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Belle Waring

Listen to This Killer Song

by Belle Waring on May 7, 2015

This song is objectively awesome. I…have to go to the doctor in a bit, and I might need to study kanji* re-play Monument Valley, so I don’t have much to say except OMG THIS THIS EVERYTHING!

Lead-singer and guitarist Brittany Howard has an incredible voice, obviously. I thought she was a dude at first. (John professed bafflement that I ever thought this. [This was not a function of her incredibleness, but just plain I didn’t know who was singing and heard it as a dude.]). Alabama Shakes has a really wide range of song-styles. What is this like? I would say sort of reminiscent of the Doors in ways, but I actually kind of hate the Doors, so. The guitar able to go so clean when she wants it to, as all the other instruments cut out, like at 2:19, it’s a later Pink Floyd-ish thing? (Which, btw, I have been really feeling lately. Anybody want to join me for some Shine on You Crazy Diamond? It’s only 25 minutes long. IT’S WORTH IT.)

*I am just going to stop taking topamax. Screw this. My brains have turned to mush and I have horrible headaches anyway. Though to be scrupulously over-generous to myself, our tutor gives us the hardest test I can think of: Japanese sentences with blanks for the kanji and hiragana for the sound, and then we have to write the character. It’s easy to see each character and remember what it means. The sounds…more troublesome. I would do better by just flipping the paper over and writing all 15 characters down. I should probably do that Sunday, then cross them out as they go in, but I’m doing the class with Zoe and I am way slower than her already.

OK, I got y’all this far, now you get a video about outer space. It’s AWESOME.

P.S. I will take ALL THE GRAVY BOATS. Just send’em on over. (John waves hands like X in background mouthing “noooo!”)
P.P.S. I am aware the title is now inaccurate.

No Justice For Rekia Boyd, Either

by Belle Waring on April 28, 2015

I had been planning to write this post in part about the killing of Freddie Gray in Baltimore before rioting broke out there. My mom was in Baltimore on Monday, actually, at Johns Hopkins; I talked to her and my sister and aunt in the morning. Goddamn. Then I thought I would post about a number of killings of unarmed black citizens by police and this one case in particular was so messed up that my post got too long, so I’ll leave it here for the moment. On Monday the 20th, Chicago police officer Dante Servin was found not guilty of all charges in a directed verdict from a bench trial for the fatal shooting of 22-year old Rekia Boyd. He was charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless discharge of a firearm, and reckless conduct after shooting two people, one fatally, on March 21 of 2012. Servin lives near a park where people often gather at night and hang out. He had called in a noise complaint to 911 and then went out in his car (passing by on his way from getting food in one account, though this wasn’t clear, since most other articles discuss him putting his trash out (which involves one’s car in Chicago?!). They were right behind his house, it seems, and it’s a pity that, as lead detective on the case Officer Ed Heerdt said, Servin did have cameras mounted on his home but “he told me the system was inoperable and I was satisfied with that.” [So you didn’t check, then, or anything? Ah.] He took with him an unregistered 9mm handgun, and drove by slowly telling people to keep it down.

A bystander, Antonio Cross, who was on the phone with his cousin, says that he thought Servin was trying to buy drugs and said “f$%k you.” The cousin confirms this. Then Servin, thinking the phone in Cross’s hand was a gun, pulled out his weapon and fired over his shoulder into a group of people, shooting Cross in the hand and Rekia Boyd in the head. By this description people mean, I take it, that Servin was sitting in the car with the window down, drew the gun and fired over his left shoulder, turning around in the seat. He claimed via lawyers to have felt something “touch the back of his head”—i.e. his contention is that Cross put the phone there pretending it was a gun, just to scare him. Maybe that’s his contention? He also claimed (via others) that Cross merely “waved” the phone in such a way as to make it look like a menacing gun. The defence also, separately and quite at cross-purposes, argued that Cross’s cousin thought he heard 8-12 shots, while Servin only shot five times—so they muttered darkly about an undiscovered gun. (I think it is otiose for me to say no gun other than Servin’s was ever recovered at the scene.) The thing is, there sort of would have been shells, too, and places that got hit by bullets, and stuff like that. And if there had in fact been a gun barrel touching Servin’s head and then the gun were fired the results would have been noticeable. Well, when I say the defence said this and the defence said that, they didn’t have to work too hard, because this was a directed verdict from a bench trial. The judge (no jury) just stopped it right there after the witnesses had testified, said not guilty, and sent Officer Servin (yeah, he’s been a cop this whole time) home a free man. Why wasn’t it a jury trial? Apparently the accused can choose a trial before a judge. And what a prince of a guy Judge Porter is, because this is a totally reasonable thing to say to a grieving family:
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Music Everywhere

by Belle Waring on April 24, 2015

Sister Rosetta Tharpe! I think I’ve already made a whole post telling you to listen to more Sister Rosetta Tharpe before, but that doesn’t matter! Because the defect of her recorded sessions is that the guitar is mixed down way low and you can’t hear her rock out on the guitar. But I found these live sessions that just…

You weren’t expecting that old lady to play that solo were you? She has a goddamn (sorry Sister) whammy bar on that thing!
What about this? And, goddamn, not sorry, did they not let any black people even come to this concert? That’s stone cold, fellow white people. Stone. Cold.

This is from when she was younger.

The version of this song I know says “when you see a man jump from church to church/you know the conversion don’t amount to much,” and I have uncharitably said this about Rod Dreher.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s frequent performance of all these songs in nightclubs were obviously ironic and different…
This short BBC documentary about her and her influence is interesting (just 15 minutes).
UPDATE: OK you can click through and there is a whole hour of BBC documentary. I haven’t watched it. Also, she didn’t sing straight gospel in nightclubs, she sang other songs, but she also had ironic versions of the gospel songs like “This Train”, in which she sang no whiskey-drinkers or cigar-smokers would make the cut while in The Cotton Club!

Least Trumps

by Belle Waring on April 21, 2015

I mentioned a little while ago that I had an excellent plan for a project. I have always wanted to make my own Tarot deck, since I was a young teenager. Well, I say this, but probably since I was nine or ten. At the time I imagined that I would have to successfully pull a wood-block print for all the backs, and paint each one, perfectly, all 78, and then if a drop of water got on them later? I would die. So I imagined having them laminated, but then I considered the state of much-used laminated papers such as those employed in classes, and I thought it unwise to entrust to the process anything about which I cared greatly. Yellowing, bubbling, peeling; these are all terrible. Now many things exist which can facilitate my devising of a deck of cards, such as the use of photoshop to create perfectly symmetrical arabesques for the reverses based on only one properly-inked section. But of course the infinitely more pleasing prospect is that of getting my designs printed on card stock, and the edges trimmed, and then all shared with others! I had only ever intended my own version of the designs in the Waite-Smith deck,* but then I remembered that I had had another idea, which was to make a set of cards based on Great-Aunt Nora Cloud’s deck in John Crowley’s Little, Big. Truly it’s Violet’s deck, but we see it used by Nora Cloud in the course of the book. (Violet is my younger daughter’s name; mine can be her deck also.) Those who have read the book will know that the deck, its reading, and physical disposition figure greatly in the work, and those of you who have not SHOULD GO READ IT NOW DEAR GOD READ LITTLE, BIG FOR THE FIRST TIME I ENVY YOU! Really, it’s maybe my single favourite book.

UPDATED below
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The Pace Picante Sauce Defense

by Belle Waring on April 16, 2015

Oh God, I don’t even think this is funny enough to have a vaguely humorous headline. Let’s just say it’s black humour goddammmit mordant. You may have lost track of which black man got gunned down by which police just lately, but historically famed home of racial harmony Tulsa, OK, has seen one of the worst shootings in a while. (I say this and then I don’t even know because there are so many that are so bad. This is bad in a special way, though.). 73-year-old reserve Deputy Robert C. Bates shot and killed Eric Harris during an undercover, illegal gun-buy sting operation.

Well, more like Eric Harris ran from the for-real county deputies when they tried to arrest him, then two of them got on top of him while he was face-down on the ground, then Barney Fife shouts “taser, taser!” and shoots the man. “Oh! I shot him, I’m sorry!” he says. He’s apologising to the other cops, you understand. Not the guy he just shot. To be over-generously fair, he owes them an apology too because his dumb ass might have shot them as easy as anything, but it hardly seems like the main problem. (You can watch the video here. I can’t handle these usually, but there’s a description too if you don’t want to watch an actual human be mortally wounded and then treated worse than an injured dog.) The Tulsa County Sheriff’s spokesman has explained that the two deputies “did not hear” the shot. [Um. I have uh… Guns are loud, is what I’m saying.] They did hear Eric Harris say he had been shot, because they heard him say “he shot me” eight times before saying “I’m losing my breath,” to which the cop replies, “fuck your breath.” They were kneeling on the man’s head and his lung was filling up with blood and that was the last he ever heard from another human being. My daughter and I have asthma and that makes this particularly vivid and awful to imagine, just like with Eric Garner, struggling just to get one good intake of breath. They didn’t try to render first aid to him. When the EMTs/firemen came they had to uncuff him and set him upright to try to help him but it was too late. What? Even if you thought you were justified in shooting someone, why would you be indifferent as to whether he lived or died? And if there were any question in your mind…wouldn’t you want the person to live?
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Whosoever Diggeth a Pit Shall Fall in It

by Belle Waring on April 15, 2015

People often complain that they can never listen to Bob Marley because the over-popularity of the compilation “Legend,” and its subsequent over-play in every randos college dorm room, every frat party, and every back-packer hostel, everywhere in the world. It is incongruous to sit on a big bamboo platform in Cambodia and listen to “Buffalo Soldier.” I’m sure this is no longer true and today’s college kids can have a happy experience in which they just find the song “No Woman, No Cry” all on their own. I hope. I am somewhat permanently inoculated because I listened to those songs when I was a kid. And for god’s sake, “No Woman, No Cry” is a beautiful song. But anyway, if all this bothers you for some reason, you don’t have to say “lively up your own self, Bob Marley. I’m listening to Desmond Dekker!” Just listen to different, other Bob Marley songs. I actually had this first one cued up for a post about how to not comment like a sexist dillweed, but I’m sure I’ll find something else. Small Axe, baby, coming to cut you down!

Mr. Brown!

Mr. Brown is some kind of ghost/duppy/magic user creepo getting chauffered around in a three-wheeled coffin, with crows that can talk. The sampling style is all spooky to reflect that it’s a ghost story.

High Tide or Low Tide is my favorite Bob Marley song. At my dad’s the difference between high tide and low tide is almost eight feet. So the high twice a day and low twice a day is vividly present as part of the day. Day by day it cycles one hour later, with cool high tide covering all but the tips of the marsh grass at 3pm sometimes, and then, not so many days later, the smell of vegetable rot and death-still calm of low tide at the hottest of the day. The leaves of the palmetto hang down against one another, creaking leatherly but not moving, and a great wide greasy stain of unmoving water shows at the center of the river and centipede-like sending legs up every marsh. When I was young my god-father’s black labs were named high tide and low tide. This is also the song my brother put on a mix for me when I was really bummed out, so it reminds me that he loves me.

Take that, frat-boys!

Migraines…and Music?

by Belle Waring on March 31, 2015

MIGRAINES ARE THE WORST. Well, no, I mean, obviously having your children be sick and not having money for the doctor is the worst.* Our domestic helper here in Singapore is prone to really bad migraines and yesterday she was totally felled, lying down in the dark and vomiting so much I had a hard time bringing her water—since you can’t drink water just after you’ve thrown up. We have O.R.S. but she hates them, and she was so miserable I didn’t want to force them down her. It is so hard to make her rest when she’s ill that if she ever listens or lies down of her own accord we know she is feeling truly awful. John half-hoped some common unknown environmental factor was the culprit and that she and I would both get better when we moved out of our old, colonial-era house. Sadly, no. I have also been having terrible migraines for the last 18 consecutive days, and unfortunately they are remodeling in the flat upstairs. This has been a source of unhappiness. THEY HAVE BEEN DRILLING.

I have also cut my pain pills down slowly over the last six months, which was clever and virtuous of me, but now I don’t have enough pain medicine and I’m like “I forgot quite entirely how horrible this was! Pain! It’s your body’s way of saying, ‘hey something is probably sort of broken or something.’” Also topamax, medicine which I take for migraines, and which I am taking more of, makes you stupid. It’s called “dope-a-max” for a reason. The combination of all these factors has made it difficult for me to learn my Japanese characters (kanji), I’ll tell you what. This is some Harrison Bergeron shit on the 24th floor. I got all 15 right on the practice quiz Zoë made for me and then I blanked on a full five when I took the real quiz half-an-hour later on Sunday evening. Years of caring about academics make it very painful for me to do badly on quizzes. Really, it is like a knife in the guts. If she would just give us a list of the English meanings it would be OK. But our tutor gives us an actual sentence with any other, as-yet-unknown-to-us kanji spelled out (in Japanese they can write the pronunciation in hiragana or katakana on top of them, small and light; they would do this for very rare words, I think, in an adults’ book, and they do for commoner ones in a book for children or learners), and then the hiragana or katakana for the kanji we are meant to have learned underlined, and we have to write the kanji below that. So we need to read the sentence correctly as well as remember that, for example, ‘ka’ can mean ‘borrow’ as well as like five other things (I say this, and we have learned only about 50 kanji so far.) Violet continues to enjoy mocking me (in the most friendly, cheerful way imaginable!) about my troubles, criticizing my disinclination to use the large full squares in my notebook (I have small, very neat handwriting, and the big boxes don’t appeal), and writing Chinese characters in the margins that are similar but a million times harder, just to put things in perspective for me.

Now, a person can listen to music in this situation, but sometimes that’s just like turning the whole thing into a rock concert. It’s better than drilling, though, usually. I don’t like to listen to podcasts, but John does and he listened to one about a year ago that was an interview with Brian Eno. In it, the interviewer was saying how much he loved Here Come The Warm Jets and Eno said that he hadn’t actually listened to it in over twenty years?!? This was flabbergasting and wrong and bad, since we should all be listening to it, be we Brian Eno or no which, on balance, we are unlikely to be. I feel awkward about your experience of this song, because on the LP, the harsh intro of the next song, “Blank Frank” starts really soon after the last note of this—sooner than the start of a hypothetical next measure. I thought of linking to within a youtube clip of the whole album but am not certain it would come off. It’s distinctive and crucial, though, so I recommend you listen to the whole of Here Come The Warm Jets on principle.

This song somewhat resembles the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” in that the sad, sweet vocals only enter after what seems an unexpectedly-long music-only intro, and that it is shorter than you want it to be, such that you want have to re-play it.
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You Feel No Pain

by Belle Waring on March 5, 2015

That’s one good thing about music—when it hits, you feel no pain. I recently had an out-of-the-blue need to hear this Cure song, partly thinking that Zoë would like it, which she does, a lot. It’s a very happy feeling to introduce someone to music that they love. I remember the first time I listened to this song vividly, because I had two friends sleeping over, one of whom had brought the tape. My step-father had an (admittedly solid) “free cheap red wine for sleepovers” policy. I was thinking it started in middle school, but on reflection I realize it must have been ninth grade. In middle school it was sort of unofficial. This encouraged a make-out during sleepovers policy also unofficially endorsed by my stepfather but WHATever, awesome parenting skillz. My step-dad had his bad side but he really knew how to throw a fun party. Let it never be said he was not fun at a party. I mean, stuff went wrong eventually, sometimes, with either drywall, glass tables, or his hand getting broken (or all three!), or firearms being discharged indoors, or my mom magnificently sweeping down the stairs in a silk 1930s gown and putting a stop to all further shenanigans by hacking a big piece out of the entryway to the living room with a machete. That last was really memorable and for whatever reason put a stop to what had been a many-year run of weekly two and three-day parties.


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Noted With Surprisingly Little Comment

by Belle Waring on February 27, 2015

From an article by Stephen Totilo on a recent talk given at NYU by Feminist Frequency commentator and noted target of #gamerhate Anita Sarkeesian:

Sarkeesian never acknowledged the security [metal detectors, an overall “heightened” NYU Security presence], and she only briefly mentioned the online harassment she’s received for her work. She fielded one audience question from a guy who said a female Gamergate supporter had been at the talk, had shaken her head at much of what Sarkeesian had said, had left early and, this questioner wanted to know, what Sarkeesian would say to this woman.

At press time the man, now approaching what one might—charitably—call the late-middle-age of his youth, was also reported to have a girlfriend in Toronto. “Megumi” particularly enjoys playing the new Bayonetta 2, because of the way it makes full use of the capabilities of the Wii U gaming system.

Male Nerds and Feminism

by Belle Waring on February 15, 2015

First I want to thank all of you for an implausibly thoughtful and interesting thread. I think I am going to close comments on it soon so that it can retain its purity. Thanks especially to commenters who shared difficult events in their lives.

One thing I thought of saying at the start was, “feminism sucks and is harmful” is not an unpopular view but rather a really popular one, and so a bit beside the point, but there wasn’t much of that, so, no worries. One thing that several male commenters did talk about was the problems created for shy, nerdy guys when they hear the message from feminism “you suck and are a sexual aggressor in a bad way.” Several people pointed to the Scott Aaronson affair: an MIT professor wrote a confessional of sorts in a blog comment about how feminism made him so terrified of his own feelings of heterosexual desire that he spent period of time genuinely to be medically castrated. Amanda Marcotte was among a number of people who thought this was bullshit. Now, here let me say, my first impulse, if I had chosen to write about it on my own, would have been to be a total dick. BUT. In the spirit of not being a dick to everyone all the time, I thought I would actually address this…issue? Cluster of related issues, more like. Because more than one of our commenters felt it was a live issue in their lives, even if only in the past.

Now, part of me doesn’t even understand what’s being complained about here. Here is my best effort to break it down, based on what Aaronson and his supporters, and detractors, and more-or-less middle of the road commentators have said, and also based on some things men have said in the thread below. And by this I don’t intend to call anyone out or imply what anyone said was beyond the pale or anything, but let me know if you are bothered in any way and I’m happy to adjust this.
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UPDATE: REDOUBLE YOUR EFFORTS AT MAOIST SELF-CRITICISM, COMRADES; DO NOT BE GULLED BY MY MOPING. TELL US YOU BELIEVE SOMETHING CRAZY. IT IS A NEAR-CERTAINTY!

In the thread to one of my string of unfailingly well-intentioned, generous—not to put too fine a point on it, let’s just say, kind posts on Political Correctness, some of us discussed what it would be like if I were actually kind we had a “safe” thread in which we could discuss feminism without worrying we would ban ourselves from polite society by saying The Wrong Thing. Now, I cannot actually bring it about that other commenters will not remember what you said in this thread and be a dick to you about in some future thread. I can fight the tendency by asking everyone who participates to do so in a spirit of truthfulness and generosity; by banning unpleasant arguments in this thread; and by ruthlessly deleting future comments of this sort when they are made to one of my own posts. If the comment is not made to my own post I can still upbraid the person for violating what is meant to be a minor experiment in honesty and, yes, kindness. However, if you feel what you have to say is truly incendiary you can always just make a burner pseud for the occasion. The tradition followed at unfogged is that regular commenters donning a pseudonym of convenience choose some past political leader. I think it would be nice if we took up floral banners for the day and became Lady Clematis or some such, but I leave the details to you.

Now, I must tell you my own “I have the possibly wrong” opinion on a feminist issue, but it won’t make sense without context. This may seem like a silly tic of mine, this constant introduction of my actual life, blobs and swirls of ink floating on water and ox-gall, and slashed at, just so, with a fork, yielding marbled paper on which the posts are hard to read at times when compared with the black on white clarity of some of my co-bloggers. But this is the secret: the personal really is the political.

When I got raped at college I knew a lot about some things and nothing about others, but being a teenager I pretended to know mostly everything. I wasn’t a college student, even; the National Cathedral’s School for Girls sent two girls every year to study at New College, Oxford during the summer between junior and senior year, with a bunch of college students from Ohio. These programs are just money-farms for Oxford and the professors do not take them very seriously at all. When I got the reading list, I was 16, so I took it completely seriously. I read everything. All the books on the list. I didn’t understand that you’re not really supposed to. I read Ulysses. I did not understand it hardly at all and I just read that damn thing anyway, on my spring break, in the hammock on the sleeping porch at my dad’s in South Carolina, one leg pumping idly against the white uprights between which the screens are stretched, birdsong and cicada up there enough to be loud. So loud! The experience of forcing myself through hundreds of pages of something that I don’t understand is unique to my adolescence. Three Shakespeare plays. Secondary literature I had to get at the big library downtown in D.C.
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Temporarily stranded in the last warehouse of my closed business, itself scoured almost clean save a few odds and ends and the massive teak bed I lusted after for so long, since 2002, bought in 2010, enjoyed…well, I don’t know that I enjoyed it quite, as I spent too many uninterrupted months in 2012 laying there looking at the mountainous terrain of sheets, and the violent tropical foliage visible above my half-shuttered windows, and the pink Christmas tree with its tin-winged angel, left up too long, and the local 1960s vanity with the mirrors all découpaged with photos from abandoned HDB flats and pictures from old HK movie magazines—filled to overflowing as always with unguents and near identical shades of fuchsia YSL lipsticks, and jewelry, and my grandmother’s monogrammed silver-topped powder container in cut crystal, from her girlhood in sober 30s font with the initials of Miss Henrietta Drewry Callaway. But the bed was lovely, minimalist with tapered uprights, with a rail for a mosquito net, and it was mildly unfortunate that when we moved from a big house to a condo that it would not fit. I am going to sell it at Expat Auction. In any case, I was sitting on the screed floor of the double-height space, one wall of windows shining, and so I wrote this blog post long-hand with my new favorite pencil the Palomino Blackwing 602. “Half the pressure, twice the speed!” It says that on the side. It may simply be a 3B with an, replaceable eraser. It will take longer to see. We only got them last week. John thinks I should scan it and post the scan, which has a certain justness, as I do have excellent handwriting, but I think it would be precious.

So, I promised you a response to Freddie deBoer’s response to Jonathan Chait’s anti-P.C. cry in the wilderness of having an extraordinary platform to write whatever you want. Why did I not do this immediately? Both my children have been ill since then, and I had Japanese homework, and I have a new art project which I will tell you about later [I am making my own tarot deck as I have dreamed of since childhood, but with Great-Aunt Nora Cloud’s (well, Violet Bramble’s, I suppose, really) Least Trumps from Little, Big.] And I am very sick and you should all feel super-guilty. No, OK really, also I am bone-lazy and a fundamentally unserious person as has been established.
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I Aten’t Ignoring You

by Belle Waring on February 2, 2015

I wasn’t paying attention to un-approved comments in the queue, so a bunch got stuck there. Why? Because I almost never do anything about them until a co-blogger is like, “hey Belle, remember how we have a moderation queue that ever requires you to do a thing ever?” I just went and approved them all, as is generally my inclination, even—I will have you know—the ones calling me a bad person who writes in a fundamentally unserious way about serious subjects, and who is personal friends with Brad DeLong even though he is an economic quisling and opinionatedly wrong about works of history about Eastern Europe which I (myself, Belle Waring) have not read. So, if it seemed as if you were in moderation hell, sorry about that.

You also really have to work at it to get me to ban you; please don’t. It’s tedious. I wouldn’t do it even if I personally disagreed with you about historiography of Eastern Europe, rather than at a trusted remove (at which remove I also won’t ban you obvi, since, here you are). Well, if I knew you were fabricating lies and hurling spurious claims of ‘anti-Semite’ everywhere I’d hassle you, but you’d have to be King Dick of it to get banned on my account. I did have some homophobia in the first thread from whoever it is who has been baiting MPAVictoria so incessantly. It was fake homophobia that he wasn’t even selling. I wasn’t buying a nickel bag of it. But pretending to be bigoted is almost worse. I seriously am too bored to look up his very-like-another-person’s name right now. You, thingface, knock it off, and MPAV for the love of all that is unholy just don’t rise snapping to that hand-tied-fly what has been cast onto the mottled surface of our limpen stream. And then…a male commenter said this to me:
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But Wait…There’s More!

by Belle Waring on January 30, 2015

Since the thread is long now and it’s hard to respond to everyone individually, I thought I would post instead.

Objection 1: Chait has real-world examples of PC madness—you don’t even address those!

Counterpoints: In the opening anecdote, a guy wrote a relatively mild, not funny at all anti-feminist satire for the more conservative college paper in which he laughed about majoring in womyn’s studies (LOL), laughed about trigger warnings, and laughed about intersectionality. As if that’s a thing, right!? In response, some college kids egged his door, and the other more left-leaning paper he also wrote for told him they didn’t need his submissions any longer. Also, a thing happened in 1992 with terrifying monster of anti-man towering evil MacKinnon involved tangentially! Look, I’m sorry Chait, nothing in your article should have happened in 1992. (Yes, analogies, I know.)

Then, some people paying $55,000 a year to attend a private college decided they didn’t want one of the architects of the Iraq war to pick up a $100K check to speak at their graduation. Students protested against Condoleeza Rice on these grounds, against the head of the IMF because of its importance as an means of imposing capitalist norms on weakened developing nations, against a man who was most prominently known among the students themselves for a physically brutal crackdown on Occupy protestors at UCBerkeley, and against Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whom many regard as actively anti-Muslim, not just pro-religious-freedom in currently Muslim nations. They may have been neither entirely right nor entirely wrong in all these judgments, but preventing your school from paying money to rich, powerful people is not a form of stifling political correctness.
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By now you’ve probably heard that Jonathan Chait has written an article for New York magazine decrying modern liberalism for becoming little more than a series of Twitter-based convulsions of outrage. You may have heard that he has a point there. Or maybe you heard it was an argument against Political Correctness—a dragon from 1991 who has reared up wearing a crop top, ‘70s jeans and 14-hole Doc Marten’s, and is taking the pain of her infected belly-button piercing out on others in inappropriate ways—and the reign of terror this dread P.C. has engendered in liberal academia. Or maybe you heard that a previously moderately well-regarded author has gone to the #slatepitch side of the Force. Or, perhaps, that Jonathan Chait has a skin so thin that he cries when someone gets the butter knife out of the drawer anywhere within six blocks of his apartment, and is also so allergic to his own tears that he then needs to use his EpiPen and ARE YOU HAPPY NOW BLACK FEMINISTS1/1//! Unfortunately for Jonathan Chait, modern liberalism, the state of the publishing industry, feminism, concerns about racial equality, the extent to which previously marginalized voices can now pipe up and be heard in critical discourse, and all of us, it’s actually that last thing.

But what about his maybe having a point? The thing is, Chait has about 75% of perhaps two points, but the wheat/arsenic-laced chaff ratio is bad. Very bad. How so? The article is actually about how his feelings got hurt by people who say mean things on the internet—in the sense that this is the actual motive for writing it. ‘They claim to be too sensitive to take criticism or even hear discussion of sensitive topics, and that shuts down debate!’ whines sensitive man whose feelings have been hurt by criticism from the internet. ‘They are destroying our political project and they won’t even listen to my concern trolling crucial critique because I am…a white man!’ [Faints on couch.] How did New York Magazine tease this article? “Can a white, liberal man critique a culture of political correctness?” Spoiler alert: YES.
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