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Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

The censor-morons are loose, and they’re attacking the small targets so their totalitarian masters can expend their energy on big ones like the internet.  –  “The Return of the Censor

Censorship, once condemned by all ethical people, has now become almost universally popular.  From the most totalitarian of governments down to the youngest of adults, it seems everybody without a functional moral compass (which is to say, the great majority) wants to impose their ideas of “right” thinking and “correct” speech on everyone else.  China, of course, is leading the way, with a new Maoist-type campaign to purge schools and libraries of books deemed insufficiently pure, but the West isn’t far behind.  In the UK, cops are knocking on doors to intimidate people who made statements online that the cops didn’t like, and early this month a woman in Melbourne was actually arrested for posting on Facebook about a protest against totalitarian “lockdown” orders imposed by the Victorian government.  In the US, the pandemic is only one of many popular excuses for censorship; others include “hate speech”, criticizing the police, and (for social media platforms) either engaging in censorship on their own or not censoring often enough for the tastes of censors.  I know that last is confusing, so let me state it a different way:  Some politicians and other control freaks want to censor Facebook, Twitter, et al for engaging in censorship themselves, while others want to censor the same entities for not censoring enough.  Yes, it’s complete lunacy, and it isn’t limited to the internet; culture warriors in academia, Hollywood, and even corporate America are firing,expelling, or otherwise ostracizing people for engaging in wrongthink, or even for failing to chant approved party slogans with sufficient enthusiasm.

When I was a librarian, Banned Books Week was little more than an academic exercise; censorship was an intermittent and generally impotent threat proceeding from small numbers of narrow-minded busybodies, which was easily defeated by librarians and other guardians of our shared cultural heritage.  But that was a generation ago, and would-be censors have become numerous, aggressive, well-organized and (most concerningly) popular.  Few of those under 30 even understand what free speech is or why it’s important, and the majority or those over that age imagine all sorts of exceptions that they believe should be reasons to violently suppress speech, ranging from “it hurt my feelings”, to “it was said or written by a dead person who did things considered normal then, but which are now mortal sins”, to “it contains ‘bad’ words”, to the ever-popular “But SEX!”  As I wrote last year, the censor-morons (a term coined by D.H. Lawrence, one of many writers now considered “problematic”) are loose; furthermore, they are multiplying like bacteria and have already infested all the centers of power.  For now, the courts are mostly still defending the rights of those with enough money, resources, and patience to fight “cancellation” through official channels.  But if you will take the time to read all of my essays for this occasion starting in 2012, and working your way up a year at a time to the present, I think you’ll see a very frightening trend.  We are watching the advent of a new dark age, and in such times no light is entirely safe from being snuffed out by zealots, speech-cops and bureaucrats whose ideal model for human society is the anthill.

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Taking Shape

As regular readers know, I’m planning to semi-retire at the end of this year; I stopped creating traditional ads over a year ago, and as of January 1st I will no longer take new clients unless they come recommended by someone I know personally.  The pandemic and civil unrest of this year have given me a glimpse of what that’s going to look like:  for the past six months I’ve been living at Sunset, returning to Seattle a couple of times a month for a few days at a time.  For example, I just came back to Seattle on Tuesday for an appointment, then tonight I’ll be flying out to see one of my favorite clients for a weekend; on Monday I’ll be heading back to Sunset for a couple of weeks.  And though this year I’ve been incredibly busy with the remodel, the big things should mostly be done about the same time I semi-retire, and the details by next summer.  And then I’ll just be able to settle into a comfortable routine of writing, publishing books, going back to town or traveling elsewhere to work or make public appearances, cooking, relaxing, puttering around the farm, visiting with friends, and maybe even getting a long-delayed D&D game running.  After half a century of sturm und drang, I have finally (mostly) learned to relax, and even my inner nun is beginning to grudgingly admit that I’ve earned it.

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I hate that you put me in this position.  –  unidentified pig

As many of you can probably guess, I’m not a fan of Platonic thought; I am, however, a fan of weird short films from the ’70s, like this one discovered by Jesse Walker.  The links above it were provided by Kevin Wilson, Amy Alkon, Thaddeus Russell, Mike Siegel, Cop Crisis, and Radley Balko, in that order.

From the Archives

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The ACLU of old is, alas, no more.  Gone is the organization so passionately devoted to civil liberties that it paid for a team of Jewish lawyers to defend literal Nazis’ right to free speech; in its place is an organ of the Democratic party whose main concern is keeping its cash flow as high as possible by parroting its primary donors’ beliefs (often in childish tweets repeating some a priori statement in all caps, over and over, without a word of justification), and never ever ever challenging those beliefs, no matter how anti-civil-rights and factually wrong they may be.  So it was unsurprising when they recently tweeted the silly rhetorical question, “Prisons and jails aren’t drug rehab centers, so why does our country use them as such?”  The answer, of course, is that it doesn’t; it uses them as cages to lock people up for the “sin” of drug use, so as to “correct” them.  The newer model of drug use as “disease” has been overlaid on the old “vice” model, but has not replaced it, just as newer brain architecture has overlaid but not replaced the old architecture of emotions, instincts, etc.  The same process is visible in cops vomiting out the new “whore as victim” rhetoric while still actually enacting the old “whore as criminal” model.  It’s what happens when a system is bad at phasing out obsolete processes, such as the ACLU being unwilling to change its name despite the fact that it no longer has very much concern for civil liberties.

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One Neck

Would that the Roman people had but one neck!  –  Gaius Caligula

I’m not going to analyze this propaganda too deeply, parse out which of the statements make sense and which don’t, or discuss the long and tortured history of the construct of “whiteness” and how it has changed over the past 400 years.  I’m not even going to comment (beyond this sentence) on the fact that this was lifted from a 30-year-old book by a white woman.  All I’m going to do is remind you that the National Museum of African American History & Culture is part of the Smithsonian; it is owned and run by the US government, and therefore heavily invested in promoting that government’s interests (because he who pays the piper calls the tune).  And then I’m going to ask you why a government might want the most oppressed minority under its rule to associate individualism, independence, autonomy, and rational thought with their oppressors.

 

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As I’ve written before many times, nations and empires are as mortal as the humans who build them, if somewhat longer-lived; and despite the childish beliefs of many Americans, the US is not an exception.  It will die as all political entities must, and it has already passed the point at which future historians will draw an imaginary line dividing the “classical” US from the imperialistic police state which succeeded it.  Over the past few years, we’ve seen a succession of events which has dramatically undermined whatever prestige the US enjoyed:  the ascension of a mad emperor who has made himself an international laughingstock, burned nearly every bridge, and weakened the economy with a ridiculous trade war; the exposure before the eyes of the world of the violent, racist, authoritarian rot that permeates the entire fascist sytem; the childish bickering and deranged tyrannies of nearly every member of the US political class, trying to one-up each other instead of fulfilling one of the few legitimate functions of government, disaster management; and said government’s shameless funneling of money into the hands of the well-connected on a scale unseen since the collapse of the Ancien Régime.  But these were just the visible ulcerations of a cancer which existed for decades before (itself developing from the nation’s ugly birth defect, the morally repulsive notion that people do not own themselves, but can be owned by other people, groups or rulers).  As I wrote in 2013,

…the rulers, rather than admitting the systemic problems, prefer to treat government as a colossal game of hot potato, eternally passing the ball forward in the hopes that it will be in someone else’s hands when the music at last stops as it inevitably must.  But as the events of the last few years have amply demonstrated, the piper is growing steadily more exhausted, and will soon demand his due.  Soon we will be forced to change the way we’ve done things for the past century, whether we like it or not, and the actions of the ruling class (especially that of the US and UK) over the past few decades bode ill for that change being a peaceful one.  I think it’s safe to predict that there will be fireworks, and not of the pleasant kind…

The era of US hegemony is over; it looks, may the gods help us, as though the dominant world political power of the twenties is going to be an empire even more outrageously evil and single-mindedly authoritarian than the US ever was.  I suspect it won’t be long before the process of Balkanization which is already underway becomes obvious even to those who are deeply invested in ignoring it, and Washington joins Rome as a relic of crumbling monuments which was once the most powerful city on Earth.

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Last Saturday, Chekhov and I were spreading gravel over the bathhouse area, and just as we had come to the conclusion that we had pulled everything we could out of a pile left over from the French drain project, one of our neighbors showed up with a dump truck full (we had called him the day before but weren’t sure he had received the message) and gave it to me for free because I let him store his extra hay in my barn.  He’s a white man in his sixties of the type common in rural areas across the US:  a big, jovial, clever-but-uneducated, good-natured farmer.  So we chatted for a while, and naturally the protests came up; since very few older, rural white men have ever had a bad interaction with cops, I assumed there was no point in doing anything other than listen politely because arguing with him about it would be useless (possibly even counterproductive).  As I expected, he could not comprehend why people are talking about abolishing cops entirely; he has not had the life-experience and/or made a study of the topic, and therefore believes that cops exist to “protect and serve”.  But then he said something I didn’t expect: “They oughta lock them killer cops up!”  Despite believing the propaganda we’ve all been fed about the goodness of cops, he made no excuses for wanton murder and clearly stated his support for criminal penalties for criminal cops.  The cries and protests are being heard by the general public at last, and people are unhappy about the way cops can literally get away with murder.  And when you’ve lost ordinary older white rural men like my neighbor, you might as well give up.

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It will be neither an easy fight nor a quick one, but neither was the struggle for LGBT rights and look how far that’s come.  –  “Galvanized

Today is International Whores’ Day, a celebration of the power and resilience of sex workers in the face of state violence and social stigma alike.  This year, when our community is suffering from pandemic-caused privation in addition to the evil crusade which many governments subject to US hegemony have increasingly inflicted upon us since the beginning of the century, it may seem as though there is little to celebrate; some even worry (and others hope) that current conditions will accomplish what no other menace in history has been able to, the end of sex work as a viable profession.  The yellow journalists at CNN even published a story whose headline shrieks, “Can the world’s oldest profession survive the age of social distancing?” and I’m here to answer it:  Of course we fucking can.  As I wrote over three years ago in “For My Sisters“,

We have survived the fall of empires and the disappearance of whole peoples.  We have survived fire, flood, famine, pestilence, war and every other disaster.  We have survived persecution, pogroms, confinement in brothels, literal slavery, mutilation & even burnings.  We will survive this too…and our tribe will exist when The USA is nothing but a thing kids learn about in history, then forget.  We are as eternal as the sea; our enemies are mere insects, who annoy for a season and are then gone.  In order for them to win, they would have to completely destroy human sexuality; in order for us to win, all we need do is practice the patience and courage which we have in abundance.  And though it’s difficult to remember that in trying times, it doesn’t even matter if we do or not because even if we as individuals forget, we as a group will survive and triumph nonetheless.

The prohibitionists’ best attempts to crush us have all backfired; public support for decriminalization is higher than it has ever been, and a week doesn’t pass that some prominent magazine, newspaper, website or even politician calls for it.  Every prominent human rights organization, medical organization, and academic who has studied the subject agrees.  Sex work is even increasingly viewed as “cool” by young people, and the same pandemic which is causing us so much pain right now has also turned “sex trafficking” hysteria into yesterday’s news (a fact even prohibitionists are starting to grasp).  Yes, things are very damned bad right now…and it will pass, as everything does.  And when it does we will still be here, just as we always have been.

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The most popular current excuse for expanding the police state and destroying civil liberties is “the pandemic”.

Before that it was “sex trafficking”.

Before that it was “terrorism”.

Before that it was “crime”.

Before that it was “drugs”.

Before that it was “communism”.

Before that it was…

How many times will you let them fool you?

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Phrases like “essential worker” and “nonessential business” are now being bandied about by the collectivists without any apparent recognition of what such phrases say about their ugly view of humanity.  People are complex individuals who often find comfort in belonging to something larger than themselves; they are not ants or mechanical parts to be reduced to “workers” and declared “essential” or “nonessential” (for the latter read “disposable”) by their owners.  The idea that bureaucrats have the right to make such pronouncements over the lives of individuals, and to dictate that some people are unworthy of being allowed to make a living and feed their families, is a totalitarian abomination.  Even if you accept the extremely shaky premise that it was “necessary” to forcibly cut off some people’s income in order to manage a pandemic, no society which pretends to be “free” has any business sorting human beings into categories as though they were produce.  Rather than subjectively (and such decisions were extremely subjective, varying wildly from state to state and country to country) declaring some people’s businesses, jobs, and needs expendable, governments could instead have established clear, objective criteria to which businesses had to adhere in order to go unharassed.  For example, the plexiglass shields which have now appeared in grocery stores and other “essential” outlets would be equally effective in many other businesses, regardless of whether politicians declared them “essential” or not, and cops have repeatedly demonstrated in the past few weeks that they imagine their busybody interference in the lives of people who are doing mundane things that aren’t remotely unsafe (such as walking with a spouse in a park) to be “essential” despite its potential to expose people to infection (especially when they actually manhandle such people and lock them in the filthy cages which have become breeding grounds for pestilence).  In short, the only people who have demonstrated themselves to be “nonessential” during this crisis are the sociopathic control freaks who imagine that everything they do and say is important, while other people are simply interchangeable objects to be sorted through and either used or discarded.

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