In an interview with journalist Jeremy Paxman, Russell Brand called for a revolution of non-voting in favour of a decentralised utopian system run by “admin bots” instead of “governments”.
Brand is an enticing rhetorician. And enticing, fast rhetoric is disarmingly dangerous. In this interview, he makes the same emotional appeals he denounces. Instead of offering concrete examples and names of organisations or individuals who embody his utopian ideals, he offers excuses that he’s “too busy”.
That’s a delightful illustration: Continue reading
From Melissa McEwan at Shakesville, a powerful critique of how popular media, as a vehicle of patriarchal systems, negatively affects men:
“Men who want to be in a stable and happy relationship with a specific person whom they adore are disappeared by the presumption that romance is the purview of women, and women want to be rescued, or fix a terrible guy, so let us make eighty-seven biebillion romantic comedies with the conceit that love begins with stalking, or the tragedy of incompleteness, or a jerk who needs to be tamed, none of which have wide appeal among men (or women) who want to see people who look something like their emotional selves projected back at them, so then let us conclude that men hate romance.
Men are dogs, who don’t want to settle down. Or: Men are weirdos, who want to control women.
So I have this friend, let’s call them J. A fairly enlightened person, J didn’t see why there was such a fuss about calling feminism “feminism”, and questioned the use of labels at all. To a crusty old feminist like myself, the reason why social movements benefit from labels and organisation is pretty obvious. To J, however, it wasn’t. Fair enough. To clear things up for my friend, and for others in a similar position, I created a short set of (imaginary) questions and answers around this issue that lead to an appropriate conclusion. (Note: this won’t work with people who think sexism doesn’t exist.)
There are some topics that make us feel tense and threatened. Cultural appropriation is one of them. Inevitably, one side will always throw out phrases like “freedom of speech!” and try to shut the conversation down because they either don’t understand the issue, or don’t want to. So, please, Person-To-Whom-That-Applies, put down your straw man and listen to why you shouldn’t be appropriating cultures. This is not just about you, or me. This is not just about one person being offensive to many other people. This is not just about one person taking offense to someone else’s actions. This is about all of those things, and our collective history.
Straw Man 1:
“You’re censoring my freedom to speak/dress/act the way that I want!”
Exercising moral decency is not censorship. Demanding respect and freedom from discrimination is not policing your liberties unless you are actively discriminating against someone or espousing racism. Unless you support the propagation of prejudice and bigotry in our society, honouring someone’s request for basic human respect should not infringe upon or restrict your rights.
Sean McElwee at Alternet.org wrote a great article you should read – carefully – about this issue as it exists in online spaces:
“People who argue against such rules generally portray their opponents as standing on a slippery precipice, tugging at the question “what next?” We can answer that question: Canada, England, France, Germany, The Netherlands, South Africa, Australia and India all ban hate speech. Yet, none of these countries have slipped into totalitarianism. In many ways, such countries are more free when you weigh the negative liberty to express harmful thoughts against the positive liberty that is suppressed when you allow for the intimidation of minorities.”
Sure, go ahead and play the free speech card, but that does not make you any less ignorant for refusing to respect another culture and its people, nor does it protect you from being called out as such.