• Hello there. I understand you’d like to ask a question of our honoured speaker.

    Ah, yeah—that’s why I’m in line.

    Excellent, would it be possible to get a preview of what you have in mind?

    A preview?

    Yeah, just a quick sampler of your question.

    Why?

    Well, the moderator’s asked me to make sure everyone’s fairly brief so that there’s time for lots of questions.

    Yeah, don’t worry: I’ll be quick.

    I believe you, but the moderator really wanted me to double check.

    Um, okay fine, I was going to say something like, Hi There. Dr. Hockey-Expert. Thank you for your presentation on the state of the National Hockey League. I agreed with a lot of what you had to say. Although, there were a few things I didn’t agree with—I don’t really see a problem with the offside challenge rule. I mean we want to get the call right, right? Like, if we don’t care about getting the calls right, what are we doing there? So, yeah, I enjoyed your presentation, but—

    Okay, sorry, can I stop you there?

    Um, okay, but I was just getting warmed up.

    I see that, yes. But I’m just noticing that you’ve already put in 20 seconds of introduction, and we haven’t even gotten to the content of your question yet.

    Right, so?

    Well, it’s just that—as I mentioned—there are a lot of people in line to speak to the presenter, and at the rate you’re going, your question is going to take up half of the Q&A session. Ideally, according to Sethiquette.com, it’s best to keep your question to no more than thirty seconds.

    Thirty seconds? How?

    Well, maybe you could trim your general thoughts on Dr. Hockey-Expert’s presentation and cut straight to your question.

    [Long sigh.] Fine, I was just being polite, but I’ll cut the intro.

    Awesome, thanks. So do you mind trying again?

    [Short sigh.] So, as I was saying, Thank you for taking my question, Dr. Hockey-Expert. I have three comments and a question for you—

    Right, sorry to interrupt again, but—I don’t know if you heard—just a minute ago in her introduction to the Q&A, the moderator requested that everyone just ask questions and not provide sermons?

    Yeah, I’m asking a question.

    Yes, but you’re also prognosticating three comments. That sounds suspiciously like a serm—

    What are you talking about? Three comments aren’t the same as a sermon.

    Right, of course, but I think the moderator was being playful with the term “sermon,” and just meant to request that everyone try to hone their commentary down to a single interrogative statement.

    But my comments are a vital set up for my question.

    I’m sure they are. And, if this were any other sort of conversation, I wouldn’t pester you about it, but unfortunately there are a lot of people who want to ask a question, and even more who want to hear Dr. Hockey-Expert speak, so if you talk for a long time, we’ll have fewer questions, and less time for Dr. Hockey-Expert to reply.

    Okay, fine, I’ll be quick. How’s this? So it seems to me that the NHL would benefit from more goal scoring. Like have you ever gone to a game and wished there were fewer goals? No! Goals are the name of the game. Actually, I was talking to my friend, Jane, about this yesterday. She had this funny idea that if the NHL allowed more goals—

    Okay, can you hang on again?

    What? What’s happening?

    Ah, yes, just as I thought. I believe you were in a bit of trance there while you were asking your question.

    How do you mean?

    Well, you were just kind of following your words obediently wherever they went without really checking to see if they were helping you get to the heart of your question.

    Yeah, I was really on a roll, wasn’t I? I felt like I was all by myself, just riffing, without anyone else around. It was pretty freeing actually.

    I can imagine. And, if this were a therapy session or a poetry slam, I’d be cheering you on. But, since we’re in this limited-time Q&A set up, I think it would be best if you tried to plan out your question to avoid unnecessary tangents.

    Unnecessary tangents? I was telling a funny story.

    Fair enough. If that story was vital to your introduction, please ignore my suggestion. But I suspect the story was more of a spontaneous aside than a planned expedition.

    Yeah, it just popped into my brain in the moment. So what?

    Well, it’s just that, if you indulge every passing sidetrack that pops into your brain while you’re at the microphone, it will be very difficult to find your way back to the point of your inquiry.

    That reminds me of the time my sister got lost on her way to work because she decided to take a shortcut around some construction, and she got mixed up which way the water was.

    Yeah, that’s funny. To avoid your sister’s fate, I suggest you create a quick verbal map for yourself of the key points you’ll need to establish your question.

    I had that before! But you said I couldn’t make all three of my comments before my question!

    Right, I see how that’s confusing. But I believe those three comments were going to be three distinct points. Whereas I’m looking for the key elements that will give your lone, specific question its best chance of being understood.

    I’m pretty easy on the ears, Sethcrates. I think I’ll be fine.

    I can’t argue with that. But you know how sometimes—when you ask a question at a Q&A—the expert misunderstands what you’re talking about, and so answers a different question.

    Yeah, it’s pretty embarrassing for them.

    Possibly, but also I submit that—if you don’t have a clear structure that leads ever-so-definitively to your final query—it can be hard for someone who doesn’t know you to realize exactly what you’re getting at.

    Fine, so what goes into this verbal map?

    Well, that depends. Let me ask you this: which one of these would be the best supporting material for your question: a joke, an anecdote, or a quick paraphrase of information?

    Yeah, all of those sounds good.

    Right, but for the purpose of this exercise, please pick just one option.

    Um, okay, well, I’m pretty funny, so I’ll go with a joke. There’s this one about an insomniac dog that I think’ll illustrate my question perfectly.

    That’s great. But, before you unleash your humour, there are two things to remember about jokes during the Q&A. First, since we’re not at a dinner party, you again want to be as succinct as possible.

    Check.

    And also, be aware that after you finish the joke, Dr. Hockey Expert—who’s pretty funny, himself—might want to retort.

    That’s fine.

    Right, but I bring it up because if the speaker does attempt to joke back, you may be tempted to ignore their retaliatory humour because you weren’t anticipating it. And that can make you look like you were in possession of a good joke, but not a sense of humour.

    I don’t like that. Hmm, okay, I’ll just outwit them right back.

    Fair enough. If a brilliant retort to their retort lands beautifully in your mind, please share it with everyone in the room. However, if nothing delightful arrives in your moment of need, there’s no need to panic and try too hard to come up with a scintillating reply. In fact, you can actually build rapport with both the speaker and the speaker-aligned audience if you let the speaker win the funny.

    But you said I wasn’t supposed to ignore their joke! Make up your mind, Sethcrates.

    Again, I apologize for the confusion. But there’s actually a third option between ignoring and winning, and that’s to simply laugh at the speaker’s joke, perhaps adding in a “Yeah, exactly.” You can then smile and continue on with your question.

    This is getting too complicated. Maybe I’ll do an anecdote instead.

    Great, that can be nice groundwork for your question. But just remember: in order to be brief, you want to avoid chasing tangents during your story. Try to stick to the essential beats of—

    I never chase tangents. Well, except maybe this one time when I was in a job interview, and the man interviewing me was so tall that he made me nervous. I don’t usually get nervous… well, except this other time when I was playing basketball, and I—

    Yeah, that’s good to hear that you don’t usually chase tangents, but when you’re in front of an audience, it can be easy to lose track of what you’re saying, so again I suggest investing in some serious planning of precisely what story parts will make it into your final draft. That should help you to avoid Sudden Tangent Syndrome.

    Yeesh. That sounds complicated, too. What are my other options?

    Well, you could provide a quick backgrounder of where your curiosity it lies, and then segue straight into your question.

    Actually, that’s not bad, because I have a lot of expertise as well as some pretty heroic accomplishments in the area I want to ask about, so I’d be happy to provide a good chunk of my background.

    Right, sorry, that’s not quite what I meant by backgrounder. Poor word choice on my part.

    But I like the idea!

    I understand. But the thing is: introducing yourself in such self-flattering detail can be risky. Unfortunately—unless those points of accomplishment or heroism are vital to establishing the legitimacy of the content of your question—they may sound suspiciously like resume and/or virtue signalling if they aren’t phrased just right.

    Okay, so how do you want me to map the background of my question?

    Well, let me ask you this: what provoked the question you want to ask?

    Well, I was confused when Dr. Hockey-Expert said we’d never see another Wayne Gretzky ever again, and I wasn’t sure if he meant that was because we would never see someone as talented again, or that today’s game wouldn’t allow for Gretzky’s skills to flourish as much.

    Fair enough—that’s a useful distinction. And, if you put a question mark on the end there, you’ve actually got a pretty clear and concise question all set to go already.

    Really? Wow, I’m awesome. How did I do that?

    Well, you first paraphrased the content that led to your curiosity, and then you segued quickly into your actual curiosity. Beautifully done.

    Awesome, so I’m all set then?

    Nearly. I just have one more concern. How are you going to close your question?

    Um, I dunno—I’ll know when I get there, I guess.

    Yeah, see, that’s an issue. A common problem amongst those suffering from MQS—

    MQS?

    Oh, yeah, sorry, Meandering Question Syndrome.

    Okay, go on.

    Well a common symptom is that—after all the work of getting into the line for the Q&A, and then listening to others pontificate—many MQSers will feel delighted to finally have their place at the microphone, and so won’t want to give it up. Consequently, even when the heart of their question has been clearly understood by everyone present, our noble MQSer will continue throwing words on a fire that is already blazing. They’ll just keep on meandering about the same point, and they won’t stop—

    Aren’t you kinda doing that right now?

    Oh, right you are. Thank you.

    Yeah, you’re welcome, Captain Hypocrite. So how do I avoid that?

    Well, the most effective system is to pay attention to your words as you’re saying them. When you hear yourself complete the goal of your question, get out of there. But, if you have trouble listening to yourself while you’re talking, watch the mouth of the person to whom you’re directing your query. If they stop their nodding and start taking a breath, that means they’re about ready to respond, which means they believe they understand the Q in your query, and it’s okay for you to STOP.

    All right, thanks, I will. Okay, I’m up next to ask a question. See you.

    Okay, good luck.

    Won’t need it, thanks… Hello there, Dr. Hockey-Expert. I have three comments and a question for you…

  • Currently, in a bus shelter advertisement near me (in metro Vancouver, BC), the Children of the Street Society presents a picture of a teenage boy crossing his arms to form the toxic symbol of crossbones that we might see on dangerous chemical products. Below him are the words, “Know the signs of toxic masculinity.

    The term “toxic masculinity” has made me feel queasy before, but this scarlet lettering of boys brought the bile to my forefront.

    The problem, to my critical stomach, isn’t that “toxic masculinity” is a definitionally-flawed concept. No doubt masculinity is a human condition, which I acknowledge may in certain cases render itself in a toxic way. Those who enjoy burning our ears off with their frequent announcements of motorcycle power, for instance, strike me as individuals who are emitting toxic noise, and, as far as I can speculate, the behaviour seems linked to a performative version of masculinity.

    So, were we living in a purely theoretical world, where ideas had no political implications, I could accept the notion of “toxic masculinity” as a legitimate field of inquiry, and along the way, I would assume it would be equally acceptable to look into whether there exists a parallel “toxic femininity” worthy of critique.

    As Dr. James Lindsay (one of the three co-authors of the famous “grievance studies hoax” papers) argues:

    “I would like to see a shift in our [culture]—and, in particular, the culture within academia, our attitudes towards… issues of social justice, where we say things like, ‘Yeah, I believe there are issues regarding sex, race, sexuality, gender, etcetera, and I think that they’re important, but I want to see them studied rigorously. I don’t want ‘gender theory’ informing me of this… I want to see real work being done. And I want to see sociological rigor behind things before we use it to make policy decisions or institutionalize anything.’” (Intro and 1:44:02-1:44:34 of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OD2MJZRIoGM)

    For good or bad, we do not currently reside in such a theoretical utopia. Instead, mainstream thought has decided that, in general, we should avoid generalizing claims about race, sex, gender, and sexuality. It’s not that mainstream thought doesn’t believe there are some genuine generalities, but given human nature’s predilection for tribalism and bigotry, we are wary of critiques of general groups for fear that such criticism will lead to racial and/or sexual discrimination.

    Today, the one exception to this caution is when we are talking about a group that is presumed to be privileged, and so deemed incapable of being hindered by generalizations gone wild.

    Thus, we hear phrases such as “X group of people cannot be the victims of bigotry, because they are in power.”

    Such exclusion from compassion is a familiar pattern: a society that rightly calls for the equal treatment of us all will sometimes realize that—for practical purposes—they want to omit certain people from that equality, and so the society will dehumanize the inconvenient group so that they can hold onto their call for egalitarianism (for those who are worthy) and ignore it, too. (George Orwell captured this contradiction in his Animal Farm wherein the righteously revolutionary animal leaders began with “All animals are equal,” but eventually came to prefer, “All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others.”)

    The notion of “toxic masculinity” is an exquisite example of such bigotry dressed as virtue. In this case, the false moral wisdom passes for the real thing because our society is so used to sexism against men that egregious examples of misandry don’t stand out. If that sounds like a far-fetched, man-spiracy theory, imagine for a moment any public campaign (in Western society) which not only centered girls’ femininity as problematic, but also pathologized it.

    In theory, there may be some general aspects of femininity worthy of critique, but how many mainstream public commentators would sit on their microphones upon witnessing an image of teenage girls being asked to confess their feminine sins by pantomiming crossbones on their chests?

    In contrast, the organizers of this toxic masculinity campaign list among their top donors a high-profile convoy of businesses, charities, municipal governments, and even a school district. (I recognize that supporters can’t always vet what’s happening with their money, but I submit that if such a campaign were about girls’ alleged toxicity, there would be a wee bit of media pressure on the public supporters to both cancel, and apologize for, their funding.)

    The unchecked toxic masculinity campaign itself reads like a grade 8 essay written the night it was due, as it fills the screen with wild, nuance-free, and often self-contradictory assertions, but surrounds them with popular platitudes to smooth out the incoherence.

    For instance, we learn that one of the “signs” of toxic masculinity is, “The reinforcement of gender stereotypes which highlight that men are aggressive by nature while women are submissive.”

    I don’t mean to be pedantic here, but isn’t that kind of what the term “toxic masculinity” itself is doing?—Accusing the male people of having a problem with over-aggression that the female people apparently do not?

    In fact, the campaign lists among the traits of toxic masculinity, “Being violent, aggressive or abusive…”

    So, confuse me, is it the contention of the stereotype-hunting campaign that only male people are ever violent, aggressive, or abusive? Even the most feminist of advocacy data won’t back up such a fantastical claim, so I think not. Therefore, in those cases where ladies do stray into such anti-social behaviours, are they being toxically feminine? No, that can’t be. That would be a sexist utterance that would get one’s organization fired from mainstream conversation, so when women are abusive, are they also exhibiting toxic masculinity? In theory, that’s not necessarily contradictory, since our campaigners do argue that gender is a social construct. But why then does the campaign seem to only target boys who are suffering from toxic masculinity? (I see no girls wearing their own arms as crossbones.)

    If the campaigners genuinely believe that the virus of masculinity is not an innately male problem, I wonder whether they need the male-sounding notion of toxic masculinity at all. Why not just discuss “toxic behaviour” and avoid the gendering of the problem altogether?

    I don’t deny that males are more often violent than are females, but there are also forms of toxicity more common to females, including the very “whispered insults” that our campaigners also suggest is a boy problem.

    As social psychologist Dr. Johnathan Haidt says of boy-girl generalities:

    “Boys’ bullying is physical… Boys are physically dominating and the risk is that they’re going to get punched… Girls’ aggression—girls are actually as aggressive as boys. There’s research from the 80s and 90s on this. If you include relational aggression, girls don’t bully each other by threatening to punch each other in the face; girls bully each other by damaging the other girls’ social relationships, spreading rumours, spreading lies, spreading a doctored photograph, saying bad things, excluding them. It’s relational aggression.” (7:10-7:50 of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CI6rX96oYnY)

    To my egalitarian eye, all forms of toxicity are participated in—to varying degrees—by both males and females. I have no doubt that on average men and women would attain slightly different toxicity scores, but I am disturbed by the current mainstream Western conversation which reserves all condemnations for one sex (“man-splaining,” “male dominated,” “male ego,” etc), and all commendations for the other (“Because I’m a girl,” “the future is feminine,” “strong female characters,” etc).

    Meanwhile, another supposed indicator of toxic masculinity is “the perpetuation of rape culture and locker room talk,” as though there were no air to breath between those two concepts. As a long-time competitive sports participant, I have very occasionally heard locker room discussions that were more bravado-fueled than my delicate and prudish soul enjoyed, and while sometimes those rare discussions yielded talk of violence against men, I have never heard a squeak of approval for any violence against women—let alone sexual violence.

    My anecdotal evidence, of course, does not disprove the notion of “locker room talk” being a popular “rape culture” sanctuary, but if the campaigners are going to make such a profound claim about average male banter, maybe they could provide some evidence for it.

    Another sigh-worthy example of the campaign’s avoidance of nuance is its claim that a sign of toxic masculinity is “The expectation that ‘boys will be boys’ and they do not need to be held accountable for their actions.”

    I’m not a connoisseur of the expression “boys will be boys,” but, for what it’s worth, I’ve never thought it meant that boys shouldn’t be considered responsible for their worst behaviours. Instead—as with the term “kids are mean”—I took it as a general comment on boys’ nature that, when they’re overly rumbustious, we shouldn’t be surprised, because boys are like that. Far from celebrating suspect behaviour, I always read the phrase as rolling its eyes at boys, and teasing all of them for the behaviors of some.

    But even if the Children of the Street Society interpretation is correct and the “boys will be boys” phrase has commonly been used in the hope of excusing excessive behaviour, the notion that it’s been successful, and that males in general are given a pass on accountability is tough to reconcile with the “punishment gap” between boys and girls in school, and the “sentencing gap” between men and women for similar crimes. Moreover, in North America, while women have the right to financially-divorce themselves from their offspring by giving them up for adoption, men have no such automatic right, and can be forced to pay child support for kids they previously didn’t know existed (and may be labeled a “dead-beat dad” along the way).

    The accountability-gap argument is certainly a common trope in our feminist-fed society, but sadly it was discredited (inadvertently) last year by tennis mega star, and sometimes toxic personality, Serena Williams (she’s actually quite delightful when she wins, but less so when the calls aren’t going her way). As I describe in A BULLY IN MAGICIAN’S CLOTHING, after Williams was correctly sanctioned for verbally abusing an official at the US Open (calling him a “a liar,” and “a thief,”  and threatening his livelihood), she claimed that the penalization was evidence of sexism, and that a male tennis player would have gotten away with much worse. This bias accusation was an obvious deflection; the umpire was patient with Williams’s insulting tirade beyond anything I’ve witnessed in a men’s match, but far from asking her to take accountability for her lack of accountability, the feminist-fearing tennis media supported Williams’s claim of a double standard.

    Since then, commentator and retired footballer, Kaylyn Kyle sinned against feminism when she criticized the American women’s soccer team for unsportsmanlike behaviour (exuberantly celebrating goals in a 13-0 victory against an over matched opponent at the Women’s World Cup). Such enthusiastic celebrating of oversized victories is a well-documented no-no in competitive sports, but the American women’s coach (and various fear-sighted pundits) pulled out the Serena Defence and argued wildly that a men’s soccer team wouldn’t have received the same criticism for the same obnoxious actions.

    Meanwhile, Nike has joined the call for no accountability for unsportsmanlike female athletes, hiring Williams to narrate a commercial celebrating female athletes for standing up to alleged sexism, and for expressing their on-court anger as they see fit. “If we show emotion,” says Williams’s somber voice, “we’re called dramatic… When we stand for something, we’re unhinged… And, if we get angry, we’re hysterical, irrational, or just being crazy.”

    No, Ms. Williams, berating an Umpire for making a decision with which you disagree is not a principled stand: it is abusive behaviour that deserves accountability, regardless of your sex.

    Perhaps there is merit to the claim that not-so-long ago in mainstream Western society, certain men’s caustic presentation was more likely to be dismissed as them “blowing off steam,” but in today’s public conversation—where any criticism of a woman’s behaviour or argument can be suffocated with accusations of sexism—the public accountability gap is pointed in the opposite direction.

    There are, I’m sure, many flaws past and present that are more common to men than women, but some of these accusations from The Children of the Street Society strike me as wild stereotypes thrown at their toxic canvass without any concern for veracity. It’s an understandable strategy; they live in an ideologically homogeneous “progressive” community that is unlikely to ever check them for errors.

    The incoherence is most expertly rendered in the campaign’s concluding advice to boys who would like to resist their toxic programming:

    “Be an ally,” it says, “in the fight to end violence against women and girls. You can do so by confronting your own male privilege, social norms that support sexism, and oppressive behaviours.”

    The doublethink is strong with this one. In a campaign titled “Toxic Masculinity,” where young men—and young men only—label themselves toxic, they are asked to confront sexism against girls. And then, even though the campaign itself argued that one of the signs of toxic masculinity is “The assumption that real men cannot be victims of abuse,” it only asks our sinners to combat violence against women and girls.

    So the campaigners are sexist in their solitary condemnation of male people as the cause of abuse, and then sexist in their sole focus on the female victims of that abuse. And then they tie their incoherent knot together with the common feminist accusation that the very gender—which is both blamed for abuse, and undeserving of protection from abuse—is privileged.

    Now, our gentle campaigners would likely defend themselves—if they were ever asked to—by pointing out that they made sure to note that “Being a man doesn’t make one toxic.” And I appreciate the implied acknowledgment (while it lasts) that it would be sexist to define all men as toxic. However, let us not pretend that such a curated caveat would have protected a government-sponsored organization from demolition if it had caricatured femininity in this way. No amount of friendly backtracking would have shielded such an agency from being universally labeled a misogynist cult. Google would have fired them for stereotyping; the University College London would have sacked them for sexism; and Minnie Driver would have told them “The time right now is for men just to listen and not have an opinion about it for once.”

    But, since this campaign is criticizing boys and claiming to protect girls, the local TV news program, Global News Morning, invited in project leader, Hayden Averill (along with two teenage disciples), to sweetly tell us of the anti-toxic workshops. And, with a soothing voice, Mr. Averill made it clear to the Global host that the gently-spiked Kool-Aid he was providing us would be easy on the tummy.

  • On a recent Friday afternoon, I was sent on a priority mission to the SFU Vancouver campus to deliver a forgotten item to my spouse. The campus is small, but for newcomers such as myself, its maze-like structure is confusing, so after circling its premises a couple times, and realizing I needed a different floor, I was pleased to spot an alcove leading to an elevator.

    As I entered the small hallway, I came upon two adult-looking characters who appeared to be having a serious discussion. The gentleman of the two eyed me for a tiny moment with what I was sure was a sigh of frustration that his private conversation was being invaded by a gangly elevator-seeker.

    I was sheepish to be causing such distress, but I comforted myself with the knowledge that I only needed to go up one floor, and then—with my urgent errand still pressing on my shoulders—I would quickly depart and discontinue my disruption of my fellow hallway-dwellers’ lives.

    But my hopes to save the two conversers from my intrusion was impeded as I realized that I did not know if the established elevator-waiters had called our conveyance to travel in same direction as I needed; the answer, I realized, would be housed on the faces of the elevator buttons.

    As I scanned our little area for the location of the vital technology, a terrible epiphany landed in my rushed contemplations. My two aggrieved colleagues, who were clustered close to the elevator doors, were blocking my sightline. My errand could not sustain the weight of an extra wait if my fellow elevated travelers were planning to go in the wrong direction, so very carefully, I peered around the two chatters, but their hand-gesturing bodies continued to block my view.

    At that moment, I felt a wild hope that the two button-concealers might spot my interest in the secret information, and either move themselves out of the way, or let me know of the elevator’s current status.

    My dream was not to be; the strange strangers continued their important chat with no further acknowledgement of my annoying presence. There was nothing more for me to do but stand and wait in hopes that the noble chiming of the elevator would soon end our impassioned impasse.

    But as several more ticks of the clock sounded in my ears, it seemed to me that the elevator was taking an unnaturally long time to arrive for duty. My chances of completing my delivery in time were now small, but I still had to try, so I risked more awkwardness, and circled around the two elevator-blocking strangers. I hoped to get a better angle on the obstructed buttons so that I could confirm that my new associates’ body language was telling the truth and they had indeed called for our deliverer. It was a long trip around the humanoid barricade, but when I finally got to the other side of the whispering duo, I found a tiny gap between their presence and the wall. I looked through and discovered that the elevator button light was not on at all.

    Could it really be? Had these two conversers really witnessed me peering past them without feeling any obligation to let me know that—despite their body language to the contrary—they were not there for the elevator, and that I should reach around them and hit the button, myself, if I wanted to take a ride?

    No, surely the reason the elevator button was not shining a light on our situation was because its bulb had broken. In spite of this obvious solution to the mystery of the elevator blockers, the clock in my head continued to tick ever so loudly, and so, sheepishly once more, I reached my hand into the narrow space between the strangers and the elevator wall in pursuit of the unlit button. I felt rude as I went for it, as it seemed to me that—by redundantly pressing a button that obviously just had a broken light—I was accusing the irritated pair of lacking any common courtesy. But then my finger activated the curious elevator trigger, and it lit up.

    I looked again at the pair who had done their best to keep me away from this revelation; maybe now they would realize their error in body language, but, no, they did not waver from their lack of concern about their effect on the hurried stranger in their private conversation chamber.

    Seconds later, the elevator arrived, and as I boarded, the solution to this strange riddle of human behaviour blazed in my brain like the shining light from the elevator button. It was a wild speculation, but once I considered it, I realized that no other explanation could possibly account for the odd inability of these individuals to understand the most basic laws of human interaction. And so, as I arrived too late to my destination, I was not sad, for I had, on my journey, received the experience of a lifetime. I had met two strangers who were not humans at all: they must have been androids. I smiled as I lingered in this realization; for I knew I would never forget my meeting with these nearly human marvels of technology.

  • As any fan or foe of Sethblogs knows, I consider CBC Radio to be my nemesis. It’s not just that they have a slant regarding how our society should be run, they have a slope. This does not mean that they are always wrong in every conclusion they promote, but it does mean that their editorial policy is to never dig for nuance; so long as the item they are discussing claims to be progressive, they are for it. Moreover, CBC Radio’s sloping presentation is more egregious than that of other biased broadcasters, such as FOX News (to the right) or MSNBC (to the left), because CBC Radio is publicly funded, and so has a duty to all of its constituents, not just to those who agree with them.

    So each day I listen to CBC Radio hoping for a break from their no-nuance policy.

    Recently, for instance, CBC Radio reporters announced, with a progressively correct grin, that we now had proof of current racial bias in Canada’s policing. My ears opened wide to take in the details of this significant claim, only to learn that the alleged proof of racism could be found in the fact that a higher percentage of certain races are arrested by Canadian police than other races. The reporters gave no consideration to the possibility that the disparate arrest rates could be related to disparate crime rates amongst current Canadian racial demographics (due to various social factors, including perhaps historical racism, itself).

    And we know that CBC Radio is aware that historical factors (beyond current racism) can contribute to differing racial demographics in the present, because they frequently talk about the lingering effects of historical injustice on modern groups. Now, of course, it’s possible that both current police racism and history are influencing today’s results, but CBC Radio is not claiming a possibility here: they are claiming a fact that, because we have differing arrest rates, we know that racism is the cause. This would be like assuming that, because online shopping is increasing, that modern Canadians hate going to the mall; that might be the case, but it might also simply be that Canadians get better prices online. I’m interested in the information either way, but, by not checking their work for logical errors, CBC Radio simplifies these discussions down to their lowest common assumptions.

    So, as I hear these failures of curiosity, I often wonder: do these progressively correct CBC Radio stars realize that they’re ignoring worthy counter arguments to their assumed truths, or are they simply playing simple because that is their job? The poster voice for this question of mine is the sweet-seeming Tom Power, the current host of Q. The man is so cuddly in his simplification of complex topics that he seems more dangerous to me than a more aggressive version of himself might be, as he lulls his audience into a belief that there is no possible dark side to his dogma.

    For instance, I recall Power interviewing playwright and director, Robert LePage (before the latter failed an appropriation test with his Slav production), and Mr. LePage contemplated out loud whether the #MeToo movement might be overreaching in its possible tendency to reduce humour in the workplace. Power replied, with his fluffiest voice, “Well, ultimately, I think that might be a good thing” (paraphrased from my memory). And that was an end to it. Mr. LePage realized that he had been instantly vanquished by his soft-spoken interrogator, and he immediately admitted to our Mr. Power that he was quite right. Now, Tom’s conclusion might indeed have been correct—and that, on balance, the reduced humour of some is worth the increased comforts of others in the modern workplace—but, before pronouncing his progressive judgement, I wonder if Tom might have shown a drop of curiosity about what sorts of troubling consequences for humour Mr. LePage had in blasphemous mind.

    So, in answer to my question about whether Mr. Power is as simple as he seems, or if he’s just pretending to be because that’s his job, I counted the above failure of curiosity as evidence of a genuine blandness of mind. And yet, some days, when Q’s topic of discussion has no obvious socio-political implications, I notice that Mr. Power is capable of humour and thought beyond his simplistic progressive assertions.

    So I have been torn by the mystery of Tom Power: Is it possible that he is, in fact, a brilliant progressive strategist hiding in plain platitudes?

    Well, recently, our Mr. Power finally proved to me which was his true identity.

    On the other side of the Q microphone was Daphne Rubin-Vega, who is the lead voice in the dramatic podcast, The Horror of Dolores Roach, which features progressively-approved implications regarding gentrification and race. Now, personally, I don’t know whether gentrification is as morally harmful as we’re told by progressive advocates; on the one side of my brain, I empathize with those who cannot afford to stay in their established neighbourhoods, but on the other side, I do not like the idea of restricting who can come into and make changes to a neighbourhood. Moreover, I’m not sure which side of the gentrification debate has the best claim to our society’s overall welfare. So, being a gentrification agnostic, I’m always interested to hear arguments on both sides. But, of course, CBC Radio’s policy regarding gentrification is much more settled: gentrification is, by definition, immoral and even racist.

    But, unfortunately, for our sympathetic Mr. Power, in this case, Ms. Rubin-Vega was not as gifted at staying on progressive message as Tom’s usual group-thinking guests. And—as we will discover in the following episode of SethFM—Ms. Rubin-Vega’s resulting ideological misstep forced the true Tom Power to reveal himself as he dove in to rescue his guest from her accidental wrongthink.

  • “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”
    ― Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

    To Kill a Mockingbird is the first movie in my childhood viewing experience in which a happy outcome failed to punctuate my viewing enjoyment. Instead, collective bigotry overpowered justice, and Tom Robinson, a black man in an anti-black time and place, was found guilty of a rape that his lawyer, Atticus Finch, provided compelling evidence he did not commit.

    As I grew up, I came to believe that this cautionary tale, while profound in its rendering, was unnecessary in our bigotry-fading times. Mob justice was something of which our fore-parents were guilty, not us moderners. Indeed, as I further learned about long-ago alleged witches subjected to drowning tests to see if they were witches, I recall feeling relieved that I had chosen a more just time in history to be born.

    What I did not realize was that, even though our culture had come through an impressive collection of enlightenment, we still carried the same genetic disposition towards mob justice. It is in our nature to judge others by the instructions of our emotions, assumptions, and most powerful of all, our group consensus. Most of us want to believe ourselves to be morally righteous, and so when our friends, neighbours, and activists all have their fingers pointed in the same accusatory direction, it is not easy to resist the pull of their conviction. In turn, I suspect that the many mob jurists who once convicted real life Tom Robinsons in that anti-black time and place did so not because they were amoral, but because their peer pressure and prejudiced emotions had manipulated them into believing they were protecting their society (women, in particular) from evil.

    Today, I believe the #MeToo style of justice being called for by advocates and pandered to by pundits and politicians utilizes the same emotional trickery, whereby those countering it with calls for due process are accused of being complicit in “rape culture.”

    It is not an easy charge to allay. After all, due process necessarily means that some violent criminals will not be found guilty. Until, that is, humans acquire omniscience, our justice system will forever be unable to prove every case of evil it encounters.

    Nevertheless, I thought our society was settled on the notion that it is better for ten guilty people to go free than for one innocent person to be sent to prison. And, consequently, to be considered criminally guilty of a crime, a person must be found so beyond a reasonable doubt. I believe in such a system of justice not because I don’t care about victims, but because I think our society has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that it cannot be trusted with a lower standard.

    For those with faith in our modern brains, I refer you to the curious cases of Jian Ghomeshi and Brett Kavanaugh, both alleged sexual predators, and both presumed guilty by mob jurists. In Ghomeshi’s encounter, not only was there no corroborative evidence that the former CBC pontificator was guilty of the crimes of which he was accused, the communication between Ghomeshi and his accusers post “incidents” strongly indicated that he was innocent.

    Undaunted by reason, though, a feminist mob chanted outside the Toronto courtroom (and on the streets of my own far away city) that the accusers should be believed, because, after all, they were members of a gender too pure to ever lie. And, yes, I know, mobs will be mobs: surely the society at large was not so deluded by the sexist rantings of evidence-resistant protestors. Maybe so, but many influential journalists, pundits, and celebrities (including literary legend, Margaret Atwood, and Ghomeshi’s own former bandmates) publicly helped themselves to a presumption of Ghomeshian guilt. And, even though Ghomeshi was found by the court to be not guilty, two years on, the fired radio host continues to be in public exile for crimes he is assumed without evidence to have committed.

    Meanwhile, during the recent Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings for his spot on the US Supreme Court, the Senate called Professor Christine Blasey Ford to testify that the judge had sexually assaulted her 36 years ago. Now, even if we were to adopt the feminist standard of justice where one automatically believes the sincerity of female accusers, the case would still be a daunting one to prove. While Kavanaugh and Ford evidently spent some teenaged time in nearby circles, there is no corroborative testimony from either’s friends that they knew each other. So, it is perfectly possible that the 15-year-old Ford met someone who looked like the Kavanaugh she may have seen in passing and mistook him for the genuine Kavanaugh.

    Even so, if the police were able to find credible evidence to verify Dr. Ford’s accusation, then the justice system should be free to pursue a conviction.

    However, what happened here—senators asking their questions of Kavanaugh and Ford, mixing in partisan, faith-based pronouncements of justice—was trial by political peer pressure.

    It is a token victory for due process that the Republican partisanship overruled the Democratic partisanship and approved the accused judge. But neither side, not even Kavanaugh, himself, pointed out that it was unjust for them to be guessing at the veracity of a criminal accusation.

    As many have already said, Kavanaugh seemed rather unjudgely in his avoidance-testimony of  Democratic senators’ questions about his teenaged drinking habits, and whether he was ever drunk to the point that he might have unknowingly done what Ford had claimed. His response was to ask a questioning senator if she had ever gotten black-out drunk. While this obfuscation was unfitting of a judge, the spirit of Kavanaugh’s evasive manoeuvre is understandable. It is already difficult to prove any negative—that one didn’t do something—but it is especially daunting to prove that approximately 36 years ago at an unnamed place and time, one did not do something. There was no good answer for Kavanaugh. Given that he admits he drank a fair amount in those years, he likely does have a compromised memory of the parties he attended, but if he admits that, then he’s acknowledging it’s theoretically possible that he committed the assault. That, of course, is not actual evidence that he was a sexual assaulter, but faith-based jurists don’t care. In their emotion-led minds, failure to disprove a negative is proof of guilt.

    By contrast, in courts of law where due process is in effect, there is no requirement of the accused to prove their innocence; instead, the state is obligated to prove guilt.

    So, instead of obfuscating these questions, I wish Judge Kavanaugh had answered his senate interrogators with a soliloquy on due process. That asking him to prove that it was impossible for him to have committed the crime of which he was accused was like asking a witch to prove she was not a witch. That even though alleged victims of violent crime deserved access to justice, faith in accusation without due process and corroborative evidence was a dangerous precedent that he would not stand for. That he would not answer their questions regarding accusations of a crime that should be brought before a court of law or not at all. And that if this refusal disqualified him from their confirmation, then so be it, but he would not sacrifice his or anyone else’s due process for personal gain.

    As it was, by answering the senators’ unjust questions, Justice Kavanaugh legitimized them. And so the mob jurists outside, and in the media, continued without resistance to pronounce their verdict that the system had “failed women.”

    I am envious of these advocates for faith-based justice; unlike childhood me, #BelieveWomen activists can witness To Kill a Mockingbird with a smile as Tom Robinson’s conviction grants them a happy preview of the sort of justice they are seeking.

  • Tennis mega star, Serena Williams, has titillated us with her temper on the tennis courts more than a few times in her long tenure. Nevertheless, watching Ms. Williams reclaim her position at the top of tennis after taking a year’s sabbatical to have a baby, I have considered temporarily waiving my personal embargo on the obnoxious athlete in favour of appreciating her superhuman accomplishment.

    Then this past Saturday, Ms. Williams’ took her toddler’s disposition to work with her in the championship match of the US Open versus Naomi Osaka. When, that is, Williams was displeased with a legitimate pair of code violation penalties she received from the chair umpire of the match, she unleashed at him a series of tirades.

    And yet, with magic rhetoric, Williams has subsequently convinced many that her childish behaviour was in fact the righteously passionate speech of an unjustly treated hero who is fighting for the rights of others.

    The key to Williams’ magic here is to take the incident as far away from context as she can, and to reframe her aggressive actions with minimizing, faintly true descriptors while simultaneously reinventing the umpire’s punitive response with maximizing language. And, sadly, many in her audience, including reporters and pundits, are unable or unwilling to recognize Williams’ simple tricks of language.

    So let me put the incident back into the context Serena Williams is hoping we’ll forget:

    (1) The Coaching Controversy

    Early on in the match, the American struggled with her Japanese counterpart, but Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, had a strategic idea that might help, and so he made a fancy hand gesture towards the star.

    In tennis, strangely, such expert in-game assistance from one’s team is against the rules, and so chair umpire Carlos Ramos charged Williams a code violation warning for her coach’s attempted influence. After the match, Mouratoglou admitted he was coaching, but he argued that such infractions occur frequently without penalty, “…so,” he said, “we have to stop this hypocrite thing.” ESPN analyst, and tennis legend, Chrissie Evert concurred, “Every coach does it, so you need to re-address that rule.”

    I accept Evert’s expertise, but this wasn’t a subtle piece of coaching that an umpire could pretend not to notice; it was a blatant signaling from coach to player. So, if Ramos saw it as clearly as the ESPN cameras did, I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect him to ignore it on the grounds that the opposing coach was probably also breaking the rules.

    Williams, meanwhile, also couldn’t support the chair umpire’s decision, and she politely explained to Ramos that, “[Mouratoglou and I] don’t have any code, and I know you don’t know that. And I understand why you may have thought that was coaching, but I’m telling you it’s not. I don’t cheat to win. I’d rather lose.”

    Ramos’s reply is not legible to me on the tape, but he seemed to acknowledge her concern, and she replied, “Okay, thank you, because I’m like, ‘I don’t cheat’… Yeah, so thank you so much.’”

    So all seemed fine in love and tennis.

    (2) The Racquet Demolition

    A while later, Williams lost a point, which she would have preferred to have won, and so she released her irritation by smashing and destroying her racquet against the court. Once again, Umpire Ramos had his eyes open and spotted the unsporting gesture, and so, per tennis rules, he supplied Williams with her second code violation strike, which meant that she was to be automatically docked a point in the next game of the match.

    This did not please our hero. Williams apparently had thought she’d clarified with Ramos that she did not deserve that first code violation, and so had continued in the match under the false apprehension that she still had a free code violation warning available to her for any desired racquet-smashing.

    (3) The Tirades

    Less politely this time, Ms. Williams returned to Mr. Ramos and explained, “I didn’t get coaching. I didn’t get coaching. I didn’t get coaching. You need to make an announcement that I didn’t get coaching. I don’t cheat. I didn’t get coaching. How can you say that?… You owe me an apology. You owe me an apology. [Now shouting.] I have never cheated in my life. I have a daughter, and I stand for what’s right for her, and I have never cheated. You owe me an apology.”

    Now, I can understand Ms. Williams’ frustration that she would be punished for her coach’s behaviour (especially if she was being honest that she wasn’t aware of it). But, unfortunately for Serena, one’s coach is part of one’s team, and so, just as she gains from his expertise, she is also subject to his mistakes. (In fact, my ESPN pundits tell me that the “coaching” penalty is not a measure of whether the athlete received it, but whether the coach sent it.) Regardless of how offended Serena claimed to be, it is not reasonable to expect a referee to overrule what he witnessed just because an athlete insists that they wouldn’t be a party to it.

    Nevertheless, given both the significance of the moment and Williams’ conceivably understandable frustration at being blamed for the actions of her coach, I could forgive her a brief rant towards the umpire. Instead, though, the superstar binged on her anger, and unleashed a series of hostile sermons against Ramos, while Ramos replied only with politeness and calm.

    “For you to attack my character,” Williams continued, “is something that’s wrong. You’re attacking my character. Yes you are. You owe me an apology. You will never ever ever be on another court of mine as long as you live. You are the liar.”

    Now—whether or not Serena Williams actually has the influence to control umpiring assignments—from my umpire’s chair, her threat against the official’s livelihood ought to have earned her a code violation for abuse of official.

    But Umpire Ramos—with the most patient of expressions—nodded and turned away from his accuser when she seemed done. But Ms. Williams still wasn’t satisfied and called his attention back for more: “When are you going to give me my apology?… You owe me an apology. Say it. Say you’re sorry. [Ramos declined the invitation.] Well, then, don’t talk to me.”

    Ramos complied, and turned away once more, but Serena had a little left in the tantrum tank:

    “You stole a point from me. You’re a thief, too.”

    That was finally sufficient for Umpire Ramos, and he provided Williams the long-earned “Abuse of Official,” code violation, which—being the Williams’ team’s third code violation of the day—meant that she was now to automatically receive a one game penalty in the match.

    (4) The Magic Rhetoric

    Soon after, tournament referee Brian Earley arrived to try to calm the waters, but that is when the bully of our story turned into a magician and pulled a rabbit out of her tennis bag.

    “I know the rules,” she explained to Earley, “but I said a simple thing like ‘thief,’ because he stole a point from me. [Now crying.] There are men out here that do a lot worse, but because I’m a woman, because I’m a woman, you’re going to take this away from me? That is not right. And you know it. And I know you can’t admit it, but I know you know it’s not right.”

    I was baffled by the audacity of the trick. Did Williams really believe that after all the abuse she had launched at Ramos that anyone would see her as the heroic victim here? Apparently so. During her post-match press conference, Serena-dini tried the trick again.

    “I’ve seen… men call other umpires several things, and I’m here fighting for women’s rights, and for women’s equality… and for me to say, ‘thief,’ and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was a sexist remark. He’s never [taken] a game from a man, because they said ‘thief.’”

    It was a beautiful rhetorical trick by Williams. Technically, yes, her accusation that Ramos was a “thief” was the final denunciation that had cost her a game, and out of context, that single word doesn’t seem so bad. But neither does “received coaching” sound so terrible without context, and yet Williams had used it as a catalyst for repeated demands for an apology. So let us play in context, shall we, Ms. Williams?

    When we place the “thief” accusation back in the context of a prolonged collection of demands, accusations, and even a threat towards the umpire’s career, and remember that Ramos did not penalize Williams a game for the culminating insult, but instead simply charged her a third code violation, which in conjunction with the two others that she had already legitimately received, added up to the large penalty.

    But the mesmerized reporters present weren’t going to interrupt their favourite magician in the middle of a trick, so Williams continued with exasperated confidence. “For me, it blows my mind, but I’m going to continue to fight for women… The fact that I have to go through this is just an example for the next person that has emotions and that wants to express themselves and they want to be a strong woman, and they’re going to be allowed to do that because of today. Maybe it didn’t work out for me, but it’s going to work out for the next person.”

    At that point in the press conference, some of the reporters on duty were inspired to applaud the teary-eyed Serena and her heroic characterization of her behaviour.

    The reporters’ apparent inability to spot Williams’ sleight of blame is baffling. They had watched a person unfairly berate another person, and somehow they had now decided to cheer on the aggressor because she was “expressing herself” as a “strong woman” as though all female exposition, no matter how hostile and unreasonable, is a virtue.

    The reporters’ empathy gap was showing. If this controversy had been the result of the world’s greatest male tennis player telling a female umpire she would never work one of his matches again, and that she was a “liar” and a “thief,” and not to talk to him until she apologized, I doubt the journalists would have been so appreciative.

    (5) The Alleged Double Standard

    This argument that female assertion is dismissed—more often than men’s—as excess emotion is a common complaint (and not only from biased feminists), and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some truth to it in our general society. (Although, as ever, with every double standard against women there is usually a mirrored double standard against men; I suspect, for instance, that female tears call upon our society’s compassion more quickly than male tears.) But, if indeed there are double standards in our general society against female assertion, that differential is not necessarily applicable to all subcultures. Tennis is well-stocked with fiery female athletes, and so umpires with instinctual expectations to the contrary may well have updated their gender anticipations. In fact, I have witnessed many female tennis stars assertively argue their cases on court without retribution from the chair umpires.

    Nevertheless, if there is evidence that female tennis players on average are sanctioned more harshly than their male colleagues for unsporting behaviour on the court, then that should certainly be corrected, and not just for the sake of fairness to the ladies, but also for the gentleman. (If it’s true that the unruliest tennis women get away with less aggression than the unruliest of tennis men, then simultaneously the most courteous male players are having to put up with more of the intimidating distraction than the most courteous female players.)

    If indeed there is evidence of a double standard, my etiquette-cheering amendment would not be to allow the women’s side more abuse of officials, but to level the playing surface by reducing the amount of abuse tolerated on the men’s side. Ms. Williams, though, argues to rectify the alleged problem in the opposite manner, by increasing the abuse women are authorized to direct toward umpires.

    Adding more baffling commentary to the flames, retired tennis great, Billie Jean King, argued on Twitter, “When a woman is emotional, she’s ‘hysterical,’ and she’s penalized for it. When a man does the same thing, he’s ‘outspoken’ & there are no repercussions. Thank you @SerenaWilliams for calling out this double standard.”

    Again, if Ms. King has evidence of this double standard in tennis umpiring, I support her call for correction. However, this is not the case from which to launch the inquiry. The supposedly sexist crime that Chair Umpire Ramos committed here was to charge Williams with a single code violation for abuse of official, which would have amounted to simply a warning if she hadn’t already smashed her racquet, and her coach hadn’t already been caught breaking the rules.

    Even if some male tennis players have sometimes been forgiven abuse of officials that most female tennis players wouldn’t have, we also know that some male tennis players have been sanctioned for less than Williams’ prolific offering here. According to Wikipedia, the now demonized-as-sexist Umpire Carlos Ramos has called several controversial code violations against superstar male players, including Andy Murray who was penalized after calling out Ramos for “stupid umpiring.” So, to accuse Ramos of sexism for drawing a line after several doses of hostility from Williams is a hefty strain on credulity.

    What we have here is a superstar bully, who has called upon “women’s rights” to magically justify her bad behaviours. She is self-aggrandizing a temper tantrum, and we should tell her, “No.”

  • I’m jealous of the progressive journalists, pundits, and their hybrid offspring who roam the airwaves of my intellectual nemesis, CBC Radio. The public broadcaster has constructed a safe zone for progressive ideas to run free without fear of contradiction. In this protected environment, the broadcaster’s journalists and pundits cheer on any progressive notions which claim to be combatting racism, sexism, and other notorious isms.

    I’m jealous because I too am opposed to bigotry and so I would love to enjoy the good feelings that come with allying oneself with all programs that promise to overpower prejudice; but, sadly for me, I suspect that many progressive policies (such as, say, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s gender quotas in his government) are ethically dangerous, themselves.

    I do not mean to suggest that my skeptical conclusions are always right, nor that modern progressive thinking is always wrong, but instead that, by affixing their anti-bigotry labels so confidently to their tunics, progressive advocates and pundits have relieved themselves of the obligation to critically consider the consequences of their favourite ideas. Sometimes they may be right, and sometimes they may be well reasoned, but there is no requirement of those features in order for them to dogmatically present their views on CBC Radio, where their faith-based resolve will never be tested.

    Last month, for instance, the Montreal Jazz Festival cancelled its musical production of Slav in belated response to protests regarding the race of the presenters not matching the race of the black slaves they were depicting (five of seven singer/performers were white).

    In celebration of this artistic reduction, CBC Radio’s curator of cultural conversation, Q’s Tom Power, interviewed musician, Pierre Kwenders, one of the vanquishers of the unusual production. As ever, our Mr. Power refused to signal anything but progressive virtue as he gently asked his guest for a report of his feelings about his censorious achievement.

    While my instincts sympathize with the protestors’ criticism of the production’s strange casting, I am unable to cheer on the halting of art (even when people say they are offended by it). Thus, in deference to the skeptical inquiry that I (jealously) wish were present on CBC Radio, I offer my best impression of an artistic freedom fighter here in another edition of SethFM.

     

  • Once again, I call upon Oscar Wilde to set the scene.

    “The artist,” says he, “is the creator of beautiful things. To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim.”

    I wonder what Wilde would have thought of our society’s current preference for the opposite. As our 2018 moral consensus runs, if a person is accused of a crime or witnessed saying something deemed offensive by the Twitter intelligentsia, then we accuse the offender’s art of guilt by association, and erase their work from further consideration.

    I do not mean to suggest that such a moral argument is ridiculous; I can understand the impulse to exile the work of bad people to avoid the perception that we approve of their bad behaviours.

    Nevertheless, I contend that the separation of art from the bad deeds of its engineers is essential to an enlightened society. Just as we would not tear down great works of architecture due to the personal failings of architects, we must let art stand for itself.

    Perhaps I am wrong about this, but what scares me is how easily our society has given into the dogmatic puritans who insist that good people do not enjoy the artistic output of bad people.

    Thus, I offer the following sprinkle of resistance to the storm via my affiliate Seth at SethFM.

     

  • Welcome to The Anti-Misandry Blog within SethBlogs! Confused? Click here for The Anti-Misandry Blog Introduction. Intrigued/enraged? Click on the “Anti-Misandry” link in the CATEGORY section to the right of this post for further episodes.

    THE ANTI-MISANDRY BLOG: EPISODE XVI

    My argument in the DOUBLE STANDARD OF DOUBLE STANDARDS is that mainstream feminist academics, advocates, and journalists are adept at pointing out possible double standards against women, but they are not as keen to discuss equally as compelling and numerous cases where men might be encountering a double standard.

    In this essay, I shall illustrate that phenomenon by pointing out what I perceive to be a chief feminist strategy that allows this double standard of double standards to go unscrutinized. The feminist policy is simple: when you’re searching through our many layers of human social interaction, stop any time you find data that could indicate a glass ceiling (or glass wall), and then claim that this single level of inquiry tells the whole story.

    Consider the woman’s legal advocacy group, West Coast Leaf, which argued in 2017 to the BC Supreme Court that the use of solitary confinement was unconstitutional because it “disproportionately affected female inmates.”

    CBC Radio’s feminist-hugging show, On the Coast, was eager to hear about that, and so host Gloria Macarenko asked WCL’s Director of Litigation, Raji Mangat to tell us more.

    “Obviously,” Mangat said, “prolonged solitary confinement has a negative, deleterious impact on anyone. The focus of our group is on the gendered impacts of solitary confinement, and that’s because disproportionally to male inmates—who make up the vast number of the population of people in prison—…women are at an increased risk of being put in solitary confinement for their numbers.”

    Now, some might think that, given the greater total population of men in solitary that maybe it is men who are more significantly harmed by the policy than women.  But, if you’re a feminist advocate who comes across a layer of data that makes it seem like men have it worse, you must keep digging. Thus, WCL ignored the surface level of information which would have pointed their concern at men, and dug until they landed on their per capita finding, at which point they immediately stopped the search. They had the glass they were looking for.

    “Part of that [the overrepresentation of per capita women in solitary confinement],” Mangat continued,  “comes from the fact that many women who find themselves in prison in Canada are folks that have had some traumatic experience, some history of physical, emotional, psychological, violence in their past, and that’s only exacerbated and made worse by placement in solitary confinement.”

    The gendered implication here is that, whereas men in solitary confinement are cold-blooded villains with no excuse for their evil deeds but their own psychopathy, the women are victims of those same men, and so eventually resort to crime as a coping mechanism.

    I doubt that the distinction between villain-without-a-cause and victim-turned-villain is as gendered as Mangat implies, but let’s assume that women-inmates are much more likely than men-inmates to have been abused into their life of crime. It is still likely the case—given how many more male inmates we have—that a higher number of men than women in solitary confinement are former victims of the sort for which WCL is expressing concern.

    In fact, sociologists tell us that the highest per capita population of Canadian inmates in solitary confinement are First Nations men. As a “progressive” organization, I wonder if West Coast Leaf is comfortable with their implication that those indigenous men are all born anti-social psychopaths with no trauma that nudged them towards criminality. But, worry not, Mangat didn’t have to answer that inconvenient question, because her interrogator didn’t ask it.

    Indeed, without any resistance from her gentle interviewer, our glass-seeking advocate was able to triple down on her gendered outrage by attempting to prove that those women in solitary confinement are suffering psychologically more than their isolated male counterparts.

    “Women,” Mangat said, “also have higher incidents of self-harm and suicide ideation in prisons. Again these are factors that result in an exacerbation of pre-existing conditions to be put into solitary confinement knowing that there is this makeup of the female offender population.”

    I don’t distrust Manga’s data here; after all, women outside of prison are also more likely to self-harm and report suicidal ideation. But our noble pundit neglected to point out to our admiring interviewer that, in spite of women’s higher rate of reported suicidal ideation, is it men who complete 80% of suicides. Indeed, if our advocate weren’t so blinded by her search for glass, she might have noticed the obvious conclusion that it is the men (with their higher suicide rate multiplied by their higher solitary population) who are most likely to die while in solitary confinement. But that was not the data we were looking for.

    Meanwhile, during a BBC debate on how women are treated in the workplace, a sociologist was asked for verification of the feminist claim that “manterrupting” (i.e. men interrupting women disproportionately) is a problem.

    “Well,” our feminist expert said  (approximately, as I haven’t yet been able to find the debate on youtube), “in terms of raw data, women interrupt men more than the reverse, BUT what we found was that men interrupt women more often when women are saying something important.”

    So, while technically the assumption of men-us interruptus wasn’t true, that spirit of it—that men are talking over women too much—was, by our researcher’s estimation, valid.

    Now, I don’t know how this researcher defined what counted as important conversation points that should especially not be interrupted, but let us assume that she had made a cogent distinction. The results of her findings, if she were an objective examiner of them, ought to have been one of ambivalence, wherein she pointed out that both generalized genders might have a beef with their counterparts depending on where you focussed your lens. But once again our researcher skimmed over the level of analysis that seemed to vindicate men, and didn’t stop digging until she found the glass for which she was searching.

    Clearly, feminists prefer to identify general results—and not details—when those meta-facts match their accusations. So, since there are more total men than women in STEM, politics, and board rooms, feminists know that those places are all currently societies of unmitigated anti-female sexism. No further study required. However, any time the numbers go the other way, and women are more populous on the happy side of a distinction (university participation, the medical profession, longevity), we must dig for nuance until we find something—anything—that could show that women are the victims in those arenas. As Hilary Clinton infamously put it, “Women have always been the primary victims of war. Women lose their husbands, their fathers, their sons in combat.”

    Moreover, if men are more likely than women to do something positive for society, the feminist glass diggers will begin calling for intervention even if there is no evidence that those men are excluding women along the way. For instance, our friends at CBC Radio have reported to me a few times on the “problematic” fact that Wikipedia writers (who are volunteer contributors) are more often men than women; this, according to CBC Radio, is a troubling result that requires intervention to support women to feel more included in the work.

    In contrast, if it were women who were leading this voluntary project—and even if they had openly discriminated against men in the process—they would have been lauded as heroes for their inspiring work. In fact, CBC Radio recently celebrated a story of exclusively women scientists going to the North Pole to figure how to save the environment. This baffling feminist double standard would be amusing if it weren’t so successful.

    Indeed, given that most Western media (save for the occasional right-wing outfit, such as the National Post and Fox News) treats feminist advocates as impartial bystanders on our society’s goings on, we have little defence against their one-thinking-fits-all.

    When women-first feminist pundits are interviewed, for instance, on CBC Radio (a daily occurrence), I do not recall any of them ever receiving a single skeptical question about the premises or conclusions of their arguments. Instead, it is assumed by both “expert” and interrogator that we are living in a society that desperately needs gendered recalibration, and that the negative imbalance is always in the direction of women.

    In contrast, in the last few years I can only remember hearing two critics of feminism on CBC Radio, (A) Camille Paglia, a second-wave feminist who criticizes third-wave feminism for what she claims is man-hating and female infantilization, and (B) Cassie Jaye, who—as a feminist—created what she intended to be a documentary hit piece on her natural enemy, the men’s rights movement, only to discover along the way that their arguments were niggling away at her sense of fairness to the point that she renounced her feminist label, and is now a friend to men’s rights advocates. Now, I’m proud of CBC Radio for talking to these two critics of feminism, but notice that—far from receiving the unlimited agreement that women-first feminists are treated to—these two pundits each encountered a bounty of critical questions from their interlocutors.

    And that’s good. Skepticism, as I’ve argued many times, is the best nutrition for our arguments. However, the lack of similar skepticism for women-are-always-victims feminists is dangerous.

    This not to say that such feminists are incapable of presenting us with concepts fit for consideration. If, for instance, there is evidence of a significant sexual harassment problem in Hollywood, that’s worth investigating. But, by virtue of its no-critical-inquiry-allowed principles (such as #BelieveWomen), the #MeToo movement has become an anti-due-process, faith-based, guilt-by-association, misandrist, nuance-resistant mob (or a collection of “MeCarthyism” as pundit-comedian Bill Maher described it).

    As ever, in order to stop women-first feminists and their narrowly-focused ideology from overtaking us, our media, academia, and governments must be willing to openly question them. And one way to do that is to occasionally ask feminists about the other items they find in the area while they are searching for glass.

  • Dear NHL:

    As your leagues’ game theory is currently constructed, the teams that collect the fewest points in the first two thirds of your regular seasons—and so are unlikely to qualify for your playoffs—are better off faring even more poorly in the final third of their regular seasons. After all, if they fall to the bottom few spots in your league, they will be rewarded with the highest chance of attaining a future star in your weighted draft lottery.

    I appreciate your reason for rewarding your worst teams with high draft lottery odds: you want to give them a chance of rejuvenating themselves relatively soon so that their fans don’t look elsewhere.

    However, this noble sporting welfare system has an obvious and troubling consequence. Some below- par teams may purposely stub their own toes so that they can get access to your best services.

    Indeed, you may recall that the similarly constructed NBA recently fined Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban for admitting to telling his players to “tank” the rest of their season. Well, yes, that was wrong of him as it was very unsportsmanlike, but it was also right of him from a strategic point of view.

    I doubt any NHL owners actually tell their players to take a dive; however, their general managers are able to take the dive on their behalf. As you know, every year at your trade deadline, two thirds through the season, your lesser teams will trade away good players near the ends of their contracts for future prospects. I understand that sometimes a future asset is worth more than a current one, but it seems that some teams are a little too eager to part with players who are playing well for them only to get back questionable value.

    So, dear NHL, I have an idea. Please stop incentivizing losing. Instead, give those teams something to play for so they have good reason to try to win as much as they can.

    Here are two ideas:

    (1) Increase the number of wildcard teams who are given entry into your playoffs by adding in a short wildcard playoff round. This would mean that there would be more teams on the bubble or near the bubble of making those playoffs. These teams would thus have less reason to throw away their seasons.

    (2) For the teams that don’t make the playoffs, instead of rewarding the worst-faring teams with the best chance of winning the draft lottery, invert that, and give the best-faring non-playoff teams the highest chance of landing the next star. Consequently, the rest of the season will have value to the subpar teams and their fans as we’ll be fighting for our future even if we’re out of the playoffs.

    I see your objection to the second suggestion. If we don’t help out the very worst teams with draft lottery rewards, you worry that they’ll never get out of the league cellar. I understand your point. However:

    (A) There’s not that much difference between the worst teams and the next-to-worst teams, so you’ll still be helping out bad teams first no matter what happens in the draft lottery. And, since it’s a weighted lottery, you could still give the very worst teams a reasonable possibility of winning the lottery, just not quite as good a chance as they’d get if they’d fared a little better in their games.

    (B) With this new system, by reducing the incentive for the bad teams to give away “rental” players to the good teams, those playoff-bound teams could still try to acquire players at the trade deadline; however, they would have to offer a lot more to entice the losing teams to give up their end-of-contract players. This new incentive plan would benefit those lowest teams who would only give away good players if the future considerations offered were of high quality.

    And, with the notion of purposely tanking now obsolete, your game theory will be repaired.

    Sincerely,

    Your fan and (unpaid) advisor, Seth McDonough

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