Links Roundup: February 1st-19th, 2017

So I’ve been meaning to get this site more active, and I’ve been telling myself to get off my lazy butt and write more reviews (which I haven’t done). But while I’m trying to convince myself to start writing (and reading) again, I figured I should do a somewhat (bi?)monthly links roundup, of articles I want to return to sometime in the future.

Some of these might be sort of old, and some are new. They’re just ones that I’ve read somewhat recently that I don’t want to forget.


Ex-Neo Nazis Explain What’s Driving the Alt-Right

When I first saw this, I was afraid it was going to be more of the whole “humanizing the opposition” kind of deal, but nope, it wasn’t. It was precisely about how much we shouldn’t take these people’s positions to be reasonable.

The alt-right does not exist. It’s nothing more than white supremacists who have repackaged the hate and served it up in a more palatable form for human consumption.

And some other great gems, like this one:

[What I was known for] when I was part of the movement was to make the unreasonable sound reasonable. So you could take the Nazi ideology and use a different language to make it sound very reasonable. If you put on a shirt and a tie with a suit, and tell people to go to college, don’t get tattoos, and go mainstream, it makes white supremacy appear reasonable. I did that during my time in the movement. And it’s funny to see it 20 years later, and that’s exactly what the whole movement looks like now.


“Iron Fist” proves Marvel is obsessed with rich white men—and it’s ruining their superheroes

Of course, Marvel whitewashes yet another character, and no one is surprised. A bit more topical of an article than I’m planning on linking here in the future, but it makes a good, concise case.

First, Danny is not an outsider in any meaningful sense—which the hackneyed railer makes painfully clear. Danny is a billionaire white guy with superpowers, a tragic backstory, and a destiny.

Rich white dudes saving the world—that’s Iron Man, Arrow, Batman, Dr. Strange, Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, and, for that matter, Bill Gates. Yes, those rich white guys are often presented as lonely or isolated. But it’s an awfully crowded white savior island. As far as American pop culture goes, Iron Fist’s origin story is about as insider-y as you can get.

The second problem with Loeb’s explanation is that it suggests that Asian Americans somehow aren’t outsiders. This isn’t true, as Shaun Lau, an Asian-American activist and co-creator of the “No, Totally!” podcast explains. “I don’t think people understand the extent to which ‘outsider’ describes the life of an Asian-American,” Lau said. “When I walk down the street, I’m not perceived as an American because of the way I look. But I did a family trip to China, Japan, and Hong Kong, when I was 19, and I didn’t fit in at all in any of those places. I don’t speak the language, just looking at me the people who live there knew that I was American.”

Unlike Rand, Asian Americans are perceived as aliens both in the US and abroad. “Asian-Americans really are this level of outsider that would work really, really well with the character of Danny Rand,” Lau said.


J.Y. Yang’s New Silkpunk Novellas Have Some of the Most Gorgeous Covers We’ve Ever Seen

I absolutely love Ken Liu’s work, so I jumped for joy when I saw this headline. I am completely in support of making silkpunk a viable subgenre. It needed to happen, like, yesterday.

I wanted to write fun action-adventure that had things that I wanted to see in secondary-world fantasy: queer romance, Asian characters, difficult women.

They had me at “queer”. I’m getting these books, definitely.


Drop Apocalyptic Thinking and Get in the Streets: On White/Male Voices Stifling Resistance

I actually have not seen a single article that the writers are talking about (probably because I ruthlessly cull my facebook friend group so that only the most radical survives), but I’ve definitely interacted (as briefly as possible) with some of the men the authors talk about.

In addition to this, the idea that “apocalyptic” events can be observed and predicted from a distance — abstractly, and with action seen as an option to be weighed strategically, rather than as a necessity — rests on privilege. So does the adrenaline-fueled tone of certain white male writers in envisioning our society’s collapse. We saw a different version of this in the primary when white men went on record saying that Bernie supporters should vote for Trump out of a desire to just “burn it down” and “bring the revolution,” romanticizing an image of destruction. They seemed to assume that they wouldn’t be the ones caught in the flames, but would be safely watching the fire from above.

Lots of great stuff in here in general.

A contrasting image that we see as more useful is the experience of joining a crowd at a protest. To participate, you need to temporarily let go of the “aerial view.” Which means that you may not have a sense of the whole scope of what is going on until you see the aerial photographs later. Your field of vision is necessarily limited, at least temporarily — sometimes to the backs of the heads of the people in front of you, and the signs in the air. But that’s what it means to participate. And this involves some level of surrender, moving out of what can be, for many white people, the comfortable and familiar position of being an outside observer of events.

Note: It’s not as clear as I would like, but the authors use “get on the streets” in a metaphorical way to represent political action. So not just protests, but also engaging with local politics. I mention this because I understand that not all activists can be literally “on the ground” for a variety of reasons, and I think that calls to action should never invalidate other ways of engaging with activism.


What Liberals Don’t Get About Free Speech In The Age Of Trump

This is probably the best articulation of how I feel about the “free speech” debate that I’ve read in recent memory.

This is the key difference. You can think whatever you like, and even say it without fear of government reprisal, but when you introduce force-multipliers for speech into the equation, things begin to get very hazy indeed. You have a right to a view; do you have a right to pronounce it to millions of New York Times readers, however? No. We have no problem recognizing this when it’s about something silly like Bigfoot, but the minute matters of consequence enter the frame, suddenly people are mystified by the very existence of standards.

To speak to so vast an audience is a privilege, not a right. To speak through a newspaper or magazine column, a TV talk show, an interview on national TV, a speech at a university, or a primetime debate program, is, by its very nature, a privilege not open to all. There are billions of people on this planet, each speaking their views at any one time, but they can’t all appear on the Today show. Once again, we intuitively grasp this basic logistical matter, but forget about it entirely when a raving bigot shows up, feeling cornered by an abstract principle into insisting that he or she be given not only space to speak, but the largest possible platform and audience for it.

Also, some great things about the liberal abstraction of concrete rights.

One of the biggest problems with mainstream liberalism is its fetish for abstract principle over material reality. It is prone to forgetting that in a democracy, principles exist as a means to an end: the guarantee of maximal rights and liberties for the greatest number of people. A right is a tangible thing for the person who needs it most: a freedom from imprisonment by the state, food on the table, a roof over one’s head, a life free from deprivation. The abstraction of that right in legal documentation serves only to ensure its guarantee for the most people; when examining specific cases, we must always drill back down to the material in order to properly assess what is ethical and just.

What liberalism’s fetish for abstraction does, however, is leave it woefully unprepared for rights conflicts, which are inevitable in a complex society. At some point, one person’s exercise of their rights will come into conflict with another person exercising theirs, and this dispute must be adjudicated upon. Someone’s rights will be abridged as a result, which will be necessary to guaranteeing democracy’s stated aims.

The right to free speech is essential; it is very, very far from abstract. Ask anyone who had their phone searched at a border crossing this past week. That scenario is the very reason we have a First Amendment: uniformed, armed officers of the state, searching the correspondence of a civilian to see whether they criticized the president, punishing them if offending material is found. More than anything our First Amendment exists to protect the rights of the ordinary person to criticize those in power without fear of reprisal from the state. Yet instead we debate the right of an already rich man to use his exalted platform to take away the speech rights of others.

This is largely because liberal abstraction — and its counterparts on the political right — are very shy about delving into the specifics of any one case, lest it complicate an otherwise triumphantly straightforward argument.

So. Well. Articulated.


Men Explain Lolita to Me

I’m always up for some intersectional feminist rant on sexism, especially when it’s related to literature!

But seriously, you know who can’t take a joke? White guys. Not if it implicates them and their universe, and when you see the rage, the pettiness, the meltdowns and fountains of male tears of fury, you’re seeing people who really expected to get their own way and be told they’re wonderful all through the days.

I didn’t really need the clarification of #NotAllWhiteMen that the author wrote after this bit, but I can appreciate the necessity of it. (And sigh at the fact that it is even necessary in the first place.)

Dilbert comic Scott Adams wrote last month that we live in a matriarchy because, “access to sex is strictly controlled by the woman.” Meaning that you don’t get to have sex with someone unless they want to have sex with you, which if we say it without any gender pronouns sounds completely reasonable. You don’t get to share someone’s sandwich unless they want to share their sandwich with you, and that’s not a form of oppression either. You probably learned that in kindergarten.

But if you assume that sex with a female body is a right that heterosexual men have, then women are just these crazy illegitimate gatekeepers always trying to get in between you and your rights. Which means you have failed to recognize that women are people, and perhaps that comes from the books and movies you have—and haven’t—been exposed to, as well as the direct inculcation of the people and systems around you. Art matters, and there’s a fair bit of art in which rape is celebrated as a triumph of the will (see Kate Millet’s 1970 book Sexual Politics, which covers some of the same male writers as the Esquire list) . It’s always ideological, and it makes the world we live in.

On point. And, once again, I hate the necessity of having to justify that “art influences us” because it should be obvious. But apparently it isn’t.

Also, this is probably my favorite line in this whole article (it’s great):

I just goggle in amazement at the batshit that comes out of [these men]; it’s like I’m running a laboratory and they keep offering up magnificent specimens.


Book Review: Eichmann in Jerusalem

I’ve since picked up Eichmann in Jerusalem after reading this review, and I’m currently (slowly) working my way through it. The ending notes of this review has stuck with me a long time after I read it, so I wanted to share it here.

First, the refugee aspect of all of this is even more important than I thought. I said it before, but I think it bears more emphasis. The Western nations’ failure to accept refugees from Nazi Germany didn’t just kill a couple of Jews who made it out before the killing started. Germany started off perfectly willing to let every single Jew in Europe emigrate to any country that would take them. Nowhere would. This obviously doesn’t absolve the Nazis of any blame, but it sure doesn’t make the rest of the world look very good either.

Second, it’s worth remembering that the Final Solution was the Nazis’ third or fourth plan, not their first. Eichmann argued that this ought to humanize him; sure, he wanted Germany Judenfrei, but at least he had the decency to try to do it humanely before moving on to genocide. But even if he’s right, humanizing Nazis is a two-way street. The more human and comprehensible the Nazis’ evil becomes, the closer it gets to the lesser evils of our own day. White separatists complain that they are misrepresented; that they have no intention of killing anybody, that they just want to help everybody get the right to live separately among their own people. I accept that they believe that and that it is unfair to misrepresent them. But having acknowledged their position, the next step is to acknowledge that the Nazis seem to have genuinely believed that too. For a while.

It’s scary how this perfectly mirrors, as others have said, the alt-right today, where we get folks like Richard Spencer claiming that they’re not neo-Nazis (even though they quote Hitler and did the Seig Heil at Trump’s election win) because they want “””peaceful””” ethnic cleansing. Well, the Nazis originally wanted that too, and look where we are now.

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