Friday, August 29, 2014

The Weird Case of Dan Page

Dan Page is the St. Louis police officer who was relieved of his duty because of this:

The same St. Louis police officer who was seen on CNN earlier this week pushing Don Lemon back during a live broadcast from Ferguson, Missouri, has been relieved of his duty after video emerged of an hour-long speech he delivered railing against African-Americans, the LGBT community and President Barack Obama. CNN reported the news about Officer Dan Page, who made the controversial remarks at an Oath Keepers meeting just months ago. 

He has now retired.

I watched the video of Page's remarks at that Oath Keepers meeting one night last week.  I even took notes!  They were necessary because Page was so very difficult to follow.  To give you an example, he mentioned the four horses of the apocalypse, then stated that one of them was light green, and what is the color of the Islamic flag?  Right!

Many of the transitions reminded me of Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, where

three under-employed editors who work for a minor publishing house decide to amuse themselves by inventing a conspiracy theory. Their conspiracy, which they call "The Plan", is about an immense and intricate plot to take over the world by a secret order descended from the Knights Templar. As the game goes on, the three slowly become obsessed with the details of this plan. The game turns dangerous when outsiders learn of The Plan, and believe that the men have really discovered the secret to regaining the lost treasure of the Templars.

Page refers to the end times, the three final battles, and argues that the Chinese will be involved in the first two.  Therefore he shows the audience slides of South Korean Navy Seals.

So what was the rant all about?  It's about the end of the United States which Page believes to be coming soon.  He talks about the last sixteen hours (or days?) and what's going to happen during that time:  First, an emphasis on foreign news, second, and emphasis on domestic racism and third, the resurgence of old hatreds.  That last bit seems to be about inner cities igniting but he also warns the ladies (so he says) that domestic violence calls are a waste of police time and that people should just kill each other already.

Page believes that children with his values will be moved to re-education camps.  He believes that real men have left the military and all that will soon be left is women and what he calls sodomites.  He rants about gays and the "four sodomites" of the Supreme Court, he rants about president Obama as an undocumented illegal alien, and he tells women that women who are in the military are not content to be women and that we got all those "female firsts" by lowering entry standards.

So does he mention killing?  Several times.  He boasts about having killed and he tells the audience that he will kill some more during those last sixteen time units of the United States.

All that should make the bosses of Dan Page worried, of course, and all of us should be worried if it indeed is true that he held powerful positions in the US military operations in Africa, as he stated.  But his rant wasn't about his work as a police officer; it was a rant about end-times, the weird beliefs of certain segments of the extreme US right, of the coming apocalypse.

What I found most frightening is that the audience at the rant seemed to take Page quite seriously and to agree with his conspiracy theories.  The underlying assumption is that internal enemies are more important than external enemies.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Let Boys Be Boys. Fox News And Elsewhere on Wolf Whistles And More. My Analysis.

First Part

A recent article* about hookup culture and rape at US colleges had this quote from one of the students interviewed:

Some men feel that too much responsibility for preventing sexual assault has been put on their shoulders, said Chris Herries, a senior at Stanford University. While everyone condemns sexual assault, there seems to be an assumption among female students that they shouldn’t have to protect themselves by avoiding drunkenness and other risky behaviors, he said.
“Do I deserve to have my bike stolen if I leave it unlocked on the quad?” Herries, 22, said. “We have to encourage people not to take on undue risk.”
It led rise to the "lock-up-your-vaginas" meme on Twitter, but one also wonders what the mental stance of Herries might have been here:  Did he think of himself as a bystander, a potential offender or someone who was going to be falsely accused because the woman was drunk and regretted the sex later on?

Probably a bystander.  It would make no sense to argue that "some men feel too much responsibility for preventing sexual assault" otherwise, unless we took a really sick view of what is normal and natural about guys and sexual behavior.

However boring I will be, I still have to explain why the bike stealing example doesn't quite work.

First, if you lock up your bike, it is other bikes that will be stolen.  It doesn't reduce bike theft unless every single person locked up their bikes everywhere.

Second, even that wouldn't necessarily reduce bike theft.  I know someone who locked up her bike to a heavy metal stand, provided for that purpose outside a library and full of bikes from other careful bike-lockers.  That same someone then saw from the library window a truck drive to the stand, two burly men stepped out and simply lifted the whole stand with bikes to the back of the truck which then drove away.

The point of that story is that if all women stop drinking alcohol, the way self-defense against rape will next be formulated is by telling women not to go out at night, not to wear certain clothing, not to talk to strange men or go to fraternity parties etc.  The goalposts move, and the cost of that moving for women is to limit their freedoms and to make them stay at home.  Then the locks of the house are what will be blamed if the inhabitants get sexually assaulted.

It's good to be careful and to protect oneself.  It's good not to drink too much.  All those things are true and useful.  But they smell odd when presented in a setting where rape just somehow happens, sexual harassment just somehow happens, and nothing else can be done about it, except by focusing on what the potential victims can do to protect themselves.

Second Part

Here's an even more recent take on the same topic, in the context of discussing the meaning of fraternities and sororities on campuses.  A former GMU President, Stephen Joel Trachtenberg:

Rehm: And you don't see them participating in sexual misconduct?
Dr. Trachtenberg: No no! I think it turns out that there are good and bad in fraternities and out of fraternities. What we're focusing here on is a general situation. I think what we're doing is creating a false correlation. For example, we point out that the women don't drink, don't have sorority parties which have alcohol. They don't have to. They go to the parties at the fraternities. So it's not as if the women aren't drinking. They are, in fact.
Without making the victims responsible for what happens, one of the groups that have to be trained not to drink in excess are women. They need to be in a position to punch the guys in the nose if they misbehave. And so part of the problem is you have men who take advantage of women who drink too much and there are women who drink too much. And we need to educate our daughters and our children in that regard.

Bolds are mine.  The last paragraph is wonderful!  It appears to equate trying to take advantage of someone drunk and being drunk as equal slices of the problem.  If there were no drunk women -- presto!  --- nobody would be trying to take advantage of women!  Problem solved, and all we need to do is train women and educate daughters and, er, children.

So where are we?  Roughly, it's the behavior of women which causes sexual assaults and rape and such on US campuses.  I'm being unfair here, because the article I linked to in the first part gives many other points of views, but this particular attitude is so common in our hindbrains, so much alive even after it has been killed over and over again, that we need to interrogate it more (with harsh lights and no tea or toilet breaks).  But first

Third Part

This is from today.  The Fox Outnumbered program (where four women gang up on one man and then they all state various sexist tropes) tells us that:

Fox News hosts defended the practice of catcalling, insisting women should "let men be men" and downplaying the harmful impact widespread street harassment has on women.
On the August 28 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered, hosts highlighted a New York Post opinion article that suggested women "deal with" "flattering" catcalls. Co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle defended street harassment saying, "let men be men," and, "look, men are going to be that way. What can you do?" Guest host and Fox contributor Arthur Aidala reenacted his personal signature "move" -- aiming a slow round of applause at women on the street, which one host said she'd find flattering.

Bolds are mine. 

As a complete aside, ask yourself this question:  What populations of looks does Fox News draw its people from?  Are the women random samples from the look distribution of American women?  Are the men random samples from the look distribution of American men?

Here's the picture of the people who discussed whether catcalls and such are flattering to women:

Back to the topic, sigh.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Speed Blogging August 26, 2014; Useful Information

I seem to be currently blocked about writing in depth on any particular issue.  So this post is like giving you the raw ingredients and the chopping board and the knife when you were invited for dinner.  Sorry about that.

First, this piece gives information about the racial divide among those who were killed by the police.  It also explains in detail what the data can tell us and what it cannot tell us.  The context for the link comes from recent events in Ferguson and elsewhere.

Second, two recent pieces are about the way health advice, given via media, might be a bit confusing. One is about salt intake, the other one about the importance of a good breakfast in weight control. 

In the past we were told not to eat eggs or not to drink coffee or not to consume too much salt or not to eat fats (and later not to eat certain types of fats) and so on and so on. 

It's tricky to know how to respond to such advice, in general, because sometimes the advice changes, as these examples show and other times the advice is really intended for only a sub-population, not for everyone.  But the tone of such advice can be unrelentingly demanding, even when the data is not that final.  and the people most likely to follow published nutrition and lifestyle advice might not be the people who would benefit from it.

The recommendation for moderation is a good one, of course.  But does that mean that moderation in everything should extend to moderation itself?  In any case, I refuse to moderate about chocolate.

Third, the first studies about reading on screen vs. on paper are beginning to come out.  This one is interesting (though I haven't looked at the study itself).  It compares two groups reading the same story, one group on Kindle and one group on paper:

In most respects, there was no significant difference between the Kindle readers and the paper readers: the emotional measures were roughly the same, and both groups of readers responded almost equally to questions dealing with the setting of the story, the characters and other plot details. But, the Kindle readers scored significantly lower on questions about when events in the story occurred. They also performed almost twice as poorly when asked to arrange 14 plot points in the correct sequence.
If this is correct my guess would be that a book gives you more concrete hints about where in the story something happened than the screen.  I often remember that some fact I'm searching for was, say, in the beginning chapters of the book, on the right side.  If I read on Kindle the feeling of more or less pages on the right vs. the left of my eyes is lost.

Fourth, one study suggests* that women and men are treated differently when it comes to the awarding of flex-time at work, and another suggests* that daughters spend much more time caring for their elderly parents than sons.  If these results are correct the reason is probably in ingrained gendered expectations about who should be doing the non-monetary work related to families.

*I have not read either of the original studies, only the summaries.