sabotabby: (doctor who)
 After this piece of dreck.

MEDIUM SHOTS OF SIX INDIVIDUALS ON A WHITE BACKDROP, SPEAKING DIRECTLY INTO THE CAMERA.

BONEHEAD

I would describe my political views as the new right.

FEMINIST

I'd say that I'm left.

Title: TWO STRANGERS DIVIDED BY THEIR BELIEFS.

NARRATOR (V/O)

She believed that she was a full person entitled to human rights. He believed that she should be making him a sandwich. Is it possible that the truth lay somewhere in the middle?

A buzzer, much like one you might hear in a prison, buzzes.

INT. WAREHOUSE

Title: MEET FOR THE FIRST TIME

Each pair faces each other over a pile of flat pack IKEA boxes.

BONEHEAD

Feminism today is man hating.

FEMINIST

I would describe myself as a feminist 100%

Title: EACH KNOWS NOTHING ABOUT THE OTHER OR WHAT THIS EXPERIMENT INVOLVES

DOUCHE

I don't believe that climate change exists.

SMUG ENVIRONMENTALIST

I drive a Prius with Bernie Sanders stickers on it!

TRANS WOMAN

I'm, like, a person and stuff.

TRANSPHOBE

I'm more obsessed with strangers' genitals than a normal person should be.

Title: IS THERE MORE THAT UNITES THAN DIVIDES?

WHITE CISMALE HETEROSEXIST SUPREMACY

*Intensifies*

The pairs are presented with the flat pack boxes.

DOUCHE

I got this. I am a man and therefore an expert in IKEA.

Montage of each pair struggling over the instructions.

BONEHEAD

I think this is in some kind of furrin' language or some such.

TRANS WOMAN

What *is* a KUGGALLÂ, anyway?

FEMINIST

I think this is missing a piece. Maybe all the pieces.

Close-up of shelf, assembled with all of the pieces facing the wrong way and some random bit dangling.

SMUG ENVIRONMENTALIST

Aaaah, just hold the—this thing—for an—OWWW.

TRANSPHOBE

This has to go in that hole, there's no other hole that it can go in.

DOUCHE, screaming his head off, tosses a board into the wall.

SMUG ENVIRONMENTALIST sinks sadly into a pile of cardboard boxes, his face in his hands.

TRANS WOMAN stabs TRANSPHOBE in the eye with an Allen key.

TRANSPHOBE
Sooooo much for the tolerant left...

FEMINIST (CRYING)

I...can't. I just...can't do it.

Long shot. Everyone is crying and/or bleeding. Clawing herself across the floor, FEMINIST finds a case of Heineken and cracks one open. DOUCHE reaches for her.

FEMINIST

You! Stay away! I will fucking glass you.

Montage of everyone sobbing into a beer amongst the wreckage of half-assembled furniture and battered cardboard boxes.

Title: HEINEKEN: IT CAN'T SOLVE RACISM, SEXISM, TRANSPHOBIA, OR CLIMATE CHANGE DENIALISM, BUT IT WILL EASE THE PAIN OF YOUR COMPLETE AND UTTER FAILURE.

BLACK.

sabotabby: (doom doom doom)
I'm finished work at 8:05 pm! That's only an 11-hour day—a record for me lately, and gives me a whole hour or so with which to SURF THE WEB and all its wonders. And I have internet at home, which is exciting.

Because he clearly hates me, [personal profile] frandroid  asked for my opinion on two recent Twitter hashtags—#lacgate and #hothick. You folks know that I hate Twitter, right? As far as I can tell, the only useful thing it's ever done has been providing me with a torrent of #piggate jokes when the story broke, but whether this balances out the way it's helped to mangle the English language by sticking number signs in the middle of otherwise reasonable sentences, reduce everyone's collective intelligence by limiting thoughts to 140 characters, make otherwise reasonable writers break their blog posts into un-parseable gibberish, and turn the internet into a hate-filled cesspool remains to be seen. 

But okay, there's been some good stuff on it lately. So here goes.

#lacgate

While everyone in the US wakes up like this each morning:

picard - damage report

wondering what new horrors Cheeto Benito has wrought, you'll be pleased to know that Canada too is in the throes of political scandal. #lacgate has gripped the national imagination and is currently haunting my fucking nightmares.

The story is as follows: A decade ago, at a party of the political elite, Globe and Mail journalist Leah McLaren attempted to breastfeed the infant child of one MP Michael Chong, the Last of the Red Tories and the current best hope we have of stemming the global wave of fascism.* McLaren was not at this time lactating—she just wanted to know what it was like. Chong walked in on her and put a stop to it. He's subsequently confirmed that yes, this totally happened.

The entire country proceeded to lose its shit.

I did a really good job of avoiding reading about this for about two days. Look, I think birth and parenting and breastfeeding are all wonderful things, but I have a massive squick around the details thereof. The whole thing horrifies me. I totally support the right of parents to whip out a boob and feed the kid wherever, and post it to Facebook without censure, etc., but it's okay if I avert my eyes, isn't it? Because if I think about it too much my own boobs hurt. Why anyone would want to stick their nipple in a baby's mouth that did not belong to them is gross and awkward and weird and TMI. And also I think a violation of—something.

The Globe and Mail has, in response, suspended McLaren for a week. This, of course, is a complete overreaction but also hilarious. Isn't print media dying? They must have gotten a million clicks from people sharing the article, and then frantically searching for it when the story got spiked the same day. This is good for business, which is why someone must have approved it in the first place.

I also really wonder why shit like this even gets published. I know so many starving writers who are better than the journalists who get paid to write incoherent drivel, like Rosie DiManno, or hateful screeds like Christie Blatchford, or blatantly plagiarized hateful screeds like Margaret Wente. And yet, as the industry gets downsized to nothing—and as the world teeters on the brink, and First Nations communities don't have running water, and migrants lose fingers to frostbite trying to flee the US, and climate change threatens to sink us into the ocean—people are getting paid to reflect on how they once tried to breastfeed a stranger's baby at some bougie party ten years ago.

Vice has a funny article about it, of course.


#hothick

I didn't even know what this was. Ho Thick? Hoth Ick? No, apparently it's Hot Hick, which is a thing. That is a thing apparently I am when I go country line dancing. Anyway, it's a hashtag too.

I checked it out, and it includes people confessing to finding the guy in Duck Dynasty hot. I am typically a "live and let live" type person (except when it comes to breastfeeding strangers' babies), but I actually think that this is a kink that is not okay. I am not okay with people finding the guy in Duck Dynasty hot. Sorry. In fairness, it's mainly because he's a racist.


#osslt

I'm going to add one of my own, because today was the day of the standardized literacy test here, and apparently there's a hashtag for that, too. It's pretty funny, and probably far more educational than the test itself, which is a pointless waste of students' time, teachers' time, and taxpayers' money.

Anyway, this year the braintrusts at the EQAO (that's the company we pay to put our tenth graders through hell) thought that a good question to ask 15-year-olds on a test they need to take to graduate high school was: "If you could meet any historical figure, which one would you choose, and why?"

This is a question meant for old people. Obviously teenagers are going to blank, and reportedly, many of them did.

If you know any 15-year-olds, you will know that 90% of them can name only one historical figure.

Yes, that one.

So have fun marking that.



* I'll explain. Chong is the most moderate of the candidates for the Tory leadership, which is still more right-wing than I'd prefer, but basically he's the only one who's not a Nazi. In a federal election, he'd have practically no chance of winning. Which is why a bunch of non-Tories have recently joined the Conservatives in an attempt to vote him in as leader. I think it's not a bad strategy, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. He does seem like a good egg, though.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (go fuck yourself)
There's so much stupid out there, and it's hard to know when to start when savagely mocking things, even without the US elections stealing a problematic plot point from an episode of Doctor Who. But here are three things that made me roll my eyes so hard that simply a link and a snarky remark on FB was not enough.

1. Facebook, as you probably heard, took down a post from a Norwegian daily featuring the famous photo of Phan Thị Kim Phúc, best known as the "napalm girl," but be a decent person and call her by her name, okay?  Espen Egil Hansen, the editor-in-chief of Aftenposten, retaliated brilliantly, as you can read here, and eventually Facebook did relent. However, their justification—that is is just too much effort to distinguish between one of the most famous photographs of all time depicting a massive political turning point and child pornography—is what's hella stupid.

Fortunately, I don't need to do a takedown of the whole thing, because Dan Hon did it rather beautifully here, and do take some time to read that post, because it's great and includes one of the most awesome trigger warnings I've ever seen on an online article. But the key takeaway is encapsulated quite nicely here:

Facebook - and, more or less, Silicon Valley, in terms of the way that the Valley talks about itself, presents itself and so-on - is built on and prides itself in solving Difficult Problems. At least, they are now. Facebook is a multi-billion dollar public company where *some* things are difficult and worth doing (e.g. Internet access to 1bn people using custom-built drones, but other things are, by implication, *TOO HARD* and don't warrant the effort.
I was going on at great length yesterday to a friend about my hatred of Facebook's sorting algorithm, and how it can cause some friends to disappear and some to become disproportionately prominent, and make you feel as though no one is listening to you and you're shouting into a void when it decides it doesn't like one of your posts. (It's bad enough when it happens on FB; worse when it happens in cases like hiring practices or policing techniques; we are increasingly delegating large parts of our lives to supposedly objective technology that's created by subjective, and generally speaking, racist, humans.) LJ solved this particular problem in a very simple way, by showing you every post by every friend in the order that they posted it, without continuous scrolling. Now, obviously, this doesn't fit with FB's business model at all, or the way that most people use it, but it does show that the problem can be solved.

Historically, we have not asked big monstrous corporations to solve all of the world's problems, but Silicon Valley seems determined to solve all the world's problems, or at least "disrupt" and create problems where there weren't any problems before. And we seem willing to surrender the questions of what problems exist, and which are worth solving, to them, which is why the US seems to have delegated creating its educational policy to Bill Gates, of all people. Which brings me to a tangential point raised by someone in the BoingBoing forums: At what point do we make a distinction between the traditional definition of free speech being freedom from government repression, and start being honest about the control over the discourse that corporations get. At what point is Facebook equivalent to or more powerful than a state actor? I think we're there; Facebook is the primary news source for a huge chunk of the population, and at some point we need to force it to act responsibly or force it to abdicate this role.

Anyway, fucking stupid. Hire some humans who can distinguish between a black-and-white news photo of a naked child on fire and actual porn, and pay them a living wage.

2. SPEAKING OF A LIVING WAGE...Okay, I've mocked this to shit already today but I'm not done mocking, no I am not.  Via Everyday Feminism, currently vying with Upworthy for the Worst Place On the Internet: 20 Ways to Help Your Employees Struggling with Food Insecurity and Hunger.

Now, for a site that claims to be all about accessibility, EF is slightly less accessible than, say, Alex Jones after 72 hours of substituting Red Bull, vodka, and crystal meth cocktails for sleep, which is to say it's one of the worst-written sites I've ever seen. I'm guessing they don't have paid editors. Every article is skimmable at best, and tends to amount to: "Be gentle, check your privilege, and don't forget to self-care with your yogurt." But this is possibly the worst article of every bad article I've ever read there, because not one of these 20 ways is "pay your employees a living wage."

Because, sorry. A minimum wage is supposed to be a living wage, and if your employees are on food stamps, you are not paying them enough. If you "can't afford" to pay them enough, as EF suggested in their equally ludicrous rebuttal to the criticism this article garnered, you are a shitty businessperson and deserve to go bankrupt. And if you have the time and money to learn about your employee's food sensitivities—again, you are not paying them enough, and hardworking taxpayers should not be expected to subsidize your lack of business acumen.

Should you be in the odd position where you cannot control how much you pay your employees (let's say you're the just-above-minimum-wage manager of a McDonald's, though if you were, I'm not sure why food sensitivities would be an issue), plenty of helpful friendly unions would be happy to come and visit your employees and assist them in organizing to get their wages raised.

Also, they include the worst suggestion of all time, which is to load up on meat-lovers pizza. Please do not do this, whether your workers are starving or not. In 100% of catered work events I have attended, the "meat-lovers" go right for the paltry vegetarian options and eat it all up before the vegetarians can get to it.

3. Finally, let's talk about architecture. Check out York U's new building! Now, York U is already the repository for a collection of the worst architectural trends in the last half-century (as is Toronto in general; we spawned Frank Gehry, after all) but this one is just too hilarious to be believed. It's like the Edgy White Liberal of buildings. You can practically see the #hashtags in #every #sentence in that #puffpiece.

Guess what, starchitects. People figured out hundreds of years ago how to make buildings work, and you can't improve on it all that much. Human beings like to feel relatively contained, and more importantly, like their ambient noise to be contained, particularly in places where they're supposed to work or study. That's why universities have quaint, outmoded features like "classrooms" and "lecture halls." Ever tried to work in an open concept office? It's distracting as anything. I'm all for less productivity—productivity is one of the Great Lies of late-stage capitalism—but I would rather be unproductive on my own terms. And common areas for meeting with students? When students want to meet with me outside of class time, it's quite often to tell me that they're struggling with family or workload or mental health issues, so why not just shout that all over the #learningspaces where the whole #engineering program can hear it?

Plus, like every building erected in the last 20 years, it looks like the architect gave up, crumpled the blueprints, and submitted the balled-up paper as the actual design.

Kill it with fucking fire.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (wall)
I'm going to talk about the photo of the dead Syrian toddler. You've been warned. I won't show the picture itself, or the other ones like it, because you've all probably seen it by now and I want people who have chosen to not see it to read this entry.

But I'm going to start with a story that I've probably told before, and probably even told on this blog, about images. The year is 1990. My country, among other countries, goes to war with Iraq. Like a good peacenik child of peacenik parents, I am opposed, and am as outspoken about the issue as a precocious 11-year-old can be, which is to say that everyone in school thinks I'm weird. I have lived my entire life in the shadow of the atom bomb, with Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes ringing in my ears. I know what war does.

And yet I didn't. The images in the newspaper, on the television, were of sanitized battle, red dots and green night-vision like a video game, with nothing like the photos of the My Lai massacre to drive it home. One could be forgiven, watching the news, for thinking that smart bombs were so smart that they managed not to kill anyone at all.

As a teenager, I saw the images the news hadn't shown. Banned in Canada, the photo was of the charred corpse of an Iraqi soldier. You can Google that too. He was the enemy, a bad guy, the guys our brave soldiers had fought, and he spent last moments trying to escape a burning car, screaming in agony. This was why I'd opposed the war. I wondered, had those around me seen it, would they have opposed the war too? It's so easy to erase the identity of the enemy, of the Other, when you don't see his suffering.

As a country, we went to war meekly, unquestioningly, like we typically do. Today, I see kids watch those sanitized video game images, dream of going to war themselves. They play Call of Duty and watch drone footage of bombing and relish in the carnage. The victims, real and virtual, are not human to them.

Which brings me to Aylan Kurdi, age three.

Social media does what social media does. The leftists post about the crisis in Syria, washing up on Europe's shores. They cry out for someone to do something. Along comes a shocking photo that jolts everyone. Those previously uninvolved and unaware share it. Facebook bans the images. The discussion shifts from the tragedy to the image of the tragedy. The tone shifts. Everyone becomes a monster.

Sorry, I'll need to talk more about the image of the tragedy than about the tragedy itself. In this post, anyway. If you want to talk about ways to help, that's what the comment section is for, and I'll post any useful information I glean.

The first disclaimer: I speak only for myself, not anyone on either side of the debate.

The second disclaimer: Despite how ugly the tone has gotten online, we're all actually on the same side. Unless you voted Tory or UKIP or are secretly Donald Trump, you probably are pro-migrant justice. If you're not, please do the world a favour and DIAF.

The first strawman: No one on the pro-sharing-the-photo side is saying that anyone is a bad activist or too much of a sensitive special snowflake to look away.

The second strawman: No one actually wants to look at pictures of dead kids on their FB newsfeed, okay? No one wants to see this image. No one wants kids to die.

I managed to find the post with all of the dead kid pictures, remove the thumbnail, and share. It took me about ten minutes to decide whether I should and then figure out how to remove a thumbnail on FB's newest redesign. I personally believe these photos should be seen. I am also aware that they're horrible to look at, and I don't want to see them, and they make me cry. I don't want to trigger anyone.

I posted a second article from the photographer that included a thumbnail with a less graphic photo. That was all last night.

This morning several of my friends posted that they would unfriend anyone who posted the dead kid pictures. Okay. Several other of my friends posted the dead kid pictures. Statistically, if you're interested, 100% of the people I saw write against posting were white Canadians. All of them were parents. Many of the people who posted the photos were people I knew from migrant justice activism and a few of them are Syrian. One of the latter commented on the irony of white Westerners ignoring all the Syrian toddlers butchered by Assad, which is a fair point. Some were parents, some were not. All of the people in this discussion, on both sides, are people that I respect and whose opinions I respect.

(By this afternoon, everyone had moved on to talking about Canada's culpability; the children and their mother would be alive if the Tory government hadn't refused their application for refugee status. The social media cycle is short like that.)

For years, involved in Palestine solidarity and anti-war activism, I posted dead kid pictures, thinking that they would shock the apathetic into action. Then I stopped, because I felt it was disrespectful to the dead and their families, and because I think we get desensitized to pictures of dead bodies. I think the global reaction to the pictures of little Aylan Kurdi illustrates the importance of these images, no matter how horrible it is to look.

A few points of discussion:

Consent of the family: This is the single most important question. Until this afternoon, we didn't know whether Aylan's family wanted the photo of his corpse to be shown. Now we know. The father, who has suffered the worst a person can suffer, wants his child to be a symbol of the refugees' plight. He wants this to be seen.

The feelings of the community: How do these images represent the lives of people in the broader community? I'm not Syrian; when I posted the pictures, I was taking the lead from people more directly involved than I am.

On that note: A friend pointed out, rightly so, that we never see the bodies of dead white children. (I'm not sure if that's entirely true; we certainly did in the Sandy Hook massacre and the Oklahoma City bombing.) It's only black and brown bodies that are reduced to the moments of their deaths rather than to their lives.

The feelings of victims of trauma: The parent who's lost a child, for example, or the survivor of a war zone. That's why I don't think these photos should be forced on anyone (other than Tories, who deserved to have it shoved in their faces). LJ and Tumblr have mechanisms built in to prevent people from being triggered; FB is of course terrible at it. But this deserves consideration, of course.

Bottom line is that these images getting out has already had an impact. The atrocity stares you right in the face. It makes the Conservative politicians responsible duck for cover, at least for a few minutes. It shakes up the apathetic. Which is why I think they need to be seen. Otherwise, little Aylan is just another statistic; after all, don't brown kids always die in large numbers?

Images have power. I can't say why one has more than another—my Syrian friends have been posting horrific images of dead children for years, with little noise generated outside their community—why this one has the potential to topple governments and maybe even save lives.

This is why, personally, I can't look away.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (racist!)
Following, via the internet (because fuck knows I'm not going near actual newspapers or TV right now), the police riot in Baltimore. Like most of you, I'm full of rage and helplessness and horror.

In between updates, I've been mainlining episodes of Daredevil (which is awesome, by the way). I highly recommend it for a variety of reasons. Among them are its portrayal of a very nuanced moral universe. Without delving too deep into spoilers, both the protagonist and the villain do objectively Very Bad Things in the service of a near-identical goal: to improve the neighbourhood where they grew up. The latter sees gentrification and disaster capitalism as the key to fixing Hell's Kitchen; the former fights for the rights of tenants in rent-controlled slums. You can probably guess why I like it, beyond that I enjoy silly TV shows with superheroes beating the shit out of each other.

I'm going somewhere with this.

The show is really, really violent. Like, graphic in a way that makes me flinch, and I do not flinch easily. In between fight scenes, the characters debate whether it's justifiable to take the law into your own hands. The premise paints a picture of a dystopian city, where the rich circumvent the law, manipulate the media, and use the police as a death squad—so, pretty much like we have now—and as a viewer, while you may find it squicksome, you accept the narrative justification for Murdoch putting on a mask and beating the shit out of people every night. Because he's tried the other way, and failed.

Which brings me back to Baltimore.

David Simon, creator of one of the best TV shows ever, is requesting that the "rioters" go home. His voice carries a certain weight, since most of what I know about Baltimore I learned from watching The Wire. But he's wrong. The so-called rioters are home. And I don't see as they have much of a choice at this point.

I want you to imagine you're watching a silly show on TV. In pretty much every episode, a young man dies. Usually he's killed by the police, who are depicted as hopelessly corrupt. The deaths are horrific, over-the-top in their brutality. Helpless victims are beaten, tased, left to die. In the last episode, a young man looks at the cops funny, so they arrest him and sever 80% of his spine.

No one in authority does a thing. The friends and families and communities of the victims try to do the right thing. They try to appeal to the law. To the media. But the police are corrupt, the courts are on their side, and the media is preoccupied with Bruce Jenner or something. When their appeals are met with silence, they take to the streets in peaceful protest. You can imagine what happens next.

At what point, oh viewer, does violence become justified? Let's be honest; if this were a TV show, and not reality, you'd be rooting for the hero to be mowing down these fascists in the first 15 minutes.

Now, I wouldn't recommend violence because the state has bigger guns and is happy to use them, but I understand it. What gets me is the utter lack of empathy on the part of people wringing their hands about a few bricks being tossed, like a window matters more than a young man's life. I don't get why people don't see that every legal, civilized means of dissent has been exhausted and trampled over. I don't get why everyone in that entire city and anyone who can get in a car or on a bus, isn't out there in the streets, protecting the protesters from the cops.

I like fiction because it builds empathy. We can sympathize with drug dealers and junkies when The Wire reveals their struggles and aspirations. We can sympathize with vigilantes when we watch their desperation at an unfair system grow. And yet. We can watch high school kids, armed with nothing more than bricks and righteous outrage, face down a militarized racist police force that won't hesitate to kill them, and complain that they're not behaving like we would want them to, that they just need to lower their voices and their fists and we'll talk this out like rational people, as if anyone in power had any designs on civility. As if were ever anything but an impossible struggle against an implacable enemy. We get this in fiction, so why not when it happens in real life? Is it really that hard to understand?
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (eat flaming death)
If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you know I have serious issues with Free the Children and its corporate wing, Me to We. I have issues with them because they take jobs away from the very communities they claim to help, because they appropriate the language and form of activism to guide impressionable children through meaningless activities designed to make them feel like they're "raising awareness" rather than self-organizing, because they are a for-profit company allowed to set up franchises in publicly funded schools, and because the smug faces of the Kielburger brothers are the very reason why the Germans coined the term backpfeifengesicht.

But you know me, I'm an extremist of the loony left, so of course I'd have issues with liberals. However, this organization is so perfidious even liberals should have problems with it. Case in point: They are litigious bastards who quash every critical media piece published about them. Seriously, try Googling "free the children + controversy" and see what happens. No supposed charity is free from controversy—except this one. Reason being that they are very good at getting criticism of themselves scrubbed, up to and including pulping a Toronto Life exposé about their corruption.

Now they've managed to get a CBC documentary about voluntourism, Volunteers Unleashed, yanked. The very excellent Canadaland has the scoop, including the two clips that the Kielburgers don't want you to see.

Just a little reminder that censorship doesn't need to look like jackboots and burning books to effectively silence dissent. Go watch them before Canadaland gets sued too!
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (eat flaming death)
I keep having thoughts about the Michael Moore/Seth Rogen/Clint Eastwood/loads of even stupider people thing, and what its implications are in terms of free expression. Which I resent, as I try very hard not to think about most of these people at all.

The short version of this story is that Clint Eastwood made what looks like a very slick movie based on a book written by a murderous pathological liar. I haven't seen the movie. I'm semi-planning a viewing party if I can get a good torrent of it and reviewing it on this blog, but there's no way I'm going to pay for something that's going to give me a headache. But my issue has very little to do with whether American Sniper is a good movie or not. It might be—I'm too much of a Sergio Leone fangirl to discount Eastwood's contribution to cinema—but that isn't the point. The point is when Seth Rogen and Michael Moore, both film professionals, went on Twitter to criticize it, they got an avalanche of shit in response that forced them to retract—er, clarify—their positions.

I find this fascinating.

Let's cycle back a few weeks ago, when we were all Charlie, and freedom of expression was supreme. Did you lose friends in a Charlie-based debate? I sure did. Some of my points have been vindicated, in that the result of Je Suis Charlie is that the rights of white men to say whatever racist shit they like has been confirmed by the international community as sacrosanct, whereas anyone else's tasteless and shitty attempts at satire are grounds for arrest. So the freedom to be an offensive asswipe (or to not engage in collective gestures of national mourning) is, far from being a universal value, largely contingent on skin colour, much like every other freedom under a white supremacist system. Quelle surprise.

Digression: I'm not a free-speech absolutist—few people are, when you take free speech absolutism to its logical, fire-in-a-crowded-theatre conclusion. One must have certain societal safeguards in place. Hate speech contributing to a culture of persecution is one such logical limit—but, naturally, works poorly as a law, since those in charge of enforcing it are generally on the winning side of said culture, so this limit is best enforced by pieing, egging, and public humiliation (not, however, by murder. At most, several months hard labour in gulag.). Presenting false information as fact is another limit; otherwise you end up with FOX News blatantly making stuff up, and large numbers of people believing it, which is a tangibly bad thing to happen to a civilization.

Why am I talking about Charlie again, when I promised not to? Because this new construction of free speech, which is in no way new, has an interesting twist. Previously, you had the right to say whatever (as long as you were a white man). Now, you are free to say whatever (as long as you are a white man, and you are offending the correct people)...and no one else has the right to say you suck for doing so.

Let's break it down. We know what free speech legally means in most of the Western world: It means that the government cannot break down your door and arrest you for publishing something. That's a pretty good rule. On a more informal basis, we can extend it to the right to not be killed by extra-legal actors, such as idiot terrorists, for publishing something. Most people can get behind that.

But we also know what free speech means on the internet. It means that I can't be banned from your journal for responding to your post entirely with pages and pages of pornographic ASCII* because I disagree with your opinion on MRA, because if you ban me, you are censoring me. It means that you can't say that Charlie Hebdo is racist and unfunny, because if you do, you're against free speech and pro-terrorism and insufficiently European. It means that you don't get to block your aunt on Facebook after she forwarded you that anti-vax propaganda. It means that all speech, no matter how offensive, wrong, or sub-literate, is absolutely equal in value and deserving to be heard.

The result of this confusion over what freedom of expression actually is and is not is twofold. First, Jenny McCarthy's opinion on vaccinations is allowed to occupy the same space in the public discourse as that of actual doctors with medical degrees. Second, it becomes taboo to criticize, because criticism is equated with censorship. Saying that something is balls is equivalent, in today's parlance, of saying that you think it shouldn't have been made and want to silence the person who made it forever.

Which brings me, via a roundabout route, back to American Sniper.

What Michael Moore said is that snipers are cowards. What Seth Rogen said was that the movie reminded him of that bit with the Nazi propaganda movie about the sniper in Inglourious Basterds. (I find the latter comparison insulting, as I suspect Tarantino shits out better movies than Rogen, Moore, or Eastwood-as-a-director could ever hope to make, but I'll admit that my bias is towards movies that I actually find entertaining.) Both are fair statements well within the tradition of film criticism.

In fact, the very point of film criticism is for someone who knows a lot about film to take a giant shit over someone who has just made a film. This is a fine tradition, and there are many shining, hilarious examples of critics utterly destroying an awful movie that reinforced cultural hegemony and thus was wildly popular, such as Zizek's takedown of Avatar or Kermode savaging Sex In the City II. One would think that film criticism—in this case, the critique of a film made by a white man by other white men—would fall squarely into the realm of Culturally Approved Free Speech.

But. It ignited a Twitterstorm. It became a Thing that I had to read about in the Real News. Apparently it was such a controversy that both filmmakers had to step back from their initial statements and say positive things about the film, like they liked Cooper's acting or they enjoyed the movie.

This is not film criticism. This is kindergarten, "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything," no fee-fees allowed to be hurt bullshit. And I find it deeply disturbing, chilling, because the freedom to critique is all about the freedom to question, and in order to maintain some sort of justice or equilibrium in a culture where anything can get said, you must also have a culture where anything that gets said can be questioned. Obviously, we've never really had that, but we've also historically had gatekeepers. Now it's all about the loudest, richest voices, and if people out there are loud and rich enough to force loud, rich Seth Rogen to back down on a tweet, what hope is there for anyone marginalized ever getting a say?

* Why did you click that? You know better. You know what I'm like.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (fuck patriarchy)
I'm not going to write a lengthy post about Jian Ghomeshi because a) other people have said it better, b) I'm about to head out and won't be around much this weekend, and c) I actually find it really difficult to read any details about this case and I'm finding it hits too close to home.

I am appalled that less than 100% of the people I know are supportive of the brave women who have come forward. I am appalled that I'm still seeing arguments suggesting that he was fired because he was kinky, or that he is innocent until proven guilty, or  that he should not be tried "in the court of public opinion," when the court of public opinion, i.e., social media, is the only justice any of these women, or any survivor of rape or domestic abuse, will ever know.

But the worst, the worst of all, is the people who are asking why the women didn't go to the police. I can't really deal, not at all, so I'm just going to leave this article, by a former Crown prosecutor, about why women don't go to the police.

Trigger warnings, obviously.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (monocleyay)
What happened: Lord Tubby of Fleet (that's not a fat joke BTW, that was apparently his prison nickname) interviewed his new BFF, the Honourable Wife-Beating, Drunk-Driving, Bird-Flipping, Crack-Smoking, Drug-Dealer-Murdering, Lying Liar What Lies Mayor of Toronto. You can watch the video here:


Or read the Star to get the most newsworthy bits.

But I think I'll do a reaction post anyway, because let's face it, this is an HISTORIC INTERVIEW OF EPIC LULZ.

It's a reaction post! )

Well that was 17 minutes of my life I'll never get back. Worth it, though; the whole thing is comedy gold.

ETA some reaction gifs, because apparently I'm a 13-year-old girl on Tumblr.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (eat flaming death)
Q: So why is the mayor allegedly hanging out in a crack house in Etobicoke?

Doug Ford: Well, you know something, I know, OK, let me cut to the chase, Don (Peat, Toronto Sun reporter). Because your paper’s gone a little offside.

Q: The paper that endorsed you in 2010?

Ford: Everyone changes. Until the media —

Q: So did the mayor.

Ford: Can you let me finish, Don? Until the media, stops it’s [sic] Soviet Stalin-era Pravda journalism, and for the folks that don’t know what Pravda journalism, back in the day of Stalin, that tries to coerce, get the people to believe in what they’re doing.

Q: What are you talking about, Doug?


The whole interview is comedy gold. Never change, Dougie.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (red flag over TO)
It's another day of Fordsplosion as police have released some wiretaps. (Warning: autoplay video.) The latest revelations:

• Ford was aware of the crack video, despite claiming otherwise.
• He offered $5000 and a car to a gang member for the video.
• There were more images of Ford doing drugs and "being in a lot of fucked up situations."
• Ford associated with gang members, who tried to blackmail him with the video.
• Ford associated with at least one known felon, Lord Conrad Black. (Okay, that wasn't in the wiretaps, but I felt that I should point it out.)
• The crack video was the motive behind Anthony Smith's murder.

Now, the shitty thing about being a pseudononymous blogger writing about an unfolding news story is that, unlike the cops and journalists, I don't get paid to do it. The nice thing is that no one cares what I have to say, and I don't have to worry about libel suits or fucking up a case, so I'm going to come out and say it: Ford had Anthony Smith murdered. At the very least, the Honourable Wife-Beater's poor decision making led to Smith's murder, but I think it's most likely that he directly ordered him killed.

If you think I'm leaping to conclusions, imagine what would happen if Ford, instead of being a multimillionaire white mayor of a major city, was instead a poor 21-year-old black man like the guy he had killed. Would he be in jail now? If he were lucky enough to have a job, would he have kept it for very long once it was proven that he'd committed crimes and taken drugs? Ford is only a free man, making tons of money, and able to keep his job (and not even have to work at it!) because of the race and class privilege that he embodies so completely.

The connections between the HWB and politicians like Hudak and Harper go beyond the fact that they're personally friends. It's something fundamental to the conservative ethos. They are above the law. The law does not apply to them. They can lie, cheat, and kill with impunity, and when they are, on rare occasion, found out, they are given the benefit of the doubt by the police and the media. Ford is a feature, not a bug.

And he had a guy killed to cover up his crack problem.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (eat flaming death)
Weekdays here have been exciting, with revelations and new videos. On the weekends, it's more sedate and we get various bits of analysis and behind-the-scenes specials about everyone's favourite reality TV show and gravy trainwreck. Which is unfortunate for me, given my schedule.

Today's Sunday read is just perfect, though, because guess who, of all people, came to the Honourable Wife-Beater's defence?

Are you ready? Brace yourselves, it's...

Convicted felon, traitor, and far-right nutjob Conrad Black. Yes, Baron Black of Moonbattia is still a loyal member of Ford Nation—of course, and I'd be utterly disappointed to find out otherwise.

That's just perfect. I hope they hang out together while the Laughable Bumblefuck drinks Bud and smokes a crack pipe while Lord Black sips champagne distilled from the tears of orphans. I mean, can you imagine them in a room together?

Highlight:
At the time of the last election, I agreed with most of the positions Rob Ford espoused, but was disconcerted by his inelegantly phrased defence of a colleague, that he “has other fish to fry than feathering his own nest.” When I was asked about the mayor ten days ago by the world’s most famous mayor (and Britain’s most popular politician), London’s Mayor Boris Johnson, I defended Mayor Ford, while mentioning that comment of his, and Boris responded that he must have been referring to the well-known feathered Australian porcupine fish.


WHAT. Hahaha.
sabotabby: (molotov)
So there was a plot to bomb the B.C. legislature on Canada Day, apparently. Two white fuck-ups, who may or may not have converted to Islam, planned to interrupt the festivities in Victoria with pressure cooker bombs. They were stopped, which is obviously a good thing.

The RCMP is claiming that they were "inspired by Al Qaeda," which is a problematic claim to make for a number of reasons. I imagine that actual Al Qaeda would probably not want to have much to do with druggie homeless punks, but maybe they'll take anyone these days. But that's not what's bothering me. I'd rather talk about paintball and punk music, because that was the angle that woke me up this morning.

When a brown person commits an act of terror, there is seldom any attempt to question his motivations. (I feel like I've typed this sentence many, many times.) We can say "religious extremism"—or "American imperialism," if one is a certain type of leftist—and leave it at that. When a white person commits an act of terror, or tries to, there's a lot of discussion of motives, because white people have agency and brown people apparently don't. So while little is known about why John Nuttall and Amanda Korody allegedly tried to blow people up, that's merely an opportunity to speculate about all of the sordid details of their lives.

(I suspect there's actually not much in the way of motivation here. Walkom's article, the second link, is pretty sensible in that regard.)

Absent a clear manifesto (whatever happened to manifestos? I deplore the decline of literacy amongst violent extremists), the media has been left to its own devices, to report random details of the couple's lives, sans context and with a prurient overtone that suggests that anyone who engages in such activities is a potential terrorist. To wit, from the same article:

Nuttall’s tastes were for heavy metal. He posted four poor-quality recordings on a music website along with a picture of himself posing with four guitars. The undated songs include titles such as “The End of the World,” and “In League With Satan,” with the lyrics: “We are possessed by all that is evil, The death of your god we demand, We spit at the virgin you worship, And sit at Lord Satan’s Left Hand.”

and
In online postings, Nuttall identified himself as belonging to a band called No World Order, a Muslim punk band that was created in Victoria but moved to the Surrey, B.C., area in mid-August, 2011.

And then there's the paintball thing:

In an online paintball forum, Nuttall appeared to be quite active last year playing paintball on weekends. Nuttall posted comments in the forum using the name Mujahid, while Korody used the name PirateNinjaCat.


I guess these details might be interesting to some, but they're not really relevant, are they? As someone who lived through Tipper Gore's attacks on the music industry and the panic around D&D, I get my back up at the implication that playing paintball and liking heavy metal (or is it punk? do we know the difference anymore?) somehow leads to joining Al Qaeda or blowing up Canada Day revelers. It's impossible for me to read these sorts of details and wonder what the authorities would dig up on me under the wrong circumstances. Online searches about weapons and explosives (for writing purposes, naturally)? An iTunes library full of music with violent lyrics? Jokey posts about putting various enemies up against the wall come the revolution? A bookshelf full of political tomes, not all of which I actually agree with? A weekend spent LARPing? Those stories, lost to the pre-internet era, written when I was 12 about blowing up the school/Ontario parliament/whatever? It wouldn't take any effort to make me look like a terrorist in a newspaper article. "[Realname], who posted to internet forums using the name Sabotabby, used a default icon that read 'now serving Molotov cocktails' and ran around in the woods wearing cargo pants" and so on.

Me, or anyone. What frightens me about data mining is the sheer amount of available information that can be cherry-picked and taken out of context, and the ability to use said information to create fear where fear is misplaced. A generation ago, psychotic meth addicts might have drawn their boneheaded, and fortunately doomed to failure, terror plot from a BBS version of the "Anarchist Cookbook," but that's not to say that they drew their ideological inspiration from Emma Goldman. And, in a mad stampede to avert our worst fears from being realized, to what degree will various authorities attempt to extrapolate from said imaginary connections and predict who is likely to be a threat? Because you all know I'm not going to blow anything up, but neither was Byron Sonne, and neither the RCMP nor CSIS tend to deal much in nuance.

Everyone's committed thought crimes. Everyone's committed illegal acts. Everyone, in retrospect, will look like a problem waiting to happen.

Do I think that these guys did what they're accused of? Oh, almost certainly. But I'm not comfortable with the analysis of why they might have done so, not one bit.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (fighting the man)
Listening to a CBC segment on Edward Snowden and wondering at the attempt to force a sort of ambiguity on a situation that really has little in the way of moral ambiguity.

Historical memory is a funny thing. We venerate individuals who stood up to political evil, whether their actions were legal or otherwise, and they do tend to be otherwise, so long as the evil has passed. I've been assembling a collection of photos and quotes by and about Nelson Mandela, who, when he began his long journey as an activist and well into it until the anti-apartheid movement became acceptable by the mainstream, was derided as a terrorist by the likes of David Cameron and many other upstanding Westerners. Civil Rights activists, Soviet dissidents, the few Germans who resisted Hitler, the protestors of the Arab Spring, all acted outside of their country's legal structure. Even in our popular culture, we cheer for the underdog freedom fighter, the Katniss Everdeens and Mal Reynolds and Rebel Alliances that stick it to the big totalitarian governments, a habit we've no doubt picked up from having 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 on high school English class reading lists for approximately forever.

And yet when history is actually being made, when we're inside the narrative, suddenly it's somehow less clear. (It isn't, but there are a number of very powerful interests working very hard to muddy the waters.) The U.S. government behaved badly in a way that, if it had occurred on a TV show, would be classic Evil Totalitarian Government behaviour. In fact, it's kind of the classic Evil Totalitarian Government behaviour. And it obviously affects people far beyond the U.S. They were, and presumably still are, spying on all of us, not just their own citizens.

One does not politely ask an Evil Totalitarian Government to kindly stop doing that bad thing it's doing. Well, one can, but one is unlikely to meet with a very useful response. No, we've all seen the movie, we know what the proper response is. The truth must come out.

History will vindicate Snowden, which does him little good at the moment. In the meantime, there's handwringing about whether he broke the law and violated the national interest, as if the law is something sacred and immutable and given to us by God rather than written by human beings, as if the national interest doesn't include any people. It displays a profound ignorance of how nasty regimes are allowed to develop into nasty regimes in the first place. It strikes me, from my position in this quaint little backwater property of the Empire, as so deeply absurd and myopic that I can't honestly believe that people are making these sorts of arguments. I can't believe that my own government is not at least contemplating granting Snowden asylum, as it did to Igor Gouzenko for doing essentially the same thing as Snowden did with less altruistic motives. (Well, I can, but only because my government is currently trying to be more actively evil than the American government.) It's not that I disagree with these arguments, though I do, it's just that I completely can't understand the mentality that would cause someone to make them. One would have to stand completely outside of the constructs of ethics—which a good many people do, apparently—and the lessons of history in order to stake a claim that this man did anything other than the right thing.
sabotabby: (teacher lady)
Did you know that I work for an actual fanatical Marxist school board that teaches kids horrible things like class warfare, anti-racism, and not beating up hookers?

Oh, SUN News, you are precious.

TDSB day of significance : Prime time : SunNews Video Gallery

The answer, as always, is "scrap public education and give the money back to the parents."

Meanwhile, Crackgate continues, with the Honourable Wife-Beater still refusing to comment (I watched almost the entire City Hall proceedings yesterday, where he appeared hungover but not inebriated and did not answer any questions about crack). Jon Stewart's take is, of course, great.
sabotabby: (teacher lady)


It takes a certain sort of either courage or stupidity to post one's abysmal report card. I suspect, in DiManno's case, it's more the latter than the former. Like many of my students, DiManno is eager to assign blame to anyone other than herself for her various failures. "The teacher failed me!" she whines, expecting sympathy. "It's not that I'm easily distracted, it's that I'm boooooored."

This intellectual laziness is abundant in most of DiManno's columns. She's the adult version of the child who proudly declares that she never reads books, the special snowflake who raises her hand in class just for the purpose of hearing her own voice, regardless of whether she's done her homework (and she rarely, if ever, does her homework).

If she'd bothered to do some of the background reading rather than simply spewing out a column about how much she hates teachers, she might know that teachers today are told by the administration to choose from pre-packaged report card comments written in educationese that is largely incomprehensible, particularly to parents whose English is less than fluent. A one-line comment written by a teacher is likely to be much more useful and comprehensible. Withdrawal from voluntary extracurricular activities is just that: Some volunteers (not many, by the way) are choosing not to volunteer right now, and they have every right to do that. Voluntary doesn't need scare-quotes; I choose to spend my time at lunch and after school enriching the students' educational experience, but I don't get paid for it and it's not part of my job description. She would know that Ontario's education system, post-Harris years, is considered an international model because government and school boards have viewed teachers and teachers' unions are partners rather than adversaries, and yes, because teachers here get paid more than they do in underfunded, underperforming U.S. schools. And she would know that the reason we've gone "ballistic" is because Bill 115 illegally takes away our basic rights as workers.

But DiManno admits that she has problems in math (which might be why her argument for austerity measures leaves a lot to be desired) and it's clear that she has problems with reading comprehension and concentration, and so she would prefer, like so many in the media, to demonize an entire profession rather than to actually educate herself on the issues.

Fail.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (eat flaming death)
Interesting that the Star calls Omar Khadr a war criminal and the SUN calls him a terrorist. Both terms are inaccurate ("child soldier" would be much more appropriate; "torture victim" is also relevant); both are intended to dehumanize this young man to the papers' respective readership and to invoke a sense of fear at the very existence of this psychologically broken individual.

But both papers are very canny about what will arouse that fear-and-dehumanization response amongst their readers. The SUN knows that the worst thing one can be is a terrorist*; the enlightened readers of the Star know that this is just silly fear-mongering. The worst thing that one can be to the common liberal is a war criminal. Just the thought conjures up images of concentration camps and rallies in Nuremberg, obfuscating entirely the act itself: the alleged throwing of a grenade by a 15-year-old brainwashed child at armed men who had voluntarily signed up to get paid to subjugate other countries.

At any rate, I'm rather hoping that Mr. Hallam himself doesn't get too much flak over this, because he sounds like a stand-up fellow and someone I'd get along with. Anyone who takes such a positive interest in the education of young people is fine by me!

* Unless one's terrorism is directed against women exercising their reproductive choices and health care providers who assist them in doing so. That kind of terrorism will get you a medal from the Queen.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (eat flaming death)
Apparently no one else watches quirky Canadian comedies about assholes, because no one bothered to inform me that Ken Finkleman has a new show. It's called Good God, and I'm about five episodes in and completely addicted.

See, years ago, I was into this TV show called The Newsroom (not that one everyone is watching now) and this other TV show called More Tears. Finkleman played the same character in both, a narcissistic, neurotic, womanizing TV executive named George Findlay. This one is about the same character, but you don't need to have watched the other shows. All you need to know is that he's a terrible person with decent politics.

So in Good God, George is dating the philanthropist daughter of a wealthy media baron who is in no way either Rupert Murdoch or Conrad Black. Her father offers him a job as head of FOX News North—er, Right News—and all of a sudden, George finds himself in the unenviable position of being the least awful person in the room. Right News is an uncomfortable alliance of Randroids, old-money aristocrats, fundamentalist Christians, and a few folks just in it for a quick buck. It's low-hanging fruit for satire, except that Finkleman is generally at his best when he's taking potshots at the left, so there's also some great bits with limousine liberals and, in one particularly lovely segment, historical materialist architects.

It's a bit The Office and a bit Colbert Report, but there's a uniquely Canadian angle in that right-wing populism doesn't translate well here. FOX News didn't exactly make it up here, after all. And even our equivalent, the Toronto SUN, occasionally does decide that the Honourable Wife Beater is just too crazy and extremist. So it's about the media and in particular the right-wing media, but it's also about the very strange political moment we're in where we are dipping our toes into politics that up until recently would be considered outright insane. It's a show for the Harper/Ford era and it's nearly as frightening as it is hilarious.

Also in it: Samantha Bee from The Daily Show and a guy I went to high school with.

Here's one of my favourite parts. The four on-air personalities have just been informed that they need to take a 25% pay cut, and they decide to band together and fight back against their employer—until someone points out that this is collective bargaining and they've just accidentally formed a union.



And here is Finkleman out of character being pretty damn cool (I hate Strombo but the interview is great):

sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (pinko pie)
Bad: I guess this is almost funny, but check out the Honourable Wife-Beater marking World Press Freedom Day, then refusing to say anything to reporters afterwards. The Honourable Wife-Beater spoke about "violations of press freedom that occur in countries around the world, where journalists, editors, publishers are harassed, detained, attacked and killed,” without mentioning that here in Toronto, reporters are chased and threatened by the mayor.

Worse: Professional woman-haters are making a comeback in Canada, and brainwashing children into their ranks. Taxpayers pay for it, by the way.

Worst: Here's a video of cops beating a mentally ill homeless guy to death, because they're cops and they know they'll get away with it. Let's make sure they don't.

In other news, at least four student protesters in Quebec have lost eyes because police there are aiming for the kids' heads, and Maurice Sendak died, rendering the world a little less magical.

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