Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Posts Tagged ‘propaganda

That noble distraction / Follow-up: That noble cause

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A few years back, I wrote about noble causes and how they are used and abused.

Since then, I have grown ever more suspicious that some of them might serve another purpose than I had anticipated—distraction. (Cf. the idea of starting a war to distract from internal problems.)

If the voters are in a near state of panic over global warming, COVID, “systemic racism”, or similar, chances are that they will be too distracted from worse or real* problems that are less publicized (or where the knowledge is deliberately suppressed)—for instance, the damage done by too large a government and too much government intervention, including high taxes and handing out money to the lazy, poorly controlled immigration, dysgenic pressure within the population, misconstructed** healthcare systems, the destruction of education and science, etc.

*Global warming might be real, but systemic racism is not—unless it is in a pro-Black, anti-White, anti-Asian sense. (As evidence e.g. by Blacks being admitted to college with far lower SAT scores than Whites and Asians, and how Blacks are less likely to be shot by the police than Whites in equivalent incidents.)

**For instance, by giving the potential patients incentives to seek help even when help is not needed, and for the healthcare providers to raise prices, because a third-party pays. Notably, health insurance should actually be health insurance, as in “if something really bad happens, the insurance pays”—not a redistribution mechanism, as in “no matter why I go to the hospital or what medication I want, others will pay for me”.

(And note that many of these problems, while bad for the people and/or the nation, are good for the politicians, in general, or the Leftist politicians, in particular, e.g. because they lead to less informed voters, give an excuse to increase government intervention further to buy votes or to create the impression that the government is a rescuing angel, or similar.)

Written by michaeleriksson

July 7, 2021 at 10:59 am

The misleading “red pill” metaphor and the sleeping “woke”

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In light of the “woke” phenomenon, I have been contemplating the “red pill” metaphor. While it is often a convenient way to refer to an epiphany or revelation, it more often misses the point. Even looking at “The Matrix”, swallowing the red pill was not so much the source of revelation, or the achievement of revelation, as it was the choice of exposure to potential revelation: By taking the red pill, Neo woke up from the virtual world, began to live in the physical world, and was exposed to a set of experiences that allowed him new insights. The red pill was not the conclusion of the journey, nor even the first step of the journey—it was the opening of a door. (Or, to take a related metaphor, the fall down that rabbit-hole.)

However, if we look at most peddlers of red pills, including various PC and “woke” versions, the internalized attitude seems to be the opposite: a certain set of pre-formed opinions are provided, as a pill of sorts, and these opinions are to be accepted, or pill swallowed. Once you do, you are “woke”. This then divides the world into three categories of people: the “woke” (“righteous”, “Liberal”, “Feminist”, whatnot), the bigots (“racists”, “sexists”, whatnot) who have simply yet to be offered the pill of salvation, for whom there is still hope, and the irredeemably evil bigots who have had the audacity to reject the pill of salvation.

Notably, it is the true believers in the first category who tend to lack the most in critical thinking, different perspectives, historical insight, etc. Mostly, they have been offered a “truth” and swallowed it just as blindly as those who found religion through exposure to Christian missionaries.

In many ways, the “woke” are more asleep, more deeply buried in the Matrix, than the average person. They might even be best compared to the likes of Cypher (not Neo), who wants to be put into the Matrix for a life of lies and his own convenience. (In his case, some version of fame and fortune; in the case of the “woke”, e.g. a chance to get other people’s money, the ability to blame others for the absence of fame and fortune, and the ability to have that self-righteous “holier than thou” feeling.)

The same, m.m., very often applies to e.g. Feminists, Communist supporters, and the general PC crowd.

Thus, I suggest to only ever use the “red pill” metaphor to refer to those who have entered a journey of discovery and neither for those who have reached the end of that journey nor those who have just read someone else’s travel tale. Similarly, never use “woke” to refer to those who sleep, never use “enlightened” to refer to those who have not reached insights through own thinking, etc.

As an aside, Neo’s exposures post-pill do have a negative similarity with what e.g. the “woke” are offered: these were, at least originally, almost entirely one-sided accounts. In the movie, it might have worked well, but in real life? “Hi there! You have been mislead about the world your entire life and now you have to join us to violently overthrow the evil oppressors!”

Topics around the general issue of e.g. knowledge and world-view have been discussed repeatedly, often with an eye at the Left. Among these I note as particularly relevant:

Other aspects of opinion than right and wrong

Plato’s cave and the dangers of a limited world-view

The problem of too shallow knowledge / experiences in Sweden

Utterly insufficient data, insight, and thought

Written by michaeleriksson

August 18, 2020 at 12:20 pm

Unwort des Jahres / Intellectually dishonest Leftist propaganda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wikipedia further says:

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

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

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

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

Written by michaeleriksson

January 14, 2020 at 2:26 pm

Wikipedia, Wiktionary, and political correctness

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I have long been concerned with the infestation of Wikipedia by unencyclopedic PC propaganda, where it is clear that many see Wikipedia as yet another platform for furthering their private agendas—science and objectivity by damned. (Cf. e.g. parts of [1] and “young adult fiction” below.)

During the last few months, I have become a frequent visitor of Wiktionary, as a very valuable tool for the struggling author. To my distress, I found many cases of potential similar abuse even here, where it might seem implausible. While any individual case might be a coincidence, the proportion of the articles that contain odd examples and potential distortions is too large to allow coincidence to be the overall explanation. (For instance, any one of the below examples might be harmless or coincidental when taken alone. Possibly, the entire page discussed might be seen as a coincidence. However, when we look at the sum of all pages, this would stretch credulity.)

Consider e.g. Wiktionary on “sneer”. The English section currently contains three examples of use (given below). All three could have been chosen for their “PC value”; with one, it is outright likely. Moreover, two of them appear to be quite young, while the third goes back no further than 1963. This despite aspects like historical* use and somewhat stable** use being of great importance on a site like Wiktionary.

*While Wikipedia is silent on age, Etymonline gives estimations of 1550s (verb) and 1707 (noun). The examples, then, cover about a tenth of the life-time of the word.

**Examples from 2019 could reflect a temporary fashion, while older examples are more likely to represent a stable use and meaning. (A wish to demonstrate current use is still best met with examples that are, say, ten or twenty years old and still seen as “current” in meaning.)

Looking at these examples in detail, we have:*

*Note that some changes in typography and formatting might be present for technical reasons. Use of square brackets reflect the state on Wiktionary, and are not additions by me.

  1. 2019 July 24, David Austin Walsh, “Flirting With Fascism”, in Jewish Currents:

    During [Tucker] Carlson’s keynote, he wedged sneers at his critics for crying “racist!” in between racist remarks about [Ilhan] Omar, jeremiads against the media (“I know there’s a bunch of reporters here, so . . . screw you”), and an attack on Elizabeth Warren and her donors (“She’s a tragedy, because she’s now obsessed with racism, which is why the finance world supports her”)—all to gleeful applause.

    This example is months old, from a political/partisan source (and one with an apparent “anti-Fascist” take at that), and the quote at least represents someone as trying to criticize use of the word “racist” while actually being racist. Now, I am not aware of who Carlsson is or what his opinions are, but abuse of the word “racist” is a massive problem in today’s world, be it out of ignorance or in order to discredit opponents without having to address their arguments. (The same applies to e.g. “sexist”, “xenophobe”, “Fascist”.) I have discussed this repeatedly in the past, notably in [2].

    To boot, the structure of the example, with formatting, quotes-within-quotes, etc., makes it highly unsuitable as an example for other reasons.

  2. “Now here’s someone who should attend privilege workshops,” sneered she.

    There is no date or source given, but the reference to “privilege workshops” is a clear indication of a very recent origin, likely within the last few years, decades on the outside.

    The whole “privilege” bullshit is another staple of PC rhetoric, as I discuss e.g. in [3].

    A potential partial save of the example is the interpretation of the sneerer as evil, as with the above example and, possibly, the below. I am not much inclined to extend the benefit of the doubt these days, however.

  3. 1963, Margery Allingham, chapter 8, in The China Governess[1]:

    It was a casual sneer, obviously one of a long line. There was hatred behind it, but of a quiet, chronic type, nothing new or unduly virulent, and he was taken aback by the flicker of amazed incredulity that passed over the younger man’s ravaged face.

    This is the example least likely by far to be an abuse, but combining the quote with the name of the source, there is at least a possibility that it too portrays or pretends to portray a scene of racism or other “ism”, e.g. something anti-Chinese. (I have not investigated this further.)

In a bigger picture, “collaborative” or “public contribution” sites like Wikipedia and Wiktionary are exceptionally sensitive to such distortions. Have just one high-school or college student out of one hundred spend an hour a week performing such deliberately abusive agenda pushing, and the legitimate editors would be flooded. (Even discounting the considerable risk that many of the legitimate editors have pro-PC or pro-Left biases that unconsciously distort their efforts.) That such deliberate distortive editing does take place is indisputable. A blatant example is the Wikipedia page on “young adult fiction”, which I encountered somewhat* recently. At the time, the page was dominated by the side-topic of “diversity”, another PC staple and one of a highly dubious justification—if nothing else, I did not even care if the heroes where human when I read this type of fiction… Currently, this sub-topic has been reduced to a shorter section—but at the cost of creating an entire new page on diversity in young adult fiction. This new page is almost as long as the main page…

*At some point in 2018. I intended to write a longer critical text at the time, but never got around to it.

Moreover, looking at the talk page, it appears that this is the work of a user Kaylac8215, who claims that “I will be working on this wiki for a class project. I will be doing basic copyediting and reformatting, as well as adding a section talking about Diversity in YA lit.”, which (together with other statements) shows both misguided intentions and an external motivation. (Entirely aside from the fact that the sometime abuse of Wikipedia editing as a pedagogical tool is inexcusable. The work produced is almost invariably well below the regular standard. Any teacher who pushes this should be summarily fired.) Her approach is later discussed negatively by others, but the result of this discussion was not the deletion of the major part of the text, just the move to a new page.

While I have not reviewed the current state of the text, I do recall that I found it highly one-sided and poorly written at the time of my original encounter.

Written by michaeleriksson

October 22, 2019 at 7:16 pm

“The Crimes of Grindelwald” and recognizing evil

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“The Crimes of Grindelwald” is a very disappointing* movie, but it does point to a few issues that I have addressed repeatedly in the past.

*My main criticisms: The otherwise weakish predecessor was carried by streaks of comedy and the dynamics between/charm of the four main protagonists, especially regarding wizard–muggle interaction. These aspects were largely lost. (The comedy aspect is even replaced by dread and dire and a too depressing visual tone.) The plot is unengaging, seems poorly though-through, and is confusing to boot. New characters and relationships are mostly too bland, boring, and/or unsympathetic to warrant interest and emotional investment, which is a particular negative for several “tragic characters”.

This includes the fact that there will be persons, usually very many, on both sides of a conflict who are convinced that they are “the good guys” and that their opponents are “the bad guys”—implying that even the strongest conviction of being right (that the opposing party is evil, whatnot) does not, in it self, justify extreme means. Indeed, looking at e.g. party programs from more-or-less any party, I can find a lot that makes sense in principle or, at least, is sufficiently plausible that I can understand that weak thinkers are swayed—thought, a knowledge/understanding of the issues, and/or insight into other positions is often needed to see why the program is flawed or would make a poor policy.* Calls for evil actions for “the greater good” tend to be particularly dangerous—it is no coincidence that this phrase is often used by madmen, terrorists, dictators, dystopian societies, whatnot in fiction. (But note that those who call for the greater good in real life rarely do so using the explicit phrase.)

*Consider e.g. a simplistic “women earn 77 cents on the dollar; ergo, the government must intervene to create justice”, which collapses on closer inspection. (See several older texts, including [1].)

It also includes that opinions (goals, ideals, …; I will use just “opinion[s]” below) must not be a primary factor when judging who is more or less evil in most* conflicts.** Instead, we have to consider the following (overlapping) issues:

*Exceptions are sufficiently rare that I cannot give a strong example of the top of my head. They are likely to exist, however. (Possibly, relating to a legally clear situation.)

**With the corollary that condemning an opinion as evil, because of evil methods used to enforce that opinion, is equally as bad as (cf. above) using an opinion perceived as good to justify evil methods.

  1. What methods are used? Do the methods include e.g. unprovoked violence, censorship of dissent, character assassination, …?

    Overlapping with the above, I would even replace the common, misguided, claim that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” with “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to use evil means”. (Where, at least, my “good” refers to self-perception, as demonstrated by many Soviet/Chinese/whatnot Communists and the Nazis.) Very many evils in this world go back to the use of evil means for purposes seen as good; and by refraining from evil means, such evils are considerably reduced or avoided altogether. Vice versa, a believer in the naive original might well take it as a reason to cause, not oppose, evil in the name of good.

  2. How do the counter-parts interact with opposing opinions? Are the opinions evaluated neutrally and with an open mind or are they rejected as wrong, or even evil, in a blanket manner? Are the counter-parts willing to adjust their own opinions, should the evidence call for it? Are arguments engaged with counter-arguments or with insults? Etc.

    I note that this is not just a matter of fairness. Two other important implications is that (a) those who are more open-minded tend to be right more often, (b) a destructive attitude threatens the right of others to develop their own opinions and can limit both societal and scientific progress.*

    *Note e.g. the destructive effects of how parts of the PC movement denounce scientifically supported claims around I.Q., the influence of “nature”, whatnot—to the point that some scientists avoid certain research topics for fear of repercussions. The problems are so large that a pseudonymous journal is in planning to alleviate it (the linked-to article also contains several good illustrations of the problem).

  3. What basis do the opinions originally have? Are they based in reason or wishful thinking, factual arguments or uncritical belief in what one is told, correct or incorrect interpretation of statistics, …?

    Again, those with a good reason tend to be right more often. I note that e.g. pushing policies based on faulty ideas or premises can do an enormous amount of harm to society, as with e.g. how an unduly positive belief in the benefits of school* and a wish for more school (to solve any number of problems) wastes enormous amounts of resources, takes large chunks out of the lives of the students, and often leads to only marginal improvements—or even has negative effects (e.g. through taking time away from self-studies among the bright or frustrating and over-taxing the dim).

    *As opposed to education—a very important differentiation. However, even more education is not always sensible, being dependent on the individuals interests, abilities, and goals in life.

  4. With what degree of honesty do the counter-parts push their opinions and agendas? Do they believe what they say and say what they believe, or do they e.g. have a hidden agenda or do they use arguments that they do not hold-up to scrutiny?

    As a specific example: Was Grindelwald a true believer—or did he rather create and manipulate true believers for his own personal gain? (I strongly suspect the latter to hold.)

(Additional issues might be worthy of consideration, e.g. whether an agenda is driven by partisan benefit* vs. ethical principles or the good of society as a whole.)

*Not to be confused with the above case of e.g. having a hidden agenda of personal power: Here the issue is e.g. wanting to benefit a certain partisan group (say with a laborers’ party, a farmers’ party, a make-our-region-independent party, whatnot).

A particular interesting overlap between the movie and some texts is that the use of evil or disproportionate methods can drive people into the enemy camp, cause radicalization, or similar. This through at least two mechanisms, (a) that “mild” opponents might be left with no where to go but the camp of the “rabid” opponents, (b) that the use of evil methods causes a negative reaction. This, incidentally, appears to have some parallels in other areas, e.g. in that anti-drug legislation often does more to cause crime and worsen the life of the drug-users than to improve matters, or ditto for anti-prostitution* laws. Particularly the (b) case appears to have been working to Grindelwald’s advantage, when the government(s) used evil methods of its own.

*As claimed in an article I encountered a few days ago (note several links to further discussion).

Excursion on necessary evil means:
There might be situations where the use of evil means can be necessary even in a good cause. (A widely accepted example is using reasonable amounts of violence in self-defense against an unprovoked attacker.) However, here great care must be taken to not overstep a reasonable minimum, to minimize the effect on third-parties, etc. A more thorough discussion would be well outside the scope of this text, might be impossible without stipulating a number of ethical principles, and might have to include considerable analysis of individual examples. Consider e.g. questions like when and to what degree it might be allowable to interfere with civic rights for fear of terrorism or to accept civilian casualties during warfare.

Excursion on Grindelwald:
Is Grindelwald evil? In my opinion, “yes”—because I have the impression that he does let the end justify the means, is callous of the rights of others, has hidden agendas, … (Then again, my impression might be incorrect, seeing that the movie was not always explicit, that I might misremember previous information, and that earlier books, which mention him as evil, might have predisposed me towards this interpretation.)

Note that my reasons do not (at least consciously) include that he “looked evil”, that the main protagonists opposed him, that he was condemned as evil by officials, … Consider Professor Snape (from earlier books/movies) for someone who gave many superficial signs of being evil, but who was actually* a great hero and an important ally—and contrast him with several good-seeming-but-evil other teachers.

*Notwithstanding that an accusation of “being a mean bastard”, “having an unfair personal dislike of Harry”, or similar might have been true.

Here, as elsewhere, it is important not just to draw the right conclusion (X is evil; Y is good; …), but to do so for the right reasons. Evil in the real world often has a friendly face; good often does not—much unlike in children’s cartoons.

Written by michaeleriksson

February 21, 2019 at 10:41 am

That noble cause

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One of the greatest problems with today’s democracies, possibly societies, is the over-focus on “noble causes” and populist single issues*, while firstly failing to provide a program that is suitable for society as a whole, secondly ignoring the negative effects of the solutions to these causes, thirdly often providing unrealistically easy solutions and measures, fourthly not bothering to truly find out whether these causes are just or at all relevant. To boot, the causes are often misrepresented or presented so simplistically that uninformed voters draw incorrect conclusions.** And, no, I am not talking about populist or one-item upstarts—I am talking about established main-stream parties and politicians.

*I will use “cause” to denote both below, for the sake of simplicity, but without an intended limitation in meaning. This especially since the border between the two can be hard to detect or depend strongly on perspective.

**Be it deliberately or because the politicians’/propagandists’ own understanding is too shallow. Both can apply, but I suspect that in the more strongly ideological movements the latter is the greater problem.

The reason is easy to understand: Such causes are easier to sell to the broad masses, and promise greater gains in votes than a more responsible and nuanced approach. This especially since there is often a cost–benefit distribution that leaves a smaller group considerably better off and/or seeing its demands met, while the rest of the population takes a small hit and/or is unaware of the larger hit it does take: The smaller group sees enough benefit to influence its decision making; the larger group does not see enough detriment to be moved to opposition. Of course, while the cost of one cause might be small, the accumulated cost of a few dozen can be quite large…

In most cases, however, such approaches are at best irresponsible, at worst highly detrimental. A good example is the common “Green” drive to abolish nuclear power at all costs, especially exploiting the fears around nuclear accidents with a mixture of fear-mongering and misrepresentation. Look at what happened in Germany with its “Energiewende”*: At an enormous cost, a government intervention succeeded in considerably increasing the use of renewable energies; but this was all wasted, because the corresponding reductions in use of other sources were mostly limited to nuclear power—with the use of the far more problematic fossil fuels actually increasing**… Exaggerated fear of nuclear power left the environment worse off than before the Energiewende!

*Roughly, “energy turn-around” or “energy revolution” (“revolution” having unnecessarily strong connotations).

**At the time I last looked into numbers, possibly two years ago: In the long term, this will obviously be better. An improvement might or might not already have taken place, but I am not optimistic—and even if it has, it does not change my point: The brunt of the reduction should have been put on fossil fuels to begin with, with reduction of nuclear power being a mere nice-to-have.

Schooling* is another good example, even source of examples: Every now and then some nit-wit politicians insists that more schooling is needed to solve this-or-that societal problem, without considering consequences (cf. e.g. [1]). Every now and then some change is implemented to solve a problem with the current schooling that ends up making things worse (notably in math education). Every now and then disproportionate extra regulations are added (e.g. in that small children are suspended for a triviality, like using a hand as a pretend-gun or kissing someone on the cheek, because there is a fear of real gun use or sexual harassment among high schoolers). Etc.

*The recurring reader is aware that I am highly critical of schooling, as opposed to education, in general. Here, however, I do not deal with this overall problem, just with the additional problems caused by unwise new measures pushed through to solve some (perceived or real) problem in the guise of a “cause”.

Of course, sometimes the cause can be something more trivial, yet still have a downside not appropriately considered. For instance, recent regulations in NRW (my state/Bundesland of residence in Germany) require all apartments to have a smoke alarm; this smoke alarm has to be serviced by a professional once a year. Now, I could easily imagine that the installation of a smoke alarm has a net benefit: The one-time cost is not overly large and it can help with saving lives. However, an annual servicing? This is a recurring cost and forces tenants to take a significant chunk out of their workday*. And: It brings very little benefit… I note that the voluntary smoke alarms of old usually went entirely without service, barring a battery change every few years; that the likelihood of malfunction within a year is so small that the value added through the service is negligible; that even the requirement to have a smoke alarm is not universal, making the service requirement disproportional; that e.g. the chimney inspection for my gas heating (which can actually cause or contribute to a fire) is once every three years; and that the number of apartment fires in Germany has dropped very considerably over time anyway. (I also note that there are many who suspect that even the requirement to have a smoke alarm in the first place is driven mostly by manufacturer lobbyism… Cf. e.g. a German article.) Five years, for instance, might be an appropriate service interval with regard to costs and benefits—one year is not even remotely close.

*Based on my limited experience so far, the service company one-sidedly dictates the time and date, which then naturally tends to fall in the middle of the ordinary work-day. Combine this with a commute…

The problems do not end with the negative side-effects or the lack of benefit, however. Consider the relevance of a cause: For instance, many political causes of today are strongly rooted in the non-negotiable premise that any difference in outcome goes back to a difference in opportunity. With such a world-view, many problems are severely exaggerated or even created out of the blue. Is is a cause for government intervention (e.g. through affirmative action) if the proportion of women on a certain corporate or governmental level, or even within a certain field, is lower than roughly 50 %? No! We have to consider aspects like voluntary choices and life priorities, potentially differing skill sets and levels, differing interests, … Now, if we can determine that the same proportion of men and women want to do or be X, that they have the same skills, that they are willing to sacrifice as much to get there, …, then we might have a cause for government intervention. There is, however, no proof that this is the case—on the contrary, even the attempt to prove it is usually left out: We see a difference in outcome; ergo, it must be discrimination, indoctrination, Patriarchy, structures, …

A particularly insidious problem is that such causes are often insatiable: Once the original goal has been reached, the goal posts are moved further away; with the same thing happening again and again, every time the next goal is accomplished. In many cases, the point is exceeded where a fight for justice/equality/liberty/… is turned into its opposite, because the push has gone too far. Very often, the continual pushing of the goal posts is only possible through (typically intellectually dishonest) re-definitions, deliberate misinterpretation of statistic, “willful ignorance”, or similar means. A good example is poverty, which in modern Leftist rhetoric is usually taken to mean e.g. someone earning less than a percentage of the average—making people “poor”, who have in their lives never gone hungry or lacked a roof over their heads, and opening the doors for vote fishing with “childhood poverty” even in countries like Sweden and Germany.* How absurd such a measure is, is proved by the fact that it is possible for someone to grow “poor” when, all other factors equal, someone else becomes wealthier…

*In these countries, childhood poverty, in any real sense, is almost non-existent. Poverty, in general, does exist, but is rare and is mostly either limited to short times or caused by own negligence or laziness. Even the single mother working a minimum wage job, which is one the worst long-term and non-negligent situations that do occur, would be the envy of many of her ancestors—no matter how unfortunate her situation is compared to the current average. As for her children: I had a similar situation for several years of my own childhood—and grew fat and spoiled. In the roughly 35 years since, things have not changed for the worse.

This cause obsession leads to poor decisions and poor policy, it raises taxes, introduces inefficiencies, limits personal freedom, worsens bureaucracy, … The positive effects are usually considerably smaller. I urge the politicians to be more responsible in their actions; the voters to never support a cause they have not understood.

(Many other examples than the discussed can be found, especially within the Left and the PC crowd, or looking at some charities, that reward the giver with a warm feeling, keep their employees paid, make the chairman and the odd middle-man wealthy, and achieve very little for the needy.)

Written by michaeleriksson

December 10, 2017 at 2:01 am

The Woozle effect

with 5 comments

One of my main beefs with feminists is the abuse of statistics (there is “lies, damned lies, and statistics”—and then there is feminism), often in combination with the principle that a lie repeated often enough is eventually taken to be the truth. (For instance, I have repeatedly written about the 77 cents on the dollar lie.) As I have also observed in the past, if their claims actually were true, anyone with a brain and a heart would be a feminist, myself included—but they simply are not true.

Recently, I became aware that there was a name for (a subset) of this type of abuse: The Woozle effect, where a piece of (real or merely claimed) information is repeated and repeated, with less and less constraint, until even an originally true claim is turned into an outrageous lie. (Cf. also the “Chinese whispers” game.)

I would strongly encourage the readers to read at least a part of the (lengthy) page behind the link, which includes not only a discussion of the phenomenon in general, but also discusses a number of common feminist “statistics”, including in the area of domestic violence and rape, as well as some uses not necessarily related to feminism. To quote one example:

  • Gelles conducted a study using police domestic disturbance reports as the source. He explained this very specifically as a way to locate clear examples of domestic abuse. 20 Families with known histories were found. There were 20 Families referred by a private Social Service agency, making 40 in total. Then as a control group, neighbours of these families were recruited, making 80 families in total where half had a known history of Domestic Abuse. He was not looking for a national or global sample. Gelles says “Of the eighty families, 55 percent reported one instance of conjugal violence in the marriage. This was not unexpected, since half of the couples were selected because we thought they might be violent.” The evidence is for a small group, selected only due to police reports and known incidents. The 55% also referred to both men and women as victims.
  • Straus writing the forward to the book “The violent home” used the 55% figure but without qualifying it.
  • Langley & levy then cited Gelles & Straus claiming “Estimates that 50 percent of all American wives are battered women are not uncommon”. Gelles & Straus made no such claim or inference in their work.
  • Langley & levy, journalist writing a book, then applied the Woozle to the general population arriving at the figure of 28 to 36 million American Wives being battered annually. “The twenty-six to thirty million are roughly half of all married women.”.
  • The 28 Million figure, published in the book “Wife beating: the silent crisis”, then received extensive media coverage, including claims that at least 7 other studies showed the same 28 Million figure to be valid. In accounting for the lack of previous knowledge of what was called “A conspiracy of silence by men” the US Government, Congress, The American Bar Association, police and FBI, were all referred to as having “Culpable Ignorance”.

And please: The next time someone makes a statistical claim, please stop to consider whether it actually is true, given in the correct context, interpreted reasonably, and carries the appropriate qualifications about the circumstances. Sometimes a healthy skepticism is all that is warranted; sometimes the claim is simply absurd and can be ruled out with a little own thought, as with claims of absurd proportions of false accusations of rape to unreported rape cases or the existence of 14 million child-porn websites; sometimes the interpretation turns out be highly dubious, as with boys and girls doing housework ; sometimes the difference between correlation and causation is not even remotely understood; …

Written by michaeleriksson

November 11, 2017 at 12:28 am

Reality disconnect

with 5 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider some common problems with reporting:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by michaeleriksson

August 26, 2017 at 7:11 pm

A few thoughts around the Charlottesville controversy

with 7 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 4 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