Friday, December 23, 2016

Adam Saleh: Post-Truth, Fake News Poster Boy

YouTube prankster/troublemaker Adam Saleh is in the news because he claims he was kicked off of a Delta flight from London to NYC because he spoke Arabic on the plane and it freaked people out.

Now, if this is the straight up, absolute truth, yes, indeed, that isn't cool. But, there are more than enough reasons to doubt the fact that this whole thing really is about him speaking Arabic and why this is a perfect example of post-truth fake news.

Adam Saleh uploaded a video onto twitter of him and his friend being hoofed off a plane as he called everyone around him racist and was loudly complaining about how he was being kicked off for talking to his mom on the phone in Arabic.
It has been shared around the internet and seeming every major news outlet grabbed onto the story. It kicked off a #boycottdelta hashtag and people screamed about discrimination and how this is the new norm in Trump's America, etc, etc.

Now, a number of sources (including countless of people on social media) are saying he was kicked off the flight and the whole thing was caught on tape. His supporters are saying it can't be refuted because there it is, right on tape. People are convinced that it happened...because of this video evidence.

Well, what does the video ACTUALLY show? It doesn't show the incident that happened that led up to him and his friends being kicked off the flight. It doesn't show that at all. Not on there. Can't be seen. Evidence doesn't exist. All we see in the video is Saleh calling everyone around him racist, berating people and being a loudmouth claiming he was being kicked off because he spoke Arabic.

So, no, the whole thing was NOT caught on video. Very little of this event was actually caught on video. And yet, there are those claiming that the whole thing was caught on video and the evidence is irrefutable. And people are angry, saying Delta is racist and they will never fly with them again.

Now, I was not there. I don't know what happened anymore than most of those who have decided they won't fly on this airline do. Yet, people believe that based on the video they know exactly what happened. don't. This is post-truth thinking. It seems people are almost convinced that they have seen something they actually have not seen. Mix that with the knee jerk outrage people are showing online, and voila, you have a perfect fake news story going viral.

Now, this video needs to be put in context. Adam Saleh is a YouTube "star" with thousands of followers. He is known for making "social experiment" videos to try and catch people in the act of being racist or "islamophobic". He agitates and "race baits". And, he pulls crazy stunts.

Look, the possibility does exist, of course, that despite this problematic reality, what he says happened actually happened (although there seems to be enough statements, including from the airline itself to cast significant doubt). But, all of the evidence has to be looked at here.

All kinds of people all over the world get onto a plane every single day speaking all kinds of languages. Very, very infrequently do people get chucked off planes for racist reasons or because they are Muslim. It's extremely rare, even though I have seen people on twitter say it happens on a daily basis. It does not. It isn't because there are very few companies willing to put themselves under that level of scrutiny for making a mistake such as that, even though it has happened at times. But, the last thing most airlines want is to be caught up in a controversy. It's bad business.

So, given that, what are the chances that the one dude, out of very few, that got kicked off a plane for speaking a different language or being Muslim just happens to be a vlogger who makes a living off of pulling stunts EXACTLY like this one? Think about that, honestly. That is the context here. We have a man who would go to the ends of the earth to make a video trying to prove society is racist and "islamophobic" and an airline that really does NOT want bad publicity? Who do you think would be the agitator here? Who has the most to gain...and who has the most to lose?

Now, it has been pointed out that, yes, indeed, these kinds of weird things have happened before, but, once again, VERY rarely. One incident was a Muslim couple who were kicked off a flight because the husband was nervous and sweaty and the wife was on her cellphone and the word "Allah" was mentioned. This made a flight attendant uncomfortable and the couple were removed from the flight. It was a BAD mistake. The couple were perfectly innocent and the airline admitted their mistake and did what they can to make amends. It was a sad case that every airline should, and most likely did learn from. And, no, a major airline will do everything it can to avoid a mistake that will make them look bad and start a call for a boycott.

In the end, we may never know the actual truth. Few people were there and saw what happened. The story has taken on a life of it's own and being used as an example to push certain agendas, whether it be the idea that everyone and everything is racist and islamophobic...or that Muslims are liars and there is no racism and it's all made up. Both sides...are very wrong, and this story has fed into both of them perfectly. It is a story sent from heaven for both sides who insist they know the truth here...but don't.

Personally, ya, I'm highly sceptical of Adam Saleh's account. But, I acknowledge that I wasn't there. I acknowledge that I don't possess the absolute truth here. I may not believe him, but that doesn't mean the chances that this happened are zero. Who knows. I don't see it as an example of how crazy Trump's America has suddenly become as some want to sell this as. I don't believe for a second that the majority of people who are true victims of hate and abuse are faking it, as some seem to say a video like this shows. It's clear that something happened, but it's difficult to say exactly what. I can only look at the evidence we have...and, in my view, it seems to stack up against Adam Saleh and we appear to have a bogus event that has triggered knee jerk reaction and proved that the truth really doesn't matter here at all.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Stop Trying To Educate, Woke Peeps

You know what people absolutely LOVE? When they are told what to think, how to act and what to do! Yes, I do mean that sarcastically. Clearly, there are few people on this planet who like it when people belittle them by telling them how they should conduct their business. This is where my fellow friends on the left are failing. All these "woke" peeps intent on educating the masses by blasting everyone about how racist or bigoted they are isn't going as smoothly as some would like it too.

The fact of the matter is, too many of these woke folks are intent on controlling what people think and do. They haven't figured out that no one can control anyone else but themselves. You can't control the masses. You can only control how you, personally, conduct yourself in the world. Instead of badgering, lead by example. That's about all you can do.

Oppose racism? Don't be racist. Oppose sexism? Don't be sexist. Oppose bigotry? Don't be bigoted. It's pretty simple. You can't just go around thinking you'll educate everyone that you think are doing life wrong. It just doesn't work. It pisses people off. They get their backs up. They end up loathing you. And you have achieved nothing. If your goal is to achieve nothing, well, there you go. You are a success!

Stop trying to educate, and focus on how YOU act. Be an example, not an unsolicited educator. Make the world a better place through your actions, not through your aggression or egotistical self serving attempts to educate everyone you disagree with. Be the change...not the jerk.

I should also note before ending this that I have often fallen into the trap that I rail against here. I am getting older now. I'm 42 years of age and my understanding of the world is altering all the time. My ideas develop and grow as I learn and experience. That's the way life is...a constant learning experience. Enjoy!

Originally posted at Allthink.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Who Said It First. Donald Trump or SJWs?

I wrote this originally as a Facebook status. Then I put it on AllThink. Now, I'm re-RE-posting it here...

You've heard the story no doubt about Donald Trump being upset that Mike Pence went to see "Hamilton", was booed and then at the end called out by the cast. Trump tweeted that the theatre should be a safe space and the cast should apologize to Pence. Here was my Facebook status response. "Donald Trump says that theatres should be safe spaces. HAHAHAHAHA! NO! No. They are places where ideas should be challenged. They are places for ideas to be expressed. The Arts is a place for the mind to take a million different paths, some comfortable and many that aren't. NOW, if we can just get the ban, censor, dox happy, no platforming, safe space demanding left to realize this, we would be getting somewhere. Whether it is a concert venue, a play, a comedy club, an art gallery, or a book store, the space is not safe. There will be something there to offend at least one person, whether it be the name of a band, lyrics, writing from a dark place, uncomfortable paintings or sculptures, performance pieces, or a comedy routine that uses off colour and disturbing ideas, we must stop demanding a complete cleansing of these environments. No, a homophobic and scary VP is not immune to being criticized at the theatre. And no, a left wing social justice frontliner is not immune to being offended in artistic settings.

But, furthermore, this should be the case not only in artistic settings, but also colleges and universities, places where ideas should be openly discussed, challenged and hashed out. You are most likely aware of the situation that exists on some campuses, and how free speech and the free flow of ideas is being heavily curtailed. It isn't right wing Trump supporters who are doing this. Not in the slightest. It is the left, or at least some on the left, who are doing this. So, before anyone on the left gets too high and mighty and starts to mock Trump for a very mockable statement, you should look and apply the same mocking to the idea some on the left have that they, as well, should exist in a massive safe space free from challenge.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Protesting Trump Is The Right Thing To Do

When a man threatens to punish women for having abortions, demonizes huge swathes of the population, surrounds himself with the scariest of far right politicians like Mike Pence who has done everything in his power to block any laws protecting the rights of LGBT people, openly brags about sexual assault and treats women like pieces of meat, condones and encourages violence, declares war on the media, has made it a top priority to take away health insurance from millions of Americans, makes enemies of neighboring countries, mocks disabled folks and refuses to pay taxes, ya, you bet people are going to take to the streets. It's not a matter of being sore losers. It's now a matter of fighting to protect rights and dignity. It's now a fight against promises of increased oppression. It's now a fight against a list of ideas that can only be described as fascist. That said, don't destroy shit. 

And, when protesting, do keep in mind that if Trump supporters protested, it would probably be mocked and derided in the same way that anti-Trump protesters are being treated. So, don't get too pissed off at them. Understand that if everything was reversed, Trump supporters would be upset as well. They wanted change. They were unhappy as well. This whole campaign was SO polarized and the differences between the two sides so stark that there is no way that this was going to end on election night. No matter who won, someone was going to be taking to the streets and it wasn't going to be a pretty scene.

So, protest. Everyone has that right. But, destroying property and violence can't be seen as acceptable. Go forth, speak your mind, scream, yell...and as said above, don't break shit.

Originally posted at Allthink

Monday, November 7, 2016

Yes, It Is Perfectly Fine To NOT Vote

As we get closer to the election, the "YOU MUST VOTE!!!" rhetoric is ratcheting up. The message is that if you don't vote, you are being an idiot who is passing up on your right and that is WRONG. Ugh.

Look, yes, countries like Canada and the US are democracies. You have the right to vote for who you want to lead the country. BUT, you also have the right NOT to vote if you wish. It is your choice. Don't feel guilted into voting. If you don't see anyone on the ballot you wish to vote for and you decide to not vote, that isn't a bad thing. You have not done anything wrong by doing that. Yes, elections are important, but democracy doesn't end at the ballot box. You still have a say on issues between elections and there are still ways to make your views known. If on election day, you decide not to vote, there really is nothing wrong with it and anyone that says otherwise is being stupid.

For example, right now, I am on twitter and I am looking at a tweet that reads, "If you don't vote you have no right to complain." Yes, you do. You still have a right to complain. You have a right to complain about a lot of things. You have a right to complain that there aren't any options you wish to vote for or even feel good about voting for. You can complain because, as I said above, democracy doesn't end at the ballot box. Just because you aren't part of election day doesn't mean your voice is gone. It just means you chose not to be part of that particular exercise. All of your rights are still intact and don't disappear if you decide NOT to vote.

 Also, you know what, if you decide to vote, you should not feel guilty about who you decide to vote for. What I mean in this case is that if you decide that you want to vote for a third party candidate, do it. Vote as you see fit. It is your voice after all. Ya, there is a lot of rhetoric about how a vote for a third party is a vote for Trump or it means you are throwing away your vote. No. You are voting for who you feel you want to vote for. You have that right and no one has the right to take that away from you and you should not feel guilty. And I say that hoping that each and every American doesn't vote for Trump and puts their votes towards making Hillary president (because as a Canadian, she is the one that would be best for MY country in the long run). But, even though I feel that, it is ultimately YOUR choice to make and you should make it free of guilt.

 So, let's recap. You are not a bad person if you decide not to vote. You are not a bad person if you decide to vote third party. It is totally up to you. It isn't up to anyone else. It is up to YOU. It's YOUR decision and you deserve to have full control over that decision.

(Originally posted at Allthink)

Friday, August 26, 2016

So, You Say You Can't Be Racist?

I've been told that someone who is not white cannot be racist. Hmmmm. Okay.

That's fine. Okay. Even though racism is defined as prejudice or discrimination against people based on their ethnicity or skin colour and that skin colour is not specifically stated to be anything but white I'll play along with that for the sake of argument.

But then, I see the same people break into the exact same rhetoric that someone who is white would be chastised for because it's racist. Okay. But, we have determined that you can't be racist towards someone who is white. Got it.

So, let's make a new term for it. Well, not even a new term. Let's bring in a tried and true term. We won't use racist...we will just say that if you choose this type of rhetoric you are an asshole. You may not be racist apparently, but you are still being an asshole. Copying the rhetoric of other assholes that you have a problem with because you see it as racist is still being an asshole. You are no better than the person you dub racist if you are saying the exact same type of things but justifying it by saying you can't be racist because you aren't white.

So, the fight against racism is against people being assholes, if you really break it down. So, being an asshole as well accomplishes...what? How does this further us as humans? How does it improve discourse? How does it break down barriers? How does it encourage love, caring and bonding? How does this build bridges?

Oh doesn't.

So, what kinds of rhetoric am I talking about? Glad you asked. I just happened to have a blog post full of them from my personal blog. Enjoy!

Originally posted at Allthink

Friday, July 1, 2016

Guns, Guns, Guns!

I don't get guns. I don't get why people want them. I don't get the appeal. I don't get the need, for the most part. I just don't understand how people can equate guns with freedom. No one is free if they are shackled to a gun and always looking over their shoulder. That isn't freedom. To me, freedom is NOT having a gun...not needing a gun. I don't see freedom in guns. I see death. I see destruction. I see war. I see violence. But I don't see freedom. Yet, there are people who cling to their weapons and claim that it is giving them freedom. It is a concept that is beyond my understanding. But, whatever. If you love your hunks of murderous metal that much, have them. Enjoy. Just keep them away from me and for gawd sakes, don't frickin' shoot me. Go off and play bad boy with a gun. Have the time of your life. If it makes you feel special and all tingly, enjoy. I don't want to take away anyone's gun...well, unless that person is bound to end up slaughtering people. Then I think it's a good idea to make sure that a person doesn't have a gun. But, whatever. If a person has a gun and they aren't bothering me with it, knock yourself out. It's you and your families life, statistically, that you are playing with. As long as you don't play with mine and put me in danger, then go nuts.

Originally written for Allthink 

The Right didn't win Brexit...the Left LOST it...

So, how did all of that demonizing of the Leave side work out for everyone? Calling 17 million people bigoted idiots didn't exactly create the result you wanted, did it, fellow Lefties. Nope. You ignored the concerns, needs and realities for 17 million and it cost you dearly. Despite what you may think, democracy did work and the disenfranchised rose up against you.

In Britain, the Remain camp was generally more upwordly mobile, university educated, more well heeled city dwellers who are so out of touch with life outside of their bubbles that they thought merely writing off 17 million people as hateful idiots would equal a win. It didn't. The Left didn't listen. It ignored. And worse, it dismissed. This was the Remain camps referendum to lose...and they did.

It's now time for the Left to collect itself, accept it's faults and how it screwed up and start listening to the concerns, legit or not, of the disenfranchised, just as the Left wanted everyone else to listen to them during the Occupy movement, with Black Lives Matter, with UK Uncut, etc. The more conservative working class in Britain are trying to tell you something. Blaming everyone else or your screw up, Lefties, doesn't cut it. It's time for you to listen...and, heck, even "check your privilege!" Your macroagressions against "the other" backfired...and they weren't going to take it anymore.

Originally written for Allthink

The Problem With Victimhood

Victimhood...the never ending saga.

The problem with the whole idea of victimhood and using victimhood as some kind of leverage in SJW culture is that, well, at some point and time, every human on the planet is a victim of something....and in many ways, if one breaks things down and analyses it, we are all victims of something all the time.

So, what actually happens is pitting victimhood claims against other victimhood claims for a vicious battle over who is the most victimized, with a prioritized list of how it all works...a predetermined hierarchy that is used as a rigid, almost biblical guide on how this victimhood culture is supposed to go, with each group having their place on the ladder.

What a degrading and pathetic system. Why are we doing this? And who gets to determine whose victimhood status is more valid? The hierarchy automatically puts straight, white males at the very top, and thus almost invalidates any claims of victimhood by anyone who is seen in that group, and as a result brushing aside the many hardships that some white males actually do experience. Why should this been seen as right or just in any sense of the word? It isn't. There is no advantage to ignoring the realities of anyone who may have suffered or been a victim. It's all valid. At the same time, it is all valid, but also doesn't really matter, in some ways. If we are all victims of something, and we are, then the victimhood card becomes useless and must be tossed away.

Originally written for Allthink

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Why Do Some Western Liberals Spit In The Face Of Muslim Liberals?

So, I'm on twitter as I tend to do and am currently looking at tweets by one CJ Werleman who is a "Columnist for Middle East Eye. Host of 'Foreign Object' on iTunes. Author of The New Atheist Threat." Apparently, people who speak out against religion are a threat. Who knew? And what is a "new" atheist? It's the same as an old atheist...but they haven't been jailed or killed thanks to secularization. Unfortunately, if you look a 13 Muslim countries in the world, atheists can be sentenced to death by the state. But, hey, who is to judge, right? That would get you labelled as a neocon Islamophobe in CJ's circles.

He also seems to have an absolute disdain for those Muslims pushing for reform within Islam. He seems to particular have a hate on for Maajid Nawaz of the anti-extremist Quillium Foundation. Meanwhile, he does seem to have a thing for ultra-conservative Muslim organzations like CAGE UK. That's pretty twisted and makes a mockery of the whole concept of being a liberal. A liberal supporting ultra-conservatives over true liberals? Absurd.

As far as I can tell, CJ Werleman sees himself as some kind of progressive while selling out any progressive who doesn't happen to be in the West. Apparently, to him, the Muslim world is one giant, homogeneous land where everyone wishes to adhere to conservative religious belief without question and completely shuns seemingly all Muslims in the Muslim world who would like to live in a secular, liberal, free society. How dare people want to live like that. No, these are brown Muslims. Their culture is different. They shouldn't have liberal ideas pushed on them...or even mentioned to them. They don't deserve anything better than what they have. All their desire for a better life, for change in their countries, their wish to have a society where they are more free to express themselves is just them being brainwashed by Western imperialists who are using concepts like freedom and secularism to control the minds of a few to overthrow the much better ultra conservative regimes that he seems to feel shouldn't be challenged...or something.

In this case, it seems that CJ Werleman and his devotees have abandoned liberal ideas and aspirations. They have forsaken their liberal brothers and sisters in Muslim countries in what almost seems like a ridiculous form of racism where brown people in certain places on earth who wish for change aren't deserving of the same support from liberals that liberals in the West give each other, or at least should. Apparently, CJ Werleman's hate of "New Atheists" is far stronger than his desire to support non-white non-Western liberals. He is more obsessed with hating one group than he is helping another who is deserving of support and help.

With "liberals" like CJ Werleman, who needs conservative enemies?

Saturday, April 30, 2016

"I Hate White People"

Just sitting here, watching twitter. I searched "white people" to see what I can see. Interesting indeed. I mean, I'm not even digging deep here. I'm just plucking stuff off the live feed as it goes by for the most part. So, I'm just putting this out there. I don't think I will comment. Yes, there are things I can say, but I also know what the pat answers will be, or my comments may be taken the wrong way. And please, just don't assume you know what I would say. You don't. So, I'll just let it be.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

What Is This Cultural Appropriation Stuff?

Okay, in the last month we have had two high profile cases where this whole concept of cultural appropriation has busted loose. First, it was that African-American student at San Francisco State University that accused a white kid with dreads of cultural appropriation. Today, Justin Bieber was being ripped apart because he decided to sport dread-locks.

Now, here is what I can get behind. I know the whole black face thing is bad...and I get it. It has always had negative connotations. It's history is routed in insult. I can see why we steer clear of it. Got it. I'm on board. I understand why the Washington Redskin's logo is problematic, using a stereotyped depiction of a Native American as a logo is an understandable bad thing to do. I can even somewhat understand the uproar over those Native headdress knock off's that aren't really anything like traditional headdresses, just influenced by it, but I can see how they feed into stereotypes and can be problematic depending on how they are used, although don't see it as universally terrible.

But then comes the issue of dreadlocks. And that's where I stop and say no. That's my personal boundary on where I am NOT going to support people being upset.

In my 42 years on this planet, I've seen white people wearing dreads. It's not exactly some new thing white folks picked up. It's been around for a long time. In fact, it seems to me the word dreadlocks is about the only thing that has really been appropriated because seemingly any type of matted hair is called dreadlocks.

But, looking into the history of this varied hairstyle, there does not seem to be one clear, distinct culture it comes from. Love it or hate it, in this case Wikipedia does an interesting job of breaking down the assortment of cultures the "style" has been found in.

So, the question arises: When someone says that dreads are cultural appropriation, what culture is it exactly that is being appropriated?

It seem some folks say that the answer is "black culture" or "African culture". Wha? That's a pretty generic, all encompassing "culture". What even is that? I mean, African culture? How many countries are in Africa? How many cultures within Africa are there? How many cultures of people who originated in Africa but are now outside of Africa for a variety of reasons are there? Is the argument that there is one, giant, uniform African culture that has a copyright on this particular way of wearing ones hair? So, I don't really understand what this culture is. It doesn't account for the many, many, many cultures, sub-cultures, sub-sub-subcultures, etc that exist within any ethnic group. For that matter, all "blacks" aren't from one homogeneous culture anymore than all whites are.

So I object to these generic cultural claims that seem so wide sweeping, where blacks, or even crazier, the all encompassing POC (people of colour) and white seem to be the only two cultures that exist. And somehow, dreadlocks, or whatever you want to call hair that is twisted, matted, clumped together, or meticulously, artistically manipulated, depending on what the wearer is doing with them, are reserved exclusively for POC.  Does this mean ANYONE who is deemed POC is free to do something that appears like dreadlocks with their hair, but those deemed white aren't? I'm confused.

I've been seeing a lot of kids on twitter who are talking about cultural appropriation bringing up celebrities like Kylie Jenner, the Kardashians and some other people I don't know as examples. Apparently, they feel that when white people wear dreads, it's celebrated and seen as cool, but when black people do it, they are seen as thugs and hoodlums. Again, this is something I see as a pretty generalized view of things. I think it's far more complicated than that. But one problem I see is that way too many of these kids are watching really crappy TV and listening to terrible, terrible music.

Here is what I don't get. The Kardashians are olive/darker skinned Armenians. I would think they would fall under the category of POC. BUT, apparently, they are deemed to be white. Huh? How is this determined exactly? Who is judging? Who makes these calls? Apparently, because olive/darker skin Kardashians are seen as white, them wearing dreads is bad....very bad. Okay, well, here is one way to solve the problem...quit making stupid people famous! If they piss you off, don't watch them. When people don't watch them, they go away. Real simple.

Next thing that drives me nuts is when some say "White people can't judge what is and isn't cultural appropriation, only those who are from the culture being appropriated". Okay. Well, here is my problem with that. Does this mean that automatically, because someone says that something is appropriated from them, even though evidence suggests that this is just not true, they must be believed because they are perceived as a victim in this case? And as a result their view is above scrutiny and must be taken at face value and is the final word? There is no room for any criticism of their claims? As that Wikipedia article clearly points out, this wide range of styles melted down under one name has existed across many cultures for thousands of years. So, given that, yes, there is ample reason to challenge claims of appropriation. And it is legit. So, no, the accuser does NOT always get the final say and their view is not above being challenged.

Furthermore, what I don't understand is what exactly the problem with wearing the hairstyle is. We live in a world where cultures have mixed, blended, and influenced eachother since, well, culture started to develop in the human species. We learn from eachother, influence eachother, pick up ideas, etc, etc, you get the picture. There is going to be cross over in cultural practices. That's the way the world works. And right now, we live in a globalized world where cultures are colliding, mixing, influencing, and changing like never before. Ya, cultural practices will alter and blend. It's going to happen. It doesn't have to be seen as bad as accusers seem to imply it is.

I fail to see the damage that a kid wearing dreads is doing in the slightest. I have yet to have anyone explain how it is damaging. I don't understand how it can even be seen as insulting, although I have yet to actually see someone say that it is insulting...they just say it's cultural appropriation and therefore bad and white kids shouldn't do it.

When I was younger, I went to a ton of music festivals. And it was great. And at that time, dreads were quite popular with the damn kids. I would go to see bands and the bands would all have at least one person with dreads, and half the crowd would be sporting them. And it was black kids, white kids, hispanic kids, native kids, whoever, all wearing them, all experiencing these festivals together. No one was running around telling anyone they were appropriating anything, and everyone seemed to get along. What the hell happened? How did it suddenly become "This hairstyle for us, that hairstyle for you...NO MIXING!" When did the kids get so darn crazy. Why can't we go back to that getting along, sharing cultural practices, enjoying life stuff again? Why did it all go so off the rails? How are we getting divided when it seemed like we were united? Is the crime of a white kid wearing dreads so important that we must now divide people into who can wear and who can't wear this hair?

Furthermore, where does it end? How far is this going to go. Is everything we wear and do going to start being scrutinized and analysed and ultimately policed? Is the goal of the people who seem so mad about white kids wearing dreads to ultimately end the practice? Is the goal to compartmentalize everything based on the perceived or real influence of the practice or style? Are we requiring people to stay within a prescribed list of choices that conform to their particular "culture"?

There has to be a line. There must be a limit. Personally, I declare that this vendetta against white kids wearing "dreads" crosses a line, and no I will not feel guilty for that, and no I don't believe for a second it is because I am minimizing the voice of anyone and I am a racist jerk. I feel that I am basing this on well thought out analysis, common sense and logic.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Charlie Hebdo Misunderstood Again. Surprised?

When I saw Charlie Hebdo trending on twitter again, my eyes perked up. What's this? Now what happened? They must have said something that people don't like...again. Since they were shot up it seems that Charlie Hebdo is becoming more and more hated with every article they right or cartoon they draw.

This time around, they wrote what I thought was actually a darn good think piece. But, apparently, I'm one of the few who likes it. It's called "How Did We End Up Here?" and was written as a response to the recent attacks in Brussels.

Everyone who reads it seems to walk away with a different take. Most seem to be walking away with the idea that Charlie Hebdo is a racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic rag that is filled with hate. I walked away feeling like "These guys get it." Funny how that is. And, as a result, I am most likely seen as a racist, xenophobic, Islamophobe as well. I'm not. Well, I hate the word Islamophobe to begin with because it's just plain wrong. It implies that disliking a religion is somehow bad. It isn't. Hating innocent people just because they follow a religion is. And that is what some are arguing that Charlie Hebdo did in this article. I disagree. Completely.

To me, the message is crystal clear. When outside criticism of Islam is seen as Islamophobic and racist and therefore is often shut down, and inside the religion you have people doing what they feel god wants them to do without ever actually questioning why god wants them to do it, then you have a double whammy. When it is taboo to question you have a problem.

In the article, the writer brings up three cases: A baker who buys a local bakery and decides that he won't serve bacon, a woman who wears a veil, and Tariq Ramadan, a "scholar" of Islam.

The argument is that all three play a role in a large mindset that does, in fact, lead to bad things. A baker who believes god doesn't want him to serve bacon and therefore will not sell it to others but doesn't necessarily know why or even question why this is so is just following orders this case from an entity that probably doesn't exist...and is playing into a cultural norm of not questioning. That's not a universal cultural norm among all Muslims, but a cultural norm within a certain subset.

Then you have the veiled woman who puts on the garment merely because she is told that this is what she must do to please her god. She doesn't question why she walks around with it. She just does it. And even saying that "Hey, women wearing these things seems kind of, you know, mysoginistic?" tends to be deeply frowned upon and met with accusations of racism and Islamophobia. How dare question this garment! Obviously, there ARE Muslims that do question it, and who have decided not to wear the veil. The issue is with those that prescribe to the idea that questioning is bad.

Then you have the scholar who says that the religion is perfect, the Quran is perfect, and tries in every way to crush criticism of the religion from both the outside and the inside. He pushes an idea that Islam is above criticism while pretending to be all about openly discussing the religion. But the message is clear...don't worry, Islam is perfect and simple, submit to a perfect god, read this perfect book and you are on the right path.

Then you have the bombers in Brussels. They believed that by blowing shit up, they were doing the right thing...for god...for the religion...which is perfect and unquestionable. The mindset established by calling anyone who criticizes Islam an Islamophobe and thus shutting down debate, the "scholars" within the religion promoting the idea that the religion is perfect and discouraging criticism, and some of the followers who just don't question what their god is asking all create a dangerous mindset where among the good, the bad is allowed to flourish unquestioned and unstopped.

This is what Charlie Hebdo is arguing, and I think they argue it quite well indeed. And, given what has happened to them, the fact that even daring to draw cartoons of the prophet of the religion ended up in several of their staff members dead is the perfect example of what can go wrong when criticism of a religion is stifled or shut down, and when those within the religion refuse to ask questions or criticize as well.

I don't see anything wrong with what they wrote in the slightest. I don't see it as a broad sweeping attack on Muslims. I see it as challenging a certain mindset that does, unfortunately, exist within certain communities within the religion. But, UNFORTUNATELY, it seems to exist within quite a large portion of the religions followers, though not all.

The funny thing always, when it comes to Charlie Hebdo is the fact that when they criticize Islam, the world seems to go nuts. I keep having people say that ya, they are cool with Islam being criticized, but not like THIS! What does that even mean? Is there a guidebook on how to criticize the religion that we can all reference so we know the proper way to talk about the subject. And why aren't all of these same people freaking out when the magazine is critical of other religions? It's just writing about Islam that seems to bring the wrath of so many. It further shows that, for some reason, Islam is set in a different category, by both followers of the religion and well meaning left wing folks. This rush to absolutely protect Islam and Muslims from criticism is almost obsessive and an instantaneous response to any negative statements. And it's been like that for years now. But why?

One person on twitter told me that part of the reason it was so bad was the fact it ONLY talked about Islam. Apparently you can't write an article ONLY about Islam, you have to criticize all of the religions in an article on Islam. Who knew? Does that mean if someone writes and article criticizing capitalism, they also have to make sure they criticize communism in the same article or it's just bad and is attacking one idea/group? Does it make on a capitalistphobe?

As far as I am concerned, Charlie Hebdo made the right criticisms, asked the right questions and posed the right concerns at an important time. To deny that Islam is going through a terrible crisis right now is absurd. The way the religion is manifesting itself in many places in the world, as well as in the West, should be seen as concerning. Does this mean ALL Muslims are bad, scary, violent people. Hell no. Of course not. We can clearly see that isn't the case. No one can honestly argue that all Muslims are a problem. And Charlie Hebdo most certainly did not do that as well.

But, if we are ever going to figure out the crisis facing Islam, and the rough relationship it is having with the West at the moment, without a doubt we MUST look at the religion itself to see what it says, what people believe, how it exists, what path it is on, etc. Trying to find answers in all other places BUT looking critically at the religion is completely missing a major component of the trouble. Are there other factors? Of course. All need criticism. But to shield the religion itself from criticism when clearly it is an important part of this is ridiculous.

None of this is to say that Charlie Hebdo itself is above criticism. Of course it is open for scrutiny. But I do think that much of the criticism it is facing over this article is over the top and not well thought out. It's knee-jerk reactionary and seems to be based on a few elements seen in the article, ignoring the bigger picture, and writing it off as Islamophobic, racist and xenophobic and an attack on innocent Muslims. And that, right there, is also a huge part of the problem. In other words, the critics are proving the article absolutely right.

UPDATE: So, I've been thinking. This is Charlie Hebdo. Above, I took the article at face value and analysed it as such. At face value, I feel confident in my assessment. But what if the article isn't meant to be taken at face value? Maybe it's all sarcasm. Do they mean the opposite of what they say? Is this a possibility? Are we ALL missing the point collectively, both critics and supporters? After all, they are a satirical magazine that often uses biting sarcasm to get a point across. Hmmmm.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Atheist Ramblings: People Love To Hate Richard Dawkins

Ya, ya, ya, I know. You hate Richard Dawkins. Unless you are one of those people that love Richard Dawkins. Then you love Richard Dawkins. I can't think of many other figures who people either wildly love or people wildly hate aside from, say, Hitler. 

Where do I stand when it comes to Richard Dawkins? I like him. I just can't help but like him. To me, he is a likeable character. Others don't see that, but I do. I just like him, his style, his ideas, his intelligence and his cool accent. I do see him as a smart guy who says a whole lot of spot on things. Perfect? Of course now. I don't worship him as a messiah. I see him as a guy with ideas that I tend to agree with and like. 

Is he cantankerous? Yes, in a soft, gentle voiced kind of way. Is he more cantankerous than anyone he is challenging? Nine times out of ten (a number I am pulling out of my butt) the answer is no. 

Hey, there is nothing wrong with stirring stuff up at times, especially when it needs to be stirred up. And Dawkins is not afraid to do just that, no matter how much it pisses people off. And, frankly, sometimes the people that he pisses off deserve to have someone piss them off. And, more often than not, they are going to be pissed off about something anyway. 

Case in point: The most recent controversy that Richard Dawkins is part of where he was supposed to be a speaker at the Northeast Conference on Science and Scepticism (NECSS), however, he tweeted a video that has been deemed highly offensive (which, it is and it isn't. I thought it made some good points) and now he is no longer going to be speaking at said event. I wrote about the whole incident here at Reverb Press. 

Man, do I feel that NECSS made a bad move. Why? I felt that Dawkins actually handled the entire situation around the video quite reasonably. I see what he saw in the video and the message it sent. I get it. I understand. It counters extremist ideas and hypocrisy. It does so in a crude, yet rather humourous fashion, quite frankly. But, someone at NECSS didn't like it. And, as a result, Dawkins has been turfed as a speaker, which seems to be the way it is these days. It really doesn't seem to take much to get ditched as a speaker. One misguided tweet here or there, and bam, everyone hates you. And it seems that those getting turfed the most are people on the left being pissed off at other people on the left. What's the deal with that?? The left doesn't seem interested in actually talking and discussing things amongst one another. It just seems to have this script that all on the left are supposed to go by and if you don't, gawd forbid, you are in deep trouble, man. You are cut out of the pack, vilified, demonized, left for dead. It's a left eat left world out there, people. 

Now, I feel that I am pretty far on the left. But, come on my fellow lefties, you guys are sticks in the mud! You get pissed off and offended way too easy these days. People are condemning Dawkins saying he is his own worst enemy. No. He isn't. The left is it's own worst enemy and I feel like it's crashing in around me, going all bonkers. In fact, in many ways, I think people like Richard Dawkins are the only SANE ones left on the left.   

So, ya, fine, you don't like Richard Dawkins. You are entitled to not like him. Just, chill out a bit, okay. Not everyone is going to say everything you want them to say exactly how you want them to say it all the time. Getting pissed off and cutting fellow leftists out because they tweeted a video you don't like just doesn't seem like the mature and reasonable way of dealing with it. Let's chat, let's talk, discuss openly, debate, but this whole shutting people down and pushing them out? Really? Do we need to be doing that?

Friday, January 22, 2016

Hey! Stop Circumcision Shaming! I’m Not A Mutilated Freak!

I’ve heard the often nasty rhetoric around circumcision by die-hard uncut penis lovers, and all I can say is, please stop with the circumcision shaming! I hear people say that circumcision on boys is mutilation. They say that it is child abuse to circumcise a child. There is, to some, a special place in hell or whatever suitable equivalent for those who have chosen to circumcise their child. Gawd! Stop it! Just, stop it, alright!

Look, I am a 42 year old dad who was circumcised when I was a baby. I do not see myself as mutilated in the slightest. I don’t feel for a second that I was abused as a child. I see no lasting negative effects in the slightest.

At the time I was circumcised, it was a relatively common procedure. For my family, it had nothing to do with religion. My parents were given an option and they decided to have me circumcised. The argument at the time is that it is easier to keep a cut penis clean. And, although I have nothing to compare it to, I do find that, yes, it is quite handy to have that flap of skin gone, quite frankly.
And as far as I am concerned, they did nothing wrong in choosing to have me circumcised. I was a baby. I did not know what was going on. I do not see any drawbacks to what happened. None. Zero. Zip. Nadda. It was not what I would call a traumatic event in my life. I had no clue. I have no memories of it. All I know is that I now have what I have, and I am quite happy and pleased with that. And I wouldn’t change it even if I could. It was a good decision on the part of my parents, I think.

Now, my wife and I have two sons. They have penises, as sons tend to do. We have not had them circumcised. Why? It’s just not recommended anymore. It was offered, we declined, and life went on. I wouldn’t change that choice either. But, I know there are parents out there who will make the choice, and the choice, although quite controversial at the moment, is not a bad one if they decide to go with it. They don’t deserve to be shamed or demonized for making the choice.

I often hear male circumcision being compared to female genital mutilation, a practice that is done in some countries where the clitoris of a female is removed. I would not compare the two in the slightest. I do see them as quite different. I don’t think there is any evidence that female genital mutilation is beneficial in the slightest. There is, however, evidence that male circumcision may help reduce urinary tract infections, and possibly help prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases like herpes and human papillomavirus, according to pediatric disease specialist Dr. Joan Robinson who spoke with the CBC.

Despite this, the Canadian Pediatric Society doesn’t recommend routine circumcision, which brings it in line with similar organizations in Europe and elsewhere. And that is fine, indeed. But for those who wish to go ahead with the procedure at least there is some evidence that it can be beneficial from a health and hygiene perspective.  There doesn’t seem to be many organizations containing the word Pediatric in it that are pro-circumcision these days. The times have changed. But, given the information available, there will be some who still choose circumcision. Is it really wrong? Are we really talking about what some see as the worst possible thing a parent can do for a child? I don’t think so.

Now, I am not advocating that anyone should get a circumcision. I’m not pushing circumcision on anyone. I am just arguing that for those of us who have had circumcisions, the idea that I or my parents are some kind of barbarous freaks and that I have been mutilated in some brutal way is nonsense and a tad insulting. No, make that terribly insulting, hurtful and ridiculous.  It is circumcision shaming as far as I am concerned. Anti-circumcisers are often spouting off about the evils of circumcision…while sitting next to people that have been circumcised. Hello? Are you listening to yourselves? Like, come on! Just….shut up, would ya? Just stop circumcision shaming! Some people are circumcised and that is okay. Deal with it. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Folly In A Donald Trump Ban

So, the UK is deciding whether or not it will ban Donald Trump from entering the country. They are doing this because, well, Donald Trump is a loud mouth idiot who said he would close America's borders to Muslims if he was elected.

Now, of course, this is a stupid, stupid thing to say. Yes, Donald Trump is an idiot who says stupid, idiotic things.

But here is the deal, and why I think it's pretty hypocritical of the UK to look at banning the guy.

Donald Trump is a loud mouth presidential candidate. He isn't a leader. He's a candidate, and one that most likely will not make it into power.

Meanwhile, the UK is letting in actual leaders with real power from countries like Saudi Arabia or China that have actually DONE far worse than Donald Trump could possibly do. So, this idea of banning a loud mouth for saying stupid things while letting in horrible dictators who have done horrible, horrible things seems to be a waste of time and energy.

I do not like Donald Trump. I believe earlier even I referred to him as an idiot. And yes, indeed, he is an idiot. But isn't a despot. He isn't a brutal dictator. He hasn't sent people to their death for blasphemy. He hasn't sent anyone to any labour camps. He hasn't actually done anything but express a rather stupid, stupid idea.

Seems rather ridiculous to me to rush to ban the guy. Call him out for what he is: an idiot! But, it is completely hypocritical to tell him he can't come in, but openly embrace far more horrible people. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

I Am STILL Charlie Hebdo. #JeSuisCharlie

Once again, Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine best known for being shot up by Islamic extremists pissed off that they did cartoons featuring their prophet Mohammad, is once again in hot water.

Now people are upset because they made a cartoon criticizing the fickleness of the media and public opinion when it comes to refugees, highlighting the difference in views between the image of Alan Kurdi washed up on a beach in Turkey, and the sexual assaults that happened in Copenhagen on New Years Eve.

It has been perceived as being insensitive, racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic and every other horrible thing that it can be called, mostly by people who misinterpret it (including a staggering number of media outlets).

I have been defending both the cartoon and Charlie Hebdo. Here is a response I made in the comments on a Facebook post by the BBC. It was stated that defending Charlie Hebdo based on the idea of free speech isn't a great reason, and it was questioned why Charlie Hebdo chose this particular way to express their views. It was felt they shouldn't have drawn this, that it was just something that shouldn't have been done because it was in bad taste.

I'm not defending it simply on the basis of freedom of expression. I am defending it on the fact that I do see it as an interesting cartoon that is, like I said above, an interesting reflection on changing attitudes in public opinion. We could express things in a million ways. Is there a need for this? No. There is also no need to misrepresent it. In the end, they are just doing what they have always done. They are known for their crudeness, but in that crudeness lie powerful messages. Taste? All subjective. Entirely subjective. I mean, even the jokes I tell on stage can be seen as tasteless at times. I guess because I enjoy this kind of stuff, and especially the sarcasm involved, it rings true for me. Plus, I admit that I have a soft spot in my heart for CH because what they do in terms of blasphemy is right up my ally, and reflects my jokes about religion. And the idea that a publication that mirrors my comedy style when it comes to the issue would get shot up is scary. Does this mean, if the wrong people heard my jokes, I would be vulnerable to violence as well? In the end, it's a matter of "Don't like it, don't look". For the most part, for decades, no one DID look. Now, suddenly, everyone is looking and being completely offended. Well, like I said, CH has not changed a bit. Everything around them changed.

As a comedian (as amateur and sporadic I may be), I do relate to Charlie Hebdo. I feel as though they get it and I get them when it comes to certain issues. Therefore, yes, I AM still Charlie, and for that matter have always been, and I so no reason why I probably always will be. And I don't feel a need to apologize for this, nor should Charlie Hebdo feel obligated to apologize for what they do. It isn't the kind of social critique that some might like, and I do get that. But, it most definitely is the kind that I like, and appreciate.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Atheist Ramblings V.3: Blasphemy and Apostate Laws

There are 13 countries in the world where atheists face the death penalty, all 13 are Muslim majority countries. There are many other countries, both Christian and Muslim that have blasphemy laws and will throw atheists in jail.

Where are religious leaders when it comes to speaking out against this brutality? Where is the church? Where are the mosques? Why are they not denouncing this horrid treatment of atheists? Why the silence?

We have people screaming about persecution of Christians. We have people screaming about Islamophobia. We have people upset, feeling their religions are under attack. But when it comes to death to apostates, blasphemers and atheists, there is absolute silence.

And then, then, the religious dare to scream about how angry and rude atheists are. A little rich, if you ask me. This is further demonizing atheists and feeding the problem. Good work, religious folks. Good work. Thanks for that. Thanks for all the help. Instead of speaking out against blasphemy laws or laws that put atheists to death, you get pissed off at atheists for speaking out against religion.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Oregon Militants Need Snacks, Ask For Free Handout

So, here is what I heard. Apparently, the Oregon militants who are holed up in a federal park kiosk of some sort are getting a bit hungry. Apparently, the put out an appeal for their supporters to send them care packages with snacks in them.

Wait a minute. They are asking for others to give them snacks....for free? That sounds like socialism to me, son. What we have here is an occupation of a federal building by a bunch of yokel redneck pinko commies! This just became worst than I could have possibly imagined. Who would have thought?

So, people, start sending your food donations to the Oregon militants....and turn the great US of A into a commie USSR state! McCarthy would be turning over in his grave over these commie Oregon militants!

Atheist Ramblings V.2: Are Atheists Angry?

Another day, another day of being an atheist. How about that atheism, eh?

Today's topic? Are atheists angry?

Well, that's like saying "Are Muslims terrorists"?

The answer is, no, not all atheists are angry. In fact, there are no shortage of atheists out there who don't even talk about their atheism. There seems to be this view by some that atheists are just loud mouth trouble makers out to ruin everyone's fantasies. Atheists are just mean, angry people that hate god.

Well, whatever.

I would say that over the past several thousand years of heretics and non believers being burnt at the stake or killed in other torturous ways, and the fact that at the moment there are 13 countries in the world (all Muslim majority countries) where atheists face the death penalty, I would say that if atheists are angry, they have a darn good reason to be. 

Atheist Ramblings V.1

I keep getting involved in conversations online about atheism with other atheists and folks who think atheists are stupid. To me, this whole atheism thing isn't all that complex. It's pretty straightforward and simple in fact. It could be the simplest, most straightforward ism there is. It is acknowledging there is no god or gods. Anything beyond that moves into a different ism.

It's safe to say that I am an atheist. I declare confidently that there is no god or gods as presented by any known religion. Does that mean there isn't a god? Well, if there is, then we need a new definition of what god is then. And then once that definition is clearly outlined we can determine if something exists that corresponds with that.

The gods that I reject are the gods proposed by religion. Does that mean there is not something out there that can be referred to as a god? Sure. I suppose. But let's define what one thinks that is first before we declare whether it is or isn't.

It is interesting how some wish to debate the existence of a god. If one is changing the definition as we go, we have a real problem, and some, particularily agnostics, do seem to like to do that. And that is fine, but what it illustrates is the ability to come up with ideas of what something may or may not be, not prove that what they propose is right or not.

Is asserting there is no god wrong? Is it right? Well, it's right in the absence of any sort of proof of proposed gods and lack of solid definition of something beyond that. So, ya, it is right. Could we find some evidence at some point that shows there is some sort of god? Who knows, but it seems to me our understanding of the world and everything around us is taking us farther away from this proof than towards it.

Just some rambling thoughts by an atheist.