Bill Cosby

Not Quite the Paradox of Watching Smart People Being Stupid

Detail of 'Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal' by Zach Weiner, 2 March 2015.Maybe fifteen years ago, geek friends were all chattering excitedly about an idea, kind of a memory and gene and idea and all that, and therein we find the idea of a meme, and, yes, I know what you’re thinking, or at least that it has to do with cheeseburgers or puddin’ pops.

The thing is that a bunch of really smart tech people suddenly started playing around with ideas having to do with psychology, but as with many people who have no foundation in the disciplines they dabble, tried to start from the ground up. They thought they were breaking ground, defining new insight to the human mind. What they ended up with was a bunch of badly-spelled jokes printed in white block-capitals on stupid pictures.

Shit happens.

The present reminder of what happens when smart people dabble outside their expertise comes courtesy of the inimitable Zach Weiner.

Learn the lesson. The one salvation with the meme disaster is that so many people were in on it, we probably can’t figure out which one person to blame. Okay, there’s the other salvation, which is watching celebrities meme themselves to infamy.

____________________

Weiner, Zach. Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. 2 March 2015.

A Note About Rape Culture

Bill Cosby performing in Melbourne, Fla., on Friday, 21 November 2014. (Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)

Marc Lamont Hill offers a useful primer on the idea of rape culture:

Over the past few weeks, new attention has been paid to longstanding allegations that Bill Cosby sexually assaulted multiple women over the course of his career. As new information and accusers are brought to light, we are reminded of an unshakable feature of American life: rape culture.

By “rape culture,” I refer to the ways that our society and its institutions normalize, promote, excuse, and enable sexual violence against men and women. While I cannot definitively say that Cosby is guilty of the crimes of which he is accused, the conversation about him epitomizes some of the most pernicious aspects of rape culture.

There are reasons assertions of rape culture are controversial, and it is important to recognize the two primary drivers of objections to the concept of rape culture are pride and, well, it would sound weird to say “capitalism”, and that isn’t quite right, but it has to do with opportunity and reward.

In the first place, rape culture isn’t something to be proud of; our contributions to such outcomes are often conditioned behavior, and in the end, even if we carry conscious misogyny, it is not like we would admit we have wrong ideas. Nobody enjoys self-indictment.

The second is the idea of a marketplace hungry for comfort. And this downright sounds silly until one pauses to consider the idea of men’s rights advocacy, and the basic controversy about what that phrase actually means. Paul Constant of The Stranger reminded earlier this year that there are fewer of these types than we tend to imagine, but “those few activists are exactly as terrible as you think”.

He referred to an event in Michigan earlier this year, the first “International Conference on Men’s Issues”, and for those hoping that such a gathering might produce something more than the usual misogyny we hear from this manner of asserting men’s rights, well, more fool you. Or, perhaps, in the context of a marketplace hungry for comfort:

The crowd broke out in laughter when one speaker suggested most alleged rapes on college campuses are fabricated.

“The vast majority of female students allegedly raped on campus are actually voicing buyer’s remorse from alcohol-fueled promiscuous behavior involving murky lines of consent on both sides,” said Barbara Kay, a columnist for Canada’s National Post. “It’s true. It’s their get-out-of-guilt-free card, you know like Monopoly.”

† † †

Janet Bloomfield, an anti-feminist blogger and spokeswoman for the conference, has suggested in the past that the age of consent be reduced to 13 because of a “mistake of age” can get unwitting men in trouble.

“The point being that it can be incredibly difficult to know, just by looking at someone, how old they are,” Bloomfield wrote, calling some teenage girls “fame whores.” Bloomfield also called protesters of the event, “Wayne State cunts.”

In a marketplace society, you can always find someone willing to sell what other people want. One of the foremost purveyors of what this market wants to hear is Wendy McElroy who wrote earlier this year:

April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, and it will be used to promote a big lie — namely, that we live in a “rape culture.”

Such an approach is not helpful, especially when it relies entirely on fallacy:

The idea that America is a rape culture is a particularly vicious big lie, because it brands all men as rapists or rape facilitators. This lie has been successful despite reality.

And there you have it. To the one, no national culture is monolithic; to the other, the only person asserting that “America is a rape culture” would be Ms. McElroy, in the course of building a windmill to tilt.

(more…)

A Falling Star

Comedian Bill Cosby speaks at the Jackie Robinson Foundation annual Awards Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s over.

While The Washington Post has fallen somewhat from its glory days as one of the nation’s newspapers of record, it’s hard to ignore the coincidence of the masthead and Paul Farhi’s rhetoric:

Bill Cosby’s dazzling, decades-long career as one of America’s most beloved entertainers appeared to be toppling this week amid a succession of allegations painting Cosby as a serial sexual predator.

On Wednesday, NBC — the network that roared back to television supremacy in the 1980s thanks to Cosby’s warmhearted family sitcom — joined the list of entertainment companies and TV programs that have abandoned projects or distanced themselves from the 77-year-old comedian and actor amid the cascade of shocking headlines.

And Farhi’s headline for the paper’s Style Blog (?!) is grim: “As NBC distances itself from Bill Cosby, a decades-long career crumbles”.

(more…)

Howard F#cking Kurtz

Accused serial rapist Bill Cosby.

The story so far … or, not really.

Comedy icon Bill Cosby apparently can no longer hide from serial rape allegations that have haunted him for decades. Over at Huffington Post, Jason Linkins is having a hard time figuring out why Howard Kurtz is having a hard time figuring out what people’s problem with Cosby might be:

Kurtz’s contention here is that “liberals” have abandoned Cosby because they do not care for his brand of racial respectability politics, while “conservatives” aren’t so sure whether to believe the rape allegations. That’s pretty unkind to “conservatives,” from whom no mass movement has arisen to leave their daughters alone with the doddering former “Cosby Show” star. It’s also unkind to “liberals,” whom Kurtz assumes are rejecting Cosby because of his racial politics rather than because he seems to be a rapist.

Three words for Mr. Linkins: Howard Fucking Kurtz.

(more…)

Today’s Depressing Dose

Bill Cosby

Look, we know, it hurts.

Heroes rise and fall; the cycle of generations is now molded into prepackaged expectations, but beyond the flighty, twitterpated spasms of youthful celebrity there remain the titans of a former era.

And sometimes they fall from grace.

It is never pretty. It is never happy. Schadenfreude percolates its toxic brew. And, yes, it hurts.

But to consider the grand scale, this sort of hurt is more a self-indictment; what have we given, and for what? To what?

Some are aware that one such titan of American history—the first black actor to star in a television drama series, the voice and style that charmed generations, a persuasive figure in family and educational philosophy—stands accused, reeling backwards toward the precipice. Bill Cosby sees his legend at the verge of crumbling.

It hurts, but here’s the thing: What if it’s true?

We know the difference between innocent and not guilty. We know the feeling of watching beloved stars from our celebrity cosmos crash and burn. We know about presumptions of innocence. We know about appearances of guilt. And perhaps we are depressed by accusations of serial sex assault, or maybe we are enraged that someone might besmirch The Cos, or it might simply be that our hearts are broken because yet another icon of our cultural glory might well turn out to be just another sack of toxic, useless fertilizer.

It hurts, sure. But who and what are we really indicting?

Because if it’s true, what hurts about watching another star streaking down from the firmament has nothing on the damage such actions caused.

So if you want the overview, consider Jenée Desmond-Harris’ lede for Vox.com:

On Tuesday, the 15th woman to accuse Bill Cosby of sexual assault came forward.

(more…)

Something About Misogyny

Sauerbraten: Two players, a zombie ogre and a robot warpig, battle it out in a map borrowed from some other game.

A funny story . . . er . . . right, sort of. Okay, not really.

Once upon a time, several years ago, a friend and I stopped by his tech-sector office late at night to grab a couple boozeless drinks from the staff fridge. And while the idea of people working late is hardly unusual in these United States, there were several people hunched over in their cubicles, clacking away at their keyboards, and they were apparently pushing for deadline. Such is the software sector.

There was a proper butch lesbian of larger bodily proportions and less contrived personal fashion—i.e., disqualified from the “hot” list—working out of the corner cubicle. Indeed, she is only important in the context of the rest of the anecdote.

There was nothing unusual about that night, but my friend commented on a story I had recently heard from a woman; he was the other player.

So it goes, for reasons that were never clear to me, a female friend had stopped by his office for something. Sure, that’s sort of a clue that something is up with the story, but there is nothing else on the other end to suggest why. Whatever, this was over a decade ago; I could easily have smoked away those memory cells.

Apparently the sight of a lithe blonde woman of chesticle endowment brought the office to a halt.

“They don’t see women very often,” my friend joked, and if you remember the alpha geek jokes from the time, well, that’s right on target. I did point out the lesbian in the corner cubicle, but got the, “Dude?” shrug in return: Nobody thinks of her as a “woman”. Dude.

And let that say what it will.

Dude? Dude.

It is naturally the first memory to mind as the “GamerGate” story penetrates my sphere of indifference toward the perpeutal juvenilia known as gamer culture.

And when I see a bunch of gamers panicking? Well, that just recalls the old alpha geek jokes.

For those unfamiliar, GamerGate is a pretty minor scandal. For those with a stake in its issues—in this case over half the American population, i.e., women, as well as software industry workers and executives—it is actually a sad repetition of roadworn attitudes reminding just how badly Americans have trashed the Shining City on the Hill.

Still, though, it is very nearly amusing to see the gamers panic.

Brief summaries should suffice to bring people up to speed. Stephen Totilo of Kotaku explains:

The current drama goes back, however directly or indirectly, to an ex-boyfriend and a series of blog posts attacking his ex-girlfriend’s character, then it goes to scrutiny and harassment, takes a turn to involve a possible game journalism sex scandal (refuted), maneuvers into vitriol against feminist game critic Anita Sarkeesian (horribly nasty stuff), takes another turn to be about journalism ethics (addressed), spills into some essays and round-ups about how fraught the marketing-driven “gamer” identity is and how it might be dying or dead (rounded up here on Kotaku in an article that says there are many a cool gamer, too!) and then in some way flows into a thing called GamerGate which was actually first used as a Twitter tag a day before any end-of-gamer articles were written.

Over at TechCrunch, Tadgh Kelly tries his hand at telling the story:

#gamergate began a few weeks ago when an ex-boyfriend of Zoe Quinn posted an enormous, pompous and self-important diatribe online accusing her of sleeping her way around the games industry. He posted screengrabs of chats they had, presented his side of the story as the noble and maligned man being led astray by this faerie creature who turned out to be full of lies and so on.

His revenge-porn/character-assassinating rant went all around the gaming world at the speed of rumor and was followed by hacks and “doxxing” activities that purported to show that gamers had been right to be suspicious about Quinn. In its wake a torrent of abuse and more abuse started to build a head of steam. Allegations of conspiracy, of women using sex to manipulate the industry and all the rest of it gained outsized publicity largely due to a video shared by actor Adam Baldwin. And then, somewhere around the same time, Anita Sarkeesian published her latest Tropes vs Women video and the waves of rage and accusations of agenda-pushing in the media began all over again.

And that’s the thing about stereotypes and legends, techies and the Dudehood. There’s nothing new, here. (more…)