Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Posts Tagged ‘political correctness

Some problems with Wikipedia

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Preamble:
On several occasions, I have started a text on problems with Wikipedia. With too many items to discuss, I have always lost interest before I was even half-done. To finally get something published on the matter, I have taken my last attempt (from May 2017), struck out a few keywords-that-should-have-been-expanded-upon, and polished it a little (including a few links to more recent posts); I acknowledge that more specific examples would be helpful, but, with the intervening time, the old examples are long gone. The result is the rest of this text.

I have long been a great fan, avid reader, and sometime editor of Wikipedia. For at least some part of its history, I have considered Wikipedia worth more than the rest of the Web* together. The more painful it has been for me to see the gradual degeneration of Wikipedia, the loss of the encyclopedic ideal, and the takeover by politically and ideologically motivated editors in many subject areas. Below I will discuss some of the current problems, many of which could be explained by a drift** in authorship from people of over-average intelligence, from an academic background, and/or with more technical interests to members of the broader masses.

*Here it pays to make the distinction between Web and Internet. Email, e.g., is part of the latter but not the former.

**A similar drift explains many of the things that have changed for the worse on the Internet, in the Open-Source community, and similar, over time. Indeed, the people who dominated the Internet when I first encountered it (1994) form a very small minority by now. Also see a post expanding on these thoughts.

  1. A great proliferation of “popular culture”* sections that bring little or no value, but waste space and the editors energy. Why on Earth does every nit-wit who has just heard topic X briefly referenced on “Family Guy” or “The Simpsons” feel the need to add this to the Wikipedia article on X?!?

    *The section heading is almost always a variation of, or contains, “popular culture”. The contents are not always compatible with this and I use this phrase without implying that it is well chosen.

    Discussion of films and books referencing X can have a valid place, but this requires some degree of significance of the work, that the presence of X in the work is considerable, and that it actually brings some added value. In rare cases, there might be reason to include some mention to show that X has had an influence on popular culture, but it is then almost always better to just state that it had an influence, rather than to attempt to list every single TV episode that made a fleeting reference. For an article on Mozart, e.g., the movie “Amadeus” is highly relevant; his (hypothetical) appearance on an episode of “Family Guy” is not; that a character on some-TV-show-or-other liked his music is utterly irrelevant and unencyclopedic.

  2. A decrease in the quality of language. This includes a drop in register and increasing deviations from encyclopedic language in favor of journalistic language; and a number of more detailed issues. (See excursion at the end.)
  3. A PC/feminist/whatnot influence, which includes spurious or irrelevant references to social constructs; uncritical support of “equality of outcome” as something positive, or an implicit assumption that any difference in outcome is caused by a lack of “equality of opportunity”; every second article having a section of feminism’s role for the topic, the feminist take on an topic, whatnot*; categorical and unscientific denial that races exist, even in articles where the claim has no obvious purpose or relevance; …

    *Notably, the relevance of specifically feminism is in most cases so low that another dozen movements and whatnots would have an equal right to be included—but rarely are. A particular idiocy is “feminist film analysis”, which does not even appear to be an honest attempt at applying a certain perspective and methodology on film analysis, instead giving every impression of just trying to extend the pseudo-science of “gender studies” to a new area.

  4. The common application of “feminist” to persons who lived before the term was invented and who e.g. have written on women’s issues, from a woman’s perspective, or using “strong women”; have been involved with some part of the women’s rights movement or expressed opinions in that direction; or even just have been successful women. Some of these might have identified with feminism; others would not have. Associating them with this poison of the mind in such a blanket manner is insulting, stupid, and/or intellectually dishonest (depending on the motivations). Giving feminism pseudo-credibility by claiming that historical persons were feminists is just atrocious.

    To put it down plain and simply: Someone who likes strong women is NOT automatically a feminist. Someone who wants men and women to be equal in rights and responsibilities is NOT automatically a feminist—indeed, more likely than not, a random feminist will not believe in true equality. Someone who thinks that women should have the right to vote is NOT automatically a feminist. Etc. To claim any or all of this is the equivalent of saying that anyone who wants to improve living conditions for the poor is a socialist or that all communists are revolutionaries.

    See also a recent post covering similar ground.

  5. Undue reliance on and abuse of the principle of citability:

    One of the core principles of Wikipedia, and originally a very good thing, is that Wikipedia should only reflect what can be supported by reputable sources—not personal conviction, rumors, speculation, or even (possibly faulty) synthesis of facts by the editors. This, in theory, should keep the articles low* in bias, speculation, pseudo-science, mere personal opinion, …

    *A complete absence is likely unreachable.

    With time, this principle has turned out to be very vulnerable to both abuse and incompetence, and it fails whole-sale in areas where pseudo- or proto-sciences (and other fields of “expertise”) are dominated by true believers, ideology, and similar. Gender studies is the paramount, but, unfortunately, not only example. Because there is no equivalent of astronomy, the “astrologers” are the only ones citable and the articles are, by analogy, filled with astrology instead of astronomy.

    Even in areas where there is no such dominating streak of “astrology”, problems are quit common, notably that individual editors refuse to reconsider a claim which is based on a single, often low quality, source; fail to realize that the opinion of the source is not sufficiently supported that it can be viewed as fact; or similar. The use of sources that either do not satisfy Wikipedia’s criteria for good sources or does-but-should-not (e.g. news-paper articles) is abundant. Changes in what main-stream science consider correct are not necessarily reflected and it is not uncommon that scientists with no or minor expertise in a subject area are used as authorities (most of the, absurdly many, references to Stephen J. Gould are unwarranted for this reason—to the point that a blanket ban on using his name might be a good idea).

    This well-intentioned principle can in the end be what kills Wikipedia, and I see it as a near necessity that Wikipedia (a) is more explicit on the difference between fact and opinion*, (b) forces a higher degree of plausibility checking and culling of sources**, e.g. by excluding news papers and other journalistic reporting for material that cannot be considered “current events”. With regard to (a), I also note that a good encyclopedia considers the risk that what is considered fact today can turn out to be wrong tomorrow, e.g. because a better scientific theory appears or because a higher court over-turns a conviction***.

    *Consider e.g. the difference between “The sun is a black hole[1].”, “According to Meyer[1], the sun is a black hole”, “Meyer[1] represents the minority view that the sun is a black hole; main stream science considers it a star[2][3][4]”.

    **However, great care must be taken. It is very easy for such checks to degenerate into “agrees with me, OK; does not agree with me, not OK”. Criteria could include strength of source; whether the claims are logically consistent; whether a claim is actually supported by the source it self or just taken over from another source (note how “facts” are sometimes uncritically propagated in feminist propaganda with no-one knowing when and where the claim originated, cf. the Woozle effect); whether the claim is actually present in the source; to what degree the claim represents personal opinion/speculation by the editor, respectively has a support in the scientific community. (Where “support” need not imply even a majority opinion, but should go beyond rare fringe views.)

    ***Generally, I urge everyone, not just Wikipedia editors, to prefer formulations like “murder convict” over “convicted murderer”, unless the level of evidence goes considerably beyond even “reasonable doubt”.

    This becomes particularly problematic when a given article has one or several self-appointed “owners” and these have a strong opinion. The result is typically that controversy* is not discussed in the article, often hidden behind a flawed consensus among the editors** of the article, and attempts to introduce alternate view-points often result in these being deleted and another several references being tacked on to the view point pushed by the self-appointed owners. (This can result in single statements having between half and a whole dozen references—without the reader having any greater certainty about the correctness of the claim.)

    *This is a scenario to be contrasted with the anti-evolutionary mantra “teach the controversy”: For evolution, there is no controversy within science, only in e.g. U.S. politics and popular opinion. The cases I discuss are often quite the reverse, with an existing disagreement between scientists or even branches of science, whereas the alleged consensus is often political, ideological, “popular”, whatnot. Worse, the latter type of consensus is sometimes allowed to trump a contradictory scientific consensus… Unfortunately, I kept no specific examples when writing the original version of this text; however, a typical generic example (not necessarily present on Wikipedia) of such a reversal is I.Q., where main-stream politicians and “enlightened” citizens “know” that I.Q. only measures how well someone can do an I.Q. test and that I.Q. tests are flawed, evil, and “culturally biased” to begin with—something entirely at odds with what science says on the topic.

    **As opposed to the “consensus among scientists”.

  6. Increased use of animations instead of individual images to illustrate processes. Individual images are usually the superior choice for illustration, seeing that the users can jump back-and-forth as they please and can take their time or not. In addition, animations are highly destructive when trying to enjoy other parts of the page—like trying to read a book when someone waves a hand in front of the page once every second or so. With (at least) earlier browser/computers and some forms of animation (notably Flash) this also meant a considerable performance drain, especially for users of tabbed browsing. (I regularly have dozens of tabs open for days or weeks.) Unsurprisingly, to compensate, many users prefer to disable animations entirely, and these then have the problem that the animations are reduced to a single individual image with little or no value.
  7. There are a number of issues on the technical side, including search terms being replaced by something entirely different when Wikipedia presumes to know better than the user what he should search for, use of page transitions (evil, should never have been invented), and highly intrusive* requests for donations when JavaScript is activated**.

    *I have no objection against a valuable “pro bono” service asking for donations from its users; however, when it does so in a manner that dominates the page and comes close to an optical slap in the face, well, that is something very different. If nothing else, this type of behavior likely makes people less likely to donate…

    **This was true around the time I made notes for the first version of this text. I have not verified whether it still is. (I rarely allow JavaScript, in general; and doing so where anyone can add content, including malicious JavaScript code, would be quite dangerous.)

In addition, there are a few problems present that have been with Wikipedia from the beginning (and which I therefore do not discuss above), including a very poor or non-existent coordination between different language versions and that very many U.S. editors fail to understand that en.wikipedia.org is the English language Wikipedia—not the U.S. national Wikipedia. The least of the problems that arise from this is the constant abuse of “American” to mean “U.S.” (with variations). Others include writing from a purely U.S. perspective on an issue (including ignoring legal differences between different countries), not mentioning that a particular claim pertains only to the U.S. (including such bloopers like mentioning “the Department of Justice”, in a generic context, without specifying that the U.S. Department of Justice is intended), giving strictly U.S. pronunciations for English words commonly used in the rest of the English speaking world, etc. On a few rare occasions, I have actually seen articles use formulations like “this country” in manner that implies that both editor and reader are in the U.S.

Articles on movies and books tend to be of a particularly low quality, including being filled with personal speculation* about motives, events, and implications. An ever recurring special case is to claim that a character died, lay dying, fell to his death, or similar, even when the work described leaves the eventual outcome unstated. In many or most cases, death is indeed the most plausible interpretation, but drawing such conclusions is not the role of an encyclopedia—especially since they are quite often incorrect: Fiction is full of characters who appear to die only to come back at an (in)opportune moment.

*Barring explicit claims by the creators of the work, any interpretation is speculative. This is one area where even a reference to a credible source does not alter the irrelevance of the interpretation to an encyclopedia. (Still, personal speculation by the article’s editors is worse.) In fact, even when the creators do make a claim or have a very clear intention, some caution can be needed, as can be seen e.g. by the “death” of Sherlock Holmes—protests by readers famously forced Arthur Conan Doyle to revive him…

Excursion on language and related issues:
With the great number of editors, each with their own weak spots, it is impossible to give an even remotely complete list. However, the following are disturbingly common:

  1. An incessant use of constructs like “being X, he Y-ed”*. Hypothetical examples include “Born in Swaziland, he studied to be a surgeon.” and “A natural red-head, he was sued for malpractice.”, typically with a similar low degree of connection between the two parts of the statement. In the rare cases where a strong connection is present, they are more acceptable, e.g. “Going blind, he was forced to give up surgery.”; however, even then other formulations are usually preferable.

    *I am unaware of an actual name for this type of construct.

    As for the reason for these ugly formulations, I would speculate that we, by now, simply have editors following a hype or trying to use “cool” way of writing, without considering factors like coherence and understandability. Part of the earlier cases could have come from either (unfortunate?) moves of insertions* or the spurious removal of words** in a misguided attempt to shorten the text***.

    *E.g. turning “X, an experienced surgeon, was skilled in anatomy.” into “An experienced surgeon, X was skilled in anatomy.”, which to some degree misses the point of an insertion, and which would be better solved by the original from the next footnote. Note that the variation “X, as an experienced surgeon, was skilled in anatomy.” is also an acceptable starting point, and might be preferable for having a greater internal connection—and would lead to exactly the original of the next footnote. (The greater internal connection can be seen by comparing e.g. “X, a young Frenchman, was skilled in anatomy.” with “X, as a young Frenchman, was skilled in anatomy.”: The latter implies a connection which simply is not warranted, while the former combines the same statements without implying a connection.)

    **E.g. turning “As an experienced surgeon, X was skilled in anatomy.” into “An experienced surgeon, X was skilled in anatomy.”, which makes the the sentence harder to understand and increases the risk of any additional error distorting the meaning.

    ***An older text on my own lack of brevity contains some words on “The Elements of Style” and its corresponding recommendation.

  2. Annoying and (depending on the intentions of the editor) possibly offensive use of “their” and “they” to indicate the third-person singular, even in cases when it introduces ambiguity. Cf. another recent text.
  3. Endless repetitions of “then [s]he”, “[s]he also”, and similar in biographic articles, e.g. to list various movies in which someone acted. (Many biographic articles give the impression that the editor is a high-school dropout.)
  4. Insisting on putting things in prose that would be better handled by a list or a table. (Overlapping with the previous item: A formal list* would have eliminated the awkward formulations.) Annoyingly, there is even a tag that suggests that this-or-that would be better off as prose, which is usually applied to perfectly legitimate lists and tables, while there is no corresponding tag for prose that should be moved to a list or table. (Or there is one that is never used…)

    *E.g. what is created by the UL or OL HTML-tags. Note that I do not necessarily suggest the type of use that I often resort to on WordPress. (My use is partially driven by not wanting to use regular headings/Hx-tags within WordPress, where the effects are not under my control; however, in other contexts, headings are often the better alternative.)

  5. Insertion of a colon (“:”) where it does not belong, e.g. “Examples of names include: Jack, Jill, and Spot”, where “include” implies that no colon should be present, the correct version being “Examples of names include Jack, Jill, and Spot”. Similarly, there should be no colon after words like “are”. In contrast, “Examples of names: Jack, Jill, Spot” would use the colon correctly.
  6. Use of “may” as a replacement for “can” and “might”, apparently under the assumption that it is “fancier”. There is a difference in meaning between the three: “may” implies a permission, “can” an ability, and “might” a possibility.* They should not be used in each others stead unless the difference in meaning is sufficiently small in the given context.**

    *For instance, someone who “can come to visit” has the ability to do so, himself being the limiting factor; someone who “may come to visit” has been allowed to do so, the host (usually) being the limiting factor; someone who “might come to visit” is still waiting to make a final decision.

    **But I admit to not always doing so perfectly myself. I was particularly prone to replace “might” with “may” when I was younger. However, note that I am not complaining about the odd error here and there—some Wikipedia articles appear to use “may” as the sole word for all three functions.

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Written by michaeleriksson

June 22, 2018 at 9:36 pm

Yet another firing based on opinion

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Browsing the pages of SVT teletext, I encountered a very disturbing entry*, dealing with events at Kalmar HC, a lower-level Swedish ice-hockey team:

*The source does not provide permanent content; however, I have saved a copy locally, should anyone require the full Swedish text.

Its trainer, one Duane Smith, has been fired for expressing private opinions on Twitter, with no immediate relation to the team or his work.

It is claimed that he made at least ten relevant statements*. Two** quotes are given, “Nigeria är världens aidshuvudstad” (“Nigeria is the aids capital of the world”) and “Fuck Islam” (no translation needed).

*“inlägg”: This is vague term that could mean different things in different contexts. I chose “statements” as a similarly vague English term. In context, “tweets” is probably what is meant.

**Note that if some of the other quotes were, in some sense, worse, it is reasonable to assume that they would have been used instead. Most likely, these two statements were those considered the most convincing. (While, cf. below, not being convincing at all…)

In the body of the text, it is claimed that he has expressed xenophobe opinions (“uttryckt främlingsfientliga åsikter”); the heading speaks of racist statements (“rasistiska inlägg”).

Looking at the two given statements, it is clear that neither can be considered racist or xenophobe in it self. Further, that even ascribing a racist or xenophobe motivation is pure speculation*. (The same applies to the alleged violation of KHC’s values. Cf. below.)

*With reservation for information not present in the entry. However, if such information was present, it would be inexcusable to not present it correspondingly, instead giving two quotes that do not support the claims. It is possible that Duane Smith is racist, but it is up to the “prosecution” to prove it.

The first claim comes close to being factually true*, does not (alone) contain any type of value statement, and could, depending on context, be seen as a factual observation or even something supportive of e.g. Nigeria**. Would there have been much outrage if he had said “The U.S. is the crime capital of the world”? Highly unlikely, even though this claim is further from the truth.

*According to Wikipedia “Nigeria has the second-largest number of people living with HIV.”, making the claim off-by-one if we count absolute numbers. Going by relative numbers, there are those who do much worse, including South-Africa, which is also the number one in absolute numbers; however, the rate is still disastrous by e.g. Swedish standards. (I give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume that “capital” is used just to follow the template phrase. However, even if he actually believed that Nigeria is a city, rather than a country, that only makes him weak at African geography—not racist.)

**Say, “Nigeria is the AIDS capital of the world. Please donate to help give the sick modern medicine.” or something implying that “AIDS capital” means “AIDS research capital”. (Which is not to say that this is what Duane Smith actually intended. The point is rather that condemning someone for this statement, without additional support, and without being explicit about context, is incompetent, intellectually dishonest, or both.)

The second expresses a negative opinion about a religion—and a religion which has members of a great number of nationalities and ethnicities, including white-as-snow Swedes. Note carefully that the claim is not even “Fuck Muslims”—it is “Fuck Islam”. To boot, this opinion is one that is shared by very many otherwise considered sensible (although most would be less blunt), be it because they dislike Islam specifically or religion in general. Here too, the context could be quite relevant.* Would there have been much outrage had he said “Fuck Christianity”? Highly unlikely (at least in Sweden).

*Compare e.g. “I just heard about the latest ISIS attack. Fuck Islam.” with “I just saw another woman with a burka. Fuck Islam.”, and note how very different these two words come over. (Notwithstanding that even the first could be seen as unfair or ignorant, seeing that ISIS is just one part of Islam, just like Nazi-Germany was just one part of Europe.)

To boot, we have to consider that Twitter, by its nature, is not a medium for eloquence and deep thought—but for soundbites and spur-of-the-moment statements. What is said on Twitter should be viewed less seriously than what is written in e.g. an article, for the simple reason that it need not reflect deeper opinions. (And for reasons like the lack of context, cf. above; or the greater relative impact of typos, “auto correction”, an accidental misformulation, …) A recent “Family Guy” episode, “The D in Apartment 23”, contains a brilliant illustration with disturbing parallels to what happened here. Some claims, e.g. “Kill all Jews.” would be out of the question even on Twitter; others, e.g. “Fuck Islam.” is within the realms of what a perfectly reasonable (but careless) person could “tweet” in the wrong circumstances—or a perfectly none-careless person when he assumes that the reader knows the context. (Cf. the above footnote.)

Further, even if Duane Smith, for the sake of argument, is a racist (xenophobe, whatnot), that is in and by itself not a legitimate reason to fire him: Actions are what counts—not opinions. A world in which opinions alone lead to such consequences is a tyranny and a dystopia, where diversity of opinion will be severely diminished, where faulty decisions will be made because they happen to be more orthodox, where even science will be hindered, where personal freedoms are unfairly reduced, … Unfortunately, this is the world towards we are increasingly heading, and even now all this, including restrictions on science, is happening—the question is merely one of degree and whether we will be able to turn this disastrous trend in time. Such firings are the more unfortunate, even offensive, considering the very large number of incompetent, negligent, and/or lazy people who are allowed to keep their jobs despite legitimate reasons to get rid of them.

His firing might have been legitimate, had it been shown that these opinions hindered him in his work. No such argument was raised, however, with the claimed reason “These opinions conflict with KHC’s values on the equal worth of all humans” (“Dessa uppfattningar står i strid med KHC:s värderingar om alla människors lika värde”). As can be seen, this was purely a matter of Duane Smith’s allegedly* having the wrong opinions. A firing might also have been legitimate, had he claimed to speak for KHC; however, no indication is made that this was the case.

*As can be seen from the above discussion, even this has not been demonstrated.

Did Duane Smith do something wrong? Yes! He appears to have apologized and not taken a fight, thereby giving the forces of intolerance and political correctness yet another easy victory, making repetitions of such scenarios even more likely, moving us even closer to dystopia.

Please, if you are ever in such a situation, in particular should you be a politician, executive, celebrity, …, have the guts to do the right thing! Take a stand for freedom of speech! Stand by your opinions! Do not just cave and apologize! (And if a PR specialist advises you to the contrary, fire him…) If sufficiently many stand up against scenarios like these, they will cease.

Clarifying note:
In the analysis of the text, it is often unclear who is to blame for what. For instance, is the grossly incorrect use of “racism” stemming from KHC or from the incompetent and PC obsessed “journalists” from SVT? Were there actual damning information that SVT left out through poor judgment? Etc. In the big picture, this does not really matter, because the overall, societal problem remains the same and of roughly the same scope. For this reason, I have chosen not to dwell deeper into the details of the issue to clarify blame, to check whether other sources might have more damming information, whatnot. However, I do advice the reader to be aware that it is not a given where, in this case, the societal problem has manifested how and who is to be criticized in detail for what.

Excursion on the PC crowd vs. Muslims:
The treatment of Islam and Muslims in PC circles is quite inconsistent: In situations like the above, anyone who says anything negative is a racist and should be fired. In other circumstances, Muslims are evil sexist bastards and … should be fired. I note specifically several cases of Muslim men refusing to shake hands with women for religious or decency reasons—despite Muslim women often having the same attitude of not wanting to shake hands with men. Indeed, this is the type of cultural difference that should be tolerated—but in PC circles imaginary misogynism appears to trump real cultural intolerance. (And misandrism is mysteriously considered non-existent…) This attitude to handshakes is not comparable to the attitude against pork, but appears to be more comparable to a Christian man not feeling up women during introductions—a matter of respect, not contempt.

Excursion on organizations and values:
It is questionable whether organizations should be allowed to profess or require values in the first place (unless, like a political party, values are a central aspect). Take KHC: It has players, it has volunteers, it has paying members, …* What if the board or whatnot suddenly decides that it has a certain set of values? What if a player/volunteer/whatnot has different values? What if, as is often the case, someone has spent decades actively supporting the club with his time and money, this someone is member of party X, and the new values are incompatible with those of X? Etc. What if the board today has different personal preferences than the board five years ago, and in another five years the new board has yet another view? Worse: Chances are that there is not even a decision on values, a list of values, or anyway to verify compliance in advance. More likely than not, these “values” were made up ad hoc to sound good in front of the press or to conform with societal expectations, like the stereotypical answer of “World peace!” from a beauty-pageant contestant.

*Assuming that it follows typical patterns in sport. I have not verified this.

Written by michaeleriksson

June 1, 2018 at 4:06 am

Abuse of “they” as a generic singular

with one comment

Preamble:
I had gathered ideas and individual paragraphs for this post for a few weeks without actually getting to the point of writing it. In order to finally get it done today, I have pushed quite a lot of what should or could have been parts of the integrated text into detached excursions at the end of the text and made some other compromises in terms of structure and contents.

One of the greatest annoyances in current English is the growing* tendency to abuse “they” as a generic third-person singular (including secondary forms, notably “their”). Below I will discuss some of the reasons why this abuse is a bad idea and give alternatives for those who (misguided, naive of the history of English, and/or unable to understand the abstractness of a language) oppose to use of “he” in the same role. An older article on “gender-neutral language” covers some other aspects, usually on a more abstract level (and some of the same ground; however, I have tried not to be too duplicative). Some other articles, including one on language change, etc., might also be of interest in context.

*While this has a fairly long history, I regularly saw people being corrected for committing this error even some five or ten years ago. To boot, cf. below, there are strong reasons to suspect that the main motivation has changed from simple ignorance or sloppiness to a deliberate abuse for PC reasons.

Below, I will largely discuss practical aspects. Before I do so, I am going to make a stand and call this abuse (when done for PC reasons) outright offensive.* It offends me, and it should offend anyone who cares about language and anyone who opposes political manipulation through newspeak. More: This is not just a question of good language or newspeak. The abuse of “they” is also a direct insult towards significant parts of the population, who are implicitly told that they are that easy to manipulate, that they and their own opinions matter so little that they deserve such manipulation, and that they need to be protected from the imaginary evils of “gendered language”. Moreover, this abuse is** often dehumanizing and deinvidualizing, in a manner disturbingly similar to what took place in the dystopian novella “Anthem”.

*I am normally very careful when it comes to words like “offensive”—unlike the PC crowd I actually understand the aspects of subjectiveness involved and how misguided such argumentation usually is. However, since “offensiveness” is used by them in such a systematic and, mostly, irrational and unjustifiable manner, I will not hold back in this case.

**At least if we were to apply PC “logic” in reverse, which, again, is something that I would likely not do, had the PC crowd not gone to their extreme excesses.

Now, discounting the evils of PC abuse, per se, the worst thing about abusing “they” is the risk of entirely unnecessary confusion and misunderstandings*: In a very high proportion of the cases I encounter, additional context or even guesswork is needed to connect “they” with the right entity/-ies; often this choice is contrary to what would be grammatically expected; occasionally there is so much ambiguity that it is impossible to be certain what was meant. Consider something like “My friend went with Jack and Jill to see their parents”: Unless they are all siblings (or went to see multiple sets of parents), this really must mean that they went to see the parents of Jack and Jill; however, in a modern PC text, it could just as easily be the friend’s parents. Or take something like “Monopoly is played by two to six players, one of which is the bank. They [the `bank’] handle most of the money.”: Without already knowing the rules, the second sentence is impossible to understand when “they” is abused (and stating something untrue when it is used correctly).

*There are situations where ambiguities can arise even when using correct grammar, especially with a sloppy author/speaker; however, the proportion is considerably lower, the probability that the ambiguities are resolved through context is higher, and the added confusion caused by the uncertainty whether a given author/speaker abuses “they” is absent. (Note that the argument that “if everyone spoke PC this would not be a problem” is flawed through failing to consider the great number of existing texts as well as the necessarily different adoption rates in different countries and generations.)

A few days ago, I encountered a particularly weird example, in the form of an error message, when I was trying to clean-up unnecessary groups and users* on my computer:

*In Unix-like systems, “users” (accounts) can be assigned “groups”. With extremely few exceptions, every user should correspond to at most one physical user. (Some users are purely technical and do not have any physical user at all.) A group, however, can be assigned to arbitrarily many users and, by implication, arbitrarily many physical users. As a special case, it is common for every user to be a member, often the sole member, of a group with the same name as the user name. Below, this is the case for the user “gnats”.

/usr/sbin/delgroup: `gnats’ still has `gnats’ as their primary group!

Here it is impossible to delete the group “gnats”, because the user “gnats” belongs to this group; however, this fact is obscured through the incompetent error message that uses “their”, giving the impression that the group is meant… In many cases, say with the user “gnats” and the group “audio”, this would not have been the end of the world, but when the names coincide, it is a horror, and interpretation requires more knowledge about the internals of the system than most modern users will have. This example is the more idiotic, because the pronoun is entirely unnecessary: “[…] as primary group!” would have done just fine. Even given that a pronoun was wanted, “its” would be the obvious first choice to someone even semi-literate, seeing that the user “gnats” is an obvious it*—regardless of whether the physical** user behind it is a he or a she.

*Similarly, a bank account remains an “it”, regardless of the sex of the account owner.

**As case has it, “gnats” is one of the users that do not have a physical user at all (cf. above footnote), making “it” the more indisputable.

The use of “their” instead of “its” is just one example of the many perverted abuses that occur. A very similar case is using “they” instead of “it” for an animal*. Mixing “one” and “they” is yet another (e.g. “one should always do their duty”, which would only be correct if “their” refers to some people other than the “one” ). A particular extreme perversion is using “they” when the sex of the person involved is actually known (or a necessity from context), as e.g. in “my friend liked the movie; they want to see it again”.**

*Whether “it” is more logical than “he”/“she” for an animal can be disputed, but it is the established rule. Going with “they” over “it” gives only disadvantages. (Even the pseudo-advantage of “gender neutrality” does not apply, because “it” already had that covered.)

**As aside, there might be some PC-extremists that actually deliberately use such formulations, because they see every sign of sex (race, nationality, religion, …) as not only irrelevant in any context, but as outright harmful, because “it could strengthen stereotypes”, or similar. Not only would this be a fanaticism that goes beyond anything defensible, it also severely damages communications: Such information is important in very many contexts, because these characteristics do have an effect in these contexts. (And it is certainly not for one party do selectively decide which of these contexts are relevant and which not.) For instance, if someone cries, the typical implications for a male and a female (or a child and an adult) are very different. Ditto, if a catholic and a protestant marriage is terminated. Etc.

Assuming that someone absolutely does not want to use “he”, there is still no need to abuse “they”. Alternatives include:*

*What alternatives are usable when can depend on the specifics of the individual case. I can, however, not recall one single abuse that could not be resolved better in at least one way. Note that I have not included variations like “he or she” or “(s)he” in the below. While these are better than “they”, and can certainly be used, they are also fairly clumsy and the below works without such clumsiness. (I have no sympathies at all for solutions like using “he” in odd-numbered chapters and “she” in even-numbered ones. They bring little value; do not solve the underlying problem, be it real or imagined; and, frankly, strike me as childish.)

  1. Use a strict plural through-out, e.g. by replacing “everyone who wants to come should bring their own beverages” with “those who want to come should bring their own beverages”.
  2. Using “one” (but, cf. above, doing it properly!), e.g. by replacing “everyone should be true to themself” with “one should be true to oneself”.
  3. Similarly, rarely* using “you”, e.g. by having “you should be true to yourself” as the replacement in the previous item.

    *Cf. another older article why “you” is usually best avoided (for completely different reasons).

  4. Using “who” or another relative pronoun, e.g. by replacing “My friend is nice. They came to help me.” with “my friend, who came to help me, is nice”.*

    *But in this specific example, the sex is known and it would be better yet to use “he” or “she” as appropriate. This applies equally in any other examples where the sex is known.

  5. Avoiding the pronoun altogether, e.g. by replacing “every student should bring their chosen book” with “every student should bring a chosen book”, or “someone asked me to describe the painting to them” with “someone asked me to describe the painting”.
  6. Using the passive, e.g. by replacing “they* brought the horses back to the stable” with “the horses were brought back to the stable”. (If there is fear of information loss, we could append a suitable “by X” at the end of the replacement, just making sure that “X” is not “them”.)

    *Assuming that this is intended as a singular. If “they” is actually used for a plural, it is perfectly fine.

  7. In many cases, it is possible to use either “he” or “she” as a semi-generic singular from context. For instance, when generalizing based or semi-based on a man/woman, “he”/“she” can often be used accordingly without losing much genericness and without upsetting any but the most extremist of the PC crowd. For instance, “If a beginner like you cannot succeed, they should still try.” would be better as (male counter-part) “[…], he […]” resp. (female counter-part) “[…], she […]”.

    (Of course, when all of those we generalize to belong to a single sex, the appropriate of “he” and “she” should be used, analogously to the Thalidomide example below.)

Excursion on “it” vs. “they”:
Using “it” rather than “they” (as a replacement for “he”) would have made much more sense, seeing that it actually is a singular and that it actually is in the neutral gender*. Many of the arguments against “they” would still apply, but if someone really, really wanted to use an existing word as a replacement, “it” really is the obvious choice. I could have had some understanding and sympathy for “it”, but “they” is not just idiotic—it is obviously idiotic.

*“They” has some (all?) characteristics of a neutral gender in English, but whether it actually is one is partly depending on perspective. In English, it might be better to consider it a mix-gender form; in other languages, there might be different words for a third-person plural depending on the grammatical genders of the group members; whatnot.

The somewhat similar (but off-topic) question of whether to use “it” or “they” for e.g. a team, a company, or a band is less clear-cut. I would weakly recommend “it” as the usually more logical alternative, as well as the alternative less likely to cause confusion; however, in some cases “they” can be better, and I probably use “they” more often in my own practical use.

Excursion on “everyone”, etc.:
Errors that originate in ignorance or sloppiness are far more tolerable than those that originate from PC abuse. The most common (relating to “they”) is probably to take “everyone” to be a grammatical plural (logically, it often is; grammatically, never), resulting in sentences like “everyone were happy with their choices”, which is almost OK and unlikely to cause confusion considerably more often than a strictly correct sentence. In contrast, a PC abuse would result in “everyone was happy with their choice”, which is ripe with possibility for misunderstanding.

Excursion on PC language in general:
It is not uncommon that other attempts to “be PC” or “gender-neutral” in language cause easily avoidable problems. For instance, parallel to writing this post I skimmed the Wikipedia article on Thalidomide, which among other claims contained “Thalidomide should not be used by people who are breast feeding or pregnant, trying to conceive a child, or cannot or will not follow the risk management program to prevent pregnancies.”—leaving me severely confused. Obviously, if we look at “breast feeding or pregnant”, this still necessarily* refers only to women**—but what about the rest of the sentence? If a man tries to conceive a child with his wife, does he too have to stay clear of Thalidomide?*** If the author of the sentence had left political correctness (and/or sloppiness) at home and spoken of “women” instead of “people” where only women were concerned, and then of “people” where both sexes were concerned, there would have been no problem present. This is the more serious, as such pages will inevitably be used for medical consultation from time to time—no matter how much their unsuitability for such purposes is stressed.

*There are rare cases of men lactating, but I have never even heard of this being used for breast feeding. If it has happened, it is too extraordinarily rare to warrant consideration here.

**Implying that speaking of “people” would be at best misguided and unnecessary, even for this first part. However, since no actual confusion or miscommunication is likely to result, this alone would be forgivable.

***Later parts of the page make clear, very contrary to my expectations, that men are included, “as the drug can be transmitted in sperm”. (I still suspect, however, that the risks are smaller for men than women, due to the smaller exposure from the fetus point of view.)

Excursion on Wikipedia:
Wikipedia, which used to be exemplary in its use of language (and strong in other “encyclopedic” characteristics) has degenerated severely over the years, with abuse of “they” being near ubiquitous. Unfortunately, other language problems are quite common; unfortunately other PC problems are quite common, including that an entirely disproportionate number of articles have a section of feminism, the feminist take on the topic, the topic’s relation to feminism, whatnot, somewhere—even when there is no particular relevance to or of feminism. (Including e.g. many articles on films with a section on how the film is interpreted using “feminist” film analysis.)

Excursion on duty to correctness:
Human acquisition and development of language is to a large part imitative. When people around us use incorrect language, there is a considerable risk, especially with young people, that the errors will be infective. For this reason, it could possibly be argued that we have duty to be as correct as possible (within the borders of our own abilities). When it comes to e.g. teachers, TV, news papers, … I would speak of a definite such duty: They have the opportunity to affect and, possibly, infect so many people that it is absurd to be sloppy, especially seeing that many of them have the resources to use professional checkers, e.g. copy editors. (Of course, sadly, these also have other duties like proper research, “fairness in reporting”, and whatnot, that are neglected disturbingly often.)

Excursion on logic of language:
Much of language is illogical or arbitrary, or seems to be so, because of remnants of long-forgotten and no longer used rules; however, much of it is also quite logical and a great shame today is that so many people are so unable to see patterns, rules, consequences, whatnot, that should be obvious.* Failing to keep numbers consistent is one example. Others include absurdities like “fast speed”, “I could care less”, “in the same … with …”, “try and”. That someone slips up on occasion is nothing to be ashamed of—I do too**. However, there are very many whose language is riddled with such errors, and there appear to be a very strong correlations between such errors and low intelligence, poor education, and simply not giving a damn.

*Not to be confused with the many language errors that arise from e.g. not remembering the spelling of a certain word, having misunderstood what a word means, not knowing the right grammatical rule, … These are usually easier to forgive, being signals of lack of knowledge rather than inability to think. Other classes of errors not included are simple slips of the pen/keyboard and deliberate violations, say the inexcusable practice of abusing full stops to keep the nominal length of a sentence down, even at the cost of both hacking the sentence to pieces that cannot stand alone and making it harder to understand.

**I have a particular weak spot for words that sound similar, e.g. “to”, “too”, and (occasionally) “two”: Even being perfectly aware of which is the correct in a given context, I sometimes pick the wrong one through some weird automatism. The difference between a plural and a possessive “s”-suffix is another frequent obstacle.

Written by michaeleriksson

May 27, 2018 at 7:41 am

The heresy of racial differences

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When I first read “The Bell Curve” in my mid-twenties, I was also first confronted with the modern U.S. takes on racism, finding an enormous difference between what the book said and what its detractors claimed that it said.

This also led me to for the first time contemplate questions like racism on a more nuanced level than the “racism is evil” take I learned in school. One of my central observations what that I had had a lot of exposure to sci-fi and fantasy, e.g. through the various “Star Trek” series. Through this exposure, I knew that I could take large differences in a stride, respect radically different cultures and species for their strengths, and develop strong sympathies for beings that were not even human. Indeed, it was regularly the case that humans were not the top dogs in terms of the qualities I favour the most, like intelligence and intellectual accomplishment; occasionally, as with Tolkien’s elves vs. humans, humans lost over the entire line. For my part, I found myself in occasional unexpected situations, like being troubled by the ethics of Buffy’s often unprovoked slaying of vampires*; preferring the looks** of the all-Klingon version of B’Elanna over the all-human version when she was split into two alter egos; or seeing an almost apartheid level take on creatures in the “Narnia” books***.

*They were regularly killed in a blanket manner for being vampires, with the ipso facto conclusion that they were blood-thirsty and ruthless killers—without verification that the conclusion was actually correct. While the conclusion might well have been true in a vast majority of cases, the example of Spike proves that there was no certainty. His abstinence was, admittedly, forced upon him, but the fact that he got by well proves that a vampire that forego killing; while his later decision to regain his soul, as well as some other behaviors shown, forms a strong indication that some vampires might make that decision. (Within the Buffy-verse, the absence of a soul is what sets vampires apart from humans on the mental side. Note that Angel is a weaker example, because he already had his soul restored—he was physically a vampire and mentally a human; Spike was all vampire.)

**This was not such much a question of beauty as it was of the former preserving more of what I perceived as “B’Elanna”-ness. A Klingon would quite possibly have come to the reverse conclusion, having the reverse frame of reference.

***Note the clear, divinely approved or created, hierarchy of humans above talking animals above regular animals; and the easily drawn parallels between the English children and the builders of the British Empire (as viewed by its proponents) resp. the talking animals and the natives conquered by the British Empire. (And, yes, I have read the books several times as an adult.)

How then could anyone reasonably believe that I would be fazed by the far smaller differences within humankind, that I could be racist?

The answer to this is simple, and it also explains a very significant part of the criticisms launched against e.g. “The Bell Curve”: To many modern activists, racism amounts to merely contemplating that there could be differences of any kind that are not “skin deep”. (To some degree, the same applies m.m. to sexism and likely a few other “-isms”.) It does not matter whether I could view someone non-White as equal or even superior, whether I could appreciate differences, what I believe about the relative size of individual variations and group differences, … By even suggesting that there could be group differences, I am automatically written off as a racist. The very suggestion is heresy, punishable by automatic excommunication, to the PC orthodoxy.

Of course, this is far from all that is wrong with the attacks on alleged racism or misuse of the word “racism” (cf. a longer older article), but I have over time grown to consider this the single greatest problem, as well as the problem rational thinkers gain the most from understanding before approaching the debate.

Written by michaeleriksson

December 2, 2017 at 9:43 am

Microaggressions

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About a week ago, I found that I had a few old comment subscriptions unconfirmed. Confirming them, I took the opportunity to revisit the respective posts, including one on so called microaggressions that (again) struck me as unusually idiotic. I read up on Wikipedia (Microaggression, Microaffirmation), saw my view confirmed—and saw several independent minor mentions of the (alleged) phenomenon during my readings this week.

Since this concept appears to be of importance to some groups, I am moved to a discussion with the main conclusions (that should be obvious) that much of this is nonsense and misinterpretation, that it serves to create a feeling of hostile treatment where non is present, that it provides further excuses for those who do not take responsibility for their own actions*, and that it is a good way for movements who have accomplished their goals and ran out of targets to pretend that work is still direly needed—and likely unending work at that. The concept and state or research appears to be at best proto-scientific, more likely “gender studies” level pseudo-science. In as far as the discussions I have seen have something to offer, then when we leave the area of what can be considered “micro-”… To boot, it is very vulnerable to the problem of “you find what you are looking for”, likely to the point that a primer on microaggressions can make an easily influenced member of a minority suddenly see evil all around him—making his life and the lives of those who interact with him worse in the process…

*Even when it comes to “ordinary” claims of aggression, discrimination, …, the alleged victims are often just misinterpreting events that would have happened similarly for everyone else or are actually resulting from their own behavior. Was your boss mean to you because you are a woman—or because you performed poorly (or because he is an ass-hole)? Did you not get that job because of your skin color—or because someone else was better qualified (or had better personal connections, or made a better superficial impression, …)? We live in a world where we can count on negative things happening to us on a frequent basis, and if we make the mistake of thinking that we are alone and that it must be because of X, well, that is a recipe for victim mentality. I, e.g., could conclude that Germans must have negative feelings about Swedes—and some kind of “Swedar” to boot that allows them to identify me so easily.

The first Wikipedia article gives the following description

Psychologist Derald Wing Sue defines microaggressions as “brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership”. He describes microaggressions as generally happening below the level of awareness of well-intentioned members of the dominant culture. According to Sue, microaggressions are different from overt, deliberate acts of bigotry, such as the use of racist epithets, because the people perpetrating microaggressions often intend no offense and are unaware they are causing harm. Microaggressions are known to be subtle insults that direct towards the person or a group of people as a way to “put down”. He describes microaggressions as including statements that repeat or affirm stereotypes about the minority group or subtly demean them. They also position the dominant culture as normal and the minority one as aberrant or pathological, that express disapproval of or discomfort with the minority group, that assume all minority group members are the same, that minimize the existence of discrimination against the minority group, seek to deny the perpetrator’s own bias, or minimize real conflict between the minority group and the dominant culture.

Already from this definition at least the following problems are clear: The concept is hard to investigate and leaves very much up to the interpretation, even imagination, of the investigator; a negative proof or an “acquittal” (i.e. “you are innocent of microaggressions”) is virtually impossible to get. Microaggressions arbitrarily only go from the dominant culture towards others*, for no obvious objective reason, leaving us with the need for another concept in the other direction (e.g. a black man showing the same alleged behaviors towards a white man as a microaggressive white man does towards him) and unfortunate room for political/rhetorical/whatnot abuse of the concept. The “aggression” part is a severe misnomer, seeing that these alleged events are often unconscious—or even friendly or positive**! The concept is removed from the intention of the “perpetrator” and (at least when factoring in examples and wider discussions) reliant on the reactions of the “victim”. (In other words, yet another concept that allows criminalizing even people who are innocent based on both their own intentions and the opinions of reasonable neutral observers. The subjective reactions of the other party, even when entirely unreasonable, are the only thing that counts.)

*A common problem: I note e.g. how the Swedish “hate laws” (“hets mot folkgrupp”, roughly “aggitation against sub-population”) arbitrarily adds women to minorities and leaves men out—despite their being more women than men (i.e. men having a greater claim to be a minority). To say “all Jews should be shot” is a violation of this law, ditto “all women should be shot”; however, “all men should be shot” is not. Even if we were to accept the premise (highly disputable when the law was created; indisputably incorrect today) that women are in need of so much more protection than men that minority protections must be extended, there is no justifiable reason to exclude men—there is nothing legitimate to be gained from this special treatment. (And laws should be written to be general, consistent, and not contain weird exceptions. The same applies m.m. to scientific concepts and theories.) Another example is the sometime deliberate misdefinition of “racism” to necessitate a position of power (very much like microaggressions above), with absurd conclusions like “Blacks cannot be racist.”, irrespective of their actual opinions and behaviors—a misdefinition that with virtual certainty stems from a wish to abuse the concept of racism for self-serving purposes.

**For instance, one of the examples provided by the above Sue is “Ascription of intelligence: When Asian-Americans are stereotyped as being intelligent or assumed to be smart.”: If such things count as microaggressions, then the conclusion is that we must either (unscientifically) deny any difference between groups, be they cultural, genetic, whatnot, or any type of stereotype must be avoided (even when otherwise justified; note that stereotypes serve a purpose and the problems lie in not considering individual variations).

How absurdly this idea can be applied is shown by another Wikipedia quote of Sue: “[…] correcting a student’s use of “indigenous” in a paper by changing it from upper- to lowercase.” Taken to such extremes, any type of direct or indirect criticism, regardless of grounds and justification, would be impossible; correcting papers would be pointless; and school even more unproductive than today.

Among the more absurd other examples we find e.g. “displaying nude pin-ups of women at places of employment, someone making unwanted sexual advances toward another person”: In the first case, it is not clear what would be negative to begin with*, and we have a weird dependency on external circumstance and/or a definition problem—is this a microaggression when no women are present? If “yes”, how can this be without a “victim”; if “no”, why should e.g. the members of an all-male workplace suddenly become microaggressors when a woman visits? In the second, we have a strong dependency on the reactions of the other party—it is impossible to know in general whether sexual advance will be welcome or unwelcome. Effectively, if I approach a woman and she reacts positively—everything is fine. She reacts negatively—microaggression!

*Feminist clap trap about “objectification” and similar aside: I want legitimate reasons—not empty rhetoric. Besides, the one image in such a category that I have seen in one of my workplaces was showing a man and owned by a woman…

As Wikipedia says in the lede:

However, a number of psychologists and other authors, including Bradley Campbell, Heather Mac Donald, Amitai Etzioni, Jonathan Haidt, Greg Lukianoff, Jason Manning, Ralph Nader, and Christina Hoff Sommers, have argued that the concept of microaggressions is scientifically not well substantiated and may be harmful to both individuals and society. The concept of perceived microaggression has also been described as part of victimhood culture.

Or further down:

Some scholars think that the environment of protectiveness, of which microaggression allegations are a part, prepares students “poorly for professional life, which often demands intellectual engagement with people and ideas one might find uncongenial or wrong”.

Or yet further down:

Kenneth R. Thomas claimed in American Psychologist that recommendations inspired by microaggression theory, if “implemented, could have a chilling effect on free speech and on the willingness of White people, including some psychologists, to interact with people of color.” Sociologists Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning have written in the academic journal Comparative Sociology that the microaggression concept “fits into a larger class of conflict tactics in which the aggrieved seek to attract and mobilize the support of third parties” that sometimes involves “building a case for action by documenting, exaggerating, or even falsifying offenses”. It has been argued that the concept of microaggressions is a symptom of the breakdown in civil discourse, that microaggressions are “yesterday’s well-meaning faux pas”, that it has become “unacceptable to question the reasonableness (let alone the sincerity) of someone’s emotional state”, making adjudication of alleged microaggressions like witch trials.

Or in the section “Scientific status of the concept”:

Some psychologists have criticized microaggression theory for assuming that verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities are necessarily due to bias It has also been pointed out that it is uncertain whether a behavior is due to racial bias or is a larger phenomenon that occurs regardless of identity conflict. In a 2017 peer-reviewed review of microaggression literature, Scott Lilienfeld, while acknowledging the reality of “subtle slights and insults directed toward minorities”, concluded that the concept and programs for its scientific assessment are “far too underdeveloped on the conceptual and methodological fronts to warrant real-world application”. He recommended abandonment of the term microaggression since “the use of the root word ‘aggression’ in ‘microaggression’ is conceptually confusing and misleading” and called for a moratorium on microaggression training programs until further research can develop the field.

Althea Nagai, who works as a research fellow at the conservative Center for Equal Opportunity, accuses microaggression research of being pseudoscience. Nagai asserts that the prominent critical race researchers behind microaggression theory “reject the methodology and standards of modern science.” She lists various technical shortcomings of microaggression research, including “biased interview questions, reliance on narrative and small numbers of respondents, problems of reliability, issues of replicability, and ignoring alternative explanations.”

The post I originally encountered (s. above) is much of the same nonsense. My original comment:

The specific case of “you speak so well” more-or-less necessitates bad faith on behalf of the observer to be considered even a micro-aggression. In all likelihood, it is a genuine compliment (or flattery…)—and not one that can be considered a sign of e.g. racism, seeing that there are easily observed differences in average language performance between various groups. (Differences that to boot are only indirectly race related through the direct mechanism of migration.)

(As an aside, living in Germany where the third language I learned is spoken, I know quite a lot about the experiences of non-native speakers. Believe me: Such statements are quite likely even when both parties are White Europeans of different nationalities who optically easily pass for natives in each others countries.)

Several of your other examples and/or your reasoning could be vulnerable to similar objections, noting observable differences in typical behaviour of groups. This will to a large degree depend on how the various statements were delivered and contextual information not present in the post. Claims of racism are particularly vulnerable, seeing that the examples can typically be seen as related to non-racial aspects or be explained by other phenomena than racism (even when actually micro-aggressions).

Written by michaeleriksson

November 4, 2017 at 1:07 pm

Follow-up: Swedish teletext and PC obsession

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And I visit the teletext again, only to find:

Page 304 and 305 deal with the alleged sending of “penis images” to a female official (?) by three members of the Swedish national soccer team.

Page 306 deals with a claim that FIFA spent about as much money on a celebratory event as on developing women’s soccer. (FIFA retorts that the numbers are incorrect.)

(Remember that these pages are the very first pages of the sport section after the table of contents, the equivalent of the front page of an ordinary news paper.)

This is a truly sickening agenda pushing and abuse of what should be the sports section.

Written by michaeleriksson

October 26, 2017 at 7:03 pm

Swedish teletext and PC obsession

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I have already written repeatedly about incompetent journalism in Sweden (in general) and the teletext of the Swedish national television (in particular, cf. e.g. [1]). At the same time, topics like feminism and political correctness have been extremely common.

Quite often these areas of concern overlap in my daily observations. For instance: Earlier today, I visited the aforementioned teletext online. For the umpteenth time, the sports section had prioritized PC issues over actual sports news.

Pages 303 and 304 (i.e. the first and second article page, after the “table of contents” for the sport section on pages 300–302) dealt with criticism of the nomination of one Deyna Castellanos, apparently an 18 y.o. amateur, for FIFA’s female player of the year award. This is border-line news worthy to begin with, better suited for a single paragraph in an overall discussion of the award—and it is given two full pages* at the virtual front page. I saw no other entry dealing with the awards or nominations in general… Apparently poor Deyna is not good enough for the nomination and this is proof that FIFA does not care enough about women’s soccer**. (Of course, another interpretation is that FIFA does care and wants to increase attention through picking someone young and exciting. Yet another that FIFA simply and honestly thinks very highly of her…) The pages were (justifiably) categorized as “soccer”.

*But beware that the teletext pages are much shorter than regular news paper pages.

**Specifically, a quote by a U.S. player, Megan Rapinoe, is given in Swedish “Det skickar en tydlig signal att Fifa inte bryr sig om damfotboll”, which re-translated into English amounts to “It sends a clear signal that Fifa does not care about women’s soccer”. This would not be quote-worthy for someone not trying to angle this into a “pesky old white men” issue, and that they have to resort to quoting a U.S. player is a strong sign that they either dug deep or deliberately have cherry-picked the topic from an English source. (Which is the case, I can only speculate. Neither case would happen with a news source and individual writer without an agenda, however.)

Page 305 (the third page) dealt with a Swedish cross-country skier (Charlotte Kalla) praising some form of social media campaign (“MeToo”) on sharing abuse experiences. In as far as this is news worthy, it has little or nothing to do with sport and should be put in a more general news sector. This page was very dubiously classified as “cross-country skiing”, likely for the sole reason that this is Kalla’s sport.

Page 307* contained claims by an alleged sports researcher (“Idrottsforskaren”) Jesper Fundberg, who is not surprised about alleged penis images sent by players on the national team… (There is no context given and there is no substantiation that this had actually taken place, but such information might be clear from previous reporting.) He says e.g. “Jag skulle säga att det finns en normalisering av hur män tar plats. Det är en normalisering av mäns sätt att trycka dit, trycka upp och trycka ner kvinnor på olika sätt”—“I would say that there is a normalization** of how men take up space***. It is a normalization of men’s way to press on, press up and press down**** women in various ways”. This page was extremely dubiously classified as “soccer”.

*I am a little confused as to what happened to page 306. In my recollection, these were all consecutive pages. It could be that I misremembered; it could be that page 306 dealt with either the same topic as 305 or 307 and was prematurely closed by me. By the nature of the medium, I cannot go back and check, but have to go by what is in those tabs I kept open. (No, the page is not in my browser cache either.)

**Likely in the sense of having become/begin considered a state of normality, something taken more or less for granted. While this is a legitimate academic and “social discourse” term, I have found it to be rare outside certain circles of ideologically driven pseudo-scientists and propagandists, and to some degree it serves as a shibboleth (at least when used outside an academic context).

***Or, possibly, how men take seats. Either which way, it is a metaphorical expression for alleged male behaviors centering around attention hogging and similar phenomena in the general, highly prejudiced and unfair “men feel entitled, especially when they compare themselves to women” genre.

****The sentence is only very marginally better in Swedish. He appears to invent expressions as he goes along… What he actually intends to say is almost certainly that tired old lie/prejudice that men oppress women.

This is exactly the type of astrology level bull-shit a serious news source should filter out—certainly not feature prominently. He contributes to anti-male prejudices, spreads misinformation, and gives a very distorted view of the world to those too uninformed or too weak at critical thinking see through it. His talk of “normalization” borders on the offensive, considering how heavily tilted large portions of Swedish society is towards women as the norm and/or the “good” sex.

To boot, he does not at all appear to be a sports researcher: Going by an Internet search, he is more of a gender studies guy to begin with, and I saw no signs of sports research. His own web pages calls him an ethnologist and consultant, and puts down his field of business as gender, equality, and diversity. (In the Swedish original, respectively “etnolog”, “konsult”, “genus”, “jämställdhet” and “etnisk mångfald”.) In other words: He is not only a gender studies guy, with all what that implies, but he actually makes money from spreading this type of misinformation and relies on the continuation of such prejudices for his livelihood…

(Note: Using “post by email” I originally managed to publish a version in which some changes were not yet written to disk. That version has been deleted.)

Written by michaeleriksson

October 23, 2017 at 11:58 pm