The Verge, a tech site that tipped its hand as unethical and agenda-pushing during GamerGate, ran a headline reading, “I don’t care if you landed a spacecraft on a comet, your shirt is sexist and ostracizing.” They are literally convinced that fashion, in both the clothing and radical chic senses, is so important that they don’t even care about forward leaps in science. Think I am mischaracterizing them? The subtitle reads “That’s one small step for man, three steps back for humankind.” Wearing a shirt that the groovy people at The Verge don’t like is three times as bad as making a breakthrough in space exploration is good.
The feminism that we have making noise right now isn’t the feminism that fought for equality and against discrimination. Rather than being based in enlightenment values of humanism and equality under the law, it is grounded in neo-Marxist theory of power and oppression. You know when people say that only women can be victims of sexism because of some non-falsifiable, abstract, aggregate definition of power? You were hearing neo-Marxist critical theory.
Escalating this kind of outrage is a pretty dangerous gambit, I think. As with all anti-rationalist narratives, this bizarre campaign is eventually going to buckle under the weight of its own accumulated contradictions.
The first album I ever bought with my own money was Britney Spears’ …Baby One More Time. I was a nine year old girl in Real America, so my preferences were predictable (if not a complete given). As legend has it, the album was released with the ellipsis in the title because Hit Me Baby One More Time was a reference to sexual promiscuity at best and sadomasochism at worst. And while most nine year olds’ comprehension of sadomasochism was limited in those backwards days, it was extremely important that we not be exposed to even a hint of it, so help us Tipper Gore.
I remember catching wind of the Britney controversy through the elementary grapevine, and learning through muffled giggles that it was some sort of reference to sex. I shrugged and moved on with my adolescent life. My friends and I played the album constantly — under the watchful eyes of our mostly conservative parents, of course.
I am not a parent, but I am now a grown up, so perhaps it’s my turn to overanalyze what #kidsthesedays are listening to.
We’ve been indulging in media like it’s our job for as long as we could get away with it; panic over our favorite melodious pastime is unsurprisingly alive and well. Elite nail-biting over the residual effects of music on our toddler brains has a long and amusing history: Before Robin Thicke became the living embodiment of rape culture, we blamed Popeye for window-smashing and the dulcet tones of The Beatles for brutal murders.
“9.334. But to serve Brahmanas (who are) learned in the Vedas, householders, and famous (for virtue) is the highest duty of a Sudra, which leads to beatitude.” –Manu Smriti
“All your talk is of caste and creed
Is it even as natural as the spider and its web?
The four blessed Vedas, were they created by Brahma?
Is caste and creed worthwhile, ye elders of Paichalur?” -Uttiranallur Nagai
Hinduism is in a constant state of transformation through internal discourse and dissent. Image source.
(This post mostly consists of quotes from Manu Smriti and Medieval Hindu Bhakti poems, so if you want to skip my spiel just hit the “read more” link at the bottom.)
People in the west tend to have an odd outlook on the ethics or “doctrines” of Hinduism. In most religions, doctrine works something like this: There is a core text, or set of texts, which contain precepts. Early in the religion’s history some sages write commentaries on these. The rest of the reasoning and doctrine formation of the religion continues by referring to these sources for legitimacy. Innovations occur, but normally only if it can somehow be “textually justified.”
Certainly there is a part of the Hindu religion, which operates very similarly to this—the religion of the Brahmins. But Hinduism cannot be thought of as just that. It is the religion of all Indians, except perhaps those who explicitly decry the label, like the Buddhists, Jainsm and Sikhs (and even those divisions are sometimes blurry. Even some sects of Islam are pretty heavily syncretized.)
Ideology is not a system of thought that puts a distorting filter on our thinking. The common western vision of communism is that of miserable factory workers kept under watch by uniformed members of the omnipresent party. Anybody who makes the mistake of engaging in free thought is taken away to the even worse gulag. This is only what communism is from our naive, democratic, capitalistic perspective. When we put the glasses on, we can see what’s really going on. Those workers aren’t miserable, they are heroically building communism. Political officers aren’t there to oppress, but to make sure that the revolution which liberated those workers stays in place forever. And the gulags? Those are for quarantining the infection of bourgeois ideology, and perhaps we can even ‘force the glasses’ onto the incarcerated — if they are lucky. Ideology is what illuminates a dark and backwards world, and everything in this world is readily explainable by it.
A great example of the utility of the glasses is to decode the meaning of things that even we ourselves do not know we mean. Our true meaning must be decoded using the assumptions of the ideology. When I say that I want to marry a woman of a different race, the Nazidecoder glasses reveal that I actually want to destroy civilization. When I say I want to start a business, the communist decoder sees right through me — I truly just want to exploit the proletariat. By “employers shouldn’t be compelled to provide any specific benefits to their employees,” I obviously mean “I want to declare a war against women.” Compare Nazism to moderate nationalism, Communism to socialism, and radical feminism to moderate feminism. More than their positions on a spectrum, they are separated by the more radical versions adhering to ideology – they need the glasses. And where would we be without the help of the glasses? The decoder’s outputs are, of course, non-falsifiable assertions. This leaves us with curious ideas: rationalism is not enough. Rationalism is actually an enemy that obstructs the truth and enslaves us to the invisible order we are spontaneously embedded in. Democracy is not enough. Democracy is acceptable as long as the populace is willing to see the light. The webcomic Sinfest is the perfect demonstration of ideology not only to the ideologues that happen to agree with it, but to us benighted pawns as well.
With the rise of the internet radicals and internet trolls, it would be an interesting exercise to apply the Turing test to Poe’s law. Is that person posting that stuff an idiot? Are they just pretending to be an idiot? Or is it idiots tricked into looking like even bigger idiots by a loose group of people pretending to be idiots? Because that’s exactly what happened with #EndFathersDay on twitter.
This prank originated on 4chan’s news and politics board, /pol/, a board known for its radicalism, offensiveness and free speech, and it’s clear that it was success. What’s more interesting is that this isn’t your typical black propaganda, because it actually fooled the people that it was satirizing into joining in. The hashtag topped twitter’s trending lists, sweeping up thousands of bona fide feminists in the apparently empowering anti-holiday frenzy. Plenty of savvier feminist tweeters pointed out that such tweets needed to stop – not because the rhetoric is fucking crazy, but because of who is originating the hashtag, since the internet is public and any group of people planning such thing will be uncovered with a little digging.