare time, what I studied at uni, whether I am interested in women or men,* whom I support politically, etc. It might have some effect on what I wear, but I find much of what women wear sufficiently silly that I would likely not make a U-turn if I were or felt like a woman—the lady is not for turning.** From that point of view, the difference between me and someone who identifies as non-binary is actually quite small and the entire idea of being non-binary borders on being redundant and pointless, almost as if someone were to invent a new label for being a perfectly ordinary human.

*Being a biological male does increase the probability that I prefer women over men, but the fact that I do is, in terms of classifications and labels, ultimately a matter of my sexuality, not my sex or “gender”. Similar claims might apply to some other point, e.g. my spare-time habits.

**A phrase that I have heard about once a day for the last few weeks, courtesy of U.K. politics.

More generally, I think of myself as myself—not, unless the context calls for it, a man, a Swede, a writer, a blogger, a whatnot. I was born in Sweden, but who cares? Writing and blogging is less a matter of who I am and more of what I, from time to time, do. Etc. I suspect that if more forgot about all such labels and mere aspects of their lives, and instead focused on who they are as whole individuals, many of the current insanities would disappear with one stroke, including pronoun nonsense, identity politics, intersectionality, “you must vote Democrat or you are not Black”, “you must vote for Hillary if you are a woman”, …

Excursion on female hypocrisy and censorship:
An interesting phenomenon over the last few years is that women, even Feminists, who have remained conspicuously silent, or even positive, whenever men have been victim of Feminist censorship and cancellation attempts, suddenly speak out for freedom of speech and object against censorship—now that women and/or Feminists are increasingly on the receiving end from other PC groups. (Note e.g. the debates around J.K. Rowling.) To these, I say: You did not speak up when first they came—and now they have come for you. Enjoy a dose of your own medicine and learn your lesson.

Written by michaeleriksson

October 25, 2022 at 9:19 pm

Our elites / Follow-up: Some unfortunate words and uses

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A belated-because-too-long excursion to Some unfortunate words and uses:

A potentially problematic word, and one which should be used much more rarely, is “elite[s]”:

Many of the sources that I read make complaints about e.g. “our elites” or “our ruling elites”. (For various, usually correct, reasons ranging from poor results to a “rules for thee, but not for me” mentality.) Sometimes, the use appears ironic, e.g. when someone with a known low opinion of the competence levels of the “elite” uses the word—and that might be, barely, acceptable. Similarly, sometimes a clear implication of “self-appointed elites consisting of Dunning-Kruger victims” shines through. (Such writers also often use “midwit” or some other more suitable term.) Less acceptable are many uses that seem to take “elite” largely at face value, often with implied or stated ideas of “if only the elites could walk a mile in our shoes” or “[some negative thing] proves that rule by an elite is bad—we must let the people have a greater say”.*

*Note, with an eye on the below, that I do not disagree with the idea that even a true elite might benefit from that mile or that even a true elite needs some type of democratic check.

The latter presuppose that the “elites” actually are elites by a meaningful standard, which is, mostly, a faulty assumption. By all means, a typical U.S. senator (or similar figure in the country at hand) is likely to be above average in both intelligence and education, but the step from there to a true (intellectual) elite is quite large. If we look at some famous U.S. politicians, are Biden,* Hillary, Harris, Pelosi, AOC, or even Obama persons of truly great intellect?** If so, they have hidden it well, as they appear unimpressive even by the standards of politicians. The situation among Big Business leaders (another group often included in these “elites”) might be better, but is still not what it could be—and an increasing proportion of “diversity hires” on the higher levels does not help. Do not get me started on large parts of the academic “elite”.

*Even discounting his apparent severe mental degradation.

**The examples are all Democrat. This because (a) the problem almost consistently appears to be worse on the Left, (b) the Democrats are currently in charge (=> ruling elite), (c) the aforementioned sources tend to be more negative about the Left. Many cases can be found among e.g. Republicans too, however.

Correspondingly, to take current political “elites” as a sign that rule by (real) elites would be a bad thing is incorrect. Speaking for myself, I would be much happier and much more willing to trust or comply with politicians if they were true elite. (And I am on record as a proponent of e.g. IQ cut-offs both for voting and for holding office.) Many of the problems we have arise simply from non-elites presuming to make decisions for others—many of whom are more intelligent, educated, informed, whatnot, than the self-appointed nannies.

Written by michaeleriksson

April 5, 2022 at 12:27 am

Some unfortunate words and uses

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There are many unfortunate words and uses of words, say, abuse of “they” where it does not belong or the abomination that is “homemaker”*. Below, I will discuss some of the more problematic cases. I stress, however, that there are a great many other examples. (Note e.g. earlier texts on “raising awareness”, “leader” (also see excursion), “create” ([1]), and “discrimination”.) There are also a great number of words, e.g. “diversity”, which are not necessarily used incorrectly, but are attributed with positive or negative characteristics in an incorrect manner.

*Consider e.g. the implication that a house or an apartment without a homemaker would be a mere residence—not a home. By PC standards, applied in the other direction, this would make the word offensive to e.g. a working single person, who would, then, be homeless. Or take a family where both parents pursue a career in the office: Would they not rob their children of a home? Would not the implication be a duty for a mother to stay back and make a home?

  1. Deserve:

    Ever more often, claims are made like “X deserves Y”—usually without an explanation. Often, especially in the case of “I deserve”, it is no more than wishful thinking,* a “I want” in disguise, or some cheap propaganda trick. Only rarely does it refer to something that someone has actually earned. (And when someone has earned something, then use “earned”! Do you “deserve” that raise or have you actually earned it?) This as if “deserve” would be a magic phrase that created an entitlement to whatever is desired—abracadabra.

    *Up to and including claims from many stupid and self-centered women that they “deserve” some variation of Prince Charming for a boyfriend—while giving every impression of having more in common with the Evil Step-Mother/Queen than with the Noble Heroine. (I note my extensive readings of relationship forums, maybe, some fifteen years ago.)

    In another direction, actual rights are often diminished by a “deserve”. For instance, the public in a democracy and Rechtsstaat does not*deserve free speech, secure and fair elections, answers about this-and-that government action, whatnot—it has a right to these things. A writer fighting for free speech should not hide under a wishy-washy “deserve”, thereby implying that there is no right and that the government is allowed to limit free speech, but should speak out loudly and clearly for the right.

    *Or, rather, whether it does or does not in some sense “deserve” is irrelevant.

    There might be need to clarify whether a particular right is based in law, e.g. the Bill of Rights in the U.S., whether it arises from an ethical principle (that a law might well violate), or whether some other set of principles, conventions, international treaties, … is the basis. Even so, a right is a right and should not be diminished to a mere privilege by words like “deserve”.

  2. Conversation:

    When used correctly, there is nothing wrong with “conversation”—say, for a talk about some trivial matter over tea and biscuits. However, now there appear to be “conversations” over the war in the Ukraine, the climate, the energy crisis, election laws, whatnot. These are not, and should not be, conversations, be it in private or on some general national or international level. These are topics for discussions, debates, and arguments* (which depends on circumstances and details).

    *In the strong-disagreement-or-worse sense; not in the support-of-my-claim sense used in most of the rest of this text.

    Whether the main problem is that the topic is diminished or that the approach is faulty, is unclear—but not that it is a problem. As to faulty approach: A conversation will often contain opposing views and disagreements, but only within limits, as pushing too hard will sour the mood or turn the conversation into an argument. At the same time, big issues must be open to strongly opposing views, the presentation of strong arguments for and against the respective views, etc. A conversation about whether Putin is trying to conquer Europe or protect the Donbas republics would be a pointless triviality. Even over tea and biscuits, nothing less than a discussion will do.

  3. Science:

    Again, when used correctly …

    During the COVID era, “science”* has degenerated into a mere slogan in the mouths of politicians, journalists, etc.—and use has often been problematic even before that. No, Fauci is not science incarnated—no matter what he likes to believe. On the contrary, he has shown a very un-, maybe even anti-, scientific mindset. Science journalists usually have a shallow and flawed understanding of science; politicians are the same; and there is little doubt that the official message has not been driven by science—no matter what they like to claim.

    *Here I refer to the word, as this is a text on words, but a similar discussion around science-with-scare-quotes would be quite possible.

    Science, by its nature, demands free debate, exchange of opinions and arguments, that factual arguments and observations take precedence over preconceived opinions, etc. A scientist supports his position with science—and abandons this position, if the other side has better arguments. The point is not to win* the argument, but to find the truth. A good scientist does not scream “Fake news! Fake news!”, does not proclaim himself to be science, does not attack* his opponents* with ad hominem in order to defeat* their positions (but does put the positions to the test by facts and arguments), etc.

    *Indeed, even thinking in terms of “win”, “attack”, “opponent” (let alone, “enemy”), etc. is contrary to a sound scientific mindset. While scientists might compete to get a certain result first, or hope that their pet hypothesis wins out over another hypothesis, they should view themselves as allies in the search for a greater scientific understanding. Only when someone, e.g. the likes of Fauci, puts science aside and engages in un-/anti-scientific behavior might an attack or the image of an enemy be justified.

    Similarly, consider “climate science”: There is real climate science (and I do not necessarily disagree with it), but what is reported as “science” (or “settled science”) is often fear-mongering, exaggerations, speculation based on models that have, at best, a checkered record, … Screaming that the world will end and that anyone who thinks differently should be ignored is not science—not even should the world actually be ending.

    Great doubts has to be raised against the use of “science” to refer to many (most? all?) softer sciences. (But historical reasons make this use hard to avoid.) To consider e.g. literary science a science is very dubious. Some social sciences could potentially be better off, but rarely actually are, as they have been polluted by ideology and a lack of scientific thinking—the “truth” is known and reality has to bend to fit “truth”. Some texts by Philip Carl Salzman at Minding the Campus describe a depressing degeneration of anthropology.* (Many other texts there deal with related issues in academia, but Salzman has an unusually long-term perspective on this field.) Certainly, grave doubts must be raised against any field dominated by postmodernism, postcolonialism, Marxism, …

    *I do not vouch for his view being correct and correct in detail, as these are one-sided accounts, but (a) he is well-placed to judge the issue, (b) his observations broadly match what I have seen in or been told about large parts of the softer sciences, in general.

  4. A very great number of words and expressions introduced, abused, or distorted by the PC crowd, the Left, and similar groupings could be added. I point e.g. to the long standing abuse of “racism” to denote much which is not racist and the newer attempts to redefine “racism” to exclude Black-on-White racism (generally, Black-on-X and Minority-on-White). A particular perfidious example is use of terms like “justice” and “equality” in a manner that is in direction contradiction to the meanings of these words, often by prefixing a “social”. As a joint example, “social justice” usually has implications of equality of outcome, which is both highly unjust and not equality at all—equality demands equality of opportunity and denying this in order to ensure equal outcomes is a great injustice.

Excursion on models:
It appears, both with COVID and the climate, that models are made and trained, used to make predictions, and then policy is made based on these predictions. This is sloppy and likely a strong reason why so many policy-influencing predictions have been wrong. Specifically, the first few rounds of predictions should be used to test the model—not to make policy. If these predictions match reality, then later rounds of predictions can be given at least some influence on policy; if not, it is back to the drawing board. (And great caution is needed, even when the tests are successful, especially for predictions that are far into the future, involve many unknowns, and/or involve chaotic systems.)

Excursion on “leader”:
I have already discussed “leader” in [1]. However, reading it again, I notice a major overlooked case: the use of “leader” to imply e.g. “administrator”. This is often a case of flattery or self-flattery, in that a school administrator might be addressed with nonsense like “educational leader” in an attempt to score points in a letter. (I saw an example of this quite recently, but do not remember where.) In some cases, e.g. with a school principal, it has some semi-justification in that a principal can be seen as the leader of the school. (Whether this makes for an educational leader might still be debated. Certainly, a formulation with e.g. “principal” would be fairer and more accurate, even here.) In most cases, however, these administrators are not leaders at all, notwithstanding that they might have some decision- or policy-making power.

Moreover, it is usually a bad idea to make or consider administrators leaders. Doing so makes for a flawed system, where persons of often lower understanding of the actual work, lower intelligence, and lower general ability are in charge. Look at a typical U.S. college: is that diversity manager of even remotely comparable competence and intellectual capacity to the physics professor whom (usually) she bosses around? Highly unlikely. Chances are that (usually) he is levels above her, and that he would be able to get a better grasp than she of what little of value her field contains within days—should he be so inclined. Or look at my own work experiences as a software developer: Hardly ever has the middle-manager or project leader in charge been the intellectual number one (even discounting my own presence). Often he has been above average, by developer standards, but about as often below average. Complete disasters have been found.

Let the people with real brains and the domain expertise do the leading and use administrators to take busywork off their backs. Just like accountants are hired to do the accounting, administrators should be hired to administrate—not lead. (Admittedly, there is a danger that the nature of an administrator’s position allows for gradual power grabs over time, implying that a sound original intention might be perverted over the years.)

Written by michaeleriksson

April 2, 2022 at 7:40 am

Quitting the VDE / Follow-up: My experiences with professional associations and similar groups / Follow-up: A few thoughts on English and German language choices around men and women

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I have previously written both about my disappointing experiences with professional associations and similar groups ([1]) and absurd PC language in Germany (e.g. [2]; and, obviously, a number of texts on English PC language).

As I wrote in [1]:

VDE: So far, knock-on-wood, the least disappointing organization and the only one where I am still a member. There are some VDI-like tendencies, but they are nowhere near as strong and there is much more of the engineer mentality I found wanting at VDI.

I have now decided to terminate my membership in VDE, too. This partially for the simple reason that I have switched careers,* but also due to a growing disappointment with the quarterly membership magazine (“VDE Dialog”). About a year ago, in particular, an edition (04/2019) had a great focus on the environment or the climate, which forewent a scientific and “engineery” approach in favor of Greta-Thunberg-style populism and superficiality. One interview spoke derogatorily of nuclear power; and no-one from the VDE spoke in its defense. To my recollection, nuclear power found no serious mention or discussion—remarkable for a magazine/organization ostensibly targeted at electrical engineers.

*This is a German organization for electrical engineers and members of related professions. Even as an IT consultant, I was stretching it; as a writer of novels, I am wasting my of money.

I wrote a letter pointing this out, and also noting that articles were mostly written by non-engineers, including various freelance journalists. I suggested improvements, including that the set of authors be switched to people with a deeper scientific and technical understanding, and that VDE should remember the typical qualification level and field of the readers—a master degree in a STEM field being a typical education.

This letter has so far remained unanswered* and the situation has not improved.

*Not counting a generic remark in the next edition that there had been a large amount of feedback, both positive and negative, on the topic. Reading between the lines, I suspect that there was a considerable amount of criticism.

The latest edition (04/2020) again addresses environmental topics. The result was similar, including a great emphasis on hydrogen as fuel, but nothing or next to nothing on nuclear power.

It also has a 16-page special on “Corona”, with a similar superficiality and lack of probing and understanding—starting with the abuse of “Corona” for the COVID pandemic: the Corona-family is not a one-virus thing and many (most?) infections are indisputably trivial, e.g. as one of the leading causes behind the common cold. Hitler came from Austria, but not all Austrians are Hitler; SARS-CoV-2 is a Corona virus, but not all Corona viruses are SARS-CoV-2.

However, what really pissed me off, and where we have the connection between the two topics*: One article used “Nutzerinnen und Nutzer” (“[female] users and [male] users”), with a footnote claiming “In der Folge verwenden wir aus Gründen der besseren Lesbarkeit nur die weibliche Form.” (“In the following, for better readability, we only use the female [sic!] form.”) …

*I recommend reading [2] before continuing. Search for “Then Germany:”, if you want to get to the point faster.

So: First the article unnecessarily uses “Nutzerinnen” together with the epicene* “Nutzer”, despite the extreme awkwardness of the phrase—and then it tries to remedy the situation by exclusively using the non(!)-epicene female-only form. Idiotic beyond belief and proving a complete ignorance of language and contempt for the readers. (Who, again, are typically highly educated STEM professionals—not brainwashed snowflakes trying to complete a degree in gender-studies without being expelled for wrongspeak or wrongthink.)

*Roughly, a word which can include both biological sexes irrespective of its own grammatical gender, something very common in German. Here, “Nutzer” (without “Nutzerinnen”) would almost always have been taken to imply both male and female users, just like the English “users”.

The typical motivation for this PC nonsense is to not make readers feel “excluded”. The solution to this largely imaginary problem, here, was to remove a form that any native and rational German* would see as inclusive of both sexes, and to use a form that any native and rational German would see as excluding men, barring an explicit statement to a contrary intent. Consider e.g. a U.S. talent agency saying “we represent actresses and actors, but in the rest of this advert, we will speak of actresses to keep things simple”—where no-one (sane) would have raised even half an eye-brow had the text originally just said “we represent actors” and would almost certainly have expected “we represent male actors”, if the contrary was intended.

*Sorry, “Germanin or German”.

To boot, “Nutzerinnen” is about twice as long as “Nutzer”, which reduces readability, and the original order (“Nutzerinnen und Nutzer”) is flawed, as discussed in [2].

VDE is exactly the type of organization which should take a clear stand against this type of anti-intellectual and contemptuous PC nonsense. It is also exactly the type of organization that should speak out for a scientific approach to climate issues, not populist FUD—which includes an objective and neutral take on nuclear power.

Written by michaeleriksson

October 25, 2020 at 9:56 pm

Spiegel Online and Cancel Culture

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Looking for some information on the current heat-wave, I made the mistake of visiting the truly loony Left German magazine Der Spiegel/Spiegel Online.* I found nothing on the heat-wave, but stumbled on a frightening and frighteningly ignorant piece on “cancel culture”. I will not even try to analyze this (additionally confused and poorly written) piece in detail, but a few remarks that show how absurdly the Left sees and/or distorts the world:

*A very large proportion of the main newspapers and magazines in Germany are paywalled. Der Spiegel is an at least partial exception.

The main thesis appears to be that the term “cancel culture” is an evil rhetorical trick to avoid justified criticism—an outrageous insult to the many who have been canceled and lost jobs, friends, whatnot, over often harmless or scientifically correct opinions.

That the criticism is justified is taken as a blanket truth, again quite contrary to what is seen in real life. Indeed, the vast majority of all such accusations that I have seen have at best been exaggerated or out-of-proportion, and quite often outright wrong. (Cf. a number of older texts.)

The effects of cancellation are trivialized through claims like “In Einzelfällen verlieren die Kritisierten dadurch einen Job, kriegen aber oft sehr schnell einen anderen.” (“In individual cases* the criticized lose a job, but often rapidly find a new one.”). Not only are these “individual cases” quite common,** but far from everyone manages to find a new job in a timely manner, and even those who do find a new job might pay a major price through a loss of income, a career reset, the need to relocate, …

*“Einzelfälle[n]” has a stronger note of rarity than “individual cases”.

**Indeed, as I recently noted, even a spouse with the wrong opinions can be grounds for a firing in the U.S. The situation is not as dire in Germany, but it is bad and growing worse. Idiocies like the linked-to text do further harm.

The cancellation* of an appearance by Lisa Eckhart** during a literature festival (“Literaturfestival”) is taken as a non-issue: her appearance was canceled at short notice for fear of attacks or whatnot and the author of the linked-to text has the audacity to speak of “ein Gespenst”***. In a best case scenario, this amounts to a dubious “there was nothing to fear but fear itself”; in a worst case, it puts the entire phenomenon of “cancel culture” on the level of “just imagination and exaggeration”. The latter is born out by the rest of the text, which to a large part makes that claim; the former could be a contextual half-truth, in that the fears that lead to the cancellation might have been unfounded. That does not remove the damage done to Frau Eckhart and it sets a dangerous precedent for Germany that follows an established U.S. pattern: “We really do support free speech and would love to have you appear. Buuuut: We simply cannot take the risk.” That too, reduces freedom of speech, the spread of opinions, and whatnot, and ultimately it does not matter how someone is brought to an involuntary silence—only that someone was brought to an involuntary silence.

*Note that some of the variations of “cancel” that appear here are literal.

**She was not previously known to me, so I will not speak on details around her. She is alleged to, as a professional comedian, have made homophobic/racist/whatnot jokes.

***Contextually, “phantasm” or other imaginary threat. However, note “Ein Gespenst geht um in Europa” and how that once turned out.

This is the type of blind-to-the-world (or the-truth-does-not-matter) Leftist populism and extremism that makes Spiegel Online unreadable, a news source for idiots, the type of thing that really would need to be canceled. It is also a proof that there is a “Lügenpresse” and/or an “Inkompetenzpresse”.

Written by michaeleriksson

August 12, 2020 at 8:27 pm

A few thoughts on English and German language choices around men and women

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As I spotted when writing another text earlier today, my sources used phrases like “von Frauen und Männern” (“from women and men”), while I find it natural to stick to “men and women” in my own writings. As the situation in Germany is quite interesting (and highly unfortunate) a few words on these issues.

For starters, let us look at men and women in English:

Is it “men and women” or “women and men”, and why? Is it e.g. sexist to use the former or “progressive” to use the latter?

Looking at meaning and sentence logic, the order is irrelevant and it should (to those not subscribing to Feminist rhetoric or some extreme version of the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis) almost always be “men and women” for reasons of rhythm and smoothness—and it should be “ladies and gentlemen” for the same reason, not “gentlemen and ladies”.

Start by saying these phrases out loud a few times, and note how differently they feel. In particular, the human (or English?) ear tends to prefer* trochaic and iambic rhythms and something that allows a pattern of some sort to form. With “men and women”, we have two trochees (“MEN and WOmen”), but with “women and men” (“WOmen and MEN”) we have more random** syllables. The latter can be made to sound good, but would then require a sufficient rhythmic context (or, possibly, an exaggerated pronunciation).

*But not to exclusion. For instance, the anapest (think Dr. Seuss) can be quite catching; for instance, cf. the dactyls below. To some part, I suspect, trochees and iambs are preferred because e.g. English is naturally filled with series of these or their approximations.

**It could be seen as a single choriamb, but four-syllable metrics are not usually applied (for good reasons) and there can be no pattern with just the one choriamb. It could also be seen as a trochee followed by an iamb, but this allows no pattern either, without a larger context.

Similarly, “ladies and gentlemen” is broadly* two dactyls (LAdies and GENtlemen”, while “gentlemen and ladies” is broadly* a dactyl followed by an amphibrach (“GENtlemen and LAdies”). (And a dactyl could, in this informal context, be seen as a “long” trochee.)

*I am not entirely certain whether to treat “gentle” as a single very long or as two separate syllables, as the final “e” is silent and the vowel sound of the “l” is weak or even optional. If two, there might be some dispute exactly how the main beat is to be placed. (Poetry-wise, I am an amateur. And, no, I do not have all of the Greek names memorized.) Then again, it can be disputed whether syllables or length/morae are more important, which would leave us with dactyl or “dactyloid” anyway. Of course, in the theatrical “Laaaaaaaaaaadies aaand geeeeeeeeeentlemen”, the two syllable version is almost bound to apply.

Then Germany:

Here the situation is much more complicated and unpoetic: a simple “Männer und Frauen” (two dactyls, again) compares slightly better than “Frauen und Männer” (another dactyl + amphibrach), but not as strongly as in the two English cases. (Possibly, because of flexibility in splitting the “aue” combination in “Frauen”. I take it as au-e, as the most likely syllables are “Frau” und “en” (with a diphthong “au”), but, with the added flexibility in the pronunciation, “Frauen” can be bent to fit other patterns.)

However, if we look at current German use, we are bombarded with phrases like “Bäckerinnen und Bäcker” (“[female] bakers and [male] bakers”), “BäckerInnen” (artificial word presuming to include both sexes; note capitalization of the internal “I”), and “Bäcker*innen” (ditto; note non-footnote star in the middle).

Here poetry is usually beside the point and other concerns apply, the most notable that these attempts at “gender-inclusive” language are entirely unnecessary in almost all contexts: “Bäcker”, like most* similar male-seeming plurals, is epicene, i.e. can refer to members of both sexes. Ditto the singular in a generic context, where a baker of unknown sex might be referred to as “der Bäcker”, but the known woman would be “die Bäckerin”. This does bring some ambiguity, in that some contexts leave it open whether a certain group is single-sex or not, but in most the “not” can be taken for granted and in many it does not matter.** The same applies, obviously, to the basic English “baker” and “bakers”, because there are no even optional female forms for most “traditionally male” professions (and vice versa). Indeed, many of the problems with Feminist language manipulation go back to the refusal to consider the epicene enough—actual “social” neutrality*** is needed. (Hence, e.g. the rejection of the epicene generic “he” in favor of the neutral or quasi-neutral generic “they”, even at the price of switching from singular to plural.) It is the odder in German, however, where epicenity is very wide spread, including cases where a man is legitimately referred to as “she”. (A more extensive discussion of this in German is present in an older text on gender-neutral language. This text is also relevant to some other points.)

*Including typical professions, but usually excluding e.g. “Männer” (“men”). Even for “Männer”, the inclusion of women could be argued when we do not intend it in the sense of men-as-opposed-to-women, but e.g. members-of-a-troupe-of-X (as with the similar use of “men” in English). An army officer holding a speech to his “Männer” might well take women to be included, as the word points to a certain role or membership, not a sexual division. Context can be important, as even the singular “Mann” is occasionally applied to women, even by other women, in sloppy language—just like some U.S. women might refer to other women as “guys” or even “dudes’. For instance, it is conceivable that an irate teen girl says something like “Du hast meinen Stift geklaut, Mann!” (“You stole my pencil, dude!”, except that “dude’ is less likely than “Mann”) to another teen girl.

**“Bäcker backen Brot” (“bakers bake bread”), e.g., is obviously not single-sex. Ditto e.g. “wir stellen Bäcker ein” (“we hire bakers”; few, contrary to Feminist propaganda, care about sex over ability to bake) and “Bäcker der Bäckerei X” (“bakers of the bakery X”; might be single-sex if few enough, but it would then rarely matter). In contrast, in “zwei Bäcker schlugen sich” (“two bakers were physically fighting”) the details might well be relevant.

***Be it through use of a grammatical neutral, something inherently “non-gendered” (arguably, “they”; but it might also be considered epicene), lengthy duplications (“Bäckerinnen und Bäcker”), or artificial words or constructs (“BäckerInnen”, “Bäcker*innen”).

As an aside, I note that these solution attempts are all “binary”, which implies that the “gender-inclusiveness” is not reached by modern standards to begin with. The epicene “Bäcker” does not have that problem …

To look more in detail at the three typical workarounds-for-a-non-existing-problem:

“Bäckerinnen und Bäcker” is lengthy for no good reason, with a negative effect on readers, writers, speakers, and hearers alike. Moreover, the prefixing of the female version makes the expression clumsier yet, as the second part is a substring of the first and rarely* adds any new real information. (And I see the reverse as poetically sounder.) That the prefix is almost always the female version, even with male dominated groups, opens the suspicion that specifically women should somehow be pushed. (As to the reasons, I can only speculate. Possibilities include “we need to compensate for centuries of oppression” and “we need to show women that they, too, can be X”. Sadly, I cannot, in today’s society, rule out that some Feminists or “gender scientists” put the female form first because they actually do consider women more important.)

*It is extremely rare to see a word like “Bäckerinnen” not followed by “und Bäcker” (resp. whatever male or epicene form applies). A word like “Bäcker”, on the other hand, might well see a more informative extension, as with e.g. “Bäcker und Konditoren” (“bakers and pastry chefs [?]”). If in doubt, what follows “Bäcker” is much more likely to be something other than an “und”, which brings the sentence forward (as with the above “Bäcker backen Brot”).

Interestingly, there have been cases of “innen”-forms used where non have previously existed grammatically, and the single form was then purely single-sex to begin with. Unfortunately, I do not remember exact actual examples, but consider, hypothetically, “Modelinnen und Models”, where the “Modelinnen” is a spurious female plural of the imported “Model”. The same type of problem is possible with the other two cases below.

“BäckerInnen” is pronounced exactly like “Bäckerinnen”, despite the different implications (men and women vs. women only), so this solution is useless for the spoken language and can cause confusion when reading a written text aloud. Moreover, even the optical difference is so small that mistakes of both reading and writing are likely. Those who subscribe to the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, i.e. typically those who push this nonsense, should take great care, as this would be a school example of potential cognitive effects. Indeed, this is a case where even someone largely skeptical towards this hypothesis (e.g. yours truly) might well see a risk (I do). I have always been torn between considering use of this construct gross incompetence and an attempt to replace male/epicene forms with female or female/epicene* forms, the capital “I” being a mere alibi to use the traditionally female form. This type of internal capitalization is without precedent** and likely to cause confusion among those not used to it, including German-as-a-second-language-learners.

*Which, to avoid misunderstandings, would only acquire epicenity through this replacement.

**Barring company names, and similar, which typically arose after this idiocy reared its ugly head. The construct was in use when I first arrived here in 1997. (I do not remember my first own reaction, but I might well have thought it a typo.)

“Bäcker*innen”, a very recent invention, shares most weaknesses with “BäckerInnen”, while looking ridiculous, introducing unnecessary complications for e.g. spell checkers, and moving even further outside the traditional uses of characters. Indeed, a middle-of-word use of a star is usually the mark of a censored character, as with “f*ck” for “fuck”, which raises the question what has been “starred out” and why. To someone used to regular expressions and computers, it is idiotically shaped (cf. below), while a star in other contexts often implies something questionable (e.g. a disputed mark in athletics) or a pointer to a note of some type (as, indeed, in this text). In a linguistic context, which is obviously relevant, its main use is likely to indicate a form of a word that is only hypothesized, as with e.g. Proto-Indo-European reconstructions. (To which other, but less relevant, uses can be added, e.g. as an indicator of multiplication: the overloading of this character is too large to burden it with an additional meaning without a much better reason than claimed with “Bäcker*innen”.) The one advantage is a smaller risk of optical confusion, but the net result is a worsening. (There might or might not be some advantage in speech, e.g. that this could be spoken as “Bäcker-Stern-innen” (“Stern” = “star”), but that would be clumsy indeed, and risk confusion with “Stern” in e.g. the sense of an astronomical star.

How to do it better? Well, if it is not acceptable that “Bäcker” pulls double duty as the epicene term and the male counter-part of “Bäckerinnen”, it would make more sense to me to deprecate “Bäckerinnen” and just use “Bäcker” through out, as an entirely “non-gendered” term. (Effectively, follow the path of English in just using “bakers” resp. deprecating existing terms like “actress”.) However, if someone positively, absolutely insists on introducing new formations, they* should at least follow established conventions. For instance, “BäckerInnen” would better have been “Bäcker/-innen” in a regular writing context, while the pseudo-regexp or pseudo-computerese “Bäcker*innen” would better have been “Bäcker(innen)?” (or “Bäcker?(innen)”, depending on system) or “Bäcker[innen]”.** Of course, neither of these consistency improvements remedies the confusing impression or the pronunciation issues—so stick to “Bäcker”!

*As an aside, using correct and conventional grammar, anyone would realize that “they” refers to the formations (the one plural). With the perversion of the generic “they”, it would be more likely to refer to “someone”. Here the difference in meaning would be small enough to be tolerable, but in other cases considerable misunderstandings could arise. Indeed, the pollution with the generic “they” is so pervasive that I, proof reading, for a moment actually combined the “they” with “someone”, myself. Death to the generic “they”!

**But I would be willing to accept a “*” over “?” to reduce the risk of confusion with a question mark. Otherwise, in typical regular expressions, “?” indicates an optional occurrence, while “*” indicates an arbitrary number of occurrences. “ab?” would then be either of “a” and “ab”, while “ab*” would be “a”, “ab”, ‘abb”, “abbb”, etc. The incorrectly ordered and ungrouped “Bäcker*innen” would then amount to “Bäckeinnen”, “Bäckerinnen”, “Bäckerrinnen”, “Bäckerrrinnen”, etc.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 8, 2020 at 2:22 pm

Karens and related topics

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Recently, I have repeatedly encountered the derogatory term “Karen”, in the sense of a White woman who overreacts against Blacks as perceived threats, criminals, whatnots. This notably in relation to the “Central Park birdwatching incident” (to follow the terminology of the linked-to Wikipedia page). As this tied in well with some of my observations and a few recent texts, I intended to write something on the matter. However, the definition of “Karen” provided by Wikipedia seems to be much wider. ([1] is the same page fixed to the version that I read.)

Below, I will first give an abbreviated treatment of my original angle (based on my original understanding of the term), and then follow with a few observations around this and another Wikipedia page. (The first as it might or might not apply to “Karen”, but definitely contains some important points in general. Also, partially, because Wikipedia often is faulty and partisan in contexts like these, which leads to the second; moreover, usage might well have drifted.)

“Karen”:

While it might well be that some White women do have a particular fear or whatnot of Black men, there is fair chance that most alleged observations of this are specious—something that instead reflects undue fears in general among women and/or undue fears of men. This possibly in combination with the behavior of some Black men, or other parts of their appearance than skin color. If so, it is an excellent, multiple illustration of how people tend to jump to conclusions.* Specifically, many women display similar fear-driven behaviors even when the counter-part is not Black. For instance, Germany (a country with few Blacks) has instituted dedicated zones of parking houses for women—not because there is any actual increased danger for women, but simply because sufficiently many women have a greater fear than men and have complained long and hard enough. For instance, I (White) have myself had a few women very hurriedly change side of the street during walks after nightfall (in a manner that makes a coincidence unlikely).

*Examples are manifold, but one (with many variations) quite relevant to much of my writings is a woman who is fired because she did a poor job, but who instantly attributes this to her being a woman and the decision-maker an allegedly sexist man, without reflection on how e.g. her own behavior might have caused the events and without ever asking herself whether the same would have happened to a man with the same behavior. (Unless, obviously, to answer it with a resounding “NO!’, because she has already made up her mind that she fired because she was a woman.

Then we have to consider what might increase the risk of such a reaction: In my case, I am 6’ 3” and often on the wrong side of 220 lb. Chances are that an already skittish woman is more fearful of me than of someone 5’ 3” and a 110 lb—and that is even somewhat understandable, despite my posing no danger whatsoever to her. Similarly, if someone wears a hoodie, has tattoos, is of over-average muscularity, speaks loudly or with poor grammar, whatnot, chances are that some mixture of own experiences, somewhat true* stereotypes, and built-in circuitry will cause a stronger fear reaction in a woman than would the stereotypical accountant.** These are also, in my impression, likelier to apply to a Black man than a White man. Then: was it really the skin color or might it have been the hoodie, the tattoos, etc.? Or, in light of Feminist propaganda, that it was a man (and not a woman or child), irrespective of skin color.

*Most people who wear hoodies are not criminals, but the proportion of hoodie wearers who are criminals is almost certainly higher than for the overall population. (Possibly, after adjusting for some other factors, e.g. age.)

**With many other factors potentially applying in a similar manner.

Finally, to the degree that skin color does play in, is it a matter of racism or a knowledge of crime statistics? (Remember the context of a woman who is already skittish for irrational reasons—or rational, for all I care. She is already scared as she walks home on an empty street late at night—and then she sees someone who is disproportionately* likely to be a criminal.)

*Note that that this does not imply “likely”, just “likelier”.

Wikipedia:

I will not analyze these articles in detail, but I mention a few specific oddities that I saw during skimming:

  1. There are no less than three mentions of “privilege” in [1]. None of them make much sense and the whole concept is highly dubious to begin with—and, if not, it has by now degenerated into a generic and argument-free debate blocker. It has no place in an encyclopedic text.
  2. [1] abuses “they” to refer to someone who has already been identified as a “he”. Abuse of “they” is indefensible in general, but when there is no ambiguity about either sex or gender, it is utterly inexcusable and, again, has no place in an encyclopedic text. (Either gross incompetence or blatant ideology pushing.)
  3. [1] claims:

    Kansas State University professor Heather Suzanne Woods, whose research interests include memes, said a Karen’s defining characteristics are “entitlement, selfishness, a desire to complain” and that a Karen “demands the world exist according to her standards with little regard for others, and she is willing to risk or demean others to achieve her ends.”

    This matches my impressions of very many women quite well. At least one or two of these likely apply to a majority of all women (and more than a few men, in all fairness). When it comes to mothers, at least up to a certain age of the child, the situation is even worse, as many seem to think that every non-mother is a second-class citizen. Note e.g. the rude woman in a recent text.

    However, I stress that “a desire to complain” might need differentiation: If someone complains e.g. for the sake of complaining, in the hope of some unwarranted benefit,* for some feeling of importance relating to the complaining (all of which I do have the impression that many women do), then it is a negative. On the other hand, if the complaint strives to point out flaws that could and should be rectified, unethical business methods, governmental waste or incompetence, or similar, then it is a positive—we need more of this type of complaint. (And I engage in such complaints regularly my self. Indeed, this very text could be seen as an example.)

    *For instance, during a restaurant visit, I once heard two women at a near-by table loudly complain to the waiter about the substandard meat and how they refused to pay (or wanted a discount?)—despite having actually eaten all of the meat … They were in the restaurant business themselves, and they knew poor quality when they saw it! (My meal, for the record, was excellent.)

  4. A less reasonable portion is:

    While the term is used exclusively in a pejorative manner towards a person of a specific race and gender, some have argued that “Karen” lacks the historical context to be considered a slur, and that calling it one trivializes actual discrimination. Others argue that the targets of the term have immense privilege, and that “an epithet that lacks the power to discriminate is just an insult.”

    For fuck’s sake! Why would a slur need a historical context? How does “calling it one trivialize[s] actual discrimination”? This portion is also an excellent example of abuse of the word “discrimination”. Later we see one of the abuses of “privilege”, and the claim “an epithet that lacks the power to discriminate is just an insult” is potentially* another abuse in the “discrimination” family and misses the point about slurs.

    *Depending exactly on what is meant: if the use parallels the preceding, it is an abuse; if it implies e.g. that an insult that could apply to anyone is not a slur, it would be correct use (but still a disputable thesis).

    To this I note that Wiktionary on “slur” says “An insult or slight.”, that Merriam-Webster gives “Slur definition is – an insulting or disparaging remark or innuendo : aspersion.”, and that both match my own understanding well—a slur is a (one-word?) insult.*

    *This might be another case of significant modifiers being dropped by idiots, who do note realize that they are distorting the meaning of the core word, e.g. with “slur” as a short for “racial slur”, “sexist slur”, whatnot paralleling “discrimination” as a short for “racial discrimination” (etc.), while the true meaning of the respective word goes under in all the abuses.

  5. I followed a link to the page on “Woman card”. The very first sentence discredits the entire page: “The woman card, also called playing the woman card, the gender card or the sex card, is an idiomatic phrase that refers to exploitation of either sexist or anti-female attitudes by accusing others of sexism or misogyny.”

    If the author had left out “anti-female”, it might have been technically correct for some subset of uses (but highly confusing). However, with that portion in, it is clear that the entire concept is put on its head. The “woman card” is a woman* trying to get advantages of some kind, usually in a debate, by using the fact that she is a woman. This, in most contexts, is a irrational, despicable, and/or intellectually dishonest line of argumentation—and pointing it out is a good thing. Here, however, the “woman card” is twisted to refer to the one pointing the use out and condemning that as despicable—PC bullshit at its worst and entirely unworthy of an encyclopedia.

    *The page also gives Bill Clinton an example along the lines of “be pro-Hillary, because she is a woman”. This could conceivably be viewed as a relevant example of a non-woman, but non-women are definitely far rarer.

    The continuation is as bad: “The phrase is used to describe accusations [sic!] of women either mentioning their gender to gain an advantage in discussions or implying or accusing other people of sexism in order to garner support.” No: it is not the “accusations” but the “mentioning” (etc.) that the phrase refers to. (And this continuation removes the risk that the first quote was just extremely poorly phrased.)

    Note the recurring issue of a PC/Feminist/Leftist/whatnot double-standard: They are allowed to, and do, try to shutdown others with even entirely unwarranted accusations of e.g. “privilege” or “mansplaining”—but do not dare use a similar term against them, even should it have an actual objective justification!

    As an aside, “Karen” is an interesting example, as it might put two factions of the overall PC movement against each other: the Feminist, which would like to see it banned as anti-woman, and the “Blackist” (for want of a better word), which sees it as a means to shut-down non-compliant women.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 4, 2020 at 12:47 am

Unwort des Jahres / Intellectually dishonest Leftist propaganda

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As the recurring reader knows, I am both very interested in language use and political questions. The latter notably as a frequent critic of Leftist propaganda and attempts to control debate or thought in an unethical, often even Orwellian, manner.

The attempts by a group of Leftist populists to push their own “Unwort des Jahres”* has annoyed me for years: It pretends to be a group of linguists** acting in a linguistic capacity, but in reality it works to further its own political and ideological ideas in an entirely non-linguistic manner. Not only are words chosen in a manner as to (backed by its faux credibility) paint political opponents in a negative light, there even seems to be a tendency to pick whatever area “The Cause” has received the most push-back during the past year and choose a word specifically to hit back in that area. This behavior is, obviously, grossly unscientific and intellectually dishonest.

*“Unword of the year”. Cf. e.g. other German expressions like “Untier” (“monster” or “beast” in a modern sense) to “Tier” (“animal” or “beast” in an older sense). Also see German Wikipedia and (with less content) English Wikipedia, as well as the official website of the group.

**And might well be—the point is that the members do not act as linguists or using linguistic (or other relevant) criteria, but political and ideological ones. Of course, if non-linguistic criteria, including those mentioned below, are to be used, linguists have no authority and are, in fact, inferior to those with a more relevant background.

Indeed, while the shallow-most* outward presentation is “linguists”, even the official criteria almost precludes a scientific approach and clearly demonstrate that it is not a matter of e.g. good or poor use of language. One of the official pages gives e.g. “gegen das Prinzip der Menschenwürde” (“contrary to the principle of human dignity”) as a criterion—but even these criteria are usually hard to reconcile with the actual choices. Looking at the motivations given, it is often clear that no attempts has been made to see the perspective of the users or to understand the use in context. I would even argue that the activities of the jury are contrary to its own alleged principles. Certainly, these principles are not applied in a politically neutral manner, but in a manner slanted very strongly, in U.S. terminology, pro-Democrat and anti-Republican.

*For instance, the video-text of ARD, a public German TV sender, speaks of “eine Jury aus Sprachwissenschaftlern” (“a jury of linguists”).

Consider e.g. this year’s choice: “Klimahysterie” (“climate hysteria”) While climate issues are very important, we do have a problem with excesses and misguided propaganda, that might well even justify the use of “hysteria”—and certainly, indisputably, there are many individuals who are hysterical on the issue. Note e.g. the ridiculous “Greta Thunberg” phenomenon or how the climate debate is increasingly dominated by emotional arguments and cheap rhetoric instead of reason and scientific arguments. Also note that exactly this type of behavior has strongly contributed to the current climate situation through prioritizing a reduction of nuclear power over a reduction of fossil fuels for decades. (Nuclear power once filling the same propaganda role as global warming does today—and with far less justification.)

Or consider the 2014 “Lügenpresse” (“liar press”): While it can be disputed to what degree the German press is actively lying,* there is no doubt that the average journalist is both incompetent and poorly informed. It is also well established that the average journalist is further to the Left than the non-journalist population; and there are plenty of examples of journalist and media at least deliberately filtering the facts in a manner that violates my suggestions for a new press ethics. Notably, the mentality that the facts need to be filtered, lest someone comes to the “wrong” conclusion (i.e. another conclusion than the journalist), seems to be extremely common. Also note that outright journalistic fraud is by no means unheard of (cf. e.g. [1], [2].)

*The expression, in my opinion, is to a large part based on misattribution of intention.

Particularly negative is that the frequency of use does not appear to play in. For instance, the 2012 “Opfer-Abo” (“victim subscription”) seems to refer to just several uses by a single person—the unjustly-accused-of-rape Jörg Kachelmann. While this phrase could be disputed as linguistically almost nonsensical, the underlying problem is a very real one: The fact is that, contrary to Feminist propaganda, false rape accusations are quite common. The narrow-minded jury, however, decries this use as being too accusatory of women—in a manner that exemplifies his claim that women can position themselves as victims even when they are the perpetrators. (See excursion for additional details.)

It is also notable that many true “unwords” have gone without attack, e.g. the atrocious “NGO”, an untranslated adoption of the already misleading and idiotic English abbreviation (and unabbreviated term), and the ever recurring “Rechtsruck”.

Something quite telling is that there is also a “word of the year” published by the (much better known and much more renowned) Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache (roughly, “Society for German language”). When the unword was introduced in 1991 it was published by the same source—but two years later some row caused a splinter group to move away and publish the unword independently. Unfortunately, the lower credibility and disassociation rarely finds mention, leaving many with the impression that the unword is chosen by an entity of true noteworthiness, instead of reflecting the private political opinions of an ideologically motivated splinter group.

Excursion on “Opfer-Abo”: German Wikipedia describes the use with:*

*Here and below: Some minor typographic changes have been made. I leave “Opfer-Abo” untranslated. Some translation might be approximate due to differences in idiom and whatnot.

Im Herbst 2012 hatte Jörg Kachelmann in mehreren Interviews geäußert, dass Frauen ein “Opfer-Abo” hätten. Mit ihm könnten sie ihre Interessen gegenüber Männern zum Beispiel in Form von Falschbeschuldigungen durchsetzen. Die Wortschöpfung selbst stammt laut Aussage Jörg Kachelmanns von seiner Frau Miriam. In einem Interview der Zeitschrift Der Spiegel, bei dem er gemeinsam mit seiner Frau Miriam interviewt wurde, sagte Kachelmann: “Das ist das Opfer-Abo, das Frauen haben. Frauen sind immer Opfer, selbst wenn sie Täterinnen wurden. Menschen können aber auch genuin böse sein, auch wenn sie weiblich sind.”

Translation: In the Autumn 2012, Jörg Kachelmann declared in several interviews, that women had an “Opfer-Abo”. With it, they could enforce their interests against men, e.g. through false accusations. The word it self was, according to Kachelmann, created by his wife [sic!]. In an interview by the magazine Der Spiegel, which interviewed him together with his wife Miriam, Kachelmann said: “This is the Opfer-Abo that women have. Women are always victims, even when they turn into perpetrators. Humans, however, can be genuinely bad, even when they are female.”

This is by no means an unreasonable claim and well matches much of female behavior that I have seen myself and observations by others around e.g. rape accusations, divorces, and similar. Consider e.g. a great number of discussions on Minding the Campus. I note e.g. that I spent a considerable amount of time reading relationships forums some ten or fifteen years ago, and found a horrifying double standard, including instances where the exact same behavior from a man and a woman received opposite “advice”, often putting the blame on the man in all cases.* Much of Feminism amounts to finding a reason why someone or something other than the woman at hand, preferably a man or men in general, is to blame for everything negative that happens to her, with no thought of own responsibility.**

*E.g. that if a man hit a woman it was because he was an ass-hole and she should leave him immediately; while if a woman hit a man, it was because he (!) was an ass-hole, who drove her to violence, and he should forgive her and start behaving better.

**E.g. that if a woman does not get a promotion, it is not for lack of competence but discrimination; if a woman is insecure about her looks, it is not her weakness but brain-washing by “society”; etc.

Wikipedia further says:

Die Jury [member list omitted] begründete die Wahl damit, dass das Wort Frauen “pauschal und in inakzeptabler Weise” unter den Verdacht stelle, sexuelle Gewalt zu erfinden und damit selbst Täterinnen zu sein. Die Jury behauptet, dass nur fünf bis acht Prozent der von sexueller Gewalt betroffenen Frauen tatsächlich die Polizei einschalteten und dass es dabei in nur drei bis vier Prozent der Fälle zu einer Anzeige und einem Gerichtsverfahren komme. Der Begriff und die damit verbundene Aussage sei sachlich grob unangemessen. “Das Wort verstößt damit nicht zuletzt auch gegen die Menschenwürde der tatsächlichen Opfer.”

Translation: The jury [member list omitted] justified the choice by the claim that the word “in a blanket manner and unacceptably” would accuse women of inventing sexual violence and thereby become perpetrators. The jury claimed, that only five to eight percent of the female victims of sexual violence would notify the police and that only in three or four percent of the cases a charge and a judicial proceeding would follow. The term and the implied statement would be factually grossly inappropriate. “The word thereby also violates the human dignity of the actual victims.”

There is a lot wrong with the above, including that Kachelmann himself has been harder hit than the wast majority of rape victims and that it is quite clear that he, himself, has been falsely accused—years of anxiety, a ruined career, a (temporarily) ruined reputation. What is with his human dignity and whatnot as an actual victim? As for the numbers, I note that there is no* mention of the rate of false accusations, which is high, and that the low numbers given sound more like Feminist propaganda than true numbers. (Cf. e.g. an older text on rape statistics, including links, and the older text on Kachelmann linked to above.) Even had these numbers been true, however, they would be largely irrelevant, because they do not address the issue behind Kachelmann’s claim. (They could indeed be seen as support of his claim, because a low rate of true reports would increase the proportion of false reports, and give a strong argument that rape accusations should be scrutinized more closely than is often the case.) To claim that it would be unacceptable for the victim of a false accusation to complain about false accusation is it self unacceptable and in extremely poor taste. The claim that Kachelmann would raise a blanket (“pauschal”) suspicion is at best exaggerated and seems motivated by bad faith.

*There might have been in a larger context than what Wikipedia quotes, but it would be an odd thing to leave out. Moreover, the official Feminist “truth” is that a woman would never, ever lie about being raped, which reduces the probability that realistic numbers would have been given.

Written by michaeleriksson

January 14, 2020 at 2:26 pm

The loss of the grammatical number in the third person / Follow-up: Abuse of “they” as a generic singular

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Since publishing an older text on abuse of “they” ([1]), I have come to fear that the problem is far worse: the grammatical number and the feel for number is increasingly lost in the third person (possibly, elsewhere too). I suspect that the PC abuse is compounded by weak thinkers/writers simply ignoring questions of numbers and pronouns. Examples include an almost consistent use of “they” for multi-person and non-biological entities,* incongruencies that give the impression that the writer made decisions based on a coin-flip,** the extension of “they” to entities with a known grammatical gender and biological sex,*** a near consistent use of “they” with e.g. “everyone”, and the replacement of “one’s” with “their” as a companion to “one”.

*E.g. corporations or music groups. In the past, these have very often been referred to by “it”, which is also more logical in many cases. (Apparently, there used to be British vs. American divide here.) Notably, “they” might be defensible when it comes to e.g. a music group or a sports team in reference to a somewhat collective action or a situation where it is clear that we have a grouping of individuals, e.g. “Team X won. They mounted an irresistible offense.”; however, not when we have a more abstract entity or an action that is not the work of a similar grouping, e.g. “IBM increased its market share. It has had a great year.” or “Team [club] X is recruiting player Y to strengthen its defense.”.

**E.g. in that “they” is combined with singular or plural forms in a manner without an underlying logic, be it with regard to grammatical or physical number. The same author might then write “they were” (plural/plural) and “they was” (plural/singular) in two different sentences referencing the same entity or entities.

***E.g. “I met my cousin. They were happy.”. Note that this often happens when there is no sign of “non-binary identification” or similar. Certainly, the sheer number of instances is too large to be explained by such factors; certainly, it cannot explain the common use for animals.

A particular idiocy is the mixture of forms, as when a sentence or paragraph uses both “they” and phrases like “he or she”, e.g. “The white player moves first. He or she could move a pawn or they could move one of the knights.”.* (Also cf. “one” above.)

*While this example is fictional, I have seen at least a dozen similar examples since writing [1], most on Wikipedia. It also exemplifies the many, many instances where “they” is simply unnecessary and could have been avoided with a trivial change, without deviating from “gender-neutral” language, by using “[…] or one of the knights.” or similar.

If current trends continue (let us hope that they do not!), the third person will be reduced to “they” in just a few decades. Note: “the third person”—not “the third-person generic singular”. We will then have a system of “I”/“we”, “you”, and “they” for the first, second, respectively third persons. (Where the current calls for “he”/“she”/“it”/“they” in the third person.)

Where are the emergency brakes for language change?

Written by michaeleriksson

November 13, 2019 at 10:41 pm