Alright #gamergate, let’s do politics

Left Vs Right
Gamergate has gone political, or, at least that’s where people seem to want to take it now. One of the latest attacks on the hashtag is to appeal to people’s tribalism, to make it into a left/right, liberal/conservative conflict. This isn’t helped by the fact that the media response to Gamergate from left/liberal media has been wildly inaccurate and (ironically) hateful and that the only honest reporting and commentary has come from, ostensibly right wing pundits, commentators and actors.

Unfortunately, this narrative and this re-frame of the argument is just another deflection, albeit one that plays well to existing prejudices and fractures in western political debate. It also plays well into, and reinforces previous attempts to make Gamergate about misogyny, sexism, racism, the supposed toxicity of gamer culture (actually troll culture, and I thought ‘gamer’ wasn’t an identity now anyway?)

The truth, however, is that this is absolutely not about left Vs right, but about authoritarian versus libertarian (please note the small ‘l’).

I, for example, am very, very much on the extreme left and an extreme liberal. An anarcho-socialist if you will. You can get a better idea of a political position (though it’s still imperfect) using the questionnaire and charts at politicalcompass.org

Here’s mine, left of Hugo Chavez and south of Gandhi.

pcgraphpng

False Dilemma
Framing the argument in a left/right way is an attempt to create a false dilemma, that is, ‘You’re with us or you’re against us’. If you’re for Gamergate, do you realise you’re on the same side as Adam Baldwin and Milo Yiannopoulos who [insert said/did ghastly thing or political viewpoint here]?

This, of course, is a logical fallacy. If Stalin told you that a) grass was a rich burgundy colour and that b) 2+2=4, he’d still be right on the maths problem despite being wrong on the grass issue and despite being a genocidal despot. Agreeing with Stalin on the mathematics issue has nothing whatsoever to do with his enthusiasm for gulags and doesn’t imply that you agree with his policy of support for Lysenkoism.

Nonetheless, it’s sufficient for people to use as a smear and to try to undermine the gratitude many gamers feel towards people who have taken them seriously and addressed their issues honestly. Fortunately, this too doesn’t appear to be working.

Left/Right-Libertarian/Authoritarian
The division here is not, really, left versus right (collectivism versus individualism) but rather authoritarianism versus (small ‘l’) libertarianism.

On the one hand the liberal point of view would (should) be summed up, amusingly enough, in part of the Wiccan Rede: “An it harm none, do what thou wilt.”

That is, maximum liberty for the greatest number of people and that so long as nobody is hurt by it, it shouldn’t matter to anyone else.

On the other hand the authoritarian point of view could be, admittedly uncharitably, summed up as ‘I know what’s best for you and for everyone else and I’m going to make sure that happens’.

Of course it’s more nuanced than that and there’s plenty of room for in depth debate and discussion about what constitutes harm and where the balance lies between collective security and freedom and individual security and freedom, but those are questions that can – mostly – be answered by hard facts. Contextually, however, we’re talking about a medium (interactive video), one that can be avoided using off buttons, purchasing decisions, broad, voluntary rating systems and so forth.

There is little discernible harm that video games can, or could, cause and they are entirely avoidable for those who do not like certain elements, tropes, representations and so forth. While many attempts have been made over the years by people with various gripes over various forms of media to associate them with antisocial behaviour, crime and ‘immorality’, none have actually been able to show any real link between consumption of fictive, recreational media and these social ills.

At the risk of flogging a dead horse, I’ll reiterate some of those instances with which I am historically or personally familiar.

  • Fredric Wertham and The Seduction of the Innocent (Comics).
  • PMRC hearing (Music).
  • Backmasking/Heavy Metal & Suicide (Music).
  • The Satanic Panic (Heavy Metal, Tabletop RPGs).
  • ‘Murder Simulators’ (Video games).

More recently sex workers and porn workers have been smeared with associations to trafficking and child porn by those engaged in moral panic over pornography and prostitution. Again, no link has been found but moral panics have their own power and legislation such as the UK’s ‘extreme porn ban’ and on-by-default internet filtering have come about as a result.

Wertham’s actions and the moral panic he fed upon brought about the Comics Code which ‘sanitised’ comics and killed diversity in them. The PMRC fell short of many of its desired goals, but did put ‘explicit lyrics’ on many albums, which instantly – of course – made them more desirable. Heavy Metal won its days in court, thanks to Judas Priest. Tabletop gamers formed the (now defunct) CARPGA to battle the smears against them, but Pat Pulling (Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons) had many police on her side and RPG playing was used to profile suspects in some cases.

The most interesting case, to my mind, is Jack Thompson. Thompson hitched his wagon to, and became the face of, the moral panic about violence in computer games (though this had existed going way back, even to the computer game version of Death Race 2000).

Thompson and the claims about violence in video games having a real world effect were, rightly, laughed out of gaming circles including by the games media, production studios and the players themselves.

Despite the claims of the likes of Anita Sarkeesian being extremely similar, the response from media, academia and some players has been different. It’s useful to ask why that is, without immediately assuming it must be that because, this time, these arguments must have merit.

Cultural Marxism & False Consciousness
Some people in the debate over Gamergate like to toss around the words ‘Cultural Marxism’ at the anti-gamergate crowd and so I think it’s useful to educate people on what this term actually means and to also explain the concept of ‘False Consciousness’.

Cultural Marxism is the idea that, along with economic forms of oppression, there are cultural forms of oppression that intersect to preserve hierarchies and the status quo. Examples might include the traditional family, particular gender roles, racial stereotyping, national character and other forms of cultural identity.

Intersectionality ideas in modern ‘social justice’ movements are probably the modern incarnation of Cultural Marxism though conservatives do seem to like to throw the term around with incautious abandon, simply because it contains the magic word ‘Marx’, and is therefore able to panic people.

False Consciousness is another Marxist term used to describe how people can be mislead, lied to, manipulated and controlled into acting against their own interests. An example of a False Consciousness might be the belief in ‘The American Dream’, that is that one can ‘make it’ out of pluck, skill and sheer determination in American society, an idea that is largely statistically disproven in the current socioeconomic state of America, but which does keep the populace relatively pliant. Hope is powerful stuff, as is religion, for keeping people from getting fractious.

You’ll most likely come across False Consciousness these days in reference to feminism, through ‘internalised misogyny’, the idea that any women who disagrees with the current crop of third wave feminists is brainwashed.

Is there mileage in either of these ideas? Certainly there is. It’s hard to argue, however, that living in a pluralistic society as we are fortunate enough to do in the west, that people aren’t aware of alternatives and haven’t been exposed to them. It becomes very hard to argue that people aren’t operating of their own volition and making decisions – that some happen to think are bad – in good faith and with their own minds.

The attempts to manipulate the gaming media that have emerged of late, along with the DiGRA files, do reveal an agenda – and a secretive one – to manipulate and control the public message, to stifle debate and opposing points of view. This is diametrically opposite to the idea of Cultural Marxism, which would be to dismantle these authoritarian, singular, controlling stereotypes, and is an attempt to create a false consciousness, not to eliminate one.

Well Meaning Disasters
If there’s one thing I want people to take away from this essay on the politics of the situation, it is that people on both sides mean well. The ‘Social Justice Warrior’ side sees inequalities and problems in society and wants to address them. For reasons known only to themselves they have chosen to attack artistic expression – the output of society – rather than the actual causes of inequality and problems. Still, they think that by changing cultural cues and gatekeeping messages, they can influence society for the better.

Gamergate supporters, and those opposing ‘Social Justice Warriors’ more broadly are genuinely concerned with free expression, open and honest reporting, corruption in games media and all the other issues that have come up.

I have taken Gamergate’s side because it is the one that allows for the greatest plurality and diversity in art, and because it is the one that minimises authority. Also because I know my history, hinted at above, and I know how this kind of thing tends to go.

History is littered with well-meaning busybodies, interfering with the activities and entertainments of others because of their moralistic concerns.

Since we’re referring to Marx a lot, let us continue to use Marxist terms. What we have here is a petite-bourgeoisie, a social class of would-be middle/upper class with pretensions to their influence and impact on the world.

Netizens have, very much, become a petite-bourgeouisie class. Bloggers, writers, independent game developers, social commentators, SEO agents etc are their own commodities, branding themselves, selling themselves through patreon, crowdfunding etc yet not really owning their own means of production. I am as guilty of this as anyone, a necessary compromise of my own morality as a semi-freelance writer. In a modern context this is the new army of the self-employed or partially self-employed. Your etsy and ebayers as much as anything else.

Having garnered a little bit of power and influence, do the petite-bourgeoisie use to help others and break down systems of control and obstacles, or do they set up systems of control of their own? Our petite-bourgeoisie, despite having been the victims of roadblocks and difficulties in the past, now seek to set up their own gatekeeping and barriers in judgement on others, just as they were judged.

It’s breathtaking moral hypocrisy.

The well-meaning and interfering petite-bourgeoisie, puffed up on their own sense of entitlement and worth has done this many times before in the past as well. A sniff of legitimacy seems to turn some people into tyrants.

An excellent case-in-point would be the temperance movement. An interfering body of, largely, morally motivated and middle class people concerned by and interfering in a dangerous (or ‘dangerous’) pastime associated with the lower classes. Doing it for ‘their own good’.

Another would be the decline of Blaxsploitation cinema. At the time a large part of the cinematic audience was young, poor, urban, black and male. Films were made to cater to that audience and were wildly popular, often subverting the hierarchy of society at the time and creating popular people’s heroes. Yet this too was seen as dangerous, perpetuating insulting stereotypes and setting back the cause of equality – despite its riotous success with its target audience. Again, the interference largely came from those outside its cultural context, interfering for other people’s good.

An overly concerned, moralistic, would-be-respectable group has been responsible for some real cultural disasters and, in the case of temperance, one of the bloodiest gangland periods in American history.

No coincidence, then, that a genuinely populist art-form, with an audience primarily male and working class, should terrify the same moralising, respectable, petite bourgeoisie that it always has. The main critics of games, and the main body of ‘social justice warrior’ culture as a whole seems to be made up of white, middle class, products of academia. Particularly rather insular, echo-chamber topics such as gender or media studies, where the respect for genuine academic process and the usefulness of evidence seems to be low. Crippling white guilt, for things that distant ancestors did, seems to be a driving force behind this kind of self-loathing as it gets expressed externally and projected onto others, and it seems to excuse the ‘ends justifying the means’, whether it’s circumventing peer review, colluding to control a media message in gaming or hypocritically smearing and hurling abuse.

Culture War
If there is a genuine culture war going on, of which games are simply one battleground, it is one of postmodernism versus rationalism, of subjectivity versus objectivity. Postmodernists, who seem to be dominant in media positions, seem to believe objective understanding is not only impossible, but shouldn’t even be attempted to be striven towards. With regard to Gamergate we saw this most egregiously in prideful boasts that no attempts were being made to even try to be objective.

As an atheist I’ve seen this in the backlash against New Atheism from non-skeptical divisions like the ironically named ‘Skepchick’. As a tabletop gamer I’ve seen this atmosphere poison games discussion there. As a writer of erotica I’ve seen it happen there, with companies and payment services being scared away from supporting ‘adult material’. Overall it seems to be a very broad cultural conflict in which – currently – feelings are being put well ahead of facts.

Games are a funny thing in that they contain both technical and artistic content. One can objectively talk about many features of a game, while other elements – such as style, story etc – are necessarily matters of taste. Objectivity with regard to those elements is difficult, but not impossible (if the review on these sections is balanced). What appears to be being objected to is not so much subjective matters of taste but gatekeeping based on a) whether a particular company or individual has created an ethical issue with the reviewer and b) political grandstanding in a game review.

People want to know if a game is fun, value for money, if the graphics are good, if the sound is good, whether it has replay value. They don’t really give much of a damn whether it conforms to 16th Century ideas about the Divine Right of Kings and nor do they give much of a damn whether it is suitably PC or conforms to third wave feminism.

There’s a time and a place for that, and it’s called editorials.

Part of the problem here is that game sites have explicit (and seemingly identical) political slants, yet do not seem to advertise or be known for that slant. When it comes to television news we know what we’re getting from Fox or MSNBC – a biased, tribalistic viewpoint. As a consumer we can choose to get a one-sided view or we can try and find a more balanced and objective view from another source or from multiple sources.

With games sites we don’t have that kind of up-front knowledge of what we’re in for and while, personally, I loathe the editorialising of ‘The News’ to the point where we now have ‘A News’, such might be useful on games sites so that we know what we are getting.

Conclusion
Gamergate is not a left/right conflict and those claiming to be on the left, while fighting gamergate – a genuinely grassroots, consumer rebellion – are not members of any left I recognise, given the left that I know is broadly anti-authoritarian and pro-egalitarian and given that these people want to set up a gatekeeping, moral ‘elite’ to politically vet material – to turn their petite-bourgeoisie into a nomenklatura (bureaucratic elite). That’s one side of the problem, the other side is the much larger corruption around the large companies, their schmoozing of reviewers and the bribery and threats involved against sites that don’t conform.

With these issues in mind, I propose the following.

  • Review sites should be more explicit and open about their agendas, if they insist on having them.
  • Political and social judgement should be limited to editorials, or at the very least boxed-out addenda to reviews.
  • Gamergate should shift its focus, slowly, to the AAA corruption. That fight should – hopefully – unite media and gamers together in a drive for reviews that are honest.
  • We need to investigate solutions that will pay games journalists and sites sufficiently that they are less vulnerable to and have less need of corruption.
  • A Patreon model that actually untethers from the individual relationship, a voluntary ‘microsubscription’ might be one option.

Positive Discrimination?

cgon621lJust before going to bed (so not the best time) and on Twitter (not the best venue) I got into a discussion with a friend about positive discrimination, specifically in games. I tried to explain why a 50/50 hiring policy wouldn’t be representative of the state of play and wouldn’t be good for business. Twitter made that a bit ham-fisted though and it was apparently received that I was somehow in favour of discrimination.

This, then, is my attempt to expand on the point and as to why positive discrimination is a bad idea and that the problem lies elsewhere. At the end I’ll try to suggest some solutions.

None of the below example is meant to be realistic, just a mental exercise to illustrate the problem.

For the sake of argument, say that business boss, Mr Gamey McGamerson has a fat wad of venture capital and is looking to start up a new computer games company. He wants to hire the best he can and he needs 50 employees for his business. He has an available hiring pool of local talent of 100.

Talent, regardless of gender, for sake of argument, breaks down as:

10% genius, 20% good, 40% average, 20% sub par and 10% shitty. There’s also an unwashed mass of any number of zero talent people of both genders.

We rate these from 5 (genius) to 0 (unwashed mass) which means out of McGamerson’s hiring requirements, he can score a maximum of 250 talent, if he hired all geniuses.

Women in STEM fields runs at about 20% – depending which study you look at, but it’s a nice round number to use. It varies within STEM, since more women take biology for example, but for sake of argument let’s call it 20% (in comp sci it’s specifically less, 17% IIRC but you can look it up).

So, our potential hiring pool contains 80 men and 20 women, from which we can choose.

So, what would be the result of different hiring policies?

Meritocratic Hiring Policy Based on Talent

Workforce: 80% male, 20% female (proportionate to talent pool)
Talent Score: 190/250 (76%)

Gender Discriminatory Hiring Policy (Boys Club)

Workforce: 100% male (skewed in favour of men)
Talent Score: 182/250 (72.8%)

Gender Discriminatory Hiring Policy (Positive Female Discrimination)

Workforce: 50% male, 50% female (over double the actual proportions)
Talent Score: 140/250 (56%)

Obviously, the best option is to hire based on merit, since that garners the highest score, but in this environment, even though women are just as (proportionately) talented as men you’re still better off – as a business – having a sexist hiring policy than you are by engaging in positive discrimination. You lose a little by being a sexist prick, but you lose a lot by engaging in a gender-biased hiring policy.

Quotas are never going to work out and are always going to cause problems. Talent – and interest – in the necessary fields is unevenly distributed by gender, geography and many other factors but all else being equal, if the system was truly meritocratic and non-sexist, we would expect to see an 80/20 male favouring split in game development based purely on talent alone.

In fact, women make up 22%.

If you want a 50/50 split you’re essentially asking businesses to cripple themselves by using worse talent, and there simply aren’t enough women graduates in STEM fields to allow all the businesses to half-fill with women anyway. So this is an impossible proposition at the best of times.

If you want to see equally distributed results you have a lot of problems to tackle and you’re starting from the wrong end.

If you want more women in STEM in general, and computer game development in particular, you need to start from the education end, the meat that gets fed into the grinder. You need to encourage women to take these courses and gain these qualifications.

That has its own set of problems. We need more people in general to take up STEM fields and despite a lot of money and effort being spent to get girls into these fields, there hasn’t been much of a result (nor has a comparable effort been made to get men into female dominated fields, but that’s another issue). Indeed the evidence from places like Norway is that the more equal a society is, the more choice in career and education, the more people tend to gravitate towards their traditional gender roles.

In my opinion the best we can hope for is proportionate success based on equal opportunity. If people make choices we don’t personally like, we’ll have to cope with that.

Internet Harassment: A Different Narrative

tumblr_na1yfnIKs21rdwac3o4_1280

Read plebcomics. They give lulz.

I wasn’t entirely sure which of my blogs was the best fit for this article, but I decided – in the end – that the one devoted to skepticism and atheism would win out, because this is very much about skepticism. I am going to be talking about some particulars of my experiences though and those relate primarily to gaming and gamer/geek culture.

For those who don’t know, I’m a tabletop game designer. I’ve written many books and games and worked for Wizards of the Coast, Steve Jackson Games, Mongoose Publishing and others. I’m currently the creative director of Chronicle City, but for about a decade I’ve been freelancing and self-employed under the banner ‘Postmortem Studios’.

This is just to establish some background. TL;DR I have been an indie game designer for some years, with something of a profile and a degree of exposure and niche fame/notoriety.

I’m also a straight, white, vaguely middle class (in education and mores, rather than money), cisgendered male.

I also suffer from bouts of moderate to severe depression which can reach suicidal levels and I’ve been to the brink of suicide three times in my life.

I say this not to garner any particular degree of sympathy, monetary donations or anything else. I don’t really expect (or want) you to treat me any differently because of my illness, I mention it because it underlines some points I’m about to make and because being open about having a mental illness helps others.

So. I’m a straight, white, cisgendered, male, ‘middle class’, gamer nerd. This means, by the current narrative, that I am an avatar of everything that is wrong in the world and – likely – a bigoted internet troll. That’s the story that we have, that people like me are the problem and that the targets of concerted internet harassment are women, people of colour, LGBT people and so forth.

Well, I’m here to tell you that this isn’t necessarily the case.

For years now I have been subjected to abuse, disinformation, threats, slander and libel in a seemingly unending stream. Initially this was because I wrote an article defending the use of rape (and any other unpleasantness) as a plot or story element. This drew the wrath of the ‘social justice warrior’ crowd and ever since I have been pilloried and any work I have put out has been gone over with a fine toothed comb for anything that can be twisted around into something ‘problematic’.

Harassment against me has included, but not been limited to:

  • Death threats.
  • Rape threats against my wife.
  • Threats to kill my pet cats.
  • Petitions to browbeat any potential employers not to hire me.
  • Hit blogs.
  • Twitter harassment.
  • Harassing comments on my blogs.
  • Facebook harassment.
  • Threatening emails.
  • False accusations of making rape threats.
  • False accusations of rape (!)
  • Harassment and threats made against people who do work with or employ me.
  • Attempts to undermine projects.
  • Whole ‘satirical’ products aimed at a strawman caricature of me.

I’m not going to go into details on this stuff from the past, but I am going to make a case-in-point in a minute. However, there’s a couple of things worth pointing out at this stage. While much of this came from anonymous internet trolls and can – in my opinion – safely be ignored (and I wish more people would realise this) much of it did not. Much of it came from social justice keyboard warriors who felt no need to hide their faces or where they were coming from and continue to operate their accounts today.

This still goes on today.

Currently I’m seeking support for an RPG and (separately) a worldbook based on the controversial fantasy novels of John Norman – The Gorean Cycle.

This is, apparently, ‘asking for it’ and I’m ‘doing it for attention’ (doesn’t that remind you of troll comments about prominent feminism bloggers and youtubers?)

This has resulted in yet another torrent of abuse and hate from people who should know better, and indeed claim to know better when it’s someone who fits their political and social orthodoxy who is rocking the boat, rather than me.

As a case in point and limited to a single thread in a single forum, here’s a catalogue of the hatred directed towards me.

  • Childish
  • Claiming fantasy reflects real views
  • Despicable
  • Dishonest
  • Faking it for attention
  • Horrible
  • Insane
  • Kink shaming (a LOT of kink shaming)
  • Liar
  • Loathsome
  • Misogynist
  • Misrepresentation of media appearances
  • Pathetic
  • Persecution complex (there’s irony for you)
  • Pervert
  • Plagiarism
  • Plagiarist
  • Pro-rape
  • Racist
  • Rape apologist
  • Rapey
  • Scam artist
  • Shitty
  • Silly
  • Sociopathy
  • Stupid
  • Terrible product
  • Thief
  • Toxic
  • Trolling
  • Victim blaming
  • Violent
  • Weasel-worder
  • Whining

And all this on a site that normally enacts a very strict policy regarding personal and group attacks, yet whose moderators only really stepped in once someone pointed out the divide between reality and fantasy and other people’s failure to acknowledge it. Were similar attacks and harassment being directed at someone making a game within their political/social orthodoxy this thread would no longer exist.

And it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

So yes, this will just contribute to accusations that I’m ‘whining’ or ‘doing it for attention’ or to promote my current project, but it’s much more to do with the ongoing debates and fights in the broader nerd community. I just want to show that the narrative you’re being sold – that women and minorities get the harassment and the hatred and get squeezed out – isn’t the whole story.

Everyone gets harassed on the internet, and it’s not always by meaningless, anonymous trolls.

Everyone.

Beheading for Dummies

sharia_dummies1So, apparently it’s news and/or surprising to people that British jihadists heading to Syria and elsewhere are buying Islam for Dummies and Koran for Dummies.

Personally I don’t find this remotely surprising, but unlike many others I’m not using it to leap to the defence of Islam by assuming this is some hardcore proof that these monstrous individuals are somehow not representative of Islam. Yes, a lot of people are ignorant of the particular details of their religions and don’t know the finer points of ‘scholarship’ associated with them but then, they don’t really need to. They’re fed these toxic memes by those who supposedly know better.

And it’s not as if a deeper, more academic and scholastic study of religion makes its proponents any less disgusting in any case.

Exhibit ‘A’.

Perhaps more relevant to recent revelations regarding Rotherham, but the point stands.

Worse, people’s fear of being seen as ‘racist’ helped these perpetrators get away with what they were doing than longer than they should have been able to. That’s an important lesson.

Atheist Imprisoned for ‘Insanity’

HLsMAESqcXGDJdp-556x313-noPad

While atheists have plenty of issues all around the world, at least we don’t have to deal with this sort of problem any more.

In Nigeria, Mubarak Bala has been beaten, threatened, drugged and confined to a mental institution simply for being an atheist.

He lives in Kano in Nigeria‘s predominantly Muslim north. The state adopted sharia law in 2000 and has a strict Islamic police force called the Hisbah.

You can read a full run down of the issues at the following links:

While Change.org is essentially a meaningless online petition site, you can sign HERE.

You can email the Nigerian Ministry of Justice directly HERE.

International pressure and human rights pressure CAN make a difference here. Nigeria is an up-and-coming economic and social power in Africa and wants to be seen as a modern state. Mubarak’s situation runs counter to those wishes and so they should be vulnerable to pressure from groups like Amnesty. As a member of the Commonwealth they may also be susceptible to pressure from the British government. You can email the UK Foreign Office HERE.

 

The Trouble With Vegans

dinocard4Vegans and vegetarians will tell you all kinds of nonsense to try and convince you that their way is not only the best way, but the only way. The arguments can take many forms from ethical and environmental to health and even some rather esoteric spiritual ones – which we obviously scorn on this blog.

I was given a link to a supposed 101 Reasons to Go Vegetarian and, frankly, a lot of them are a whole load of crap. So here comes the skepticism.

Before the skepticism though, it’s worth noting a few things that are true. Raising meat does take a lot of resources and we do eat too much of it. Animals are often raised in horrible conditions. These things – and others – all happen for reasons though. Some of them good, some of them pragmatic, some of them purely commercial.

So, on with the reasons…

01. Every year in the UK we feed our livestock enough food to feed 250,000,000 people while in the world 30,000,000 people die of starvation.
Animals eat things we don’t – like grass. It’s simplistic and idiotic to think that somehow simply because we stopped raising animals (which would lead to them all being killed off anyway) that food distribution issues would change. The reason that people are starving is a combination of cost and distribution – not meat. We make enough food for everyone already – more than enough.

02. 20 vegetarians can live off the land required by one meat eater.
If you can call it living, but seriously, that depends on the land. We can use land for raising livestock that we can’t use for raising crops. This is especially true of sheep and goats. The sea, also, isn’t too great for raising plant crops. There’s also the fact that plants are seasonal while animal flesh can be harvested at any time of year as is needed. This is also forgetting crop rotation and leaving the land fallow from time to time.

03. Every 3 seconds a child dies of starvation somewhere in the world
See 1.

04. If Americans reduced their meat consumption by 10% it would free 12,000,000 tons of grain—enough to feed 60,000,000 people (the population of Great Britain).
05. If all Americans became vegetarian, it would free enough grain to feed 600,000,000 people (the population of India).
See 1.

06. Intensification in animal farming has displaced 1,000,000’s of people from their traditional lands—eg. indigenous people in south & central america, native americans in north america & crofters in Great Britain — this is continuing today.
This is an argument against inhumane business practices and large scale agricultural corporation, not against raising meet. Indigenous people raised animals themselves.

07. People displaced from their lands into cities succumb to dietary deficiency, diseases, parasites & opportunistic diseases
This has nothing to do with vegetarianism, but displacement of populations and lack of efficiency in food distribution.

08. In third world countries 1 in 10 babies die before their first birthday.
This has nothing to do with vegetarianism. Interestingly though, malnutrition and developmental disorders in very young children have been lessened by as little as a spoonful of meat every day.

09. The UK imports £46,000,000 worth of grain from third world countries to feed our livestock.
See 1.

10. Due to overgrazing 850,000,000 people live on land threatened by desertification & over 230,000,000 already live on land so severely desertified that they are unable to sustain their existence & face imminent starvation.
Overfarming land will do the same thing. Properly managed, the presence of animals will fertilise soil. Sometimes in crop rotation animals are allowed to graze when the field is not being otherwise used for just this reason.

11. 1,000,000,000 people in the west gorging on meat & dairy leave 1,000,000,000 to waste away & 3,500,000,000 teeter on the brink.
See 1.

12. If they continue to clear American forests to raise cattle at the present rate, in 50 years there will be none left.
Mismanagement isn’t an argument for vegetarianism.

13. 1 acre yields 165 lbs of beef or 20,000 lbs of potatoes.
It’s just not that simple. See earlier comments about crop rotation, spoilage etc. Also farming plant crops takes more in the way of pesticides, fertiliser and agricultural equipment than people think. It’s not as clean as people like to think. You also get nutrients from meat you can’t get from veg – and vice versa.

14. 8/10 of cultivated land in the UK is used to grow food for animals (14,732,000 hectares).
Still not an argument for vegetarianism.

15. It takes 16lbs of high protein soya to produce 1 lb of beef.
This is not an argument for vegetarianism.

16. Since 1945 in the UK we have lost 95% of flower meadows, 50% of ancient woodlands, 40% of heathlands, 50% of wet lands & 224,000 km of hedgerows all due to animal farming.
Not just animal farming. Much of our landscape since medieval deforestation has been shaped by animal grazing. Ironically, that includes heath and meadows. Animal fields used to be bounded by hedgerows as well, that’s nothing to do with animal farming.

17. Pressure on land due to meat farming leads to soil erosion 6billion tons/year in the USA.
See previous comments about underestimating the impact of plant farming.

18. If everyone went vegetarian up to 90% of land used for animal farming could be taken out of production & used to replant woodlands, leisure activities etc.
Again, animals can be raised on land unsuitable for farming. We’d be creating more pressure for crops and it’s extremely unlikely that this land would be allowed to revert to wilderness in any case. Much more likely it would be used for housing and development especially as its currently in private hands.

19. 25% of Central america’s forests have been destroyed for cattle grazing since 1960.
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

20. Between 1966-1983 38% of the Amazon rain forest was destroyed for cattle grazing.
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

21. 90% of cattle ranches established on cleared forest land go bankrupt in less than 8 years as the land becomes barren due to nutrient loss & overgrazing.
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

22. Overgrazing by cattle is destroying the land & increasing desertification, nearly 430 million acres in the USA alone has suffered a 25-50% reduction in yield since first grazed.
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

23. An inch of topsoil takes 200-1000 years to develop—yet in the USA they have lost around 1/3 of their prime topsoil in 200 years (around 7 inches) due to animal farming.
And other forms of farming, cash crops etc. Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

24. Land will be lost due to rises in sea level due to global warming due to animal farming.
Attaching global warming to animal farming is… interesting. Agriculture does contribute, but industrialisation is the big problem. Ironically, a hotter, drier future will better suit raising animals than crops. Petrochemicals and derivatives used to raise crops contribute a huge amount to global warming. We can do without them, but organic farming is 1/3rd less efficient.

25. The destruction of the rainforest by cattle farmers is destroying the lungs of the planet & reducing the worlds capacity to replenish our oxygen supply.
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

26. The 1,300,000,000 cattle in the world emit 60,000,000 tons of methane per year (methane is a greenhouse gas & leads to global warming).
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

27. Burning of forests, grasslands & agricultural waste associated with animal farming releases 50-100,000,000 tons of methane per year.
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

28. Combining these figures, 25% of methane emissions are due to animal farming (not including the billions of sheep, pigs & poultry so the real figure is much higher).
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

29. Fertilizer used to grow crops to feed to animals releases nitrous oxide — thought to account for 6% of the greenhouse effect.
And the same with food crops. Which you would propose to increase.

30. Fertilizer, weedkiller & pesticides sprayed on crops enter the atmosphere creating a noxious carcinogenic cocktail.
This is an argument against vegetable crops.

31. CFCs are released into the air from refrigeration units used to store decomposing flesh (meat), milk & butter—CFCs are destroy the ozone layer.
CFCs have been eliminated in some countries and are scheduled to be phased out virtually completely by 2020. We took action on CFCs far more effectively than we did on global warming.

32. Ammonia from animal urine also pollutes the atmosphere.
Ammonia’s also a great fertiliser. Good luck feeding the world without fertiliser.

33. CO2 is released by burning oil & petrol in lorries, ships, abattoirs, dairies, factories etc. associated with meat & dairy production.
And with vegetable farming.

34. Emissions from large chemical plants which produce fertilizer, weedkiller & other agricultural chemicals are also poisoning our air.
And these are used in vegetable farming.

35. 25 gallons of water to produce 1lb of wheat & 2500 gallons to produce 1lb of meat.
In neither case is it ‘used’, but rather cycled. Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

36. UK farm animals produce 200,000,000 tonnes of slurry (liquid excrement) every year, the majority of which ends up in our rivers.
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism. Slurry is a great potential energy source and source of fertiliser. Which you need for growing crops.

37. Bloody waste water from abattoirs ends up in our rivers.
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

38. In the USA every second humans produce 12,000 lbs of effluent while farmed animals produce 250,000 lbs.
See fertiliser and fuel above.

39. Nitrates & pesticides used on crops grown to feed livestock end up in our rivers.
And the same thing happens when they’re used on crops to feed humans.

40. Meat & dairy farming uses 70 litres of water per day per animal in the UK or 159,250,000,000 litres per year in total.
Cycles water, doesn’t use it.

41. The water used to produce 10 lbs of steak is equivalent to the average consumption of water for an entire household for an entire year.
Cycled.

42. Depletion of groundwater reserves to grow crops for animals & to supply abattoirs will lead to greater water shortages.
Water is also needed for food crops.

43. Aquifers (stores of underground water) in the San Joaquin valley in the USA are being drained at the rate of 500,000,000,000 gallons/year to produce meat.
Food crops still need water too.

44. 18% of all agricultural land in the world is irrigated & as global warming increases (partly due to animal farming) it will cost $200,000,000 to keep these systems going.
And animals can be raised on non-arable land.

45. The water used to produce a 1000 lb beef steer is enough to float a Destroyer battleship.
Cycled.

46. The liquid waste from the various parts of the meat & dairy industry flow into the rivers & from there into the seas polluting them & encouraging huge algal blooms to grow .
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism. Algae is a potential food and fuel source.

47. To produce 1 calorie of energy from meat takes 60 calories of petrol, whereas growing grains & legumes to directly feed people produces 20 calories for each calorie of fuel used ( thats 1200 times more efficient).
As covered earlier, producing and shipping crops is not as efficient as you think.

48. Meat & dairy farming uses billions of gallons of oil to run tractors, fuel ships & lorries (to move animal feed & animals), pump billions of gallons of water to irrigate fields & run slaughterhouses, power refrigeration units to prevent the corpses from decomposing & to power sewage plants to clean up some of the pollution produced.
So do food crops.

49. Cattle convert only 6% of their energy intake (mainly grains & soya) into flesh, the remaining 94% is wasted as heat, movement (which is why they keep many animals in very close confinement), hair, bones, faeces etc.
These bald statistics are not an argument one way or the other and fail to take in the whole argument.

50. 1lb of beef takes 1 gallon of petrol to produce.
Stop taking your cattle drag racing.

51. A family of four eating beef for a year uses enough petrol to run a car for 6 months (obviously depending on how far you drive!).
So many of these are rephrasings of the same argument I think the writer must have been short of the 101.

52. If the full ecological cost of meat was passed onto the consumer the price would be quadrupled (at least).
This would be true of most foods.

53. The EC spends o100,000,000’s to subsidise animal production resulting in lakes of unwanted milk & mountains of unwanted meat & butter. This money could be better spent encouraging organic fruit, vegetable & grain production.
Then we’d have mountains of those instead, which we already do anyway. Subsidies and overproduction are a different problem. Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

54. In the USA in 1979 145,000,000 tons of crops were fed to cattle resulting in only 21million tons of animal bodies the cost of the wasted crops was $20,000,000,000.
Wasted? What were the cattle worth?

55. Between 1950 & 1985 grain production in Europe & the USA increased massively but 2/3 was fed to animals.
And nobody in those countries is starving. Redistribution is a separate issue.

56. 70% of all grain is fed to animals.
And 99.9% of grass (excluding wheatgrass) is fed to animals rather than humans. So what?

57. Eating vast quantities of animal flesh, eggs, milk & butter is a luxury that most of the planet can not afford.
Economically speaking this would be an argument for increasing supply to meat demand. It also fails to note that many poor families will raise pigs on waste or chickens that can scratch around on non-arable land for important protein and micronutrients.

58. Fishing with drift (and other modern) nets weakens & destroys ecosystems by indiscriminately killing billions of sea creatures & disrupting the sea bed.
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

59. Fishermen’s nets kill 10 times as many other animals as the fish they are hoping to catch.
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

60. Fish caught in nets die an agonising slow death of suffocation.
It’s unclear how fish – and other ‘lower’ organisms experience pain. Conversely, drowning or suffocation is meant to be one of the more pleasant ways to go in  humans.

61. Each year 15,000,000,000 land animals are slaughtered for food & an unknown but much larger number of sea creatures (including 1000’s of dolphins caught accidentally)
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

62. Chickens are crammed into battery cages with upto 3 other birds, they are unable to even spread their wings & many can not even stand up
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism. It is unfortunate and horrible but efficiency and cost are controlled by factory farming conditions.

63. Unwanted male chicks (because they can’t lay eggs) are gassed or pulped while their sisters go to the battery sheds
See above.

64. Chicks are debeaked without anaesthetic to prevent them injuring each other in the unnaturally confined conditions they are kept in—this is equivalent to having your fingernails pulled out without anaesthetic
See above.

65. Modern farming methods using growth hormones & artificial lighting mean that many chickens out grow their bones, resulting in fractured & broken legs
See above.

66. Sows are kept tethered in stalls 1.3 x 1 metre on concrete or slatted floors—they can not even turn around
See above.

67. Poultry raised for meat are kept in windowless broiler sheds, with around 20-30,000 in each shed, they live in an area of 10-20 cm square—fighting due to overcrowding is common & like battery hens they commonly suffer from supperating bed sores
These are all the same argument.

68. Broilersheds are artificially lit 23 hours a day to produce rapid growth
This too.

69. Animals travel between farms & to slaughter in overcrowded transporters with no food or water—resulting in stress, injuries & deaths—legal requirements are widely ignored
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

70. 95% of poultry suffer injuries before being killed & 30% suffer broken bones.
Many of these stats seem to come from dubious sources, even so, these are the demands of a burgeoning ~8billion world population.

71. Problems with stunning practices mean that many animals have their throats slit while still conscious (around 6% of cattle or 200,000 per year) & are then dipped in tanks of scalding water (to loosen feathers, bristles etc.) again while fully conscious.
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

72. 4000 animals die spurting their blood out every minute in a British slaughterhouse.
This is not an argument.

73. Calf leather comes from animals killed at just 2 weeks old.
So, it’s not wasted. Good.

74. Cows were fed on the ground up remains of other cows & sheep—the result is thought to be BSE (mad cow disease) in the USA cattle are fed partly on recycled plastic pellets.
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

75. Cows only give milk for 10 months after they have a calf—so they are routinely artificially inseminated (ie. mechanically raped) to keep them pregnant & milking—their calves are taken away (usually at 12 hours old) for meat or export to veal crates.
‘Mechanically raped’ shoots any credibility this list might have had in the head. Veal is an issue, but one with a few practical solutions (pink veal etc).

76. Cows would naturally live upto 20 years but are slaughtered after 5-7 years when their milk production begins to fall.
End milk farming and they’d ALL be killed. Its economics and its nasty but… 8 billion.

77. In the UK animals are killed by first being stunned with electricity or a captive bolt gun (ie. a bolt is fired into their heads) before having their throats slit & being plunged into boiling water—all this happens on a production line with the animals being hung upside down from a moving conveyor belt—this is factory farming.
And it’s more humane than halal and other forms of similar slaughtering. Again, this isn’t really an argument for vegetarianism, it’s a description.

78. “Animals are those unfortunate slaves & victims of the most brutal part of mankind”—John Stewart Mill (philosopher).
Slaves? Hyperbole. As a utilitarian Mill would almost certainly accept the need to raise animals for food but wish to limit the suffering.

79. Veal calves are confined in stalls in the dark, unable to move & are fed on pigs blood, chocolate & dried milk (we are drinking the rich fresh milk of their mothers).
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

80. Cows naturally produce 5 litres of milk per day for their calves—under the intensified systems of modern farming they produce 25-40 litres per day — resulting in swollen & inflamed udders—at this rate they are soon worn out.
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

81. Large areas of land are under monoculture to grow crops to feed to animals—these areas are wildlife deserts supporting fewer & fewer species.
Food crops are also grown in monocultures.

82. Vegetarians have a 20% lower rate of mortality from all causes (ie. they live longer & don’t get sick as often).
Comparing vegetarians to the general public is not a valid comparison. Anyone who takes a particular interest in their diet – as most don’t – will be healthier than the average. An omnivorous diet is the most natural and healthiest for humans with everything in moderation. Veganism in particular is actively dangerous for pre-adolescents and can cause developmental problems – especially in the nervous system. The kinds of supplements used to compensate for lacks in vegan diets require a chemical industry with a lot of wastage and pollution. They’re also much less efficient at delivering nutrients than meat.

83. Meat is full of traces of antibiotics, hormones, toxins produced by stress & pesticide residues that become concentrated from all the crops they have eaten.
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

84. Fish contain heavy metals & other pollutants -many of which originated on farms.
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

85. The world health organisation recommends a diet low in saturated fat, sugar, salt & with plenty of fibre—exactly what you get on a vegan/vegetarian diet.
They don’t recommend cutting out meat.

86. Farmed animals contain upto 50% saturated fat in their bodies.
Not all saturated fat is bad and we need some.

87. Vegetarians have 24% reduced risk of getting heart disease & Vegans a 57% reduction (heart disease is the biggest killer in the UK accounting for 50% of deaths).
See previous comment about bad comparisons.

88. Obesity is rare in vegetarians, obesity is related to many diseases.
See previous comment about bad comparisons.

89. Vegans & vegetarians have lower blood pressure & cholesterol levels—high levels are associated with heart disease, strokes & kidney failure.
See previous comment about bad comparisons.

90. Vegetarians have a 50% reduced risk of dying of diabetes.
See previous comment about bad comparisons.

91. Vegetarians have a 40% reduced level of cancer than the general population thought to be because they have a higher intake of vitamins A,C & E.
See previous comment about bad comparisons. It is irresponsible to suggest that vitamins are a magical cancer cure.

92. Vegetarians have a reduced risk of developing gall & kidney stones.
See previous comment about bad comparisons.

93. 80% of food poisoning is due to infected meat (faeces, bacteria etc.) after all meat is decomposing flesh—most of the rest is due to salmonella in eggs.
You can also get food poisoning from vegetables. Not just flesh. ‘Decomposing flesh’ is a sensationalist way to talk about meat. Regardless, we’re evolved to eat it.

94. Osteoporosis due to calcium loss from bones is mainly due to the sulphur content in meat & casein protein in milk that cause calcium to be lost in the urine—the countries with the highest meat & dairy consumption are those with the highest levels of brittle bones.
See previous comment about bad comparisons. Milk does not drain calcium from your bones and it’s one of the most efficient ways to ingest milk. This is dangerous disinfo.

95. 50% of people do not have the enzyme to digest milk properly & milk allergy is related to asthma & eczema.
Those of us who do, evolved it as a survival strategy. Allergies of all kinds are related to asthma and eczema. Mould spores used to trigger mine.

96. Meat eaters have double the rate of Alzheimers disease as Vegans & Vegetarians—some people also think that Parkinsons disease is also linked to meat eating.
Due to BSE, which is an argument against mismanagement and greed, not an argument for vegetarianism.

97. Egg yolk is a dense concentration of saturated fat & the white is high in albumin protein associated with leaching calcium into your urine. Butter is 80% saturated fat, cream is 40% saturated fat & cheese is 25-40% saturated fat.
You need some and some forms are not as unhealthy as we were lead to believe. Eggs are a great source of protein and chickens can be raised on very little.

98. Meat eaters are two and a half times more likely to get bowel cancer than Vegetarians.
See previous comment about bad comparisons.

99. The cling film used to wrap meat in supermarkets & butchers contains chemicals linked to falling sperm counts in men.
Which is why they’ve been phased out. A larger source appears to be the contraceptive pill in women – amongst others.

100. Chinese people (living mainly on a vegetarian diet) consume 20% more calories than Americans but Americans are 20% fatter.
See previous comment about bad comparisons.

101. Of 2,100,000 deaths in the USA in 1987, 1,500,000 were related to diet (ie. meat & dairy).
See previous comment about bad comparisons. ‘Diet’ is not equal to ‘meat and dairy’.

Some of the propaganda here is obvious, where the mask slips. We do need to reduce meat intake and increase vegetable intake. We do need to farm more responsibly and control pollution, but we also need to feed the entire world and if you think you can do that by going vegetarian, you’re very much mistaken. To be completely healthy humans – omnivores with sharp teeth, mid length intestines and a need for fats, protein and micronutrients – we need to eat some meat. Just less.

Through Men’s Eyes (Link and mirror)

I was on Al Jazeera’s The Stream to talk about Elliot Rodger and the #YesAllWomen hashtag.

The first video is the AJ one, watch that if you can. If it’s blocked in your country I mirrored the video in the second link, though I’m not sure how long it will stay up.

I didn’t get to cover everything I prepared, so I may add to this blog later.

Things I didn’t get to cover in the panel:

The Rodger Shootings

Lest we forget, besides Katherine Cooper and Veronika Weiss, Rodger also killed James Hong, George Chen, David Wang and Christopher Michaels-Martinez. He also killed himself, his final victim.

His ‘manifesto’ was not political, it was an autobiography as a rambling justification for his hatred. It was a narcissistic hate-bubble.

Calling what he did ‘terrorism‘ is utterly irresponsible and unforgivably inaccurate. His agenda was personal revenge. Not political change. Calling it terrorism legitimises it, fixating upon his genuine, mentally ill misogyny and calling it something broader is also irresponsible. People like to blame things, but it’s not that easy.

Rodger was not a men’s rights activist, he was not a MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way) nor was he even a Pick Up Artist. He was a member of an anti-Pick Up Artist group. The manner in which people have conflated all these things and then tried to associate them with Rodger is unethical opportunism.

The bad reporting appears to have directly contributed to actual terrorist threats of violence and disruption being made against AVFMs conference.

Blaming Rodger’s actions on Men’s Issues is like blaming Valerie Solinas’ or Aileen Wuornos’ actions on feminism – which I feel would be dishonest. Unlike these two I have not seen anyone seriously raise Rodger’s actions as laudable and I doubt his manifesto will become a standard ‘masculinist’ text in the way SCUM has.

Violence

Men are the majority victims of violence. Men are far more likely to be attacked, randomly, in the street than women are – yet are less afraid. Men are 40% of the victims of domestic violence (according to Parity). Men are the majority victims of rape – if you include prison rape and ‘made to penetrate’. Men get equal abuse to women online and the peak target of online abuse and cyberbullying is the 19 year old male – according to Know the Net and Ditch the Label.

Genuine Men’s Issues

The Men’s Movement raises genuine issues, amongst them criticism of the dominant feminist narrative in media and academia and the problems it creates. Outside of that, other genuine men’s issues include, but are not limited to:

  • Education
  • Work safety.
  • Medical funding.
  • The justice system.
  • University courts.
  • Alimony.
  • Child custody bias.
  • Censorship.
  • Military service & the draft.
  • Mental health issues.
  • Suicide.

My fellow panellists on Al Jazeera included Jackson Katz, Ravi Chandra, and Eduardo Garcia, they’re all worth checking out too.

I hope I’ve shown that a more reasonable approach can be more effective and that my desire for conversation and dialogue will be reciprocated by reasonable people on the other side of the divide.