Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Mutually Assured Dumbness

So, since the majority of my atheism blogs seem to be dedicated to drama in the atheist community let's have another look at the latest twitstorm, which revolves around the harassment of Caroline Criado-Perez and the call for a report abuse button. For the record, the abuse being thrown her way is reprehensible, however the proposed solution will cause more problems than it solves. I'm going to leave the block bot drama and the list alone for the time being and instead focus on the "report abuse" button.

I don't know if anyone has been around since the cold war days, but I'm pretty sure most people are familiar with the doctrine known as "mutually assured destruction" often shorted to MAD. For those not in the know, this refers to fact that while the US or Russia could launch a nuclear strike to cripple the other, the resulting nuclear counterstrike would destroy their own nation, and possibly cause the end of human life on earth as a result of the fallout. Thus neither side was willing to use nuclear weapons in any situation unless the possible extinction of the human race (or at least the homeland) was an acceptable consequence thereof. Luckily we had mostly rational people sitting behind the proverbial big red buttons, so we are all here today to have this conversation. If you can't yet see how this relates to the proposed button, then please red on.

So you want a way to report abuse that doesn't involve filling out a form? Fair enough, the world is getting lazier and lazier, why not have it quick and simple so your lazy ass can get on with it's day? Well, as there are a couple ways twitter can implement this feature, I'll comment on the reasonable ones. If you've seen Subman's video on the topic (which is excellent apart from a mis-edit in the middle), and @Beagrie 's also excellent vid then same of this will be re-hash, but here I go.

The first is just an extension of the block button, whereas you block the user and a flag goes into the computer system for the twitter administrators to check at some point, which is essentially the lazy (wo)man's version of the existing system, if this is all anyone wants, fair enough, I'm a supporter of any sort of laziness except the kind that generates obesity, and keystokes don't burn many calories so fuck'em and make it a one click process (preferably two, so we don't click it by mistake).

However, That's not what most of them are calling for, they want something to be DONE IMMEDIATELY! They want a way to either suspend or ban accounts in real time, because the best way to get your views across is to censor all dissent, or so I'm told, so lets look at a few options for that.

The first  of these is that twitter will hire a herd of people to check all these things in real time as they come in. This is completely unfeasible, as twitter will not go to the expense of hiring thousands of employees to review flagged tweets. This I wouldn't object to either if it were in any way possible to implement.

Secondly we could get a system similar to youtube, where a complaint or certain number of complaints results in a temporary suspension and possible a permanent one pending a review by a human being, a process known to take weeks, sometimes over a month. No one has ever abused this system to have people they disagree with temporarily banned. If you believe the previous sentence I have a bridge to sell you.

Thirdly we have a system where a complaint immediately disables an account pending a human review. Much like the above option on steroids, basically we have a standoff, no one would abuse this against you for fear you would abuse it against them right?

I won't even consider such stupidity as a button that connects directly to the police.

Now I want you to think about the last two options, carefully for a moment, then please watch this video.

My favorite movie supervillian, and an apt description of an internet troll, wouldn't you say?

So, back to the mutually assured dumbness, by adding this button you don't disarm the trolls, you give the little kids who want to watch the world burn a nuclear armament and set them in front of the big red candy colored button that says "launch". Not only that, but they know they can launch without any sort of consequence, the troll doesn't care if his account gets banned in response. In fact he probably created a dozen sock accounts just to keep yours down even longer as his accounts die a glorious death in the name of the lulz.

Congratulations! You are attempting to use the MAD doctrine against a Jihadi, not too fucking bright now, is it?

Stand up and fight!

Monday, 8 July 2013

(Not) In the name of atheism...

So, time to break out the jumper cable and shock the shit out of this dead horse, it seems that no one can let it lie, so let's charge the beast up and get a few things sorted out. Prompting this post is a recent post by John Loftus at Skeptic Ink, however there has been a whole lot about it over the past year and so I'll voice my objections to several elements.

In regard to Loftus's claim that atheism entails anti-discrimination, I will start with this: No. The only thing atheism entails is the lack of belief in a god or gods (or the belief that there are no gods). Period. When you ascribe other things to Atheism you not only run into a huge problem, but you give fuel to every idiot theist out there who argues that because there were evil atheists, atheism itself is the cause of evil.

See when Loftus says that the removal of religion removes the cause for discrimination, I believe that were Josef Stalin and the NKVD/KGB still around, they might disagree with him on that point, not to mention all the other evil atheist leaders the fundies love to rant about. See what you in your grand ignorant buffoonery fail to realize, is that when you ascribe these other positive things to atheism, you also tack onto them all the negative things, especially the ones which directly contradict you. There are atheist bigots, there are atheist homophobes, there are atheist misogynists, and there are atheists who partake in every other form of discrimination. You can be an atheist and anti-discriminationist (It's a word now, fuckers), but the two are not related. I think this is a case of yet another former fundie failing to understand that there are people out there who never believed in religion, some of whom are just as discriminatory as their religious counterparts.

Atheism may remove one of the reason for discrimination, that being religious based hatred and separatism, but it doesn't remove the discrimination itself, and pretty much anyone who's either read a history book ought to know this, it's not rocket science.

Now moving on to what seems to be a more weaselly approach. A while ago there was a discussion between Dan Finke of Camels with Hammers and Justin Vacula about feminism in the secularist movement, specifically in regards to atheism, and Justin, who is normally a decent public speaker, made a little bit of an idiot of himself, however part of it was because a weaselly choice of words.

A big part of the discussion surrounds Finke grilling Vacula on whether or not atheism is "consistent" with feminism, and Vacula honestly makes himself look like an asshole here with his disagreements, because Finke is using the term "consistent" in the logical and academic sense (which makes sense, given his background), which means to say that the two are not mutually exclusive. This is actually 100% correct and Vacula, being a philosophy major, should have clarified this instead of simply disagreeing. The problem here is that consistent to most people, generally means more towards "X entails Y"  or even "X matches Y" as opposed to "X and Y are not mutually exclusive." I'm pretty sure Justin was arguing against the latter case and not the former.

A manager will often tell an employee that a good sales record, punctuality and the like are consistent with a promotion or a pay raise. This is a weaselly way of saying you should do these things without promising anything, and I don't know if he's doing it intentionally here, but Finke is implying that atheism leads to or entails feminism (of which kind? There seem to be several brands). He's wrong about this, as Atheism as a label entails nothing of the sort.

If feminism is consistent with atheism, then wife-beating is consistent with atheism. Mass deportation and slaughter are consistent with atheism, execution of all dissenters is consistent with atheism, UFOs and alien abduction are consistent with atheism, bigfoot is consistent with atheism. Do you get the point? You may think you've weaseled in a definition that isn't there, but you've actually said nothing at all, and anyone with half a brain will notice what a vapid argument that is. The only things inconsistent with Atheism are things which involve a belief in a god or gods, and once again, when you peddle this sort of bullshit, you simply open the door for all the theists to (correctly, by your logic) ascribe all sorts of negative shit to atheism.

As for Atheists as a movement, if you want to crusade for whatever, go for it. If I agree with you I'll join in as best I can, if not, I'll disagree vehemently and bitch about it on the internet. But don't claim to do what you do in the name of atheism, not only do you imply that the goals of atheism are X when they are not, but a single dissenter proves you wrong.

*Raises his hand* Right here, you dumb shits, I'm that one dissenter!

I don't care what you're doing, unless it's not believing in god. If it's not that, it's not atheism, and even if I agree with your cause, I will lend my support to a similar one which does not imply that atheism is the cause. Yes, by all means, be an atheist and a humanist, be an atheist and feed the hungry, be an atheist and campaign to end slavery. Just don't suggest that these are done in the name of atheism, it's no better or worse than the fundie who says Mao starved millions in the name of Atheism.

Stand up and Fight!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

On ....random things

So I don't blog often, usually because I need something to rant about, but I figure I can knock a few topics into one post and rant a little on each we should be good to go, so here goes;

On Justin Vacula and Skeptic Ink. - I started reading SIN for Vacula, although I don't always agree with him, especially when he gets a little MRAish, I find his reporting to be well done, and by all accounts he was both polite and professional at WiS and EWTS, the only offence being that people chose to take at their being a man of dissenting viewpoint present. Although I've found some excellent other blogs such as Notung, Background Probability and The Hellfire Club (which I also read pre-SIN), and others I never gave two shits and a shake about John Loftus before. Now, as far as I can tell, he is nothing but another cowardly internet dipshit, who may have lost the christianity, but retained a whole lot else he learned from William Lane Craig. It may not be the same as another infamous internet echo chamber, but I still have no use for those who promote groupthink. I'll quote my comment on the site as that sums it up:

"Justin Vacula is no longer a part of Skeptic Ink because his communication style and areas of focus are not compatible with the mission and values of the network."
The Skeptic Ink Network's mission and values are not in line with the values and mission of this skeptic then. Which are actual activism an critical thought, not a massive circle jerk and back patting over making fun of yet another stupid preacher. - Shadow of a Doubt

I'll still follow the others though, since I'm one of those assholes who uses AB+ and no one is making ad revenue from me anyhow.

On going for the high hanging fruit - some people may have noticed I occasionally throw barbs and get into little twitter spats, especially with smart folks like Matt Dillahunty and occasionally Richard Dawkins among others when I take to disagreement with them, and I sometimes get asked why I do so when I usually come out looking worse.

Two reasons; Firstly; there is no point going after the low hanging fruit, if I wanted to start a youtube career I would make videos going after VenomfangX, Rebecca Watson, Paul Elam etc. there is no point in going after the extremists to prove that they're wrong. Extremists usually are, instead I go after people with more reasoned positions, who in turn are open to being reasoned with.

Secondly, I apply my own skepticism to myself and my own views. By challenging ideas from people I know and respect as skeptics and sound logicians, I can put the validity of my own views to the test, you should try it sometime. Dillahunty is usually pretty accessible and Dawkins will often respond if you catch his tweets shortly after he posts them. You'll find most "celebrities", major or minor, will often provide some insight, or at least a good short convo on twitter if you remain polite.

On fitness - As always I am trying new things and have recently been using the bulgarian bag. Probably only good for another week or so as there isn't a whole lot to do with it but swinging it around is a great ab, shoulder and core workout, and probably good for the rotator-cuff area as well. BJJ has been slow, with the new business venture I've recently started I haven't been training as much as I should, but I get in a few times in a week. Still hate the "De La Riva" position due to my general lack of flexibility, but I'll get it in time.

On books - Currently reading Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos series and very much enjoying it, good solid fantasy, interesting characters, sarcastic as hell main character and overall very cool. Highly recommended for fantasy fans, in the words of the author:

"The Cool Stuff Theory of Literature is as follows: All literature consists of whatever the writer thinks is cool. The reader will like the book to the degree that he agrees with the writer about what’s cool. And that works all the way from the external trappings to the level of metaphor, subtext, and the way one uses words. In other words, I happen not to think that full-plate armor and great big honking greatswords are cool. I don’t like ‘em. I like cloaks and rapiers. So I write stories with a lot of cloaks and rapiers in ‘em, ’cause that’s cool. Guys who like military hardware, who think advanced military hardware is cool, are not gonna jump all over my books, because they have other ideas about what’s cool.
"The novel should be understood as a structure built to accommodate the greatest possible amount of cool stuff." -Steven Brust.

On Vidya games - Playing through all the games I got on steam sales and humble bundles without putting much time in, currently Serious Sam HD, which is an awesome throwback to classic shooters, Saint's Row the 3rd, which is an over the top version of GTA, and as always, planetside 2 and Minecraft. Looking forward to trying The last of us within the next week or two.

That's all for now.


Stand up and Fight!