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Responding to Wired's ad hominem hatchet job (dubfire.net)
344 points by wglb on Aug 8, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 158 comments



Without a lot of prior context, this seems like a clear-headed rebuttal to an otherwise pretty low ad hominem attack.

On a specific note, to characterise someone as sexist because they disagree with someone who happens to be a woman is in my opinion itself one of the most egregious examples of both sexism (for reasons I'll detail) and libel (for the damaging political and social impact of being branded with such a label).

First, throwing the term 'sexist' around carelessly undermines genuine claims of sexism. Second, it attempts to not only target an individual as sexist, but often the male gender as a whole as being part of a "misogynistic boys-club", in turn implying that masculine identity itself is inherently wrong. Third, it undermines genuine gender equality - if people are concerned about their criticisms being perceived as sexist they will refrain from open and honest critique which is the hallmark of colleagues and equals. Fourth, it assumes (paternalistically) a gender role for women as "poor persecuted girls" who need protecting from criticism and attack. Consequently, sexual inequality is perpetuated - after all, if this same criticism had been targeted at a male journalist would we expect to see responses such as "you're only picking on him because he's a man"?

There are plenty of genuine cases of sexism (against male, female, and other gender identities) which emerge out of the obsolescence of traditional social roles. Leveraging the political sensitivity of this important issue to attack an opponent is pretty low.


Do you actually believe that calling someone a sexist (however 'careless' it might be) is an attack on the male gender as a whole? Really? Try swapping sexism with homophobia or racism, and see how ridiculous you sound. (Note: I agree with your first assertion.)

First, throwing the term 'racist' around carelessly undermines genuine claims of racism. Second, it attempts to not only target an individual as racist, but often whites as a whole as being part of a "whites only-club", in turn implying that white identity itself is inherently wrong. Third, it undermines genuine racial equality - if people are concerned about their criticisms being perceived as racist they will refrain from open and honest critique which is the hallmark of colleagues and equals. Fourth, it assumes (essentially) a racial role for blacks as "poor persecuted minorities" who need protecting from criticism and attack. Consequently, racial inequality is perpetuated - after all, if this same criticism had been targeted at a white journalist would we expect to see responses such as "you're only picking on him because he's white"?

A problem with reverse racism/sexism arguments is that they allow people who are secure in their positions to brush aside the racist/sexist undercurrents of society in favor of "gender/colorblind" solutions that only make sense if everyone agrees to ignore all cultural, social, and historical context.

Just because people with axes to grind can use gender as a smear (an inept one, in this case) to paint someone as a sexist, doesn't make it right to imply we as males are somehow being attacked or victimized, or could be in the future. And no, being made uncomfortable of your position in society isn't an attack, it's a reminder.


> Do you actually believe that calling someone a sexist (however 'careless' it might be) is an attack on the male gender as a whole

Keyword being 'often' not 'always', and it's usually particular to the male/female gender issue rather than all majorities/minorities. In particular, if you read the article you'll see that both the critic who claimed sexism and the woman being critiqued throw the term "boy's clubs" about. I've found it's socially quite acceptable to imply assumed male misogyny, but maybe my 'often' should be degraded to 'sometimes'?

> A problem with reverse racism/sexism arguments is that they allow people who are secure in their positions to brush aside the racist/sexist undercurrents of society

Right, which makes it all the more important to ensure that when racism/sexism claims are made, they are made legitimately and not casually, lest they be used as examples to dismiss, or ignore, genuine issues.

> Just because people with axes to grind can use gender as a smear (an inept one, in this case) to paint someone as a sexist, doesn't make it right to imply we as males are somehow being attacked or victimized

This probably comes back to my first point, but look I think the points are orthogonal. We agree that using social issues as a smear tactic is wrong. What I've noticed (and we seem to disagree on) is that at least sometimes (though perhaps limited to the gender case as I talk about above) someone using a social smear tactic will make an appeal to the wider issue (e.g. "x is a horrible sexist, and we all know how bad those boys clubs are") to solicit agreement and rapport, thus strengthening their attack. What I get concerned with is that the implicit acceptance of this wider issue claim tends to paint the majority as collectively guilty of issues which should be identified on an individual basis, which leads to more of the "us vs them" mentality that we're trying to eliminate.


> Right, which makes it all the more important to ensure that when racism/sexism claims are made, they are made legitimately and not casually, lest they be used as examples to dismiss, or ignore, genuine issues.

Too frequently this line of argumentation is inflated and used to attack even legitimate claims of sexism/racism -- they can be used inappropriately turns into they are being used inappropriately halfway through the argument, and the entire point slides unchallenged.

> someone using a social smear tactic will make an appeal to the wider issue (e.g. "x is a horrible sexist, and we all know how bad those boys clubs are") to solicit agreement and rapport, thus strengthening their attack.

Exactly. Consider that this is easier and more powerful in the reverse direction from a majority/empowered group to a minority/under-powered group.


Do you feel that in this case the charges of sexism are legitimate?


> What I get concerned with is that the implicit acceptance of this wider issue claim tends to paint the majority as collectively guilty of issues which should be identified on an individual basis, which leads to more of the "us vs them" mentality that we're trying to eliminate.

The "boy's club" mentality that a lot of people glean from the "tech zeitgeist", for lack of a better term, is not entirely unfounded. I think a lot of us have a few anecdotes, where women in tech are called "irrational" or otherwise excluded solely for their gender, but we all know that anecdotes prove nothing, and since social issues don't lend themselves very well to scientific examination (too many variables), I present another angle.

Entertain the following notion: The reason it's more socially acceptable (depending on where you live) to rag on men in society, as opposed to women, is exactly because the relevant(in this case, tech) power structure is mostly male dominated. On its face, it's a terrible argument, but I submit to you that this is how all people subconsciously feel about the concept of discrimination.

And further, since people look different, inherently, the mass of people will inevitably make it an us/them issue. Always. This is one of the many ugly aspects of human nature, that I would love to see eradicated, but I'm afraid that, for now, it's a techno-utopic fantasy.

And of course, it's not fair at all, that because you or I share more "traits" with the leaders of society, that we are made to feel guilty for something we have no power to alter. I don't believe that's a good thing. But remember, the motif of the underdog overcoming all obstacles (an "us vs. them") has been around since the dawn of man, and people are naturally attracted to the "us vs. them" idea, even if it's a gross over-simplification of the truth. So everyone will naturally and subconsciously blame anyone who shares the traits of "them". That's why people, as you say "[tend] to paint the majority as collectively guilty of issues which should be identified on an individual basis, which leads to more of the "us vs them" mentality that we're trying to eliminate."

Instead of looking at these issues as cases of reverse sexism: "oh you believe that just because she's a woman, she can't make it in the tech world and needs protection/help", I look at it as acknowledging that all people have certain cognitive biases and that the majority of people will act on them subtly, all of which add up.

Anyone with a note of clarity and dignity in their heads knows that all people are of the same seed, and that, ignoring serious brain/developmental damage, all people are able to do much the same work, albeit at varying speed/efficiency.

But I also know, that subconsciously, I will tend to look down on "black people" as a whole if I see a black person to something wrong, as opposed to someone who looks like me, in which case I will look down on the individual. The sad truth is that all people will unconsciously and subtly ignore reason to all sorts of cognitive biases without realizing it. Everyone, you and me included. And to add further insult to injury, we will call that "rational" or "reason".

For example, people will tout IQ scores to show that blacks are inferior to whites, as if intelligence is determined by someone's ability to solve a few geometry puzzles, and that this further can be reduced to a single positive integer. This is what passes for rationality in some circles. Just a reminder.

[These articles highlight my point better, for those who are interested.]

http://youarenotsosmart.com/2012/04/17/ego-depletion/ http://youarenotsosmart.com/2010/06/23/confirmation-bias/ http://youarenotsosmart.com/2010/06/07/the-just-world-fallac...

My point is that we are not the rational actors we would like ourselves to be. We need to acknowledge that base, petty, irrational human nature still rules much of society, and we need to accept that we are all (everyone, to differing extents) parts of larger social mechanisms that subtly, but systematically, exclude anyone who looks or acts different.

Another example; discriminatory laws (like Hate Crimes) seem to, at face value, unjustly make the law about skin color. But viewed from a larger historical, cultural and social perspective, they're an attempt to give minorities more of a legal foot to stand on in a society where blacks are sentenced harder than whites for the exact same crimes. The guilt we are made to feel is the price we all pay (yes, even minorities who happen to also be part of a single dominant social group are made to feel guilty).

> the "us vs them" mentality that we're trying to eliminate.

I too want to live in a world where everyone is judged not according to their superficial traits, but according to their skills. A world of can's and can-not's, not have and have-not's. A world where rational scientific inquiry is separated neatly from politics (I assume you agree). But I further realize that we are an innately irrational and fearful species, who will seize on anything, statistics, science, even rationality, to justify our prejudices and worldviews.

That's why I believe positive discrimination is (fundamentally) good for our age. Yes, these measures are imperfect, inelegant, ugly ad-hoc solutions that create double-standards in society, but instead of pretending that simple, elegant solutions to complex problems are good, we have to face reality; sometimes, complex social problems need ugly, unjust solutions, until the time where a better solution is made real, because the alternative is to let human irrationality go unchecked and unaccountable.

Just to sum up all my rambling; we must accept that the problem is human nature, and that the "us vs. them" exists because of human nature, and that the ugly double standards of positive discrimination exist to counter-balance the effects of that, at the unfortunate but small price of further legitimizing it. These measures exist to reminds us that one-sided discrimination exists to this day. That's why we need them and that's why I think the benefits greatly outweigh the harms in the long run.

Edit: Looking at the post now I realized I typed way too much text in one comment. I'm sorry about this.


So, what would you say to an underprivileged, unattractive, short, Caucasian male? Perhaps, "I'm sorry, but I'm going step on your rights and make you a casualty in the fight for the 'greater good', as defined by me. Please step aside and keep quiet." Or would you bother saying anything to him at all?

Maybe you aren't obsessed with driving wedges between various groups in society, causing them to become factions with increasing animosity towards one another, but you're doing it.

It's odd: No group hates underprivileged, unattractive whites males nearly as much as privileged, attractive white males. It's a cruel form of preening.


Race, gender, class, etc. are inextricably tangled up together. I'm not sure why you (seem to) think being underprivileged and Caucasian somehow means you will be trampled on or have your rights taken away. (How exactly?)

These "wedges between various groups in society" have existed ever since we've had an amygdala. They are innate, in that sense. We ought to accept that people as individuals, and more so as groups, are too biased when it comes to things like race, gender, etc, and we should address these problems in honest terms, as opposed to presuming that everyone is a rational actor who will realize that Racism Is Bad After All if only we did/didn't do X.

> Maybe you aren't obsessed with driving wedges between various groups in society, causing them to become factions with increasing animosity towards one another, but you're doing it.

Most of the animosity you might be referring to, has existed since day 1, but is just getting more attention from the media. Ignoring the problem won't make it go away.

> It's odd: No group hates underprivileged, unattractive whites males nearly as much as privileged, attractive white males. It's a cruel form of preening.

It's easier to hate people that you can relate to. Nothing odd about that. It's why you often see nerds making fun of other nerds with a ferocity greater than a non-nerd would ever muster.


Point one and the latter part of three make sense to me. Point two should be, "it's an ad hominem attack and intellectually bankrupt." This applies if and only if the target of the term is not actually prejudiced.

I don't think males as a whole are being attacked when one gets called sexist, but I also don't know what you mean by "position in society". For the majority of men in the US that position is that they're more likely to be murdered, arrested, serve relatively longer sentences, receive less money for health care, pay more for insurance, get called to selective service, and die younger. You seem to be presenting it as if they should be embarrassed at how high above everyone else they are.


Point two should be, "it's an ad hominem attack and intellectually bankrupt." This applies if and only if the target of the term is not actually prejudiced.

Even if they are prejudiced, it is still an ad hominem. A biased person (i.e., nearly all of us) could still make a correct argument, as could an unbiased bayesian with a strong prior.

There are very narrow categories when ad hominem is justified - specifically, if one is attempting to appeal to authority, then attacking the authority is justified. In all other cases that I can think of, it's a logical fallacy.


Forgive me, I meant if the criticism is in response to actual prejudice.


> For the majority of men in the US that position is that they're more likely to be murdered, arrested, serve relatively longer sentences, receive less money for health care, pay more for insurance, get called to selective service, and die younger.

All of those things you listed are hugely intersectional with race, sexual orientation, and class. In terms of sexism, men will rarely face institutional barriers based solely on their gender and are unlikely to be have their lives affected by being called sexist.


>Just because people with axes to grind can use gender as a smear (an inept one, in this case) to paint someone as a sexist, doesn't make it right to imply we as males are somehow being attacked or victimized, or could be in the future. And no, being made uncomfortable of your position in society isn't an attack, it's a reminder.

What position do "we" possess? As a user of ycombinator you are likely in a position of privilege. Extrapolating your experience onto the general male populace is an ad-hom attack on all marginalized men when done systematically.

Because you are the figurehead of "men", gay and transgendered men have no where to go when they are kicked out of their fundamentalist household. After all, why would you build shelters for the privileged?

Because you are the figurehead of "men", minority boys are falling through the cracks. Have you seen the difference in employment rates of african-american men and women? Have you seen the difference in incarceration rates?

Yes, some men like you experience disproportionate mobility towards the top. But even more experience mobility towards the very bottom.


I speak for myself alone, and the "we" was obviously rhetorical. The parent comment spoke of males in monolithic terms like "masculine identity", and I seized on that. I also never extrapolated my own personal experience onto anyone else, just the totality of my experience, which is all anyone can offer really. So there's really no need for you to project any sort of messianic arrogance on me.

If you have a problem with people speaking in broad terms (this is not what ad hominem means), you might want to reconsider the comment space of a news aggregation website as the avenue for any deep, precise insight into unbelievably complex social issues.


Swap it for racism? Ok.

A clear example of what he's talking about can be observed in the tendency particularly during the "Town Hall" meetings, and thruout the rest of the Obamacare debate to characterize anyone who disagreed with that piece of legislation as "Racist" for disagreeing with Obama. Because Obama is "Black", and those using this tactic agreed with him, so rather than respond to the points, they felt comfortable accusing their opponents of dirty things.

It is very much like calling anyone who advocates gay marriage a "pedophile". Using a highly emotionally charged negative word to slander someone to avoid engaging them in debate.

It got to the point where one day I saw MSNBC focusing on the gun a guy had slung over his back at a protest which also had a large 2nd ammendment component, with the MSNBC commentators talking about how this guy was making a threat to kill the president (because the president was arriving in that location later) and how it just showed the "angry violent racist attitude".

The video in question focused on the gun, so the commentator didn't realize the guy she was talking about was actually black.

The "You're a sexist/racists/homophobe" if you disagree with a "female/black/gay" is a very popular tactic these days.

It is easy to evade legitimate debate by simply asserting that "the TEA Party is racist" and things like that.

It also shows that many people think that simply because of someone's skin color, gender or sexual orientation is not that of a "minority" that their opinions are groundless and based in ignorance.

>being made uncomfortable of your position in society isn't an attack, it's a reminder.

Let me change contexts so you can see how this comes off: "Being made to feel guilty for your molestation of children isn't an attack, its a reminder of your crime." This is what someone in your position would say to rationalize calling a gay marriage supporter a pedophile.

First off, this seems an admission that the goal of this tactic is to make someone feel uncomfortable, as if they should be guilty for being part of what you consider a majority. Which means you're speaking to the person, and this is ad hominem. "You're white so you don't know what you're talking about" is a pure form of ad hominem.

Secondly, unless the issue is intrinsically related to the issue of race/gender/orientation it is an evasion of the topic at hand.

I don't see how cryptography is intrinsically racial, sexist or related to sexual orientation at all.

This line of attack is not a "reminder" it is an evasion of debate, and an attempt to reject intellectual discourse for ad hominem.

It seems those who engage in it feel privileged as if the rules of discourse don't apply to them and they can win by "playing the race/gender/etc. card".

All these security issues are irrelevant because a white presumably straight guy brought them up?

Really?


To clarify, I don't object to the claim that people have wrongly used the "gender/race/etc card" when it isn't warranted. Of course this is disgusting. I take issue with the idea that, for example, if Obama were to play the race card, that this somehow represents an attack on "whiteness". This is ridiculous.

> This line of attack is not a "reminder" it is an evasion of debate, and an attempt to reject intellectual discourse for ad hominem.

I never meant to imply that. I meant that the reminder that you are privileged, isn't an attack as such. I could have phrased it better, I admit.

> It also shows that many people think that simply because of someone's skin color, gender or sexual orientation is not that of a "minority" that their opinions are groundless and based in ignorance.

> All these security issues are irrelevant because a white presumably straight guy brought them up? Really?

I agree that this is bad. But on the other hand, wouldn't one necessarily need to have these marginalized traits (skin color, gender or sexual orientation) to fully understand discrimination? You can read all you want about discrimination but unless you have actually experienced it, I don't think you'll be able to say anything new or compelling on the matter. That's what everyone wants, really; a good story.

Corny metaphor incoming: It would be like a director who has studied about 1920's history for years, having never experienced it, and a director having breathed and lived it. Who would you prefer to direct a movie, all other things being equal, about the 20's?

An aside: It's the same reason why people attack Romney's life of wealth. "How could someone so rich know how the average person feels?", goes the argument. That's a legitimate concern in my book.

> I don't see how cryptography is intrinsically racial, sexist or related to sexual orientation at all.

In itself cryptography, and by extension, mathematics, has absolutely nothing to do with gender politics or any kind of politics at all. Number theory is number theory is number theory. Yes. But it is in the CONTEXT of the larger social, cultural, political even economical factors, in which all of us live and most of us agree are important, that cryptography is made political. Why should I put on my blinders and ignore all of these issues just because the connection seems vague? (It isn't.) Here's the truth of the matter: everything is political to some extent, and there's nothing wrong with pointing this out.

I really like this quote:

"To claim to be apolitical is a contradiction. Every public stance is a political stance: all social acts can influence others, however subtly or imperceptibly. A political absolute zero is unattainable; just as all matter at a finite temperature radiates heat, all social acts radiate politics. In truth, to be "apolitical" is to be politically white-hot, to shine brightly in the colours of the status quo." -- Stephen Bond

But then again, nobody is saying that cryptography is inherently anti-woman, it's the culture that's under scrutiny.

> It seems those who engage in it feel privileged as if the rules of discourse don't apply to them and they can win by "playing the race/gender/etc. card".

I don't live in the US but I feel like this is an exaggeration. I agree that this behavior is disgusting, but the solution is to shame the individuals who engage in this behavior, not dismiss or whitewash the fundamental concerns.


Corny metaphor incoming: It would be like a director who has studied about 1920's history for years, having never experienced it, and a director having breathed and lived it. Who would you prefer to direct a movie, all other things being equal, about the 20's?

I've seen this type of ad hominem a lot and I'm not sure why so many people fall for it. I would take the historian every time. Aside from the well-studied facts showing that memory and eye-witness testimony are hugely inaccurate, in a movie about the 20s we would expect to see the 20s. We would want the period represented accurately as a whole, not one person's perspective. In a movie about Ray Charles, we would certainly like Ray Charles' input, but that is only because the movie is about Ray Charles' perspective.

To put it another way, if you're suffering an illness, does that make you an expert on the illness? Does it make you qualified to treat the illness? Clearly no, on both counts. Being a victim of racism isn't immune to anecdotal bias more than any other phenomenon. The cultural phenomenon of racism or sexism is not well-represented by a single person's experiences and it certainly doesn't give them any more license than an expert to attempt to proscribe a treatment.


  > First, throwing the term 'sexist' around carelessly
  > undermines genuine claims of sexism.
The same goes for rasism. We are at the stage, that merely acknowledging someone's sex or race will earn you these labels. Too bad.


>We are at the stage, that merely acknowledging someone's sex or race will earn you these labels.

That in itself is too broad a generalization though, because there are many times when mentioning someone's race/sex is, due to context, subtly racist/sexist.

Generally, if you mention someones race or sex and that information is not actually relevant in any way to what you're saying, you are helping to perpetuate stereotypes and prejudice. It doesn't matter that doing so feels normal to you; shouting slurs at minorities feels normal to neo-Nazi[1] skinheads too. The hard part about prejudice is that it isn't simply solved by honest people acting naturally. It's solved by honest people trying really hard not to be prejudiced, because prejudice is innate.

[1] ed: thanks for pointing this out, peterwwillis


Wow. The irony of discussing prejudice and in the same breath calling skinheads racists.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skinhead

Please, please, please, read that page. Not only to save yourself and others the ignorance of believing skinheads are racists, but also because there's a culture and a people that will be forever denigrated because the media and parroting readers will continue to perpetuate this stereotype.


My apologies. I should have specified "neo-Nazi skinheads". This is not in the same category as racial or gender prejudice, however. It is simply a matter of mislabeling.


No apology necessary. It's just incredibly frustrating that the label has been taken to such an extreme to the point that a whole subculture is guilty by association.

It's definitely not the same thing as racial or gender prejudice, but it can be just as damaging to the people who live under the label and deal with its unintended consequences (like getting beaten outside a club for shaving your head and wearing doc martens). We Hackers are lucky that we live in a world where geeks are now the popular cool kids and we can take back a word that used to get us expelled.


Except in this case you are talking about a subculture which is preoccupied with gratuitous violence (even outside the context of racism). That makes it not very comparable to race, gender or geeks.

Beating people is obviously not nice. But if you get beaten outside a club for intentionally dressing the same way as a subculture which is historically well-known for beating up people outside clubs for fun (or being a foreigner, or being gay, or being a hippie, or being Republican...) then that might be unfair, but it isn't at all surprising. And it doesn't even hold a candle to being attacked for things over which you have no control, like being a foreigner. It's not even related.

The comparison of this to racism and sexism is a ridiculous excess of political correctness on behalf of people who don't need it. Just stop. Nobody has an obligation to preserve the delicate feelings of skinheads from the consequences of the skinhead cultural obsession with violence.


I find it hard to agree with your point. Not because of your suggestion that there's a cultural obsession with violence, but because you seem to think it's fine that these people get stereotyped, because their supposed violent culture deserves it, or something. Wrong is wrong, and stereotype is wrong.

On your comment about a 'cultural obsession with violence': Perhaps that's your personal experience. It's not been mine. I have met many kinds of skinheads, from extremists and gangs to kids who just liked to hang out listening to reggae. I'm pretty sure you'll find lots of different cultures that have widely ranging attitudes.

I can tell you that skinheads are probably more likely than most people to jump in and defend someone, sometimes with violence. But they're also some of the nicest people i've known. I tend to find all kinds of working-class people act this way, regardless of subculture.

I can also tell you that at most punk or hardcore shows i've been to, if there's one or two kids standing in the middle of the pit randomly attacking people, it's usually some form of a skinhead. It's an embarrassment that most people in the subculture don't agree with at all. It is however a great opportunity to meet violence with violence, and show the individual that their actions are not welcome.


Interesting. The GP's usage is aligned with every instance I've encountered over the past 20-odd years (in the U.S.), while the Wikipedia entry appears to have a European focus and is starkly different from my understanding of U.S.-ian denotation and connotation of the term.

See, e.g., Merriam-Webster: "2: a usually white male belonging to any of various sometimes violent youth gangs whose members have close-shaven hair and often espouse white-supremacist beliefs."

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/skinhead


Go to a concert or local show which has music that skinheads like. Find one, and talk to them. They're pretty nice people generally, though they also may be defensive from getting so much shit for being associated with the white power fuckheads. I've heard the european skinheads are a lot more touchy than the american ones.

If they have a patch that says SHARP on it, they are 100% anti-racist, and will probably beat you up if you make a racist joke. A bit violent, yes. But not without reason. Again, not unlike some others (people like Ian MacKaye used to shave their heads and get into fights over stupid personal beliefs and weren't skinheads at all...)


Off topic, but I find it puzzling that there's basically a handbook for a subculture trying to be different. It seems like a logical impossibility for a subculture to actually be unique and different, when there's essentially a dress code (short hair, levis, dr martens). I'm not trying to make any value judgements on the subculture, just trying to understand.

Maybe the point is that the subculture / group itself is unique, and I'm mistaking that for individual uniqueness / individuality?


When I was young, I was a very shy kid with a stutter. Needless to say, school wasn't always the most pleasant place. By the time I hit high school, I was straight up angry. I was so sick of being beat up and called 'fag' that I resolved to be different.

So, I became a punk and started going to as many punk shows as possible.

All of a sudden, I certainly was not one of the cool kids, but I was part of a group that was disgusted by the cool kids. Thing is, our group had its own handbook. My friends were hardcore straight edge punks - we eschewed drugs and alcohol. We took much of our fashion sense from goth and grunge (really big pants, big boots, and lots of black). And, our particular group believed that we needed to be taken seriously, so we avoided mohawks and really bizarre piercings. We even had our own rituals - by Friday, we were so sick of everything that we needed to find a punk show so we could get into a pit and take some aggression out.

At the time, I thought I was a free thinker who became friends with a group of other free thinkers. But, to become that non-conformist, I had to conform to certain norms. In my example, your statement is correct - the subculture itself was unique, but we had very strict rules, a strict uniform, and rituals.


I understand, and this helps me resolve a contradiction of understanding I've had for a while. I always thought of the sardonic saying "I want to be different, just like everyone else." I get it though - the idea is to still identify with a group, just not the mainstream (default?) group. But the group still has common values by which it can be identified.

As another commenter pointed out - I also hadn't realized that unique can also mean "not typical." I've always interpreted it as one of a kind, and it makes a lot more sense recognizing this definition.


I haven't fully formed this thought (I apologize), but you made a great comment and I wanted to reply! (Thanks by the way, for your comment)

I'm going to go out on a limb and argue that, in high school, my group of non-conformists likely conformed more than the group of conformists we ranted against so much. Examples may help:

- I got into Joy Division in Grade 9. Suddenly, all my friends listened to Joy Division (and we even gave up on mohawks because Ian Curtis inspired us so much).

- Or, the beginning of grade 9, we were all obsessed with Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. But then, my friend Drew bought Shadowrun books. All of a sudden, we were all obsessed with Shadowrun (and cyberpunk in general). We were so obsessed that AD&D immediately went from the ranks of 'amazing system' to 'a stupid game for kids'.

- Bad Religion was playing in Edmonton. Suddenly, Bad Religion was our collective favourite band and we planned a crazy road trip to go see them play.

I don't totally understand the mechanism at play, but your comment brought all of this to mind. I suspect that since we were so socially outcast (because we all tried so hard not to conform), we felt that we couldn't lose what friends we had. Consequently, nobody rocked the boat about anything until University.

Oddly, we all drifted apart while we were in University. In retrospect, it looks like we only stayed together because we conformed so perfectly...

Thanks again for your comment - I love that I had these thoughts and I owe you for them!


Skinhead culture is about embracing things you do like, not rejecting the things you don't. They're not trying to be different. They just like the music and the clothes and the attitude, as well as the extended family nature of the people who identify as they do. I'm pretty sure everyone who associates themselves with any label is doing the same thing.


I wanted to thank you for your comments in defense of skinheads yesterday, but time got away from me (and I have a touch of ADHD). Thanks for jumping up in defense of a group I have a whole lot of respect for!


The way I always take it when I hear someone say they're their own person and they reject society is that they're merely choosing another culture to fit into. Counter-culture is not the lack of a culture, but rather the rejection of mainstream culture and instead choosing to fit in with a different group.

Emo/scene, goth, skinhead, hipster, whatever group they're a part of, it's true that they are being an individual and being counter-culture if you take the language liberally to mean they're simply making a choice to associate with another culture. Even if it's just a phase or a fad, but those people are not similar to the rest of society. Every society has a dress code; by not being a part of the majority, they are in fact "unique" in the meaning of "not typical; unusual". Language is fun!

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/unique


Some subcultures are non-conformist, and are very positive toward other subcultures. This is not one of those. The dress code is something skinheads judge each other on. It also advertises to others that you are a tough, aggressive person and that you are aligned with whites, or the working class, or whatever.

If you just went around in flip-flops and cargo shorts there is no way anybody would know that you identify as a skinhead, or know they should fear you.


I would argue there's some work that needs to be done on the other side of the coin, too. There are too many people making money off feeling oppressed. I personally don't feel the answer is making honest people go out of their way to carefully word their sentences to avoid mentioning a characteristic of a person, I feel the answer is understanding that saying "that is a person" is nowhere near as descriptive as "a black man from Chicago".

And herein lies the difficulty with reconciling language (which is a way to communicate descriptive experiences) with political correctness. Is his race relevant? Is his gender relevant? Is his city relevant? Maybe, maybe not. But the point is to describe the scene as it exists. The mere mention of descriptive words are often taken as prejudice when that's not the intention. Let's flip that back around. When I say "that person from Chicago", who do you picture in your mind? If you picture a man/woman, black/white/latino/asian, tall/short/fat/etc, you're being "prejudiced". Because I never mentioned any description of the person. But without that information, your mental picture of the scene is incomplete and your brain is going to fill in those blanks. Language has words you can add or omit to imply discrimination. "That black man from Chicago." "Another Asian from Chicago". "Of course, he's white." In absence of these deliberate hints, it's asinine to assume anyone is taking any sort of position.

When I go camping I don't say "I stayed somewhere with plants", I say "I slept in my tent on the ground in the Yosemite forest." That's not prejudiced against trees just because I called it a forest, nor against the Earth because I mentioned the ground. The more prevalent problem is not people being prejudiced, it's people feeling prejudged just because they expect to be prejudged. Why should someone go out of their way to reword and complicate their story when you're (hypothetical "you") are going out of your way to unword and read more into their story than they actually said?

(This isn't in response to the linked story, merely to mistercow's point)


Nobody is "making money off feeling oppressed".


There most certainly are people who have become celebrities off fostering the notion that true and abhorrent racism is everywhere. They make the news, they travel to picket, they write for newspapers, and in one case have actually been the subject of a South Park episode about creating racism out of nothing.

Likewise, there are religious figures who are making money off going on TV and shouting about how their religious freedoms are being trampled on and how it literally is an "us vs them" fight and if they lose it's game over for their deity.

Likewise, there are celebrities who get their paycheck in part or full from finding sexism in daily life. Ryan Singel just became one of them.

It's the power these people, few though they may be, hold over the discussions in society, the power to push political correctness and make people second-guess their words and actions to the point where it's impossible to keep up with what is polite to say and what will get you fired, beaten up, or cast out. There's money to be made in controversy, and that money isn't going uncollected.


True and abhorrent racism isn't everywhere, but it is endemic in most societies. And the vast majority of people who have reached 'celebrity' status for their writing on the subject have written because they felt a pressing need to do so, not in order to profit from controversy. If money is your bag, there are far easier ways of making it than trying to become a successful author.


I don't want to name names because for many of the people, breeding controversy is not their only goal. However, the Westboro Baptist Church and various notable Fox News celebrities (the ones who frequent the monologue of The Daily Show) are two cases where there is nothing going on except for profiting from false controversy.

Like I said, they are few. But they do exist, and they do irreparable harm to the discourse of political correctness by feeding off the fear that a group of people has of discrimination.


Untrue. I can't find the exact story I was thinking of, of a man in a wheelchair suing every business in his town that doesn't strictly adhere to ADA standards, but apparently it's not even as rare as I imagined.

http://blog.therohogroup.com/index.php/2012/04/ada-drive-by-...

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/brooklyn/bullying_city_bi...

And yes, you can say that these places should be handicap accessible, but there is no denying that some of these people are definitely making a profit from these lawsuits.


That's not making money off of feeling oppressed. That's making money off of successful serial lawsuits. Whether or not they feel oppressed doesn't enter in to the business model.

In the case of Hirsch, it's really hard to tell anything since an NY Post article (not a reputable source) appears to be the only primary source on the subject.

As for the ROHO post, the claim that they are raking in "huge amounts" of cash is pretty dubious. Even Hirsch with his 87 lawsuits would have brought in under $4500 total for his efforts. Not an insignificant amount of cash, but hardly a gold mine.

His lawyer, on the other hand...


I would argue that it is making money off the feeling of discrimination. The serial lawsuits are just a tool being used to make this money. Just as Ryan's soapbox as editor of Wired is a tool, the media is a tool for getting out the message of the "War on Christmas", etc. You don't actually have to feel oppressed to use the fear of oppression as a tactic in getting what you want. In Wired's case, there was no sexism either implicit or explicit. But you know, calling sexism gets pageviews and attention. And those things lead to money.

Has Hirsch really been tortuously injured by the lack of handicap-accessible businesses? It doesn't matter. What matters is that he is using the fear of discrimination to justify a lawsuit (or 87). This is definitely going beyond my original point of the use of language. The original point was that I cannot give offense to you, offense is something that can only be taken. Therefore it is up to the audience to be damn sure offense was implied before it is taken.


You don't feel that someone like the Rev. Al Sharpton would fit into such a category?


An the same goes for antisemitism. In America, [publicly] write anything critical of the Israeli government and you are labeled an anti-Semite.


To be honest I've seen people complain about this far more often than I've actually seen it happen.


Yes the complaints are more common than the occurrence (I think that's pretty normal, though), but the occurrence isn't uncommon. Back in my reddit days I was accused of anti-semitism merely for saying that creating Israel at that particular location was a mistake. Was that a real person? A false flag troll? Who knows.

I've also read accounts by Jewish people whose family members called them "self-hating Jews" because they criticized Israel.

But these anecdotes are not that meaningful. They do tell us the views of some extremists, but they tell us nothing about the prevalence of that extremism.


Reddit's users have always struck me as fantastically antisemitic. I think a lot of them do it for shock laughs, but the genuine article is present as well.

Saying Israel shouldn't have been born in that location isn't the same thing as saying Israel shouldn't exist, but Israel is the only country whose mere existence seems to require justification. Framing Israel's political problems as if they can be easily solved by not having an Israel certainly looks analogous to solving a Jewish problem by not having Jews. I'm absolutely not saying this is what you're saying, but this is how conversations about what should have happened instead are perceived by us Jews.


>Israel is the only country whose mere existence seems to require justification

Well, that's because most other countries weren't plopped down in the middle of an inhabited region, resulting in decades of violence and oppression that, and this part is critical, continue to this day. The US also shouldn't have been plopped down on the land inhabited by American Indians, but since the dust from that has mostly settled, it serves as a less poignant example of the dangers of nation-building. The lessons from history here should be obvious, but for reasons of nationalism and religion (by which I am referring to American Christians), those lessons are being obscured.

>Framing Israel's political problems as if they can be easily solved by not having an Israel certainly looks analogous to solving a Jewish problem by not having Jews.

I guess they look analogous? If you squint? I mean, for one thing, saying that establishing Israel was a mistake is not the same as saying that Israel should be dissolved.

For another thing, what "Jewish problem"? From context, I guess you're talking about the Nazis, but that "problem" was Hitler's accusation that the Jews were responsible for WWII. But unlike "Israel's political problems" (as you so delicately put it), that problem was a fiction.

Finally, while it clearly would not work to dissolve Israel at this stage, the problems with that plan do not significantly intersect with the problems of genocide.

I mean, I'm trying to be charitable to your analogy here, but it sounds to me like you're saying that people find "Israel shouldn't have been established there" offensive because it calls to mind an utterly false analogy.


It's counterproductive to bathe ourselves in outrage over mistakes that cannot be rectified when there are problems today that could be solved, or at least improved on, by calm diplomatic negotiation, if either side could distance themselves from their hurt feelings long enough to cool off a little and be realistic. Getting everyone riled up over the injustice of it all pushes this process into the future and benefits no one.

> I guess they look analogous? If you squint?

Feelings have a way of being irrational, but ignoring them exacerbates problems rather than solving them.

> I mean, for one thing, saying that establishing Israel was a mistake is not the same as saying that Israel should be dissolved.

No, but it doesn't bring anything to the table either, other than to make things emotionally charged and raise the stakes.

> Finally, while it clearly would not work to dissolve Israel at this stage

The idea that dissolving Israel was ever on the table is absurd. You can't just march into someone's country and dissolve it because you don't like how it was founded.

> the problems with that plan do not significantly intersect with the problems of genocide.

I'd like to know how that could possibly be true. It's quite a stretch for me to imagine that when the leadership of Israel's enemies call for "the Zionist entity" to be pushed into the sea they have something else in mind.


>It's counterproductive to bathe ourselves in outrage over mistakes that cannot be rectified when there are problems today that could be solved, or at least improved on, by calm diplomatic negotiation, if either side could distance themselves from their hurt feelings long enough to cool off a little and be realistic. Getting everyone riled up over the injustice of it all pushes this process into the future and benefits no one.

If you want to have diplomacy in the middle east, it is absolutely crucial that we first acknowledge that creating Israel there was a mistake. Not doing so is just continuing to say "fuck you" to Palestinians. We need to say "look, putting Israel here was a mistake, but it's here now and we have to deal with this."

>Feelings have a way of being irrational, but ignoring them exacerbates problems rather than solving them.

If, whenever someone disagrees with you, you feel like you're talking to Hitler, you're going to find that your feelings get ignored a lot. There is simply no way to have a productive conversation without ignoring feelings like that.

>The idea that dissolving Israel was ever on the table is absurd.

Are you taking offense to my mention of dissolving Israel after you brought it up?

>I'd like to know how that could possibly be true. It's quite a stretch for me to imagine that when the leadership of Israel's enemies call for "the Zionist entity" to be pushed into the sea they have something else in mind.

Ugh. So now what you're saying is that when someone mentions that putting Israel there was a mistake, you immediately attribute to them the positions of Islamist extremists. How do you ever expect to have a rational discussion when you can't stop thinking in kneejerk feelings?


This conversation is futile so long as you're inflating, misunderstanding and overreacting to what I'm saying.


I'm not the one who conflated "putting Israel there was a mistake" with "Israel should be pushed into the sea".


Those were unconnected threads. Did you forget that you said this?

> the problems with [dissolving Israel] do not significantly intersect with the problems of genocide.

I asked you several responses ago to explain how that could be. You dodged that question by being combative and insulting. I'm not willing to lose more of my calm debating a troll such as yourself. Discussion over.


The discussion was technically over when you Godwin'd several posts back.


It's in the interests of Zionists to conflate "Jewish" and "Israeli" with "Zionist," then react to anti-Zionist sentiment as if it was anti-semitism.


Well, sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't. I don't think we benefit much from reductive analyses on this issue. Israelis are certainly not politically homogenous. Some people call themselves Zionist meaning they support the settlers; others support Israel but want all of the settlers pulled out, etc. You can be Zionist and not be for any particular decision of the current Israeli government, and you can be fervently religious and not a Zionist. But let's not be dense; some anti-Zionism is exactly an expression of antisemitism. It's such a polarizing issue that both sides of the debate are inclined to overreact and overreach and wind up riding roughshod over each other's perspectives, which generates more bad feelings and makes everybody more extreme.


You want pithiness AND accuracy? What next, blood? :-) But yes, you're entirely correct.


Zionism--i.e. the settlement and defense of Israel itself--is the Jews' best hope to protect themselves from extermination. You're damn right it's suspicious to criticize that concept.


It's the expansionism, and the dispossession of Palestinians that requires, that gets all activists of my acquaintance _really_ het up. Why exactly all the settlements in the West Bank, outside the Wall? Are they "correct" according to Zionism?

Because if yes, Zionism is an ideology in favour of ethnic cleansing, which is an uncomfortable spot to sit...


> Why exactly all the settlements in the West Bank

I think it's reasonable to oppose those. Though I'm skeptical the settlements make any real difference in the situation. Removing them from the Gaza Strip didn't seem to make any difference, why would removing them from the West Bank help?


Well, it would signal seriousness about a two-state solution (how is this http://news.antiwar.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/westbank.... ever supposed to be a country? It's been almost completely Balkanized) and stop the theft of Palestinian land (it's very hard to feel ...less than ambivalent about a neighbouring country who allows its citizens steal your livelihood).

Basically, to stop this kind of conflict takes dialogue. Lots and lots of dialogue, with people who are serious about it. And not stopping the expansion of the West Bank settlements as per the Oslo Accords signaled that the Israeli government was not serious about its commitments.

(Hi, I'm Irish, I have a small idea whereof I speak, though not much.)


And you wonder why almost the entire world bar US politicians hates Israel. Not Jews. Israel.

Illegally putting "facts on the ground" through settlements is a big deal to the Palestinians and it's a big deal to everyone else. It needs to stop.


I never justified the settlements, I just think anti-Israeli sentiment wouldn't be improved any by removing the settlements. It almost doesn't matter if Israel does everything right or wrong anyway, because that's not the reason the world hates them.


Why do you think the world hates them, then?

(aside: There's a long distance between "please stop allowing or encouraging your government to treat other human beings in this terrible, terrible manner. Please think about the crimes done to them by your parents and grandparents - and by you. Please consider how you can encourage peace," and "we hate you." Or there should be, anyway; there are some very invested people.)


The bulk of the reason is antisemitism, with a good dose of groupthink on the side. In other words, it's become fashionable to hate Israel regardless of their actions.

When they make settlements it disturbs the peace process; when they unilaterally remove settlements, it also undermines the peace process. When they bomb or occupy a neighboring country it's an overreaction, but when that neighboring country is firing rockets into Israeli neighborhoods it isn't their responsibility. When a terrorist hate group takes control of Gaza and breaks away from the Palestinian Authority, they aren't disturbing the peace process, but when Israel and Egypt jointly declare a blockade on Gaza and Israel captures a "flotilla" trying to run the blockade, Israel are the oppressors--even though the supplies carried on the flotilla were merely inspected and passed through to Gaza anyway.

It's generous, and likely accurate, to say that those who hate Israel aren't thinking critically. Most people who take up intellectual fashions aren't thinking critically--that's why they take up intellectual fashions in the first place. But the more passionate ones are likely antisemitic. There are fair criticisms to be made, but there are also plenty of double standards at play as well.


When a terrorist hate group is the elected government of the Palestinian Authority, we expect you to deal with them as the elected government. Not to like it, but to do it. Martin McGuinness, former member of the IRA army council, is Deputy Minister of Northern Ireland - a country he ran bombing campaigns to destroy (I'm not exaggerating: the explicit aim of the 30-year PIRA campaign was a reunited Ireland). Nelson Mandela is a convicted terrorist. We expect so much from you, yes. No-one expects this much from people they hate.

That tar-brush you're waving around is very, very wide.


How do you propose Israel deal with a group whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel?

Perhaps McGuinness is reformed (you did say former member of the IRA army council). Does he continue to call for the destruction of Great Britain? If not, you can negotiate with that. Israel has long negotiated with Palestinian factions that endorse a two-state solution, such as Fatah. Mandela accomplished the destruction of apartheid, and it was only by De Klerk's agreement to the end of apartheid that he and Mandela could deal with each other. With Hamas, only the destruction of Israel will suffice. What exactly is there to deal with?


I said he was one of the commanders of a guerilla army committed to the destruction of a country he now is Deputy Prime Minister of. If he is no longer a member of the Army Council (he denies ever being so, with as much believability as Clinton's denial that he did not inhale pot) it is because the political role he was playing became more important, and military activity was jeopardizing that work. Sinn Fein still seek a united Ireland, but are trying to accomplish it through political means.

This is the power of dialogue. You talk, you talk, you keep talking. You deal with the less extreme popular factions (analogy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SDLP), but the key word in that sentence is popular: an agreement with an organization with no backing in the community is an agreement with no-one. You do NOT commit to something and then completely disregard it, because then your word becomes worthless, and no-one believes anything you say ever again.

I do not know the solution. No-one does. But attempting to push the Palestinians into the sea is not it.


He wanted to "destroy" Northern Ireland by unifying the counties inside of it with the Republic of Ireland, instead of keeping them unified with Great Britain. This is not even an unreasonable stance for a North Irish elected official, is it? It takes a lot of equivocation to equate that with what Hamas wants to do.

We can agree that Israel has made a lot of mistakes. That doesn't legitimate groups like Hamas and that doesn't provide any basis for dialogue with Hamas, either. Meanwhile, the anger and hatred towards Israel would be there with or without the mistakes. It was there before the mistakes and it will be there long afterwards.


Note: I am NOT claiming this is easy. It's incredibly hard. But nothing else works.


but this is how conversations about what should have happened instead are perceived by us Jews.

Not all of them.


I feel like that fine print was implied, but yes.


You can't suggest that Israel is well on it's way towards complete theocracy and deeper and deeper levels of state-protected misogyny while it's also losing any semblance of functional democracy and effective long term strategies without it being suggested.

Oh, wait, you can only say that about countries like Saudi Arabia. Silly me. Because the difference between flogging women and spitting on little girls is, you know, just so insurmountably vast.

And I'm not even touching the surface of valid criticisms that people just keep quiet about rather than utter, at least in America.

The worst part of it is that these criticisms generally have nothing to do with some sort of broad notion of Judaism as a religion or as a whole, but more particularly to Israel and its domination by short-sighted zealots.


That's because fear of being labeled is a deterrent from writing anything critical. To argue that this isn't a problem, find examples of people being critical and not being labeled.


Yes, to the point where the pre-emptive defense against being labeled an antisemite is used itself to shut down or shift the focus of discussion.

It's so wonderfully ironic and hypocritical, and it's extremely common on sites like reddit.


Criticizing the actions of any government is what it is, but many critics of Israel go so far as to say there should be no Jewish state, which in effect means the Jews should be a people without a homeland, forever vulnerable to extermination by the Gentiles they are forced to live amongst as an eternal minority. That alone is suspicious as it carries the shadow of antisemitism, but once you throw in explicit support for groups like Hamas, the picture becomes clearer.

Except for a brief moment of shame after World War II, the general attitude of the West has always been antisemitic. Those seeking to criticize the actions of the Israeli government should have to work harder to distinguish themselves from the antisemites who merely disguise their attitudes as criticism of Israel.


> Those seeking to criticize the actions of the Israeli government should have to work harder to distinguish themselves from the antisemites who merely disguise their attitudes as criticism of Israel.

This is the opposite of "no true Scotsman" - "always true antisemite"?


Not at all. It's a recognition that if racists run around using code words to thinly veil their hatred, it behooves the rest of us to make sure we don't get confused with the racists.


I disagree, the Israeli government should be working harder to distinguish itself as a well-governed state, especially when looked at from the U.S. as there is a large sum of foreign aid and military aid going from our tax dollars to the state.


Criticizing the entire idea of a theocracy, and that a religion should (of course) have a homeland to dominate, does not make you an antisemite, nor covered with antisemitism "shadow." More an antisemitism smear.

Now, I am suspicious of the people who are irate about Israel as a Jewish state, but are all about the Dalai Lama. I don't see how that makes sense unless you have something against Jewish people.


The child of a Jewish mother is Jewish regardless of their religion, and this applies recursively, so you can have generation after generation of secular Jews as long as there's an unbroken matrilineal line. So Israel is not a homeland for a religion, it is a homeland for a nationality.

Sure, a convert to Judaism is also a Jew. But Judaism is explicitly not a religion for everyone, it is only a religion for the Jews. So if you believe in Judaism but have no desire to be a Jew yourself, you can just follow the Noahide laws. Actually becoming a Jew entails an extra step beyond that, namely the intention to join the Jewish nation. So not even in the case of conversion can the Jewish nation be equivalent to Judaism.

In practice, Israel is also just as secular as any Western country. No theocracy to be found there. This is more than you can say for, say, England, which has a state-established church with the monarch at its head.


>The child of a Jewish mother is Jewish regardless of their religion, and this applies recursively, so you can have generation after generation of secular Jews as long as there's an unbroken matrilineal line.

So it's just racist? I prefer to think of it as a theocracy that preserves a culture that has been historically very endangered. That, I don't feel as bad about.

>it is a homeland for a nationality.

If you, by law, make being a member of a religion a sufficient qualification for citizenship in a nation, this is self-fulfilling.


A theocracy is a government that governs based upon the dictates of religious doctrine. The Israeli government does not do this in any way, shape, or form. It is as secular as most Western countries.

Most nationalities are passed down by descent. If this constitutes racism, then so does the citizenship law of every nation that grants the right of citizenship to the children of a citizen. Nearly every country does this, so there is no reason to single out Israel unless you are trying to enforce a double standard.

Some nationalities allow outside individuals to join, and the Jewish nation is one of these. Like any nation, the Jewish nation has steep requirements of cultural belief and assimilation in order to join, namely conversion to the Jewish religion. But this is not merely a matter of belief. A Gentile who merely believes in Judaism is still not a Jew until they formally convert (i.e. joins the nation), just as an otherwise qualified foreigner who can pass the US citizenship exam is still not an American until they take the test and swear the oath to become a naturalized citizen.


Israel is not a theocracy.


There are many nationalities and ethnic groups that no longer have their own sovereign nation. Are they all "vulnerable to extermination by the Gentiles"?


That depends. Do we have a long history of trying to exterminate those other nations? We have a very long history of trying to exterminate the Jews, or oppressing them regardless.


The Romani have been historically oppressed, and were the victims of genocide along with Jews in the Holocaust. Where should their sovereign state be located?

I hope I'm not being a jerk, but there were lots of Jews in the first half of the 20th century that were opposed to Zionism. I assume you wouldn't accuse them all of being antisemitic.


Obviously not. But it's not up to Gentiles to decide the best strategy for the Jews to defend themselves from us, either. Likewise, what the Romani do to protect their nation is up to them.


> ... the general attitude of the West has always been antisemitic.

Yes, we so viciously keep the Jews out of the good jobs in finance, law, and science.


do this in germany and you go to prison. usa still has the most liberal freedom of speech laws.


No you don’t.

You can be punished if you deny the holocaust or if you display Nazi paraphernalia in public (except for teaching purposes or in art, …).

None of this is in any way related to criticism of Israel. You will never go to prison for criticizing Israel.


I'm a completely uninformed white male, but I'm weary of drawing analogies between sexism and racism. It seems like reductionism, I think they should be tackled separately.


The same goes for rasism.

Well, we're at a stage in our society where you can't truthfully criticize some people because they happen to be members of select groups. Do so and you are accused of some kind of "ism".

As the GP poster indicated, this undermines those truly trying to fight a given "ism".


[deleted]


> ... one might argue that a woman may or may not understand a female target audience better

One might argue that women _on average_ may or may not understand a female audience better, but I can't even begin to think how someone wouldn't understand that variations between individual understandings would dwarf any potential divide here.


"May or may not" is the same as "on average, may or may not".


I'm not certain of the exact context since the comment has been deleted, but the impression I gained was that my parent comment suggested tenuously that a person could justify a sexist position taken against an individual due to a statistical bias in the sexes. I was trying to emphasise that this position couldn't be taken logically, not suggesting that "may or may not" was being applied in a non-aggregate fashion.


This is changing the subject slightly, but to be fair, it's the same statistical bias that's used to say that men earn more than women.


I've known Quinn Norton well enough to know she is intelligent and hard working. My view of the article was that it was more about the TSA security response to an author of a cryptochat software than a specific endorsement of the software itself. Soghoian's blog post was inflammatory and in my opinion, wrong.


There is nothing I can find in Soghoian's two posts that are any sort of criticism of Patterson, the security expert. It seems to be a huge and false claim of Wired's that there is any criticism of Patterson.

Soghoian does criticize the reporter, who is a woman.

Apparently for Wired, when you criticize one of their reporters, and their editor it's all out war to the death and here they played the gender card.

It was either that or admit their mistake.


Seems simple to me. If you call us out for terrible reporting, we'll slander you as a sexist. Welcome to my hosts file Wired.


>Welcome to my hosts file

Would you mind sharing your hosts file, or some sanitized subset of it?


Another response: http://c1qfxugcgy0.tumblr.com/post/28976190142/oops

  [Wired's rebuttal is] kinda annoying. Ryan Singel, old white guy, repeats 
  Quinn Norton’s gender (female) five separate times (she is a girl) 
  because Sogohian, dirt-poor terrorism suspect, is apparently the 
  chairman of the Patriarchy.[1] Hey, you know who else has white male 
  privilege, Ryan? Editors at old-media print magazines.


Reverse-sexism undermines and hurts the anti-sexist and female-friendly atmosphere that most of the tech community would like to foster. Gender discrimination and sexism need to be called out and stopped everywhere, but "crying wolf", without reason, weakens the very moral ground we purport to defend.


Indeed - I find Ryan Singel's attitude to be completely and utterly baffling. From his Wired post:

"Soghoian suggesting that if Quinn Norton ever wanted to write about about encryption tools in the future, she ought to “step back, take a deep breath, and pull the power cord from your computer” isn’t just rude and obnoxious, it’s border-line sexist"

Out of context, I can't really see what he's getting at. In context, the idea it's 'border-line' sexist makes no sense at all. Singel has chosen to infer sexism under the mis-guided impression it's targeting one of his writers, but in fact the quote is pretty clearly intended to be read as a criticism of all technology journalists.


"Borderline" anything does not make any sense to me. It seems to be nothing more than a way to call somebody something with plausible deniability, I guess to protect against libel/slander suits?

The way I see it, being "borderline" to something means that it is "close" to something, but not actually something. I guess an octagon could be a "borderline" circle? The issue here though is that if you are pointing out that something is "borderline sexist", you are basically saying "it is not sexist, but it is close to it". What the hell does "close to sexist" mean? Is being "close to sexist" wrong? If yes, why isn't it just called "sexist"?


> Reverse-sexism undermines and hurts the anti-sexist and female-friendly atmosphere that most of the tech community would like to foster.

It may be that the tech community would like to foster anti-sexism, but reality shows that it does anything but that. Also, reverse-sexism isn't a thing, there is just sexism (which men, as a gender, are largely not affected by).

> Gender discrimination and sexism need to be called out and stopped everywhere, but "crying wolf", without reason, weakens the very moral ground we purport to defend.

Soghoian's original paragraph about Norton's tweets are sexist as they don't add anything to his original blog post except to taint Norton as someone who is biased against men, which Norton's tweets don't even support. Soghoian knows his audience is primarily men and even if he didn't intend to show Norton in that light he sure did.


I know csoghoian personally. I found the rebuttal article from Wired to be absolutely abhorrent.

I do not speak for him, but I think you can safely assume that the vitriol reserved for Chris is somehow co-incident with his preference towards working with the WSJ to bring cogent computer security reporting to a wide audience. My impression is that Wired sees this as a US vs. THEM kind of thing.

Delivering secure solutions to an audience that is unaware of the risks is always a dodgy proposition. Better informed customers would improve the market for those solutions and keep vulnerable persons from over-trusting a flawed product. We all benefit when this happens.

Chris is asking for better reporting, not male reporters. A very big difference indeed.


There's an interesting post at Cryptome that mentions crypto.cat - http://cryptome.org/2012/07/chile-comments.htm (apparently the Chilean police have some transcripts of conversations, and it's not clear how).


I decided a while ago to stop reading Wired, after some ridiculous piece of hack journalism I can't even remember now. This makes me want to stop reading Wired again, but I can't do it twice.

This is like Sony all over again. I've been boycotting them for the past few years, and they just keep doing things that make me want to boycott them. When will someone invent the double boycott?


Dunno, but I've all too often had a Clayton's boycott - the boycott you have when you aren't having a boycott. Perhaps we could email each other to exchange ideas?


Being sexist is bad.

Accusing a man of sexism just because he doesn't agree with a woman is worse.


This statement makes no sense to me. "Being sexist" encompases an absolutely huge range of behaviors. It could mean something as small as making a dumb assumption about what type of aesthetic preferences someone has, to something as large as making hiring decisions that can permanently stunt someone's career growth. It could even mean promulgating laws that legitimize violence against people.

Sexism is thus a category of bad behaviors, some of which are worse than anything I could imagine stemming from being accused of sexism. I am not saying that being falsely accused of sexism is nothing. It certainly would make me angry and frustrated to be so attacked. I just think false accusation of sexism is worse than the least severe forms of sexist behavior, and better than the most severe forms of sexists behavior.

Asserting that false accusations of sexism are always worse than sexism seems obviously false.


Mostly, I agree. Except with the part about (laws that legitimize) violence against people. In this case, the problem, IMO, is not sexism/discrimination, but violence as such.

I wrote the above mostly because I wanted to make a statement, and I wasn't in the mood for writing lengthy arguments. Also, from a purely philosophical point of view, where we analyze not the actions, but the motivations and principles behind them, the statement holds true, because accusing someone of being sexist is both sexism (belief that people of different sex differ in more than their most basic biology (which they maybe do, but that shouldn't be generalized)), and ad-hominem, which is (philosophically) worse than being just sexist.


This. US culture on the whole is overly sensitive to criticism in my view. If someone criticizes another, the typical response is to give a "No way, you're judging my unchangeable characteristics!" rather than "Hey, let me think if this has any merit." Mountains from molehills, methinks.

I think the blog author did a great job handling the ad hominems though.


One is not any worse than the other. Both are sexist!


As usual Wired's brand of journalism is skin deep, at best. Any time they report on something I have a bit of expertise in, it's wildly inaccurate.

OP's tale sucks, but does not surprise me.


Unfortunately, a lot of "tech journalists" are amateurs with exaggerated notions of self-worth because they have some readership. Like the hacked guy at Wired who was so clueless as to keep important data in one place (his Apple acct), but blames everybody else for his loss.

If you keep all your data on your MacBook and believes Apple will take care of the rest, you are not an expert, you are a fanboy that has no right to state your opinion publicly.


    > Today, Ryan Singel, the editor at Wired's Threat Level 
    > blog responded to my blog post, but incorrectly frames
    > my criticism as if it were solely directed at Quinn 
    > Norton and her coverage of Cryptocat.
Considering about half of your original article was strictly discussing Norton's coverage, I can see where he got that idea. Then your original piece includes this bit:

    > It isn't clear why Norton felt it wasn't necessary to 
    > publish any dissenting voices. From her public Tweets, 
    > it is however, quite clear that Norton has no love for 
    > the crypto community, which she believes is filled 
    > with "privileged", "mostly rich 1st world white boys 
    > w/ no real problems who don't realize they only build 
    > tools [for] themselves."
That's an attack on the author, don't you think? You just implied she neglected to include any criticism of the tool because she hates the crypto community. Not only does this illustrate your lack of understanding the concept of privilege, but it's rude and unnecessary, so I don't blame Ryan for taking offense.

For starters, Quinn wasn't trying to bury facts— the paragraph about how Cryptocat is an experiment is directly above the screenshot of the app, so it's fairly noticeable.

Second, your section titled "On the issue of privilege" doesn't actually talk about privilege. It talks about how two white men were stopped at the border to the US and one who had some of his devices seized. Her tweet was stating that maybe tools made by white men in first-world countries might not be able to adequately address the needs of less fortunate individuals under oppressive regimes.

So sure, it's great to call out projects that seem Too Good To Be True™, but multiple times you drew attention to Quinn's specific article, and even once needlessly quoted a few of her tweets. I don't see that attention paid to any other reporter, so Ryan's rebuttal is mostly on point.


That's an attack on the author, don't you think?

(Shrug) Quinn effectively attacked and discredited herself by posting that Tweet. It's fair to bring it up when suggesting that she might not be the most qualified person to write articles on subjects related to cryptography and information security.

If there are any subjects that don't benefit from uninformed opinions posted by dilettantes, cryptography and security would be near the top of the list.


I don't know if I'd put it quite that way. It is an attack on the author, but attacks are not automatically invalid. We must ask the question "Was Soghoian's attack legitimate?"

I could comfortably answer yes. Soghoian could not come up with a reasonable explanation for Quinn's decision to not publish criticisms of the program. He therefore hypothesized that the author simply did not respect the people offering the criticism. He then produced a quote from Quinn which would support that hypothesis. If Soghoian were incorrect in that assessment, the Wired response should have pointed that out.

We must also realize that this means Soghoian isn't quite right in claiming his first criticism was about tech news in general. He did specifically criticize Wired, and therefore Wired is well within its rights to respond. Wired's allegations of sexism, however, was definitely not legitimate.


    > Quinn effectively attacked and discredited herself by 
    > posting that Tweet.
That comes off rather victim-blamey. Nothing about what she tweeted paints her as ill-informed. In fact, quite the opposite: I would argue the crypto community is very privileged. It requires higher level education in a STEM field and access to modern computers.


Since we have that sorted out, can we then come to the core point of your argument here? Namely, what does this have to do with bad or good crypto?

Cryptography is math. Its no soft science where someone can push his agenda through careful interpretation of statistics. The background of the people researching it is irrelevant.

But none of that is important. Important is what happens when you use terrible crypto in a terrible country: your data will be siphoned off at the backend and western IT people with the same high level education will trivially decipher it.

And that is why its necessary to criticize people pushing magic crypto systems. It literally kills!


Well, the background of crypto researchers was core to Quinn's "privilege" tweet. That's one of the points the OP author touched on in his response-response, so it was relevant here.

And of course it's necessary to scrutinize people pushing crypto systems or tools that claim to do something no one has been able to do before! That's not what the Wired post was about, though. It was about how the OP author specifically targeted the Wired piece's author and made it seem like she was either too incompetent to write an article about Cryptocat or that she wrote the article because she hates the crypto community (still don't understand how he came to that conclusion.)


The concept of "privilege" as used in social justice speak is merely a tool used to discredit people who are in the wrong demographic/social/cultural categories without having to address the content of their arguments. And pointing this out is labeled "derailing", to avoid having to address that line of argument either.


I'm sure someone, somewhere has used the concept of privilege to unfairly discredit another person's opinion, but I think you're trying to apply cold, hard reasoning to something that requires deeper thought. Privilege, when used in social justice, refers to an area where one person has an advantage and another person belonging to a different group does not. If you need help understanding the concept, take a few minutes to read this excellent post on the subject: https://sindeloke.wordpress.com/2010/01/13/37/

This doesn't mean a white person can never talk about race. It means they need to understand they're coming from an entirely different perspective— a perspective that has the upper hand. Social justice covers topics that are inherently complex and might not conform to strict models and theories. This means where an argument comes from has a lot of bearing on its validity. That white person from earlier can participate, but they have to understand they've been living in a world where they get a head start, and often times, they have no idea when that world is giving it to them.

Anyway, that was a bit of a rant, so please read the blog post I linked to get a better idea.


Key phrase of your comment:

> This means where an argument comes from has a lot of bearing on its validity.

That's a more polite way of saying what I said.


I'm thinking Singel's -ism meter is just screwed up, here's a twitter post where he seems to equate the driver-bicyclist relationship to racism, and in a somewhat offensive way to boot:

https://twitter.com/rsingel/status/232719063854510082


John Lennon, apparently: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woman_Is_the_Nigger_of_the_World


I don't think that was offensive. I think it was a pithy, vivid way to get his point across.


he deleted the tweet and posted an apology: https://twitter.com/rsingel/status/233624361104470016


To me the Wired piece reads like the sort of defensive rebuttal that is usually best to put in a drawer for a day or two before sending (or in this case publishing). It's long, wandering, needlessly emotional (appeal to sexism), and in places reflects an inaccurate reading of Chris's piece.


Wired really sucks a lot of the time. This is an unfortunate example of just how bad it can be.


Sadly, there is a growing contingent amongst the computer security/hacker scene who, instead of actually looking to improve things, are looking to be indignant about something.

A major conference has recently had to deal with issues stemming from a complaint about harassment that wasn't actually a complaint. It was never reported to staff, nor venue, nor law enforcement. Instead, twitter and blog posts were used.


I still remember when Wired was relevant. You know, back in the 90s, before they declared the web dead for the first time.


You mean the Wired who has been getting tons of press for their reporting on the Apple iCloud debacle last weekend? That irrelevant Wired?


I'm not sure I consider publishing a first person narrative reporting. If Mat had gone back to Gawker, would we be praising Gawker?


That whole Apple thing was staged. It started as a thought experiment over beers and was carried to its natural conclusion in the name of page views and awareness.

Wired has oscillated between relevant and annoying for many, many years now.

The type of attack they 'documented' is well-known and has been discussed in many circles. This is part of the reason they've had so many quotes from 'the hacker'. It's all about pushing the right buttons. Apple stuff is news.

Life is awesome. Enjoy.


Is this your pet theory, or do you have some way of documenting that it was staged? And do you have examples of records on the internet where this attack was discussed before?

I'm not saying that you are mistaken, nor am I saying that you are lying. But I can't accept an assertion like that at face value without seeing some supporting evidence.


I can accept that. I don't have anything that I'm willing to share. To be sure, I'm not suggesting that any of the companies (Apple, Google, Etc.) were willing participants.

Likewise, if you're looking for a discussion of this exact implementation of exploiting the trust relationships created by users of cloud services, you'll not find it.

That said, exploiting trust relationships that users naturally create in the cloud, is common. This is just one specific attack, designed to get page views and raise awareness.

It worked flawlessly. Life is but a dream.


Ha!

>I don't have anything that I'm willing to share.

That's a great phrase than can truthfully mean both:

"I have stuff that I'm not willing to share." and "I don't got nothing."


I'm going to channel Harry Reid on this one and ask that my claims are disproved. Let's see the logs. Let's see the communications with "The Hacker".


Well, maybe not irrelevant but way more less relevant than it was. Back then it was something I read regularly. But now it's the place where I go to on lazy days when there's no other action on the internet and I'm too procrastinate-y to code :)


Wow, wired really has hit a low point here.

This feels like little more than linkbaiting trolling, but I suspect that it was in earnest which is almost worse.


This sort of nonsense isn't surprising from tech media at all. However, I am genuinely surprised and dismayed to see it coming out of Threat Level.


I hope users of crytpo software in critical situations look to more than Wired Magazine to evaluate the safety and reliability of their software.


I can't say I'm surprised.

I've read some great stories in the Wired print magazine over the years, but their online presence is typically Gawkeresque.


The header of the blog post is broken in Firefox. I had to remove an element with Firebug in order to read the first couple paragraphs.


If the author's going to complain about hype in news coverage, perhaps he shouldn't be a leading contributor to one-sided news coverage like the Wall Street Journal's 'What They Know'.

Or is hype in news coverage only a problem when it's hype the author personally disagrees with?


> ... perhaps he shouldn't be a leading contributor to one-sided news coverage ...

> ... Or is hype in news coverage only a problem when ...

In fact it is only a problem when it's from the other side; and that's an understanding that separates the people who know what they're talking about here from the people who don't.

One flaw suffices to break security. Any number of paranoid suspicions can be held without harm (...to the security).

That's why you don't cheerlead for new systems. Maybe she should've asked, oh, I don't know, any security researcher at all, besides apparently Patterson?

I don't know what Patterson said. If Patterson didn't warn her then Patterson deserves a drubbing, too.


While I wasn't privy to Meredith and Quinn's conversation, Meredith is a world-class security researcher, as you can verify with DBLP; and she has a strong interest in protecting political dissidents. So I strongly suspect that she covered all the relevant issues.

Quinn knows plenty of security researchers.


Isn't that a Tu Queue fallacy?


It would be if I was trying to invalidate the author's argument, which I wasn't - I was just pointing out his hypocrisy.


That's fair I suppose.


ack. And additionally, this "tu quoque" accusation also insinuates that WSJ reporting focuses on hype - whereas the author explicitely mentions their reporting as a example of high-quality journalism (and other commenters here seem to agree).


He's right that WSJ security coverage is by far the best of any "normal" publication. I also think WSJ AllThingsD is probably the best general startup coverage (and also headed by a woman).


Sexism debate in 3...2...1...


ITT: snake oil people talk about snake oil things


Sorry, Ms. Singel, your sexism card has expired.




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