The Problem is Islam, so now what?

Fair question, if not asked sincerely.

Islam isn’t the only problem of course, but it is a huge problem and it’s irrational denialism to pretend it doesn’t have an effect. While statistics differ – many have been manipulated – the NCTC reported in 2012 that around 70% of all terrorist murders worldwide and 95% of suicide bombings were traced to Islam (specifically Sunni Islam).

It’s important to note, even though it’s obvious, that not all Muslims are terrorists and not all terrorists are Muslim, but it’s also important to acknowledge that Islam has a particular and unique problem (in the modern age) with terrorism, and to try and work out why – as well as finding ways to address it.

It’s also important to address the typical arguments that are made about foreign policy, colonialism in the past, American, Russian and European intervention in the Middle East and so on. These are all contributory factors certainly, however unfair it is to hold people today accountable for the actions of their ancestors.

The wars have been illegal and destructive, but differ ethically from terrorism considerably. Military action, at least in limited wars, does not target the civilian populace – even if it inevitably fails to avoid collateral damage – while firing hundreds of rounds into innocent civilians at a concert is a deliberate, vicious not an accident or byproduct. Whether you believe the claimed motivation or not, intervention in civil wars etc can also be interpreted as peacekeeping or an attempt to limit harm or blunt extremism – not a bad thing and something which has, albeit rarely, been somewhat successful (the former Yugoslavia being, perhaps, the best test case).

The situational aspects are not unique to the Middle East, they are found in other areas of the world and contribute to wars, civil disruption and even terrorism there – but not to the extent found in relation to the Islamic world and much more rarely reaching civilian populations in the west or outside the zone of contention.

Terrorism and grievances are not unique to Islam, but the extent and viciousness of it, the ubiquity of it, is.

So why? What is it about Islam that’s so unique and different? Why does it have a particular problem?


Biblical literalists are a fringe of radicals when it comes to Christianity. Judaism has long traditions of secularism, liberal interpretations and ‘hedges’ around the rules set down in its holy text. Islam, by comparison, is incredibly literalist and prescriptive. While it contains many contradictions – as all the major religious texts do – it is much less ambiguous when it does give its orders, especially when you take the Hadith into account. The Koran is Islam, Islam is the Koran and if you’re raised to believe it is the absolute truth and it tells you to do something (or you’re told by a scholar that it does), what choice do you have if you call yourself a Muslim?

Extremism is the Norm

When we, in the west, talk of ‘Moderate Muslims’ we’re not actually talking about moderates. We’re talking about the extreme, radical, liberal left of Islam. They sound moderate, reasonable and centrist to us, but in the context of Islam they’re radically liberal. The Pew survey on Muslim attitudes provides a snapshot that really brings home that degree of extremism to us.

The percentage in favour of Sharia Law varies from 8-99%.

Even within (southern) Europe, you’ll find nearly 20% approval for this brutally medievalist religio-legal code, and there, 36% believe that code should be applied to non-Muslims. A minority, but a very significant one.

In every area a large majority are against prostitution, homosexuality, suicide, sex before marriage, drinking, abortion and euthanasia. It’s like stepping back into the 1950s – or more, and it’s multigenerational with succeeding generations of immigrants going one of two ways – westernising, or backlashing against it to a position more extreme than their parents.

Even in Europe 12% believe the veil should be enforced and nearly half believe a woman must be subservient to men.

20% of British Muslims sympathised with the 7/7 bombers and 27% with violence against cartoonists.

There’s a risk of labouring the point, but the statistics are out there. The point is simply that extreme viewpoints are relatively common and even the ‘moderate’ space is often anti-semitic, homophobic, misogynistic and authoritarian – enforcing these through cultural and religious license – and exhortation – for violence.

Dar Al-Islam

‘Christendom’ was an identity that used to carry currency and many nations used to have a common identity as Christian, specifically Catholic. Losing that was a great boon to western civilisation and a big boost to freedom and progress, but common identity does bring power and unity. Islam still has this identity, despite its sectarianism and internal schisms and rivalries between governments, there’s a common identity and unity. An attack or affront to one Muslim state or group is often taken as an attack on all – at least on the level of the individual, with the exception of Shia and other sects, who are regarded by groups like ISIS as just another enemy.

The point being that there’s a ‘greater’ identity at work than nation, race or even humanity which enables stark identification of in and out groups and dehumanisation of the other.


Islam has no central authority per se, rather competing ‘scholars’ and interpretations, but it does have the Koran. Virtually every sect and ‘scholar’ will point to the Koran first and the Koran is a starkly inhuman, genuinely misogynistic (the word has been overused and lost its power to shock) and violent.

Sources abound on the violent verses, the legal frameworks, the commands. Islam is not just a religion, it is a system of governance and law, a societal blueprint. This is something many western amateur analysts and apologists fail to understand. Islam ‘isn’t like other girls’, it plays out differently and it is set dead against the very idea or concept of separation of church and state, of secularism.

Religion comes first, always.

Non-Rational Actors

Religious actors are not rational actors. America has its own problem with the faithful, but they are still largely limited to the extremes, a minority of loons – whatever the pantomime politicians may put on. Religion is even less of an issue in Europe, to the point where it was considered shocking that Tony Blair was religious, and publicly so.

We live in nations where religion takes a back seat, is a private matter. Even ideological faith, for all the problem fascism and communism have caused in the past and for all the problems pseudo-progressivism and radical racist and sexist ideas are causing in culture and education, is still not in control. Most people are still rational actors. The Cold War would have been armageddon without rational actors and ideological extremism was fortunately blunted by more pragmatic bureaucracy by the dawn of the ICBM. Even China is simply another ordered bureaucracy, whatever its ideological trimmings.

There are very few non-rational actors in international politics these days and they’re very hard for rationally acting states to deal with. North Korea is one, Islam is another. You see this on a geo-political level, ISIS is a nation-scale suicide bomb placing ideology and faith over all practical concerns and you see this on a personal level with many terrorists being second or third generation immigrants to the west, who have enjoyed all the trappings of technological, consumer, liberal culture and have rejected it for guns, bombs and a return to medieval values.

Lack of Reform

Islam is – in religious terms – relatively new, at about six centuries of age. While the Koran has changed (at least three times) despite protestations in the religion to the contrary, it has remained broadly the same. It remains a brutal, medievalist text and proud of it, held up as perfect despite its inevitable flaws. Considered to be the last revelation.

The Old Testament was blunted by the more peaceful New Testament. Judaism was blunted by centuries of persecution, genocide and diaspora. Most religions have been blunted from their extremism by the march of progress. Secularism, scientific advancement, the relentlessly, objectively more human-friendly concepts of The Enlightenment.

Islam has no such reform and thus far every attempt to instil a kinder, gentler Islam has met with disaster. It’s still desperately needed, but the ideas that might form such a reformed, peaceful, tolerant and accepting Islam are limited to the deep past (before the influence of Imam Al-Ghazali) or to the fringes of western, liberalised Muslims who will not be listened to.


Islam is a brutal, extreme, medievalist, literalist doctrine whose only central authority is the Koran itself which cannot be persuaded to change its mind. There is no figure like a Pope who might be persuaded to liberalise and who would be followed in so doing. There has been no reformation, no theological uprising or liberalisation of the likes of Martin Luther – there being nobody to rebel against. The faith has a strong, unifying identity and is not just a religion but a sociopolitical and economic system that extends its tendrils into every aspect of life.

So what is to be done?

Dealing with Islam seems insurmountable, but if we are to blunt extremism and decrease terrorism, if this ‘clash of civilisations’ is to come to an end before the oil does it is Islam that needs to be dealt with as much, if not more than the geopolitical situation. Not least of all because we live amongst and alongside people of the faith.

So how have we dealt with these problems in the past? What has worked to blunt and moderate religions in the past?

Wealth & Comfort

It can seem strange, but religious belief is often strongest amongst people in the worst conditions. People who are on or below the poverty line are proportionally more religious than those in the middle and upper classes. It seems that poverty and hardship lead to people turning to religion as a comfort, even though – presumably – god put them in that position in the first place. Improved living standards tend to blunt religious fervour and soften religious devotion and views. A rising tide lifts all ships, and sinks all gods, you might say.

This doesn’t seem to be so true of Islam. A large number of terrorists have been raised in the comfort and relative ease of Western civilisation and have turned their back on it. Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised, we find the same in plenty of college students turning to ideologies of rejection and the rise in ‘white guilt’ and self-blaming and flagellating in western nations, but reading Marx and having a sit-in in a library and blowing yourself up outside a football stadium are still radically different degrees of extremity. Wealth and comfort may play a role, but a less effective one. It is true that the situation for many, even in very wealthy Islamic nations, is not one of comfort and security under kleptocratic regimes and then there’s those in states of civil war and disruption. Encouraging liberalisation and secularism may help, but the Arab Spring has come to little and has empowered and emboldened religious radicals, not disarmed them.

Education, Science & Reason

The spread of education and literacy played an enormous role in the west in the liberation of theology from the church and the undermining and subdivision of that religion (Christianity). Science and the power of reason have, similarly, undermined and – in many nations – all but destroyed religious ideas by proving the central contentions of those religions wrong. Even in Catholicism they have – belatedly – forced a more liberal interpretation and the acceptance of scientific reality. You will still find creationists, but in much of the world – bar America – they have the same sort of intellectual status as flat earthers, people to be scorned and pitied. They have virtually no societal currency or legitimacy.

In Islam these sorts of ideas still have social currency. Even into the 90s there were Imams declaring the Earth to be flat and that belief in a spherical Earth was a form of atheism and apostasy! Islamic apologists who try to claim the Koran as scientific and truthful, such as the unaccountably popular Zakir Naik, are found everywhere and creationism seems to be a much more mainstream idea with a hold over the general populace of the religion.

Again, as with the wealth and comfort issue, these things don’t seem to have so much of an effect when it comes to Islam. Many suicide bombers and terrorists have been educated people like doctors and engineers. Not school drop outs or the kind of unintelligent people you would think would involve themselves in such an unsophisticated or brutal theology. There may be some effect, but it doesn’t seem like it would necessarily be as strong when it comes to Islam. Then again, Christianity has its examples – such as presidential candidate Ben Carson – of otherwise proficient, educated and intelligent people who still harbour bonkers beliefs.


Secularism, the separation of Church and State, has been a massively progressive achievement in the West and elsewhere. It has allowed people of different faiths and cultures to live alongside by separating the role of the state from the enforcement and advocacy of religion or cultural values (logical, pragmatic and scientific values transcend culture, they work no matter what you believe). Even in cultures which still ostensibly have state religions – such as Britain – secularism has been the practical and realistic default through centuries of reform of the power of the Church and its representative – the Monarchy.

Secularism has had some success when it comes to Islam. Turkey’s secularisation made it a site of hope for the rest of the Islamic world to follow suit, but that secularism has been eroded, Turkey has slipped back towards authoritarianism and towards dogmatic religious behaviour.

While secularism can help, it cannot succeed if it is imposed on an unwilling populace. Islam is not ‘just’ a religion, as has been mentioned before, and it specifically demands a theocratic state and legal system. It is against the religion itself to accept authority other than god and the Koran. This being a given, it’s unlikely that secularist movements can gain too much purchase on Islamic nations (there are exceptions) and given that even Stalin’s ruthless methods couldn’t eliminate Orthodox Christianity and he had to come to an accord with it, there’s little chance of forcing secularism even if we wanted to.

Bomb them into Submission

This never works, short of absolute genocide (which, hopefully, nobody is advocating. Furthermore this is what ISIS and their ilk want. They want an apocalypse. They want the end of the world. They want to fight and to die to fulfil prophecy and even ignoring the religious angle, visiting atrocities on the Arab world will only bring them more recruits.

No matter how careful you are, there is always collateral damage. Smart bombs and missiles are only so smart. Intelligence data can be wrong and no matter what you do, drone strikes and assassinations – while more civilised and cleaner than firing AK47s into crowds of teenagers – will always be spun as worse, even by those ordering them.

This is a non starter and only an idiot would advocate it in anything more than the very short term.


There’s no easy solution to the problem of Islam. While the things that have historically worked to liberalise and moderate religious fervour in the past may have some effect it is blunted by the unique nature of Islam as a religion, yet we ignore the religious aspect at our peril. It is a major driving force behind the terrorism and the violence, so much as people want to ignore that and to blame western governments and actions for it. Even were we to pull out of everywhere right now and cease interference and involvement, the same would not be true of the Chinese or the Russians and we would still be targeted in any case, not to mention that the ongoing conflicts and insurrections would become immeasurably worse.

The only solution will be a liberal vision and version of Islam emerging from within Islam itself but, given the literalist nature of the faith and its violent prescriptions against blasphemy and apostasy, any such effort has a huge uphill climb to make. One of the very few things we might be able to do here in the west is to encourage more integration and less ghettoisation. To make people part of our communities and to discourage insular communities such as have emerged in Leeds, Bradford and parts of London here in the UK. This would mean distributing refugees and asylum seekers more equitably around our nations and creating a broader range of affordable housing – something which would benefit ‘natives’ as well.

Realistically I don’t see any of these measures being employed. The cynic in me suggests that once the oil runs out and the Middle East loses its geopolitical relevance, things will calm down. Provided nobody has nuked anyone by then. I want to believe that we can turn things around non-violently, before then, but the odds seem to stacked against it. Between the innate fanaticism and extremism of Islam and the absence of cultural confidence and will in the west (to do anything, let alone the right thing) the possibility seems remote.

Aethics – Veganism

Some of my best friends are vegan or vegetarian, the reason most of them are still my friends is that they lack the same kind of evangelical zeal which, unfortunately, many of their dietary kind are prone to. I hate clashing with them, but it still inevitably happens from time to time. Those clashes are usually over interpretations of data and statistics, but sometimes that strays into areas of ‘woo’ and even science (or practical) denialism.

My hope is that by setting out by (omnivorous) position here and presenting my objections to vegan arguments and bad science I can spare myself some of these arguments in the future or at least direct them to more useful, evidence based arguments.

Aethics is what I’m tentatively calling my own attempt at an objective (or at least only human-subjective) moral philosophy. The idea being that by incorporating ideas from Epicureanism and Utilitarianism you can come to a fact-based, rational and logical moral decision on difficult problems. There’s some important key components to this though:

Facts first: Any decision must be based on facts.

Provisional: An ‘aethical’ point of view accents that any decision made through it is provisional, not absolute.

Situational: Any moral or ethical decision depends on context. What is wrong in one instance may not be wrong in another. No decision is set or settled in its entirety.

Emotions & Feelings Have Value: People’s emotional pain should be taken into account and weighed up in a decision.

Strive for Objectivity: While emotions have value and meaning they should not guide the moral decisions.

The Environment

A chief argument in favour of veganism is the environmental impact of farming. It is supposed that you can raise a great deal more in the way of crops on land that would otherwise go to sustain animals. In theory this could free up land, increase the food surplus, drive down prices etc. Animal waste (poop and methane gas) can also harm the environment and there are issues around drug resistant bacteria given the over-use of antibiotics in agriculture.

On the face of it this is all true and these are great and practical arguments for veganism. Unfortunately, it’s just not that simple.

  1. Animals can be raised on land unsuitable for crops.
  2. Irresponsible farming practices (antibiotic use etc) is an argument against irresponsible farming practices, not for veganism.
  3. While slurry may be reduced, a vegetarian diet increases human flatulence and excrement, which would at least offset any gains by reducing animal husbandry in terms of both global warming and waste pressure.
  4. Plant-farming can exhaust the soil in a way animal farming cannot, requiring constant rotation and/or fertilisation of the soil. Fertilisation requires petrochemicals, industrial nitrates damage the environment nearly as much as animal slurry and – without a large source of animal fertiliser – there’s little in the way of alternatives. Using human poop would require intensive processing, due to the disease risk.
  5. More agriculture means larger, monocultivar fields, which are very vulnerable to pests and disease. This means either more GM crops (which I have no issue with) or more pest spraying, which again is more petrochemicals and industrial waste, further offsetting any supposed gains. Organic farming is only ~66% as efficient as industrial farming and other solutions such as mixed-cultivation simply don’t work on a civilisational scale and aren’t amenable to industrial harvesting and processing.

In short the much-vaunted environmental benefits attributed to forcing everyone into veganism do not consider the wider impact and the knock-on effects. While we do raise and consume too much meat and  altering that would be a good thing, eliminating meat production would not have an enormous and transformational effect on our environmental issues and could, conceivably, make aspects of them worse.


Veganism supposedly carries with it some health benefits, but virtually every study I have read on this carries with it the same mistake. Vegans and vegetarians – people who are actively interested in and engaged in their diet – are compared with ‘average Joes’ – people who don’t. For a comparison to be valid, it would have to compare people who are equally as engaged and interested in their diets, just with some being omnivores and some being vegan/vegetarian. The very few studies on this grounds tend to show the omnivorous group having slightly better overall health and – in sport comparisons – performance.

So why might that be?

Put simply, humans are omnivores. We have teeth suited to both vegetation and animal tissue, we have a mid-length intestine, we have gut flora and digestive enzymes suitable for both meat and vegetable digestion. Our bodies rely on numerous micronutrients, fats and other things found in a mixed diet to operate with maximum efficiency and health. Some fats, in particular, are very important in early life while the nervous system is being ‘built’ and a vegan diet for young children may cause lasting harm and make them more susceptible to various problems with the nervous system.

To refer back to the first paragraph here, the problem is comparing like to like. Most people come to a vegan diet later on in life, ‘slip’ more than they like to admit and so minimise the negative impacts a vegan diet may have. This isn’t, of course, to say that we shouldn’t eat less meat – we should – just that people having irresponsible diets is not a good argument for veganism, but is a good diet for a balanced, healthy, omnivorous, diverse diet.

Health benefits come from being engaged with what you eat and a diverse omnivorous diet is healthier than a vegan one.

This can, of course, be offset with dietary supplements, but the need for such suggests either an underlying health problem or a dietary inadequacy and the increased production of dietary supplements would refer back to the environmentalism point, industrial production of such products is not so great for the environment.

Ethical Concerns

The environmental and health claims for veganism are, then, at least questionable or not as strong as they are claimed to be. What, then, of the ethical questions? What are the ethical questions? There’s really only one, that the raising of meat for consumption causes suffering to animals. This isn’t an easy question to tackle as it goes pretty deep into a whole bunch of muddy areas with no definitive answers.

Let’s qualify the statement a little.

‘Eating meat causes unnecessary suffering to animals’.

That’s a little better, since practically all ethical decisions require the weighing up of pros and cons. So the real question is whether more ‘good’ than ‘evil’ is done. The environmental question is up in the air, the health one is not. People are better off with an omnivorous diet… but how do we weight human health and need against that of animals?

There’s no absolute answer to this, but we have a natural inclination to favour our own species, our own friends and family. We are as ethically open-minded as our situation allows. If it came down to sacrificing a stranger over a friend most of us would do it, and would sacrifice a friend over family. If the bombs fell, most of us would resort to eating the family dog, however much we love it.

We do make exceptions for endangered species, but even if someone were to poach the last rhino, most people would baulk at killing them for doing so.

If this seems a little disjointed it’s because I’m trying to sketch out the boundaries of the situation.

  • Animals are not as concious or aware as humans (though this varies from creature to creature). They do not appear able to suffer in the same manner that humans do.
  • Inhuman and cruel farming practices are an argument against inhumane harming practices, not for veganism.
  • Can ‘food’, really be regarded as ‘unnecessary’?
  • How much of a health compromise to yourself or your children is acceptable to spare animals pain?

It seems to me that unnecessary cruelty (factory farming and poor slaughter practices) is an argument against itself, but not for veganism again. We should be wanting to minimise cruelty and pain but it’s perfectly reasonable for us to prioritise our own pleasure and health. Please, yes, meat is a pleasurable experience to eat for most people – another cue that our body needs and wants it.

The ethical side is clearly too broad and deep to adequately cover in a blog post as this last section is all over the place. The short version is that there are many good reasons to continue producing and eating meat, and the arguments against it are primarily against things like cruel farming practices, which can be eliminated without eliminating animal husbandry. Even the ethical argument is simply too subjective and personal to be more broadly applied.


Let’s return to the ‘aethics’ guidelines from earlier.

Facts first: Any decision must be based on facts.

Veganism is not the great saviour of the environment and not the best option for human health. Much in the way of farming practice is, however, unnecessarily cruel. Given we’re likely to farm insects soon it will be interesting to see whether current vegans are against that also (or vat-grown meat), and whether they avoid things like shellfish today, which have extremely minimal awareness or capacity for pain.

Provisional: An ‘aethical’ point of view accents that any decision made through it is provisional, not absolute.

As other options, such as the aforementioned vat-grown meat, become available the moral questions may shift. If we can have the meat without the animals, then it’s harder to justify any form of cruelty in farming whatsover (humane slaughter isn’t really cruel per se).

Situational: Any moral or ethical decision depends on context. What is wrong in one instance may not be wrong in another. No decision is set or settled in its entirety.

This whole discussion exists within the current structure where we have mixed agriculture, a lot of poor people who rely on cheap nutrition and have yet to develop, properly, alternatives such as insect farming, vat-grown meat or fully artificial substitutes from vegetable protein that both carry the same nutrition and the same experience.

Emotions & Feelings Have Value: People’s emotional pain should be taken into account and weighed up in a decision.

Pleasure also has value here, and an enjoyable diet is a boon to mental as well as physical health. People take great pleasure from their food and this must weigh into the equation just as animal suffering must.

Strive for Objectivity: While emotions have value and meaning they should not guide the moral decisions.

While not true of all, many vegans seem to have come to their position based on emotion, unable to stand the thought of eating a cute lamb or a smart pig. These are emotionally based decisions, not factually based.

Given all these factors, only the ethical argument holds any water and then only as a personal decision and an argument against poor farming practice, not for veganism in and of itself. As such I see no convincing arguments, whatsoever, against the farming and eating of meat. People’s conscience is their own look-out and there’s no real position from which to criticise anyone else, with these arenas of decision being so subjective.

As and when genuine alternatives appear the moral question will shift again, but until such material is affordable and available this is where I stand.

#Gamergate – Documenting SJW Harassment

CPp5wtQWIAAagGnWith the news that SXSW is now going to host a day-event to discuss online harassment, this having previously cancelled a harassment panel and one about the political/ethical climate of gaming. The cancellation having been due to what appears to have been third party trolls making threats related to both panels. Despite the SavePoint panel not really having anything to do with harassment, their inclusion and position as previous supporters of Gamergate demonstrates what the unwritten assumptions about the situation have been.

Leaving aside that the harassment panel has at least one out-and-proud harasser on it (continuing the trend from both UN and Google meetings about online harassment, consulting harassers) it’s obvious that the existing narrative is entirely one-sided. It is widely believed that the gamers who want uncensored games and an ethical games media, lacking corruption, are the ones harassing people.

Many of us know that this isn’t true and we have suffered quite horrific levels of harassment from the ‘Social Justice Warriors’ from people going after our livelihoods and jobs to wild accusations of things like misogyny, rape apologia, racism and so on. Reputation destroying nastiness.

My own harassment at the hands of these people has been fairly well documented. Back in 2012, long before Gamergate was ever a thing I wrote a blog article defending the use of nasty events and traumatic experiences in fiction (In Defence of Rape) and ever since then have been harassed, demonised and subjected to a level of scrutiny that Big Brother would be ashamed to engage in. This contributed to a long battle with depression and two suicide attempts, the second during the first year of Gamergate when old wounds were re-opened and even celebrities saw fit to try and shame me for my participation in the defence of free expression.

The point is, that many of the people complaining about harassment etc online are some of the worst offenders. The community that is supposedly pushing for diversity, tolerance etc is one of the least diverse (in terms of ideas) and least tolerant.

Apposite to the situation at the moment are two key incidents. The young artist Zamii has been turned on by the Steven Universe fandom of ‘progressives’ on Tumblr, and driven to a suicide attempt by that degree of intense online bullying, and Thunderf00t had his reputation and employment attacked by a group of ‘progressives’ within and around the atheism community – though this backfired spectacularly.

Many of us do not take online harassment very seriously. We know what trolling is and we know to ignore it. The character of this kind of abuse though, driving fragile people to suicide, pursuing people offline, is something much different. Much worse. Those of us on this side are often unwilling to make a huge fuss about the harassment we get and maybe it’s time we did start talking about this, documenting it, getting our experiences down and letting them be known, rather than brushing them off.

I know there’s many of you out there who have suffered. Please join me in telling your stories. Comment below with links to your stories or post a short summary of what happened to you and I’ll append the links and stories below. We can help define what actual online harassment is (going after people for real) and provide fodder to show that our opposite numbers are – at least somewhat – engaging in what they claim to decry.

If you’d rather have your experience documented anonymously, email me at GRIM at POSTMORT dot DEMON dot CO dot UK.

An account of Harper’s abuse

SJWs fuel censorship in RPGs 1

SJWs fuel censorship in RPGs 2

Man loses job due to SJW harassment

A previous attempt to document SJW harassment on social media

The Tim Hunt affair

Zak Smith, Walk Outs, Censorship and SocJus insanity

GamerGhazi Harrangues and Erases

More Documented Harassment

Targeted Harassment of GG Supporters

Famous ‘victim’ as harasser.

The Silencing of Gamergate, with documented harassment cases.

Linklist (many expired links, but much of use)

Goodreads Review harassment One, Two, Three, Four, Five

The Insoluble American Gun Probem

gun_control030413Another day, another massacre. As many people have noted, including the president of the United States, this has now become grim routine.

So have the arguments.

America is uniquely set up to have a particular problem with firearms. It has a mythologised cowboy culture of self-reliance and individualism – taken to a ‘toxic’ extreme. Misinterpretations of the constitution (in regard to this issue) now enshrined in law. A stubborn belief, despite the statistics, that guns help, protect people and solve problems rather than cause them (or make them worse).

The USA’s culture further worsens the problem by being so militantly against things like universal healthcare or government provision and social investment. Things that are know to be effective in reducing crime and violence and in the case of medical care, better mental healthcare provision would doubtless cut such incidents significantly.

Even these basic facts, and the fact that gun control works in every other nation, are contentious in America. There is absolutely no way that the public, or the Republican Party, nor much of the Democratic Party will ever be persuaded to pursue an effective gun control (or banning) agenda, nor any way such would succeed. Such a change would be incredibly hard to enforce in the USA anyway and would not really begin to bite for a long time – longer than an electoral cycle.

If any solution is to be found here, it’s going to need to account for the intransigence of American politics and the utter hostility towards the best known measure – gun controls and bans. It’s also going to need to work around the hostility to increased social provision and investment.

Innovative and lateral-thinking methods of addressing the problem will need to be come up with if any progress is to be made.

My idea, which I humbly submit for consideration, would be to treat guns more like cars. To combine and extend current basics and to introduce a new controls and methods of minimising harm.

  • Guns need to be licensed, controlled by age similarly to cars – which we also recognise require responsible and careful owners.
  • Gun licenses, perhaps, should only be issued to those able to pass a basic test. A written test on proper storage, conduct and safety. A practical test of safe control and target shooting.
  • Licenses should be restricted from being issued to people with certain mental or physical issues and those guilty of certain crimes  (and should be revoked if these develop).
  • Licenses are compulsory and cost money, yearly, not unlike UK Car Tax. Per weapon.
  • There should be compulsory gun insurance, similar to compulsory car insurance. Insurance for each weapon (group rates) which pays out should your gun harm or kill anyone, or be used in a crime. It doesn’t go to compensate you of course, rather it compensates the victims. You can act to minimise risks and costs, or you can pay more.

The most important and innovative part, I think, is the last. Insurance companies don’t care about anything but the bottom line. They would be motivated to do factual research so that they can do effective risk assessment and set levies appropriate to the cost. Insurance companies may even deny insurance to high risk clients, which would take a ‘ban’ out of government hands, or bankrupt organisations like the NRA which might, initially, insure the uninsurable until they run out of money.

The additional costs that would introduce into gun ownership and the additional tools it would provide for arrest and legitimate confiscation should have a good effect. Especially in poorer communities where gun violence is a larger risk. It should work to depress the number of weapons owned, while allowing those that absolutely insist on owning firearms to still have them. It would encourage safer behaviour and measures taken to minimise risk (lower power, lower capacity, properly stored and high tech safeties) which would reduce premiums.

The additional tax revenue would allow more government programs to tackle related issues – if the political will could be found – and the non-tax revenue involved would provide a boost to business.

Aethics: Sexy Robots

CHERRY 2000, Pamela Gidley, David Andrews, 1987, (c) Orion

The BBC has an article up talking about a drive by a Kathleen Richardson (a robotics ethicist – yes, such a thing exists) to pre-emptively ban sexbots. If she gets her way, Cherry 2000 will never get to exist.

On the face of it, this seems silly, as silly as banning dildos or Fleshlights (or those rather creepy Real-dolls). What is a robot sex-doll other than a complicated dildo after all?

Richardson raises several concerns:

  1. That they are unnecessary.
  2. That they are undesirable.
  3. That they will reinforce traditional stereotypes of women.
  4. That they will encourage the idea that relationships need only be physical.
  5. That this will undermine relationships between real men and real women.

89e7dcd439aec524b2e23a5dcc97afabThere’s more, but it’s based around speculation on advances in artificial intelligence and so on. Let’s stick to what’s at the edge of feasible now. Physically realistic sex bots capable of limited interaction.

We know that there are already people who have ‘relationships’ with their inanimate sex-dolls, who fall in love with crude AI girlfriends on their handheld game systems. These are crude but they are representative of what we may see in the future. So are any of these concerns valid?

Are sex-bots unnecessary?

Many things are unnecessary, but desirable, so this is not necessarily a good argument in the first place. It’s not necessary to cook food, to have access to vehicles or to have a television, but these things bring comfort to our lives. Even if we take this argument at face value though, the situation in which we find ourselves may indeed make sex-bots necessary. There is a huge, building gender disparity in China with many more men than women. A powderkeg of frustrated male sexual desire that, with no outlet, may express itself in dangerous ways. Prison rape is a hideous problem in many countries, such as the US, also. Might access to sex-bots alleviate some of this? Might it not provide an outlet for sexual tension and might it not also – possible – contribute to a reduction in rape as some contend easier access to pornography has done? In that situation, sex-bots are not only desirable, but may be considered necessary.

1-robot-paintings-by-hajime-sorayamaAre sex-bots desirable?

Clearly they are. People are already buying all sorts of elaborate sex toys and customised sex dolls. There’s obviously a market for them amongst fantasists, those with social anxiety disorders and those with proclivities outside the norm. With men increasingly opting out of the dating and marriage options it seems that men and women alike may find a use for sex-bots as a masturbatory aid and source of relief while between relationships or while focussed on their careers. Whether you approve or not, there’s clearly a market for such things.

Will Sex-Bots reinforce Stereotypes of Women?

This is a hard one. People desire what they desire and the market tends to respond to what people want. I think many people have this relationship backwards, thinking the market tells people what they want. There are trends in desires which manifest in stereotypes but no two people have exactly the same tastes. The presumption seems to be, also, that only women would want sex-bots and only women need be concerned. Surely there would also be a market amongst women for sex-bots? Hung to their specified dimensions, armed with a six pack and the perfect amount of endurance. This doesn’t seem to me to be something that is only a concern for women, yet only women seem to be overtly concerned about the ‘competition’. People want what they want, if that’s uncomfortable perhaps it needs to be faced, but I think critics underestimate the value of a real, human relationship – or the role that sex-bots might play within relationships (an artificial, risk-free threesome for example).

RommieuniformWill they encourage ideas that relationships need only be physical?

Will a sexual relationship with a sex-bot be truly satisfying? Pornography and masturbation already offer physical relief and yet people still seek relationships. Why should this be any different with sex-bots? Until such bots are as good as people, and capable of relationships, I think there will still be a desire for more. Why shouldn’t some relationships be purely physical anyway? The BDSM scene has people who meet up, as friend, for play sessions. ‘Fuckbuddies’ is a thing. Hook up culture is a thing. We already have purely, or nearly purely, physical relationships and a sex-bot isn’t going to change that one way or another. Better to have sex with a nice clean sex-bot than to risk your health on one-night stands, no?

Will they undermine relationships between real men and women?

Possibly, but these already seem to be breaking if you look at the MGTOW and ‘Grazer’ movements in Japan and further afield. Despite mockery and derision they seem to be growing and marriages are now the minority in the UK and probably elsewhere. Can you undermine something that is already failing in modern society and should we necessarily mourn it? Might not sex-bots allow couples with mismatched desires to stay together, each having a robot lover they can turn to when their fleshly lover is no longer in the mood? Is that healthier than taking a flesh-and-blood lover or not? If you can’t compete with a sex-robot, should you be a relationship anyway?


There seem, to me, to be no moral or ethical reasons to deny people the development or ownership of sex-bots. The cost seems minimal or unrelated and the benefits in terms of personal pleasure and societal safety and security seem obvious. The concern also seems very sexist, assuming that only men would want or purchase sex bots when – surely – there’s as much of a market amongst women for a ‘perfect’ lover? It seems to me that the development of such devices would be of benefit to the species as a whole, including, potentially, helping with controlled population reduction.


Let us take this concept to some uncomfortable extremes though and see how that affects how you would think about this.

A sex-bot need not look normal. We already see this is Real-Dolls with unrealistic proportions or based on fantasy characters – models have been made to resemble characters from games and comics, for example. Why stop there though?

What if a paedophile wanted a realistic sex-bot that resembled an underage child? Our instant reaction is disgust, of course, but would it not be better that they wreak their desires upon a robot than upon a real child and might not the sex-bot give them a way to expend their frustration without resorting to rape?

What if a sexual sadist or predator could have access to a sex-bot that does the things that turn them on? What if they could ‘kill’ their sex-bot every night, consequence free, and have it back the next day. Might that not prevent them from enacting those desires in real life?

What if the sex-bot wasn’t even human? What if it could be made to resemble a dog, a sheep, a tentacle monster from someone’s perverted hentai fantasies?

Should we allow such things?

If not, why not?

If so, why?

Even without AI, the advent of realistic (or realistic enough) sex-bots raises some questions on these topics and challenges our views of human sexuality. Do we interfere in this most private and intimate of areas or do we say it’s nobody’s business but theirs? Why and how do we decide?

Food for thought.

Meditations on Cultural Libertarianism: Censorship

Censorship is always a contentious topic and in the video above Ms Southern makes a point I’ve been making for some years now, that censorship is not limited to governmental action and that acts of social censure often end up being enforced by the government in the end anyway. Take Gail Dines’ anti-pornography initiatives, now being strong-arm enforced in the UK thanks to the Conservative government drawing strength from her actions, or look at how entry to the UK (and Australia) has been denied to the rap/hip-hop artist Tyler the Creator on dubious grounds, in no small part due to pressure from feminist groups.

Before we go on, though, it’s necessary to define censorship. People who want to censor, tend to claim that an act of censorship can only come from the government. This seems to me to be an odd definition since the office of censor originated theologically, and we also talk about issues like ‘self censorship’. It also seems absurd not to call the threats of death and violence to cartoonists over the Muhammed issue censorship.

The ACLU has a more up-to-date definition:

Censorship, the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are “offensive,” happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others. Censorship can be carried out by the government as well as private pressure groups. Censorship by the government is unconstitutional.

They also caution on problems with pressure groups, boycotts etc, which can become dangerous. I strongly suggest reading the whole item.

Let’s take censorship out to its complete extension then, censorship is:

Anything that suppresses, controls or constricts free expression.

The next important point to get across then, is that censorship is not necessarily, inherently, bad. Sometimes there can be valid reasons to constrict free speech – and I say this as a free expression radical. The only absolute is that there are no absolutes, including this one.

Contextually it may be better not to tell your wife she looks fat in that dress. It may be better not to expose very young children to images of torture, abuse and dismemberment. It may be better not to allow someone to sell pictures of grown adults having sex with children, and so on.

So given censorship is not an inherent evil, how do we navigate when it is, or is not, justified (which is the real argument around censorship)?

  • Does it do real harm?
  • What is the context?
  • What is the cost/benefit?
  • Is it avoidable?

The most important aspect here would be the Harm Principle of JS Mill.

The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.

Which is to say that the only true justification for the exercising of any power over others, including censorship, is if it prevents harm, if it is for the greater good individually and collectively.

When we ask ‘does it do real harm?’ we are asking a scientifically answerable question and the truth is, simply, that for most forms of expression there is little or no evidence that it really does – unless it exists in a monoculture. A diversity of opinion allows for what one might consider harmful viewpoints to be challenged and debunked and for new ideas and thoughts – however controversial the source – to circulate.

Expression, then, should not be impeded without being shown to be harmful. The problem we run into here in society right now is that so much activist oriented and funded research is rubbish, as is a great deal of privately funded research – telling people what they want to know.

When we ask ‘what is the context?’ we are determining whether any such control or censorship might be limited, or whether we may allow some things at some times and not at others. We might allow something for adults which we don’t allow for children, for example. In a febrile atmosphere of racial tension we might constrict speech along those lines, more than we might during times of greater peace (even racists, on both sides of the colour divide, have a right to free speech normally).

What is the cost/benefit is an interesting question. There may be some forms of speech, such as the aforementioned racist speech, which have attached costs and benefits, the benefit being that allowing it defines us as a free society and guards against the stifling of other speech via spurious accusations of racism (such as calling criticism of Islam racist). The cost is that it can allow hate to spread and bad ideas to take root (though the best solution to this is generally more and better speech).

The last question is a relatively new phenomenon. Is the expression avoidable? There is, I think, a fundamental difference between a man shouting sexist abuse in the street and the same man doing the same thing on social media. You can ignore, but you cannot ‘remove’ the man shouting in the street without invoking the force of the state. On Twitter, Facebook or similar you can simply block him and he will vanish from your existence.

That’s active media, but what about things such as television, radio and so forth? There you can simply choose not to consume the expression. You can choose not to buy it, not to watch it, to change the channel or to close the book. There it’s even easier – even on broadcast media – and there’s even less reason for restriction.

What about billboards or public advertisements? Two reasonable recent incidents involve those, one a helpline that painted all men as abusers and which was protested by New Fathers for Justice (IIRC) and the other Protein World’s fitness-prompting posters which were said to be misogynistic and fat shaming. Both are unavoidable, but the ‘harm argument’ is not particularly strong in either case, and better met with more speech – in my opinion.

The overall point, which I hope I’ve made clear, is that constricting speech is only really excusable in those instances where harm can be directly shown and, to be even more abundantly clear, that means actual harm. Not hurt feelings, not offence, but actual, lasting harm backed by compelling evidence that this is the case.

Enforcing moral or ideological censorship, purely on the basis of personal objection, cannot and should not be possible and even people with ideologically opposing beliefs, even hatred, have a basic right to free expression. So long as we have a pluralistic media landscape where many ideas and concepts circulate we are all better off.

Meditations on Cultural Libertarianism

Allum Bokhari, a liberal fellow writing for – of all places – Breitbart, has posited that we are experiencing a new cultural phenomenon, which he dubs ‘Cultural Libertarianism‘, and which has been somewhat discussed – critically – by the Centre for a Stateless Society, pointing it out as one side, or an emerging counter-revolution, in the increasingly vicious culture war.

Mr Bokhari defines this Cultural Libertarianism largely by defining what it is in opposition to, rather than what its values and positive characteristics are. He does cover, briefly, what he identifies as Cultural Libertarian values which I’ll use as the basis for this discussion.

  • Championing free expression.
  • Resisting Identity Politics and public shaming.
  • Defending and understanding humour.
  • Opposing nannying and ‘safe spaces’.
  • Defending personal freedom.
  • Facts over feelings.
  • Valuing consumers and producers over third parties.
  • Celebrating culture in all its forms.

Some of these seem redundant to me and the aspects which are oppositional to what is being called ‘progressivism’ often stem from existing values. In promoting that positive value you inevitably come into opposition with others.

If I were to identify what I thought of as the core values of this emerging phenomenon, I would identify them as such:

  • A belief in the inherent value of free expression.
  • A belief in the equality, potential and strength of human beings.
  • A belief in the power and value of personal liberty.
  • A belief in the power, utility and relevance of reason.

It is, probably, necessary to define ‘libertarianism’ (small ‘l’) before going any further. If you say ‘libertarianism’ to most people, they picture some some of Ayn Rand worshipping anarcho-capitalist with an absolute belief in the free market and no sense of fairness or life-goals beyond unbridled profit.

This isn’t necessarily an unfair assessment of many economic Libertarians (big ‘l’) but libertarianism is not so specific an idea. The toxic and specific definition is so pernicious it has even begun to infiltrate dictionaries. Scruton’s Dictionary of Political Thought includes the extreme laissez-faire economic perspective, but also describes more classical libertarianism as a form of liberalism which…

…believes in freeing people not merely from the constraints of traditional political institutions, but also from the inner constraints imposed by their mistaken attribution of power to ineffectual things. The active libertarian is engaged in a process of liberation and wages war on all institutions through which a man’s vision of the world is narrowed… …among them the institutions of religion, the family and the customs of social – especially sexual – conformity.

This doesn’t quite describe what we’re talking about here either, though you can see the spirit of it within it. You can see echoes of what we’re talking about in both economic and social libertarianism though. An economic libertarian advocates minimal – or no – societal (governmental) interference in the conduct of business, a social libertarian advocates minimal – or no – societal (governmental) interference in social conduct and, then, a cultural libertarian would advocate minimal – or no – societal (or governmental) interference in cultural conduct.

  • An economic libertarian might argue against business regulation.
  • A social libertarian might advocate for the legalisation of sex work and recreational drugs.
  • A cultural libertarian might advocate against any and all constrictions of free expression.

To me, much of this seems to be what I have often longed for in the past five years, a reassertion of Enlightenment values and of classical liberalism.

All of western society which, love it or loathe it, has been powerfully successful, derives in its modern form from Enlightenment values of reason, empiricism, skepticism, independence, individualism and, you might say, an attempt to bring about the maturity of society by separating it from political and religious tyranny.

Classical liberalism, to finish contextualising cultural libertarianism, has the asserted values of:

  • Belief in the supreme value of the individual, their freedom and rights.
  • Belief in natural rights, inherent and independent to society and government.
  • Recognition of the supreme importance and value of freedom, with the view that interference should be limited and minimal and only justifiable to the extent that it maximises freedom.
  • A humanistic view of human affairs, rather than a theological view.
  • Universalism, that rights and duties transcend place and time and that the human condition is our common experience.
  • Advocacy of tolerance in morality and religion.

I believe we can see a common thread, then, running from the explorations of the Enlightenment, through classical liberalism (and democratic socialism, much as that may shock and horrify some cultural libertarians) through to today’s new cultural libertarians.

That’s a noble tradition.

Of course, there are points of confusion where the values from this heritage also seem to be held by cultural libertarianism’s opposition, or where it seems to run at odds to some of the other values of people who might be dubbed cultural libertarians. I don’t want to dwell too much on the negative – as I stated at the start – but some aspects are worth pointing out.

It confuses many how people of such opposing values on other scores can find themselves in common cultural cause. I, for example, have little I agree with – say – Adam Baldwin or Katie Hopkins on, but however obnoxious I find them or they find me, I think we all would agree on one thing. That we each have the right to our opinions and the right to express them. Supporting a person’s right to free expression does not entail agreeing with their economic or social positions. People are so quick to slap an identity on someone – friend or foe alike – that nuanced discussion becomes impossible because you’ve been written off as a ‘conservative’ or a ‘misogynist’ or whatever else.

People are more than their identity tags.

Another point of contention might be the nature of freedom and of rights. There’s always a tension between ‘freedom from’ and ‘freedom to’ and between a person’s right to do something and another person’s right to be free of something. ‘The right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose’, so to speak, but how much nasal protection is in order?

Cultural libertarians will tend to favour ‘freedom to’ and JS Mill’s formulation of the Harm Principle would seem to offer a good guide to where intervention is morally and ethically justified.

“The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”

‘Harm’, of course, is the centre of much of the modern debate, what constitutes actual harm, whether it includes emotional harm, whether it includes taking offence and whether it’s acceptable to take offence on behalf of someone else. I would argue that cultural libertarians mean genuine and actual harm – such as direct advocacy of violence – and not insult or offence.

Tolerance is the last arena I shall briefly touch on, where confusion might arise. Tolerance, in common parlance, has come to mean ‘strenuously not offending or upsetting anyone’, whereas tolerance in this sense – and more properly if I’m any judge – means putting up with and coping with running into contradictory views and being able to cope with their existence. Ironically the opposite of what ‘tolerance’ has come to mean.

These are some initial thoughts on a phenomenon and proposed ‘new’ social movement that I find fascinating and I shall probably continue to discuss and attempt to identify what it means as time goes on.