Non, je ne suis pas Charlie. And here’s why.

sorry-charlie-shirt

Mock on, Mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau;
Mock on, Mock on, ’tis all in vain.
You throw the sand against the wind,
And the wind blows it back again.

— William Blake

No, I am not Charlie Hebdo.

I am not out there in the crowds, demonstrating support for a publication I cannot and do not support.

As wrong as it is that a policeman and several staffers at a French magazine were killed by what are presumed to be Islamist militants, and as much as I decry their murders, I cannot get behind the idea that the dead are all heroes who died for freedom of speech. And my reasons for not doing so are as follows:

Freedom of speech, belief, association, etc., may all be protected and tolerated in France, as much as they are here in Canada, but they are not devoid of consequences, and it is not the government’s job to protect anyone from the consequences of their speech. Whoever speaks must bear those consequences on their own.

free-speech-means

Yes, that’s right. You have the right to say, think, etc. as you will, but no one is under obligation to respect a word of it, or refrain from criticizing you for it. Indeed, it is their right to tell you when you’re being an ass, and that right is equally protected.

The law also forbids murder, but not with any special provisions in the name of protecting free speech or freedom of religion. It forbids all killing with malice aforethought, whatever the “reasons” behind it. So the murders of the Charlie staffers, and the gendarmes who confronted the killers as well, should be prosecuted as common crimes; no special (mis)treatment to elevate the killers to martyr status in the eyes of their few supporters.

And for those who are tempted to get all huffy and claim that Voltaire said something about disapproving of what someone says but defending to the death their right to say it — well, you’re an ass, because he did NOT say that. Voltaire defended freedom of religion even though he was no great believer himself (like many Enlightenment figures, he was a Deist). But when it came to works deliberately setting out to offend the clergy (recall that France was then, and in some ways still is, very priest-ridden), he was much more nuanced. Rather than defend to the death someone’s right to spew blasphemy or heresy (in this case, the philosopher Claude Adrien Helvétius, whose offending work was ordered burned by the parliament of the day), he actually said, “What a fuss over an omelette!” In other words, much ado about an inconsequential mass of fluff. Who reads Helvétius anymore, except maybe philosophy majors, or those curious to see what Voltaire once called an “omelette”?

And who, before this week, read Charlie Hebdo?

Certainly not I. And I still don’t, and will not. What I have seen from that rag doesn’t impress me one bit. The cartoons are puerile, crudely drawn, often racist (and very specifically anti-Muslim, in a country with a long, shameful history of imperialism in Muslim lands), and the sentiment behind them is the same noble impulse that drives pimply schoolboys to moon old churchladies out of car windows. It may be some species of free expression, but as satire, it’s weak sauce. Not even fit to drizzle over an omelette, to be frank. I would sooner bore myself to tears over Helvétius.

Freedom of speech may be a noble concept, but it was never conceived to make saints out of wankers who style themselves as equal-opportunity offenders. One must question just how equal that opportunity really was when they were busy taking pot-shots. To question Charlie‘s motives is one’s right if one is committed to freedom of speech, and indeed one’s obligation if one is committed to considering the facts, and ALL the facts.

And I am thus committed. And that’s why I am not Charlie.

You see, I happen to think that “Come at me, bro!” is a shitty hill to go die on in the name of freedom of speech. Voltaire, too, would say the same. And he would probably say, as I do, that as unfortunate as the consequences of Charlie’s speech may be, they are also precisely what those same scribblers have been angling for, and for several years now. The only halfway surprising thing about it is that it’s taken this long, and it is only halfway surprising because anyone who knows what French Muslims are like (as Juan Cole does, very well) would realize immediately that they have nothing to apologize for in this case. Not only did a French Muslim gendarme sacrifice his life for the sake of protecting the public good, but French Muslim women have used their own freedom of speech to condemn the government’s absurd, ironic, racist and religiously discriminatory ban on hijabs…by wearing them in the colors of the French flag, demonstrating patriotism and dissent in the same instance. And most French imams, like those everywhere outside the Muslim world, routinely use their pulpits to exhort the faithful to follow the laws of the land, not impose against them. In short, French Muslims do not deserve to be singled out as terrorists, whether for special mistreatment under the law, or for abuse by so-called satirists.

I may not share their religion, now or ever, but I will damn well use my freedom of speech to defend their right to express it in any lawful and/or nonviolent way they like. And I hope I will not have to die in order to do so, because I am not the stuff of which martyrs are made. I am, as Monsieur Voltaire might put it, an omelette.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to join him and his English counterpart, John Milton, on the Areopagus. It’s a higher hill by far, and you can see better from it.

Also, it doesn’t reek of merde.

When perverts become “victims”

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Sebastian Edathy, personifying chutzpah on Facebook. In English, no less.

Right now, in Germany, there’s a huge scandal going on. A former parliamentarian, who resigned shortly before his home was raided by police, has been found to have bought and downloaded child pornography, and even pretty much confessed that he whacks off to it. So, why is this self-admitted pervert not behind bars yet? Well, as the Störenfriedas blog has found, the problem lies in German society itself, and their way of addressing — or rather, NOT addressing — the nature of the problem:

On Thursday, December 18, Sebastian Edathy gave a press conference. The 45-year-old Edathy is facing criminal charges for possession of child pornography. An investigation is now under way to find out exactly who knew what, and when, about the accusations against the Saxon state politician. Also to determine if Edathy was warned. SPD parliamentarian Thomas Oppermann and federal delegate Michael Hartmann play a particular role.

It is surely important [to know] who warned Edathy, because it tells us something about the social position of children and sexual violence in our society, and of complicity in their trivialization. Above all, Edathy is using this question right now to present himself on the media stage — and the media are playing along — to push the actual acts into the background and thus whitewash them.

There’s talk of the “Kiddy-Porn Affair”. Just this headline contains an ugly verbal distancing and a further objectification of children for purposes of sexual exploitation. It is not a “kiddy-porn affair”; it concerns actual children, who were and are being made to serve as masturbation fodder for men. These are not some films that have nothing to do with reality, but children with real feelings, who remain forever caught in the net of men’s sexual exploitation. How must a person feel when he or she knows that their own body is serving again and again as wank-fodder, and one can never do anything about it?

Says Adrian P., who was affected, about that: “The pictures of me are horrifying. I can never get rid of them.”

Edathy himself talks of “purchases” when he’s talking about the children to whom he masturbated: “I believe that the majority of the critical public voices on the purchases — to be honest — are right.” In the final analysis, Edathy takes no responsibility for his own conduct.

A reporter asked: “Are you a pedophile, Herr Edathy?” Edathy replied: “Are you homosexual or heterosexual? Maybe you’re a pedophile…you know what, that simply doesn’t concern you.”

This response is very clever because it brings pedophilia down to the same level as homosexuality and heterosexuality. This excuse is symptomatic of Edathy’s position, which resonates with that of the pedo-criminal organizations, such as the “Crooked 13″ and others. These have been trying for decades to sell sexual interest in children as normal sexuality, which should be acted upon. Because this is, according to their definitions, normal, and the results of such “normal sexuality”, as they call it, meaning the sexual exploitation of children, is consequently whitewashed and negated. Finally, it’s all the same in fact whether Edathy’s conduct fits the definition of pedophilia or not. On exactly which grounds children have suffered violence is unimportant. The consequences must be borne by those who have exerted sexual violence, and by those who have profited from it (after the fact). The perpetrator-type of one Herr Edathy is, in fact, irrelevant.

This justification of such deeds is socially widespread. The grounds for it will be laid out here, because they have very real effects upon the Edathy case and its medial reception:

The concept of “pedophilia” comes from the Greek and is made up of παῖς (“boy, child”) and φιλία (“friendship”). It seems to suggest that men with sexual interest in children, and those who sexually exploit children, actually act on the basis of a real, genuine friendly inclination. Even in this case, language reshapes what is actually a very gruesome reality. The motive of a friendly inclination can be doubted, anyway, and even if one considers it valid, it could still be laid to rest, at latest, when power relations are used and boundaries overstepped, as in when sexual violence is used against children.

Pedophilia is listed as a “disease” in the ICD-10 and the DSM, and above all, it is a “disease” in the mind of society. That brings much sympathy for “afflicted” men as a result. It has also led to the notion that people are under pressure, and thus “understanding” — for the perpetrators, that is, not the victim — is necessary, and to look at “both sides” when it comes to sexual violence by men against children. “Aware” men, who are “ready for therapy”, are celebrated. And people who are against that celebration are characterized as heartless, without character, and devoid of empathy. At any rate, we must discuss how much of “pedophilia”-as-sickness is a social construct; if we leave out this consideration, we can still at least ask ourselves who has ever celebrated a victim of sexual violence when she or he has gone into therapy (insofar as there is even a slot in therapy for them; the totally inadequate psycho-traumatological care of victims of violence is worth an article in itself).

“Do you even regret anything?” asks a reporter. Edathy replies in a roundabout way. In his opinion, it’s wrong to expect persons in public office to be flawless. He sees himself as a victim of the rule of law. “The children are victims too”, says the reporter. Can Edathy be sure that children have acted without duress? Edathy, again, blames the Criminal Prosecutor’s Office: “I have paid a high price for what I’ve done. I will try to build up a new existence for myself. Maybe someday it will be possible for me to live without fear in Germany.”

The “flaw”, to have had [sexual] contact with children or youths, will always stick with someone — even when such charges are proven false. The Canadian company from which he obtained the films in question has been under criminal investigation without charges for years. Edathy keeps emphasizing that the films are “legal”, but only once does he say, in an aside, that it “was morally not okay”.

Again and again, the question gets asked: Were the nude photos legal? The headline reads: “Harmless nude photos, or criminal child porn?” Edathy himself says: “I didn’t act conspiratorially. I was firmly convinced that the pictures are not criminally relevant.” He also says: “We are not talking here about a capital crime.”

He also says it’s okay to consume such pictures or films whose production “did not use recognizable violence”. In the Stern, it says: “It was wrong to buy the films. But it was legal.” Where is the responsibility on the part of a currently active federal delegate to society, when he sees everything as “okay” and “legal”, but as a consumer he can’t tell if violence was behind it or not? Can he still shuffle off responsibility for that onto others? Or would it not be better to take responsibility in this sense: “As long as I can’t be 100% sure that no violence was used, I am morally and legally obligated to keep my hands off it”?

If everyone were to act that way, there would be no market for prostitution or pornography with adult “protagonists”, because it is simply impossible to rule out force. Aside from that, why should one be absolved if one assumes that no violence was used because that is “not visible”? What does Edathy mean when he speaks of violence? Must violence be “visible”? Does it depend on that? It does not. It speaks to Edathy’s posture, and that of society, that there can be a context of “under normal circumstances” and “violence-free”, a moral-ethical as well as judicially representable one, in which such photos can be produced, distributed and commercialized. Ergo: When it comes to minors, the question of force or no force cannot even be asked.

The manifold attempts of the sex-industry lobby to make even children into “self-determined actors” and to legalize “child prostitution” and “child pornography” (these concepts are real bones of contention), point to yet another way.

A further question should be what difference it really makes whether a politician masturbates to “legal” or illegal nude photos. Doesn’t the whole affair show that there are loopholes in the law, and that as a result, the legal framework for nude photos of children must be urgently evaluated and made stricter? On what grounds does a man (or woman) even need nude photos of children? Is “art” not simply the usual excuse for sexual violators to get off scot-free? It is a sheer insult that politicians, whose job it is to make laws and be responsible for the protection of women and children, to make legalistic excuses for their acting-out of power. So the assertion that people were acting out “sexual urges”, not crimes, calls into question why this is not a crime. With legal silence, society leaves countless victims in the lurch and betrays them. Edathy’s dismay that despite his immunity a search raid took place on his home clearly shows that powerful men enjoy particular protection.

During the press conference, Thorsten Denkler stated that there surely is a difference between legality and moral rightness. Edathy aggressively waved that off: His private life surely doesn’t concern anyone!

This reference to the private sphere is a cheap trick, but it works when it comes to offering criminals protection. It’s self-evident that everyone has their private sphere, and that this must be protected. But it is also self-evident that this cannot come at a cost to others. A collective looking-away from pedocriminality on the part of society doesn’t protect the private sphere, it supports criminals. Edathy is aware that in this society, sensitivity toward dealings with children is very high, but goes hand in hand with hysteria. This perception supports him in his self-portrayal as victim. He would never get rid of that stain. His recurrent aggression when talk turns to the film material is noteworthy. Again and again he attacks the questioner verbally, and sticks to excuses over the legality. He sees this film material as “art”, not child pornography. It is obvious that even here, mostly economically weak children are serving rich men. But when only visible violence is relevant, then economic forces, violent experiences, addictions and other consequences are obviously of no interest to either criminals or lawmakers. To shrug off he exploitation of these children as problematic sexual practice clearly shows the media’s trivialization of the subject. That the earnings of legal recordings obviously also finance criminally relevant materials, is a clear and present danger that is not being debated.

“Is it not humane to warn others?” runs an oft-asked question. That surely depends on the conscience of the person. Whoever has empathy will hardly be in the mood for that. When it comes to sexual violence, it must be clear that there can be no protection for perpetrators. How the many witting individuals still in public office can live with the knowledge that they didn’t care about the fate of the children, and that they let a criminal go on offending, is hard to imagine. “What do you think goes into the making of those posed photos of little boys that you got off on? Have you any idea of what production process takes place, and when did you begin to think about it?” asks Dieter Wonka. Even here, Edathy can’t think of anything but that it was not illicit material, and right away goes on the attack, saying that Wonka has mistaken him for a jurist and hasn’t done his homework. The same thing happens to a female journalist, who points out to him reports of heavily traumatized children from various films. How does he stand regarding that? Angrily, he counters that she wasn’t paying attention for the last two hours, and that the Phoenix TV channel should just send her a transcript. No matter how many times this reporter looks at that transcript, she will look in vain for a sympathetic word for the children. He has no answer either for the questions of a children’s aid representative.

“Pedophiles” are very creative in their use of masturbation fodder. It doesn’t take much, in a pinch, to make their fantasies come alive. One genre, for example, is the use of child models in tights, in various poses. Do children have to be served up for men on silver platters in order to serve their sexual interest in them? Does society want that for its children, and would we want such a society? Is it important and necessary for children to have nude photos of themselves on the Internet?

In the Stern issue of December 17, 2014, the headline reads: “The Edathy Affair”. Even here it’s not about children, but party politics. Nothing is coincidental, and the slogan on the front page reads: “The Power of Forgiveness”. It has to do with other people in another article, but naturally, an association with Edathy is meant to be established here. It is in fact a mistake to believe that forgiveness helps. This idea has more to do with Christian beliefs, which have forced the idea that good people can forgive, and bad and weak people can’t. In fact, for many victims of violence, it is very important that a perpetrator be punished, and in a fitting manner. For many victims and their families, life has become hell on Earth, and just the thought that a perpetrator can go on committing crimes with a smile on his face is hard to tolerate. Forgiveness is a concept, and helps no one other than predators and their irresponsibility. The idea of forgiveness even puts victims under more pressure, because they can’t even face their feelings, because with religious people, feelings like hate and vengeance are seen as “bad”. But victims can and should be able to feel whatever they want. That’s all.

The reactions of the media and many people are explainable, but not very helpful:

Most people see the world through rose-colored glasses, in order to feel good. Otherwise, they would not be able to handle the real proportions of gruesome crimes and violence. At least not without being forced to deal with it. Some even say “there is some good in everyone”. This saying is obsolete and trivial, even laughable, because with many crimes, it doesn’t matter if there’s anything “good” in a person. Who cares here if a man who, for instance, has raped children, cares about his sick wife or children, or likes flowers or animals? In the English-speaking world, sexual criminals, regardless of type, are called predators. They seek out their victims in a goal-oriented way, and plan exactly how to successfully carry out their crimes. In German-speaking spheres, meanwhile, there is much to seemingly legitimize the criminals and their crimes. There is talk of “urges”, which expresses a lack of control, and opens the way for criminals to give up responsibility and suggest to society that these criminals can and should not be accused of anything. A further, very common designation is that of “inclinations”, a further total whitewashing of terrible violence against children. Some people also say “sickening”, which surely comes from the fact that some behaviors make us sick because they are so repugnant and gruesome, which is true in and of itself. But that cannot mean that these criminals are “sick”, because that would mean that they can’t do anything about their behaviors, and that their actions are free of blame.

Many people make the mistake of believing that they can recognize a lie. But people are very bad at recognizing lies, as studies have been showing for years. Even police officers are no better than other people or psychiatrists. All professions had the same results as pure chance. Even in the case of Herr Edathy, maybe some believe that based on their seemingly great knowledge of human beings, Edathy could not have done anything bad.

There are many theories as to why people, almost always men, are attracted to children. But in fact there is no proven knowledge. The modes of conduct, however, are known. There is always a long period of planning and fantasizing in advance. The obsession with children is supported by constant masturbation to fantasies about children, or actual pictures of children.

Maybe we don’t always have an answer to the question as to how to stop men like Edathy, or how to explain their behavior. We, and those responsible for the media, should however stop making excuses for them. It is not our job to explain and justify the actions of criminals. That is, ultimately, a distraction and doesn’t help the victims. We should take an interest in the victims and give them a space. The criminals are responsible for ending their own criminal behavior, and they should have to bear the consequences for it in all regards. Victims must bear the consequences of sexual violence all their lives. Edathy has gotten a lot of space in the media. And there, the victims were reduced to a “kiddie-porn affair”.

Translation mine.

So you can see clearly what kind of linguistic gymnastics we’re talking about. Germany has a pedophilia problem in its major media. Germany has to take a long, hard look at itself. No doubt about that.

Well, I hate to say this, but the exact same thing happens all the time in English-speaking media, too. There’s a lot of sympathy for pedophiles who claim to be “aware of their problem” and “seeking help”. On the other hand, one has only to look at how the media covers the acts themselves to see what kind of contempt still exists toward victims. Sexism, racism — you name it, the prejudice is there, coded right into the language. The New York Times, of all “respectable” publications, fudged the gang-rape of an 11-year-old black girl in Texas three years ago. Rather than treating the perpetrators as predators seeking out the youngest, the weakest, the lowest on the social totem pole, the Times report painted them as the victims, and insinuated that the girl was a prematurely grown-up temptress:

…the paper of record speculates on how the small town of Cleveland, Texas, has been rocked by the story, and the torturous question of “how could their young men have been drawn into such an act.” How, indeed? It’s surely a horrifying scenario when 18 young men are implicated in a crime of violence and degradation. The victim’s affidavit says the assault began when a local 19-year-old offered her a ride in his car, and escalated to a protracted group assault, featuring “threats she would be beaten if she did not comply” and participants recording the abuse on their phones. How could these boys have been “drawn into such an act”? Was it drugs, sociopathy, coercion? Or was that little girl just asking for it?

After all, as the Times helpfully points out, “Residents in the neighborhood where the abandoned trailer stands — known as the Quarters — said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said.” Gosh, I wonder if she’s pretty or you know, developed, because that’s relevant too.

So you can see it’s not just the Germans who have a language problem when it comes to child rape and sexual abuse. Americans have it too. And Canadians. And Britons. And…you name it.

Any country where sexual assault occurs, you are bound to run into language barriers when it comes to talking about it. Not because adequate words don’t exist to cover the problem; most of us surely have a big enough vocabulary of those. The problem, as the Störenfriedas piece makes clear, is not words, it is the willingness to use the correct ones. To “make nails with heads”, as the German saying goes, implies that you can’t properly hammer a thing together without them. And this is true, for it is the head of the nail that takes the hammer’s impact, and drives the shaft into the boards. Headless nails are just bits of wire that get bent out of shape and won’t hold anything together at all. So it is with language, too: The wrong words, like headless nails, won’t hold together; they distort, they bend out of shape, they are worse than useless.

And that is what all this perpetrator-friendly talk of “being drawn into” gang-rapes, or “purchases” of child porn videos, also does: It distorts a situation, bending our mental view of it out of shape. It is worse than useless to the victims of those crimes; it takes the blame off the perpetrators and throws it right back onto those who have already suffered the most. Especially if, like bad Christians, they refuse to “forgive” those who “trespassed against” them. Don’t you love that phraseology? It makes the body sound like property. Like turf. Only — and this is grist for a whole other article — whose property, whose turf, is it? Surely not that of the victim, since women have long been legally reckoned to be property of men, and children likewise. The horrific implication is that one can do what one wants to them, as long as one owns them. Human chattel, it is still a thing.

And yes, law enforcement has long supported that view, too. I can still remember when the phrase date rape first hit the media (yes, I’m that old), and when police routinely refused to “get involved” when a man beat the shit out of his wife, even if it put her in hospital, because that was “only a domestic matter”. Even now, there are still people who think that if a man buys a woman dinner, he has essentially bought her sexual consent, and she is “a real bitch” if she doesn’t “give it up” to her entitled date. Or that Ray Rice had a God-given right to punch out his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer. She has since married him, believe it or not, and even “taken his name”, i.e. signed herself over as his chattel under the old coverture laws, though she probably has no idea that the slave-era implications of name-changing are still there, wriggling away below the surface of things.

Coverture may have fallen out of legal fashion, but he idea that a woman has a will of her own, which deserves respect, has yet to be adequately — i.e. FULLY — transmitted in English. Can you imagine what that implies for the children?

Sebastian Edathy certainly goes about whitewashing his own actions with a great deal of chutzpah, but he didn’t figure out how to do that on his own. Just as kids learn how the world works by watching the grownups, so a pedocriminal learns how to twist language to his own advantage by watching others do likewise. The media may ask him all kinds of hardball questions, but in the end, they too are complicit in the overall mishandling of the problem-with-the-fancy-Greek-name.

And that’s not just a German thing; it is a problem everywhere. Edathy bought those movies from a Canadian company, so we as a country share in the scandal and the blame of this trans-Atlantic miscreant. Who knows where, in turn, those movies were made?

In the end, adult male supremacy is a global problem, not limited to any one country. And the globalization of capital, the global nature of capitalism itself, has proved to be nothing but a boon for the abusers of children, traffickers of women and girls, and perverts who whack off to not-technically-illegal photos and movies of naked boys. One cannot stamp it out at one end and declare the whole thing dead; it will only look for another, more congenial place to resurrect itself, hydra-headed, worse than ever. The problem is global in nature, and demands a collective, global solution in turn. And it demands that we all, together, change the way we look at women and children — radically. We must, collectively, give up all ideas of people-as-property, infinitely interchangeable, disposable, and exploitable.

Language plays a definite part in that radical change; a wonderful German word comes to mind. The word is both verb and noun: Umdenken. A re-thinking; to re-think. That is what we need to have, and to do. Until then, we’re just spitting into the wind, and we shouldn’t be surprised if it all just blows right back in our faces.

Happy Human Rights Day!

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“We will impose sanctions on those who defend human rights!” Once more, a Venezuelan cartoonist — this time, it’s Uncas — hits the nail on the head.

And in honor of Human Rights Day, here’s another fine example of how the US doesn’t lead when it comes to human rights, it just crushes them underfoot, like Orwell’s boot stomping on a human face forever:

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence today released the executive summary of its long-awaited “Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program,” describing in more than 500 pages a dysfunctional agency so unprepared to handle suspected terrorist detainees after 9/11, that the CIA bought into private contractors’ proposals for torture, and then lied to Congress, President Bush, the Justice Department, the public, and to itself about the purported effectiveness of the program.

The Senate release includes a 6-page foreword by committee chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), a 19-page list of 20 specific Findings and Conclusions, and a 499-page Executive Summary which details the development of the torture program after 9/11. The longest single section of the Summary, from page 172 to page 400, eviscerates the CIA’s “eight primary CIA effectiveness representations” along with 12 “secondary” ones by showing either there was “no relationship” between the cited success and detainee information “during or after” the CIA’s use of torture, or that such information was otherwise available and even obtained prior to the use of torture.

Translation: TORTURE DOESN’T FUCKING WORK.

Also, THE CIA IS THE SAME EVIL BAND OF JACKALS AS IT WAS WHEN IT PLOTTED TO KILL JFK. IT HASN’T CHANGED ONE FUCKING IOTA.

And in addition to that, CAPITALISM + TORTURE = REALLY FUCKING EXPENSIVE MURDER MACHINE THAT DOESN’T EVEN FUCKING WORK.

Oh yeah, and on top of that, LIES, LIES AND MORE FUCKING LIES:

Including 2,725 footnotes to specific CIA documents, the Senate report shows a pattern of repeated factual inaccuracies by CIA in communications with the Justice Department (to get legal cover for the program), with the White House (including false information inserted in the President’s Daily Brief and one of President Bush’s major speeches), with the Congress (Appendix 3 starting on page 462 provides more than 30 pages of false statements in testimony by former CIA director Michael Hayden), and even inside the Agency itself.

THIRTY FUCKING PAGES OF BULLSHIT FROM MICHAEL FUCKING HAYDEN ALONE, PEOPLE. And it doesn’t end with him, either:

The report cites CIA documents showing CIA officers at the secret detention sites repeatedly protested the torture program — one interrogator called the program a “train wreak” [sic] and wrote “I intend to get the hell off the train before it happens.” But higher-ups, including CIA directors George Tenet, Porter Goss, and Hayden, overruled objections and kept the program going until President Obama ended it in 2009. The head of CIA counterterrorism operations, Jose Rodriguez, even reprimanded CIA officers at one site for their protests, warning them to refrain from using “speculative language as to the legality of given activities” in CIA cables.

It’s not a question of who fucked up, at this point; the list of those who didn’t fuck up is infinitely shorter.

Of course, none of this comes as any great surprise to me; BushCo was a veritable fuck-up factory. It churned ‘em out assembly-line style, from start to finish. There is nothing that Weak ‘n’ Stupid touched that didn’t turn to ca-ca. Appropriately, for someone descended from royalty, ol’ Dubya sure does have the reverse Midas touch.

And there is no doubt in my mind that every torturer-jack of them belongs in The Hague, and locked up shortly after. But don’t take MY word for it…

A U.N. human rights expert said a report that the U.S. Senate released on Tuesday revealed a “clear policy orchestrated at a high level within the Bush administration” and called for prosecution of U.S. officials who ordered crimes, including torture, against detainees.

Ben Emmerson, United Nations special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, said senior Bush administration officials who planned and authorized crimes must be prosecuted, along with as CIA and other U.S. government officials who committed torture such as waterboarding.

“As a matter of international law, the U.S. is legally obliged to bring those responsible to justice,” Emmerson said in a statement issued in Geneva. “The U.S. Attorney General is under a legal duty to bring criminal charges against those responsible.”

Unfortunately, THAT’s not going to happen. Practically the first thing His Barackness did upon setting foot in the Oval Office was to amnesty all these war criminals, torturers and murderers. Translation: NO HOPE OF A FUCKING PROSECUTION EVER. And, by the way, that’s illegal:

International law prohibits granting immunity to public officials who have engaged in acts of torture, he said.

“The fact that the policies revealed in this report were authorized at a high level within the U.S. government provides no excuse whatsoever. Indeed, it reinforces the need for criminal accountability,” Emmerson said.

Torture is an international crime and perpetrators may be prosecuted by any other country to which they might travel, he added.

Incidentally, that’s the very reason Henry Fucking Kissinger no longer sets foot outside of US soil. There’s an international warrant out for his arrest, for war crimes dating all the way back to the Vietnam War.

His Barackness would be well advised to reverse that amnesty now, if he doesn’t want to become complicit — and a war criminal, and suffer the same fate — himself. But — oops! — it’s already way too late for that.

Happy Human Rights Day, indeed, my US friends. How does it feel to live in a country where that phrase has become totally meaningless?

Montréal Massacre: The truth that no one wants to know

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“Je lutte contre les féministes!”

So said Marc Lépine, Gamil Rodrigue Gharbi, expressly declaring war on feminists before he opened fire. These words have often been misquoted or mistranslated as “You’re all a bunch of feminists”, “I hate feminists”. In fact, they mean “I am fighting against feminists”. This is just one of many truths that have been distorted, ignored or outright whitewashed in our memories of that horrible day.

25 years ago today. A full quarter-century. Has it really been that long? For me, the crime of the Canadian century happened only yesterday. No matter where I am, no matter what day it is, what time of year, for me it will always be December at Queen’s University, whenever I think of those names, that night. I will always feel the cold and damp of the ever-present Kingston slush leaking into my boots, will always smell the snow in the air, will always feel the strangled need to cry as I head to the vigil, to class, to my volunteer work at the Queen’s Women’s Centre. I, who can’t forget, wonder how anyone else could fail to remember.

And yet, fail they do. They fail all the time. Our politicians, our media, they fail us, the women of Canada.

A few days ago, Peter MacKay, our so-called justice minister, stuck his foot in it big-time when he said that “we may never understand” why Marc Lépine did it. In actual fact, only he himself may never know that. He, and maybe the rest of the willfully ignorant, predominantly male morons who comprise the conservative government and its voting bloc. And they may never know it because they just don’t want to know it. They are idiots, they don’t belong in power, and they must not presume to speak for the rest of us.

All other Canadians know the truth all too well. Days after it happened, letters were already pouring in to media outlets all over Canada, and especially Québec, decrying the massacre for what it was: not the random act of a lone madman, but a specifically political act of terrorism. Protests and vigils were organized on university campuses across the land. Feminist women, and a few perceptive, allied men, could already see the truth, and they weren’t having any of the media’s carefully organized, cleverly worded whitewash. None of them were fooled by the conventional “wisdom” that Canadian women had already achieved all that they wanted, that life was fine and fair now, and that feminists should just pack it all in and go home to their kitchens…so to speak.

The women on Lépine’s hit list — oh yes, he had one — know it all too well, too. They were his actual, intended targets. They were meant to become examples of “what happens to feminists when they go too far”. The fact that they did not may be due only to Lépine’s instability and ineptitude; he was apparently almost as poor a terrorist as he was a student. Instead, it was a completely unrelated group who paid the price: the women who were admitted as engineering students to the Polytechnique, taking what Lépine fancied was his rightful place in a profession which is still, to this day, heavily dominated by men.

Did any of them call themselves feminists at the time? I can’t speak for the dead, but I do know that at least some of the survivors said that no, at the time, they were not, although they believed in equality of the sexes, and believed that feminism’s work was done. They were examples of how feminism had succeeded, because they were beneficiaries of female progress and believers in equal opportunity. And yet, also, they were victims — unwitting exemplars of how much of our society’s complacency works against that same progress. They just wanted to fit in, to be accepted; they conceded to the patriarchy without realizing how at the time, or how much. They were not then feminists. But they are now, because now they see the need. Far from sending them to sleep, the shooting was a wake-up call for them. The Massacre drove home to them that there was and is a need for feminism, because women are not free yet, and neither are they treated as men’s equals.

Worse, we are losing ground; the long-gun registry was scrapped, and human-rights protections that women have fought for over decades are being eroded away by creeping conservatism, neo-traditionalism, and ultra-capitalist economics that push the underclass ever further down. If feminism has accomplished all its goals, as is so often insisted by media and “men’s rights” groups, why is there still so much misogyny — enough to kill, not only in spectacular mass form, but on a small, steady, day-to-day basis?

Maybe it’s because our supposedly liberal, enlightened society is still largely an Old Boys’ Club. And maybe because that club is jealous of its power and control, and will do all it can to preserve it; just look at how long the struggle for pay equity has been going on. Maybe because women getting legal personhood, abortion rights, the Pill, the vote, an education, and some limited right to pursue a career, isn’t enough to combat it. Maybe because the scant handful basic, partial concessions of rights we have been able to get have actually served, in the minds of sexist men, as provocations, as proof that we’ve “gone too far”, as “danger signs” that a matriarchy is about to replace the existing “benevolent” patriarchy, and as “evidence” of a “need” to put women back in “their place”. (Note all the quotes; they’re there for a reason.)

And yes, the Montréal Massacre was aimed at doing exactly that.

I know all this because I have a little purple book in front of me on my desk right now. It’s called, simply, The Montréal Massacre. It was compiled by Louise Malette and Marie Chalouh, and translated by Marlene Wildeman for Gynergy Books. I bought it in the early 1990s, and I have yet to finish reading it, because its intensity keeps knocking the wind out of me. It is a collection of letters, essays, newspaper articles and poems, written in the immediate aftermath of the massacre, and it puts the lie to all the conventional narratives. Some of the writers are well-known Québec feminists, others ordinary people who were moved to write letters to the editor because they could not stomach all the bullshit and the lies. All are deeply, darkly critical of the mainstream narrative, of the silence it enforces.

Some note how the francophone media’s language around the victims was absurdly masculinized; the murder victims were not, as the media put it, étudiants, masculine/generic, but étudiantes, female students. Not all were engineering students; Barbara Klucznik was a nursing student. And not all of them were students, either; Maryse Laganière was an employee of the Polytechnique’s budget department. So the “student” appellation was not entirely accurate. The one and only thing the dead all had in common was that they were female. By erasing the gender of the dead, the media whitewashed the fact that the massacre was a gender-specific act of terrorism. (Even in the English-speaking media, where gender-specific noun endings are largely passé, a subtler form of erasure was the order of the day. And at least one journalist now feels guilty about her own unintentional part in the whitewash. It as, after all, quite the Old Boys’ Club in there. And, like the Massacre victims, she just wanted to fit in.)

Several of the writers also note that the media expressed curious sympathy for the killer while ignoring his blatant motives, preferring to portray him as mentally ill, an abused child of a wildly unstable father, and pitiable, rather than as a conscious political actor. Why can’t he be all of those things? they ask. For he WAS all of those things. Being mentally ill, abused and pitiful does not render a person apolitical, nor should it obscure that person’s political motives. Being political does not make one cold, mechanical, divorced from one’s own abused and abusive past, either. Such oversimplification serves the public interest poorly; feminists know that all too well. They’ve had to battle similar erroneous perceptions from the get-go.

Above all, the writers of that little book decry how quick the patriarchy was to fling its mantle over everything, to declare it “incomprehensible” and deem all protest “inappropriate”, “disrespectful”, etc. All FEMINIST protest, that is. If a man spouted blatant sexism to “protest” all the “rampant feminism” that supposedly provoked the killer, why, that was quite all right. The voices of the privileged class were welcome to have their say, over and over and over, ad nauseam. The underclass? Shut up, you bitches, the men are talking. Go home. Make sandwiches. Be thankful that we let a few of you in as tokens, and be quiet. Don’t demand more.

Even today, we’re still fighting the carefully orchestrated ignorance that fell like a shroud over that late afternoon. And it’s like trying to swim through an ever-spinning turbine to get at the truth, to be able to tell it and not be silenced.

I can still remember watching the mass funeral on TV, seeing the Catholic priests swinging their incense-burners over the caskets as they were paraded by. It was a literal smokescreen being cast before our very eyes, a metaphor made real. And oh, how nauseated I was by it all. I can remember thinking, quite clearly, how ironic and horrific and yet strangely appropriate this was; patriarchy had killed those women, and now it was burying them, too. And of course, it decreed forgetfulness, mealy mouths, empty words, lip service in lieu of honesty and action, much smoke but no fire. The victims were “innocent”, and much was made of that innocence and guiltlessness. They did not deserve to die — everyone agreed on that — but they were also not allowed to be women. They were not allowed to be acknowledged as victims of sexism, of patriarchy, of gendercide.

People still don’t want to know why those 14 women were really killed. They’re very curious to know who they were, but not so curious as to why they had to perish. They think that it’s enough to put faces and life stories to the names, and not inquire any further into the killer’s motive for destroying them. Worse, in their efforts to “put the tragedy behind us”, they’ve buried Marc Lépine’s suicide-note-cum-manifesto and hit list, so that it can’t be analyzed and criticized, and so that its contents cannot be properly understood. Who benefits from that? The Menz Rightzers. The MRAs. The “manosphere”. The patriarchy. They’ve already claimed him as their hero-martyr-saint. They have websites set up as shrines to him, and have cultivated them for years. They consider his words to be a kind of holy writ, a truth bomb in the war against feminism. They preserve his ramblings while the rest of us are unable to find the full text of those words on any site that isn’t unsavory, that isn’t dedicated to hating women and calling for their wholesale enslavement and destruction, that doesn’t repulse us and send us fleeing for our sanity’s sake.

Think we don’t need feminism anymore? Think again. This is why we need it, people:

25 years have gone by, and in those 25 years, the message to be silent, to bury the dead women “respectfully” by forgetting the meaning of their deaths, has only grown louder. But if we want to actually make progress, we have to talk about them, analyze, criticize, tear open the hypocritical crypt, and blow away the ashes, dust and smoke that surround it. We have to scrub away the whitewash from the sepulchre, and acknowledge what’s really inside. Otherwise, we’re only doing the terrorist’s work for him, and erasing women from the picture. Not only from the past, but our present and future, too.

Venezuela has free treatment for HIV/AIDS. Do you?

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Via Aporrea, some more good news you won’t hear from your mainstream media about Venezuela and its evil, evil socialist government. For the tens of thousands of Venezuelans who have contracted HIV or are ill with AIDS, the government is taking care of them all the way:

In Venezuela there is the political will to protect persons with HIV/AIDS throughout the land, said Asdrúbal González, co-ordinator of the National Human Rights Network, on VTV’s breakfast-hour program, El Desayuno.

González stated that in Venezuela, 43,000 persons with AIDS get free anti-retroviral medication and integral attention in general, thanks to the National Public Health System.

González emphasized the actions of public institutions, such as the People’s Ombud, in defence of those living with AIDS, and the Law for the Promotion and Protection of Right to Equality of Persons with HIV/AIDS and their Families, approved by the National Assembly this year.

This law condemns all forms of discrimination against this population, with an eye to assuring that they get to exercise all their rights, duties and responsibilities without any discrimination.

Yesterday was World AIDS Day, a date chosen, says González, due to the first [known] case of the disease being diagnosed on this date in 1981.

[…]

González was emphatic in expressing to the public that they must leave behind fear and taboos, and seek information related to this illness, in order to avoid discrimination. He also emphasized the importance of any person at risk of contracting the virus to get the ELISA test, one of the most effective at detecting HIV.

González explained that HIV/AIDS can be transmitted through vaginal or anal sex, contaminated blood transfusions, contact with needles, syringes or other sharp objects, as well as from mother to fetus during pregnancy or childbirth.

He added that in the Hugo Chávez Frías Maternity and Children’s Hospital, located in the Caracas district of El Valle, the National Human Rights Network has its head office, where they are holding days of information, prevention and awareness about the disease.

“Our message is: Protect yourself, always use condoms, HIV does not discriminate, and we call upon you to become more aware every day of the persons who live with this condition,” González said.

Translation mine.

It’s important to note that AIDS has in fact been around much longer than initially thought. The first cases of a mysterious wasting illness, then known as “cachexie de Mayombe” in French, were seen in the Congo region of western-central Africa during the 1930s. Since the disease, as doctors now know, has a long lag time, of as many as 10 or 15 years between initial infection and outbreak of full-blown AIDS, it is suspected that the disease first spread from chimps to humans around 1915, when the Trans-Congo Railroad was being built through the region. The importation of rifles, which coincided with the building of the railway, made hunting of simians for bushmeat easier, and it is likely that a hunter butchering a chimp got SIV-contaminated blood in a cut, becoming the first human casualty of what until then was only a mildly infectious monkey virus. Since prostitution accompanied the railroad work camps, the virus was soon spread to women, who in turn passed it along heterosexually to other men. Poor sanitation in hospitals and clinics, and the common practice of recycling used needles, also contributed to the spread of the virus. The dark, purplish skin lesions of Kaposi’s Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer previously afflicting only elderly men, eventually became a common sight in the Congo region among younger adults.

The first European cases of the disease occurred as early as the 1950s, when sailors coming ashore in western Africa visited local brothels. At least one man is known to have passed the disease along to his wife, who then passed the virus along to their daughter during pregnancy. All died of a mysterious wasting illness whose symptoms match those of AIDS. The girl was just nine years old.

In 1976, a Danish doctor doing charity work in what was then called Zaire became the first known European non-sexually-transmitted casualty of the disease herself. Due to poor conditions in local hospitals, she was forced to operate without gloves. A needle-stick or a small scalpel nick was all it took for a patient’s infected blood to transmit the virus directly to her. Ironically, considering how AIDS later became known as the “gay plague”, the doctor was herself a lesbian — but her life partner, a nurse who stayed in Denmark, remained uninfected. It may now be regarded as a classic example of how this African disease favors blood-to-blood contact.

Also ironically, the real “Patient Zero” of the North American AIDS epidemic was not that infamous bathhouse-cruising gay flight attendant, as was commonly reported, but more likely a prostituted heterosexual woman in San Francisco, who was also addicted to heroin. Needle-sharing was extremely common in those days, the late 1960s to mid-1970s; it was typical to see junkies with various strains of viral hepatitis, which they had caught the same way. It seems likely that the AIDS virus initially spread much like Hepatitis B and C in North America among city-dwelling junkies, who, if prostituted, later passed it along to johns, who in turn spread it to others, much as in the railroad camps of the Congo. Since junkies can be of any sexual orientation, it’s not much of a stretch to assume that a gay junkie may have carried the virus, initially contracted through needle-sharing, to his own community, where it later spread via the sexual-transmission route. Unfortunately, that man’s name may never be known; junkies tended to die very unregarded deaths, and still do.

And while it’s no longer talked about very much, Haiti was another early western centre of AIDS transmission. The explanation? After Belgium gave up its colonial claim on the Congo, and Belgian colonial officials left the land, their empty offices had to be filled by French-speaking blacks as a condition of decolonization. Enter the Haitians, who were substantially more educated than the locals, and more capable of filling those public service offices. They, too, undoubtedly had liaisons with locals infected with the virus, and wound up carrying it back home to Haiti, or across the water to Florida and New York. Haitian immigrants were an early “risk group” that is no longer being singled out, as the broader North American epidemic has eclipsed that of tiny Haiti.

AIDS does not discriminate. It doesn’t care if you are gay or straight, use drugs or don’t, are black or white, or anything else. AIDS is not a “gay plague”, but a disease with African roots dating back to the colonial era. Its global transmission demands global action, and Venezuela is stepping up to the challenge by making it a true public health issue, and providing free medication, with no discrimination between those who can afford to pay and those who cannot.

We could all learn from Venezuela’s good example.

A poem for Mike Brown

Posted in Artsy-Fartsy Culture Stuff, If You REALLY Care. Comments Off »

Sexual assault in Canada: some statistics and grim facts

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That works out to just 1,380 convictions per year, with 458,620 assailants walking. Shocking, innit?

And for how that fits into the experiences of women in the criminal justice system as a whole, here’s StatsCan’s most recent data.

Dear Emma Teitel and Maclean’s: Don’t tell me how to feminist, and I won’t tell you how to journalist.

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You tell ‘em, kitty.

Every so often, I get to wondering why I haven’t picked up a copy of Maclean’s in years. And then I do, and I’m instantly, disgustingly reminded: Oh yeah, Barbara Amiel is still writing for them. Booooooring. And so are her little clones. Like, for instance, one Emma Teitel, who thinks it’s time we big bad meanie feminists stopped picking on pickup artists, just because she felt sorry for some poor little pizza-faced kid who once accosted her at the Eaton Centre:

About a year ago I was walking through the Eaton Centre mall in downtown Toronto when a teenage boy approached me and asked me very meekly if he could have a few minutes of my time. I said sure, assuming that he was working for a charity and hadn’t had much luck attracting donors during rush hour in the dead of winter. (I did a similar, soul-crushing job in college.) I waited for his pitch about poverty, child soldiers or land mines, but it never came. Instead, he told me how “cool” my glasses were and asked me if I had a boyfriend. It became instantly clear that he didn’t want a donation; he wanted a date. I told him I was a lesbian in a hurry (my go-to exit strategy with street preachers) and I was soon on my way—confused about why a teenage boy would so boldly pursue a four-eyed woman in a ski jacket 10 years his senior, but flattered nonetheless.

It wasn’t until the next morning that I realized my age and attire were irrelevant to the equation, because my adolescent suitor didn’t have eyes for me; he had eyes for literally any woman with a pulse. According to multiple news outlets, Toronto’s biggest downtown shopping mall had recently become ground zero for so-called pickup artists (PUAs as they are known online), a loosely connected international community of guys who share seduction tips with each other on the Internet and take to the streets to “woo” as many unsuspecting women as humanly possible. Their techniques range from corny (showering women with compliments) to cruel: “Negging,” a PUA technique popularized by American pickup artist and journalist Neil Strauss in his 2005 book, The Game, consists of showering women with low-grade insults. According to Urban Dictionary, “negs” are “meant to undermine the self-confidence of a woman so she might be more vulnerable to your advances.” (An example, used frequently by my own grandmother: “Wow, you have beautiful eyes. It’s a shame I can barely see them behind your bangs.”)

The Eaton Centre, obviously displeased with the fact that some of its female shoppers were being subjected to this bizarre breed of socially awkward male interference, issued a statement on Twitter alerting customers about the PUA presence on its premises. “Rest assured security is briefed and your health and safety are our top priority,” mall staff tweeted before Christmas last year.

The pickup artist who tried and failed to woo me on account of my cool glasses was, as far as I could tell, a threat to nobody’s health and safety. In fact, I felt a little sorry for the guy. Spending one’s free time trying to engage strangers romantically in a shopping mall doesn’t merely reveal an absence of social grace, but quite possibly, an absence of friends.

Gawd, it sure is windy out there in beautiful downtown Toronto today, eh? But wait, here comes something that looks like a nut graf…finally:

But it is no longer socially acceptable to pity the PUAs, because they are apparently—in these socially divisive, Ghomeshi-saturated times—a viable threat to the feminist cause. That cause has been active against the PUA culture, and has borne fruit. For example, Julien Blanc, the 25-year-old pickup artist of the PUA organization Real Social Dynamics—and author of such promotional gems as: “Develop panty-dropping masculinity with this rock-solid structure to self-generate the powerful emotions girls crave”—was banned from Australia this month on the grounds that his dating seminars (for which he charges more than $1,000) incite violence against women. Several petitions asking the Canadian government to bar Blanc from entering Canada are in the works here too; the outcry against him has been so strong on Twitter that Canadian Immigration Minister Chris Alexander issued a statement on the social media platform last week condemning the pickup artist’s teachings, and ensuring the public that his office is “looking at all options and will consider using every tool at our disposal to protect the rule of law on Canadian soil.”

Er. What’s with the “apparently” there, Emma? And what’s with all the sneery commentaries on “these times”? This isn’t some new thing. This is the same old shit that has always been with us. Why are you undermining efforts to stop it?

If a guy walks down the street randomly grabbing women by the throat and shoving their faces into his smelly crotch, do you not see that he’s committing blatant, overt violence against women? Because that is what we feminists oppose, among other manifestations of sexism and the patriarchy.

And if a guy makes it his mission to preach this same violence like it’s some kind of gospel, and make big money at it like Jimmy Fucking Swaggart, do you not see a problem there, one worthy of feminist efforts to expose and eradicate?

Nope, apparently she doesn’t:

Blanc, by comparison, is a sophomoric ass so blatantly trolling the feminist community with idiotic rape jokes and a following that is insignificant in comparison to the number of people speaking out against him. He has 8,200 Twitter followers; the petition to have him barred from entering the U.K. just reached 150,000. In other words, he isn’t Hitler. He’s Stifler. Which makes the current media blitz he’s enjoying all the more annoying. The most ironic thing about Blanc’s notorious hashtag is that the vast majority of people who appear to be using it are feminists. (I searched the hashtag and scrolled down the results for roughly 25 minutes trying to find one tweet that championed the sentiment rather than derided it. I failed.) Were it not for the scores of women using it in their posts to denounce Blanc, it would likely cease to exist.

Huh. I see she bought his “only joking” defence. Poor dear, she doesn’t realize it, but she’s the one being trolled.

Emma, I’m with your grandma. You really do need to pin back your bangs. An unobstructed view of reality is so much better than looking cute but being unable to see past your own cutesiness. When even the stuffy old Torygraph says nobody’s buying that “apology”, doesn’t that tell you anything? Here, let me brush that wool out of your eyes:

Before he locked down his Twitter account (probably because he realized, belatedly, that no one was actually finding his rape “jokes” funny), Julien Blanc was promoting the Duluth Power and Control Wheel as a “checklist” on how to “Make Her Stay With You”.

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Does this sound “funny” to you, Emma? Because it’s actually a teaching tool which feminists helped to develop, and which is used by counsellors of abused persons to help them recognize common strategies of control used by abusers. And there is nothing “sophomoric” about that. On the contrary, it speaks to just how controlling, abusive and downright cynical Julien Blanc really is.

But hey! Let’s throw a few bones to the feminists before we throw them to the dogs, eh Emma?

It appears that out of a laudable and deeply felt outrage at a potential injury to women, some in the feminist movement have amplified exactly the misogynistic messages they’d like to snuff out. They’ve effectively become Julien Blanc’s spokeswomen, his PR firm. Kirsty Mac, a feminist and stand-up comic whose activism was instrumental in the decision to ban Blanc from Australia, disagrees with this idea wholeheartedly. “Australia said no to violence against women and the world followed,” Mac wrote to me in an email. “Social media might very well be the beginning of the end of the misogyny in pop culture.”

Drawing attention to a problem in an effort to eradicate it is not the same thing as promoting it, Emma. And knock off that divide-and-conquer shit about “some in the feminist movement”. This is something we can all get behind, and should. As the AIDS activists used to say, Silence = Death. You might want to remember that before you start prattling about nuance.

Oops, too late. She’s prattling about nuance, now…

It is certainly the beginning of the end of nuance. Feminist causes have exploded on Twitter in the last year, from #YesAllWomen (the viral hashtag that emerged in the wake of misogynist murderer Elliot Rodger’s violent rampage in May) to #BeenRaped­NeverReported, the infinitely powerful and informative viral hashtag that emerged in the wake of the sexual assault allegations against former CBC host Jian Ghomeshi in October. The social media movement against “street harassment” (a.k.a. cat calling) is just as lively. So too, whether we like or not, is the backlash against the Rosetta mission scientist Matt Taylor who wore a tasteless shirt on TV during the live broadcast of the comet landing, emblazoned with hundreds of miniature pictures of semi-nude ladies; a problematic message, many argued, in an industry that employs so few women.

These conversations are overdue. Yet the downside to their playing out on social media is the lightning speed at which online feminism has amalgamated sexist offenses of wildly varying severity—pickup artistry, cat-calling, date rape—into one melting pot of equivalency. The result is that the difference between what’s idiotic, what’s lecherous, and what’s criminal is lost.

This is the hapless kind of false equivalency that has infected so many worthy social movements and reduced their stature, with moral persuasion replaced by ideological bullying. The greatest heresy is for anyone, male or female, to suggest that there might be another side to the story—like, for instance, Brandon Thomas, an 18-year-old self-styled pickup artist who lives in Tulsa, Okla., who told me he was virtually friendless before he got involved with the PUA community two years ago. “I had no idea how awkward I was . . . Parents and friends tell you what you want to hear,” he said. “A dating coach tells you what you need to hear.” (He claims that every PUA technique he uses is imbued with respect for women.)

Not all pickup artists are equal; and very few of them are the spawn of the devil. (Most, I suspect, are merely virgins.)

Yes, Emma, and I was a virgin too, once upon a long time ago. But it never turned me into a serial harasser of strangers in shopping malls.

In fact, I was still technically one on the night this one very slick operator, who I thought was my friend, first “rescued” me from his, er, over-enthusiastic roomie, then took me out of their basement apartment, and later, after a few beers, brought me back to my place, ostensibly safe and sound. On my parents’ own living-room floor he made out with me for a couple of minutes. That was fine; he was a buff, good-looking guy, and I kind of fancied him. But then, without warning, he undid his pants, clambered up over me until he was straddling my neck, and popped his half-masted cock into my mouth.

I was so confused that I didn’t know what to do, other than docilely lie there and let him, so as not to risk offending him and maybe getting myself hurt. (Nice Girl Training, goddamn.)

Perhaps he sensed that there was something ironic and not quite kosher about what he was doing, because after a few half-hearted ins and outs, he stopped, put himself away, and zipped up. He left shortly thereafter. I locked the door behind him.

Then I silently slunk upstairs to bed, bewildered and still a little tipsy, and feeling — not violated or traumatized exactly, but still somehow betrayed. Because he had just a few hours ago saved me from getting raped, and I honestly expected him to know better than to do it himself. He could have asked, and I might have said yes.

But he didn’t. And I didn’t. He never gave me that chance.

I never reported this as a sexual assault, because what would have been the use? I can’t say I was injured, because I wasn’t. My technicalities were still intact, and he hadn’t used any overt force. (Overt is the operative word here. And maybe it’s kind of a moot question when someone’s in a position to crush your windpipe merely by sitting his ass down.) Worse, I knew how it would look if I told the cops, my parents, and maybe even a judge and jury everything that happened: “Well, first we made out on the floor…” Who would believe me if I told them that I did not want him to do that, I did not ask him to do that, and I most certainly did not give him permission to do that?

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Not saying “no” does not equal “yes”. But pickup artists don’t teach you that, they teach you the opposite. “Make the ho say no” is just one of their many rapey mottoes. In fact, there is even such a thing in pickup artistry as “rape game”, and yes, that is exactly what you think it is. (Google it. And be sure to take your ulcer meds first.) The entire thing, in fact, is nothing BUT rape, because honesty is not a pickup artist’s strong suit, and especially not when you’re trying to up your notch count by any means possible.

Yes, Emma, nuance is a very important thing. And nowhere more so than in your black-and-white world of “rape rape” versus mere “pickup artistry”, eh?

It is profoundly important for both its relevancy and survival that feminism retain the ability to distinguish between the handsy jerk who pushes his luck on the dance floor, and a man who allegedly assaults women in the presence of a stuffed bear.

And then, to judge them accordingly.

Uh, Emma? In case you forget, Jian Ghomeshi did both. He was, by all accounts, both a pickup artist AND a violator of the law. There is no rule saying you can’t be both. In fact, there is no rule that you can’t smoothly segue from the one to the other. Feminists have long understood that. It’s time you did the same.

And Maclean’s? Yeah, you suck too for publishing this rag-load of hog snot. But I won’t be holding my breath for you to improve. You’ve been full of crap-ass suckitude for the longest time. Nearly ten years ago, as I recall, you published a fluffy, uncritical feature on PUAs, portraying them merely as a titillating, mildly goofy bunch of totally awesome he-men. That article nauseated me then, and still does now. Seems you haven’t yet twigged to the fact that they are, in reality, all scungy-ass woman-haters. Particularly one of your profilees, the PUA who called himself Gunwitch — who turns out to be not only a would-be “ladykiller”, but a bona fide aspiring lady-killer, too.

PUA coaches are worse than the slimiest snake oil salesman. They are not a source of hope for the socially awkward; quite the opposite, actually. Their methods don’t work, except to lure unwary males. And among those poor saps there is many a ticking time bomb. Who can forget the “sexual frustration” of that poor ignored virgin, Elliot Rodger? When he failed to pick up anyone, he churned out a misogynous “manifesto”, then went on a murderous, suicidal rampage.

No, PUAs are not funny. Nor are they harmless. And they are most certainly not a separate entity from violent, even murderous abusers. On the contrary, they are all on the same continuum. It is a question of degree, not kind.

And since Maclean’s has abdicated its social responsibility to make that connection, I guess it’s little wonder that I haven’t read them in years…and don’t feel like I’ve missed out in the least. They’ve sold out information in favor of titillation, and thrown women under the bus. None of them has any business telling Canadian women how to do feminism, because none of them know how the hell to do journalism.

Jian Ghomeshi: Kinky, or hinky?

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“Hey, ladies. Want a piece of this? Better lawyer up, because I am gonna FUCK YOU UP.”

No, Jian Ghomeshi didn’t actually say that to anyone, as far as I know. But that, in effect, is what he said this week, when he announced that he was suing the CBC for $55 million, following a sudden dismissal after 14 seemingly very successful years. And when he posted a 1,586-word Facebook status (yes, I counted) claiming he was just a poor innocent kinkster, being let go by a bunch of sex-negative fuddy-duddies who were afraid of, in his words, a “jilted ex-girlfriend and a freelance writer” wreaking havoc on their family-friendly brand.

On the surface of things, it was a masterstroke in terms of PR and pre-emptive strikes. However much Ghomeshi paid that “reputation recovery” firm for their services, it would appear to have paid off handsomely. The women in question (four of them, initially) were more afraid than ever to go public with their stories, much less press criminal charges. If it were a simple matter of “he said, she said”, then what he said carried the day. Even though there was way more than one she. Even though he’s officially out of the CBC, Jian Ghomeshi is by no means out of power and control.

And of course, right away, his fans only amplified the big noise he made. Reactions ranged from purblind defences of male privilege and sexual-satisfaction-at-any-cost, to an unbelievable amount of very ironic slut-shaming aimed at the women (eight of them now) who have accused him of assault, harassment and stalking. There’s even a Change.org petition (which I will neither link to nor endorse here) to sign for his reinstatement, and it’s racked up thousands of signatures in just a couple of days. Remember the Fukushima tsunami? This was, easily, the media equivalent. The sheer magnitude of his chutzpah, the unheard-of damages he’s seeking in this far-from-litigious land, the avalanche of slut-shaming, victim-blaming and fan outcry combined — well, who wouldn’t be intimidated by all that? And who wouldn’t be cowed into silence and submission?

If one reads between the lines, however, a very different picture emerges. And it is one that bears talking about, and criticizing, rather nicely. It may even spell a turning of the very tide he has tried to steer in his own favor.

For starters, it seems highly unlikely that the CBC would turn their most profitable radio cash cow out to pasture over a little thing like a naughty-naughty kinkster image. Ghomeshi’s radio show, Q, is not only popular north of the 49th Parallel, but also syndicated to some 180 US public-radio stations. At a time of deepening government cutbacks, CBC is keen to keep the cash flowing from wherever they can get it. Letting him go, lawsuit or no, is already costing them money, and that’s not something they’d countenance unless they had a compelling reason to fire him in the first place.

And private matters like a consensual BDSM lifestyle don’t, generally speaking, count as such. Q is, after all, a pop-culture show by and for mature adults. It’s not aimed at small children. The discussions featured on it are not “family” fare. Not everything that CBC does is strictly family-oriented, nor do Canadians expect it to be. We’re a liberal country, and CBC is a liberal network. So the idea that an overt-but-consensual kinkster would be fatal for CBC’s wholesome “family” image simply doesn’t wash.

Also, it’s hardly the first time a CBC radio host has had a brush with sexual controversy. In 2006, Sook-Yin Lee (of Definitely Not the Opera) appeared in the indie film Shortbus (whose focus, significantly, is open sexual experimentation), not only fully nude but masturbating. To an actual, unsimulated orgasm, yet. And while it drew a lot of outrage from the usual pearl-clutchy places, she was not let go. DNTO is still alive and well. After all, Sook-Yin’s erotic movie role had no bearing on her CBC radio antics, which were already pretty irreverent. And, more to the point, she also didn’t go around hitting and choking people, grabbing people’s asses, forcing them to supply sex, and making lewd propositions to unwilling ears.

All of which Jian Ghomeshi stands accused of doing, in and out of CBC’s downtown Toronto broadcast centre. The accusations against him are not about sex, but about violence.

Granted, no charges have been filed…yet. And there is no police investigation…yet. Nobody has even filed civil suit against him…yet.

And yet, and yet.

I’ve perused an eye-glazing number of comments on various websites breaking news of the story. And while the commenters are anonymous, a startling number of them are saying the same basic things: Jian Ghomeshi is arrogant as hell; as he’s grown older (he’s 47), he’s hit on on progressively younger women, the most recent ones a good 20 years his junior; he routinely oversteps the boundaries of propriety too; and yes, physical violence is a prominent part of that. And no, it’s NOT consensual.

A damning pattern, to be sure. And one easily dismissed as just hearsay, not legally actionable, and so forth. But it constitutes a groundswell of sorts, and one that he’ll be absolutely unable to control if it continues to grow, as indeed it has.

But anonymous scuttlebutt commenters aren’t the only ones with the power to undermine his carefully-wrought PR campaign. Sex educators — and specifically, ones specializing in kink issues — are also calling him out. And they’re pointing out the flaws in his argument with the meticulous communicative skills that are vital to their practices. After all, in kink, you have to use your words, safe and otherwise. People can get hurt badly if you don’t. Accidental deaths due to kinky activities are rare, but they have been known to happen. And, all too predictably, the kink community has also seen a number of straight-up abusers hiding behind the kink shield, and thus endangering real kinksters, especially women, in ways that go far beyond just a battering of the community’s reputation. This sort of thing is just what they don’t want, or need, to raise their profile. So whenever a well-known and reputable kinkster says “hell no, Jian’s not one of us, what he’s doing isn’t safe, sane, OR consensual”, you can be sure I’ll chalk up one more point against him on my mental scoreboard. (And yes, I’m keeping one.)

If it ever comes down to a civil lawsuit, or a criminal prosecution in this case, kink educators and writers should be called as expert witnesses. They are undoubtedly the best ones qualified to poke holes in Jian Ghomeshi’s assertions that his troublesome behavior was just a “lite” version of Fifty Shades of Grey. (And for the record, that god-awful trilogy isn’t about BDSM, it’s about physical and mental abuse. Actual kinksters have said as much. Which makes that reference just one more creepy little red flag among many.)

Legal experts like Brenda Cossman, too, are weighing in on where “consensual kinky sex” ends and actual, sexualized violence begins. And what they’re saying points, again, not to sex but to violence. Because in Canadian law, the more extreme forms of BDSM are not treated the same as the lighter stuff. If it can cause serious injury or death, it doesn’t matter if you gave consent beforehand; you have to be able to withdraw it at any time. And this, too, is important; in matters of life and limb, there’s no such thing as no-holds-barred. Some holds are legally barred for safety’s sake. It’s one thing to be open-minded about sexual experimentation; quite another to let one’s brains fall out. And when it comes to the risk of severe brain damage (or psychological harm equivalent thereto), the law errs on the side of barring that hold.

Our law also errs on the side of refusals being non-negotiable safewords, incidentally. No means no; you cannot legally negotiate no, don’t, and stop into meaning “no, don’t stop!” Because there is always a chance that a sub may accidentally forget to say “pomegranate”, “brambleberry”, “palomino”, or whatever. No is a perfectly good safeword to fall back on when you can’t remember anything else.

And if the word NO isn’t respected in kink, where negotiation is key to all interaction and even a weak demurral should spell an immediate halt, then that sets a bad precedent for the non-kinky world as well. Rape culture, which Jian Ghomeshi earlier this year reprehensibly characterized as a mere “debate”, is already so pervasive everywhere. There is no “debate” about it; it is a constant, horrid fact of women’s lives. Do we really need to have a former pop singer turned radio host blurring those lines out of all recognition with a whiny, windy, possibly scripted but definitely douchey manifesto, full of “nutty and slutty” dog-whistles?

Yeah, NO. Because that’s not kinky. That’s hinky.

And that creepy screed, like the rape culture that spawned it, is just downright stinky.

UPDATES:

Looks like Jian is strangely silent now that the first of his named accusers has bravely come forward to tell on him. He issued a terse tweet, but no new manifestos about “jilted girlfriends”. Meanwhile, the big long whine on his Facebook page is losing support by the hour. Cheese with that, Jian?

Also, there is a petition to show love and support for all the women in question. Several leading Canadian musicians have added their names to it; please consider doing so as well. There’s also this one, to Change.org, asking them to take the other ones supporting Jian Ghomeshi down.

Canada’s real terrorism problem

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This mosque in Cold Lake, Alberta, was spray-painted by xenophobic vandals. The town is home to an airbase from which CF-18 jet fighters recently departed en route to the war zone of Iraq. The people of Cold Lake have since banded together to clean up the graffiti while the police search for the perpetrators.

Oh, Canada. What’s happening to you?

You used to be such a nice place. Liberal. Socialist, even. And it worked out great for you while it lasted.

You used to be such a livable, lovable place. The country to the immediate south of us may have billed itself the Land of Opportunity, but when it came to real opportunities, we had them beat. Our social safety net ensured that no one got left too far behind by the ups and downs of the mixed economy.

Everyone who came here used to feel so welcome. We got immigrants from all over the world, and they helped make this the most diverse country on the planet. And the most multicultural. And the place where the most disparate people had a chance to coexist peacefully. From Vietnam War draft dodgers to Iraq War refugees, we’ve been enriched by the presence of people who were outcasts in their own lands. And the religious and ethnic clashes of the old country were left far behind, much to the relief and joy of all. Here, it didn’t matter who you were, what you were or where you came from; you were accepted. You were always at home.

And now I feel like a stranger in my own land, even though I was born here.

We seem to have caught terrorism-itis from south of the border. Everyone’s so paranoid now. Instead of waiting to learn what’s going on, we start jumping to false conclusions. The embarrassing truth leaks out too late every time.

Like this week. These past few days saw us “attacked” by two “terrorists” who, it turns out, were something else altogether. One was a paranoid schizophrenic; the other, a drug addict. But since both were Muslims, and chose to attack and kill soldiers of the Canadian army, with a confused mess of ISIL propaganda and madness roaring through their heads, they just automatically got labelled as terrorists. As if they had flown fully loaded passenger jets into the Peace Tower and the banking district of downtown Toronto on a suicide mission co-ordinated from a cave somewhere near the Pak-Afghan border.

The truth is stranger, and sadder, and nowhere near as dramatic as that.

In fact, the “terrorists” were not foreigners, as was initially reported/speculated. They were both native-born French-Canadians. And they both had mental problems that could easily have been treated. This tragedy was totally avoidable, and neither a war nor even changes to our nation’s security systems was necessary to avert it.

Don’t believe me? Let’s look at who these guys were, and how they acted.

Martin Couture-Rouleau was a convert to Islam; he converted only last year. He was not an immigrant. He was not even remotely an Arab, or Muslim by birth. His religious conversion appears to have arisen out of a growing heap of personal problems. Apparently he made enough radical-sounding noises that the RCMP was investigating him, and his passport was revoked, preventing him from travelling to Turkey (and presumably, from there, to Syria to join ISIL forces). He was alienated from his family, and everyone who knew him was bewildered by the recent changes to his personality. He was divorced, and his ex-wife was apparently frightened enough of him to seek sole custody of their child. It was not Islam that had made him that way, though; it was his own schizophrenia. His “radicalization” was concurrent with the worsening of his illness. And his own imam struggled in vain to dissuade him from supporting ISIL or taking up battle — or terrorism — on their behalf.

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was also not an immigrant, although his father was one (from Libya), and his mother a deputy chair at the federal immigration department. At school he was simply known as Mike Bibeau, the big, gregarious good-time guy voted most likely to succeed, especially with the ladies. But drug addiction shortly after his graduation from high school put an end to all that. He was known to police, but only as a petty criminal and drug abuser. His parents are long divorced, and bewildered as to what has become of him. Like Martin Couture-Rouleau, he was alienated from his family; his mother said she hadn’t seen him in five years. In that time, he had fled to BC, looking in vain to escape his addiction (which had shifted from marijuana and PCP usage to crack cocaine). He tried everything from religion to prison to cure himself. He wasn’t jailed long enough to keep him away from the dealers, and the imam of the mosque where he broke in at night to sleep on the floor locked him out. His religious fervor was a direct outgrowth of his efforts to replace one drug with another. At the time of his final desperate acts, he was homeless and so isolated from humanity that even at the Ottawa homeless shelter where he’d taken refuge, he was an outsider.

Neither man was connected to the other, nor to any known terrorist groups. Both were entirely isolated, and more so thanks to their respective mental conditions.

Meanwhile, our social safety net has eroded. Mental health services have faced severe cutbacks in all provinces. People who should have been hospitalized, as much for their own safety as anyone else’s, are instead left to roam the street, helpless and untreated. A few years ago, we were horrified by a beheading on a Greyhound bus; the killer, in that case, was a schizophrenic too, and should have been hospitalized. Not until he’d killed and partially eaten a complete stranger in the thick of a psychotic episode did he finally get the help he needed. If by “help” one means psychiatric incarceration, that is.

Six years after Vince Weiguang Li began his treatment, our mental health system has not improved a whit. It is still chronically starved of funding and professionals. The mental hospitals we so desperately need are still closed, with no new ones opened to replace them. The few still remaining have waiting lists a mile long. Those who can’t afford private counselling and rehab are shit out of luck.

And worse, we no longer have a federal long-gun registry. That’s right; a crime-fighting tool born out of a terrorist attack in Montréal was scrapped by the same wonderful Conservative party that’s also behind all the other rips in our social safety net! The police are thus officially hamstrung. Who knows if we’ll ever find out how Mike Bibeau, who was legally prohibited from owning firearms due to his criminal and drug record, managed to get his hands on the rifle that enabled him to kill Nathan Cirillo, who was standing guard at the federal War Memorial?

Yeah, tell me the Conservatives are not the real terrorists in all this. They’re using the hysteria surrounding these events, even now, to push their own very anti-Canadian agenda. And the sad part is, too many people are all too happy to LET them.

Of course, salient facts like that have escaped the major media, or the myriads of know-nothings who pontificate in the comments sections of their websites. Most of them seem quite convinced that if we only shut our doors tightly enough, ramped up the security high enough, and went to war in enough foreign countries to “bomb them back to the Stone Age” and “teach them a good lesson”, the “terrorist” problem would be best addressed. Never mind that neither of these guys was a foreigner, and that both in fact were born right here.

Or they’re all full of self-righteous Islamophobia, oblivious to the fact that in both cases, imams actually tried to deter these guys from taking the criminal turns they did. And oblivious, too, to the fact that Canadian Muslims are right on the same page with all the rest of us in condemning such attacks, and terrorism in general.

And above all, they’re oblivious to the role that a too-easy access to guns, and a too-hard access to mental health care, played in this whole goddamn mess. They simply cannot and will not see those connections, even though it doesn’t take a brilliant sociologist to draw them.

Oh yeah, and that’s another thing: We’re not supposed to commit sociology in times of terrorism, according to none other than Stephen Fucking Harper himself. Yes, that’s right…the tough-talking macho PM, who bravely, bravely hid in a broom closet while his underlings barricaded the door with spears made from flag poles!

But hey. At least the parliamentary Sergeant-at-Arms, Kevin Vickers, proved that his role is not merely ceremonial, even though his costume may be. Like René Jalbert many years before him, he was the one who engaged a confused, deranged gunman hellbent on wreaking terror. Unlike Jalbert, though, he couldn’t talk the shooter out of it; he ended up having to kill him. “Terrorist” crisis ended, either way.

And all this without recourse to war.

Now the PM’s security detail has modified its protocol so that they can enter the Commons chamber and protect him at all times. That’s fine; at least it doesn’t unduly curtail anyone’s civil liberties. Not so fine, however, is the legislation the government apparently passed on the same day as Martin Couture-Rouleau ran down Patrice Vincent in a fit of psychosis. We’re now facing intrusive, unconstitutional online surveillance under the pretext of “crime prevention”! Yay!

So, now you know. And if this is the last post you see from me, you’ll know why. I’ll have been arrested for committing the supreme terrorist act of daring to think un-conservatively and sociologically, and tying together all the things they don’t want us to understand are related. If you think Martin Couture-Rouleau and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau were crazy (and they were, alas), you ain’t seen nothin’ . My own country just totally outclassed them in the losing-one’s-shit department.

And since it’s already at war in Iraq, too, it’s also outdone them in terms of real terrorism.