What do we do about credence goods in the marketplace of ideas?

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Background

A major theme of my master’s thesis1 was the idea that if we want to conceive of human research protocols through the framework of a marketplace, then human research protocols are something that economists would call “credence goods.”

Credence goods are products, like drug trials, whose quality is difficult for its consumers to judge.2 Markets for credence goods are marked by learning constraints and information asymmetry.3 That is to say, there are practical constraints that prevent most consumers from learning what they need to in order to make a good judgement about whether they want a product. So, while it might not be impossible for a person who wants to participate in a trial of a drug to get a medical degree to better evaluate it, it’s not reasonable to expect the market for drug trials to function properly if that’s the level at which one has to be educated in order to participate. Financial products are other examples of credence goods, and it is (generally) non-controversial that these need to be regulated in order for their markets to function.4

A popular metaphor and justification for freedom of expression is the “marketplace of ideas”—the notion that the truth will emerge from market-like competition in free, transparent, public discourse.5 Part of what makes this marketplace metaphor compelling is the idea that, over time, the best ideas will beat out their competition. The best response to bad speech is good speech. Consumers will, over time, identify and reward the best ideas, and the market itself will regulate what is expressed without the need for heavy-handed interference from the state.

Have news articles become credence goods in the marketplace of ideas?

This idea of a marketplace of ideas seems great, except that it is getting harder and harder to sift through the bad products in the news marketplace these days, and it’s taking more and more time and expertise to find the good ones. Sure, anyone with enough time and training and education can figure out when a particular news story is fabricated, but who has the time to do that?

Post-truth is the word of the year, according to Oxford Dictionaries. By some measurements, fake news stories have greater impact than legit ones:

Facebook engagements

Facebook engagements

Just today, we went from this tweet:

Original tweet

Original tweet

To this one:

It's a faaaake!

It’s a faaaake!

And before the day was even done, we came nearly full 360 back to this:

It's real!

It’s real!

For myself, I’m at the point where I don’t have the ability to figure out what’s going on anymore. I don’t even have the rubric of “common sense” to fall back on at this point. If you had shown me 4 years ago a news article that says Donald Trump is the President-Elect of the United States, I would have assumed that it came from a fake news site. There’s part of me that’s honestly still hoping this is all a prank.

Unintended consequences

As we all know, well-intended interventions into markets can have unintended consequences.6 So even though I’m frustrated by not knowing what is going on anymore, and I’m generally in favour of market regulation, I’m worried about what is going to happen next.

I don’t know what we should do, but I have a feeling that whatever backlash is coming against the “fake news,” it’s going to have exactly the opposite of its intended effect.

My fear is that any attempt to correct the trend of fake news is going to amount to censorship of the things that don’t get covered the way that they need to be through normal channels. (E.g. Youtube videos of police officers murdering racial minorities.)

tl;dr

The marketplace of ideas is having a market failure. How do we fix it without making things worse?

References

1. Carlisle B. A Critique of Phase IV Seeding Studies on the Basis of a Non-paternalistic Justification for Subject Protections in Human Research. McGill University Libraries; 2011.

2. London AJ, Kimmelman J, Emborg ME. Beyond access vs. protection in trials of innovative therapies. Science. 2010 May 14;328(5980):829-30.

3. Carpenter D. Confidence Games: How Does Regulation Constitute Markets? l. Government and markets: Toward a new theory of regulation. 2010:164.

4. Wikipedia contributors. “Credence good.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 2 Aug. 2016. Web. 2 Aug. 2016.

5. Wikipedia contributors. “Marketplace of ideas.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 12 Oct. 2016. Web. 12 Oct. 2016.

6. Wikipedia contributors. “Unintended consequences.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 18 Nov. 2016. Web. 18 Nov. 2016.

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2016-4774,
    title = {What do we do about credence goods in the marketplace of ideas?},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2016-11-18,
    url = {http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2016/11/18/what-do-we-do-about-credence-goods-in-the-marketplace-of-ideas/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "What do we do about credence goods in the marketplace of ideas?" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 18 Nov 2016. Web. 20 Feb 2017. <http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2016/11/18/what-do-we-do-about-credence-goods-in-the-marketplace-of-ideas/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2016, Nov 18). What do we do about credence goods in the marketplace of ideas? [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2016/11/18/what-do-we-do-about-credence-goods-in-the-marketplace-of-ideas/


An open letter to Justin Trudeau about the TPP

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Dear Mr Trudeau,

I am writing to you mostly out of fear from being kept in the dark with regard to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). When this trade agreement was being actively negotiated, it was shrouded in secrecy, because “that’s how trade partnerships are bargained.” That’s fair, I suppose. I have never negotiated an international treaty, so I wouldn’t know.

Then, after certain chapters with terrifying and unconfirmed details were revealed through WikiLeaks, I asked the Liberal candidate in my riding about your policies regarding the Intellectual Property (IP) changes that will occur if the TPP is ratified. She told me that there was no way to answer, since there was no “official” document. I guess maybe that’s fair too. I can’t expect an official party policy on every rumour out there.

Then yesterday, The Globe and Mail reported that you agreed to promote the TPP to Canadians. We still don’t know what’s in it, but the most powerful person in the country—someone about to move into an office that the last ten years has proved has no accountability—has decided to make it happen. I’m not crying foul play or anything at this point, but I hope you can understand my anxiousness.

When you gave your victory speech on October 19, you proclaimed for all to hear that the reason the Liberal party won was because you listened. I am writing this letter in the hope that you will prove my cynicism wrong and continue to try to listen.

For better or for worse, Canadian parliament is an adversarial process. Our laws and policies are shaped by a system in which the excesses of the government of the day are meant to be held to account by the government’s opposition party. My worry is that with regards to the TPP, neither the government nor the opposition party seem to be interested in criticising this agreement as closely as it deserves.

My fear is that the first time that Canadians will get to see the official wording of the TPP document will be when the entire multi-chapter trade deal is presented to parliament as a take-it-or-leave-it package that’s to be voted on as a single bill that both the government and the opposition support. The more pessimistic part of me wonders if you will even slide it wholesale into an omnibus bill along with other unrelated legislation, like the last update to Canadian copyright laws was.

From what I’ve seen of the TPP in leaked documents, this trade deal runs counter to the public good in a number of ways, and secures only the good of a few who are already very wealthy. I will outline only three points that are very concerning for me, although there are certainly more reasons to be sceptical of the TPP. I admit that these are based on only the information that I have read from leaked documents and nth-hand reports. Such is the state of Canadian democracy, apparently: that citizens need to rely on rumour and WikiLeaks to know what laws their government plans to pass!

  1. The TPP would extend copyright from 50 to 70 years after the death of the author. This is terrible news for Project Gutenberg Canada, for example, which exists mostly because the American counterpart doesn’t have legal access to digitise and publish books from authors who died between 50 and 70 years ago. There is absolutely no argument to be made from the public good to justify this reduction of the Canadian Public Domain, aside from over-reaching corporate greed. It is not an exaggeration to say that this policy is one that will literally steal books from children to benefit large corporations.
  2. As far as we know so far, the TPP would also include harsh penalties for circumventing digital rights management (DRM) measures, and it would make internet censorship easier. These sorts of encroachments on personal liberty are most likely to be abused against those who are already least privileged, and in any case, personal liberties should not be given up lightly. Our current, balanced, made-in-Canada approach, for all its faults, is a significant protection; something to be proud of and something we should hold on to.
  3. Lastly, and the area of my personal interest as a medical ethicist, the IP provisions in the TPP will cost lives, both in Canada and around the world. It will make it more difficult for people in developing countries to get medications that they need, and it will drive up the cost of healthcare in Canada. The IP policies in the TPP could be fairly described as a wish-list for pharma lobbyists, and a more balanced approach is needed.

So with all that in mind, here is what I want to ask you, Mr Trudeau:

At what point will there be some meaningful democratic input into the proposed changes to Canadian laws that are in the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

Will there be a free vote in the House of Commons on each of these individual changes? Or will you put it all together as a single bill and tell your MP’s to vote for it?

By “meaningful democratic input,” I don’t mean “industry consultations” or “lobbying.” I mean, getting the opinion of Canadians on the changes after you have explained that the TPP doesn’t just mean some-billions-in-trade, but it also means gutting the Canadian Public Domain, threatening the internet as we know it and having to make more tough decisions about who gets the medicine they need and who doesn’t.

I have the highest hopes that your answer will be honest, principled and in the best interest of this country’s people and not another country’s corporate interests.

My kindest regards to you and your family,

 

Benjamin Carlisle MA
fe’o mi’e la .myrf.

P.S. Please forward this message to whoever you will appoint as the relevant minister for this sort of question. I understand your cabinet has not yet been sworn in.

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2015-4620,
    title = {An open letter to Justin Trudeau about the TPP},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2015-11-2,
    url = {http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2015/11/02/an-open-letter-to-justin-trudeau-about-the-tpp/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "An open letter to Justin Trudeau about the TPP" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 02 Nov 2015. Web. 20 Feb 2017. <http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2015/11/02/an-open-letter-to-justin-trudeau-about-the-tpp/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2015, Nov 02). An open letter to Justin Trudeau about the TPP [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2015/11/02/an-open-letter-to-justin-trudeau-about-the-tpp/


Stephen Harper’s “soft on torture” agenda

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A longstanding policy of the Conservative government has been reliance on information gathered from, and outright complicity with the torture of human beings. Since we’re deep into an election, and elections are one of the most clear ways that we’re supposed to be keeping our government accountable, let’s have a look back at the Conservative government’s “soft on torture” agenda.

As Man-in-Blue-Suit would say, let’s be clear. I’m not talking about metaphorical torture. I’m talking about purposely imposing literal pain, humiliation and deprivation on actual living human beings in order to elicit information, or to otherwise bring about some political gain. This is serious, and to call it “torture” is not an exaggeration in the slightest. And Stephen Harper has made sure that the Canada is a part of it. To sum up, as Harper said himself, we might not recognise Canada, now that he’s had his way with it.

To start with, this is not a one-off thing. This is a policy that the Cons have crafted over the course of years. Far from being an accident or an oversight, parts of this “soft on torture” policy were implemented in secret, which suggests that they understood the enormity of what they were doing, but they wanted to get away with it anyway.

Contrary to Harper’s patronising dismissals, this is not a conspiracy theory either. This is well-documented by internal government “watchdogs,” military memos, Parliamentary debate and even reports from foreign powers.

The following is not an exhaustive report, but just a convenience sample that I came up with. The earliest article is from the Globe and Mail in 2012, saying that Harper covered up the delivery of prisoners to be tortured more than 5 years prior, and the most recent is the response to the CIA report in December of last year.

Fortunately, Canada is a democracy, and one of the things that we citizens of Canada have is the right—and the responsibility—to hold the government of the day accountable for its actions at the polls.

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2015-4566,
    title = {Stephen Harper’s “soft on torture” agenda},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2015-09-2,
    url = {http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2015/09/02/stephen-harpers-soft-on-torture-agenda/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Stephen Harper’s “soft on torture” agenda" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 02 Sep 2015. Web. 20 Feb 2017. <http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2015/09/02/stephen-harpers-soft-on-torture-agenda/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2015, Sep 02). Stephen Harper’s “soft on torture” agenda [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2015/09/02/stephen-harpers-soft-on-torture-agenda/


Why Christians shouldn’t vote Conservative

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Holy Bible

Holy Bible

I have spent quite a bit of time among conservative Christians in my day, and one of the things that I didn’t understand even when I counted myself among the super-conservatives was the single-minded political alignment of some of them with the Conservative party. I remember having conversations with people—smart people—who would tell me that they couldn’t vote for anyone but the Conservatives, and for religious / moral reasons, primarily that they were against abortion and against gay marriage. Below, I will give two arguments that run counter to this widely held view among Christians.

I will begin by arguing that it is irrational to vote Conservative if your reason for doing so is to vote against abortion or gay marriage, and my second argument will focus on the abuse of Christianity by Conservative politicians.

1. Moral issues that seem to be most important to conservatives are not even a part of the Conservatives’ agenda

For whatever reason, super-conservative Christians have chosen abortion and gay marriage as two big political issues that influence their voting. I do not want to start a debate about the moral permissibility of abortion or about the rights of LGBTQ+ people. I’m just going to take it as given that many conservative Christians see these as legitimate issues that are informed by their interpretation of Christian theology. That is to say, for whatever reason, whether anyone agrees with them, super-conservative Christians are against abortions and against LGBTQ+ rights.

So let’s imagine a voter who wants to vote along these these moral lines (without passing judgement on whether or not this is the sort of thing that we should be using the machinery of government to regulate, or even whether or not Christian theology supports these positions). For whom should this voter cast their ballot?

Not the Tories. Or at least, not for that reason.

Practically speaking, the Tories are indistinguishable from the NDP or the Liberals on these issues. Regardless of what they say in their platform about “traditional marriage” or opposing abortion, the only policy that matters is the one that gets voted on in parliament, and despite having a majority government since 2011, gay marriage and abortion are still 100% perfectly legal in Canada. The Tories had 4 years to pass a law against abortion and gay marriage, and they didn’t do it. At this point, it is safe to say that they will never do it.

No matter how much the Tories want to manipulate you into thinking that they are the righteous and moral party to vote for from a super-conservative Christian perspective, they are undeniably, from a practical perspective, exactly the same thing as the NDP or Liberals as far as abortion and LGBTQ+ rights go.

To re-iterate, abortion and gay marriage are political non-issues in Canada, and it is irrational to think that a vote for the Tories is somehow a vote for “traditional marriage” or a vote against abortion. I’m not saying anything about whether it’s rational to be against gay marriage or abortions. I’m just saying that if your goal is to elect a party that will pass a law against them, you might as well vote for the NDP or the Liberals, since they are equally likely to do so, but they’re not insulting you by pretending that there’s any chance it will happen.

2. The Tories are getting into the habit of twisting the Scripture for political gain

There are some things in [the apostle Paul’s writing] that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

2 Peter 3:16

When the House of Commons was sitting, the Conservatives seem to have gotten into the habit of pretending to cry in order to atone for their sins.[Source] [Source] Now that we’re in full campaign mode, the go-to seems to have become explicitly contorting the Christian faith in order to serve narrow partisan ends.

For example, in July, Tory MP Wai Young told Harvest City Church—with a straight face—that passing the recent controversial bill C-51 was what Jesus would have done.[Source] Last week, Nigel Wright, Man-In-Blue-Suit’s sometime lieutenant compared his actions, namely the giving $90 k of hush money in a cover-up of a political scandal, to those prescribed in Matthew 6:3.[Source] For the record, Matthew 6:3 is rendered in the ESV as “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”

As Man-In-Blue-Suit would say, let’s be clear. We’re talking about a pair of politicians who, within weeks of each other, decided to spin something politically unpopular as Christian virtue.

Regardless of what you think of Wright’s actions regarding the $90 k cover-up cheque (it’s currently before the courts for bribery etc., so make of that what you will), and no matter what you think about bill C-51 (it was recently denounced by the UN for being a human rights problem but maybe you’re into that sort of thing), it is non-controversially wrong for politicians to abuse a religious group’s holy text in order to justify their own questionable political actions and manipulate the members of that group.

You just don’t do that.

Far from being the party that supports and aligns itself with the Christian faith, the Tories are unique among the major political parties in their attempts to paint the corpse of their jaded partisan politics with the make-up of false Christian piety. If you are a Christian who cares at all about politicians abusing your faith—if you want your faith to inform your vote at all, the Tories are the last party that you should vote for.

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2015-4543,
    title = {Why Christians shouldn’t vote Conservative},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2015-08-15,
    url = {http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2015/08/15/why-christians-shouldnt-vote-conservative/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Why Christians shouldn’t vote Conservative" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 15 Aug 2015. Web. 20 Feb 2017. <http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2015/08/15/why-christians-shouldnt-vote-conservative/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2015, Aug 15). Why Christians shouldn’t vote Conservative [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2015/08/15/why-christians-shouldnt-vote-conservative/


Yes, it’s racist

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Judge Eliana Marengo recently told another human being that she had to be stripped of her identity and publicly humiliated in order to have her case heard in a court in Québec. That is to say, the judge refused to hear the case while she was wearing a hijab.

For clarity, Article 13 of the regulations of the Court of Quebec make no reference to headscarves. This was just one judge’s decision to make life harder for another human being. And it was racist.

Wait, how was it racist?

This is a point that people keep refusing to understand. I have written previously about how you can be substantially racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, etc. without ever actually making reference to a person’s race, sex, orientation, gender, etc. This is exactly the same thing.

A policy that makes life harder for one group of people is discriminatory against that group, regardless of how obliquely that group is singled out in the wording of the policy itself. And it’s still discriminatory even if that policy contains an ostensibly non-racist/non-sexist/etc. counter-example to ward off suspicions of racism, sexism, etc. (Cf. the Charter of Values and conspicuously large crucifixes).

It is laughable that Marengo invoked equality to justify her racist abuse of power. She deigned to instruct us in righteousness by telling us, “The same rules need to be applied to everyone.” To get an idea of how the rules are applied to everyone in Québec, I have compiled Table 1, below.

White people do religious stuff in the public sphere in Québec all the time. Nobody minds. Nobody gets upset. Certainly nobody refuses to give them the basic justice that all humans are due. But when one private person of colour wears a hijab to court, suddenly a) it’s fair game to publicly humiliate them and strip their identity, and b) it’s hitting below the belt to call it “racist” when it happens.

Table 1: A convenience sample of conspicuous religious accommodations in the province of Québec, indexed by race

Religious thing Private or public? Who did it? (Race) Is it okay in Québec?
Prominent crucifix in legislature Public White Okay!
Giant cross overlooking biggest city in province Public White Okay!
Big white cross dominating the provincial flag Public White Okay!
Nearly every street and city named after a Christian saint Public White Okay!
Private person wearing hijab in court Private POC “This is unacceptable! Religious people are always demanding more and more accommodations. This is not about race at all!”

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2015-4434,
    title = {Yes, it’s racist},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2015-02-27,
    url = {http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2015/02/27/yes-its-racist/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Yes, it’s racist" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 27 Feb 2015. Web. 20 Feb 2017. <http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2015/02/27/yes-its-racist/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2015, Feb 27). Yes, it’s racist [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2015/02/27/yes-its-racist/


A response to the hatred from the TDSB: Pride should be offensive

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Pride is a political protest, not just a big party

Whatever else Pride is, it’s a political protest highlighting the ongoing plight of sexual and gender minorities. Sure, it’s also a parade, a big party, a chance for gay guys to put on their most revealing clothes and hook up with other gay guys, but at its core, Pride is about the dignity and rights of sexual and gender minorities, which are still a hated and vulnerable group in Canada.

Events like Pride are important because Canada is a country where people who live outside the sexual / gender mainstream are regularly the object of abuse ranging from actual physical life-threatening violence to institutional and systemic discrimination and all the way down to daily micro-aggressions. Straight people often don’t realise that this still happens (“But we have gay marriage in Canada!”), or even worse, they sometimes try to paint themselves as the ones being oppressed. Being able to deny that this hatred exists is just one more privilege of being straight. Don’t forget: less than a month ago, the mayor of Toronto himself was doing his darnedest to keep the rainbow flag off city hall while the Olympics were being held in a country where non-straights are persecuted openly and explicitly.

This is why Pride is not just an exercise in frivolity and licentiousness. It is an important political movement. We haven’t “made it” yet.

The true meaning of Christmas Pride

Pride, figure 1

Pride, figure 1

The point of Pride is emphatically not that non-straight people are just like straight people, and therefore they deserve to have equal rights and be treated with equal dignity. That is the opposite of what Pride is for. If that were the goal, it would be called the “Gay Integration Festival” or something like that. Instead, it is called “Pride,” as in “I’m proud of the fact that I’m different from the sexual / gender mainstream, and I don’t need to deny who I am or assimilate to the mainstream in order to be valuable.”

The point of Pride is to emphasize the fact that there are sexual and gender minorities that are different in a lot of ways, and even though you may be offended by the fact that there are people who are different from you, non-straight people are still human beings with rights and you still have to treat them like human beings—with a certain amount of respect and dignity.

Thus, prominently featuring drag queens, sexual fetishes, strippers, and people in various states of undress is a political statement. The fact that it is offensive to the mainstream is a part of that statement.

This means that the (semi) nudity at Pride is not gratuitous in the slightest. If you want gratuitous (semi) nudity, watch the newest Star Trek film. (That’s right. I said it. The varying degrees of undress in most mainstream films is less defensible than the varying degrees of undress at Pride. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, conservatives.)

“The gays would get their message across better if they cleaned themselves up a bit”

CBC comments

CBC comments

You hear this from ostensibly well-meaning “allies” or even from gay people themselves—the argument that straight people would be more likely to accept non-straight people if they were less flamboyant, or if they were less in-your-face about it.

What’s scary about hearing this sort of thing from straight people is that they don’t even see how utterly dehumanising it is to make their acceptance of us as humans conditional on us “cleaning ourselves up.” As if our benevolent straight overlords get to choose who is treated with dignity and endowed with human rights and who isn’t on the basis of how they perceive us. And of course, if we don’t act the part, they get to revoke those privileges. That is exactly the opposite of what Pride is about, and suggesting that Pride be “cleaned up” and made “family friendly” totally misses the point of the whole political movement.

To ask for a Pride that’s had all the offensive, lewd and sexual parts removed would be like asking a labour union that’s on strike not to mention the terrible wages or the unsafe working conditions.

To ask for a Pride parade that’s just a bunch of cute monogamous gay and lesbians couples holding their adopted children is to even further marginalise all the other sexual and gender minorities. What could be more cruel than telling someone who’s a minority within a minority that the festival that’s supposed to be celebrating his/her differences is embarrassed by him/her?

It’s even more disheartening to hear the “Pride should be cleaned up” line from gay people.

Maybe you would be okay if it were a “gay integration festival” rather than Pride. Maybe you want to find your masc-for-masc gay guy (no fems!), get married, buy a house in the suburbs, wear sweater-vests, adopt a kid and enjoy all the straight privilege that you can. (“You’re gay, but you’re just like one of the guys, you know?”) If you want that, go and do that. I sincerely hope the life you choose is fulfilling and happy.

But don’t you dare try to co-opt a political movement for your own narrow ends when its goals are broader than just extending straight privilege to those who “clean up well.”

“Won’t someone please think of the children”

The bigots on the TDSB have framed their objection to Pride in terms of upholding the laws regarding nudity and protecting children. How pious of them. (Have you ever noticed that in debates touching on sexual morality, there’s always someone who cries out, “Won’t someone please think of the children!” By the way, the answer to that style of argument is almost always: “We are thinking of the children, and some of those children happen to grow up to be the people that you’re demonizing.”)

Their argument is that if a person were to be naked in public in any other context, she would be breaking the law regarding public nudity. This may of course be true, but the fact remains, we’re not talking about any other context. We’re talking about Pride. I would presume there’s also a law against driving a truck down the middle of a street at 5 km/h carrying an extra-wide load with dancers on it, but we make an exception in the case of the Pride parade, because we all agree that allowing this kind of political expression is more important than always slavishly enforcing this (otherwise valid) traffic law.

The reason for a law against public nudity is presumably to protect vulnerable people from aggressors who might use nudity to threaten them. Nobody wants to live in a place where some creeper can make you feel unsafe by following you around and then flashing you from underneath his trench-coat on the métro. I’m not suggesting that the public nudity law needs changing.

That said, we should realise that the reason for the law against public nudity is not to stifle valid political expression. (Sorry, TDSB!) The lewd and offensive nature of Pride is not gratuitous and incidental. It is an essential part of the core message, and frankly, anyone who comes to Pride should know beforehand to expect to see some skin.

The right of non-straights to protest ongoing hatred, discrimination, intimidation, bullying and violence against sexual and gender minorities is more important than the right of a few prudes not to get offended by seeing the human anatomy while attending the Pride parade.

And if by chance there’s a certain someone from the TDSB reading this, say a homophobic trustee who thinks that he can hide his hatred and bigotry under the holier-than-thou camouflage of respect for the law, I want you to know—from the bottom of my heart—that you can go suck a bag of dicks.

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2014-3994,
    title = {A response to the hatred from the TDSB: Pride should be offensive},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2014-03-5,
    url = {http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2014/03/05/a-response-to-the-hatred-from-the-tdsb-pride-should-be-offensive/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "A response to the hatred from the TDSB: Pride should be offensive" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 05 Mar 2014. Web. 20 Feb 2017. <http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2014/03/05/a-response-to-the-hatred-from-the-tdsb-pride-should-be-offensive/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2014, Mar 05). A response to the hatred from the TDSB: Pride should be offensive [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2014/03/05/a-response-to-the-hatred-from-the-tdsb-pride-should-be-offensive/


Finished NaNoWriMo 2013

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This year, I actually finished NaNoWriMo, having completed my novel within the month of November. (Hooray!) But by the time I was done writing it, I really didn’t like it. The premiss was good, and I felt like the story flowed directly and naturally from what came before, but the characters were uninteresting. I got to the end, and I really didn’t care what happened to them.

You can see that my spirits broke around Nov 24, when I stopped updating the word-count on the NaNoWriMo site.

Here is the synopsis, for the interested:

When Cogitocept™ was discovered, it was hailed as a “miracle drug,” because it would allow anyone who takes it to see and hear other people’s thoughts, feelings, dreams and fantasies. The effects of the drug turned out to be both permanent and heritable. Soon the first generation of native-born telepaths is growing up.

Samantha is the mother of Tabitha, a young woman who grows up with a disability—she is the only one unable to hear other people’s thoughts in a world of telepaths. Doctor Taylor, who was deeply involved in the development of the drug, is providing care for the family, when Samantha reveals a disturbing and dangerous fact about Tabitha’s condition that the Thought Police would be very interested in.

The story did have its moments, although they were few. I’m not sure what to do with the manuscript. To move forward, I’m going to have to re-write pretty much everything, but I’m not sure I like it enough any more to do that.

For the time being, it will sit on my external hard disc, and maybe I will come back to it in a few months with renewed energy and inspiration.

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2013-3857,
    title = {Finished NaNoWriMo 2013},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2013-12-3,
    url = {http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/12/03/finished-nanowrimo-2013/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Finished NaNoWriMo 2013" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 03 Dec 2013. Web. 20 Feb 2017. <http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/12/03/finished-nanowrimo-2013/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2013, Dec 03). Finished NaNoWriMo 2013 [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/12/03/finished-nanowrimo-2013/


Rape denialism and gay-bashing denialism

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Pattrick Blackburn

Pattrick Blackburn (taken from CBC, Courtesy Pattrick Blackburn)

Pattrick Blackburn from St John’s NL was brutally attacked a week ago today. He was called a “faggot,” and then he was physically beaten and nearly died as a result. Shortly after this happened, a whole lot of people who weren’t even there informed him over the Internet that he probably misunderstood the attackers. They might not have been attacking him out of hatred for gays. After all, just because he was beaten nearly to death by someone calling him a “faggot,” doesn’t mean that he was being beaten to death for being a faggot, right?

Violence inspired by hatred for gays does happen, even in Canada, even in the year 2013

Let’s start by establishing that this is a Thing That Happens. For example, just this week, my boyfriend and I had a full bottle of water thrown at us from a moving vehicle. Why? Because we were holding each other’s hands in public. And in the same walk, a few seconds later, a car drove by and the passenger yelled “gay!” at us in a manner that was somewhere between sneering and threatening.

We probably get an average of 2 negative or threatening responses per week, just by holding hands on the way to the gym. It is worth noting that we live about 400 m away from our gym. It’s not a long walk, and we only go 4 times a week. This means that just by walking down the street and holding the hand of my boyfriend, my safety is threatened.

Hence, I am inclined to believe that Pattrick was attacked in exactly the way that he described, and that it was motivated by hatred for gays. This sort of crime is invisible, but it happens, and it happens more than we want to think about. The sort of response that Pattrick has received is exactly why we never hear about it.

So let’s forget any patronising nonsense about how this sort of thing “doesn’t happen.” I haven’t had anyone try to kill me, like Pattrick has, but  I still don’t always feel safe when I’m in public with my boyfriend, and it is perfectly rational for me to feel that way.

Denialism and victim-blaming

The really scary part about this whole thing is how much this parallels rape denialism, which is also unspeakably disgusting and deserves more attention than it normally gets. It’s not a perfect analogy of course, but it’s pretty close. See Table 1.

We should all be condemning this attack on no uncertain terms, but the first response of so many people I’ve talked to is something more like, “We can’t really say whether the attacker was motivated by hatred for gays or not. We should really give the attacker the benefit of the doubt.”

What is insulting and de-humanising about that is the fact that the attacker hasn’t even been identified or accused, let alone arrested, and the biggest concern that so many have is to be sure that no one thinks that he is a homophobe.

By telling Pattrick that this did not happen to him or that the attack didn’t happen because he’s gay, we’re blaming the victim. In the same way that rape denialists say, “You weren’t raped. You probably sent the wrong signal or faked the whole thing,” gay-bashing denialists say, “It wasn’t a hate-crime. You must have provoked it some other way or just faked the whole thing.” By doing this, we are accusing the victim and putting the victim on trial, when we should be rushing to their defence.

I don’t have the vocabulary to describe how offensive this is.

But what if the attacker seriously wasn’t motivated by hatred for gays?

Let’s recap:

  • A gay man was attacked and nearly killed.
  • The attacker called him a “faggot” while doing so.

Let’s do a thought experiment. Imagine that a white man attacks and nearly kills a black man, and calls him the n-word while doing so. You go up to the white man afterward and ask him, “Why did you do that?” and the attacker answers, “He owed me money,” or some other ostensibly non-racist reason.

Or imagine that a man is attacking and nearly killing a woman, and calls her one of our language’s many female-specific insults while doing so, but again claims that it was for some non-sexist reason.

The fact that the attacker is invoking a system of oppression by using that particular language while bludgeoning his victim makes the attack into something racial or sexist, even if hatred for the race or sex of the victim isn’t “the main reason.” Mutatis mutandis for Pattrick.

Update (2013 Nov 26): Ted Falk, the Conservative MP who won the by-election in Provencher, Manitoba has graciously provided another example of gay-bashing denialism, when he famously claimed that a 17-year-old teenager had staged his own bullying.

Table 1: Similarities and differences between rape denialism and gay-bashing denialism

Rape denialism Gay-bashing denialism
Victims Women* Faggots*
Common triggers for violence
  • Manner of dress
  • Use of make-up / anything overtly feminine
  • “Slutty” behaviour
  • Flirting with a man
  • Manner of dress
  • Use of make-up / anything overtly feminine
  • “Lewd” behaviour
  • Flirting with a man
Common justification Done as a corrective—”she was asking for it” Done as a punishment—”that will fix him”
How the victim is blamed “You weren’t raped. You probably sent the wrong signal or just faked the whole thing.” “It wasn’t a hate-crime. You must have provoked it some other way or just faked the whole thing.”
Focus of concern “Don’t ruin the lives of promising young men.” “Don’t suggest that straight people might be homophobic.”
Category of privilege that this culture protects Men* Straight people*
Effect on victim Victim blamed → victims stop speaking out → “This never happens; what are you talking about?” Victim blamed → victims stop speaking out → “This never happens; what are you talking about?”

* Not exclusively

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2013-3768,
    title = {Rape denialism and gay-bashing denialism},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2013-08-22,
    url = {http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/08/22/rape-denialism-and-gay-bashing-denialism/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Rape denialism and gay-bashing denialism" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 22 Aug 2013. Web. 20 Feb 2017. <http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/08/22/rape-denialism-and-gay-bashing-denialism/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2013, Aug 22). Rape denialism and gay-bashing denialism [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/08/22/rape-denialism-and-gay-bashing-denialism/


Don’t you dare call yourself a Christian

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I’m not going to debate the ethics of abortion here. I want to talk about hypocrisy. This post is directed at all of you who are gleefully dancing on Morgentaler’s grave, thinking it’s all right “because Jesus told you so.”

If your first reaction to the death of Morgentaler was to gloat, or if you were happy at his passing, or if you have decided to take his death as an opportunity to advocate your preferred political position, and you call yourself a Christian, you should be ashamed of yourself—especially if you don’t have a real stake in the issue and you just want to win arguments or bully less advantaged women.

Don’t you dare call yourself a Christian while you are taking joy in someone’s death because he didn’t share your political views. Taking joy in another person’s death while calling oneself a Christian is the height of hypocrisy.

The following are some of the most disgusting, self-righteous and hateful tweets I found on the subject, many of which were sent out by people who claim to be Christian.

@thomasczech

@thomasczech

@thomasczech claims to have trained as a pastor.

@andrewboulton_

@andrewboulton_

@andrewboulton_ is probably a Christian. He has a biblical reference in his Twitter bio.

@SAHMum

@SAHMum

@SAHMum calls herself a “JW,” which I take to mean she considers herself a Jehovah’s Witness.

@RamordAlretoldi

@RamordAlretoldi

@RamordAlretoldi is a member of “Compassion Christ Community – C3Houston.”

@MosquitoFarmer

@MosquitoFarmer

@frankmpalermo

@frankmpalermo

@michaelcoren

@michaelcoren and @tylerjvw

@tylerjvw claims to be a Catholic.

@MProvost1

@MProvost1

@GenBullmoose

@GenBullmoose

@GenBullmoose calls himself a “Christ follower.”

@RadioFreeCanada

@RadioFreeCanada

@mcollings

@mcollings

@WTF_Eh

@WTF_Eh

@CamFantastic1

@CamFantastic1

@LettingSmokeOut

@LettingSmokeOut

@LettingSmokeOut self-describes as an “ultra-conservative Catholic.”

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2013-3563,
    title = {Don’t you dare call yourself a Christian},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2013-05-29,
    url = {http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/05/29/dont-you-dare-call-yourself-a-christian/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Don’t you dare call yourself a Christian" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 29 May 2013. Web. 20 Feb 2017. <http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/05/29/dont-you-dare-call-yourself-a-christian/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2013, May 29). Don’t you dare call yourself a Christian [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/05/29/dont-you-dare-call-yourself-a-christian/


Lettre ouverte à Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet MP

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(An English version that is more-or-less the same is available here.)

À Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet MP,

Le 9 février 2013, j’ai créé deux bots Twitter—le premier fait un tweet chaque fois que Stephen Harper manque un vote dans le Chambre des communes (@absenteeharper), et l’autre fait un tweet chaque fois que Thomas Mulcair manque un vote dans le Chambre des communes (@absenteemulcair). Pendant le mois de février, ils marchaient parfaitement, mais le 7 mars 2013, j’ai reçu un message qui dit, «Votre compte Twitter, @absenteemulcair, est suspendu.»

J’avais peur que Harper demanderait que je ferme mon bot Twitter, mais je n’aurais jamais pensé que ça serait le bot pour Mulcair qui serait fermé.

J’ai coopéré avec Twitter, et j’ai fait tous les changes qu’ils m’ont demandés et malgré les changements je ne peux toujours pas réactiver mon compte.

Je sais que mes bots Twitter ne sont très importants dans le monde de la politique Canadienne, mais quand même, je pense que c’est une expression valide de mes droits dans un pays démocratique comme le Canada. Les tweets publie de l’information publique, obtenue par les chemins publique, et ils sont au sujet d’un représentant du parlement en sa capacité officielle comme représentant du parlement.

Je crois d’ailleurs que ma démarche est tout à fait légitime.

Ma question est, Qui a demandé que mon bot Twitter soit suspendu? Si c’était un membre de l’NPD, je demande que vous ayez le courage de l’admettre.

Dans l’attente de votre réponse,
Benjamin Carlisle

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2013-3367,
    title = {Lettre ouverte à Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet MP},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2013-03-15,
    url = {http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/03/15/lettre-ouverte-a-marjolaine-boutin-sweet-mp/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Lettre ouverte à Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet MP" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 15 Mar 2013. Web. 20 Feb 2017. <http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/03/15/lettre-ouverte-a-marjolaine-boutin-sweet-mp/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2013, Mar 15). Lettre ouverte à Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet MP [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/03/15/lettre-ouverte-a-marjolaine-boutin-sweet-mp/


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