Sunday, May 06, 2018

Echidne's Short Sunday Sermons

1.  When ISIS commits attacks of terrorism, no Western pundit suggests that perhaps we should give ISIS what it demands.  When incels commit attacks of terrorism,  some pundits and opiners suggest exactly that.  Weird, that.

2.  This NYT piece on cultural appropriation made me wonder if it is a mere accident that many of the little people (people who are not public individuals or owners of vast corporations or powerful politicians) Twitter decides to take down have been young women*.

The NYT case is about someone wearing a prom dress taken from another culture's traditions.  An earlier Twitter case I followed had to do with two white women starting to sell burritos after  acquiring (or stealing) the recipes from women in Mexico, possibly without compensating them.  That enterprise was rapidly closed down, but the Taco Bell, a giant corporation, doesn't seem to be accused of cultural appropriation, even though it was started by a white Anglo man called Glen Bell.

And last year a young German woman studying biology decided to live in the Finnish wilderness on her own, to experience nature first hand.  She fished, gathered lingonberries,  planned to eat insects and cooked with an open fire.  The owner of the forest where she stayed had given her permission.

A local television station broadcast a story** about her experiment.  It resulted in tremendous social media rage in Finland**.  The woman was threatened with rape and violence, so that she would really learn to understand who owns the Finnish culture and the Finnish forests, and various writers in social media tried to find out her exact geographic location.

The topic of cultural appropriation is an important one, of course.  But it should be addressed with proper nuance.  Social media in general and Twitter in particular are not good at nuance.

3.  Enough with the grouchy sermons.  Go out and talk to the trees.   Or even better, listen to them. They are doing their job to keep our world going. 


* A writer at the Guardian seems to wonder about something slightly related:  That fairly ordinary young people get severely chastised in social media.

Those individuals may benefit from various privileges, including racial ones or the privilege of belonging to the locally powerful cultures, but they don't have public power.  And the relative anonymity of social media doesn't let us compare the overall privileges of the individuals on various sides in these quarrels.

It's also worth noting that women of all races and from all ethnic groups tend to be attractive targets for social media anger, for many reasons that you can figure out.  One of them is certainly the lower likelihood of violent or wrathful responses from the targeted women which makes such attacks low-risk for those who practice them.

**  These sources are in Finnish.  The farmer who had given the German woman permission to stay in her forest argues that the hate comments came mostly from young people.