Speaking up

Friends, I need you to say something if somebody around you is saying or doing something transphobic. Even if it’s awkward.

Why This is Important

I watched the BBC’s coverage of the election night and they interviewed many Trump supporters. I know these people are not representative of voters as a whole, but just about every single one of them said, without embarrassment, on camera, that they were against transgender people. These folks are largely misinformed and afraid of a false picture of trans people.

It’s dark times in the world. If somebody starts talking badly about minority groups, it may not be just talk. They may be working themselves up to action. Maybe they’re going to say something mean or do something mean or cast a ballot. They may be trying to gauge what people around them think – to determine if there’s consensus before they act. It’s up to you to speak up. Firstly, to let them know there’s not consensus. Secondly, depending on your relationship with them, to bring them around. Unfriending bigots has not worked out. We need, instead, to talk with them.

The SPLC has a great resource on talking to bigots. You should read it, but I’m going to give you some trans-specific devices here as well. (Trigger warnings for trans people.)

If you think this is less important than climate change and nuclear proliferation, remember this is why people said they voted.

Getting Started

There are two easy sentences I want you to have ready, that help with many a situation. Memorise them, Practice them:

‘Trans women are women.’
‘Trans men are men.’

A lot of transphobia involves assertions that we are not really our current gender. We are. Be ready to say it directly.

Modelling

This is a gentle way to challenge transphobia, but alas, is still very awkward. This makes it a good place to start.

In modelling you re-state what somebody just said but with correct language.

Them: I think Bradley Manning is a [hero/traitor].
You: Why do you think Chelsea Manning is a [hero/traitor]?

Them: He was Bradley when he leaked the documents.
You: Yes, she leaked the documents before she transitioned.

When talking about somebody trans, use their current name and pronouns. Don’t say, ‘When Bradley was a man.’ Say, ‘Before Chelsea transitioned.’ This respects her current identity and helps keep people from tripping over pronouns. It’s very hard to get the right pronouns for somebody if you keep switching them up depending on when you’re talking about.

Perhaps your friend gets frustrated:

Them: This isn’t important!
You: It’s important to trans people. I know my trans friend said…

You Have a Trans Friend

We’re friends. I’m your trans friend. I’m giving you permission to use me as rhetorical device in conversations. First we need to talk about when you can use this:

Scenario #1:

Them: Trans people are [ugly|crazy].
You: My trans friend is [fairly unremarkably average looking | in ok mental health].

Yes! This is a good usage of having a trans friend – as a counter-example to a blanket assertion.

Scenario #2:

Them: I think what you just said may actually be kind of transphobic.
You: I have a trans friend!

No! Do not use me as a shield.

Scenario #3:

Them: Oh my god, the weather is too hot!
You: My trans friend likes the heat.

No! Only bring this up where it’s relevant.

Tl;dr: Bring up having a trans friend to challenge blanket assertions and stereotypes.

This is also a way to make things personal. If bigotry could be challenged by facts and statistics, it would already be over. Human connections are key to ending it. This is why Harvey Milk encouraged gay people to come out. Unfortunately, this strategy doesn’t work as well for trans people, partly because there are so few of us. I need you, my friend, to help humanise us.

Bathrooms

One place people have been campaigning against us is our access to toilets, bathrooms and changing rooms. This is specific to trans women, so having a trans man friend (me) won’t be as useful, but I can give you some pointers.

If somebody you know starts talking about feeling uncomfortable about sharing facilities with trans people, remember your very first two sentences: Trans women are women. Trans men are men.

What we now call ‘rape culture’ used to be referred to as ‘male violence.’ Sometimes people will start talking about ‘male bodied’ people. But: trans women are women. Violence does not stem from bodies. If certain classes of bodies were the sources of violence, then there’s no hope of ever combating it. It would be a biological fact.

Violence comes from culture. Rape culture is what Donald Trump has done and bragged about. It’s not embedded in his physical form.

Trans women inhabit the cultural space of womanhood. Terms like ‘female bodied’ don’t reflect cultural roles. They reflect only what a birth certificate said.

So how do you talk about this?

Them: I’m worried about male bodied people in the changing room.
You: Trans women are also effected by rape culture.

You’ve responded to their fears, you’ve modelled a correct way to talk about trans people and you’ve shown that trans women have fears in common with them. If you want to make a personal humanising connection as the conversation continues, that’s where your trans friend comes in.

Again, I’m not a trans woman. But I (and nearly every trans person I know) have had to physically run away from a scary transphobic incident in a toilet. When I use a public toilet, I get out as fast as possible, which is something I’ve heard most of my trans friends say. Those of you who have been bullied in school bathrooms can relate to this, I’m sure.

I’ve also been barred entry to toilets. Being denied entry to one toilet did not give me access to the other toilet. I just wasn’t allowed to pee at all. But when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go! I used to make a habit of trying to hold it. Part of this involved drinking less water. I got some weird infection from chronic dehydration. Again, this is common among trans people.

If I’m not allowed to pee when out about about, this limits how long I can stay outside my home. If I can’t use a toilet at work or in the train station, I can’t keep my job. Keeping trans people out of public or school toilets keeps us out of public and out of school. Special ‘family’ toilets are great for people who want them and we should build more of them, but they’re not always available and mark us out. I’m a man. I use the men’s room.

I’m sharing this so you can use it – because emotion and human connections matter more than facts and figures. This is not statistics, this is the life of someone you know. Make it personal.

Keep Trying

Conversations are going to be awkward. The first one often won’t change minds. If somebody says something and you’re unsure how to respond, think about it later to come up with a better reply.

Even if it feels like you’ve failed and made things uncomfortable, do remember that you have communicated a lack of consensus. This is important.

Also, if you spoke up in public – say, to challenge a sex change joke, you don’t know who overheard you. Hearing jokes like that sucks. Hearing a subsequent challenge restores hope.

Finally

Feel free to share this. I will try to answer questions in the comments.

Trump and the American Nuclear Arsenal

In 1983, the ABC Television Network aired a film, The Day After, which broke all kinds of records for viewership. It’s subject was the aftermath of nuclear war. It’s plot follows a few individuals near Kansas City who survive the initial blast and the next several days after that. The film is fairly well done and so affected Ronald Reagan when he saw it, that he slowed down US nuclear expansion and instead signed some treaties aimed, theoretically, at eventual disarmament.

The backdrops of the film are the familiar landscapes used in post-nuclear war films. However, by the time it was aired, they were already known to be wrong. Scientists interested in mass extinction events, climate change and space had started running simulations on super computers in their spare time to model what might happen if all of the major cities in the west caught on fire all at once. A lot of particulate matter would get into the stratosphere.

Getting particulate matter into the upper atmosphere is now discussed as something we might do on purpose, called geo engineering. These particles would change the colour of the sky, but they also reflect sunlight. This is proposed as an emergency measure against global warming. The reflected sunlight never gets a chance to warm the earth, everything gets slightly colder and darker, but we can burn as much oil as we want.

However, in the case of nuclear war, there would be quite a lot of smoke in the upper atmosphere – enough to make it dark at mid day. And it might stay that way for week or months. Eight days after a full assault, enough sunlight would be blotted out that temperatures would be well below freezing. The cold temperatures and the lack of light would kill most plants within a few weeks – thus depriving animals of food and oxygen.

Fictional depictions of nuclear war, like the film that so effected the president, imagine a war that some might survive, influenced by the testimony of atomic bomb survivors after World War 2. But modern nuclear warheads are so much more powerful than the WWII bombs, that they use those bombs as triggers to start the main explosions. A nuclear war would be an extinction level event on the order of what killed the dinosaurs. Albert Einstein famously said, ‘I do not know with what weapons World War 3 will be fought, but World War 4 will be fought with sticks and stones.’ This may be true, but it won’t be humans holding the sticks and stones millions of years from now. A nuclear war would end human life.

This existential threat was the subject of much activism through the 1980’s, but after the Cold War ended, many people lost interest. The bombs, however, are still around. Russia and China are modernising theirs. Indeed, Putin is rather proud of the updated weapons, warning people not to mess with Russia.

Not to be outdone, the US is doing a major upgrade of its own nuclear arsenal, significantly enhancing it’s ability to end all human life on earth at a cost of $23 billion last year. The project will cost $1 trillion overall. This endeavour – to enhance the ability of the US to end all life on earth several times over – has been ramped up significantly under Obama. Despite this new increase in existential peril, there has not been much in the way of public discussion on the advisability of being able to kill all humans within a few minutes.

If the moderate Nobel Laureate Obama increased nuclear funding by 55% more than George W Bush’s spending, it’s hard to imagine what the more hawkish Clinton might do. This escalation is not only moving away from disarmament, but is also causing instability. By contrast, the prospect of Trump having the launch codes is even more alarming.

Of course, Putin’s remarks are worrying and mark a major revival in nuclear posturing. This kind of rhetoric is, unfortunately, typical for authoritarians. As a part of Bob Altemeyer’s research on this personality type, he had them play a massive board game called The Global Change Game. This didactic game simulates diplomacy and trade with regard to challenges such as climate change, famine and war.

When Altemeyer organised a game with all authoritarian leadership and players, they escalated conflicts until they reached nuclear war. The facilitators then reset them back 50 years previous to give them another chance, but they quickly escalated back to the brink of nuclear war again when they ran out of time to play.

Domestically, the US has always defended it’s ability to kill all of it’s citizens through American Exceptionalism. Other countries might be unstable, but for unexplained reasons, the US is immune to fascism. Alas, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the US is not as exceptional as it might hope. It can happen here and, indeed, might do so within a few months. We are heading for a scenario where the majority of the world’s nuclear arsenal is held by authoritarian leaders. Given that Trump openly admires Putin, would the two operate on a mutual respect level and abstain from murdering all humans, or will they get into a dick measuring contest and kill us all?

Last year, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists nudged the Doomsday Clock closer to midnight, citing climate change and ‘modernisation’ programs, warning that we might be entering a new nuclear age. This new age requires new activism. It is vital that, rather than modernise their nukes, the US move as quickly as possible to disarm them. While there is no elected leader who can be trusted with the keys to extinguish all human life, putting them into the hands of fascists is a completely unacceptable risk. Whatever threat that the US would face were it to unilaterally disarm, is minor when compared to the threat of ending all human life.

We cannot continue to rely on the restrain of elected leaders. Even if the US resists fascism in this election, there will always be, like in any country, the risk of electing a government intent on waging war. There is no way to guarantee the safe handling of nuclear weapons, so long as they exist.

Send me your dick pics

Friends, Romans, countrymen, send me your dick pics! It’s for an art project.

You might want to encrypt them first. It turns out the UK’s government has the world’s largest of dick pics. Not because civil servants are extra-randy, but because they’ve intercepted them. From people’s private webcam conversations. Which is another way of saying they’re all stolen. Which is another way of saying: those dick pics are yours. You took them (or other intimate pictures involving your own anatomy) to share with someone special and now they’re in the mitts of Davey Cameron.

(Don’t worry about this too much unless you happen to resemble a ham. He’s probably not personally seen them. Anyway, if you haven’t done anything illegal, you’ve got nothing to hide. Aside from your dick pics, if you have some completely unreasonable notion that you should be able to control the distribution of these pictures and resent third parties taking copies of them mid-transit. Like a terrorist would think.)

If you would like to send me your dick pic, but prevent it from falling into the hands of spads, feel free to encrypt it. To be extra-secure, you need not send me your decryption keys. I will not decrypt your images because, despite me asking for photos, I don’t actually want to look at your knob.

I’ve been commissioned by one of Tumblr’s popular porn blogs to create a minute of noise. And what better to use than actual sexy images? Oh sure, some people might suggest using sexy sounds, but still images have a certain quiet grace to them.

There is a type of harsh noise practice called ‘data bending’, which is very easy to do. The image is played as if it were a sound file. This method of music make would allow me to turn your dick pic into something that’s completely unrecognisable. Especially if you send it encrypted!

This is conceptual, but it seems reasonable to make an ode to dick pics out of dick pics. And hopefully we can all learn about encryption in the process. One of the best ways to encrypt a single image is GNU Privacy guard. You can also use this to encrypt lots of your different forms of communications. There’s a brief introduction to it in this Lifehacker article.

So please send me your GPG-encrypted dick pic, but not any of your keys. Also, let me know how you would like to receive credit for your contribution.

You too can commission romantic or sexy music. Order now for this Valentines Day!

Boycott Trump

Fortunately, as Trump names everything after himself, it’s relatively easy to figure out what things to boycott. His holdings in the UK are most limited to golf courses, but some international brands are also partnered with him. I’ve been writing them letters:

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing to ask that you end your business relationship with Donald Trump. As you may be aware, he has already been dropped by Macy’s, Univision and NBC for his racist remarks. I hope that your buisiness is soon added to that list.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid that I will be boycotting your products in the mean time. I hope that you sever your relationship soon.

Thank you for your time,
Charles Hutchins

You too can boycott:

Leave others in the comments!

The No Fly List

This is my letter to Rep. Barbara Lee regarding the No Fly List:

Dear Representative Lee,

I am writing because I believe the No Fly List is unconstitutional and should be eliminated. It deprives people of the right to move freely within the country without due process.

I have recently seen some Democrats, such as Bernie Sanders, arguing that some gun control legislation should be based on this list. While I would strongly back increased gun control, I think this is the wrong way to go about it. The No Fly List is secret and is not often subject to judicial review. The list itself is islamophobic. Indeed, the vast majority of shootings happen at the hands of angry, white, Christian men who are unlikely to ever appear on the No Fly List.

However, even if the No Fly List were not racist, and the ‘right’ people were put on it- in terms of people likely to engage in unlawful use of firearms- it would still deprive Americans of due process and, as such, my opposition is not solely because it is ineffective. I hope you are able to pass gun control laws that apply across the population and which do not rely on secret lists or skirt appropriate judicial oversight.

I have very high regard for your work as a representative for my district and very much appreciate all that you do. Thank you very much for your service and good luck in your bid to become vice chair.

Best Regards,
Charles Hutchins
Berkeley, CA

The House of Represenatives provides a handy tool for Finding your represenative via your zip code.

There is a staggering amount of racism being openly stated in the US. It’s vital that racist institutions be dismantled, rather than expanded. Recently, Donald Trump suggested that Muslims be barred from entering (or re-entering) the US. While this is obviously illegal and wrong, this exact scenario is already in place for many Muslims, based on secret criteria, in decisions made in secret panels. The No Fly List has stranded American citizens overseas, effectively preventing them from returning to their homes. President Trump could just expand this already unconstitutional program, which already lacks judicial oversight.

It is vital that Democrats prepare for the possibility of Trump being elected by removing tools that he could exploit to ignore the constitution and human rights. The rule of law must be restored as soon as possible to the Executive branch, secrecy must be stripped away and the executive must openly and visibly respect human rights and due process. While this is obviously the right thing to do no matter who is in office, handing a shadow government over to Trump would be a nightmare.

Meet the new phase of Capitalism

It’s a lot like old phases of Capitalism (like, pre-1930), but with more technology. Indeed, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the US has decided to become an oligarchy coupled with a security state apparatus necessary to maintain extreme inequality. This is not new news, but the rapid emergency of the technology and systems needed to maintain this state of affairs does seem new to people living under it, especially to people who were previously part of privileged classes.
An article in The Nation is looking at bits and pieces of what is emerging. This is, in effect, the neoliberal state. When everything is privatised, everything is organised towards the benefit of the people who own the private systems. Since the private sector is taking over state functions – big functions – the emerging privatisation is big companies. Which means that the owning class is the really very very rich. And the functions they want to take over are sometimes surprising, unless this is viewed as a bid for total political and cultural control. Take, for example, Starbucks.
A few days ago, Starbucks decided that it was time for (white) people in America to have a large conversation about race. Ok, obviously, white people in America really do need to talk about race. We need to listen to things black people are saying, talk amongst ourselves, and work to dismantle white supremacy. Starbucks is not wrong about needing a conversation. What is perplexing is why a chain of coffee shops would take this task on board.
One might be tempted to explain this historically. Coffee shops used to be places where people did gather to talk about politics, especially a few centuries ago. More recently, Starbucks has been forced into culture wars, specifically, the gun debate as they finally decided people carrying large assault rifles were not welcome to terrify their staff. The brand itself has a political resonance, on the side of Apple computers, gay rights, urban ‘creative classes’ and 1990’s Bill Clinton. All of that is specifically proto-neoliberal baggage. And this is a neoliberal project. Let’s look at how it was promoted to baristas on twitter:

(The images on the tweet are from a screen shot of this page. Note the tweet does not contain a link to the post and thus is completely inaccessible to people who rely on screen readers. Seriously, people, if your post is worth sharing, it’s worth making it accessible to blind people.)
The promotional text starts it’s second paragraph with, ‘Change won’t come from the government. It has to come from everyday people like us.’ This fits in very well with the disenfranchisement described in the article in the Nation. Despite being a democracy, this asserts that we cannot depend on the government to have anything to do with our needs or desires. The government does not serve ‘everyday people’. Therefore, the business of social change cannot come from the sort of action one normally undertakes to change government. Not from voting, certainly, but not from marches either. The days of MLK giving speeches in Washington are over, because this not Washington DC’s problem. It’s Seattle, Washington’s problem. To emphasis this, the coupled picture shows a hashtagged coffee cup in front of the Washington Monument, where MLK’s speech happened. Starbucks wants to privatise social movements.
They’ve already made efforts to insert themselves into culture, above and beyond serving coffee. They have previously sold CDs in their shops and want to shape, control and profit from culture more generally. And also this is also a way of wading into a disagreement among billionaires as to what extent white supremacy continues to have utility. On the one hand, voter suppression laws are quite openly removing the right to vote from black people. On the other hand, racial unrest is disturbing the market. Under a deligitmised government, this is how democracy is meant to take place: by people with money coming into a private forum to have a conversation about what number of rights to extend to others. (Starbucks does not tend to build coffee shops in black areas and the imagery they’ve chose to promote this effort is specifically designed to make white people feel comfortable (‘the only race is human’), so this is very much a conversation about others, which is not surprising in a conversation that seeks only to decide on the acceptable amount of white supremacy, but I digress.)
It’s extremely obvious why an oligarchy would want to control the means to the conversation about race. People in the street are alarming. People purchasing things is good. Which is exactly why any effort like this is ultimately disempowering for everyone involved, aside from the owners. The emerging security state is distressing, but it is not insurmountable. It is still possible to resist. Not by heading to our local multinational outlet to demand extra emotional labour from the staff, but by being in the streets. They want people to politely consume and that is what absolutely will not destabilise concentrated power. People do still have power in the US, from mass movements and street protests. Privatisation has zero long term plans about anything, certainly not about managing us. We can still make a better world.

I’m using Firefox because it’s great in programming and politics

Update: Eich has stepped down.
Yeah, so OkCupid says I should switch to a Google product because it’s better on LGBT rights. Um, have they been paying attention to anything? The new Mozilla CEO gave $1k to overturn marriage quality in California, whereas Google sponsored a national conference of prominent right-wing politicians who want to overturn all LGBT rights everywhere.
You know what, I love having equal marriage rights in California, really I do. And like most LGBT people, I thought prop 8 was terrible. But what I don’t like is ‘pink washing’, where some company makes some lame claim to be a sponsor of LGBT rights, (usually by having a health insurance policy that is vaguely equal or, thse days, by supporting something that a large majority of American agree with anyway (how bold!)) and then we’re supposed to forgive them all their other sins. Even if Google weren’t sponsoring CPAC, they’d still be in bed with the NSA.
We don’t hear much about ‘don’t be evil’ these days, because, alas, Google is making a fuckload of money by being evil. Mozilla never needed a corporate slogan like that because their mission has always been to do good from the very outset. I agree with this queer Mozilla employee who doesn’t want the open internet to get caught up in the American political football match of left vs right wedge issues and distraction. Open internet and NSA spying is more important than a relative small donation to an odious cause, which, by the way, does not mean we should be ‘tolerant’ of some asshole’s concrete political actions to take away rights from a minority which includes some of this own employees. If every other browser was also open source and pro-open standards and on the right side of LGBT rights, then this would be worth switching browsers over, for sure, but that’s not what’s going on here. The CEO says he won’t resign, which is a poor choice, but, again, really not worth a boycott. Especially when the other choices are closed source or blatantly on the side of evil.
So keep Firefox, and install Lightbeam if you want to see just how bloody much Google is spying on your every move. And if you’re an ally or whatever like OKCupid, how about doing a tiny bit of research and not telling LGBT people what to think or do? LGBT people and Mozilla employees can all speak for themselves/ourselves. Because, hey, we’ve got the internet, which is still open, thanks largely to the efforts of Mozilla.
Disclaimers of various sorts: I used to work for Netscape and I got the first same sex divorce in the state of California.

Some Folks Have Forgotten About Bush

Not, not just the RNC, who spent their entire convention pretending he never existed, but also the manarchist left. Both parties are fascists, they say.
I’ll just note that everybody I’ve heard say this is a straight, white, cis man. Rmoney is currently polling at 0% with black people. Probably because he’s running the most racist campaign I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime. But I guess if racism doesn’t matter to you, the parties are equal. And if you’re cis and didn’t have to worry about doctors refusing to treat you on account of being trans, a situation that has changed over this summer, I guess the parties are equal. And … you know what. I’m going to cut this section short. Anybody who has been paying even the tiniest bit of attention to social issues knows there is a massive gulf between the parties and the only way one could claim equivalence is to completely brush aside the concerns of women, of LGBT people, of people of colour and of several other groups.
But on some level, the manarchists are right. The parties only disagree on some issues and march in lock step with whatever their corporate masters agree on. There is a lot of stuff that is not up for debate that the parties absolutely agree on. They’ve got us over a barrel. If we split the vote on the left or if we just stay home, then Rmoney wins and that does have a very real effect on the lives of many vulnerable groups.
Political leaders don’t lead. They follow. They follow money and they follow social movements. It takes years to build a movement. Occupy is fantastic, but it’s new and hasn’t yet had a chance to make a major change in things. If there’s nothing been building on the left for a while, then there’s nothing for the politicians to follow.
Nobody has EVER voted in positive political change. Political parties are not movements. You’re not going to get a socialist utopia through the ballot box. Ever. Positive political change has always come from the streets and it always will come from the streets. If you’re disappointed by your major party options on the left, then go spend some time hanging out with Occupy. Join a union. Join a march. Show up for things. Make noise. Get active.
If voting didn’t matter, there wouldn’t be a massive coordinated plan to disenfranchise people across the US. The people being disenfranchised are poor, are black, are transgender, are students, and are old. This matters..
In 2000, I remember people saying that Bush and Gore were both in the hands of corporations, that it didn’t matter who won. It really fucking mattered. Rmoney is not better than Bush. Four more years of stupid will destroy America.
There will be nothing left of out economy or our social safety net or of anything that made us great.
No, you don’t have to vote and nobody who wants a socialist welfare state or who wants peace is going to get elected to the presidency. Voting, like paying taxes and jury duty, is an unpleasant civic duty. You do it because it’s how society functions and because you love your country and because you care about your fellow citizens and because of your own self interest in hoping the dollar doesn’t crash. If you can’t do it for you, do it for me. I’ve only had the right to purchase healthcare in America for the last month or so. I’d kind of like to hold on to that right.

Twitter arguments – Updated

The other day, I got flamed on Twitter. I’ve reproduced the exchange here for your reading pleasure:

celesteh: So, um, Clint Eastwood yelled at a chair? Makes as much sense as anything else the GOP does, I guess.
shellymic: @celesteh It’s understandable that all of the concepts would be over your head. Better luck next time.
celesteh: @shellymic Oh, was it conceptual art? I should have read the programme notes!
shellymic: @celesteh That doesn’t even make sense…please stop trying, though. It’s ok.
celesteh: @shellymic Ah, I’ll slow down. See, there is more to art than paintings by Thomas Kinkaide. Sometimes people like to do surrealist theatre.
celesteh: @shellymic Ah nevermind. Even with the free time of recovering from surgery, pointless argument w strangers are too boring. You have fun tho
_markjrussel: @shellymic @celesteh no sense arguing with a liberal. They are not smart enough to understand much.
celesteh: @_markjrussell @shellymic I shall alert my university that my recent degree was granted in error.
celesteh: @_markjrussell @shellymic But seriously, why seek out and insult strangers on the internet? Doesn’t it get rather dull?
celesteh: @_markjrussell @shellymic Actually, I poked through your twitter feeds (too much free time, recovering from surgery) and discovered that …
celesteh: @_markjrussell @shellymic neither of you makes a habit of insulting strangers. I’m kind of curious what’s caused you to do so with me?

Sadly, I have received no reply thus far. _markjrussel has since locked his twitter feed.
My question was in earnest, though. When I got the first flame message, I thought that she must have just searched twitter for ‘GOP’ or ‘Eastwood’ and flamed indiscriminately. I thought this must be a politics of bullying. If you can find people who are personal tweeters who are not generally political and pile a few flames on them, you might be able to successfully intimidate them into silence and thus further an illusion of greater consensus towards your own point of view, as other views will have been aired publicly less often.
But then I went to verify that hypothesis and found that shellymic had, indeed, searched for tweets about Eastwood. But she had mostly retweeted them. The tweets she selected were terribly regrettable. (I would like to think that being on the left means avoiding hateful stereotypes and ageism or making shaming statements about disabled people, but, alas, in America every political stripe can come together to hate dis-empowered groups.) This is a technique I have often used as a way of illustrating poor political discourse and is fine in and of itself. The only other person she flamed, she first quoted.
Similarly, _markjrussel, while more punchy and loquacious, does not seem to make flaming even a significant minority of his twitter activity, although, obviously, I can’t reconfirm this now that he has locked his account.
So really, what gives? Obviously, I want to think it’s my stunning good looks and my brilliant wit that have drawn flames to me like literal flames normally draw moths, but I have a feeling that’s not it. So I’m putting out some questions for anyone reading this: Have you ever insulted a stranger on Twitter? What motivated you to do it? Is it something you do often? How do you decide who to insult?
I have a emotional sort of gut feeling that it’s somewhat appropriate to flame in comment threads or places where discussion is encouraged, but to me, it seems somewhat rude to attack private figures on Twitter. Do you agree or disagree? How do you decide when flaming is appropriate?
I doubt very much that shellymic or _markjrussel will ever vote the same way as me on anything, but I do think it could be helpful in general in America if people of different stripes understood each other better. I don’t like to think of my politics as a side in a match, scoring goals against each other. I want a better world where people are free to live and love and pursue their dreams without having to cope with a pervasive fear of falling.

Update

Well, I think I’ve gotten the only reply I’m going to get:

shellymic: @celesteh @_markjrussell Les, u r an annoying little twit. I didn’t read your little blog. I’ll just block u. Have a great life.

Update 2

shellymic has also locked her twitter feed.

Ron Paul says he witnessed a murder and did nothing


In the above video, Paul talks of witnessing an infanticide in progress, in a hospital where he was present as a doctor. When asked about this, ‘Paul was briefly taken aback. “I would have had to have… I don’t know,” he said. “It was probably a fleeting, two minute thing. I walked in, took a peek, saw what was happening, because I was visiting there for an operating room. But I didn’t have the facilities! What could I have done?”‘ (Weigel 2011) I dunno, maybe performed CPR, called for assistance, called the police, reported the murder to an ethics body?
Paul is bragging in an advert that he saw a baby murdered and did nothing. Fortunately, he is lying about this.
Late term abortions are exceedingly rare everywhere in the world, but especially in the US, where, if I remember correctly, only two hospitals still do them. There is no hospital in the US where doctors will abort a viable fetus. In the case a of a medical emergency, they might do a premature delivery to save the life of the mother or the child, but they won’t abort a baby that could live outside the womb. Not only would it violate every kind of medical ethics, but the actions Paul describes are illegal. They are murder, not in the sense of overblown anti-abortion rhetoric, but in the sense of having a duty to alert the police.
I don’t believe that Paul is protecting a hospital that murders children, as this story is almost certainly made up. As Fred Clark notes, this isn’t particularly new or original lie and it’s one that both he and I have heard before. And, as Clark writes, “they never include the kinds of details that would make such stories believable — names or places that could be confirmed, or any other such evidence.” (2012) So Paul isn’t covering for a murdering hospital so much as he is repeating something he heard elsewhere as if it happened to him. In other words, he’s telling a lie and just pretending to have covered for murderers. It’s not actually his story. Much like he now says he didn’t actually write his racist newsletters. (Kucinich 2011)
The thing I don’t get about Paul is not his KKK-levels of racism, in which he signed his name to newsletters calling black people “animals” (Paul 1992), and it’s not his making up fabulous stories in which he idly lets babies get murdered. What I don’t get about Paul is how he has any appeal with anyone at all acquainted with the left. Yeah, he wants to let you smoke pot (maybe, depending on your state) (“War on Drugs”) and I guess if you’re a white, middle class man who is never going to get pregnant or have a partner who deal with an unwanted pregnancy, nor are you ever going to want to buy birth control (Somanader 2011), (which he would happily let Walmart refuse to stock, as well as the AIDS drugs, etc) and are never going to need a ramp to access a building (Alder 2011), and you don’t care about anybody else who is not just like you, well, I can see why you might like him. but that kind of makes you a bad person. Yeah, he’s got some anti-war rhetoric (“Foreign Policy”) and I’d like to see the wars ended also, but I’m not willing to sacrifice the civil rights act (Basset 2012) for that. Also, I’m not sure I’d trust a guy who is bragging he helped cover for murderers.

Alder, Ben. “Three Myths About Ron Paul.” The Nation. 27 December 2011. Web. Assessed 5 January 2012. <http://www.thenation.com/blog/165350/three-myths-about-ron-paul>
Basset, Laura. “Ron Paul: Civil Rights Act Of 1964 ‘Destroyed’ Privacy.” The Huffington Post. 1 January 2012. Web. Assessed 5 January 2012. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/01/ron-paul-civil-rights-act_n_1178688.html>
Clark, Fred. “Say anything to take us out of this gloom”. Slacktivist. 3 January 2012. Web. Assessed 5 January 2012. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2012/01/03/say-anything-to-take-us-out-of-this-gloom/&glt;
“Foreign Policy.” RonPaul.com Web. Assessed 5 January 2012. <http://www.ronpaul.com/on-the-issues/national-defense/>
Kucinich, Jackie. “Ron Paul’s story changes on racial comments.” USA Today. 22 December 2011. Web. Assessed 5 January 2012. <http://caucuses.desmoinesregister.com/2011/12/22/ron-pauls-story-changes-on-racial-comments/&gt
Paul, Ron. “Blast ‘Em?.” Ron Paul Political Report. 1992. Web. Assessed 5 January 2012. <http://www.tnr.com/sites/default/files/PoliticalReportOctober1992.pdf>
Paul, Ron. “Life.” YouTube. 12 October 2011. Web. Assessed 5 January 2012. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkAsLPrnJGc>
Somanader, Tanya. “Ron Paul: Greater Access To Birth Control Makes A ‘Mockery’ Of Christians.” Think Progress. 6 October 2011. Web. Assessed 5 January 2012. <http://thinkprogress.org/health/2011/10/06/338285/ron-paul-greater-access-to-birth-control-makes-a-mockery-of-christians/>
“War On Drugs.” Wed. Assessed 5 January 2011. <http://www.ronpaul.com/on-the-issues/war-on-drugs/>
Weigel, David. “The Ron Paul Fetus Rescue Test.” Slate. 29 December 2011. Web. Assessed 5 January 2012. <http://www.slate.com/blogs/weigel/2011/12/29/the_ron_paul_fetus_rescue_test.html>