Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Posts Tagged ‘propaganda

Reality disconnect

with one comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider some common problems with reporting:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Written by michaeleriksson

August 26, 2017 at 7:11 pm

A few thoughts around the Charlottesville controversy

with 2 comments

Disclaimer: I have not had the time to look into the details of the specific situation, and cannot rule out that the blame for the events rests e.g. on Neo-Nazi groups or the KKK. However, the events tie in, especially in light of Trump’s controversial statements, with a number of general thoughts I have entertained for quite some time, and I am taking the opportunity to discuss at least some of them.

  1. On a great number of occasions, I have read both German and Swedish news stories starting with a headline in the direction of “Extreme-Right march results in violence”, followed by a main text discussing victims, property damage, whatnot, leading to the natural assumption that the violence stemmed from the extreme Right*. However, at the very end of these stories there is a small, hidden away sentence: The original demonstrators had been marching more-or-less peacefully—and then been attacked by members of the extreme Left… (Those who only read the head lines or never get to the end of an article will get a very distorted world-view indeed.)

    *I restate my opinion that speaking of “Right” (extreme or not) is entirely pointless; “extreme Right” the more so, since the “extreme Right” does not correspond to a more extreme set of methods or “Right” opinions than the “moderate Right” (and so on)—very much unlike the Left. In fact, the “extreme Right” is often arbitrarily defined as nationalists, racists, and the like, without any regard for other opinions—even when those opinions, as is very often the case in e.g. Sweden, are otherwise mostly on the “Left”…

    Indeed skimming* through the Wikipedia page, I see e.g. that the “Right” used statements like “White lives matter”, while their opponents used extremes like “Kill All Nazis”. Let us turn this around: One group says “Black lives matters”, the other “Kill all Black Panthers”**—what is your take on that situation?

    *I do not claim that these examples, or even the Wikipedia entry as a whole, give a full picture of who is evil, holds what opinions, …, in this specific situation. However, this matches what I have seen in other contexts very well—and should it not hold in this specific case, it does hold in many others. Notably, the people complaining about “hate”/“haters”/“hate speech” are usually the bigger sinners by a considerable distance.

    **By which I do not intend to put the NSDAP and the Black Panthers on an equal footing. Then again, the Neo-Nazis of today are not the NSDAP either and many of those called Nazis are nothing of the kind.

    As always, it is important to look more at actions than opinions.

  2. The original cause, the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue, is part of a great problem of hypocrisy and historical revisionism in the U.S.:

    The civil war is by now almost exclusively portrayed as a war over slavery, with the South a nation of evil-doers and the North the shining knights in white armor. In reality, slavery (and arguably more general disagreements about who should decide what for whom) was the cause of the secession and the war was fought over whether the South had a right to secede—not over slavery. In this, the ensuing civil war goes in direct opposition to the earlier revolutionary war, where the then colonies did what? They seceded over issues like taxation and representation… Would the U.S. have declared war on Canada, had slavery been legal there? Almost certainly not (barring the eventuality of a pretext to expand). Would the North have declared war on the South, had they seceded over, say, a new cotton tax? Very likely*.

    *Doubt remains mostly because of questions of what political issues are sufficiently loaded that a war will gain acceptance in the populace and what can and cannot be patched up. (Compare e.g. the World Wars to the Vietnam war.) It would e.g. be imaginable that a cotton-tax secession would have led to a brief crisis, which was resolved with a voluntary reunification, or to a war of two months after which both sides were fed up and let each other be.

    Was Robert E. Lee such a monster that his statues should be removed? Skimming through his Wikipedia page, I see nothing that would indicate this or anything that would make him worse than, say, Washington (but Washington won; Lee lost). He was to some degree involved with slavery, but apparently somewhat accidentally (as executor of a will) or even reluctantly, and there is nothing remarkable mentioned by the standards of his society. He even appears to have originally opposed the secession… If anything, I suspect, the root is a wish by the populist Left to follow the lead of Orwell’s* Big Brother and stamp out any potential sign of disagreement or dissenting thought, to paint every opponent, even non-ally, as evil beyond measure, and so on—something I have very often observed in Sweden and, to a lesser degree, Germany. Notably, the park of the statue used to be called “Lee Park”—it is now called “Emancipation Park”. There is no doubt to me that this change of name is ideologically and/or politically driven; I would even suspect that the name was chosen demonstrably; I would not rule out a deliberate provocation**.

    *Reading Orwell is an education in it self, especially when it comes to the problems with the Left. The fact that someone himself so far to the Left was so critical of the behavior, hypocrisy, …, of the Left is remarkable. Much of “Animal Farm” and “Nineteen Eighty-Four” is based directly on his personal experiences, observations, and thoughts on various Leftist parties and movements in Britain, Spain, and the USSR. Orwell looked at the actions of the Left, not the opinions of the Left. Similarly my own extremely negative opinion of the Left, the politically correct, and, above all, feminists is rooted not in their opinions; it is rooted in how they behave, how they confront dissenting opinions, how they handle conflicts between their theories and actual observations, …

    **I suspect that the extremely negative attitudes that e.g. the Swedish PC crowd displays towards everything non-PC actually serve to worsen problems with e.g. racism and xenophobia: Because even legitimate discussion of topics like immigration or immigration problems are so hard to do in public forums, many who try to start such discussions are driven out and end up in discussions with actual xenophobes instead, where they have every opportunity to be “radicalized” or whatnot. The same danger is present with e.g. the above renaming, being a signal (or, if not, very likely will come across as a signal) of “you are either with us or what you think and feel does not matter”.

  3. Somewhat overlapping with the previous item, people in general and the Left/the PC crowd specifically, tend to have a very weak grasp of history, judging behavior and events in different times by the standards of the current time*, seeing too much in black-and-white, seeing the historical “us” as heroic and the historical “them” as evil**, and often being ignorant of even the most basic relevant facts***. Now, I am by no means a historian, but I can at least say that my knowledge and understanding has developed past high school, and that I actually bother to think—the same cannot be said about most people. (Regrettably, the “think” part does not automatically apply to all historians either…)

    *Examples include speaking of “poverty” among modern people who live very well by the standards of a hundred years ago, looking down on or even morally condemning people of old who simple had access to less knowledge, criticizing behavior that was necessary for survival at one time but is so no more, comparing the life of one group of people (e.g. U.S. slaves) back then with modern groups instead of contemporary groups (including e.g. the British lower class of the 19th century or the bottom rungs of the feudal hierarchy a few hundred years earlier); applying modern standards for warfare on wars of old; …

    **Consider e.g. how Vlad Tepes is a Hitlerian figure in most of the Western world, but a folk hero among his compatriots; how Napoleon is still viewed differently in different parts of Europe; how the estimate of e.g. U.S. presidents varies depending on their involvement in “good” wars (Washington, Lincoln, even such a disaster as FDR); or, obviously, how differently Robert E. Lee is viewed in various U.S. groups.

    ***A particular laughable example is feminist complaints that Swedish women did not receive the right to vote until the 1920s—oh, oppression and discrimination! In reality, some men received the right to vote only a dozen years earlier; men in general at the exact same time as women did; and factoring in that men, even then, were only allowed to vote after they had completed the mandatory military service, they were briefly worse off than women…

  4. In many cases, the questions of who is in the right and who in the wrong, who did what to whom, what the facts say, appears to be irrelevant. If the facts do not match reality—ignore them. It does not matter, in this regard, whether Trump was right* or not, when he spoke of violence from different directions—the Left would have condemned such statements either which way. It does not matter, whether “The Bell-Curve”** was good or bad science, factually correct or faulty, neutral or racists—the PC crowd would have condemned it either which way. It does not matter, whether I post a dissenting comment with a scientific finding*** or a curse on a feminist blog—the blog owner will censor it either which way.

    *I have no clear opinion on this specific situation. (But in many others, he would have been correct or even unfair towards the “Right”. Cf. above.)

    **While there have been some scientific objections raised, this applies to virtually any scrutinized work; the picture painted by many Leftists is a very grave distortion of the actual contents and the claims made.

    ***The former has more often than not led to censorship (but admittedly not quite always)—so often that I hardly ever bother these days. I am not certain whether the latter has ever happened (but I have been tempted many, many times).

See e.g. [1], [2] for examples of potentially similar blame pushing; and e.g. [3], [4], [5] for examples of how the Left’s behaviour is more fascist than the “Right’s”. My previous post also touches on some points common with this post.

Written by michaeleriksson

August 17, 2017 at 10:45 pm

Do you want equality? I hate to break it to you, but you’re a hardcore ANTI-feminist. I swear.

with 3 comments

In the process of cleaning up my tabs (cf. the previous entry), I also re-encountered a particularly annoying blog entrye (and guess whose factual-but-dissenting comment had been censored…):

The post makes a long quote from a feminist work that I will analyze below, and seems to have an exceedingly naive view of what feminism is:

Do you think it’s fair that a guy will make more money doing the same job as you? Does it piss you off and scare you when you find about your friends getting raped? Do you ever feel like shit about your body? Do you ever feel like something is wrong with you because you don’t fit into this bizarre ideal of what girls are supposed to be like?

As has been discussed repeatedly, it is a myth that women earn less than men for equal work. Cf. e.g. [1]. The number of women who are raped is comparatively small—far smaller than feminists like to claim. The perception that a woman has to adhere to a certain ideal and her insecurities about this stem primarily from herself and other women.

Well, my friend, I hate to break it to you, but you’re a hardcore feminist. I swear.

Not at all: Apart from the contextual remarks already given, equal pay is not something feminist (it can even increasingly be seen as anti-feminist); however, the stubborn belief, contrary to evidence, that women earn significantly less than men for equal work is indeed strongly overlapping with feminist opinions. Similarly, an opposition to rape is not feminist—only the distortion of statistics and definitions, and the cheap rhetoric around it. Similarly, again, criticism of e.g. body ideals is not feminism—but the unfair attempts to blame men for them usually are.

Indeed, I would not hesitate to claim that someone who truly wants equal opportunities, rights, responsibilities, whatnot, for the sexes is, by necessity, anti-feminist: Feminism is currently the greatest single threat to this goal—as is abundantly clear to anyone with insight into the situation in Sweden.

For some reason, feminism is seen as super anti: anti-men, anti-sex, anti-sexism, anti-everything. And while some of those antis aren’t bad things, it’s not exactly exciting to get involved in something that’s seen as so consistently negative.

On the contrary, feminism has for a long time benefited from an undeserved reputation as a force of good—including begin “pro-” (most notably pro-equality). That the pendulum is starting to turn is a good thing. (Notwithstanding that the presence of absolute nutcases, e.g. Andrea Dvorkin, has made the proportion of early anti-feminists and those sceptic to feminism in the US greater than in e.g. Sweden.)

As an aside, I have to ask which of the “some of those antis” that “aren’t bad things” are: A plural is indicated, which implies that at least one of “anti-men”, “anti-sex”, and “anti-everything”, would be good. Twisted world-view or lack of writing ability? Experiences with feminists could point to the former, the previous incongruency in the first three sentences quoted point to the latter.

The good news is that feminism isn’t all antis. It’s progressive and – as cheesy as it sounds – it’s about making your life better.

Feminism is severely regressive and destructive. If “your” refers specifically to a woman, the last sentence may be true in theory, but wrong in practice—in the end feminism is likely to do more harm than good to women too. Where men are concerned, even consideration for negative side-effects on men (e.g. from new legislation) is usually absent; attempts to actively improve life for men are as good as unheard of.

As different as we all are, there’s one thing most young women have in common: we’re all brought up to feel like something is wrong with us. We’re too fat. We’re dumb. We’re too smart. We’re not ladylike enough – stop cursing, chewing with your mouth open, speaking your mind. We’re too slutty. We’re not slutty enough.

A pure strawman: Firstly, this is an over-generalization. Secondly, the ones doing the “bringing up” in this direction are typically other women. Thirdly, the claim ignores the many similar issues that men have. Fourthly, this has nothing to do specifically with feminism—feminism is not the white knight in shining armor who will save the poor women from this windmill.

Looking at the comments, it is not an iota better:

(Ellen Smith)

Well, feminism is a strong word but being a feminist doesn’t necessarily mean “man-hater” I think that is a misconception. It’s just about being equal in spite of biological/gender differences…

The implication that feminism would be seen as equaling man-hate is partially a strawman, partially glossing over the fact that disturbingly many feminists have very strong negative feelings about men—when not hate, then at least despise. Further, severe prejudices about what men want, think, do, and what the “male role” is are abundant.

Feminism is not about “being equal in spite of biological/gender differences”. On the contrary, a significant part of the main feminist ideology of today is the stubborn denial of any such differences (outside of mere physical characteristics). Further, the feminist movement has proved again and again that it strives not for equality, but for women’s rights and benefits—even at the cost of equality.

(Caroline Garrod/the blog author resp. text quoter)

I would argue, though, that “feminism” doesn’t have to be a strong word – it can and hopefully one day will be universally perceived as a normal statement, as much as one would say “of course I’m antiracist”.

Again a direct reversal of the actual position of feminism in public perception. Being feminist has been the politically correct and accepted position for several decades—at best/worst, it has been a merely acceptable position; at worst/best, half the college women loudly proclaim themselves to be feminists (usually without having any idea of what modern feminism entails).

The recent growing turn-around is positive and it is to be hoped that one day the claim “of course I’m antifeminist” will be just as normal as “of course I’m antiracist”: Feminism and racism are both destructive ideologies that no enlightened person should support.

(With reservations for “racist” and “anti-racist” being used in their proper meanings. As have been observed repeatedly, this is rarely the case. Cf. e.g. [2].)

The author of the original text, by the way, is Jessica Valenti, whose name I have repeatedly seen associated with anti-male prejudice, blaming of men, and similar. A quick web search found e.g. [3]e and [4]e.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 3, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Unfair argumentation methods V: Intermezzo on Hitler und Mein Kampf

with 12 comments

With the debate around Sverigedemokraterna, I decided to finally read Hitler’s Mein Kampfw, in order to better judge the sometime claim that SD is a Nazi-organisation. (I have also found it useful make an effort to read books that are or have been influential, even if their intrinsic value seems dubious.)

About one third through, I have found many statements that are pertinent to this article series, most notably in Chapter 6, “Kriegspropaganda” (“War propaganda”), showing Hitler’s conclusions about propaganda with an eye on the German left and the respective British and German efforts during WWI. These conclusions not only go some way to explain the success of unfair reasoning (and, possibly, its popularity on the left), but also many of Hitler’s and NSDAP’s own later actions. (And what else may be said about Hitler, his success in the area of propaganda was immense and indisputable.)

I would advise all who have strong opinions about people from different groups (be they determined by race, class, sex, opinion, …) to read this chapter very closely—and ask themselves whether they are pawns blindly following manipulators using these strategies. (Online editions can be found following the Wikipedia link. Check your local copyright situation before use.)

A few core issues:

  1. Propaganda is to be directed at the masses, who are sufficiently easily fooled and led by it. In contrast, those who are of higher intelligence should be met with a different approach based on actual reasoning and facts.

    While this is something which we can observe in everyday life (politics, commercials, whatnot), few politicians today would dare say it. Mona Sahlinw, the leader of the Swedish social-democrats, is an excellent example of this—in fact, she may take it too far, literally talking to adults as if they were little children, including tone of voice, and taking dumbing-down to an extreme where there is more-or-less no content left.

  2. There is much to be gained in portraying the enemy as a dangerous and evil monster.

    This is a common technique in propaganda, which can be readily observed in a wide variety of contexts. Consider e.g. Swedish leftist propaganda, Bush’s “Axis of Evil” (which has some justification, but that is beside the point in this context), the Arabic/Islamic “ Great American Satan”, or, indeed, the Nazis on Jews).

  3. Propaganda should be one-sided and not concede any good points in the enemies positions.

    While Hitler makes a decent case for this item, it is not necessarily one that I recognize as being systematically used—or as necessarily being effective outside of “preaching to the choir” contexts. (Then again, I may well be over-estimating the masses—which I have a long history of doing.) However, in Sweden many such examples can be found, e.g. in the attacks on Sverigedemokraterna (cf. the previous post).

  4. Propaganda must be limited in content and constantly repeat this content.

    This is certainly something that the advertising industry has taken to heart. Similarly, if we look at the political messages displayed to the masses during election campaigns, they tend to focus on just a few core issues.

Another highly pertinent theme:

Daher muß eine Vielzahl von innerlich verschiedenen Gegnern immer zusammengefaßt werden, so daß in der Einsicht der Masse der eigenen Anhänger der Kampf nur gegen einen Feind allein geführt wird. Dies stärkt den Glauben an das eigene Recht und steigert die Erbitterung gegen den Angreifer auf dasselbe.

(For this reason, a multitude of internally different opponents must always be joined together, so that the fight is only against one enemy in the understanding of the mass of own supporters. This will strengthen the faith in ones own right [righteousness?] and increase the exasperation against those who attack it.)

Here we have many of the problems I discuss in a nutshell: Anyone who criticizes immigration policy is a racist, anyone defending Sverigedemokraterna’s right to fair debate is, himself, one of them, those who want lower taxes for ideological reasons, or to stimulate the economy, are grouped with the (likely, very small) group of those who want to get rich on the cost of the poor, etc. (Similarly, it is not uncommon that right-wing USanians group all leftists into the communist category.) That this is taken to the extreme that Hitler recommends is unusual, but at least the gender-feminists tend to do so, with their ever present “Patriarchy”.

Hitler himself is a very notable user, e.g. by reducing Marxism and Social-Democracy to parts of a larger Jewish machinery—effectively making sure that there is just one enemy (the Jews), not several (Jews and Marxists/Social-Democrats). (Incidentally, this raises some question as to whether Hitler’s stated views on the Jews were honest, or whether he largely used them as a near-ideal scape-goat and main enemy.)

In case this post is read by some of the people I write about in this article series, I see myself forced to add: Reading a work by Hitler does not make me a Nazi—neither does the fact that I have read the Communist Manifesto make me a communist, that I have read the Bible make me a Christian, or that I have read the US constitution make me a USanian. For that matter: The fact that you have read this entry does not make you me.

Written by michaeleriksson

June 22, 2010 at 7:17 am