A few links of the day, on a general "careful what you wish for" theme. Proponents of greater state control in a good cause never seem to consider the quite likely possibility that these instruments of enforcement might well be turned against themselves.
1. Here's an almost literally interminable denunciation of the First Amendment, the United States, and liberalism in the name of furthering "progressive" aims for a more just society.
Now, it may well be a parody, or "trolling" or somesuch. On the other hand, it may not be, and I've bumped up against enough right-on good and true self-identifying "progressives" who sincerely share these views to put that question in irresolvable doubt. If this particular writer is not sincere, she might as well be. tl;dr (and boy is it ever "tl"): the US is backward and uncivilized for failing to join Europe and other more "progressive" countries in imprisoning those who express unpleasant, unhelpful, offensive, or otherwise forbidden views about this or that. In a better world (e.g. Australia) people would be judged "automatically guilty of offending, insulting, humiliating, or intimidating minorities unless they can prove their innocence beyond any reasonable doubt." Further: "in Australia, you absolutely cannot call yourself a progressive unless you actively work to criminalize all forms of un-progressive speech."
Well, what could go wrong? "Progressive" in the sense used here is quite vague, characterizing a mood and a sense of cultural affinity rather than anything specific or concrete; and what might, over time, constitute the presumptively inviolable ok "progressive" type of speech is accordingly subject to a great deal of uncertainty. (Indeed, it varies widely from progressive to progressive at present; everyone has an ox they'd rather not see gored, even the putative "good people.") Moreover, states can and will use such laws as pretexts to target those it deems to be enemies, who could well include some of the good people, oddly enough. How do you know whether your ideas are forbidden or "okay" at any given point? Answer: wait to see if the state decides to punish you for them. Trust the state. The state is your friend. It hardly ever uses its power to oppress people, particularly minorities.
Indeed,the notion that the sort of system proposed here is likely to protect minorities, rather than subject them to arbitrary abuse, now or down the road, is puzzling-to-insane. It can only seem sensible, it seems to me, to someone who believes he or his will never, ever be in the crosshairs, a particularly ludicrous assumption for a left-activist to make. In fact, this essay itself feels quite hate-y, as it were. Would our ingenuous Australian progressive care to roll the dice and let someone else decide whether or not she should be imprisoned for it? The First Amendment is an attempt to take the state out of that equation, and thank God we've got it. Maybe, if the article is a parody, that's the point being made here as well, oblique, leaden, and interminable though it may be. ("Assaults on the human dignity of Muslims are simply not tolerated in Europe." Irony or mere distance from awareness of reality? You decide. Regardless, Bill of Rights all the way.)
2. Fredrik deBoer comments on the latest Laura Kipnis controversy summarized here. tl;dr: Professor Kipnis wrote a flippant article decrying sexual policing and the new censorious spirit on campus, in response to which a group of students showed up outside her office with mattresses (because apparently this is a thing now -- the mattress is the new pitchfork) demanding that the university officially condemn her, and demonstrating her point more eloquently than the essay itself ever could. Irony noted by deBoer, who adds:
That should be a lesson to the left in general: we should oppose incursions on free speech not merely out of principle but also because the left is vulnerable and lacks power, by its very nature. Precisely because we speak for powerless constituencies, the left will very rarely control the ability to dictate which kinds of speech are permissible. We are much more likely to be censored than to effectively censor others. Only in the funhouse mirror views of campus life or online bubbles could we become so sure of our own ability to dictate who gets to say what, when. It’s for that reason that I say, for example, that the day we pass anti-hate speech legislation in this country is the day that Palestinian activism is declared hate speech, because of inequities in political power in this country. The left’s flirtations with censorship are not merely wrong on principle; they’re self-destructive.Indeed.
3. Finally, a quote from Reason's Robby Soave, in his post about the latest case of abuse by Virginia's Department of Alcohol Beverage Control. (They beat a black UVA student bloody after he was turned away from a bar.) Apparently the increased police presence was at least partly instituted "for the protection of women."
It does suck. But as was the case with the terrible choking death of Eric Garner, liberals should remember that a general call for more things to be illegal—for the government to do more about a problem—is by necessity a call for increasingly vigorous policing. A demand for bigger government is essentially a request for more clashes between cops and citizens (socially-marginalized citizens, in particular).Whenever government agents are caught abusing citizens on the basis of some inane pretext, well-meaning people always respond with sincere calls for the institution of still more such pretexts, that is, for greater, rather than lesser, effective power to the institutions responsible for the abuse. There are great problems in our society, obviously, but if anything is clear from the last several decades, it's that you can't simply criminalize your way out of social problems without the risk of making them far worse. e.g., the War on Drugs most egregiously but I believe it's something like a generally applicable dynamic as well. Activism for greater state power on behalf of those most vulnerable and likely to suffer from it truly boggles my mind.
Or, in meme form:
But he doesn't have any money. So, we just give him some money, then have him give it right back to us, wouldn't that work? I don't know, that might make it look kind of implausible that's he's at fault, like the only reason he did it is because we arranged it all and told him what to say and what to do and who to take the money from and who to give it to. I know, we'll give the money to someone else to give to him, then tell him to give it back to us. Wait, can't we just skip the middleman and give the money directly to ourselves, blaming it on him? And actually why does there even need to be any money in the first place? We can just say there was some money, somewhere, and it'd be the same difference. And that way we could even maybe use the technique on people who aren't mentally ill. That would really widen our field of targets. No, no shortcuts, this is a big case. We have to do it by the book.
A revolving metal cylinder containing a sacred text, the Tibetan prayer wheel is set in motion by the turn of a human hand. The result is an automated form of prayer, which the votary believes may secure good fortune and the prospect of liberation from the round of birth and death. The belief system that the prayer wheel serves may possess a certain archaic charm, with its sacred texts displaying a dialectical subtlety not often found in western philosophy. Still, it will be self-evident to any modern mind that the device is thoroughly unscientific. How much better to fashion a high-tech prayer wheel – an electronic tablet containing inspirational statistics on the progress of humankind, powered by algorithms that show this progress to be ongoing.
Unlike the old-fashioned prayer wheel, the device would be based on the latest scientific knowledge. Programmed to collect and process big data, it would have the ability to deliver statistics that never fail to show long-term improvement in the human condition. If regress of any kind was happening, it would appear as a temporary pause in the forward march of the species. In order to ward off moods of doubt – to which even the most convinced believers in improvement are occasionally prone – the device would broadcast sound versions of the uplifting statistics. Best of all, the device would be designed to be worn at all times.
-- John Gray, on the role of the stats, charts, and graphs in Steven Pinker's account of our nature's better angels' inexorable Whiggish progress from the Englightenment to the positivist earthly paradise that is allegedly just about almost pretty much here already. (He also references the matrices of John Dee's angels, unexpectedly and aptly. The sweeping final section would be worth reading for the masterful rhetoric alone, even if he weren't on to something, which I believe he is.)
Mostly just random:
-- At the end of a run of joyful riffing on the manifold absurdities of Treacherous Love by Beatrice Sparks (of Go Ask Alice fame) the host of this podcast has nice things to say about King Dork and my musical oeuvre, if oeuvre means what I think it does. (The podcast's theme is "godawful books," and it was funny/interesting enough that I checked out a few other episodes as well. Good-natured ridicule is the best kind, and this is fun stuff.)
-- here's an interview I did for WYPL's Book Talk program in Memphis.
-- Q&A w/me in the Berkeley Monthly.
-- King Dork Approximately is on this list of "six of the best YA outsider stories" on the Barnes & Noble teen blog; also on that blog (and I can't remember if I've linked to it before so if so, sorry) King Dork appears as a Catcher in the Rye counterpoint on < href="http://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/teen/some-actual-young-adult-suggestions-for-times-young-adult-list/">this Time magazine-baiting list.
-- Dr. Frank, the Punks in Vegas interview.
-- I wound up on this list of 15 authors to watch on Popcrush.
-- They compared me to Sondheim ("a Sondheim he ain't...") I think that's what the reference in this Washington Post post is getting at.
Here be my shows update. Some are book things (where I usually play songs) and some are MTX etc. rock and roll shows. See if there's anything you like.
Thurday, March 12
Indigo Literacy Night, Frost Elementary, 530 Gettysburg Dr, San Jose, CA 95123. 6 PM.
w/Dashka Slater, Jennifer Fosberry, Sarah Jamila Stevenson
Wednesday, March 18
Adobe Books, 3130 24th St, San Francisco, California 94103
7PM. with Bucky Sinister, and Michael T. Fournier. Note, this is at the new location of Adobe on 24th. Should be a good time so come on by. (Facebook page here.)
Saturday, March 21
Geekfest 2015, 924 Gilman Street, Berkeley, CA 94710
Noon - 8PM. Free. w/Black Fork, Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits, Jewdriver, the Hammerbombs and many more. This'll be a solo acoustic set from me.
Friday, March 27
Thee Parkside, 1600 17th Street, San Francisco, CA 415-252-1330.
MTX show w/the Queers, the Bombpops, and the Piniellas. $20. Buy tickets here.
Saturday, March 28
The Troubadour, 9081 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069.
MTX show w/the Queers, The Bombpops, and the Piniellas. $20. Buy tickets here.
Sunday, March 29
Burgerama, The Observatory, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, CA. 714-957-0600.
This is a big festival that MTX and the Queers are crashing. I'll get to say I shared a bill with Gang of Four, Weezer, and Roky Erickson, kinda like the time we played in a parking lot marginally related to show featuring U2, I guess. Real show biz, in other words.
Saturday, April 4
Atomic Books, 3620 Falls Rd, Baltimore, Maryland 21211
5PM. This is a pre-show bookstore appearance, the show being the Insub Spring Thing listed just below. Reading, signing, Q&A and (probably mostly) acoustic songs. Facebook event page here.
and then, at 9PM:
Insub Spring Thing, the Sidebar Tavern, 218-20 E Lexington St, Baltimore, Maryland 21202
The line-up is supposed to be a secret, but there are five bands, one of whom will be backing me playing MTX songs.
Tuesday, April 14
Teen Book Fest, Lafayette Library and Learning Center, Lafayette Public Library, 3491 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, CA, 94549. 6PM.
w/ Yvonne Prinz, Betsy Streeter, Mitali Perkins and Veronica Rossi