Je ne suis pas votre allié

A red flagThis post discusses victim blaming in the context of both murder and sexual assault.

Scott Alexander wrote, on dealing with social justice debates on the Internet:

H.L. Mencken writes “Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.” Well, this is my temptation. It requires more willpower than anything else I do in my life – more willpower than it takes for me to get up in the morning and work a ten hour day – to resist the urge to just hoist the black flag and turn into a much less tolerant and compassionate version of Heartiste1.

Hoist the colours high

I felt this urge most strongly while reading the Metafilter thread about the attack on Charlie Hebdo (I’m pw201 on Mefi), where many commenters were engaging in what elsewhere might be called victim blaming or de-railing, and then flouncing when called out.

What passes for Leftism in America and in her cultural sphere of influence (i.e. the Guardian) seems to be the the establishment of an ordering of identity groups and the promotion of the interests of those groups lower down the order over those groups higher up. (The claims that there are multiple orthogonal pecking orders or that there’s no strict total ordering in people’s heads seem false: there are only two directions one can “punch”, and, whenever there’s a debate, it’s about who is really higher or lower).

It is one thing to bite the bullet, as I think Arthur Chu does, and admit that the accusations of victim blaming and the like are properly made only against his ideological enemies, without any attempt to pretend that victim blaming is universally bad. But to do this is to admit to special pleading, which most people don’t think is fair.

What I saw in the debate about the attacks and subsequent anger/flouncing was the painful dissonance that arises when Leftists-of-this-sort have to deal with members of a group whose interests they would naturally promote (identifying the murderers as Muslims and brown people) carrying out heinous crimes against people higher up the ordering (identifying the victims as white people or even as racists). Suddenly, those L-O-T-S who in other contexts would be assiduous in calling out any implication, however subtle, that “she was asking for it, dressed like that” or “maybe it was a bad idea to drink so much at the frat party”, are using those same tropes and hoping that a big disclaimer will do the trick.

I guess what’s happened is that the ordering was established as an instrument to promote the positive values of some sort of Leftism, but has now become almost an end in itself. My political leanings were formed growing up in the 1980s reading the Daily Mirror, but it’s fair to say I’m not an “ally” of L-O-T-S. Which isn’t to say I haven’t learned anything from reading Mefi, LJ and even Tumblr (the shocking prevalence of street harassment, to take one example).

Mais je ne suis pas votre ennemi

Scott Alexander’s urge doesn’t really make much sense rationally, though it’s psychologically understandable. If you have lefty views but think the special pleaders are bad, recall that their ideological rivals are worse, or at least, seeking worse outcomes. If you’re just posting and commenting on the Internet (as opposed to, say, voting), you don’t actually have to join up pick a team and buy their views as a package. If people you agree with about a lot of stuff argue with you about some other stuff, you don’t have to feel bad about that, because you’re not letting the team down: remember, you’re not on a team in the first place. People who are experts on social problems aren’t necessarily experts on how you personally should deal with them, as previously discussed. And thus I survive on Mefi, and places like it.

The Mefi thread went in quite a good direction in the end: there was a debate about cartoons and caricature, some attempt to understand what the cartoons were about, and translated commentary from French people. It is long, but worth reading. I’ve been posting the good bits to the link blog, but allow me to recommend Lost in translation: Charlie Hebdo, free speech and the unilingual left in particular.

tl;dr;

Kitty Stryker said bad things and should feel bad, but that’s no reason to get into bed with Heartiste. He certainly won’t respect you in the morning.


  1. Heartiste is a well known pick up artist, men’s rights activist, and all-round bad egg. Ozy Frantz did a Anti-Heartiste FAQ which might save you some unpleasant research. 

Link blog: charlie-hebdo, islam, islamism, culture

Charlie Hebdo victim was ‘a friend of Islam, Turkey’ – INTERNATIONAL
“Voicing his ‘fear,’ Hürriyet columnist Ertuğrul Özkök writes about a chat he once had with Georges Wolinski, who was killed in the attack at the offices of the French satirical magazine.”
(tags: charlie-hebdo islam turkey)
JE SUIS CHARLIE? IT’S A BIT LATE | Pandaemonium
Kenan Malik: “The expressions of solidarity with those slain in the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices are impressive. They are also too late. Had journalists and artists and political activists taken a more robust view on free speech over the past 20 years then we may never have come to this.”
(tags: charliehebdo freedom politics satire journalism free speech liberalism charlie-hebdo)
Paris attacks: unless we overcome fear, self-censorship will spread| Nick Cohen | Comment is free | The Observer
Cohen argues that Western journalists had already given in. “My friend and comrade Maajid Nawaz was a jihadi before he converted to liberalism and understands the totalitarian mind. He says that people still do not realise that radical Islamists do not just want to impose their taboos at gunpoint. They want to “create a civil war” so that European Muslims accept that they can only live in the caliphate; to encourage the rise of the white far-right so that ordinary coexistence becomes impossible. If they win one demand, as they are winning in Britain, then they will up the tension and move to another.”
(tags: censorship charlie-hebdo islam free speech islamism)
The cult of death and the psychopaths it ensnares – Telegraph
“Islamist terrorists believe they are a pure elite, destined to survive the cataclysmic conflict of civilisations they desire to bring about. That is why Isil’s magazine is called “Dabiq” or Ark. Ideally, as the Egyptian president has courageously commented, they would like to witness an all-out war between 1.6 billion Muslims and the other six billion inhabitants of our planet, but for the time being they’ll just be the vanguard of it.”
(tags: islam islamism terrorism)
dear US followers
“NO ONE, I repeat literally NO ONE in France ever considered Charlie Hebdo as racist. We might have considered the drawings tasteless, but NOT racists. For the very simple reason that WE FUCKING KNOW OUR POLITICS. So, when you see the covers of the journal out of context and without understanding french, you’re seeing maybe 10% of what there’s to see.”
(tags: charlie-hebdo racism culture france)
If Europe is to overcome Islamist terror, it needs to fight for the values it holds dear | Comment is free | The Guardian
“For many on the left, tolerance comes easily. But economic disarray has sapped the will to defend our principles of rationalism and individual liberty.”
(tags: terrorism left islamism europe culture)
Imperfect Tenderness | The Comics Journal
Interesting round-up of reactions to CH’s cartoons.
(tags: charlie-hebdo satire cartoons racism irony)
Charlie Hebdo: the danger of polarised debate | Gary Younge | Comment is free | The Guardian
“Those who claim that Islam is “inherently”violent are more hateful, but no less nonsensical, than those who claim it is “inherently” peaceful. The insistence that these hateful acts are refuted by ancient texts makes as much sense as insisting they are supported by them. Islam, like any religion, isn’t “inherently” anything but what people make of it. A small but significant minority have decided to make it violent.”
(tags: islam religion violence charlie-hebdo)
All You Need to Know About the ‘Learning Styles’ Myth, in Two Minutes | WIRED
Apparently, there’s no evidence that people actually have different learning styles.
(tags: learning myths pedagogy psychology education teaching)

Link blog: islam, terrorism, murder, charlie-hebdo

The case for mocking religion.
Hitchens! thou shouldst be living at this hour: France has need of thee.
(tags: cartoons christopher-hitchens satire religion islam terrorism murder)
22 Heartbreaking Cartoons From Artists Responding To The Charlie Hebdo Shooting – BuzzFeed News
“Cartoonists from all over the world mourn in the wake of a Paris shooting that killed as many as 12 people, many of whom are members of Charlie Hebdo.”
(tags: charliehebdo jesuischarlie cartoon murder terrorism)
Ex-Muslims Forum on Twitter: “an e-mail from an Exmuslim about #CharlieHebdo “I want to weep” – fear, sickness and horror http://t.co/EngpM6LbjQ”
The ex-Muslims Forum publish “an e-mail from an Exmuslim about #CharlieHebdo “I want to weep” – fear, sickness and horror”
(tags: ex-muslim charlie-hebdo terrorism murder islam)
The Blasphemy We Need – NYTimes.com
“Must all deliberate offense-giving, in any context, be celebrated, honored, praised? I think not. But in the presence of the gun — or, as in the darker chapters of my own faith’s history, the rack or the stake — both liberalism and liberty require that it be welcomed and defended.”
(tags: blasphemy charlie-hebdo islam speech freedom)
The Blame for the Charlie Hebdo Murders – The New Yorker
“Because the ideology is the product of a major world religion, a lot of painstaking pretzel logic goes into trying to explain what the violence does, or doesn’t, have to do with Islam. Some well-meaning people tiptoe around the Islamic connection, claiming that the carnage has nothing to do with faith, or that Islam is a religion of peace, or that, at most, the violence represents a “distortion” of a great religion. (After suicide bombings in Baghdad, I grew used to hearing Iraqis say, “No Muslim would do this.”) Others want to lay the blame entirely on the theological content of Islam, as if other religions are more inherently peaceful—a notion belied by history as well as scripture. A religion is not just a set of texts but the living beliefs and practices of its adherents.”
(tags: charliehebdo journalism terror religion politics islam)
How Muslim Scholars View Paris Attack (In-depth) – Special Coverage – Shari`ah – OnIslam.net
There isn’t a shortage of Muslims condemning the attack in Paris.
(tags: muslim islam terrorism paris charlie-hebdo)