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March 20, 2015

i need a better name for this fallacy

Here, let's find another example of the how-can-I-be-bad-when-I-know-I'm-good fallacy, one removed entirely from politics.

So no doubt you've heard that a Penn State frat got busted for having a private Facebook page that may have had some useful purpose but contained enough photos of naked/drunk co-eds posted without their consent.  A member of the page blew the whistle, entire world noticed, and the university rightfully booted the frat for a year.

This is probably the point where I should say out loud that we all can agree that posting pics of naked/drunk co-eds without their consent, even on a private board, is wrong wrong wrong — in fact, some would say: indefensible.

Well an enterprising reporter from Philadelphia magazine found a member of this frat that agreed to (anonymously) defend the frat.  And it goes about as well as one would expect, and the tone of the whole thing is truly Oh Sure Keep Digging!  But this is how the bro excuses the behavior of the frat:

KDR member: It was a satirical group. It wasn't malicious whatsoever. It wasn't intended to hurt anyone. It wasn't intended to demean anyone. It was an entirely satirical group and it was funny to some extent. Some of the stuff, yeah, it's raunchy stuff, as you would expect from a bunch of college-aged guys

It was satire!  Naturally.  And just as naturally, the reporter (Holly Otterbein) follows up, as the secret board meets no human's definition of satire.

Philly Mag: You said the page was funny. What was funny about it?

KDR member: It's not funny. Funny's not always the right word. It's satire. There's a certain stereotypical Greek life culture and, as you see in movies, people try to live up to that and people try to kind of incorporate those elements, but it's like, you know what Snapchat is?

Philly Mag: Yes.

KDR member: Yeah, like you get a Snapchat, and people send like raunchy Snapchats all the time. ... It's not a malicious type of thing ... Everybody's ... saying, "Oh, there's pictures of passed-out girls," and making it seem out to be such a malicious thing. It's like, yeah, girls pass out or fall asleep all the time and somebody takes a Snapchat or picture and, like, it's not that it's funny. But it's just satire. ... Nobody's sitting there like, "Oh ... how are we going to victimize these people?" ... Go on a site like totalfratmove.com [where they post things like] the girl of the day or ... like the swimsuit model of the day ... it's just, you know, fooling around.

Mild attempt to hide behind "everyone else is doing it!" notwithstanding, dudeman has absolutely no idea of anything other than how wrong the page was, and he innocent he and his brothers are in any event, and the attendant confusion causes him to babble on and on like, oh, maybe, some dumbass teen-bro after too many kegstands.

It is not even a remotely sophisticated moral question, and can be answered with the brief application of the consideration of whether you would be happy to have shots of your passed-out naked sister in such a forum, but the insistence of virtue is just too strong for this jerk to get past.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:43 AM

March 18, 2015

neal stephenson in world policy journal

It's March 18, 2015, for the record, and I don't know if it's the world or it's just me (probably a combination of both) but today's read of the newspaper was DECIDEDLY NOT FUN.  And I've engaged in reckless cataloguing of shit that sucks in the past and I'm not convinced of its utility, but let's just say that when you're certain that there's no way for the planet to further let you down, then some murderous kleptocrat retains office on a "The darkies are voting!" plank, or some thugs kill a bunch of people in an art museum or OKAY OKAY I'll stop.

So instead this, which was a delight to me when I read it last week — a nice quick chat between author Neal Stephenson and the editors of World Policy Journal.  Stephenson I guess can be an acquired taste, but I've acquired it, and the topic of the chat, the future, is immensely interesting and a topic in which Stephenson is sort of an expert.

Though of course since the topic is the future it's not super-cheery, and in fact when reading this, for the first time I realized that there's no more talking about stopping climate change, only mitigating it, or dealing with the changes.  Sez Stephenson:

I sat down with some people a few years ago to try to think about carbon sequestration and what it would take to extract a significant amount of carbon back out of the atmosphere, and the numbers were just insane. Effectively you're talking about taking every coal mine and every oil well and every natural gas well that has ever existed, and running it backwards full tilt for centuries to take the carbon out of the air.

See not cheery at all!  But it's good to read smart people talking about things that aren't just stoopid, like, say, arming ISIS.

Back to the coal mine!

Posted by mrbrent at 11:53 AM